Chilly Carrots and Kale

Adversity? Nope – Hard core gardening!!  Fit for a deer?! We aren’t going to let a snow get in our way…

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Who said you can’t have fresh back yard garden veggies in the Canadian winter?! It takes some planning, some luck and a bit of crazy – but seeing little faces light up when they find veggies they planted last summer under the snow is pretty cool.

It was actually warm enough to dig under the snow with some garden gloves in the winter tunnel this morning (a balmy +3 degrees celsius!).  The strong winds and piles of snow destroyed our pitiful little tunnel, but the straw insulation managed to protect the few precious carrots we had left!!  Hubby thought he had picked most of them for Christmas dinner but there were enough little guys left for a quick snack!!  The kale is still going strong – that “vile weed” seems to survive everything we throw at it.  Thank goodness it tastes good in soup and pasta…

The beet, turnip, leek and onion tunnel is still covered in ice and feet of snow (completely unaccessible on crutches), hopefully we will be blessed enough with a few more warmer days before winter sets in again and we will be able to see some green under there as well!

Worth a try next year in your yard?

 

“Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.” ~ Og Mandino

First to pop and planting the first main crop

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The first to POP award is a tie between my Grandma’s transplanted daffodils from Cape Breton and our beautiful harbinger of Spring, the Forsythia named Georgette/Steve (depending on her/his state of blooming!). Today, Georgette is putting on the first show for the rest of the flowering shrubs!

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In the garden, the hoop tunnels and frost blankets have been very busy protecting some lovely veggie babies who continue to grow wonderfully.

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As my workout today, I got up early and tuned up the tiller (in cultivation mode so as to not hurt my worm friends…). I dug and tilled in the composted stuffs from our pile as well as the straw from last year’s rows into 3 of the rows. It was a back, chest and squat day to say the least.

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I still have a long way to go. Sigh.

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Since I am a month behind, I planted the whole pea bed after securing my bio mulch weed guard that I had left over from last year. I planted Veseys Sugar Sprint Snap and Oregon Giant Snow Peas. Yummy!

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The bunny ravaged our baby peas last year so I covered them in a new frost blanket to protect them a bit. I will put the trellis up when they are bigger.  The other rows also got tucked in to keep the weeds down until I can dig on more compost and have the time to plant them.

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Elsewhere in the garden, the rhubarb I stuck in the corner in a compost pile is coming up beautifully with some garlic and strawberries nearby.  I also transplanted the Rhubarb from my Grandma’s garden in Antigonish County and my Papa’s garden in Cape Breton. They are not with us anymore; it makes it even more special when I look at it growing and makes me smile to remember them.

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Lots of work to do still, but for now, I need to get back to my real work and stretch my deconditionned back!!

“What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.” ~ Charles Dudley Warner 1871

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