Monday, August 30, 2010

August Garden Update

My neighbour called this a Himalayan Orchid but a web-search suggests it is more likely a Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), also known as "Policeman's Helmet". This eager volunteer plant migrated over the fence from the neighbour's yard.

Considering that it's growing in a pile of rocks, I suspect this may be a good candidate for the next revision of the undesirable Alberta invasive species list. A brief web-search confirms its invasive nature including seed pods that explode, spreading seed several meters! OK, I'm going outside to pull it right now. It has an attractive flower that belies its evil intent to take over the world.

My guess: Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) caterpillar. Found August 21 on an apple tree leaf 2 blocks from our home. This seems late in the year to find this caterpillar, since this reference mentions "This species has only one generation per year, usually appearing in mid-May and flying to late July depending on latitude." Maybe they are trying for a second generation? Or wrong species? The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail apparently goes for 2 summer generations in the warmer eastern climates.

The annual Zero-Mile-Diet-Applesauce-Making-Festival gets ambitious this year. A little too ambitious for one weekend in retrospect, but it's satisfying to survey the full freezer afterwards. No canning this year, too busy with baby to take care of. Our favourite tree is about a 5 minute walk from the house. It's one of many to choose from within similar range.

This time we also picked some sort of prairie cherry (with pits) from the neighbour's yard. It looks and tastes somewhat like a Nanking Cherry. It is likely one of the fruit bushes listed on this page. The bushes had no thorns, which I thought the Nanking Cherry has, but I could be wrong.

The Utrecht Blue Wheat heads are now turning blue (though it's hard to tell due to high exposure and contrast in the photos). Due to wet conditions this summer and possibly for want of a longer growing season, the wheat is still quite green. I've started to cut it and hang it in the garage to ripen and avoid possible frost tonight.

The "West Central Garden", showing marigolds, beans, cilantro and carrots.

Bean harvest is turning out really well this year. The carrots that did germinate are doing well. We will start harvesting the potatoes soon. We have virtually no raspberries or strawberries yet; not sure if it's the variety, weather or improper care. They are not very established yet, so we will see if they improve yield next year.


The Blog Fodder said...

That is a pretty weed but . . .
Your blue wheat looks very interesting. How soon will you plant several square meters of it? Will you thresh with a flail?

John Schneider - Gold Forest Grains said...

Oh shoot! I wish I read this post earlier to tell you not to cut your wheat. Grains use frost to ripen. You can leave your grain over the winter even if you really wanted to. You should have left your wheat in the garden to completely ripen and then if frost got it who cares. By cutting it before it turns there is a chance that you have cut it prior to the seed becoming viable. It is hard to tell in the photos, but you are probably ok. Just leave the rest out until it has completely died off. That way you know for sure that the seed is good to go. Good looking wheat though!

Middle Earth Garden said...

TBF: The Himalayan Balsam now has me a bit nervous as I've seen it in numerous people's flower beds in front of their homes in Calgary. The seeds are likely advertised by the greenhouses as "easy to grow", but of course most people are unaware of the invasive dangers. It won't be an issue for lawns, in the way that dandelions are, but moreso for the naturalized parks, roadside ditches, etc.

I'd plant more grain if I had the space. I read somewhere that one needs about 5 x 5 feet to grow enough grain for one loaf of bread. I may get a small loaf from my crop this year, assuming the grain matures properly. There's lots of "empty" green space around the city that could be used though...

GFG: I only cut about 10 to 20% of my mini-crop, so no worries. I wasn't sure if the frost might damage the wheat seeds if they were too green, so thought I'd cut some just in case. The wheat came up late so the seeds may not be mature yet. Any tips on how to determine if the seeds are mature?

Dave said...

Hi Middle Earth Garden:

The Himalayan Touch-me-not (Jewelweed, Policeman’s Helmet: Impatiens glandulifera) is invasive and in Britain, BC, and other places there is a bit of hysteria about it. Alberta lists it as a potential worry, but it isn’t established here according to the USDA Plant Database. Although it comes back yearly in yards in Edmonton, it doesn’t seem to be able to move into the bush.

I once planted Himalayan Jewelweed seeds here, but nothing came up. I’ve now decided against it because of my unfortunate experience with the native Spotted Jewelweed/Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis). This native plant is attractive when it blooms – and hummingbirds and bees like it – but if it doesn’t get enough sun or water, it produces dwarf plants with closed, self-fertilizing flowers and the seeds spread everywhere. It is easy enough to weed, but the seed bank means it will keep coming up. Both of these touch-me-not species are reputed to be edible (although they do have calcium oxalate, so they need to be cooked and eaten in moderation), but if you thought of them as a crop, the ‘weeding’ would turn into ‘harvesting’.

There are some Prunus (e.g. Canada Plum P. nigra) with thorns with thorns, but I can’t recall seeing a cherry-type of Prunus with thorns and my Nanking Cherries don’t have them. They do have velvety leaves (as one might guess from the species name tomentosa) which is unusual in a cherry. Perhaps you were thinking of Cherry Prinsepia (Prinsepia sinensis)? That is thorny.

Kirstin said...

I was just coming to comment too that Nanking cherries don't have thorns. There was a good cherry crop around here this year...they are so delicious, though a lot of work to pick for such tiny little fruit.