2018 Garden Update

November 2, 2018

Garden asleep under the snow

The snow is on the ground this morning. Not our first snow fall, but I think this one might be here to stay. The garden has been worked up and is ready for a winter’s sleep. I am sad to see the end of the garden season but excited to be able to see how far the fruits of the season will last into the winter.

The garden this year got of to a later start than usual, due to both weather and a vacation. However, it was a pretty good summer with lots of sunshine and warm weather. Having the ability to pump up nice warm nutrient rich water from the lake helped to make up for a lack of rain.

New for 2018:

  • This was our first year on the garden expansion plot. In general, the new plot produced well, except for the cucumbers. The tomatoes seemed to love the sheltered nestled between the greenhouse, raspberries and trees. I think this space will be great for a rotation of heat loving plants. The soil quality was decent this year but should be much better next year. The space was heavily mulched this year and the mulch tilled into the soil this fall. I expect the added organic matter to improve the soil structure.
  • Greenhouse in the new expanded garden area

    Our greenhouse was built late this spring, with plants going directly into the ground in the greenhouse in early June. We planted tomatoes – plum, slicing and cherry, peppers -both hot and sweet, eggplant, sweet potato, watermelon, cantaloupe and basil. I love the greenhouse space and most everything did really well in the space. The eggplant harvest was disappointing. I had 3 plants and only 1 produced, providing us with 3 eggplants. The tomatoes loves the space, but the harvest from inside the greenhouse was not much better or earlier than the harvest from those planted outside. It might due to the great location for the outside tomatoes this year. The peppers and basil really loved the greenhouse (also did very well in the hothouse). I think next year we will plant more peppers in the greenhouse and less tomatoes.

  • Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

    We tried sweet potatoes for the first time this year. There is still no commercially available sweet potato variety suitable for Manitoba weather. However, I thought growing them in the greenhouse might be viable. I started slips from organic sweet potatoes purchased at the grocery store. They grew well in raised crates we made in the greenhouse, with the foliage trailing up trellises on the north wall. We were quite excited to harvest them and discover if our experiment succeeded or not. I must say I was disappointed in the harvest. I planted 6 slips from 3 sweet potatoes and harvested 2 gallons of skinny potatoes. Our biggest mistake I think was to wait too long to harvest. At the end of September, before we headed to BC, the plants were still growing nicely

    Sweet Potato Harvest

    in the greenhouse. Instead of harvesting them then, we decided to wait until we returned, thinking the soil temperatures should stay warm enough. However, when we harvested the potatoes they had soft spots which I think is due to colder temperatures than they like. One week after the harvest, I decided to use them up but the entire batch turned black when cooked and I threw them out. I will try again next year with a few changes – plant more slips and harvest earlier.



  • I tucked one watermelon and one cantaloupe

    8 inch Watermelon

    plant into the corners of the greenhouse, hoping they would vine around the bottom of the tomatoes and peppers. They grew pretty well and we harvested 2 nice sized watermelon and 1 exceptionally tasty cantaloupe.





  • One last lettuce harvest in November

    We also tried growing a fall crop of greens in the greenhouse in October. I planted spinach, tat soi, and arugula in tubs and got 2 cuttings of them. Although it is now November and we have had plenty of snow, frost and cold this fall, my last feed of greens is still growing in the greenhouse and will be harvested any day now. I will try for an early green harvest next spring.





  • Garlic Harvest

    2018 was also my premiere garlic year. I planted garlic last fall (cloves, garlic bulbs and garlic seeds) and had a great harvest of 65 large heads of garlic.  This fall we planted the garlic for next summer – cloves, bulbs and seeds again. I moved the location and am hoping for another good harvest.



  • I tried growing dry beans as well this


    year – black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas. I planted them amongst the corn. Since beans are nitrogen fixing and corn is a heavy nitrogen user, I figured they might compliment each other. It worked pretty well, although the beans seemed a bit shaded by the corn. I was quite surprised that the black beans did not produce black colored beans. I am pretty sure the seeds I planted were black. The kidney beans look like kidney beans. I was surprised to find that the chickpeas grow in tiny pods with one seed in each pod. I pulled all the bean pods off in late September and they have been drying in the shop. This winter I will shell them all and cook them up. Not sure the chickpeas will be any good as they appear small and dark colored.

  • Popping Corn

    As a lark, I purchased some popping corn seeds. The plants did not grow well and I only managed to save 3 small cobs that looked like the seed might be mature enough. I am drying these now, but it does not look promising. Not sure if it was the location planted or if our summer is not long enough




  • I have always grown loads of calendula in my garden. Its a self seeded flower with bright yellow

    Calendula petals

    and orange blossoms that grows easily and prolifically and totally fills my garden with gorgeous color. This year, I decided to harvest the blossoms and make calendula lotion. The petals pull off easily and I dried a couple large batches. I batch of dried blossoms (about 2 cups dried) I used to make a calendula lotion. (Covered the dried blossoms with melted coconut oil and let sit in a warm location for 1 week. Drain off the blossoms and mix the infused oil with a mixture of cocoa butter, shea butter and olive oil.) The second batch of dried blossoms I am storing to make a second batch of calendula lotion later in the winter.


  • Grapes

    Fruit harvest. Our 3 year old grape vines produced really well this year – about 14 gallons of fruit. We ate a lot and made grape juice with the rest, canning 16 quarts of juice. The apples produced their first big harvest. We ate some and made apple sauce and apple cider vinegar with the rest. The saskatoon bushes started to produce this year and we got a bit off them. But the harvest of wild saskatoon was exceptional this year. We ate tons of it fresh during the season and froze the rest for winter enjoyment. I planted one lone scraggly gogi bush this spring. It didn’t look like much but boy did that plant produce. It had a constant supply of ripening gogis from the end of July to the end of September. We ate some fresh and I dried the rest for the winter. It wasn’t a big harvest but an impressive one for the first year. I tied up the plant this year as it is pretty floppy, but next spring I plan to make it a proper trellis to grow on. Once again the raspberries and sea buckthorn were prolific.

  • Pumpkin and Squash harvest

    I planted baking pumpkins this year. I used my last squash from 2017 in July of this year, so decided to plant less squash (butternut, hubbard and summer sunshine). The harvest was good and once again my sunroom has a pile of squash and pumpkins for winter use. I am looking forward to trying all sorts of pumpkin recipes including pumpkin chia pudding, pumpkin pie and perfecting a whole food plant based pumpkin cinnamon roll.

  • Tried growing leeks this year. As leek stems should be covered to keep them nice and white, I reused the almond milk containers the tomato transplants were in. I cut off the bottoms of the cartons and placed the tube around each leek transplant. Then I mulched the containers with about 6 inches of sawdust. The leeks, started from transplants, grew really well. As a bonus, the sawdust kept the weeds out.


  • Potatoes, carrots and beets

    Root Cellar:

    • Carrots –  Last year’s experiment of storing them covered in saw dust in the root cellar was a complete success so was repeated this year. We have about 30 gallons stored.
    • Beets – We have 10 gallons stored in the root cellar for winter, also packed in saw dust. I
    • Potatoes – The harvest was not as good as last year but with 20 gallons in the root cellar I think we will have enough.
  • Freezer: We added a new freezer last fall so this is our first year with the extra freezer capacity.
    • Snap peas –  for stir fries
    • Green Beans
    • Greens –  kale, chard, tat soi and spinach
    • Corn
    • leeks – sliced, blanched and ready for use in soups and stews
    • peppers – diced and frozen for stir fries
    • Raspberry Puree – seeds removed as it takes up less room this way. Used to flavor kombucha
    • Chokecherry puree – a wild berry also used to flavor kombucha
    • Sea Buckthorn – used in green smoothies for a great antioxidant punch
    • Saskatoon berries
    • Cranberry – wild highbush variety used to make juice to flavor kombucha
  • Dried:
    • Greens – chard, kale, spinach, beet greens, nettle – whatever we couldn’t eat during the season was dried and then powdered for use in green smoothies. This is my second year making my own green powder.
    • Zucchini – I had 5 zucchini plants, both golden and green, that produced prolifically, as zucchini is want to do. I picked the small ones every couple days and what we didn’t eat fresh, I cut into penny slices and dehydrated. I did a test run using the dried zucchini in a stir fry and it worked great. They hydrated up without getting mushy.
    • Apple slices – these are great for snacks or to grind into a powder to make apple sugar
    • Tomato- dried tomato slices to use as sun dried tomatoes
    • Crushed jalapeño peppers
    • Red pepper powder
    • Tomato powder – I canned several quarts of tomato puree and dried the pumice left after putting the cooked tomatoes through the mill. It powdered up into a flavorful powder.
    • Herbs – oregano, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, lemon grass (grown in a pot in the greenhouse), chives, parsley, cilantro, dill, stevia, coriander, tarragon, peppermint
    • Kale chips
  • Canned goods


    • Tomatoes – diced and puree
    • Salsa
    • Dill pickles
    • Beet pickles
    • Grape juice
    • Cranberry Juice – from wild high bush cranberry
    • Apple Sauce
    • Borsch – beets, carrots and onions in tomato to be in used as a base for borsch
    • Dandelion honey – with inspiration from Lucas, we made a delicious vegan honey

Thanks to the help of our workaways for this year, Lucas, Sandra, Maxime, Emilie, Vanessa and Heather, we were able to not only grow more, but also eat or preserve pretty much everything we grew in the garden or could pick wild. I am excited to see how far into the winter the produce will carry us. Our goal is to become more  self sustaining every year.


About Darlene & Ken

Experiencing life off the grid, building a home, and trying to live sustainably.
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2 Responses to 2018 Garden Update

  1. I didn’t realize you made the calendula lotion from flowers you harvested yourself. It works really well on Astrid’s skin.

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