Category Archives: Gardening

Putting the Gardens to Bed

Fall seems to have come and gone before I could really wrap my mind around it. As is usually the case, harvesting lasts until just about the end of October, and then it is time to put the gardens to bed, move the hardier crops to  sheltered cold frames and make a lot… A LOT.. of spaghetti sauce.

The gardens did well through all of September. By the time the first snow fell on October fourteenth, the Swiss chard was the only thing still growing. I managed to use everything that came from my gardens this year. Not much made it to the freezer at all. This means more gardens will be built for next year. From halloween onwards it is time to move indoors, await the seed catalogues that should be turning up any day. It’s time to curl up with a good book, surf the web, play video games or  Cheekybingo and experiment with all kinds of herbal teas.

“Every life needs a little space. It leaves room for good things to enter it.” ~ Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper

Putting the gardens to bed is the process of cleaning them out and topping up soil where needed. It’s a good time to dig out the roots of any weeds that may have popped up. Rhubarb and strawberries and other perennials will benefit from mulching or covering if you are so inclined. Mine are in perfect little microclimates that protect them from cold and snow. The composter is getting fat on trimmings and leaves.  Now the days are chilly and the nights are even colder. We are well into bonfire season.

It surprises me that Guy Fawkes, or Bonfire Night is not celebrated in New Brunswick. It’s one of the things I miss about Newfoundland. I miss gigantic community bonfires with the fire department managing things and the whole town standing around chatting and drinking hot chocolate cut with too much water, or something else.

“All night I dreamt of bonfires and burn piles and ghosts of men, and spirits behind those birds of flame. I cannot tell anymore when a door opens or closes, I can only hear the frame saying, Walk through.” ~ Ada Limon

When the air turns cold and hard frost finishes the rest of the garden off, my focus shifts to inside tasks. It’s the time for getting ready for winter, decorating for Halloween and eventually Yule. I no longer wake up wanting to go outside and putter. My mornings are filled with warm slippers, hot coffee, procrastinating under the blankets and this year, oddly, pinterest.

Fall is the time of pumpkin spiced everything, and homemade soup. It is the time for cayenne and cinnamon, for good books, and epic movies. There is no time quite like fall for cleaning out and organizing cook books, closets, drawers and all the myriad crafts and projects I began with good intentions and abandoned for shinier things the year before.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Winter is arriving any day now. The first snow was not enough to cover the ground and no snow has managed to stay yet. I am looking forward to mild nights with fat snowflakes falling in the moonlight and digging Trixhe out of snow that is deeper than she is tall.

In the town of The Pas, Manitoba
It snows on the first of Octoba
From then, for six months,
It thaws only once
And never when I am quite soba.
~Author unknown

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Garden Updates

 

July just flew! What a busy time, and the garden has grown up and spilled over the sides. I’ve been out picking beans and peas and swiss chard and lettuce at least every couple of days.

Butternut squash is climbing up the net, and I think I may have planted more than I need, but I hated to pull any out.

One of my gardens practically exploded in a day and a half after a big rain.

Beans are climbing up the trellis and anything else they can reach.

Purple beans are my favorite thing to grow. I think I will plant twice as many next year.

The peas also did very well this year, and there are dozens of tomatoes loving this heat.

The swiss chard is about the only thing that was touched by pests really, other than the odd nibble on some lettuce.

I have not has as much time as I would have liked to spend in the garden but what minutes I could spare have been fantastic.

I will be sad to see fall come!

 

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Rainy days

Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.” ~Forrest Gump

It turns out, Forrest knew what he was talking about. Peas and carrots actually do make fine companions in the garden.

I think I am getting cabin fever. We have had a lot of rain in the past two weeks. I have made a few trips around the garden but there hasn’t been much opportunity to actually do anything out there. Everything is now up and growing, with some of my latest carrots lagging a little behind in the shade of the tomatoes.

The peas are reaching for something to grab onto, clearly ready for a tripod or trellis.

There is no water quite like rain water to feed plants. After a good rain everything seems to grow faster – especially weeds. If you live in a city or have chlorinated water, it is a good idea to let it sit for 24 hours so that the chlorine has a chance to evaporate. If you live in the country, well water is more than likely just fine, but waiting is still a good idea. Cold water can cause stress and shock plants. Letting water sit in the sun and warm up before applying it will avoid these problems.

The general rule of thumb is that plants require an inch of water per week, preferably not all at once. This is not entirely accurate for plants such as tomatoes which have a greater water requirement due to the amount of moisture that is required to produce fruit. During damp weather and high humidity, it may not be necessary to water at all. When it is hot or dry, that small drink of water will help your plants to withstand the temperatures and make the most of the sunshine.

Some people choose to water their gardens in the evening, believing that this will give the plants a chance to drink deeply before water begins to evaporate. Evening watering can cause problems. Some types of root rot and some pests (slugs for example) thrive in these wet conditions.

“Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.”  ~Lou Erickson

Watering plants in the morning helps to prepare them for the day. It allows excess water that may hit the fruit or foliage to evaporate before the sun is at it’s peak. Watering during the hottest part of the day is never a good idea. Those tiny droplets of water can become little lenses in the sunlight, magnifying the sun’s rays and burning plants.

Staggering plantings of various crops can help you to make the most of small spaces and produce a continuous harvest. Some crops, such as radishes will grow to maturity in a very short time (23 days for the variety planted here) and can be planted in bare spots to make every available space productive.

Carrots and tomatoes are old friends in the garden. Carrots can be tucked into open spaces and grow happily in the shade of established tomatoes. While tomatoes like to be planted deep, the roots do not seem to bother the carrots in the least. Tomatoes repel pests that might otherwise harm your carrots, and carrots grow deep into the soil making pathways for water and air and reducing soil-compaction. Both prefer to grow in the same conditions and soil types.

Having some knowledge of gardening is good, but there is no substitute for actual experience. Zone maps, farmer’s almanacs, gardening books and websites can supply a tremendous amount of information – usually suited to the authors particular climate and location. These are valuable resources, but every garden has it’s own rules too.

As a general rule of thumb, when unsure of what, where or when to plant – stick something in the ground. I have yet to find any theory or equation that can compete with a plants will to live.

 “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”  ~H. Fred Dale

 

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Garden Progress

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.- Doug Larson”

In early spring I always decide there is nothing quite as satisfying as bare fresh empty gardens awaiting planting. The musky earth smells of soil and rain and the first green growing things of the year fill me with the excitement of all that potential, just waiting for whatever I can dream up.

By the beginning of summer this excitement becomes a celebration of new growth, watching whatever I have planted start to show itself and the first true leaves unfold. There always comes a time when I feel that I am not finished planting, and yet, I have run out of vacant spaces to fill.

Whether you garden in long rows and plowed fields (as I sometimes have) or in raised boxes and various containers anywhere they will fit (as I currently do) – it is satisfying to watch your plants emerge and begin to grow.

There is a sweet spot, just at the beginning of the season, when the bugs are not too bad, the plants are still tender and fresh faced and the weeds are still holding off. This time is one of the best in any garden. While everything to follow will be exciting, and challenges will arise such as pests, disease and competitive weeds, right in this moment all is well with the world.

The sweet time is nearing a close in my garden. The transplants are growing tall and healthy, and the seeds have all emerged and are doing their best to catch up.

By this time I am already watching at least 6 inches of new growth reach for the sun. The mosquitoes are nearly as big as birds and the weeds are just starting to try and run the show.

I have some favorites that I plant every single year, like my Scotia tomatoes and my Royal Burgundy beans, and some favorite veggies that I try new varieties of, like my Lincoln/Homesteader peas and my Grand Rapids green leaf lettuce.

With all of the basic planting done, I often go back and sneak a small patch of carrots among the tomatoes, or tuck in a couple of marigolds here and there for their color and their pest control properties.

There are no chemicals used anywhere on my property. No fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides or other manufactured garden “ides”, however useful they might be. Some friends have informed me that I would get a much better crop if I would add some of these. I am satisfied with my crop, and if I feel I need more of it, will happily build more gardens.

 

The real meaning of plant catalog terminology: 
“A favorite of birds” means to avoid planting near cars, sidewalks, or clotheslines.
“Grows more beautiful each year” means “Looks like roadkill for the foreseeable future.”
“Zone 5 with protection” is a variation on the phrase “Russian roulette.”
“May require support” means your daughter’s engineering degree will finally pay off.
“Moisture-loving” plants are ideal for landscaping all your bogs and swamps.
“Carefree” refers more to the plant’s attitude than to your workload.
“Vigorous” is code for “has a Napoleonic compulsion to take over the world.”

 

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Garden Layouts

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” ~Hanna Rion
 Spring planting season has come and gone, and things are starting to grow. This year instead of the usual stack of loose paper drawings stuffed into a drawer somewhere, I decided it was time to learn how to make garden diagrams on the computer.
My flower beds are a wild mix of whatever strikes my fancy, planted in utter chaos with no particular plan in mind, tall and short, new and old, pretty and pretty ugly. To draw a diagram of that fantastic faux pas could take years. The contents of my flower beds change with the seasons, my whims and nature’s own ideas. My gardening strategy is survival of the fittest, and whatever survives has earned its place.
My vegetable gardens are also planted somewhat willy nilly, but they get far more attention and there is some reasoning involved in the decision making.

Keeping a journal, or records of what (and where) you plant is useful. Not only does it help you identify plants as they begin to pop up through the soil, it helps you to keep track of which plants grow well in certain areas of the garden. Record keeping is also a great way to avoid planting a crop in the same location next year. Moving plants around in the garden helps to keep the soil in any particular spot from becoming nutritionally depleted. It also helps to confuse pests and keep your gardens looking new each year.

I created my garden plans in Word Perfect 2007, and then saved each as a pdf document, to allow me to upload them to the website in a viewable format that can be clicked instead of downloaded.

As is my typical style, I have planted things wherever (and whenever) I pleased, resulting in a pleasant and curious mix of tall and short, pretty and plain, quick harvest and long harvest crops. I have planted everything from seed except my tomatoes and marigolds.

 “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” –  Doug Larson

Vegetable Garden 001

Vegetable Garden 002

Vegetable Garden 003

Vegetable Garden 007

 What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter? Pumpkin Pi.

You might notice that my gardens are numbered 1-3 and then 7. This is because gardens 4-6 are not built yet, and so, will not be planted until the fall. I garden in raised beds, built from old shipping pallets. When torn apart, the wood from one pallet will create a 12″ deep 4’x4′ garden. While these garden’s are free to build, they can be expensive to fill. The soil on my property is very rocky clay fill that is nearly impenetrable, let alone suitable for gardening. Each garden contains a mix of peat, topsoil and sheep manure.

 “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”  ~H. Fred Dale

 

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