2017 Garden

It’s officially garden season around here, although I’ve been gardening since February! I thought I’d get you caught up to where I’m at and then try my best to get back to weekly garden updates.  Now that the garden is planted I’m not feeling so pressed for time and I have some more downtime – there is still lots to do of course but hopefully I can keep up with weekly pictures and updates.  The last two years I’ve made picture books of my gardening seasons and I love looking back on them so I want to keep doing that.

I ordered the vast majority of my seeds online this year.  I ordered in January from West Coast Seeds, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  What I didn’t order I bought from a couple local stores but kept with those two companies as well as Renee’s Garden, Strathcona 1890 and a local Calgary seed company called Seed Plus Soil.  I’ve grown seeds from all four of these seed companies and have been impressed both with the germination and quality of produce.  I like that they are all non-treated and non-gmo seeds and a lot of what I ordered has been heirloom varieties.

So without further ado I give you my gardening thus far.  I will warn you this post is going to be very picture heavy!

I started my peppers back on February 3 – such a long time ago! I started a large amount of seeds this year and because I let them germinate on top of our fireplace for the extra heat, I had to start my peppers and tomatoes separately.  Last year my peppers were later producers than my tomatoes so I figured I’d try starting them earlier. The varieties I started were:

  • Jalapenos
  • Paprika
  • Thai Red Chilli
  • Sunset Mix
  • Orange Gilboa and Red Yardenne
  • Red Habanero
  • Caribbean Red Habanero
  • Chocolate Habanero
  • Trinidad Scorpion

Yep I definitely went overboard!

On February 15 I started most of my tomatoes.  I planted 13 different varieties (!), I just couldn’t narrow them down! Online shopping for seeds is a bit dangerous but so much fun!  The varieties I planted are:

  • Toma Verde Tomatillos
  • Marvel Stripe
  • Black Krim
  • Red Brandywine
  • St. Pierre
  • Bonny Best
  • Amish Paste
  • Arbason Beefsteak
  • Caiman
  • Roma
  • Fox Cherry
  • German Lunchbox
  • Italian San Marzano

Then it was a lot of watching and waiting for both my plants to mature and my baby to arrive!

They were doing really well! I probably could have transplanted them the last week in March or first week in April but I was pretty fresh postpartum since Eden came along March 17.  The plants had to take a back burner for a couple weeks.  I didn’t start transplanting until April 16 – the same day I moved them all out to the greenhouse, and didn’t finish until May 1! They were starting to look pretty sickly and I wasn’t sure how many would survive.

When all was said and done I had 136 tomato plants, and close to 90 pepper plants.  Insane? Yes absolutely but honestly I’m totally OK with it! Initially I really wanted to start up a side job selling them which is why I planted so many in the first place.  Then life happened (like having a baby) and I didn’t get on top of advertising and setting things up.  I did end up starting a new instagram account to get the word out that I had some plants for sale but I’m not sure I’ll be able to get rid of what I wanted to.  Feel free to check out the account (@plantloveyyc) and if you’re local keep your eyes open for some other things for sale!

Anyways, here’s the progression in the greenhouse:

Considering how sickly they looked when I transplanted them I’m so impressed with how they are doing.  I planted the tomatoes and peppers into the garden just last week with my dad on June 4.  I planted 32 Tomato plants and 36 pepper plants into the garden.  The rest will have to be in pots, although I’m not really sure where they will go! I’m thinking of getting a shade cloth and trying to keep some in the greenhouse again.  If I can keep it cool enough I think it would work.  Also, last year I did little to no fertilizing of my potted plants and I think that had a lot to do with how poorly they did.  This year I’m going to use a liquid kelp fertilizer for my potted plants that I buy from a local plant store here in Calgary (Plant).  The fertilizer is from Strathcona 1890 and you can order it here.

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Ok, so that takes care of the tomatoes and peppers but I planted a whole lot more!

In the deck garden I planted a variety of leafy greens:

  • Ansar Lettuce
  • Ghandi Lettuce
  • Midnight Ruffle Lettuce
  • Gourmet Mixed Lettuce
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Arugula

I also planted two varieties of carrots and two rows of onions.

 

In the greenhouse gardens I planted two different wildflower packets – a butterfly mix and a bee mix.  I really can’t wait to see them bloom!

The big garden had a surprise crop of onions this year.  I had no idea that the seed onions I planted last year would appear again this year.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them so I let them grow for a while and then they started blooming! So I decided I would just dig them all up and preserve them.  My husband made a batch of an onion/lemon/hot pepper hot sauce that he uses often and I canned one jar.  The rest we dehydrated and made into onion powder.  I bought a dehydrator for this task and I’m actually quite excited about using it as a method of preservation this year.

Other than the tomatoes and peppers I also planted zucchini, pumpkin, cucumbers and watermelon in the big garden.  I planted along the side and back to give them room to grow out of the garden by the fence instead of on my lawn like last year.  I doubt that any pumpkins or watermelons will grow but I thought I’d try for fun! I also planted two barrels of potatoes and I’m hoping for some big harvests.

We have two raised planters that my dad had built for us last year and so this year I’ve designated them for Ezekiel.  He picked what he wanted to grow and basically just put them wherever he felt like it – I tried to give some direction but didn’t want to interfere too much.  I really want him to have a sense of independence and pride over what he grows.  So far his carrots have sprouted and I think zucchini.

We also have an old (I think) antique wash basin that my parents had been using as a flower planter.  My mom had painted it up with the name and address on it and some flowers on the sides and they used it to mark their cabin (or house really) at the lake.  Last year they decided they didn’t want it anymore and I had asked if I could have it when they were done with it and so now it’s mine!  I’m trying my hand at growing some herbs in there – something I’ve never been successful at growing from seed so we’ll see how it goes!

Some other notes on the garden this year:

I knew that my soil would need some amending so I used 6 bags of sheep manure compost on the big garden and 3 bags on the deck garden.  I also used a lot in the front of the house – that soil was AWFUL and the plants were showing signs of decline last year so I knew I had to do something.  I also bought some fertilizer spikes for the front as well as for the rose bushes, Japanese maple and the mysterious tree with beautiful white flowers in the back.

So here’s some progress pictures bringing us to today – the next posts shouldn’t be as wordy or lengthy!

Thanks for plowing through this post if you’ve made it this far!

Happy Gardening Friends!

Goals, Thoughts, Wishes

So I’ve shared my “One Little Word” for 2017 already, but I’ve also made a list for myself of some specific things I hope to see in 2017.  I’ve labeled the list “Goals,Thoughts,Wishes” they are 7 things that I’m going to work towards.  They are specific and I really believe they are achievable, two must have things for any goal.  I thought that I would share my list with you all as a way to keep myself accountable.  I know that I won’t nail every single item but I do hope to make some good progress on each item.

So without further ado:

  1. Home Pre-schooling – This is probably my loftiest goal by far but one that I’m really determined to do and try to do well.  Besides adding another wonderful child to our family in 2017 I’m most looking forward to spending the year with Ezekiel.   Some people keep their toddlers in daycare for the social aspect, and some make sure to put them in a pre-school.  I’ve chosen to keep him home for that extra one on one time during home-schooling and to save a substantial amount of money.  I’m currently working on researching and developing a curriculum based on where Ezekiel is at currently and where I think he could be at the end of our year.  I’m cognizant that this will have to be flexible but the important things to me is that we have variety, socialization (outings with friends, library classes etc.) and get outside to explore as much as possible so those will all be worked into our curriculum.  I’m hoping to start by mid-June depending on when this new babe decides to make an appearance so the next two months I’ll be in organization mode to get the curriculum finished up.  I’ll write an updated post before we start and maybe blog our experience as we go, there are sure to be lots of mistakes and a steep learning curve!
  2. Post-Partum Restored Health – Last year my health was so far from where I wanted it to be and although a lot of it wasn’t in my control, there are many things that are in my control.  I will be going gluten free again (this is a recommendation from my GI doctor and he wants me to do it now, so this may start earlier than postpartum).  I’m really looking forward to being home and having the time to focus on food, nutrition and cooking it was a huge highlight from my first maternity leave.  I will also try to be active each day – whether that be walking, yoga, or a home workout – moving my body will AGAIN be a priority.  This will be a struggle in the beginning given that I will be coming off of several weeks of modified rest and many more weeks of not being able to do much other than walk for a few minutes.
  3. Financial Stability and Wellness – This could be one of the bigger struggles coming up.  After 3 years of being a one income household and struggling just to keep up with it I’m ready to take back some control.  I’m researching and hoping to find a way to make some extra income this year to put towards my debt.  Luckily my husband has little to no-debt and is amazing with his money.  It’s my debt and payments that are the problem and so in 2017 he’ll be working and able to contribute to household expenses while I’ll be able to focus on paying down my debt and being smarter with my money.  I’m starting this one off with a bang by making January a “no spend” month.  That means that nothing more than the necessities will be purchased.
  4. House Decor and Maintenance – This one is big! The three years that we have lived in this house there are things that we’ve never done like clean the carpets and furnace ducts – I’m embarrassed to even admit that! I’m also really terrible at deep cleaning, I’m talking light fixtures and baseboards so I’ll be working on a list of tasks that should be completed within the year and splitting that up into 12 months to make it more manageable.  Then there are the wish-list items that may not happen depending on our budget like painting.
  5. Social – Last year we tried monthly dates and I think we only did three months – a terrible attempt.  This year I’m going to try to do this again.  With school, work and now adding another little soul to our family it will be easy to forget that marriage takes work and maintenance.  I want to spend time focusing on us beyond just our kids and responsibilities.  I’m also excited to start up some ladies nights with friends to keep connected and build a community around me.  This is something that I’ve lost over the last couple years and as I sit at home on modified rest it has been so apparent.  I’m a homebody but I also crave community and connection and I’m ready to get back to that.
  6. Family Trip – This may just be a week in the mountains, or maybe it will be a week in another country.  I have no idea but we need a trip away together.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time researching, budgeting and planning it well so that it is something we can afford to do.
  7. Gardening – My garden last year was beyond what I could have imagined but I’m dreaming even bigger this year! I’ll be narrowing down what I plant for what we actually use.  I want to plant even more flowers, get even more tomatoes and peppers harvested, maybe even sell some.  I also want to start the front yard landscaping project – this one may be put on hold or only partly done depending on budget but it’s something we’ve been dreaming of for a couple years and now that the back is more or less complete it’s time to focus on the front.

That’s it! As I wrote it out I began to think maybe this is all too much! Yet one step at a time is what gets you to your goals.  So I’ll be focusing on the small steps that will take me closer to each goal and I’ll be happy with progress whatever that may look like.

Happy New Year friends! Praying it’s the best year yet for you! 

 

2016 Garden Wrap Up

Well, honestly the yard work isn’t quite complete and there are some things left in the garden that hasn’t been cleaned out.  Really out of pure laziness and putting other things first BUT truly the garden is done for the year.  It was a rough end of the summer for the garden but it continued to show me grace and provide me with a lot of food which is now either canned into jars ready for the long winter, waiting to be eaten in the pantry or already gobbled up by my veggie loving toddler.

It was a fantastic year in the garden for me.  The best yet, and although I’m definitely ready for a break I’m already dreaming up the plans for next year.  Each year I learn so many new things, this year a lot of my learning was about where to plant what due to the ample gardening space I now have.  I did a lot of experimenting with tomatoes planting them in the big garden, small garden and containers and have decided that next year they will only be planted in the big garden.  The peppers did pretty good in containers but I think next year I will plant some in the garden as well, later on in the season of course.  I may plant my lettuce into some long containers my dad made for me.  It will save space and I can keep it in cooler places on the deck rather than full sun in the garden.  The gardens in front of the greenhouse will have some ground cover and low lying flowers.   They are just not deep enough to get good roots for tall plants so I’ll try that next year.  The garden along the deck will have a lot of squash varieties and some flowers again, probably different varieties.  Flowers were one of my favourite parts of the garden, next year I’ll focus my flower growing on varieties that would be good cut and put into bouquets.  I could have probably done that with this years flowers, I just didn’t have the energy or creative inspiration to do it.

The tomatoes did amazingly, in the end I harvest a total of 136 lbs of tomatoes.  That’s a whole lot of canning (I’ll do a separate food preserving post later on) and I grumble through it but I am so grateful to be putting food I grew myself away for my family in the winter.  The onions produced pretty well too, I didn’t get huge onions but quite a lot and they are cured and now in my pantry waiting to be used.  The habaneros did way better than I expected and we have a full baggy in the freezer to use through out the year.  The kale just kept going and going but unfortunately didn’t get used much because I couldn’t stomach leafy greens for a couple months.  Same goes for swiss chard.  The spaghetti squash produced more than I expected and I have lots left to eat throughout the next couple months.  The other squash varieties did nothing – some I started in the greenhouse and they got root bound before planted so didn’t do well, others I planted in the garden from seed and they didn’t have enough time to produce anything.  I’ll work on that next year.  The other things like carrots, peas, beans, lettuce all did well as well.

I  didn’t take a lot of pictures of the garden at the end of the year because I didn’t keep up on it and it ended up not being very pretty, but here’s what I did take:

 

A Surprising Summer

Wow, it’s been three months since an update! Fall is upon us, the tomatoes are almost all packed away in jars, the greenhouse and gardens are (almost) cleaned out.  I’m cuddling up with tea and fires for most of my evenings yet I’ve been silent on here.

So where has the time gone and where have I been?

Well, right after my last post I found out (to my great surprise) that I was expecting a baby! With that realization quickly came the first trimester woes of feeling all around exhausted and terrible.  I had a huge aversion to anything vegetable related so gardening did not happen and my beautiful garden slowly was neglected to ugliness (however my tomato plants paid me greatly anyways!).  I spent my days, evenings and nights cuddled up with Ezekiel, I did only the necessary things to keep us clothed, fed, and alive.

Then came the second trimester with the terrible pain that makes me go to bed at 7 because I can’t be upright anymore.  I can generally be pretty productive during the day but try to space out my chores and errands with lots and lots of rest.  I’m still working but am now down to 8 hr days only shifts (compared to 12hr day/night shifts), it helps but too many in a row makes for a terrible week of pain.  Other than that I’m actually feeling OK at this point.  I’m more wary and cautious about preterm labor and trying to avoid it.  I’m doing my best to sit and rest when I can.

I have a huge list that keeps growing of things that need to get done before the new babe comes (and before I literally can’t move anymore) – deep clean the house, shampoo the carpets, organize the pantry, clean out the office, plan the big boy room and new nursery, paint the walls that have been driving me nuts for 3 years.  Most of those physical things can actually wait, I doubt I’ll get a lot of it done considering I find it hard to clean the house at this point. But there are other things that I’m starting to get some motivation to do, things that don’t require me to exert physical labor – Finish the last 3 years of photo books is top on that list.  It’s a daunting task at this point, but I have a daunting amount of time on my hands, and I can’t go to sleep at 7 every single night! Tonight I was wide awake but not able to be doing anything productive that required me to be upright and moving around – so getting back to blogging was top on my list!

Anyways, this post isn’t a big specific post about anything, just a general update but look for a full garden breakdown from Aug/Sept coming soon and maybe some pregnancy related posts as well :).

Hope you have all been well and if you planted a garden this year I hope it paid you in great food!

Ciao friends!

Greenhouse Growing

Well! Dreams have become reality around here! In the midst of my ongoing health issues I’ve managed (with my dad’s help!) to get my greenhouse up and running.  Honestly, everything about it is more than I could have imagined.  I’m loving spending my time planting, water, and watching things grow!

I thought I’d share some progress pictures and share how things are going.  Although having a greenhouse makes growing food in colder weather easier, it’s also a little bit more work and complicated.  Temperature control has been a learning point from the start and I haven’t nailed it down yet but I think I’m doing pretty well so far!

Without further ado…..

   
  I knew my dad was coming to visit the first week in April so I wanted to get the base of the greenhouse layed out.  It was a bit of a trick to get him to help me, I was almost positive he wouldn’t be able to look at it while he was here without doing some of the work.  My plan worked!  He started by just securing up the floor – putting the plywood to the pallets and then we levelled it.  Thankfully it was the exact measurement of the greenhouse! 

  

    
 I worked nights Friday and Saturday, when I came home Sunday morning it was gorgeous outside and I couldn’t resist attempting to put up the greenhouse.  I was silly enough to think that I might be able to accomplish it alone.  In the end it took my dad and I (and an hour of my husbands help) 10 hours of work! That wasn’t even completely finished, the next day I did another hour or so putting the inside reinforcements up.  It was all worth it! 

   
  I decided to put a coat of black paint on the floor to spruce it up a bit and for a tiny bit of heat absorption.  I went to Ikea and bought some shelves and a cheap desk to act as a potting bench.  I went to Canadian Tire and got a cheap portable heater (one that is safe for in bathrooms and high humidity areas) and a cheap table fan.  I also bought two large black garbage cans to fill with water and act as a thermal heating source.  Right now it’s still getting too cold at night for them to do a lot but in a few weeks it should do some more of the heating.  I placed them on top of some sidewalk bricks I had laying around for extra heat absorption. The water in them gets quite warm actually, I was impressed. 

After it was all set up I went to work moving out the plants, repotting and planting more seeds! 

   

That old metal mailbox is an antique heirloom passed down to me from my dad.  It was bought in 1908 and has been in our family ever since, it was sitting in my shed for over a year just waiting for the perfect opportunity and I’m so happy to have it in the greenhouse! 

  
These were the tomatoes pre-potted. 
  

  
This is the extent of what I have so far that has been potted, there’s still so many seeds being started and 4 containers that have been planted.  
  

One afternoon I set up this potting station for Ezekiel to plant his own box.  He really loved the activity and is enjoying watching all the plants grow. 

Here’s some close ups of some of what is growing. 

   
    
    
    
    
   
And here’s the task lists and running inventory.  I’m going wild planting everything with full knowledge that I will have much more than I can plant and so I will likely have to sell or give some away. I just can’t help myself! 

   
 
This post has become extremely long! Next time I’ll write a bit about what I’m learning – things that are working and things I might change up. 

Cheers friends and happy growing! 
 

Garden Plans and Update

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I have really big garden plans this year.  I think maybe I’m biting off a bit more than I can chew but I’m so excited to be jumping into this hobby with two feet. I shared my drawn out plans that I drafted in my Get To Work Book (I love this book, if you are looking for a planner I highly recommend it, the academic version is going on sale soon!) on Instagram but here it is for you too. 

  
A few weeks ago I purchased an 8×8 greenhouse!

I spent days and days (and continue to spend time) dreaming and planning, drawing and making lists.  I’m doing a pretty big revamp of the backyard.  If you want to see pictures of what the backyard currently looks like (or looked like in the summer anyways) you can go back into the blog and find any garden posts.  Basically it has a couple small shrubs and 3 4×4 gardens.  The plan is to add a greenhouse, with some flower gardens lining the walkway to the greenhouse and make the three gardens into one.

When I started this gardening hobby I was on maternity leave and really just needed a very inexpensive way to garden.  I found a couple sheets of plywood in our garage that was left from previous owners and so my husband built me two gardens.  I filled them with the cheapest soil I could find and that was that.  Then last year I wanted one extra garden for tomatoes and so we had some wood from old pallets and my dad built me another garden.  This year I’m ready to make the backyard pretty.  I’ve finally realized that this love of gardening is only growing not dwindling.  To me it’s worth the investment and so I took some deep breaths and spent the money to make the backyard something I love to be in.

The greenhouse is in a box in the backyard waiting to be built.  I have a truckload of lumber and landscaping supplies set to be delivered next week and then just to find the time with my husband to spend a weekend revamping everything back there.  I’m super excited!

For now this is what the seedlings have been up to.  There can’t be very much procrastinating on getting that greenhouse up, the tomatoes are growing like crazy and are very close to needing to be repotted.  I’m trying my hand at growing perennials from seed, so far I only have some Pampas grass going but I’m not really sure how that’s going.  It’s growing excruciatingly slow!  Like always, this year my main expectation is to learn, learn, learn and undertaking growing all my potting plants from seed is definitely going to be a learning experience!

Now for the photos from the last couple weeks:

  
So far these are the seeds I’ve purchased but I’ll more than likely pick up some more.  I can’t help but browse the seeds on my weekly plant store/nursery trips!   
This was the very beginning of the tomatoes, before the peppers even sprouted. 

   
 
The peppers finally sprouted and I’m so excited that everything I planted came up! 

   
   
The first true leaves started showing up around March 8 on the Tomatoes.

   

I planted the Pampas Grass at the same time as some Geraniums.  The grass sprouted really quickly but has been slow to grow otherwise.  The Geraniums were slower to sprout. 

  
My end table is becoming very crowded and I still have some more things to start before the greenhouse will be done. 

   
 
This was the growth a couple days ago. 

   
    
    
   
And this is what they look like today.  Not too bad! 

How’s your garden planning coming? Anyone out there as crazy or crazier than me?! 

 

2015 Garden Dreams

I have a dream this year.

To have enough tomatoes to be able to make marinara, canned tomatoes and salsa to last us at least 6 months.

Seedlings

On top of that I’m really hoping that every vegetable in the marinara and salsa can come from my garden.

Lofty dream considering last years garden was 90% failure.

Despite the failure’s of last year I’ve decided to press on this year.  I may have been a bit ambitious though, I currently have 20 tomato plants growing in my living room (so far my toddler hasn’t destroyed them, not sure how long they will last though).

Yes, 20.

Greenhouse

I’m considering gifting a few once they are ready to be planted into the garden.  I’m also hoping to build one more square foot garden to house most of the tomatoes.

Tomatoes potted

More exciting than my 20 thriving tomato seedlings, is my 4 thriving pepper seedlings! Last year I wasn’t able to get the peppers to sprout.  This year I had an idea to separate them from the tray of tomatoes after the tomatoes had sprouted, I then put them in a plastic ziplock and 5 days later they were poking their leaves up! I am thinking of keeping them potted and just growing them in pots on my deck so I can bring them inside in the fall when the weather starts to cool off.

I’m seriously so excited about gardening this year, and I have high hopes that I’ll get more than just tomatoes!