Garden Update August 5, 2017

I wrote this post sitting in a  car, driving to my parents.  It’s a long drive and an even longer one with two kids – one being 4 months old.  I figured it was a good time to post another update! We are enjoying our very short trip and I’m really hoping the garden is still doing well when we return! That’s the downside of gardening – travelling is hard to do unless you have someone to tend to the gardens. 

It’s been a busy week around here but I still managed to get some gardening done.  I finally have all the tomatoes supported, including catching up on the big gardens tomato weave – the pictures I have were taken on Tuesday before I finished the weave.  The greenhouse tomatoes have almost grown taller than their supports and still look awesome.  The outside potted tomatoes don’t look amazing but they’ve all been fertilized now so hopefully they perk up.  The garden peppers seemed to have liked the fertilizer, there are lots of peppers popping up now and they look a lot greener and healthier.  We are eating a zucchini a day and I think I’ll be making a lot of zucchini baked goods.  I put up a garden net securing it to the garden box and then to the fence for the butternut squash, watermelon, and cucumbers to climb.  I haven’t had any flowers or fruit on any of those yet – next year I definitely have to start them early in the greenhouse.  

I think that’s it for updates this week.  Seemed like the tomatoes are all getting ready to start ripening – then the fun begins! 

Disclaimer: you are about to see my yard in its truest form – always cluttered with various things Ezekiel drags around.  I did clean it right after these pictures but in the spirit of keeping it real didn’t retake them! 


That’s it for this week! Happy gardening friends! 

Garden Update July 24, 2017

Another weeks gone by and it was incredibly busy for us, full of baby showers, play dates and medical appointments.  I found it hard to keep up with the housework so gardening was not happening.  The most I got done was making sure everything was watered and the greenhouse tomato plants fertilized.  Thankfully the gardens are at the point where a week of neglect isn’t too bad and barely noticeable.  I will say that I’ve basically given up on pruning the tomatoes.  I do some here and there but keeping up with 91 plants is just too much! 

Anyways the garden seems to be doing well! I ate my first tomato – Amish paste variety, it was tasty! The tomatoes are all growing like crazy, I’m especially happy with how the greenhouse plants are doing, the shade cloth has proved to be a great purchase.  The greenhouse peppers are also doing amazing, the peppers in the garden however are still not doing awesome.  I’m going to try a bit of fertilizer but I actually think it’s too much sun.  There are a couple plants being shaded by the zucchini and they are green and amazing, so maybe I need to get another shade cloth and rig it up somehow.  Also a lot of the peppers are splitting, I thought maybe the hail we got before had damaged some but now there are more.  From what I read online it’s probably due to inconsistent watering – which makes sense, so I guess I’ll try to be more consistent with the peppers. The greens, carrots, and onions are status quo.  We ate our first half zucchini last night from Ezekiel’s little garden and he’s getting a couple pea pods to munch on per day which makes him happy.  I  cut our first dill harvest today, made some dill potatoes and froze the rest.  

So here’s the garden in pictures! 


Tomatoes like crazy! 


The pictures make the peppers look happier than they are.


Despite them not looking happy there are still some peppers growing.


I can’t wait to dig up those heads of lettuce! 


Zucchinis are taking off!


Ezekiel’s garden goods.


Loving having an herb garden! 


The greenhouse is just so much fun this year! 

That’s it for this week! I’m predicting that I’m going to be incredibly busy with tomatoes in the next three weeks.  I’m mentally gearing up the busyness of canning in the fall.  I think I’ll be doing a lot of baby wearing 🙂

Garden Update July 16,2017

Look at me go, an actual week update! 

It’s been a bit of crazy weather around here and it’s kept me on my toes hoping the garden survives! We’ve had a heat wave but with heat waves come storms.  I’ve thought we were going to get hail a few times and we did get hail once.  I watched and hoped it didn’t ruin everything and thankfully we had no complete casualties although there was some damage.  There were a lot of damaged leaves to the tomatoes and peppers, a couple peppers that were growing ended up ruined, the greens were pelted pretty bad but there’s still lots left to grow and eat.  The watermelon, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin and zucchini all had damage, the most being to the watermelon and cucumbers – I don’t think we’ll get any harvest from either of them anyways.  The other damage was to the flower gardens, they are now laying down and leaning everywhere so I’m going to try and hold them up somehow. 

Otherwise, this week I’ve been working away at getting the tomatoes all supported, pruned and fertilized – still not done, and never will be I’m assuming. I also hung the shade cloth in the greenhouse with some trial and error, but it’s hanging! The plants seem to love the shade, it still gets smoking hot in there but the sun isn’t scorching them.  I got all the peppers either potted up or planted in the garden.  I’ve now realized my big mistake with all the peppers in the garden – I didn’t bother to harden them off. See, I haven’t hardened off the tomatoes at all and they’ve done well so I didn’t even think about gardening off the peppers! So they’ll survive I’m sure but their growth won’t be nearly as good as it would have been had I taken the time to harden them off.  I’ve also thinned out all the carrots and we’ve been munching on the babies.  

Whew – when I write it all out I realize how much I’ve actually done! Sometimes it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.  That’s another reason I like doing these updates, to remind myself that although some days (right now it feels like all days) seem like all I do is feed kids, put kids to bed and clean up all the messes that I am actually able to accomplish much more than that. 

So here’s what the garden looks like:


The herbs are flourishing! I can’t wait to use these in my cooking soon! The fill definitely needs to be harvested, I’ll be using it in a lot of roasted/BBQ potatoes. 


Ezekiel’s gardens are doing pretty well! I think the carrots and peas are going to be great! 


The potted tomatoes seem to be doing great! I’ll need to fertilize these ones real soon. 


You can see the greens, carrots and onions had some hail damage but I think they’re bouncing back. 


The squash, zucchini and pumpkins are taking off but the cucumbers and watermelons suck.  



The peppers! So many of them! Some days I look at them and think “they’re doing so well!” Then the next I look and think “they look so sad!” Despite that all, there are quite a few peppers growing and lots of flowers so hopefully we’ll get a good harvest. 


The tomatoes….. allllllll the tomatoes.  One is going to be ripe soon, and I can’t wait to eat it! The tomatillos are going nuts, I seriously under estimated how much room they would need, unlike most of my tomato varieties which growing like a vine and are easily contained – they grow up and way out! They are really pretty though. 


The potatoes look like they’re growing well. It’s always a nice surprise at the end of the season to see what’s underneath the green! 


I love these gardens more and more each day. 


The greenhouse is doing fantastic, and I love it more this year than last.  

Well, that’s it for this week.  Always lots and lots to do, but it’s slower work and I can do a tiny bit each day.  It’s been nice to slow down before the craziness of harvest comes and I’m drowning in tomatoes. 

Ciao friends! Happy Gardening!

Putting Food By 2016

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My biggest gardening adventure this year was to be able to can enough tomatoes to get us through to next years harvest.  I was able to harvest 136 lbs of tomatoes, and the majority of those were processed into tomato sauce and canned into jars.  I did give some away and we ate some of them but mostly I spent A LOT of time in the kitchen processing the tomatoes.  In the picture above you can see the second shelf is full of jars of tomatoes, and we have already used more than 10 jars of tomatoes, that’s a lot of jars!

We chose to only can tomato sauce for a couple of reasons.  First is that it’s just plain easier than blanching and peeling 136 lbs of tomatoes and then dicing them up and packing them in jars.  Second because we aren’t too fussed about the texture of the tomatoes we cook with. With that decision made I experimented with three slightly different ways of making the sauce.

  1. Mill them raw then cook them down.  I did this with probably over half of the tomatoes, and it works well but it wasn’t my favourite.
  2. Cut them up throw them in a pot to cook a bit and soften to make it easier to mill them.  Then mill them and cook it down a bit more.  This was the worst way ever, mainly because I burnt them and now have 7 jars of smoky tomato sauce.  It works well in chilli but otherwise I don’t enjoy the smokiness.
  3. My favourite way is to cut them in half lay them skin side up on cookie sheets and roast them in the oven until the skins are charred.  Next mill them into a sauce, depending on your preference and the types of tomatoes you use you may not need to cook the sauce down at all.  I found this to make a nice, rich, thick tomato sauce and it was the easiest way I found.

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I did some other canning this year as well.  Every year Heritage Park here in Calgary, AB has a Harvest Sale with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.  The produce is often marked down and so it’s a great affordable way to put food by for the winter months and I really love that all my money goes towards charity.  I bought a box of apples and pears that were made into Apple Pear Sauce that my toddler takes in his lunches daily and loves.  I also bought a box of peaches, they weren’t great peaches, in fact I couldn’t eat them as is but I did find an amazing recipe for Honey Peaches on the Food In Jars blog.  The best part is that they don’t need to be peeled (are you sensing a laziness theme here?) and honestly, I am devouring them! I eat them almost daily with plain yogurt and granola.  I also did a few jars of peaches packed in fruit juice but haven’t tried those yet.  The last thing I canned this year (not pictured) are three large jars of pickled beets which I’m excited to dive into.

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It’s been a lot of work to put food into our pantry for the year, but honestly the feeling of providing for my family in this way is amazing.  The tomatoes are obviously my pride and joy and I get happy just looking at that shelf of jars.

Did you do any canning this year? I’d love to hear some new recipes, and if you ever want to try your hand at canning next year I highly recommend that peach recipe!

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!

2014 Garden

Although the weather has turned back to quite warm here, last weeks snow and nights of freezing ended the gardening season for me.  I thought I’d do a quick recap of how the season went.  You’ll have to excuse the less than stellar photography, 98% of these were taken with my iPhone only for the purpose of documenting the process for my own learning next year.

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I started some plants from seed.  Only the tomatoes, kale, lettuce, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and pumpkins made it to the garden though.  From that only the tomatoes were truly successful, which really surprised me.  I figured they would be the failures! I will definitely be starting from seed again next year, I found this part to be the most rewarding on top of being super cheap! I won’t be starting kale, lettuce, or zucchini though.  I will just start those in the garden and see how they do.

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I was skeptical that my seedlings would do well because I didn’t have any lights on them.  However, my living room is very light and I was diligent in rotating the plants often so they wouldn’t grow lanky.  I also repotted them and planted them deeper into the pots to try and establish a good root system.  Lastly, I hardened them off for quite a few weeks when the days were warm, and then would bring them inside for the nights.  I did that until the nights weren’t quite so cool and then I left them outside until I had my gardens built.

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It took me a while to get the gardens actually built and ready for plants.  I didn’t plant anything until June 4, next year I will be planting much earlier!

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These were the gardens on June 19, at this point I was quite happy with how things were coming along.  Everything seemed to be popping up quite nicely.

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This was the zucchini on June 30.  I was so excited to actually have fruit, but had no idea that I wouldn’t be getting any good fruit from these plants due to flower rot.  None of my zucchini were getting pollinated because I didn’t plant any flowers to attract bees.  Also my soil was severely deficient in so many things.  Two rookie mistakes I will be correcting next year.

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Here’s a look at my very first tomato on July 9.  I was ecstatic!

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Here’s the pumpkin and squash plants on August 14.  They looked like they should be doing well but they were complete failures for the same reasons as my zucchini.  The vines actually grew much larger than these but started to die at the bottom and continue to grow at the top.

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Here’s the left garden with the tomatoes, zucchini and you’ll see the beets which didn’t produce anything.  Through the season I was diligent in pruning my tomato plants and I think it really helped get the amount of fruit that I did.  This was right before I topped them off.

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Here’s the tomatoes right after being topped off on September 6. I topped them off to force them to give the nutrients to the fruit that was already established rather than produce more fruit. I didn’t have many days before it snowed to see how well this worked but from what I can tell it was beneficial.  I will do it again next year, maybe a week or so earlier.

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I really wanted my tomatoes to ripen on the vine, so when the forecast called for snow I made sure that the temperatures would stay above freezing and just covered them with a sheet.  After a couple days of snow, however, the forecast was showing temperatures well below zero and I was forced to pick all the tomatoes.  I placed them all on the window sill and they are ripening up pretty well.  I got about 40 big tomatoes and a lot of cherry tomatoes.  Next year I will plant more tomatoes and plan on doing quite a bit of canning.  We buy a lot of canned tomatoes so it would definitely all be used up.

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This was a couple days after it froze, pretty sad looking!

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And finally, this was the last harvest of the season, half a bucket of potatoes!

All in all it wasn’t a superb year for my gardens, but I set out with a goal of learning and I definitely learned a lot! I kept notes during the year of when things were planted, what did well, what went wrong, where things were planted etc.  I’ll be referring back to them next year in order to plan well.  I’m already preparing lists!  I really can’t wait to see how I do next year, until then I’ll be planting herbs and collecting indoor plants to tide me over.

Did you plant a garden this year? Any words of wisdom for me?