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.

image

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?!

 

 

 

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!

image

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:

image image

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.

image image

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.

image image

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).

image image

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.

image image image

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.

image image

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.

image image

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

image

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!!

image

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!!!

image

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

Tomato-geddon begins! Little hands strike again….

“Mama!  I dropped some on the floor, so I picked them up and threw them in too!” Pause, 2, 3, 4….

“Mama!  Did you say 6 or did you really mean 14?!”  Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama!!  I really like purple, so I added 7 extra seeds.” Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama! If the seeds are a little furry, is it okay if I just plant them all?  I think there were about 18, but only 3 weren’t furry…” Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama!  Is it okay if I added 2 for good luck?”

These are actual quotes that I managed to write down while suppressing giggles, a few tears and trying not to panic out loud.

Yup – little hands were at it again!  “Tomato-geddon” officially began for the 2015 season on March 31st.  “6 of each kind, except the orange ones, you can plant 12 of those. But no more.”, I said.

We had carefully selected 9 varieties of tomatoes to try this year after looking through our notes, checking out the catalogues and reading reviews on our new favourite blogs.  We picked 9 types knowing full well that we would inevitably find a 10th seedling variety that we couldn’t survive the summer without at one of the greenhouses we frequent in the summer (well, okay, maybe 2 more types if we happen to black-out a little from all the excitement and the heat)…that would give us no more than 66 plants if all the seedlings made it.  My plan was for 30, max, to go into the garden, a few in big planters and a few to share.

I should have known better!

Here is how is went down…

image

First we set up our starter trays – we thought it was oddly amusing to plant tomato seeds in tomato containers…

image

image

Then Little hands filled them about 2 inches full with Pro Mix…only a bit ended up on the floor…

image

She wet the soil to nice and moist with warm water…

image image   image

Then she began planting her seeds.  She planted determinate and indeterminate, both heirloom and hybrids (we need some to survive the late blight).  I had my back to her as I was washing up some other trays to plant annual flowers.  I thought I could trust her to stick with the limits!  I forgot that she was my kid!  Bahahahahaha!!!

In the end she started:

Heirlooms:

3, or maybe 18, Gold Dust

6 Mennonite (orange)

8 Alaska

8, or maybe, 20 Scotia

6 12 Sub Arctic Plenty (they fell on the floor)

6 Ha! 13 Black Plum, and maybe more…

Hybrids:

14 Sun Gold cherry – 2 for good luck, they are her favourite!

6 14 Big Beef, because 6 really does mean 14…

8 Lemon Boy, we ran out of seeds…

image

Before I could get an accurate head count, they were snuggled under a fine layer of soil and spritzed oh-so-carefully…

image

After they were all covered up, they got placed on the heat mats to speed up germination – which amazingly only took 3 or 4 days to start.

image

One week later, here were about 92 happy little seedlings reaching up for the lights!

I feel another epic potting up party coming up this weekend.  I hope I have enough yogourt containers saved up! I love those Little hands so very much…

It is still 6 weeks until we should be able to plant tomatoes out into the garden without extra protection- there is still time to start some from seed!

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” ~Brian O’Driscoll

Day Maker!

Our big girl went for a sleepover, leaving my husband and I some alone time with our wee girl this morning – a real treat for her that rarely happens.  We took her out for a special breakfast and let her order PB&J on homemade bread and jam, without crusts – the café’s “specialty”!  We played tic tac toe while we sipped our coffees and listened to her babble on endlessly about her little world and all the happenings with her little friends. She thoroughly enjoyed her spotlit pedestal!  On our way home, we passed a greenhouse that had just opened for the season and we had to stop, the snow is getting to us and the opportunity of visiting a warm, sunny nursery full of new life was more than we could pass up.  It turned out to be the highlight of her special day – the wonderful ladies let us look around the blocked off part of the greenhouse where they showed her how little plugs were transplanted, we watched a guy way up on a rolling platform fertilizing hanging baskets and she happily wandered through the rows identifying which plants she was growing herself at home.  She was very proud of herself when she discovered her Coleus plants were bigger than those at the greenhouse!

While my husband busied himself learning about pest deterrents, my wee girl told the ladies all about her flower babies and picked out a pot she wanted to buy with money she had earned cat sitting.  Megan, an absolutely lovely staff member, made her a deal that if she promised to plant one of her coleus’ in the pot and bring it back in to show her sometime that she could have the pot for free!!!  Well, that was just the icing on the cake – Little Miss had a smile on her face the whole way home!  So, Megan, here is a picture of the little plant in the pot that made one little girl’s day (we will definitely bring it in for a visit as requested)!  What a great stop – you ladies truly were her “day maker” today!

image

image

Thank you to both of the lovely ladies at Bloom Greenhouse for being so kind to a budding gardener!

A glimpse under the grow lights – April 7th (or Survival of the fittest and vegetable infanticide…)

image

Nova Scotia continues to be buried in feet, yes FEET, of white stuff. In fact, we woke up to another 5-10 cms this morning.  Usually by this time we are prepping early beds, assembling poly tunnels and seriously considering planting the early veggies outdoors under cover (peas, kale, bok choy, onions, beets, carrots, chard and spinach)…not this year. There is some hope in that the temperatures are warming up and there has been some melting but at this rate I am afraid it will be a very, very late start to the garden. Thankfully the grow lights are shining away and the early starts are doing well – the veggie babies may not have a nice dirty outdoor place to move into before they peak, but they seem happy for now.

image

Potted up veggies, herbs and flowers patiently waiting under the lights until they can move outdoors.

image

Columbine reaching for the light.

Many have been potted up to larger pots and some have graduated to another location with less direct light as we have started to run out of space under the lights.  My wee girl has a nice sunny window and found a little greenhouse unit that has moved into her bedroom as well for her maturing flowers(she simply had to have it…and I simply couldn’t say no…) !!

image

She simply HAD to have it!! We added some lights to the bottom for a little something extra…

image

A few of my Wee girl’s Coleus plants happy in the sunshine! (This is about half of them…oooops!)

image

Chamomile, Impatiens and Rudbeckia – also in her greenhouse…ahem…bedroom…

We have had some casualties, sadly. This weekend, as we were potting up seedlings and starting new seeds (the 6-8 week prior crowd), we found many seedlings that had been burnt by organic seaweed fertilizer. Yup, unintentional vegetable infanticide. We had diluted the fertilizer even more than the directions had stated and waited until at least 2 sets of leaves had grown, but it was still too strong and in the end, only the strong survived….fail.  The bok choi and chard were hit the hardest, with jalapeños suffering a fair amount as well.  The cauliflower and broccoli fared somewhat better, with the strongest seedlings overcoming the weaker ones.  Survival of the fittest. And unfortunately this is the second year in a row we managed to do this…double fail.

image

Damage from the fertilizer – discolouration and stunted growth. I am not sure if they will pull through. Has anyone else had this issue?

My wee girl was pretty sad and after we gave the lost seedlings a little burial in the compost bin we had a big chat about the circle of life. I never expected that gardening would lead to philosophical discussions of life, death and the afterlife, but am glad that I had the opportunity for this talk to happen over vegetables before she really has to deal with a loss of someone close. So as we continue to wait, and wait, and wait for the snow to melt, at least I can pass on a few life lessons and we can peek under the lights (instead of under frost blankets) to see what’s poking up!

image     image

“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” ~ Rafiki (after bonking Simba on the head – probably what I deserve!

My top ten steps for starting a new veggie bed…maybe it will help a few dreamers?

Beginning any new task is very daunting for me.  I like to know what I am getting myself into and I like to know all the steps before I begin.  I don’t mind adjusting on the fly, but flying blind is not for me. After writing about a few of our successes, trials and plans in seeding, gardening and lighting I received a request for a specific post – How do I get started on a small veggie garden without getting overwhelmed?  I am certainly no expert in this area – but this is how I started laying down roots, how I dreamed and triumphed and of course how I could have done it better.  I hope it helps a bit.

MY TOP 10 STEPS FOR STARTING A NEW VEGGIE BED

10 – SUCCESS! Site Selection – The soil in my yard is quite heavy with a lot of clay.  I also have a lot of trees that cast weird shade.  We started by finding a flat site and staked out a 10×20 foot square.  We watched where the shadows were throughout the day and adjusted the location of our square to make sure we had as much sun as possible throughout the day.  We also made sure the hose and sprinkler would reach. I use a lot of planters on the deck and patio and fill them with veggies – even my 2×2 planters produce a pile of tomatoes and chard and are very pretty when planted with a few annuals or herbs for a splash of colour. Added bonus – planters can be hauled inside during summer hurricanes!

IMG_1446image

10514255_10154521890850001_173322076824416720_o

9 – FAIL – Could have done better….Soil Preparation – The first year, we dug out the sod (we needed it in other places anyways…), pulled as many big rocks out as we could and turned the “soil” (it was really clay) with shovels.  We added bags of peat moss and compost and had 2 yards of garden soil dumped in the back of our truck and dug that all in too.  I did buy a soil test kit and a pH tester, but I am not sure they were ever very accurate and never repeated the process out of laziness and distractedness.

250258_10150906309205001_5335187_n

The start of year 3.

What we have since done better – in subsequent years of expansion we borrowed and then purchased a root-tiller to till the original plot – soooo much easier than hand-bombing it with shovels. We also lost the rock and clay battle and chose instead to have more garden soil or triple mix delivered to “build up” our soil.  Instead of cutting out the sod, I laid cardboard down in the area to become the garden.  We then dumped 10-12 inches of soil on top of the cardboard.  By the end of the summer, the cardboard had broken down the sod and the garden soil was much more productive than our natural soil even with the amendments.

Better still – 2 years ago we bought composite raised bed kits.  We placed a few inches of crusher dust and gravel underneath the boards to level them, lined them cardboard and then filled with garden soil and triple mix. Each bed is 4×8 feet and 12 inches deep. They were much more expensive, but by far the best approach for us.  After we clean up the gardens in the fall, I cover the beds with straw to keep weeds down and turn it under in the early spring with a fresh top up of organic fertilizer and compost – less weeds, more yield and no boulders to be dug!  SCORE!

979970_10153031964255001_994493092_o

A lot of work to set up, but so worth it!

8 – SUCCESS! Hilling my rows – We get a lot of rain and I found that in the main garden, I lose less soil and seedlings to run off and drowning if I create hilled rows. I mark where my rows should be (they are pretty set now after 6 years and it reduces work and soil compaction by keeping my rows in the same places.) I make my rows approx 2-3 feet wide by 10-12 inches high with a hoe so I can plant a few rows of treats in each hill or plant in clumps.  The water runs off into the lower paths between rows and it seems to keep the roots watered while keeping puddles in the actual rows to a minimum.  This doesn’t apply to my raised beds as the drainage is really good and we don’t walk in them anyways.

549728_10152207349280001_1308903373_n

7 – SUCCESS!! 2 foot paths between rows – just enough space to kneel in and get the wheelbarrow through! Enough said…

6 –SUCCESS!!! Weed barriers – I HATE WEEDING!!!  We almost plowed down the dirt and seeded the plot with grass a few summers ago because the weeding was becoming all consuming!  They were shading out veggie babies, providing hiding spaces for slugs and bugs and smothering everything edible (as well as smothering my desire to garden anymore….) With two busy girls, a full time job and the desire to do something other than pull weeds every non-scheduled waking moment, I caved and bought weed barrier. AND THE ANGELS SANG – AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! (That was supposed to be angels singing in harmony with the sun shining brightly and me frolicking in a long shimmery dress with flowers in my hair! Yup, the result was that good!!)

The cost is not prohibitive – less than $60 per season.  I place cardboard or wet newspaper between the rows, then place black bio-film over my prepped rows as tight as I can, staking it with ground stakes or rocks.  I then cover the newspaper or cardboard with clean straw (not hay!!!) In order to seed, I use an exact-o knife to cut slits or small holes and plant seedlings or seeds through the holes.  The black film does triple duty – it heats the soil, prevents run off and SMOTHERS THE WEEDY INVADERS!!!!  It is the rock star of my garden.  I haven’t had to use it in my raised beds yet because the soil was relatively weed free, but I will as soon as I get overrun again.  The prep work is a lot more but last summer I spent less than 10 hours total weeding the veggie beds.  FREEDOM!!!

482293_10152878309230001_1319633381_n 10441907_10154468667875001_7636458668015709929_n

10397190_10154468667870001_5188231394626164158_o

5 –Success, partially –  Electric fencing.  This was a must for us.  The deer were eating the veggies faster than we could grow them.  A simple electric fence made for small animals was cost-effective, not too unsightly and keeps the deer out magnificently! It does not keep out racoons or rabbits….that is a battle for next summer….If your garden is small, a fence would be ideal.  Mine is 40×24 and it would far too expensive to do a pretty fence.

4 – SUCCESS (after a few years) – Bird netting, frost blankets and hoop tunnels – These little beauties did not come until 2 years ago, but I wish I had started from the get-go with them.  They can be easily thrown up quickly and protect veggies and berries from animals, frost, hail, winds and sun.  I found frost blankets at the Dollarama last year – JACKPOT!

Hoop tunnels are just 6 foot long sections of 3/4 inch PVC pipes. I slide them over 1 foot rebar stakes that I pound into the ground on each side of the row. They act as mini greenhouses and allow me to plant much earlier and later than the frost dates. I use 4 hoops for a 14 foot row.  As a cover, I bought 6 mm vapour barrier plastic, laid out 18 feet of it (it was 8 feet wide) and stapled 14 foot decking boards down the two long sides.  I rolled the boards in the extra plastic (since the hoops were 6 feet wide – the extra is nice as it keeps the staples from being pulled out).  Hubby helped me carry the boards and plastic to the garden and laid a board in each path on either side of the row, with the plastic resting on the PVC pipes. I can easily lift one board up and over the hoops to uncover or recover as necessary for picking or airing out. I found green plant clips at the dollar store that clamp the plastic to the hoops nicely. Niki Jabbour’s book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener has some easy instructions for making these.

10009972_10154245810655001_4480311577505618136_o

3 – FAIL – High quality sprinkler – cheap ones just don’t cut it. I have spent more in cheap sprinklers than I would have had I sucked it up in the first place.  In ground drip irrigation would be lovely….someday maybe!

2 – SUCCESS! Strong vertical supports – for peas, poles beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.  I use everything from cages to bamboo to saplings.  Vertical supports make the garden interesting, pretty, save space and keep produce off the ground.  Plus there is nothing neater for a little kid than a pole bean teepee or a squash house to hide in!

184059_10150906319670001_803474_n

AND MY NUMBER 1 STEP FOR STARTING A GARDEN….drumroll please…..

1 – Minions for planting!!!! The more hands, the better!  Little hands are capable of so much and bring so much joy, excitement and fulfilment to the garden, as long as I am willing to have a few crooked rows and a few surprises!

1266205_10153398422615001_651030402_o

I have made lists of veggies that have worked well for our family in Nova Scotia.  I use calendars to remember when to plant what – you can find them in O-Seed-D if you’d like to take a peek.  I found the best way to decide what to grow is to figure out what we will actually eat and ask other gardeners around me what varieties  have worked best in our area.  Nova Scotia is full of great resources, I only listed a few in Borrowed Wisdom, but I go back to them all the time – I learn something new every time I read the same old books!

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

But for now, we wait…

imageSooooooo…..The garden plans are set.  The new seeds are mostly ordered.  The calendar is marked up. The early seedlings are started and some seedlings have already passed on to greener pastures because we forgot to water them. Ooopsies… More little seedlings are poking up every day.  My wee girl’s flower babies are growing bigger everyday and are slowly inheriting names as she decides what suits them (I will admit that I cannot possibly remember them all.  2 years ago she became particularly attached to her tomatoes that we started far too early – it was a very awkward affair when we started to eat “Isabelle’s” babies!!!) I guess perhaps I should make some new name tags for the Coleus clan. There is not a whole lot more to do right now.  A few more trays of marigolds, zinnia, ganzania, snapdragons, tomatoes, cucs and squash will be started in 2-4 more weeks (doesn’t that seem like an eternity!?).  It would be really nice to get outside to start some prep work…

922974_10152933032465001_946299820_n

Isabelle, Gracie and Tinkerbelle. In March…Ooops. Sorry about the picture quality….

Buuuuut…..(insert large sigh, the baited breath and the big exhale here…) The gardens are covered in about 3 feet of ice and snow.  I guess if it is truly a “poor man’s fertilizer”, then Nova Scotia gardeners have struck it rich this year! BINGO?!  It has been a bit warmer, but the forecast is not warming up by very much anytime soon and as a bonus we are still enjoying many great days of skiing. Last year we had a massive storm on March 27th, so it is entirely possible that we will be waiting for quite some time yet to get our hands dirty outside. But on the other hand, the year before I had the veggie beds roto-tilled, composted, tunnels set up and cool weather veggies seeded by the 30th of March. It is hard to believe when I look out the back windows and I can hardly see where the raised beds are buried that in less than 1 month we could actually be starting the garden for this year! Fingers crossed…

1921138_10154328428165001_1537742986908206000_o

Early beds poking up in April of last year. Frost blankets are an amazing tool for gardeners…ahem..me..with very little patience!

I don’t want to wish the winter away because I love the snow. I love sledding with the kids and skiing as a family.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as a full day in the fresh, crisp air, filled with fun, adrenaline and true time spent together.  (Well maybe the glass of wine in front of the fire when every, single muscle and joint is worn out is almost as satisfying…) I love the lack of lawn mowing in the winter and I really love the lack of bugs in the winter! More than anything, I love the lack of weeding.  Yup, I said it.  I hate weeding. I will do just about anything to avoid weeding. I will pawn it off an anyone else who can be suckered, administer it as a punishment, convince myself weeds are pretty, figure out if I can somehow make tea, wine, jelly or find some redeeming use for them, you get the point…boy…do I hate weeding.  Unless it is with a flame thrower or a roto-tiller, both of those tools can be incredibly therapeutic!  But I digress.

10151968_10155428406745001_4756617432627981442_n

If you can’t beat the snow……

Spring can even make me a bit sad.  As a mama, the coming of spring and summer means two more birthdays, 2 little girls getting a bit bigger, 2 little girls who need me just that little bit less…BUT WAIT!  Because they will be a bit bigger, a bit tougher, a bit stronger, it also means they can pull a few extra weeds!  They will be able to drag a heavier bag of compost, and best of all – maybe this year, just maybe, my big girl will be able to mow the lawn!!!  Bring on the Spring!!!

IMG_0561

Chives are usually the first herb to say hello in my spring beds.

But we have no control over Mother Nature.  We can knock on wood, cross fingers, pray really, really hard and do all the spring fling dances we like, but in the end, it is a waiting game. For now, all we really have are some pretty forced Forsythia and apple blossoms to give us hope that spring is on the way. Maybe some forced spring bulbs will finally pop and there are always the pictures from last year to swoon over. I guess I could head to the freezer and pull out some apples and berries from last year and make some of Grandma’s recipes with the girls- maybe that will be next week’s post! Mmmmmmmm….Blueberry grunt…. But for now, we wait…

10991673_10155410548880001_7868167020073460668_o

Nothing like tulips to brighten the winter!

10418518_10155327779170001_3271665678665535011_n

“Lemony Sunshine” – Our little lemon lady comes inside for the winter and keeps us smiling with her little lemon babies!

10974524_10155410548895001_732454597249318594_o

Hope for what is to come!

image

10924216_10155410548890001_238713110400787510_o

I love to force Forsythias and Crabapples in February or March – just a nice little “Pop!” of life!

525462_10152878307190001_2120781804_n

A lone forced Daffodil my big girl planted last year – it opened on Easter morning!

“God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and faith, but it is worth the wait.” ~ Unknown

Obsessive Seeding Disorder (O-Seed-D)

IMG_2000Hello, I am a gardner and I have a problem. Whew, what a relief to get that off my conscience!  But I actually do not want any help getting over my condition, in fact I hope it is contagious! I wouldn’t call it an addiction, per se, I could stop if I wanted to (ha!), more of a vice (because I choose to spend many hours during my week thinking about seeds).  My husband refers to it as my obsession.  Obsessive Seeding Disorder. Guilty!

Because our growing season in Nova Scotia is roughly 20 weeks frost-free, a lot of thought has to go into what seeds I will plant, how and when they will be started and where they can be planted without getting devoured by wild life once outside.  Thankfully, Nova Scotia has a fairly large collection of gardeners who share my O-Seed-D affliction and there are many good resources to help with the daunting task of picking the right variety of seed!  I have found kindred spirits and had great conversations in the church nursery, at my daughter’s basketball games, over a glass of wine at bonfires down the street, during “meditation” time in yoga class and even during the odd moment of down time at work (I would say don’t tell my boss, but I think he is part of the club).  I have been surprised by some of the people that speak up when the topic of seeds pops up – there are many closet gardeners you would never suspect!

image

My seed box and seeding journal…sigh…so beautiful!

Seed planning for this year started with seed planting last year.  I have a small journal that I keep notes in from year to year with planting dates and techniques used.  I track germination rates, successes and failures.  I make notes about what I started far too early, too late and which varieties were a complete flop so as not to repeat the same mistake twice.  Einstein proved his brilliance when he said “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results…” That said, I often forget this quote and black out a bit when I pull out my trays – my obsession takes over and it seems entirely reasonable to start 100 tomatoes when I can only actually fit 20-30 plants in my garden! I also have a specific seeding calendar (one of the many charity ones that come in the mail) for tracking planting dates for inside and out.  I find this method using the calendar a quick and easy way to keep myself on track without too many fancy spreadsheets or by trying to keep seed packets sorted by starting dates.

image

Annual Family Seed Organizing Event – (my gardening minions get to vote and veto what they didn’t like last year). Only the favourites get to go into the box and on the list for this year!

I am not a psychologist or geneticist, but I am quite certain that this condition is genetic.  My grandmother always had far too many seedlings for the amount of pots she could plant and my girls are exhibiting the same quirks to which I simply cannot say no.  Just last weekend my wee girl and I were going to seed just 12 jalapeños and 12 munchkin broccolis so they would be ready to plant out in the early tunnels. Fail.  I gave her the scoop and seed starting mix, turned my back to bleach few more cells left over from last year (to make sure there were no diseases to spread) and before I knew it I heard her counting “22, 23, 24, 25…” of each!  Some celery also managed to find it’s way into trays, and some lavender, and some columbine (because we saw those at the store and thought we may not be able to live without them any longer), and some chamomile (because we weren’t sure how we managed to live without them until now), and some Black Eyed Susans (because how could we go on living with such an unfulfilling ditch)……….you get the picture. Just one more reason to add to my list of the thousand reasons I love that little girl!

SAD

See?! I am not alone! Thanks for the support Green Sparrow Gardens!

Selecting the variety of seed can be overwhelming – this is where seed catalogues and a support group come in.   I try to use Canadian seed as much as possible, and preferably grown by sources from the maritimes to ensure the best chances for my Nova Scotia garden.  Each catalogue has planting guides and friends who have been in “the club” for much longer than I have shared their wisdom and extra seeds freely. I have discovered some delicious veggies that I would never have tried myself simply by spreading my roots and soaking up any borrowed wisdom that comes my way.  Somehow, even reporting back how a new veggie is doing has strengthened some great relationships with truly wonderful people.

I select seed for many reasons – storing, freezing, drying, overwintering, canning.  It all started as a small summer garden in my first house and over the years has grown into…well, alright, I admit it, an obsession!  Anyone who wants to join my club is more than welcome, there is always room for more in my garden, even if I run out of space under my lights!

This is the seeding guide from Halifax Seed  and my calendar and for this year:imageimageimageimage image   

This is my veggie list for this year (sorry about the printing):

image

These are my new picks (so far) for this year:

Veggies:

Peppermint Swiss Chard (Halifax Seed) – Thanks Niki!

Sub Arctic Plenty Tomatoes (Still looking…) – Thanks Brenda!

Green Envy Cherry toms (Burpees) – Thanks Wendy!

Black Plum Tomatoes (Still looking) – thanks Margeurite!

Sicilia Violetto Cauliflower (Suttons), Tonya’s Pick Pod beans (Annapolis) and Purple Sun Carrots (Suttons) for the “Purple bed”

Celebration Squash (Veseys)

Gonevese Basil (Gusto Italia)

Market Express Baby Turnip (Halifax Seed) – Never thought of turnip tops before last year – Thanks Deborah!

Flowers

Rudbeckia – Just for Debbie! (Hope Seeds)

Columbine – thanks for posting that picture last year Selena! (McKenzie)

Climbing vine and Ladybird Cream Purple Spot Nasturtium (McKenzie)

German Chamomile (Burpees)

Perennial Dianthus (from our own seed)

Have a look at the Borrowed Wisdom section for my favourite East Coast Resources

” An addiction to gardening is not at all bad when you consider all the other choices in life” ~ Cora Lee Bell

A heart of gratitude…and an award?!

liesbster 2I am grateful.  For many things; my children, my health, my husband, my family.  I am grateful for those in my life who have influenced me, who have challenged me, who have nearly broken me and for those who have held me up. I am grateful to come home to a warm house and plenty of nourishment every night.  I am grateful that I am safe and loved.

This past month has been a new adventure for me!  I am not a writer, I certainly did not think that I would enjoy it at all.  I started this little blog more as a repository of memories about some of the things in my life that I am most grateful for – my home, my family, my friends and my garden.  The garden seems like a silly little piece of the big picture, but it is a very fitting foundation upon which to build my story.  It is such a perfect backdrop for so many things and there are so many puns to be worked in!! I had hoped a few people would enjoy my ramblings…ahem…memoirs… about my trials in the garden of course, but most importantly, I hoped that as my girls get older they see past the posts about seeds, weeds and dreams and recognize these tales for what they really are. They are for them.  I am trying to share with them a bit of myself that they don’t see day to day by planting memories for them “on paper”.  I am trying to bury the little things they don’t hear from me (as we rush out of the house in the morning or to soccer after dinner or when I am upset that they are arguing again) in the little stories I share about “gardening”.  I hope they one day unearth what I set out to achieve. I hope they discover the meaning of the words even if they are covered in a bit of “dirt” and I hope that this little time capsule helps them get to know me a bit better. And if they learn a little something of the importance of knowing where their food comes from or discover the beauty in a blooming flower along the way – so much the better!

image

When I turned my computer on 2 nights ago, I had a notification that someone else is reading these memoirs and maybe even enjoying them a bit!  Lynn from WordShamble had selected me as a Leibster Award Nominee – I am not sure if this like a blog chain letter disguised as an award for new Blogs, but either way, I am grateful!  So thanks Lynn!

Apparently, there are rules that go along with accepting this award, so here they are:

1) Put the Liebster Award logo on your blog.

2) Thank and tag the blog who nominated you – Again, thanks Lynn!

3) Answer their questions and come up with 10 new ones for your nominees

4) Nominate 8 blogs (with less than 200 followers), let them know you’ve nominated them and link them in your post.  I was not sure I had even read 8 blogs, so this led me on another adventure searching for some like minded gardeners (I apologize if you have more than 200 followers – that part was tricky)

5) No tag-backs.

IMG_1486

So these are the questions I was asked…

(1) What was your favourite book as a child and why?

The Poky Little Puppy because the drawings were sweet, the adventures were grand and the puppy was so naughty. It gave me hope that someday, maybe, being naughty would pay off in Strawberry Shortcake. Still waiting… 

(2) If you were a Supervillain, who would you want to be and why?

Dr Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb – deep down he isn’t really evil and he has some phenomenal ideas!
(3) If you could only save one animal from a global extinction, what would it be?

My dog Gus.
(4) Where’s your happy place? Describe.

In my garden, with my girls – guess you will just have to read all my other posts to find out why!
(5) E-readers or conventional books?

Always a real book.
(6) If you could choose one piece of tech from a Bond movie, which would it be?

I would choose Pierce Brosnan – is that an option?!
(7) What are the three foods that you wouldn’t want to live without?

Brie, pepper jelly and chocolate.
(8) If a griffin fought a hydra, which would win?

I couldn’t even venture a guess.
(9) What’s the favourite post you’ve posted?

Little Hands, Little Seeds, Very Little Patience – I love that little girl to bursting.
(10)What’s the best piece of conversation you’ve ever overheard?

My two girls whispering behind my back after a very bad day at work…”Uh oh, Mama is getting out the rototiller, we’d better go inside and hide!”

IMG_1455

I am grateful to have discovered the following blogs and nominate:

Plumdirt

New Gardener Blues

Garden Fairy Farm

DirtnKids

The Gardeners Notebook

Garden and more

The Bent Trowel

Gardening Hands

IMG_0648

My 10 questions for you are:

1) Favorite flower

2) Favorite veggie

3) Favorite garden picture (insert it if you can)

4) Favorite season

5) Biggest defeat in your garden

6) Biggest challenge in your garden

7) Your next big project

8) Your gardening partner you are most grateful for

9) Your favourite quote

10) What are you grateful for?

IMG_0562

So the first month has been a truly great experience!  I have discovered that writing can be a lot of fun and a great distraction – even if it only lasts for this one season, for that discovery I am…. grateful.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William Arthur Ward

Best Laid Plans…Ironically, Version 2

IMG_1387I am a planner. I really, really like spreadsheets, notebooks and lists. I especially like the feeling of checking things off my list.  I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I even add points to my lists just to get extra check marks. (Make list, check!  Complete first item, reward yourself with a cup of coffee, check! Do that thing that you actually already finished but are adding it to the list just to cross it off, check!) I can be impulsive, don’t get me wrong, but I like it when a good plan comes together. Despite my best efforts, life has thrown many curveballs at my plans. Career starts, start overs and changes, long commutes and time away from my family have taught me many hard lessons. New additions to our family have tested me and taught me things about myself I may never have known otherwise, wonderful and not so wonderful. Losses have proven to me how strong I actually can be. Moving around Canada has led me to appreciate home and family more than I could have ever imagined. What I have learned most is that despite my best laid plans, the experiences of actually “doing” are never what I had anticipated.

IMG_0656If everything happens for a reason, then I am so grateful to have met some truly amazing people, encountered sheer beauty and joy and been touched in ways no list or spreadsheet could ever capture.  When faced with challenges that were nowhere to be found in columns a, b or c, I have had to learn to let go, give up my plans and embrace what God has laid out in his plans for me. As long as I have faith in myself, my family and God, I am never disappointed in the outcome, even if at the time the experiences have been painful or confusing.

imageGardening has been no exception to the rule of “best laid plans….”! Each winter I plan out how our main growing season will look.  I calculate the amount of compost or triple mix I need to order and I draw out planting diagrams based on last year’s crops (I try my best to rotate crops). I sort seeds collected and left over from last year and I start watching for sales on weed barriers, mulches and plant supports. I test soil pH levels and nutrients when the snow melts. I fill out calendars with planting dates and set up my indoor lights for seedlings. But I live in Nova Scotia!  Anyone who lives on the east coast needs no explanation on why this is the main reason my plans need to be fluid.  We have heat, we have cold.  We have long periods without rain followed by hurricanes and hail in July.  We have hungry wildlife! Each and every season has been different from the last for both veggies and flowers.  Things pop up that I have IMG_1472no recollection of planting and some prized perennials never seem to reappear. Kids happen! Plants get picked, trampled, nibbled and drowned. It is all part of the experience.  Regardless of the outcome, whether as planned or as complete surprises, my gardens and the time shared planning them and caring for them with my girls bring me growth, serenity, joy and clarity that I could never plan for; nor would I wish to.  It amazes me what life brings when I unplug, go outside and just be present in the moment, watching plans unfold.

This is the “plan” for this year’s main veggie garden compared to last years – this is very fluid:

Ironically, after posting this memoir, a comment triggered me to have a second look.  I realized that I had been so distracted by my wee girl that I completely missed carrots, beets and a whole bed in the 2015 plans!  Here is version 2....best laid plans!

Ironically, after posting this memoir, a comment triggered me to have a second look. I realized that I had been so distracted by my wee girl that I completely missed carrots, beets and a whole bed in the 2015 plans! Here is version 2….best laid plans!

2014's plans...not everything went exactly according to plan!

2014’s plans…not everything went exactly according to plan!

*** I have used some great online planners in years past, though I find it easiest to just do it by hand.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Mother Earth News and Garden Supply Company have some great plans! Niki Jabbour from Nova Scotia has also written a great book called Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change The Way You Grow Your Garden, that I can’t wait to read…

I will need this much compost and extra soil to make sure I have 12 inches of good soil in most of the beds***:

Triple mix – Width – 16 feet x Length – 30 feet x Depth – 3 inches = 4.44 cubic yards for main garden

– Width – 4 feet x Length – 16 feet x Depth – 3 inches = 0.60 cubic yards for garden beside shed

Garden soil – Width 2 feet x Length 40 feet x 12 inches = 2.96 cubic yards for additional section to be added to finish the raised beds at the back of the main garden

***I use the soil calculator on Kel Ann Organic’s website

Other supplies:

– 24 feet of 3/4 inch PVC to complete raised bed tunnel for early greens, I already have lots of 6mm vapour barrier left

– Bird netting/rabbit barrier for blueberries and strawberries

– Trellis wire for grape supports (last year’s snapped…)

– 12 x 6 foot bamboo stakes  for pole beans and tomatoes

– 1 roll chicken wire to attach to frame of squash house

– 4-5 bales of clean straw

– 3-4 rolls of black bio film mulch

– 1 bale of peat moss for blueberries to raise acidity slightly

– Some form of posts and 3 feet of barrier to keep out racoons and bunnies….hmmmmm…..not sure about this one yet. These cute little critters give us all nightmares!

Next Step…Seed planning.  But that is a whole ‘nother story!!

“If plan A fails, remember that you have 25 letters left!” ~ Author Unknown