Weathering Challenging Times: My Gardens’ Ups & Downs

Elderberry Cordial

Surviving…and I beat the birds & bugs to the elderberries this year!

In my corner of the world we’ve been pretty lucky so far. Our weather has had its ups and downs, but nowhere near what’s been happening in other parts of the world. This year has been different: apparently the current drought is the worst since 1959. Weathering challenging times like this will take more serious thought and ingenuity as climate change continues.

Spring began with the usual burst of glorious ephemerals followed by Spring bulbs blooming with colour.

Tulips in the asparagus & rose garden
Tulips in the asparagus & rose garden in early May, with Mr. Jiggs surveying his kingdom.
Happy ferns in early Spring
Happy ferns in early Spring

But now, my heavily mulched gardens are drying out and I’ve lost an Oak sapling and a Red Osier. My native plants are surviving, but only just.

My pond has dried up and I’m sure that many tadpoles didn’t survive. About three weeks ago I filled pails with water and poured them into the deepest part of the pond hoping to save the tadpoles, but now with the low water table I don’t want to tax my well any further. My township has also asked us to cut back 20% on water use, even those with wells.

pond
The pond in May
Dry pond
Pond Now

The strawberry season was very short and sparse, so no strawberry preserves this year. 🙁 I was given some rhubarb which is in the freezer for later. Even the native wild black raspberries were mostly dried up and gone in no time at all. Mine that are growing on the north side of what I laughingly call my summer house, with no sun at all, were good and we gobbled them up.

I had some asparagus, which is an interesting story in itself. I grew asparagus from seed the first full year I was here, 1999. Over the years I had some lovely asparagus, but over time they mostly disappeared. I hadn’t known about the impact of Black Walnut trees then, but I certainly do now! Anyway, I gave up on the asparagus and planted four lovely David Austin roses and tulip bulbs in that little garden. They have flourished, but surprisingly the asparagus is coming back in the same bed. And as part of this very unusual year, I’ve had at least eight spears pop up long after the asparagus season was supposedly finished. I just saw a couple of young ones today, August 12!

wattle herb garden fence
Beginnings of my new wattle fence

I made a new veg and herb garden up near the house two years ago, and this year I began to weave a short wattle fence around it using my basket willow cuttings.

I’m having some successes with intermittent watering: a few veggies and my tomatoes are coming along nicely planted in containers and two in the ground in the very middle of the property, as far away as possible from the surrounding Black Walnuts. The heat-loving herbs are still happy, too.

Which brings me to Elderberries. Last year the birds got them all before I even knew they were ripe. Two years ago, there were insects in every berry, which I didn’t know until I began cooking them. Three years ago I made wonderful Elderberry & Apple jelly and Elderberry Cordial. This year is proving to be a good one, and this is only the beginning. There’s at least as many still to finish ripening, then I make delicious jelly. 🙂

 

First Elderberry harvest
First Elderberry harvest
Stewing the elderberries for 1/2 hour
Stewing the berries for 1/2 hour

 

Using my old jelly bag to strain the juice
Using my old jelly bag to strain the juice
Done! Six cups Elderberries, five cups sugar and cloves resulted in six bottles of Elderberry Cordial.
Done! Six cups Elderberries, five cups sugar and cloves resulted in six bottles of Elderberry Cordial.I’ve also started some apple cider vinegar using green apples falling from a neighbourhood tree. We’ll see how that turns out in a month or two.

I hope you’re weathering the challenges and reaping some good harvests wherever you are. 🙂

 

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2 Replies to “Weathering Challenging Times: My Gardens’ Ups & Downs”

  1. Jane,
    Thank you for the garden updates. It has been another rough year for us and we lost all of our redwoods. One bright spot is the tomatoes. Heavily mulched and covered by shade cloth, we have had an early and heavy harvest of our favorite heirloom varieties.
    Marc

    1. I was thinking about you as I wrote this, Marc, as well as other parts of the world, of course. I’m so sorry about the redwoods. My Purple Cherokee tomatoes are almost ripe!

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