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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End of the Month Veggie Garden Photo Tour – July

July has been an interesting month in our gardens – first we had too much sun, then too much rain.  Visitors in search of broccoli and greens in the form of furry foes followed by the slugs that we had so luckily avoided all spring have kept us on our toes, but we persevere! We are now harvesting more than we can eat and the soup production, pesto freezing and jam making has begun for the winter.  We have bought a few tomatoes to hold us over until ours have ripened (soon!), but other than those, we have not purchased any other vegetables since May 24th!  I have always been envious of other gardner’s abundances of zucchini as I have had poor luck with it.  This year is the opposite!  Starting the seeds in black film under plastic hoops has proved to be more than a spectacular success – I am picking 4-6 per day and they are doubling in size daily!!  I will have a freezer full of baking at this rate! Thanks to the straw, cardboard and black film, weeding has been minimal.  I don’t think I have spent more than 6 hours all season and for that I am very grateful. Planting continues in dribs and drabs as early crops finish up.  The lettuce couldn’t handle the 30+ degrees during the day, nor could the spinach. So off to the compost pile it went and in their places more beans, beets, carrots and radish went in – it is a great way to succession plant! August will see more picking, very little planting and hopefully not a lot of weeding!!  We have high hopes for our tomatoes and beans and we can’t wait to pull fresh potatoes.  We are also looking forward to lots of blueberries and our first ever pickings of hardy kiwi. Here’s to July and high hopes for August!!

For more beautiful veggie garden updates, head on over the Garden Share Collective!

Picked and Planted – July 15 – 23

This week we picked:

Our first Black Beauty zucchinis and the last of the garlic scapes and spinach

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Lots of fresh basil!!  Mmmmmmm…..time for basil pesto!

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The first raspberries are ready for picking, we are hoping for a good crop this year provided the rain stops and we get a few good hot days again.  We managed to pick a pint before the heavy rain came today.

My little hands also found one ripe blueberry, of course it had to be picked!

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We continue to have an abundance of Sugar Sprint and Oregon Snow peas, chard, kale, lettuce, herbs and onions.

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For good measure, we added some edible pansies to birthday cupcakes – a little something extra!

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Next on base for this coming week – maybe some Sunstripe summer squash, new potatoes, carrots and the first of the bush beans?

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Approx savings compared to local market: $51.31

Total weight picked this week: 8.12 pounds

This week we planted:

Succession planting of fall seedlings has started in trays on the front porch – as early veggies start to bolt we will leave some to go to seed but most will be pulled out and replanted with seedlings for a smaller fall crop and a few for overwintering.  This week I direct seeding Scarlett Nantes and Napoli carrots where there was lettuce and bush beans where the spinach finished.  We also planted more Gypsy and Munchkin broccoli in cells after Mr. Nibbles took care of the first batch, Romaine and Buttercrunch lettuces and Ragged Jack and Dinosaur Kale.  The porch is shady so hopefully it will be cool enough to keep these from bolting too early; if it gets too hot I will have to turn on the lights and bring the trays inside until late summer.  Fingers crossed!

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“When God blesses the harvest, there is enough for the their as well as the gardner.” ~ Polish Proverb

Picked and Planted – 6 July to 14 July

This week we picked:

Sugar Snap and Oregon Giant Snow peas – over 6 litres of them!!

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Baby Beets and Market Express Turnip

Red and Spanish Onion

Early broccoli (it started to bolt before the heads got big so we ate it anyways!)

Garlic Scapes

Rhubarb

Kale, Swiss Chard, Lettuce

Herbs – Chives, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Basil, Mint

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We picked the last of the Strawberries and Haskaps (single tear…they will be missed!)

We also tried some edible flowers – the Lavender is wonderful as a tea, the nasturtium was not a taste I enjoyed and I am still not sure about Calundula petals…..

Approx savings compared to local market: $98.35 (Total $435.25 since 26 May)

Total weight picked this week: 15.11 pounds (Total since 26 May – 79.42 pounds, which is more than my wee girl weighs!)

This week we planted:

A few extra Marketmore 76 cucumbers to fill some gaps

Replanted Laurentian Turnip for the fall because the pheasants ate all of the seedlings….

From our garden to yours, have a great week!

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“It might take a year, it might take a day, but what is meant to be will always find it’s way” ~Unknown

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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…) !!

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

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

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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.

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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!

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“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!