Growing Kiwis in Nova Scotia

Kiwi flowers
Flowers on female Actinidia kolomikta

It’s the hardy kiwi, Actinidia kolomikta. The fruits are the size of a large grape, less fuzzy than their New Zealand cousins, and delicious, apparently. I’ve never eaten one or even seen one.

But I hope to soon! I’ve got a boy plant and a girl plant in the backyard, and they seem to like each other….

This kiwi is hardy to Zone 4 (we are in Zone 5b or 6a, warmer than Zone 4) and has a reputation for vigour. In fact, frequent pruning is required to train the vines properly and to help the plant concentrate its energy into growing fruit.

The vines need a sturdy structure to grow on, and it shouldn’t be too tall to reach for pruning, or you’ll lose the battle for fruit development. A strong timberframe trellis would be the ideal thing.

I’m training mine on the 10-ft high trunks of a cherry tree that I cut down last summer. (It was non-productive and besieged by cherry slugs, or sawfly larvae.)

I have a couple of friends in the area who are also excitedly growing hardy kiwi for the first time. One of these years, we’ll have our first taste of the fruit, if we can keep the squirrels and birds away from it.

I’d Rather Be – Mike Aubé

How nice it is to live a simpler life in the Nova Scotia countryside. That’s the jist of Mike Aubé’s song, I’d Rather Be.

Annapolis Valley video guru Kim Smith filmed Mike walking through the autumn woods to make the video. Here it is:

Deer fence challenged by squash

Spaghetti squash shoots and deer fence netting
Spaghetti squash shoots and leaves deform themselves trying to get to the other side of the deer fence

A little more on the deer fence around my vegetable garden:

It’s really working very well, as far as the deer are concerned.  The biggest challenge to it right now is the squash, which will go to any length to get through to the other side of the fence.  There has been some damage to the netting, so I’ve either pruned the shoots that were trying to get through or directed them under the fence to the open lawn beyond.

Deer fence around the garden

Deer fence around garden
Lee Valley plastic mesh with ribbons of flagging tape woven in

It’s not the ribbons of flagging tape that are keeping the deer out.  It’s the almost invisible black plastic netting that the ribbons are hanging from.

It works – so far.  This is my second year using it.  (See previous post about the deer fence.)  I regretted taking it down last fall, as it had been getting entangled in the grass, and removing it damaged the netting.  But I’m gradually enlarging the vegetable garden and wanted to reset the netting.  I have yet to see how well it will survive the winter.

There are different kinds of netting you can buy. The most lightweight is sometimes referred to as bird netting, with 1/2″ openings.  It is easy to throw over strawberries or blueberry bushes, and it catches in the twigs easily, keeping it in place and making it hard to remove!  It is very hard to see.  One of us got it tangled in a lawnmower wheel and it took half an hour to cut it out.  You can get it at a garden centre. If you’re in the US you can order from Amazon. [Easy Gardener 6050 DeerBlock 7-by-100-Foot Netting]

The next level is what I bought at Lee Valley last year.  It is a slightly heavier mesh, 7 feet high, with 7/8″ openings and reinforced margins top and bottom. (My 100-ft length didn’t go round the expanded garden this year, so I filled it in with some of the lighter-weight bird netting.) I pegged it down to the ground with twigs and it keeps the rabbits out, too. (I had a strange surprise, though, before pegging it down this year.)

This deer fence is not invincible. There are some tears in it that I need to fix. But we’ve seen a deer come up to it, and touch it with her nose, and go no further. My neighbour, who has come out on her porch to scare the deer away, has suggested attaching noisemakers to the fence.

Here’s an Amazon link (US only; they won’t ship this stuff to Canada) to a similar product: Easy Gardener LG400171 7-by-100-Foot Deer Barrier Fencing

Finally, there’s a much heavier gauge netting that I saw in a local hardware store. It was more expensive, but looks like it would last longer. It has 2 1/4  inch openings. If and when my current fence isn’t doing the job anymore, this is what I will get. Amazon link: Industrial Netting CXC90x100 Deer Net – 2.25 Inch Openings

The lightweight netting does not require strong posts. This year the garden was expanding, but I had no more of the aluminum posts that I put in last year, so I bought 8′ steel T-posts ($9 each) at the local farmers’ co-op store. They have pointed ends, but I would never be able to drive an 8′ post into the ground, so I cut one in half with a hacksaw, and pounded it 2 feet into the ground with a sledgehammer. (Thank you to my gardener grandfather from whom I’ve inherited all these tools!) After pulling the short post out, there was a T-shaped hole into which the tall post went in with just a bit of persuasion delivered from a stepladder. The rocks deep in the ground caused the post to be slightly askew, but that doesn’t really matter.

I’d love to hear from other gardeners about your experiences with animals in the garden – or with keeping them out.

Flowers in the fog

Irises in the fog
Irises in the fog

Fog is really neat.

I’ve been mesmerized by it out on the ocean on a sailboat, where it becomes your whole world – but that’s another blog post.

The other morning after the fog moved in, I was startled by the colours of the flowers.  It was partly the contrast between the saturated colour close up and the grayed-out view in the distance.  And partly (as photographers understand) the non-directionality of the light – the lack of shadows, so the colours are purer.

Another pleasure of gardening in Nova Scotia.

Flowers in the fog
Pure colour close up

Gruesome Garden Mystery: The Deer Fence Let a Dead One In

So yesterday I put up the deer fence around the garden. I didn’t get around to pegging the bottom of the netting to the soil, but did bravely transplant my broccoli.

This morning when I went to check on my baby brassicas, I was very surprised to see the leg and hoof of a deer lying next to my tender greens!

Deer leg and broccoli
The leg of a deer in my garden, next to the broccoli.

There was no sign of damage, and no clear tracks that would help me identify who brought in this offering. It obviously wasn’t a vegetarian, as there had been no nibbling on the luscious leaves. And it couldn’t have been a very large animal.

What an ironic reminder that despite my efforts, I’m not totally in charge here, and the deer will get into my garden one way or another, dead or alive!

Update: I found a tear in the netting on the other side of the rhubarb that could have been from the stress of a raccoon, perhaps, pushing its bulk under the netting by the broccoli. There has also been a fox around, who may have wanted to bury the leg, and was attracted by the freshly-dug earth.  I should think that a raccoon would have done more damage.

The potatoes are planted

garden partly planted
4 rows of potatoes in the foreground half of the garden

The Victoria Day weekend is coming up, traditionally the time you can expect it to be safe to get your garden planted – though I wouldn’t put out the tomatoes just yet.  But the potatoes are now happily buried in the new part of my growing vegetable garden.

This area of so-called lawn (“so-called” because there was no grass growing there, only weeds and wild strawberries) was forest a decade ago. The previous owner cleared it and apparently got gypped on the topsoil – there isn’t any, really. A lot of rocks, though. Last year I covered another section with seaweed, manure, about 10 layers of newspaper and 2 layers of black plastic, held down with big rocks dug up in the older part of the garden. This year I removed the plastic and rototilled it with my grandfather’s old tiller, picking out rocks as I went. Lots of rocks. They made the tiller kick like a wild horse. I’m still recovering.

I don’t expect a lot from this new section of the garden this year. I’ve put in potatoes and will add bush beans between the rows when it warms up, as they are good companion plants for potatoes.  All the digging and redigging, and the opportunities to remove more stones, will get the soil in better shape for future years.

Here is the tool I desire: the Lee Valley rock rake. (I wish they had an affiliate program so I could make enough money from that link to buy one!)

Another morning wildlife guest

Photo taken in a hurry through the screened basement window.

Like the fox last week, this raccoon came up the road from Oak Island, saw the houses up ahead and decided the woods behind our house were a better bet.

In six years of living here, it’s the first raccoon I’ve seen.

A neighbour told me he saw a black bear just down the road about five years ago. He figures it was just passing through, as he hasn’t seen or heard tell of one around here since.

But over 1000 black bears were killed by registered hunters in Nova Scotia in 2009. So they are around.

The 2009 deer harvest in Lunenburg Co., which has been increasingly plagued by deer ticks in recent years, was the highest in the province:  3,104.  Many gardeners will be relieved to hear this news.  But it won’t stop me from putting a deer fence around the garden again. I recently saw 4 or 5 white-tailed deer in our backyard.

Department of Natural Resources personnel examine roadkill to see what shape the animals are in.  In the winter of 2008, they found that a high proportion of deer were experiencing malnutrition and starvation.  So the 10,280 deer bagged by hunters across the province was less than the previous year, according to the Truro Daily News, as fewer permits were issued to hunters for antler-less deer.

Ex-hurricane Danny: Weather for ducks

What's down the road?
"OK, boys, we're outta here. Let's check things out down the road." E. Sepulchre photo

These intrepid ducks were not at all shy as my husband herded them out of the garden and back down the road. I bet they’re happy now: it’s pouring rain. Danny was briefly a hurricane but is down to a post-tropical storm that will pass south of Nova Scotia on a similar path to Hurricane Bill. After a beautifully sunny, but cool, week, the gardens will love the rain. But weekend campers are out of luck this time.

It seems to have been a bumper year for ducks.  Near our place, we’re blessed with lots of natural shoreline where they can build nests.  Elsewhere, and where people have the money, they build walls of boulders at the high tide line to shore up their lawns and act as a buffer against erosion.  But those neat and tidy rock walls are bad news for nesting shorebirds.