End of the Month Garden Tour – August was a BIG month!!!

Whoa!  August was a BIG month for us on many fronts.  We took a big 2 week vacation to Cape Breton with our extended family and friends and we left the garden alone to fend for itself for 2 weeks (thank you to my Mama who dropped over to pick and weigh our goodies).  Being able to spend 2 full weeks as a family, surrounded by friends, in the gorgeous outdoors and the freedom of being unplugged was a BIG blessing for us all. We had plenty of time to splash, hike, play, pick wild berries and visit many wonderful sites, including an heirloom 1744 garden tour (I posted about this the other night because it was really neat)!

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Lots of grass and weeds…

We returned to a lot of veggies waiting to be picked and a lot of BIG weeds around the plants without mulch or plastic film.  Thankfully the combination of mulch and the timer on the sprinkler worked well to keep everything healthy and happy! Before we left, we filled our picking buckets, loaded them into our truck and had plenty of fresh veggies for 2 weeks.  We were both pleased and surprised to find the entire countertop on the BIG kitchen island was covered with a great variety of garden treasures, including Kale, which we are trying very hard to learn to love…

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Big harvests before and after our vacation

We have decided to spend this year weighing and tracking the savings that come out of our garden in order to share with others some of the BIG benefits besides health and stress release that growing some of your own food can provide.  We are blessed to have enough garden space to nearly negate the need to buy produce from May until at least October and freezing/preserving allows us to enjoy our own food long after the snow flies. I would call our garden a “medium” sized garden – 46 feet by 24 feet, but certainly growing in any sized “garden” that we have had the pleasure of nurturing; from a few small pots, to multiple pots on a trailer (yup, I took my garden with me one summer when we had to move!!) right to a permastructure designed to last for years, has been extremely fulfilling. By weighing and tracking cost savings, the kids are secretly doing math and book keeping on top of learning about sustainability. That is a BIG deal for kids who openly declare their disdane for math homework. Since our minions…ahem…children have been big enough to help, they have always played in the dirt and it is so rewarding to watch them learn about their food sources, the science and art behind it and the passing of seasons and life. Now they are learning about budgets too!

The BIG part of this experiment is that this month, we were featured in MoneySense Magazine!!!  The girls were soooooooo excited to see themselves in print in a National magazine and to share with their friends!  We can’t share that link because of copyright stuff, but you could always pick up a copy or look at the online version in the “How I did it” section.

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The photoshoot was a big deal, but seeing themselves in a magazine was a way bigger deal!

On top of the magazine being published, they were also on the radio yesterday on the Weekend Gardener with Niki Jabbour, which pretty much blew their minds!  Here is the link if anyone would like to share, it is a BIG deal for our family and a pretty neat way for other kids to hear how exciting getting involved in a family garden can be!  Really. We are the 10:30 time slot, but the whole show is always great if you have time to listen.

Finally, as my husband would quote, we are “Putting up some big numbers, big numbers folks!”  I totalled up our weight and savings for August (see Picked and Planted – August 5th to 29th for more details) and we had picked over 100 pounds of produce and saved nearly $500 dollars this month alone!  That was a big shock and reaffirmed how important it is to us to grow our own.

Lastly on the BIG theme, we have set a big family eating goal for the month of September by joining the 50% Local September Club.  It is a local movement encouraging people to eat 50% local for the month. That can be 50% by weight, percentage of ingredients, purchasing etc, but it forces us to look at what we eat, where it came from and how much of a footprint it leaves.  The girls have already looked very hard at the pre-packaged granola bars when reaching for a snack and are asking some very mature questions, makes me proud.  I don’t think eating local will be a problem, you can’t get much more local than your own backyard.  I do foresee some interesting decision making at the supermarket when picking out dairy, meat and other staples that cost will play a part in.  That said, I was very pleased to see how easy it was to find products from our own province by paying a bit more attention to the labels, it is worth the extra seconds.

I think that is a BIG enough ramble for August, see you next month!  I have a big job to do planting the fall veggies and getting the frost blankets a hoop tunnels out again soon…but for now I will procrastinate reading the Garden Share Collective and the End of The Month Views posts!

Picked and Planted – August 5th-29th

These past weeks we picked:

A whole lot of everything!!  We have had a constant supply of everything from the past month, including a reintroduction of radish from the second planting, some random lettuces and especially exciting was the addition of tomatoes and tomatillos! I love tomatoes so much, I did a special post just on them…yup, love ’em!

August was a big month – we picked a lot, we saved a lot, we jammed and baked a lot while on vacation and since being home, we have frozen a lot.  My hubby is thoroughly enjoying the quote ” We are putting up some big numbers, big numbers…” I can’t argue!

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Onions

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Herbs and garlic

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All sorts of colourful carrots – no better way to get little ones to eat veggies than to let them pick out their favourite colours and plant them!

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Carrots are not the only the only veggies that come in multi-colour!  We have been picking green, yellow, pink, purple and speckled beans in all shapes and sizes.

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Magically, rhubarb has continued to produce in the shade.  We froze 16 cups so far for the winter.

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Apples are almost ripe – we picked 5 pounds in advance of the deer, hopefully we didn’t pick them too early…

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Our favourite root veggie – beets!  So delicious steamed or roasted.

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And what good are tomatoes and basil without cucumbers for greek salad?

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And not to be forgotten…TOMATOES!!!!

WOW!  What a month!!!

Approx savings compared to local market: 495.89!!

Total since May 26th – $1118.46

Total weight picked this period: 103.31 pounds!!  That is more than my 12 year old – our minds are blown!

Total to date: 232.59 pounds

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This was our first massive picking before we left on vacation – the picking buckets get loaded into the truck with everything else so we don’t have to go to the store during our holidays.

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This was our second big picking after holidays for the freezer and storage!

A few notes – 1. Prices are calculated by comparing to the price of non-organic, (local when possible) produce at the local grocery store that we stop at the most.  We usually buy our produce (when our hand is forced) at a local veggie market that is mostly organic and spray free, but tends to be more expensive and has less selection.  We chose to compare to the supermarket as it was more reflective of what most people would buy and what I could quickly take a picture of with my camera when grabbing the weekly essentials without an extra trip. If I cannot find what we grew (market turnip, tomatillos etc.), I will call the specialty market in Halifax for their prices. These costs do not factor in the price of what the produce becomes (jams, pies, baking, salsa, pickles etc.), simply the raw food we pick. I suspect our savings would be almost double if we compared to organic or final products!

2. Since May 26th, we have purchased 2 pounds of tomatoes, 6 cucumbers, 1 bag of potatoes, 8 bunches of bananas, 3 watermelons and 1 pineapple. Everything else has come from our garden or our weekly fruit share from Tap Root/Noggins CSA.  Not bad, if I do say so myself!!!

3. We record everything by hand after weighing our picking buckets with a digital fish scale.  The kids are getting to be very good little book keepers!  We are not separating by variety of tomato, bean, kale etc. but we are separating by type of veggie.  Maybe next year…

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My wee book keeper.

These past weeks we planted:

Zippo.  Vacation and work got the best of us!  That said, we finally pulled out the peas today and made space for all the fall greens we hope to plant tomorrow and later this week. Stay tuned!

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(Taken right after we got home – in desperate need of a mow and a lot of weeding!)

Picked and Planted – July 24 – Aug 3

This week we picked:

Snap peas, snow peas – still by the bucket full every two days!

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Raspberries and blueberries – we have picked a box of raspberries almost every day, so good for breakfast in yogourt.

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Our first bush beans – these are “Tanya’s Pink Pod” from Annapolis Seed, picked especially from my wee girl’s bed.

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Scarlett Runner and Purple Fortilluto Pole beans

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Carrots!!!  Many are still small, but oh….so….tasty!!!

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Zucchini, zucchini and MORE zucchini – Sun stripe and Black Beauty are doing amazingly well this year;  starting them under black film and 6mm hoops agreed with them!  I have some plants that are 5 feet tall – yesterday we picked 14 in one day…lots of baking for us.  I grate 2 cup bags for the freezer for winter as well using it in almost everything I can hide it in.  We love zucchini sautéed, as noodles, stuffed with lasagne fixings, baked with cheeses and in dumped in soups. But nothing makes chocolate cake more moist than this awesome veggie!

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I pulled our overwintered curly kale and am letting the pods dry out to collect the seeds.  We also pulled the lettuce that we let go to seed.  Tonight we clipped the pods and put them in a paper bag in the furnace room to finish drying out.  There should be enough seeds to never, ever, ever have to buy them again!!!

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Finally, we picked radish (round 2), broccoli (the big one of 2 heads the ground hog did not destroy…), kale, onion, a few rogue scapes, swiss chard and many fresh herbs including basil, chives, thyme, oregano, sage, cilantro and dill.  Soon these will have to be dried or frozen for winter.

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Approx savings compared to local market: $136.01

Total weight picked this week: 41.74 pounds – yup, zucchini weigh a lot!!

This week we planted:

After pulling the remaining lettuce and decimated broccoli, we planted a few more bush beans, carrots and beets for the fall.  We are taking summer vacation for a few weeks, so there will be a planting hiatus after which the fall harvest planting will start in ernest.  Hopefully we get some tomatoes and cucumbers soon!!

Wishing you all a beautiful sunny week!  Here are a few pictures of our beautiful ocean this past weekend – my girls were away so I borrowed my Dad’s car and my fur baby and I went on an adventure in search of a great beach. It was simply too hot to garden!!

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing and the lawn mower is broken!” ~ James Dent

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

End of June Veggie Garden Photo Tour

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The end of June has come very quickly and the garden is coming along wonderfully!  It has been a slower start this year, but July will have many, many treats for us! We have not purchased any supplemental veggies at all this month, and we hope to be able to supply everything we need from now until October (though we may not always get what we want on a given day, it does teach us to eat what is ripe and available.)

The tomatoes in containers seem to be doing the best, followed by those with the red plastic mulch.  The new beds along the back have been slow to start, but I expected that – I find it takes a few years for the soil to reach the perfect mix of nutrients, worms and texture. I finally took the plastic off the zucchinis and butterbush squash because they were getting a bit stressed from the days finally getting warmer (the leaves have greened up even since the pictures were taken!)

The berries have started – Haskaps were first and now strawberries are starting to ripen.  There is going to be a bumper crop of Raspberries and Blueberries this year as well as wild Blackberries!  I have found a few little hardy kiwi hiding under the leaves, fingers crossed!

My wee girl’s garden is filling in wonderfully!  Her runner beans are starting to climb, the purple cauliflower heads are just starting and her Black Plum tomatoes have a few little buds poking out.  She has seen many little bugs and bees visiting – more will arrive once the flowers she has planted begin to bloom.

The weed suppressors are doing a great job!  In the potato beds without film or straw the weeds are doing almost as well as the edibles…grrrr…time to find some more clan straw.

Enjoy the end of June tour!! To see more beautiful end of June gardens, visit Helen, the Patient Gardener.

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please me eyes or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my soul, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.” ~ David Hobson

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…

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

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

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

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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…

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

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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.

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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

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!

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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

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!

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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.

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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!

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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):

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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