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Today I wanted to provide a progress update on the seeds I started last weekend and pot up some of my previously started seeds into cups – this will likely be their last home before they get transplanted outside (if the weather cooperates). “Potting up” is needed in order to ensure they get enough water and nutrients for their larger (and hungrier/thirstier selves) selves. πŸ™‚

First, some updates on the kale and lettuce seeds started last week:

At the rear is the cabbage I started 2 weeks ago (which we’ll be up-potting today.

In the row in front of them are the kale – all came up.

Lettuce is in the 2 rows in front of that, some are slowly starting to sprout (which is normal).

Let’s transplant the cabbage seedlings into cups. I use styrofoam cups since they last long (even though I know it’s no longer politically correct to use it – I’ve had them for 3 years now and will only throw them out if they die on me).

Step 1: Get your cups/larger containers ready. I poked holes in the bottom of these cups with a chopstick to let water drain out. I fill the cup halfway with seed starting mix or potting mix (something light and airy so the roots can grow well)..

Step 2: Thin them out. Remember how we planted 2-3 seeds per pod? Now is the time to snip the weaker ones and keep the strongest to transplant. Use scissors and carefully snip the weak ones – don’t pinch them or pull them out in case it disturbs the roots of the one you’re keeping. Here are my casualties – which I sprinkled over pasta for dinner – no waste!

Step 3:Β If you can, remove the pod mesh wrapping from the seedling – very gently so as not to damage the roots – and plop it in the cup.Β  I prefer to to do this now, and don’t plant them in the garden outside with it on – I’ve found these a year later in my soil – they don’t disintegrate like they’re supposed to. I gently twist it in a bit so it’s snug – but again, gently – there are roots coming out of these and you don’t want to damage them.

Step 4: Add more seed starting/potting mix to the cup to just under the rim.

Do the same thing for each seedling you want to move to a larger cup/pot.

Step 5: Water them in – I stack them into foil roasting pans – easy to transport around, catches water that drains out – they last for years and are not expensive. Highly recommend.

Done! Now, they go into my south-facing window, I rotate them often, make sure they’re watered. Provide a very light fertilizer to feed them and keep my eye on the weather. πŸ™‚

 

Now, let’s start some more seeds – this time for marigolds (which I plant around the garden for pest control) and roma tomatoes (for sauce and salsa).

Same drill as last week: Prep the pods first – I rearranged my kale to the back row to make room for more empty pods, then added water so they poof up. I’m planting 17 marigolds and 7 romas. (Oh, you can see a lettuce sprouting in the bottom right poofed up pod!)

First the marigolds:

Then the tomatoes:

Fluff up the peat in the pods, add 2 seeds to each pod.

Then cover the seeds with a bit of the fluffed up peat and you’re good to go. I added a bit of water to the tray to make sure they stay moist. Covered them with the dome again and the waiting (and fawning) continues. πŸ™‚

Here’s a peek at the basil I started in another tray last weekend – starting to sprout as well. πŸ™‚ I LOVE SPRING!!!!

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I’ve been getting questions about starting a garden, likely because more and more folks want to be able to grow their own food in these uncertain COVID-19 times. Since I’m in the process of starting my own seeds indoors to transplant into my raised beds in a few weeks, I figured I’d take pics of the process and provide some tips and tricks for anyone interested. πŸ™‚Β  Here goes!

I typically use a seed starting tray with Jiffy pods to start seeds but there are other ways for those so inclined. I like the simplicity of the pods. I don’t use a heat mat – I have a south-facing window in my office/seed-starting room and it gets plenty warm in there. This year is the first time I’ve used a grow light (I have a south-facing window but thought I’d experiment with a light to see how it goes).

To start, I plan out how many plants I want to end up with, then start a couple more seeds in case they don’t all germinate. I follow the square foot gardening method (see the details of that method explained here by the amazing Mel Bartholomew).Β  Today, I’m starting kale and lettuce.

I started cabbage last weekend so don’t mind the existing seedlings in the pics. They’re going to be roomies for now.

Step 1: The first step is to place the pods in the tray “circle side up”:

Step 2: Water them so get moistened and expand. After the first watering, wait about 5 minutes to see if they’ve puffed up enough. They may need a second watering. You know you’re good to go when they look like the empty ones in the top right – all poofed up – that’s what you want:

Step 3: I open up the “holes”Β  (the mesh is really delicate – you can tear it very easily with your fingers or a toothpick) and fluff/loosen up the peat (which is what the pods are made out of), with a toothpick, chopstick, tweezer, whatever you have that has a small pointy end will work. This is so that when you add the seeds, it’s easier to cover them with some loose/fluffed up peat afterwards.

Step 4: Get your seeds ready. Let’s start with the kale seeds. I place 2-3 seeds per pod (2 if they’re new seeds and more likely to germinate, maybe 3-4 if I’ve had them a few years). Yes, they are small and sometimes tough to pick up with your fingers. I usually grab a pinchful and try to get about 2-3 in each pod. Don’t stress. Gardening is meant to be fun. πŸ™‚

Now for the lettuce:

Step 5: I cover up the seeds with some of the loose peat (read your seed packets since some seeds need light to germinate and shouldn’t be covered).

Step 6: Add the plastic dome to cover the tray and keep moisture in. Make sure they stay moist and never dry out – that’s very important.

That’s it! These should sprout in a few days. I’ll keep you posted on how things go! πŸ™‚

P.S. You can see my sage (greek mountain sage for tea) seedlings on the bottom tray – first time growing those.

 

 

 

 

 

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2019 Gardening Season Recap

It’s been a great gardening season. πŸ™‚

We had our backyard landscaping done. We had grass in the back and raised beds against the fence but we decided to remove the grass, move the veggie beds into the middle of the backyard, surround with pea gravel and plant perennials around the perimeter. The landscaping was done in May and I was able to move/plant into my veggie boxes while they finished the perimeter. It worked out quite well!

Here are some pics of how the garden evolved this summer as well as some of the goodies I made. I can’t tell you how nice it is to open a jar of strawberry jam or bite into a crunchy pickle in the middle of January – it brings summer right back to mind. πŸ™‚

* * *

This was when landscaping began in May and the very beginning of prepping the raised beds / supports. I called these my homemade “blair witch” teepees since they looked like the stick figure dolls from the movie LOL – they look bare now but wait until you see them later – they did me proud!

Meanwhile, I had started seeds indoors…

I also got some transplants from the garden centre

Tomatoes, marigolds, lettuce, basil

Tomatoes, marigolds, basil, chives, rosemary, oregano, parsley

San marzano tomatoes, pole beans and bush peas

Things are growing… πŸ™‚

Lettuce bolting in the heat of summer, cherry tomatoes doing well

No sign of the teepees under there now. I called them my bean monster!

I grew herbs in containers to dehydrate for tea (chamomile, mint and lemon balm)

Planted radishes and spinach for a quick fall crop

Some of harvests and goodies:

Tomatoes

Strawberry jam

Salsa:

Bread and butter pickles

Dill pickles

Lavender (I had a helper)

Lettuce (with a helper)

My helper is pooped and loves sleeping on the dehydrator (it gets warm when it’s on)

Cherry jam and pie filling

Dilly beans

The beans came from this monster πŸ™‚

We had a TON of beans…and they kept coming…had to give some away

Went apricot-picking at a farm nearby

Made pesto with the basil harvest (2 helpers this time)

Made blueberry compote

Herb harvest – dried the chives, oregano and rosemary

Prepared the fall containers out front πŸ™‚

Parsley

Radishes

Near the end now-Β  just some turnips, beets and lettuce left.Β  And the bed closest to the bottom has the garlic – to be harvested next July. πŸ™‚

Definitely a good garden season! And my freezer is loaded with lots of yummy things to tide us over til it starts all over again next spring. πŸ™‚

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Over the past year, I’ve been putting together a monthly checklist of garden tasks more for my own planning purposes but thought it might be worth sharing. πŸ™‚

As we’re nearing the end of the gardening season (in my zone 6b) and putting things to bed, I’m comforted by the fact that there are still things to plan for (and dream about!) during the winter months.

I’ll likely modify the checklist as time goes on and things change but for now, this has worked well for the things I grow in my garden (mainly veggies and perennials, some annuals). I plant veggies in raised beds using the square foot gardening method and have perennials in my front and back yards, plus some containers for annuals/holiday interest and some herbs) . Enjoy!

January

  • Review gardening journal (to review what worked, what didn’t, etc.)
  • Plan spring garden (layout, what to grow, succession planting, companion planting, etc.)
  • Prepare schedule (indoor sowing, set out dates, direct sowing outdoors)
  • Take stock of supplies and what will need to be purchased/replenished
  • Enjoy preserved food from last year’s harvest

February

  • Order seeds and supplies
  • Prepare indoor greenhouse and clean/prepare containers

March

  • Start seeds indoors for cool-weather crops or those that take more time to germinate/grow (e.g. tomatoes, marigolds, etc.)
  • Prepare garden beds (add compost, remove any debris, etc.)

April

  • Start seeds indoors for warm weather crops or those that take less time to germinate (e.g. parsley, chives, lemon balm, chamomile,
  • Plant cold hardy seeds outside (e.g. peas, lettuce, etc.)
  • Add compost to raised beds (if it wasn’t done in March)
  • Plan / build any supports (stakes, trellises)

May

  • Finish preparing raised beds (if not done yet)
  • Ensure all supplies are on hand / get any last minute items (compost, tools, green garden tape for staking, supports, etc.)
  • Plant seedlings outside
  • Prune perennials
  • Replace any perennials that didn’t survive the winter
  • Fertilize perennials
  • Start watering schedule
  • Update garden journal

June

  • Fertilize veggies, perennials and annuals (according to schedule)
  • Harvest cool weather veggies including lettuce, peas, garlic scapes, etc.
  • Start harvesting herbs and dehydrate for tea (mint, lemon balm, chamomile)
  • Pick up at local farm: strawberries and rhubarb and make strawberry freezer jam and strawberry/rhubarb crisp
  • Start fall transplants if doing so (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.)
  • Prune tomato plants (remove suckers)
  • Pinch basil flowers
  • Update garden journal

July

  • Fertilize veggies, perennials and annuals (according to schedule)
  • Watch for pests and deal with them (e.g. Japanese beetles, etc.)
  • Pull up peas and other early spring done crops and add compost to empty spots
  • Direct seed fast growing fall crops (radishes, spinach)
  • Transplant fall brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli)broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
  • Harvest herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, beans
  • Harvest and cure garlic
  • Dry chamomile, mint and lemon balm for tea
  • Pick up pickling cucumbers and make refrigerator pickles
  • Pick at local farms: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, apricots and make freezer jam and pie filling
  • Reduce tomato watering (create heat stress & encourage ripening) – end of month
  • Update garden journal

August

  • Fertilize veggies, perennials and annuals (according to schedule)
  • Harvest tomatoes, beans, herbs)
  • Harvest lavender – make sachets
  • Buy fall bulbs
  • Seed fall crops (carrots, radishes, turnips, beets, lettuce, kale, chard)
  • Pull up done crops
  • Make and freeze salsa
  • Make pickles, dilly beans
  • Dehydrate herbs for tea
  • Trim marigolds
  • Prune perennials
  • Pick at local farms: peaches – and make freezer jam
  • Update garden journal

September

  • Prune tomatoes (remove/pinch flowers so energy goes to ripening fruit)
  • Prune marigolds
  • Dehydrate herbs for tea
  • Pick at local farm: Apples
  • Make apple crisp, apple & onion chutney, applesauce, apple pie filling
  • Buy garlic bulbs (fall planting)
  • Replace / plant containers for fall
  • Plant new perennials, shrubs, trees
  • Pull up spent summer crops (tomatoes, beans)
  • Harvest radishes, last of the tomatoes
  • Update garden journal

October

  • Harvest fall crops (carrots, beets, turnips, lettuce, spinach)
  • Pull up spent crops
  • Plant garlic
  • Prepare raised beds for winter / add compost
  • Cut back perennials for winter
  • Protect perennials /grasses
  • Fall cleanup
  • Pick apples at local farm
  • Make apple desserts and things to freeze
  • Pick up pine cones and branches for winter decor
  • Cover patio furniture
  • Cover BBQ
  • Plan winter containers
  • Update garden journal

November

  • Prepare winter containers (pull out fall annuals
  • Harvest cabbage, broccoli, etc.
  • Clean garden tools
  • Store hose(s) in garage
  • Update garden journal
  • Enjoy goodies made during the summer (freezer jam, salsa, pickles, pies, etc.)

December

  • Maintain winter containers
  • Hang wreath / greenery
  • Make xmas decor / ornaments
  • Start planning for spring garden!

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Lately I’ve been really focused on skills that have been lost over generations or simply not passed down from our parents and grandparents. I don’t know if it’s due to the younger generations not caring, a general waning interest in those types of skills or a lack of time when convenience is just easier to satisfy the needs of ourselves and our families.

That being said, I’ve been happily learning and honing those skills for my own enjoyment and fulfillment. Call it taking care of my family or call it preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Either way, I’m fairly confident that in the event of a food shortage or other similar emergency, I feel like I’d be ableΒ to provide and help my husband and I not die (the bar is low folks). Unless we’re talking full-fledged apocalypse where people are killing each other for a tomato, well, I’d probably have problems and a tomato would be the least of them. But I digress.

Back to me and my epic skillz. πŸ™‚

I started a list (of course) of skills I wanted to learn and I’m happy to say I’ve been making great progress. I’ve plsit the list into four categors of “learning”: Things I already kow, things I’m currently learning (In Progress), Things I want to learn, and Things I don’t need (yet). I reserve the right to change my mind on that last one if, you know, zombies and all.

Know In Progress Want to learn Don’t need (yet)
Learn to make dried herbs x
Learn to make freezer jam x
Learn to rotate your crops x
Learn to bake bread x
Learn how to weed properly x
Start your seeds indoors x
Learn to garden x
Learn to cook from scratch and in season x
Learn to knit x
Learn how to forage for wild edibles x
Learn to store food x
Grow an indoor fruit tree x
Know first aid and CPR x
Learn a fiber arts skills such as rug hooking, spinning, weaving or felting x
Learn how to make lip balm x
Learn how to prune x
Learn to can – pressure x
Learn to can – water bath x
Learn to crochet x
Learn to grow and store medicinal herbs x
Learn to make butter x
Learn to make candles x
Learn to make cheese x
Learn to make dried fruit x
Learn to make dried vegetables x
Learn to make home medecine ointments and salves x
Learn to make vinegar x
Learn to make yogurt x
Learn to save seeds x
Learn to sew basic stitches x
Make bar soap x
Make dish soap x
Make laundry soap x
Plant a fruit or nut tree x
Learn to fish x
Learn to hunt x
Learn how to start a fire x
Learn to purify water in different ways x

That being said, these are some the tasks I have been tackling this year to hone said skills:

  • Expended my garden to 4 beds (16 square feet each), for spring, summer and fall crops. I’m still not saving seeds yet but I will eventually. I do start my seeds in doors and transplant once risk of frost is past (in my area zone 6b).
  • I grew mint and chamomile to dry herbs (with a dehydrator) for tea. This has been great – love my very own tea blend. πŸ™‚
  • I grew lavender and made sachets (second year in a row now).
  • I bought fruit at our local farm and made freezer jams (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and peach). So excited to have a freezer full of jam for the winter.
  • I bought local pickling cucumbers and made refrigerator and freezer pickles: dill, sweet, bread & butter. Delicious. And we’ll have some for months!
  • For the first time, I planted garlic (last fall) and harvested and cured them. They turned out great and we had the first clove in dinner yesterday – holy moly – tasty!! We have 13 bulbs total to savor over the coming months.

Some pics:

Garlic harvest

Garlic harvest (TV remote for size comparison)

Lavender harvest

Lavender harvest

Lavender sachets

Lavender sachets

Drying chamomile

Drying chamomile

Pickle batch

One batch of pickles

Freezer jam - strawberry

Strawberry freezer jam

Peach freezer jam

Peach freezer jam

Freezer jam

Freezer drawer of jams and pesto

I’m also planning on tackling these tasks in the upcoming months:

  • Make basil pesto (once I harvest the basil in my garden)
  • Make apple chutney (and freeze), apple sauce (and freeze), possibly make apple pie filling (and freeze) – to take advantage of the apple harvest in our neck of the woods
  • I’m planting cabbage as a fall crop and will make sauerkraut (my first go at fermenting!)
  • I’ll be making vegetable chips in my dehydrator, possibly some dried fruit too for some healthy snacks

Once the food season passes, I’m going to work on other skills that are more indoorsy. πŸ™‚ Good times.

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It’s been a while since my last post so I thought it was high time to provide an update on my garden. πŸ™‚ BTW, I’m in zone 6b, southwest Ontario.

As the weather warmed up, I started planting and moving my seedlings outside. Everything survived except 2 tomato plants, which I replaced with 2 nursery-bought tomato plants. I love looking back to see how much things have grown over the past few months. Super satisfying. So far, we’ve eaten tons of lettuce, green peas, yellow beans, basil, mint, garlic scapes and blueberries. Soon we’ll have tomatoes. I’m in the middle of dehydrating chamomile and mint to make tea – first time so we’ll see how that goes.

Here are some pics in chronological order from mid-May up until to last weekend:

Seedlings – tomatoes, basil and parsley:

I tried something different with the two tomato plants in the front – I planted them in a trench/sideways (back to front in the pic) just to see if they would grow any different from the others (dug a hole, planted straight:

More tomatoes and some carrots

First time growing green peas (patio pride/bush) as well as zucchini:

I bought blueberry bushes from the nursery but was worried about birds. I found this amazing contraption on Amazon – it’s been amazing. I haven’t lost one blueberry to birds yet!

Mint (aka mojitos in training):

First time planting garlic (last October) and the leaves have grown huge so far – these are the scapes that I harvested (and sautΓ©ed with pasta and mushrooms) – yummy:

Peas are truly a beautiful plant:

Peas, yellow beans and zucchini up near the fence:

Buttercrunch lettuce and cucumber plant at the top near the fence:

Mint teenagers:

First harvest of lettuce and peas:

Chamomile is flowering!

Everyone looks so happy πŸ™‚

Beans are flowering!

Couldn’t believe my eyes – my very own blueberries πŸ™‚

Mint young adults:

Zucchini flowers!

Tomatoes taking off

Yellow bean harvest with some thai basil

We have zucchini babies πŸ™‚

And cucumber babies:

Chamomile and marigolds (and a garlic photobomber):

This was a few days ago – lots of green tomatoes, should ripen soon πŸ™‚

Thai basil:

Can’t wait for the first taste of home-grown tomatoes πŸ™‚

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Spring has finally arrived (more or less) which means we can start prepping the garden and starting cool-weather crops, and start/continue the indoor seeds and seedlings. In my neck of the woods, the May long weekend is planting weekend. BUT – because mild weather typically starts in April, I can get started on preparing my garden beds and sow some seeds. Exciting!

Ever since I put my garden plan together early in the year, I’ve been closely watching important dates in my calendar.

  • On Feb 10th I started mint seeds indoors
  • On Mar 18th, I started marigolds indoors
  • On March 30th, I transplanted my marigolds and mint into cups
  • On Mar 31st, I started cherry tomato seeds indoors
  • On April 21st, I (with the help of hubby) installed a new raised bed and filled it with triple mix and compost. I also added compost to my other 2 existing beds.
  • On April 22nd I sowed seeds outside for peas, carrots, lettuce (2 types) and lemon balm. I also started seeds for basil and parsley indoors.

The next key dates will be 2 weekends in May once all risk of frost has passed, usually around the May long weekend and the one prior.

That’s when I’ll get everything outside and go buy some blueberry plants for my other new bed this year. I decided to dedicate a whole bed just for blueberries because of the different soil requirements (acidic) and the likelihood of needing to cover them with netting.

Meanwhile, the garlic I planted last fall is looking great!

Progress so far:

Cherry tomato seedlings

Marigold and mint seedlings

Growing…

Growing…Β  marigolds / mint on the left. Tomatoes (near window) on the right) and basil/parsley on the right / front)

My garlic is doing well (planted last fall). There are also seeds for lemon balm (above the garlic) and carrots (whole 3rd row) in here. Tomatoes will be along the fence. Chamomile will be the bottom/right 4 squares. This was taken 1 week ago:

This was taken today:

This bed already has seeds for lettuce (one variety in the bottom 3 squares on the left, with another column of another variety next to it, then beans (to be planted in May), and seeds for peas. Tomatoes will be along the top row along the fence. I tried lining this box with cardboard this time. For the other two I used weed fabric – just want to see how well the cardboard would work.

This one will have tomatoes along the back row and basil (genovese and thai) and parsley in the front.

Beds are ready for more planting in May. πŸ™‚ The new bed will go the right of the one against the fence at the top of the photo.

I’m considering putting down cardboard/mulch between the beds and in the far corner to get rid of the grass and avoid complicated mowing.

So excited to be spending time out in the garden! πŸ™‚

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