July 9, 2019
It’s been a busy spring. We have been busy outside – gardening and landscaping. Now all the hard work is starting to show its rewards with big lush plants, fresh veggies and blossoms of all colors. Now for a tour of the yard.
I will begin in the greenhouse. The greenhouse was built last spring by Ken and Lucas, so this is the first full year of operation. We planted spinach early in April and were able to get a small early harvest. Once the weather warmed up a bit in April, the seedling starts were moved from the sunroom in the house into the greenhouse.
This year, the greenhouse has mostly peppers, lots of peppers – sweet red peppers, yellow peppers and hot peppers. Even a Scorpian, and Ghost pepper, complements of my nephew Derek. There is also about 10 tomato plants – cherry, plum and beefstake, various herbs and a whole lot of basil (over 40 plants). We are trying sweet potato in crates again (T&T Seeds had sweet potato starts for the first time this year. A cultivar just developed for Manitoba.), even though it was not successful last year. And tucked in the corners is one cantaloupe and one watermelon plant as well.
Ken set up a water system for the greenhouse. He moved the 100 gallon barrel from our old cabin, where it wasn’t being used, to the outside of the greenhouse. It is up on a stand so that gravity moves the water, and a hose runs through the wall, into the greenhouse. Now with a turn of a tap, I can water the plants. We have been filling the 100 gallon barrel with water pumped up from the lake. We use a ladder to get the watering hose into the barrel. (This is quite a task to accomplish while the pump is running. I have managed to soak Ken really good a few times as he tried to get the hose into the barrel. LOL) I use about 100 gallons every week.
One of our goals for this spring was to redo the flower bed on the west side of the shop. As the ground slopes quickly to the lake, we had built up the west side of the shop to the level of the foundation and made a flowerbed with a rock wall. The rock retaining wall was dry laid, with no mortar. Over the years, the wall and bed has become overrun with weeds and grass. It was a terrible mess.
In mid May, we rolled up our sleeves and began removing the perennials from the bed. Mostly there were irises, lots of them, and some delphiniums. However, I had planted some asparagus there about 15 years ago. Only one plant survived but it continually produced a small harvest of asparagus shoots every spring. The delphiniums and irises were easy to move, the asparagus however was another story.
Over the years, that one plant built up one heck of a room system. In fact, we were surprised to find that there was no way to move this mass on our own.
We threw a rope around it and hauled it out with the tractor.
We used a reciprocating saw to cut the root ball into 5 large pieces. Each was then transplanted into a corner of the new North Bed, where it is doing very well.
Last week, we finally finished the shop bed, – pulled all the rocks out, cleaned out all the grass and weeds, and reassembled the rock wall. In an attempt to control the grass this time, we put a plastic barrier between the soil and the rocks, extending under the bottom rocks on onto the path. We used plastic saved from our old bale garage. For the path, we reused asphalt shingles left over from shingling the lean-to on the bathhouse. Under the shingles I put a layer of plastic for extra weed protection. When we were insulating the house, I folded up all the plastic wrap from the insulation and stored it in the basement. Now it is being repurposed as a weed barrier.
The bed itself is covered in cardboard (from boxes) and newspaper as a weed barrier, then covered in straw. We plan to let this bed sit for this year. Next year, I will push aside the straw, cut holes in the cardboard, and plant perennials. Hopefully, this helps cut down the weeding.
When the basement for the house was dug, back in 2013, the topsoil was deposited in a huge pile on the north side of the yard. It was affectionately called Squash Mountain, as the first year I planted squash on top of the mountain of soil. Since 2013, we have gradually chipped away at the mountain of soil, using it for various beds. This spring, it finally was leveled and worked up. Now it is another perennial bed, called the North Bed. With this bed ready to plant, we were able to move perennials in and clean out other beds. The bed began with one lone spruce tree, planted about 20 years ago. Around the spruce we planted blueberries, moving some that were in the garden and not doing well (acid loving plants so hoping they love it around the spruce), and purchasing a few more. We also put in a two more Saskatoon bushes (we currently have two in the Turnaround Bed, that are just starting to produce well.). The rest is filled with irises, delphiniums and asparagus from the Shop Bed cleanup; lilies, galardia, poppies and day lilies from the Cabin Beds (all rescues from my mom’s gardens); and peonies and daisies (originally from my Baba’s garden) from the Shade Bed on the north side of the garage. (Yes, I have lots of flower beds and they all have names!)
Last year we finished up a bed on the west side of the house, off the deck facing the lake. It’s 40 feet long and about 5 feet wide. This spring we planted half of it with strawberries, and half with herbs. The strawberries are now well established and producing, as are the herbs. We are enjoying finding a few red berries every day.
The bed on the south side of the house has a teepee in the center of it this year, planted with climbing beans on the outside, and spinach on the inside. The rest of the bed is a mixture of corn, beans, squash, sunflower and calendula.
The garden proper has a few new twists this year. My sister Sheila gave me a copy of How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons. I love the book and am trying to implement many of the practices to grow more on less land with less water. I love the philosophy that we would work to sustain the soil as well as grow food. To this end I have started a rotation and will sew a portion of the garden to a cover crop each year. This year I planted a few beds of buckwheat, which will be harvested green for composting and the remaining plant and roots tilled under to rebuild the soil. Amongst the corn, I planted all types of bean seeds saved from previous years. The beans will be cut down once they start to bloom and be composted, and the roots left to decompose in the soil. And since I had saved a whole ton of spinach seeds last fall, I planted spinach everywhere, including the strawberry bed. I am harvesting spinach everyday, eating what we can, drying some for green smoothies during the winter, and soon I will begin composting the plants.
We are also trying a few new planting methods. We planted cucumbers in bales. Ken built simple crates, big enough to hold a straw bale. Once the bale was inserted in the crate, 3 holes were cut with a reciprocating saw, filed with soil and a cucumber planted in each hole. Three bale crates were placed on the south side of the greenhouse. So far, the cucumbers seem to be growing well.
We are testing growing potatoes in crates. We planted about 35 hills the regular way, in the ground, but Ken made one crate for me to try. We planted it very late but we will see how well it produces.
Last year I tried growing dry beans and I managed to grow a good crop of kidney beans and small brown beans. I cooked some of the beans and saved the rest to plant this year. In addition, I added black beans and am trying chickpeas again (not very successful last year). Since I have started seed saving, I planted a seed garden. A small area where I can leave Swiss Chard, spinach, cilantro, dill and other plants to grow to produce seed for next year’s garden.
The garden is all well mulched with old straw from a neighbor. They were going to burn the old spoiled bales, so we saved 7 large round bales for mulching. I used 4 this year and have 3 left for next year. While its a lot of work carting, mulching really helps cut down on the weeding and watering, so saves time in the end. Its amazing how moist the soil under the mulch stays compared to bare soil.
I am growing celery this year as well. Over the winter, I saved the cartons from almond milk, and used them to start my tomato seedlings. After transplanting the tomatoes, I cut out the bottoms of the cartons and used them around my celery and leek plants. The cartons help blanch the plants. The plants are heavily mulched and I keep them well watered. I am looking forward to my first taste of garden celery.
We started a new asparagus bed in the garden this year (yes, in addition to the transplanted one in the North Bed). We planted 30 roots, which hopefully will give us a good harvest in a couple of years.
The garlic we planted last fall is doing well and soon I will be harvesting garlic scapes. Onions is something we use large amounts of, and this year I planted the largest amount ever, both from onion bulbs and seeds. I estimate I have over 500 onions planted. It looks very impressive. Last year’s harvest lasted until mid December. I am hoping this year’s harvest will last well into the new year.
We are continuing growing brassicas – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, collards – under nets to keep out the cabbage butterflies. Our son, Christopher, gave us a mosquito net they were not using and we are using that enclosure this year. I had great hopes of a nice early cabbage harvest but alas, after planting in the enclosure in May, we found every plant devoured by flea beetles. One remedy I found on line was to plant later, once the flea beetles have hatched and left. We purchased new plants and they are doing well in the enclosure now that the flea beetles are gone. We also have some of our brassica cages from previous years being used as well.
The cool dry spring impacted the germination of many vegetables. Some of my carrots, corn and kale did not germinate at all. To fill those bare spots, I started more of those plants in pots and transplanted them into the garden in early July. We will see how that works out.
Even the veranda got an update this year. I purchased a bunch of pots from a second hand store, and spray painted them bright red. I love the splash of color they bring to the veranda.
I love to work in my garden, trying out new plants and planting methods. I got my love of gardening from my grandmother and my mother. Most of the perennial flowers in my beds come from their gardens, and I love to see those flowers live on. And I am so happy that this year, all of our kids have gardens of their own. Kerry has a small greenhouse garden with pots of tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Christopher has a small rooftop garden plot and Kelsey has a backyard raised bed garden. As you can see, they also like to do things differently!
It’s amazing how fast the garden is growing right now. I have been working on this garden post for two weeks and everything is so much bigger now.