The flurries have begun and the 2015 garden $$ totals are in…Picked (but not so much planted) Sept 22nd – Nov 18th

The garden is tucked in for the impending winter season.  Will it be soft, gentle, fluffy and peaceful or a raging onslaught of freezing rain, blizzards and hurricane speed winds?  In Nova Scotia one never knows.  I have been holding off on doing the final tally of what we picked, weighed and calculated this season thinking that we would have stopped bringing in a regular harvest long before now.  But blessings be acknowledged, the girls continued to haul in buckets of treasures up until last weekend!  We did have to buy some tender veggies and extra salad greens from the market last week – the first real time since June!!  There are still beets, carrots, kale, chard, leeks, onions and mixed greens tucked under hoop tunnels and snuggled under frost blankets for special treats between now and full freeze up, but I think it is safe to say that the majority of our harvest is now in! We had our first flurry today, winter is unavoidable.

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When we began asking ourselves how much we could be saving in produce, we never expected that the totals would be so high.  We also never anticipated the volume of veggies that we could actually consume as a family of four during 1 season, nor how much we would be able to freeze and jar to extend our feasting. And we certainly didn’t even stop to think about how much fun it would be to weigh, track and tally our bounty – who knew kids could get so excited about book keeping?!

 

In the end it is safe to say that this experience has been far more worthwhile to us than any actual $$ total.  It has taught us to be less wasteful by ensuring we consumed what we picked, less picky because even ugly cucumbers taste great and save us money and to be even more grateful for our ability to “shop” for dinner right in our own backyard.  It is amazing how much more we appreciated our own produce when we compared what the weekly prices were in the market for what the kids simply pulled out of the (non-chemically treated, clean earth, worm filled and flower kissed) dirt. Dirt is amazing!  And seeds, well they are just mind blowing. Really.

 

So without further adieu…..drumroll please…..the totals for Sept 22- Nov 18th of our 2015 season are:

Approx savings compared to local market: $972.75!!!!

Total since May 26th – $2355.45 WOW!!!

Total weight picked this period: 136.09 pounds!!  That is almost as much as I weigh….

Total to date: 341.15 pounds (That is a lot of veggies!!!)

These totals are compared to local produce when possible but not specifically organic produce – we would prefer to eat local than purchase organic food that has had to travel very long distances, using wasteful packaging and not being allowed to ripen to perfect.  We do use organic methods in our own garden, so the estimated savings would likely be much more significant had we compared to local AND organic produce!  Not to mention the savings in jams, jellies, spreads, sauces, salsas, dried and frozen herbs, saved seeds, compost, cut flowers…you get the picture!

 

Dollars and cents may speak to some, time outdoors and exercise to others, quality conversations and relationship building to most…how do we put a price on the value of our family garden?!

 

 

 

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Picked and Planted – June 9th -15th

This week we picked:

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This week the garden did not produce any new items from last week, but it was very productive!!  We had a lot of sun which led to some of the cool, early greens to start to bolt a bit.  We had planted slower veggies with the early greens (carrots and broccoli) so as we cleaned out some of the bolters, the other veggies will now have more space to grow.  The added bonus of planting quick greens with slower veggies is that it helps me space out the broccoli properly instead of planting way too many seeds at once and really boosts our “bang for our buck”!

This week’s list included:

Market Express Turnip and greens ( I could not find these at any local markets, the price per pound is compared to white turnip)

Radish (5.2 pounds!!) – We froze 1 litre of radish leaf pesto for the winter

Spinach, Arugula, Spicy Mesclun, Buttercrunch lettuce, Kale and Romaine lettuce (the money crop this week!!) Needless to say we have had to eat a lot of salad and smoothies!)

Chives, Green Onion, Cilantro

Bok Choy

Rhubarb

Approx savings compared to local market: $82.39!!

Total weight picked this week: 15.31 pounds

This week we planted :

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In the weird and wonderful row…

Tomatillos (you need two..), Asian eggplant, Berlotto Firetongue and Tanya’s Pink Pod beans

In the new raised beds along the back:

Medicinal bed: Comfrey, echinacea, Chamomile, Monarch Milkweed (for our butterfly friends)

In the Herb bed: Italian and Curly Parsley, Curry Plant, Fern and Bouquet Dill, Purple Sage, Summer Savoury, Russian Tarragon, Cilantro

Organic Sugar Small Pumpkin (and some seedlings that we picked up the market without a tag – they were calling to us!), Spaghetti squash, pole beans and Sunflowers

White onion sets, Luscious Bi-colour Corn

In the main beds:

Purple and Green Runner beans

EZ Gold, Burgundy and Labrador Bush beans

Repeat greens

Basil and cilantro underplanted around the tomatoes

Flowers:

Strawflowers, Calendulas, Zinnia, Marigolds, Nasturtiums (all started indoors from seed)

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” ~Dorothy Day

Picked and Planted – May 26th – June 1st

This week we picked…

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Cherry Belle and Easter Egg Radishes

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Ragged Jack, Dinosaur and Scotch Blue Curled Kale, chives, chives and more chives! And some cilantro…

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Buttercrunch lettuce, Spicy Mesclun, Arugula and Tyee Spinach and…

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Rhubarb and a lemon!!

Approximate savings compared to the local market: $44.64

Total weight picked this week : 12 lbs

This week we planted:

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Sunstripe, Black Beauty and Butterfish Summer Squash

Mouse Melons, Marketmore 76, String Burpless and Calypso Cucumbers

Scarlett Runner, Tanya’s Pink Pod, Purple Pole Beans

Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Ragged Jack and Redbor Kale

Purple Cauliflower

Purple Sun Carrots

Many, many tomatoes into pots…and a salad bowl!

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“Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.” ~Elizabeth Berry

In my “Happy Place” all long weekend long

I was too busy playing outside in my “Happy Place” to post all long weekend long, I came inside only for supper and church. In my Happy Place the birds were singing, the sun shining, the blossoms popping, the girls giggling, even when it was raining. In a word, perfect. image

We decided to finally make a permanent blueberry bed beside the shed. This is the “before” shot.

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Weeded and cleaned up.

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We mixed in extra peat moss to raise the pH and compost for nutrient content. Because I hate weeding (I think I have mentioned that before!), we secured black landscape fabric to 14 foot deck boards, laid it over the garden, cut out planting marks and popped in the blueberries.  We planted 2 “Pink Lemonade”, a “North Blue”, a “Blue Gold” and an “Elliot” to ensure pollination and different harvest times if any berries make it past the wee girl and the birds…

We will mulch after a good watering for looks and moisture retention.

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The patio perennial bed (highlighted by a completely bezerk Goji berry plant) and the Haskap berry hedge around the deck got tidied up and edged. We got a few Haskap berries last year, but are very hopeful as this year the 3 year old plants have gotten significantly bigger and are all blooming.  We have 3 varieties of Haskaps; they need pollinators. I also planted my “Veteran” peach that I picked out for Mother’s Day. I am really hoping and praying that it does well in this spot, the thought fresh peaches is already making me drool!

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A close up of the pretty little yellow flowers.  Haskap berries are the first to ripen in Nova Scotia, hopefully by the end of June.

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Gorgeous Peach blossoms! This variety, Veteran, is supposed to be very hardy and produce in Nova Scotia…time will tell.  For now, the blossoms smell divine and the colour is so pretty.

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In front of the shed we are attempting to grow Magic Hardy kiwi. They are “magic” because male and female vines were planted together to make baby kiwis…explain that one to my wee girl…The vines on the right were planted last year and survived the winter very well so we planted a second one on the other side to match.  We haven’t gotten any of the bite sized fur-less kiwis yet, but there are a few blossoms this year.

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Boyne and Nova Raspberries and Cabot Strawberries – something is nibbling the leaves of the Strawberries and book toy this year, but I not sure what.  It wouldn’t really matter if I did though, I won’t spray my children’s food for the sake of a few holes.  We just call them “hole-y” leaves when we say Grace!

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In the front yard, we have many crabapples and what I think was a cherry.  I forgot to note it my book and the tag blew off.  The pictures are a bit fuzzy because of the wind, but can anyone tell me if this is in fact a cherry?  It could also be a plum…Oooops.

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All the veggie beds are now turned (except for the rogue overwintered Kale. I didn’t have the heart!). I covered and secured all of the rows with weed barrier and laid straw and cardboard between the rows. 3 beds of “Cheiftain” potatoes got planted. I dug holes and covered the seed potato with about 2 inches of dirt.  The extra dirt and mulch straw is all read in bins beside the garden for when the green shoots need to be hilled.  This method worked really well for me last year! Planting will begin in earnest over the next 2 weekends,  We still have to worry about frost until the first full moon in June (according to my Grandma).

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And of course, the hoop tunnels are growing great!  I have yet to see any broccoli poke up though, luckily we have seedings we can transplant if necessary. And then some…Ooops!

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So that was my looking weekend in my Happy Place – how was yours?!

“In my “Happy Place”…will be back never.” – Not sure where I heard this one, but I think it is what my hubby thought about me all weekend!

We have germination, OUTDOORS!!

Take that Mother Nature! It has snowed, gone below zero, rained every day this week and been down right, unseasonably, unthinkably yucky. But under the frost blankets and hoop tunnels, we have germination!! Not much, not all, and not quickly, but we have it. The seedlings we planted under the hoops are also happy and thriving, whew!

Score Tally: Us = 2, Mother Nature = 0… The “Spring that Wasn’t” saga continues…

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Lovely little green veggie babies snuggled under their blankie…kind of cute, hey? These were planted 10 days ago.

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And under the hoops the big brother and sister seedlings are going strong!  Not much germination yet, but they were only planted on Sunday.  Can you spot the lone Bok Choi poking up?

Under the hoops are Taunus, Detriot Dark Red Supreme, Chioggia and First Crop beets, Rainbow mix and Napoli carrots, Cherry Belle and Easter Egg radish, Bok Choi, Peppermint and Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Ragged Jack and Dinosaur Kale, red and white onion sets, Giant Musselborough Leek, overwintered hard neck garlic and Butter Crunch lettuce.

I hope they all stay alive and that more join them soon!

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.” ~ Joseph Addison

Fed up. Hoops Up!

It snowed again today.  No accumulation, but big, wet, yucky flakes came down.  Again.  Mother Nature and I are having a time out.  A pause.  I am trying to be the bigger person and not throw a full on hissy fit – it is pretty tough, but so far I am in for the win.  This past weekend was glorious!  A large amount of snow had melted and by Sunday evening I had 4 raised beds thawed and moist and the main veggie bed almost visible.  There was hope!  I even started hardening off the early veggie babies and the perennial seedlings on the porch.  Apparently Mother Nature put her big old arctic mukluk wearing foot down.  But I am no schmuck – I got prepared. That does’t mean I am happy about it.

I am now a full 3 weeks behind where I was 2 years ago, not a single pea has gone in the ground.  Not cool, Mother Nature. This guy won’t be deterred and neither will I!

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What do maritimers who really like to garden in the early spring do when they get fed up?  We pull out the construction supplies, our rubber boots, the frost blankets and the pitch forks and get the hoops up!  Mini hoop tunnels provide additional protection from frost, sleet, snow, deer, rabbits and wind.  They can allow early cold hardy varieties to be started as soon as the snow has melted enough to find the dirt (usually end of March or early April).  They also allow for tender annuals to go out a bit earlier without worrying about the random late frosts wiping them out ( 2 weeks or so).  Different types of covers can be used depending on the season or level of protection needed.  This time of year, I cover my tunnels with 6mm vapour barrier to create a greenhouse effect and warm the soil up quicker with as much light transmission as possible.  In the summer, I will cover with thin shade cloth to keep cooler veggies happy in the heat and in the late fall or winter I will use heavy frost blankets as insulation to eek out a few extra weeks of growing.

Here is how we set up our hoop tunnels:

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Using the circular saw, I cut 6 foot lengths of 3/4 inch PVC pipe (50 feet of the black stuff was $17.99 at Canadian Tire.  The white stuff was more expensive – I was excited to find it cheaper!)  My beds are 4 feet wide, 6 feet hoops give me roughly 2 feet of clearance once they are placed in the raised beds.

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I then hammered 18 inch and 24 inch rebar stakes into the freshly turned soil so that they are deep enough to be sturdy (look in the top right corner).  I picked the green coated ones up at Home Depot.  I also picked up some cheap 2 foot uncoated pieces at Kent for $1.69 each.

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I always use at least 4 hoops for my tunnels to keep them from collapsing, whether they are 8 feet long or 14 feet long. I slide the ends of the PVC over the rebar (at least 4 inches).

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For the Poly tunnel covering, I picked up a roll of 6mm vapour barrier (I don’t remember where I got it, I have been using the same roll for 3 years…).  I cut left over decking boards to 7 feet (my raised beds are 8 feet). I am not worried about the treatment on the wood because it will be wrapped in the vapour barrier anyways.

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I centre the boards lengthwise (the poly is folded in half here to fit in the picture – it is actually 8 feet wide, which works perfectly to cover the 6 foot hoops…)  I then recruit cute little helpers to staple the plastic to the first board.  To make sure it is secure, I staple, then roll the board once in the plastic and staple it again.  The second board is secured to the other side of the plastic in the same manner making sure the rolled edges are the same side up.

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Little hands help me carry the boards and poly cover to the garden where we unroll it over the hoops.  You can just roll or unroll the boards to tighten up the cover.  We tuck the boards down in between the hoops and the edge of the bed.  The ends are tucked in like a birthday present and held down with a rock.  On warm days, we can simply open the ends and tuck the plastic back to ventilate or unroll one side to open the tunnels completely.

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Finally, we use clips we found at the dollar store to give a little extra support, et voila!  Mini greenhouse is complete!

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For less finicky greens, and because I was completely out of patience, I hauled out a frost blanket and planted Tyee spinach, Spicy mesclun, Cos Romaine and arugula between rows of Munchkin and Packman broccoli.  I will not be defeated!!

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I have since shovelled in some compost, the soil is warming up wonderfully!  I hope to plant some of these little beauties this weekend – in my rubber boots or in my snow pants.  Either way – I win!!!

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“Even if you are on the right track, you will still get run over if you just sit there!” ~Will Rogers