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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Holy moly – I haven’t posted in months!!! So sorry. 🙂

What started out pretty slow in the garden due to all that rain we got this summer turned out pretty good nonetheless and we’re now having trouble keeping up with the tomatoes! Here are some pics I took between April and August showing how things went as well as some of the harvests along the way.

I started my seeds back in March/April. for the first time, I staggered them based on each plant’s growth rate compared to the local frost date, etc. Honestly, I can’t really tell if that made much of a difference…

I also direct-seeded some cool-weather tolerant ones (lettuce, radishes, onion sets).

Transplanted the tomato and parsley seedlings in May.

Tried growing carrots for the first time (amazing!!). Tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, onions and carrots doing well. Also plant marigolds (corners near the fence) to keep the bugs away.

First radish harvest! 🙂

Had to replace one of my parsleys with a transplant from the store (mine didn’t make it).

Bought basil transplants as well – they do better than when I try to grow them from seed for some reason. Tomatoes and marigolds doing OK. Stuck a pepper seedling in there too (middle) but nothing came of it this year – just a plant, no flowers, no peppers.

Mini harvest to add to salad – radishes, lettuce, basil and parsley.

Planted beans in 2 batches, one seeded in May and one to replace the radish planting when harvested. Tomatoes took forever to ripen – possibly due to all the rain. It seemed like everything was a month behind.

Basil, parsley and cherry tomatoes all doing well.

First harvest of carrots and green beans. I’ll be growing carrots going forward for sure – they were delicious. And green beans are so easy – love them.

Early August – I pulled up all the basil to make pesto and to make room for the fall crop plantings. 🙂

One tub for the fridge and 7 mini containers for the freezer. Love having fresh basil year round. I tried various combinations this time: pine nuts, walnuts, basil, parsley in various ratios. I blanch it first (stays greener that way), then prepare it in batches in the food processor, add it to the container then pour olive oil on top to cover.

We can’t keep up with the tomatoes. They seemed to all start ripening at once! The only ones not yet ripe are the Thai Pink Egg cherry tomatoes but there are lots of very pale yellow (almost ivory) tomatoes on the vine – can’t wait to try them once they turn pink. This is from the second batch of green beans.

And more! Loving the tomato salads we’ve been having. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ve planted seeds for fall crops: turnips, beets, carrots, spinach – all are sprouting nicely. Once the rest of my crops are done, I’ll plant radishes, kale and chard seeds. Can’t wait!!

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Early in the year, I start planning my garden and make preparations for planting season. I can’t wait to get outside. The plan this spring was to start some seeds indoors and sow the rest directly outside. In past years, I just waited to transplant everything outside until risk of frost had passed for my area (SW Ontario) but this time I did a bit more research, planned out a chart for each item and followed that instead. I was able to sow seeds as early as April for the cold-hardy ones (radishes, spinach, lettuce, carrots). We’ll see how things go!

This is what I’ll be growing this year:

  • 6 types of cherry tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • 2 types of leaf lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beans (will direct sow as I harvest the radishes)
  • Marigolds (pest control)

This is my chart:

Local Frost Date (“FD”): May 1-10, 2017

Plant Sow date Growth Safe set out date Planting date Notes
 Lettuce Apr 15 Once ground is workable Apr 15 Direct Apr 9
 Onion sets Apr 22-29 2-3 wks before FD Apr 22-29 Direct Apr 22
 Radish Apr 15-22 3-4 wks before FD Apr 15-22 Direct Apr 14
 Tomato Mar 25-Apr 8 6-8 wks 1 week after FD May 13 Trans. May 13
 Basil Apr 8-22 5-7 wks 2 weeks after FD May 20 Trans. May 20
 Parsley Feb 18-Mar 4 8-10 wks 2 weeks before FD Apr 29 Trans. May 13
 Carrots Apr 8-22 3-5 weeks before FD Apr 8-22 Direct Apr 9
 Spinach Apr 8 5 weeks before FD Apr 8 Direct Apr 9

As of a week ago, everything is now outside in my 2 square foot garden beds (4×4, 2×8). The radishes, onions and lettuce are coming along nicely. I can see the tips of the carrots and spinach. I transplanted the tomatoes and parsley and they’re recovering a bit from transplant shock but they’re resilient buggers – they should bounce back. I bought basil from the garden centre (my seeds from last year didn’t take) – and I planted those on Saturday.

I keep a gardening journal to record when I do everything and track progress of how the seeds/plants are doing. It helps to look back on past season to see what worked / what didn’t. Last year, I had tomatoes, basil and parsley in one bed and the herbs were HUGE. I’d never seen basil bushes before but there they were in my backyard! I made pesto in September and it lasted us through the winter – I have 2 little containers left in the freezer. 🙂

So excited that garden season has officially begun!!!

 

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2016 Garden Update

Last year was my first attempt at square foot gardening. I had grown tomatoes and herbs in containers before, successfully,but wanted to try my hand at something new with a larger footprint. SFG was right up my alley, and it worked out well. So well that I wanted to increase my garden this year.

I started planning in January and February, making plans for my garden (Excel is awesome), researching companion planting, reading everything I could about what grew successfully in my neck of the woods. Ordered my seeds. Got my jiffy pods organized and sowed the seeds in March to start them early indoors. For the others that grew very quickly, my plan was to direct sow into my garden in May.

Pods and my Excel Garden plan plus my jiffy pod plan to keep track of what I put where:

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My list of seeds included: three kinds of cherry tomatoes (2 plants each), green peppers, Swiss chard, beets, leaf lettuce, onion sets (red, yellow,white), bush beans, basil, thyme, lavender, parsley, acorn squash, golden zucchini and marigolds to keep the bugs away. Here is the progress, each set of pics about a week apart:

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Mid-April:

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Late April:

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Early May:

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Some of my starter seeds did better than others and come May, it was time to transplant them outside. I used Triple Mix for the soil with a few bags of compost (mix of sheep and cow), plus I added plant food.

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Two of my tomato plants didn’t make it. After suffering from a bit of transplant shock and recovering nicely (I had to tie 2 of them to stakes to keep them as they were falling over), the other four are doing awesome, I bought another two at the nursery. One pepper survived, and I replaced another one. The parsley and marigolds did good but I needed more so I bought some extras. The basil and thyme didn’t make it – bought seedlings of Genovese and lemon basil at the nursery. They are thriving. I also bought two strawberry plants to have a first go at fruit. The lavender sprouted but never grew past a wisp of a stem so I bought two perennial lavender plants at the nursery.

I showed the beans, lettuce, onions, Swiss chard, beets and squashes directly in the ground and they are all doing great thankfully. So far we’ve been able to harvest the basil, parsley, onions and lettuce. Lots of little green tomatoes, small peppers and green strawberries. The beans are flowering. Life in the garden seems to be a happy one. 🙂

As I pick the onions, I’m planting more so I’ll keep a steady supply over the summer and fall.

Late May:

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June 17:

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This is one of the lavender plants (small one in front of pic) planted next to our hydrangeas. Smells so good when you brush the leaves. 🙂

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Just a few days ago (sorry about the sun glare):

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I’m happy with how things are progressing. 🙂

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I’ve decided to give square foot gardening a try this year. I have my raised bed frame and garden plan – a 4′ x 4′ grid with 16 squares. I started some seeds indoors a couple of weeks ago and am convinced I have magic beans…

I picked up a mini greenhouse for $30 at Lowes to store my seedlings indoors in a warm spot (my office) which will also work well when I harden them off later this spring out on the deck.

I decided to start some from seed and buy the rest as plants from the nursery. The seeds I started include basil, beets, green beans, spinach and marigolds. The plants I’ll be buying include cherry tomato, regular tomato, peppers and onion sets.

I started my seeds in early March which may be a bit early for the beans. This is them a week later. The beans sprouted really quickly. I’m a bit worried that they’ll grow too quickly before my outdoor garden is ready but I figure worst case scenario, I’ll transplant as needed in to bigger containers and I can always plan new seeds directly into the soil. I’ll play it by ear but they should be fine.

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Below is the mini greenhouse and the potting soil I’m using:

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And I transplanted some of the beans (top) and the beets (bottom):

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These were taken today. I transplanted more of the beans and thinned out some of the beets.

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Beets:

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These were the first beans transplanted. Magic beans. 🙂

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Stay tuned for progress!

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For the past couple of years, Chris and I have been learning about food and the importance of eating healthy, organic and/or food that was grown locally. It hadn’t really hit home until I started reading the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingslover. Barbara tells the story of how their family moved to a farm in Virginia and decided to grown their own food, raise their own livestock and support the local farming community. She also explained some of the issues with the food industry which really opened our eyes to real problems with the way things currently are.

As a result of learning about these issues and the consequences that come with them, Chris and I have decided to be much more proactive about where our food comes from. Some of our biggest concerns include:

  • Some of the food that you see in your supermarket’s produce section has travelled thousands of kilometers to get there. They’ve been treated with chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics to make them hearty enough for long distance travel, usually at the cost of taste and nutrients. Along with that are the transportation emissions produced to get food across the country to your table. (What for?? So you can have a pineapple in January? It’s just not worth it.)
  • Making and transporting the chemicals requires more energy and produces more greenhouse gases.
  • Growing livestock for food in some large production facilities are cause for concern. Things like stacks of cages crammed full of chickens with nowhere to go, sitting in their own feces – because that many chickens in such close quarters have to poop somewhere. Feeding livestock certain foods to fatten them up that their species were never meant to eat in the first place. Feeding them grain because it costs less but requires so much energy to produce.

What we want to do going forward:

  • Support local farms by buying local. The food is fresher, tastes better, contains fewer/no chemicals, generates fewer transportation emissions and supports the local economy.
  • Grow some of our own food. I’m already planning for next spring’s garden and will start learning how to preserve food to have local produce through the winter months (freezing, canning, drying).
  • Buy organic where possible.
  • Buy closest to home: For us, that’s Ontario. If that’s not possible, buy as close to home as possible; at a minimum, buy Canadian.

We know there will be some items that are just not available locally, like coffee. For those we’ll commit to educating ourselves and choosing a source that has ethical practices.

We had our first grocery trip this morning and we did pretty well! Most of the produce we purchased was from Ontario, the rest was Canadian. All local, some organic. We bought strawberries, pears, lettuce, red peppers, butternut squash, acorn squash, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes and basil.

Other items we purchased were also either from Ontario or Quebec: Yogurt, cheese, organic chicken, organic pork.

Some items that were difficult to find any Canadian source for were: beans/legumes and quinoa. We’ll have to do some research for those. 🙂

And the cool thing? We ended up spending the same amount as our usual weekly grocery trip.

We feel good about our choices and are excited about doing the right thing. The right thing for us, for our health, for our local farms and for our local economy. It’s a win-win all around.

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I went to get my hair cut on Saturday morning – it would be the second time I’d get it done by Sandra. I like going to the salon at the mall because it’s close to my house and I can run errands afterwards if need be. That being said, since we moved to the area, I’ve gone about 6 times and due to the high turnover at this particular salon, I’ve had my hair done by 4 different people. I’ve always been very happy with the results but I found the turnover rate a bit strange. Things started to make sense on Saturday.

I was hoping for a nice relaxing morning at the salon. It started off nicely – hair shampooed by a guy who knew what he was doing. I thought – excellent, this relaxing morning is starting off well. Sandra greeted me and off we go to her chair. And then it starts – apparently she just got cut from full time to 3 days for no reason. Turns out the 25-year-old manning the front desk (let’s call her “Britney”) is on a bit of a power trip and when Sandra mentioned that another employee was being disrespectful, Britney sided against Sandra. Now, Sandra just turned 50 last week and petty arguments isn’t high on her priority list, however, standing up for herself is. Britney, probably too young and inexperienced to handle staff issues of this nature is in over her head.

To add to that situation, all employees were given new promotional tshirts to start wearing this weekend – black tshirts with white text on the front. All but 2 employees are wearing them – Sandra (no one is going to tell her what to wear, let alone a 25-year-old power tripper) and her neighbor working the chair next door (who seemed to be a semi-flaky 25-year-old who secretly had the tshirt in her bag but told the manager she forgot it at home).

Anyway – long story short, my relaxing morning turned into a discussion about how certain young people fail to grasp the consequences of their actions and they do things a certain way because they don’t know any better. There’s a lack of respect among the “new generations” that makes me wonder what the world will be like in 20 years.

So, my guess is I won’t be seeing Sandra for much longer since she seems to be in Britney’s crosshairs. It’s amazing that a 25-year-old hair salon front desk worker can wreak so much havoc. Where are her parents? Would they be proud, I wonder… Was I ever that mindless at that age? Incredible.

Anyway – love my hair even with all the drama. 🙂

Took a walk around the yard this afternoon to see what’s blooming. Our lilac tree is doing well – there are more blooms this year than last, which is great. It smells heavenly.

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For months, I pondered and pondered over what to plant in my container garden this year. I debated between which veggies, herbs and fruits I wanted to grow this year. I’ve only been doing this gardening thing for 2 years – this summer will be the third and I love it. I’ve learned a lot along the way and hope this year’s bounty will be great.

I chose the following:

  • Red cherry tomatoes – Tiny Tim (great for the past 2 years)
  • Yellow cherry tomatoes – Honeybee (great for the past 2 years)
  • Thai basil (great last year – makes awesome pesto)
  • Cinnamon basil (great for the past 2 years)
  • Strawberries (first time – I might be a bit late in starting these – we’ll see)
  • Baby lettuce (first time)

They’re already germinating away in jiffy pots…

I’m looking forward to more yummy homegrown food.

🙂

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