Okay, so it doesn't look like much yet, but if you just squint a little, and ignore the weeds, and imagine herbs all around this new patio I just put in... then it is pretty nice, isn't it?!? Well, I think so.
Our neighbour took down a spruce tree (with our permission) in this spot in our backyard last fall, so I've had some time to think about what I wanted to put in here. When it's all planted up, and the new shrubs grow up to form a "wall" on the left, this is going to be a very cute little herb garden! Perennials herbs french tarragon, oregano, and thyme as well as asparagus will get planted this fall (after the heat wave is over!) I might put strawberries in too... what would you plant?
Design-wise, I'm also quite happy with how it fits with the rest of the yard... it is on axis with 'England' (the veggie garden):
as well as the long axis of the yard, aligned with the garage door
and the "hopscotch" stepping stones:
What are you doing in your yard this summer?
...a straight arch!!
Thanks to hubby for helping me re-install this arch after our neighbour took down (with permission) one of our spruce trees last fall. The arch was not-so-well-supported before so this time we took the opportunity to make sure it is straight and will remain straight forevermore!!!
The removal of the spruce means much more sun for the veggie garden (hooray!) and also a big empty spot for........??????? (stay tuned!)
At this time of year I usually chuckle at the people complaining about the weather. As an experienced Calgary gardener, I always say - don't get excited about spring until at least early May and then you won't be disappointed! Okay, well it's early May and my garden still looks like this:
But before we got this big dump, I did manage to get my cool-season veggie seeds planted:
My spinach, kale, lettuce, peas, chard and arugula were planted on Apr 27 and, unlike me, they will be completely unbothered by this weather!!
For resources on vegetable gardening in Calgary, see my posts:
Each year I try to grow at least one new thing in the veggie garden, and this year it was arugla.
(Note: Last year it was kohlrabi, which I had read was a fun veggie to grow for kids since it looks like Sputnik. Well, they were underwhelmed, and so was I, frankly. A guess it would be good with dip but by itself it was nothing to write home about. I won't bother growing it again.)
Anyhoo. I have discovered that I LOVE arugula! Why have I never tried it before?!? It is delicious! I love the nutty flavour with a bit of zing. However, from what I have read, it will get bitter in the heat of summer so should be pulled and started again from seed towards the end of the summer for a fall crop. Too bad, as I will miss its pretty flowers too! Maybe I'll leave it for just a few more days or until it becomes unpalatable...
It has been crazy busy in my world but at this time of year, somehow I always find time for my garden! Last week-end I got the raised beds set up by topping up with fresh compost and worm castings, and putting the strings in place for square foot gardening. This week I got many of my seeds in and then last night after supper (isn't it nice to be able to spend time outside after supper!?!?!) I put the plastic over my boxes to make mini-hoop houses. Bring on spring!
If you're interested, here is how I built the hoops and then I attached the plastic with clips from Canadian Tire. Here's a close-up:
Are you gardening this week-end? Other things I expect to be doing over the next few days are finishing cutting down last year's perennials and getting ready for a new back fence to be built next week. Oh, and perhaps a little plant shopping. ;-)
What are you up to? You may find these resources useful:
Above: frozen leaves still on the Mountain Ash tree in the back shade garden.
I've been meaning to post to tell you that I'm so busy that I don't have much time to post these days... so here I am! When I said "snowed under" I was really thinking about how busy my job is at this time of year, but of course, it applies to the garden as well.
I don't mind the snow, really (the literal stuff!) Although getting it so early was not optimal for the garden as trees and shrubs didn't have time to fully go into dormancy. We got hit with sudden snow and extended cold temperatures in mid-October, so that the leaves still have not fallen from the trees and woody plants. Fortunately, this is a great excuse for not having done any fall clean-up in the yard!!
Above: frozen honeysuckle vine leaves on the new blue arch to England (the veggie garden).
Above: deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hair grass) and physocarpus (ninebark) 'Coppertina' in the front Welcome Garden.
PS. Even when I am busy and the blog is quiet, I still manage to stay fairly active on my Calgary Garden Coach facebook page - check me out there!
Hallelujah! It is finally done! This is the entrance to the back corner of my garden which my family fondly calls 'England', where most of my edibles are grown. I am especially loving the difference the blue colour makes - zing! What an easy way to add colour to the garden! Hmm, what to paint next...?
Before: When we moved to this house in 2004, my husband (without asking!) immediately took the top off this old brown arch because it was too short and he kept bumping his head. This is what it has looked like ever since! It was an eyesore. It was also too narrow and we could barely get a wheelbarrow through, not to mention that the clematis macropetala vine on the right side is so vigorous that it made the entry even narrower.
After: A new, blue (of course!) arch, wider and taller so you can comfortably and safely enter 'England' without getting attacked by a wayward clematis branch. I bought the arch 2 years ago at an end-of-season sale, and it's taken me this long to get it painted and installed. That's the way things go around my house! I had to cut the clematis down to the ground, but I'm sure it will come back just fine next year. There's a honeysuckle vine on the left side, which I also had to cut back by about 50%. By next year those vines will have recovered and the arch will look like it's been there for ages.
What do you think? Are there any structures in your garden that could use a little paint?
I'm just back from holidays - I've been out of town and offline for several weeks - and am excited to see corn doing so well in my garden!
I planted it this spring on a whim - I usually like to try growing at least one new and different thing each year, and I've never grown corn before. It was more for the novelty and for the kids - I planted an ornamental variety and a baby corn variety - and didn't really expect to get anything as corn needs such a long, hot growing season and doesn't typically do well in Calgary unless you have a hot micro-climate. But with the hot summer we've had mine is doing quite well and I might even get a small harvest! That's what I love about vegetable gardening - it pays to diversify and every year there are surprises.
So if you've sent me a message in the last few weeks, my apologies for not responding yet and I'll get caught up in the next couple of days. I don't put a vacation message on my email as it just doesn't seem like a good idea what with pictures of my house on the website, etc.
How is your garden doing?
The fruit season in my yard started with Haskap honeyberries, followed with strawberries which are just finishing, and now the first cherry bush 'Carmine Jewel' is starting to ripen. It is 4 years old now and really starting to produce. (Cherry 'Crimson Passion', also planted in 2008, didn't produce this year but it died to the ground last year and I subsequently moved it to a less exposed spot and I expect better next year.) The raspberries are ripening now too, and soon it will be Saskatoon time... I love summer!
I haven't tried making anything with these cherries since my kids eat them off the bush and don't leave any behind. But that's the point, for now. Maybe someday I'll have enough extra fruit for a pie!
The spinach is going to seed, the carrots and beets need thinning, the peas will not grow up their trellises but instead insist on flopping around all over the place. But despite all this, my veggie garden is giving me great satisfaction for minimal input! This is the second year I've had these raised beds and I've gotta say, I couldn't imagine vegetable gardening any other way from now on. It is so easy! There is a bit more weeding to do this year compared to last year when the soil was purchased fresh and clean, but it's still pretty minor. And so easy to just pull a weed when you're walking by as you don't even have to bend over. A few poppies and other annual flowers have appeared as well and I am letting them stay and am looking forward to their flowers adding some colourful, self-seeded chaos to the garden soon.
Above, clockwise from top left: long view of the veggie garden; red orache; baby corn which I planted for a lark but with all this heat lately, we might actually get a good crop!; nasturtium flower. Elsewhere in the yard we are also enjoying lots of ripe strawberries right now. Yum!
Peeking into this area of the Butterfly Potager, you can see some delicate-looking fronds of asparagus sticking up behind daylilies, and a golden hops covering the trellis.
To see this garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
How do you like my hoops? I hunted around for ideas on how to best design this system, and I think what I ended up doing is rather unique.
This project was on my April to-do list and I just finished it last week-end. It was a pain due to having to dig all the dirt out of the way to install each sleeve, but it was worth it. It is why I haven't got around to seeding most of my veggies yet (which is on my May to-do list which isn't posted yet! I am behind in my gardening this year... you get the idea...)
For more information on raised bed vegetable gardening, check out these posts:
Things don't happen very fast around my garden. Last week-end I finally got around to putting some wire up, and starting to espalier these young, dwarf apple trees along the side of the edible garden area that my family calls 'England' (I know, you can barely see them! They'll look better when they're leafed out.) But my point is, this was a long time coming:
3 years ago in March 2009, I posted this sketch showing my idea for espaliered trees and raised beds along the fence:
Then in August 2010 we built some raised beds in the middle of the area, which is a former RV parking pad:
...and last summer we had our first real veggie garden since we moved to this house, and finally I planted the little baby dwarf apple trees last fall.
You can go to the Edible Gardens section of this blog and scroll down if you'd like to see how this garden has progressed over the years. I still have several things to get done, including building more raised beds between the trees against the fence, planting more groundcovers around and between the stepping stones, and maybe even adding a decoration or two to the fence.
So my second point is, if the idea of transforming your yard into a place of beauty and bounty is feeling a little overwhelming, remember that you don't have to do it all in one year. But it is good to have a plan!
This may be my last post of the year for the vegetable garden, but I'm happy to say it was a darn good year. And today was a great day! It is September 25 and I've only lost a few zucchini leaves to 3o overnight temperatures a week ago. No frost. No snow. And no sign of it in the forecast. Lots of tomatoes still ripening on the vine. Life is pretty good!
Today I am picking the last of the lettuce which is starting to bolt and go bitter, and there are only a few peas left to pick, but scarlet runner beans, swiss chard, kohlrabi, carrots, beets and tomatoes are still in bounteous supply. I will be having a fresh tomato, basil and bocconcini salad for supper tonight. Is there anything yummier?
Next year I plan to install some brackets in order to put hoops and frost cloth over the raised beds to extend the season. But I want to put the brackets on the inside of the boxes, so this will be best done in spring. This year, I'll just be happy to be harvesting frost-tolerant chard, beets and carrots into October.
Wow. I have to say I am thrilled with how well the first year of this new veggie garden has gone. I am actually out of town right now and one of the things I miss most is freshly picked lettuce and tomatoes for my salad every night. :-(
We have had a bumper crop of strawberries this year! I grow a perennial "June bearing" variety. Who knows whether it was all the rain this spring, or the worm castings I topdressed the bed with, or just the fat that the plants are more mature now... or all three? But this is the first year we've had enough strawberries for a family of five - in the past the kids picked them all before the adults had a chance! And the alpine strawberries that I started from seed this spring have some nice green berries on them so we still have more strawberries to look forward to.
The snap peas have been yummy as well but the birds have had more than their share. Note to self: use netting on the peas next year! And I've even picked a few Sun Gold tomatoes already (no picture because I always eat them before I bother to go get my camera) which is the first time I've harvested tomatoes that I've grown myself from seed in July. I'm sold on Sun Golds!
Above (clockwise from top left): marigolds, lettuce and rainbow swiss chard; cherries ripening in my "orchard"; nasturtiums with foliage of kohlrabi, carrots and parsley; more cherries; marigolds, lettuce and chard; scarlet runner beans, red orache, beets, lettuce and tomatoes.
What are you enjoying in your garden right now?
To see what's good to eat in my garden at other times of the year, and how the garden has evolved, click here and scroll down.
I am not really a veggie gardener at heart. I am a perennial gardener. If I was a true vegetable gardener, I'd have something started inside, ready to fill the spot where I'm about to harvest the last of the spinach. But I haven't. I don't even want to think about doing that, actually! (I'm busy painting these days... more on that later.) And there's more than enough to eat out there right now, anyway.
As a perennial gardener, I'm finished my mad spring rush of gardening, and I'm in cruise mode. In the perennial garden, the plants in most areas by this time of the season are big enough to shade the soil and minimize weed growth, and the garden almost takes care of itself (I do a little deadheading and pull the largest weeds that catch my eye, and that's about it.)
Most of the veggies are getting quite large and lush also now, and the veggie garden looks great. So great I almost hate to harvest! (I said almost, but I'm not quite that crazy!) I truly have been my enjoying fresh greens these last many weeks and the strawberries and peas are starting to ripen now. But it's kind of a pity things won't look so nice for the rest of the season, isn't it? So in honour of the beauty of home-grown veggies, I thought I would post a few photos!
I feel I should mention that this area is not complete - eventually those pots against the fence will also be replaced with raised beds. Eventually...
Anyway, these beds seem to be doing very well for their first year - I've read that sometimes it takes a couple of years to get up to full production because it takes a while for the beneficial organisms to build up in the soil. The boxes are 4' x 8' in area and more than 1 ft high. After building them, I briefly thought that maybe they were too high, because of course, extra height means extra cost in wood and soil, and I was afraid they might dry out quickly. But they don't, and I am loving the extra height because it is SOOOOOOO easy to weed. My back is very happy!
And since having all this extra space was new for me this year, I wasn't sure how much of everything to plant. So I guessed, and recorded what I did, so I can make notes for next year. I planted 4 squares of spinach (see my notes on square foot gardening here), which was maybe a bit too much, but in case of a few dinners or potlocks, I'd like to have a little extra, so note to self: plant 4 squares of spinach again next year. The actual garden and planting plan are shown from the same orientation, below:
Happy Canada Day! I'm off to Heritage Park with the family today, but first, a few more pictures of what the gardens look like at this time of year:
Above: We call the veggie garden area 'England', and it was built last year. You enter it through a structure which still has 'Blue Boy' clematis blooming on one side (and which is too narrow, it's on "the list"), and feast your eyes on the yummy food that is spread before you!
So far we've mostly been eating chives (!), and spinach and red orache salads. Elsewhere in the garden, haskap (honeyberries) are ripening, strawberries are in bloom, and we've been harvesting thyme, mint, parsley and oregano. Gawd I love this time of year!
To see how this garden area has progressed over time, click here and scroll down.
Also, check back over the next few days as I post pictures of other areas of my garden as well!
Above: These beds were built last fall and just filled this spring, so they got a little bit of a late start but now I've got baby spinach ready to harvest and many other things coming along well. On the right hand side, along the fence, there are potted tomatoes and a couple of dwarf apple trees that will eventually be planted in the ground and espaliered along the fence.
To see how this garden was built last year, click here.
To see pictures of other areas of my garden at this time of year, please see:
The veggie garden is all planted, except for a zucchini seedling I'm keeping in a pot for a few more days until all risk of frost is over. And sigh. There's frost predicted tonight. I wish I'd been more keen this spring and put hoops on my raised beds so that I could easily put a frost cloth over them. But I didn't. I was too distracted with doing other things in other parts of the garden. And so now I am heading outside with sticks and sheets to cover the tomatoes. It had better be the last time...
When I volunteered at the Garden Show, we handed out pamphlets for Edgar Farms' Asparagus Festival. Many people were surprised and said "Oh, can you grow asparagus here?" Yes, you can! And I ordered some bare roots this winter which just arrived yesterday.
More information on planting can be found on this post at Vegetable Gardener.com.
Also check out Growing, Cooking and Stashing Asparagus at A Way to Garden.com.
Ack! Considering I just had the first 4 days of decent gardening weather so far this year, it is hard to believe it's amost time to start direct-seeding certain vegetables outside. (Actually I probably could have done it this past week-end if I'd been ready but I wasn't.)
Feeling slightly panicked, I just turned in 180L of vermiculite into my raised veggie beds on Monday, and then ordered some good quality "garden mix" from Western Canada Compost to top them up with this week-end so they are ready to plant. I really should have done this last fall.
I hope to be planting beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas, spinach and chard outdoors next week. How 'bout you?
For tips on growing vegetables in Calgary, see my previous posts:
If you would like a beautiful and successful vegetable garden that nourishes your body and soul, view My Services for consultation details.
As I sat inside this past week-end staring out at my frozen raised vegetable beds, I at least got time to plan exactly what I am going to put in them once I get the chance... (I'm trying to look on the bright side, here!) Since a few of you recently sent in questions regarding this topic, I thought it was worthy of a post.
Last spring I emptied the contents of my compost bins (which also contained quite a bit of soil) into these raised beds (above) and topped them up with leaves. This spring I will be adding vermiculite, turning them over and then topping them up with good topsoil. According to Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening, a good vegetable garden soil should be made up of at least 25% (up to 50%) of soil amendments such as compost or leaf mold. Another good rule of thumb is to add 10 - 20% by volume of coarse vermiculite to a new vegetable garden for good moisture retention - vermiculite is like a sponge.
But once you've prepared your initial soil, how do you keep amending it each year to maximize production? Mel Bartholomew has lots of recommendations. He says (and I agree), "trying to grow crops in any kind of soil without constantly adding organic matter is sheer folloy and a waste of time, no matter how much fertilizer you add to it. On the other hand, to garden in soil that is rich in organic matter but contains no added fertilizer is not only possible but also very practical." He recommends:
Basic, all-purpose fertilizer recipe
High-nitrogen fertilizer recipe
I haven't been nearly as diligent as I should have been in the past and still got decent results, but this year I am vowing to follow his recommendations to try to maximize my harvest. What do you do in your vegetable garden? Please share in the comments section below.
For more tips on growing vegetables in Calgary, see my previous posts:
If you would like a beautiful and successful vegetable garden that nourishes your body and soul, view My Services for consultation details.
This is the year I will finally have a substantial amount of veggie growing space. Since I moved from a house with a large vegetable garden almost 7 years ago, I have been without much space for vegetables because of my heavily-treed lot (veggies need sun!) In 2010 I finally got around to cleaning out the "parking pad" in the back corner of our yard, built some raised beds, and got ready to plant in 2011.
I must admit I've been a fairly lazy vegetable gardener in the past. I only grow the things that are super easy to grow in Calgary and that truly taste much better fresh from the garden: peas, beans, beets, chard, lettuce, spinach, squash, carrots and of course, tomatoes. But I typically have done only one spring planting of each vegetable, which is not enough effort to maximize a garden's production. This year I am feeling greedy - I have much more space and I'm going to use it, dammit!
And so, I recently re-read Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. I recommend it to any vegetable gardener, by the way, even if you don't plan to grow things in squares, because it has tonnes of useful information. The technique, invented and made famous by Mel, was developed to maximize garden production as well as minimize work. Vegetable gardens aren't low maintenance by any means, but using these methods can certainly minimize your work with maximum success. Here are some of my notes:
Why have a vegetable garden?
Benefits of the "square" design
Planting and maintenance techniques
Plant density and placement
If you're really energetic and serious about organic gardening and extending the season, there are also lots of tips in the book about building cages, covers and cold frames, as well as building your own vertical supports out of 1/2 in. pipe, etc. If you're preparing a new garden bed, you'll also find the information on soil preparation and amendments very useful. I could go on, but why don't you just get the book?
From the archives:
If you would like a beautiful and successful vegetable garden that nourishes your body and soul, view My Services for consultation details.
This former parking pad in the back corner of my yard was named "England" by my oldest daughter about 5 years ago, and the name stuck. Maybe I kept calling it that because I knew this area was eventually going to be a vegetable garden and I only wish things here would actually grow as if they were growing in England! As you will see below, I did a lot of work here this past year and things are just about ready for the 2011 growing season. I can't wait!
Above: Ugh. This area was so ugly! (but better than last year and the year before) Here's what it looked like at the end of last May when I had my tomatoes planted but still protected in Kozy Koats and blankets! I've been planting everything here in pots since there is no good soil in this area.
Above: In an effort to brighten things up a little, I placed an urn just inside the entrance to this area, which is on an axis with the view from the back steps and the butterfly potager sitting area. But the "arch" shown here leaves a little something to be desired, don't you think? My husband removed the top several years ago because it was too low for him. This arch-less arch is also very narrow and the wheelbarrow barely fits through it. I hope to finally get around to replacing it this coming season and I'll probably paint it a fun colour, too. I'm currently thinking either kelly green or royal purple. Any suggestions?
Above: In July it was time to harvest cherries, lettuce, peas and chard (the chard was growing in the Butterfly Potager.) Strawberries were also producing in another area of the backyard, not shown.
Above: While all this construction was going on, tomatoes, lettuce, snap peas and scarlet runner beans were growing in pots. In other August edible news, raspberries were producing in raised beds in another (quite shady) area of the yard, and we also benefitted from our neighbour's saskatoon berries hanging over the fence!
Above: And now the new beds lay waiting to be topped up and planted in spring. I've got seeds ordered, and I've been busy re-reading "Square Foot Gardening" to help me in my planning. I'll report more on that next. I also have further plans for cold frames and apple trees espaliered along the fence - this place is gonna look great eventually, just give me a few more years!
From the archives:
Other areas of my garden:
Considering growing more edibles next year? I am. A common and easy way to add a vegetable garden is a raised bed. Raised beds can be built quickly and on top of any surface (except contaminated soil, for obvious reasons), and will provide a place to add clean, weed-free soil which will make gardening easy. They also warm up faster in spring, and are easy to add hoops and frost covers to.
Here are a few important considerations I gave her during the design phase:
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
From the archives:
If you would like a help developing a beautiful and successful garden that nourishes your body and soul, view My Services for consultation details.
If you would like an urban paradise that rejoices the eye and refreshes the spirit year round, view My Services for consultation details.
Growing tomatoes in any given year in Calgary can be a challenge. I only grow short season varieties and I put them in Kozy Coats in spring to give them a headstart, plus keep them in pots in the hottest area of my yard. Usually I get a fairly decent crop. But this year the crop has been sparse, to say the least!
Here are all my poor little tomato plants shivering in our unusually cold, wet September weather. We've had a lack of heat all summer and everything is very behind! I'll be cutting these tomato plants off in the next few days (tomorrow?) and bringing them inside to hang upside down as per a previous post. I probably could have done this weeks ago and it wouldn't have made a difference for all the lack of sun we've been having lately.
With all this rain I haven't had time to do much construction in this area of the yard either, as you can see. But I'm slowly making progress laying down those recycled concrete patio stones.
But enough complaining. All this moisture is great for the trees which suffered a lot of stress from a too-hot September last year. Plus the cool temperatures and extra moisture are sure making the perennial garden lush and the flower blooms extra vivid in colour. Also, my cool-season vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, chard, beans and peas all did very well this year. I guess you can't have everything!
And while I'm on the topic of the harvest, I must add that my strawberries and raspberries did very well this summer. I can't say whether it's because the plants are now more mature or because I was a little more diligent in fertilizing this year (probably has at least something to do with that!) or because of the weather or who knows what else. My neighbour's Saskatoons did extremely well this year too and they are quite old shrubs so the Saskatoon harvest, at least, didn't seem to have anything to do with plant maturity.
What did well (or not) in your garden this year?
Two new 4x8 ft raised beds made of cedar 2x6's and treated with tung oil.
This hot, sunny corner of the backyard was dubbed "England" by our oldest 5 years ago and the name stuck. But it has been our junk area since we moved into the house. Well no longer! I've been gradually trying to clean it up over the last couple of years and finally this year, I decided it was time. My husband was ordered to build me some boxes (which he happily did with a few new tools!), and voila!
I wanted to get this spot ready now for a couple of reasons:
This is the most veggie garden space I've had since we moved to our current house 6 years ago, and I've never had raised beds and hoop houses before. Man, am I excited! I'll be studying a lot of veggie seed catalogues this winter, let me tell ya!
Other women I know get excited about shopping/TV shows/jewelry. I get excited about this? Is something wrong with me?
What are your favourite vegetables to grow in Calgary?
Sigh. The time has come to start thinking about these things.
I don't have time these days to write about it but an excellent and timely article about how to hasten ripening in the garden and when to give up and go indoors, can be found here.
I also posted about what to do with green tomatoes here last year.
Let's hope we don't need this information quite yet!
Take a peek into the back corner of my yard that I call "England":
That's right, last week-end we got a bunch of cedar 2x6's and made 2 raised beds for veggies. I really wanted to get them in this fall (did I just say fall? sigh!) so the soil will settle over the winter and they'll be ready to plant first thing next spring. There are 2 boxes, each 4 ft by 8 ft - tonnes of veggies space compared to what I currently have!! Hooray!
Here's the work in progress. I still have to even out the slope around the boxes and re-lay the patio stones and put down gravel around them. And of course fill the boxes. But it's a good start for a week-end's work, wouldn't you say? And it certainly looks better than last year, don't you think?
Most fruits and vegetables require full sun (6 hours or more) to produce well. But if you're like me, you have lots of shade on your property and therefore you must experiment with your edible-producing plants and push the limits a little.
I have raspberries growing in these raised beds on the patio. They are on the north side of my house and in the shade of large spruce trees (if you read this blog regularly you'll know I have way too many large spruce trees - they are the bane of my existence) so they only get, I don't know, maybe about 3 hours of sun a day. They still produce. They might produce a little more if they got more sun (I haven't done a controlled experiment or anything) but they seem to do just fine here. They are 'Boyne' raspberries which are tried-and-true hardy in Calgary.
I am also lucky enough to have a neighbour who planted Saskatoon shrubs all along the north side of our shared fence many years ago. They're large enough now to reach over the fence so I get some too! Yum! They are also in the shade of - you guessed it - two of my large spruce trees and do just fine, although I expect my neighbour must water them a lot.
On another note, the season seems to be quite condensed this year. I'm still picking strawberries this week and the raspberries have started ripening as well - usually I don't get them at the same time. Other things around the garden seem to be late also.
This area was christened "England" a few years ago by my oldest daughter after we got back from a trip there. It's eventually going to be an edible garden area with raised beds and cold frames.... someday! In the meantime, it's a former RV pad and I'm growing things in pots. It certainly looks better than last year, don't you think?
We're currently harvesting peas, lettuce and cherries from this area, and soon scarlet runner beans. The kids love to snack on things from the garden!! Strawberries, chard and other edibles are sprinkled throughout the rest of the yard.
A friend of mine just told me she was surprised to recently find out that some herbs are perennial in Calgary. Yes, it's true! Not every herb is a heat-loving Mediterranean plant (although many are!) Here are some herbs, both perennial and annual, which grow well in Calgary:
Perennials (come back every year):
Annuals (plant every spring):
As I mentioned previously, I'm supposed to make a presentation in a couple of weeks about edible gardening in Calgary. While there are some specific things people need to know that are very unique to Calgary, the basics of starting a vegetable garden don't change, and the Renegade Gardener just posted an excellent article. Do you read the Renegade Gardener? I can't remember when I first discovered him, but I've been reading him for years. He knows his stuff and he tells it like it is!
Now, back to preparing that presentation...
Exclusive! Here are some embarrassing pictures of a neglected corner of my backyard that I rarely let anyone see!
England is a corner of my backyard that was named by my oldest daughter. When she was almost 2 and was still an only child, we took a family trip to England (it was cheaper and relatively easier to travel back then!) After the trip, she would play "going to England" and go and hide in this distinct, separate area of the backyard. We have called it "England" ever since. Unfortunately, things here don't actually grow as if they were in England! Wouldn't that be nice?
Besides the not-so-green greenhouse, this is the last area of the backyard that I have left to fix up. But boy, does it need fixing!
Here's the not-so-impressive entrance to it. My husband took the top off this arch when we first moved in because it was too low, and we still haven't got around to replacing it! The sides are also very narrow (the wheelbarrow barely fits through) so this is one of the main things I want to change next year.
I grew all my tomatoes in pots in this area this year, and they did well. Unfortunately, if they were just a little further away from the spruce tree (i.e. a litle further to the left of this picture), they would have received even more sun. In fact, the farthest part of "England" from the rest of the yard is the sunniest, hottest spot in the backyard. Perfect for a vegetable garden, you might think, right? But...
... this is what it looks like right now! This area was designed to be a parking pad and it has been our dump over the last five years as we've done renovations inside and outside of the house. I was hoping to get this cleaned up this year and we did manage to make a start (the palette of bricks got used up in the retaining wall project, for example), but there is still a lot of junk back here.
I originally hoped to do more reclamation of this area this fall, but after the mother-of-a-retaining wall project, hubby and I were spent and there were to be no more major projects this year! Ah well, we'll have lots of fires in the fireplace this winter and hopefully be ready to tackle this area in the spring.
The plan I hatched last winter can be found here. I want raised beds and cold frames, baby! This is prime vegetable gardening real estate in an otherwise relatively shady backyard! You can tell gardening season is winding up for me because I'm already scheming about next year...
This amazing weather we've been having has sure done great things for my tomato crop this year! But inevitably, there will be lots of green tomatoes left at the end of the season. Here's a great article from Hole's Greenhouse about what to do with them (and join their Facebook page to get your own updates):
I rather doubt that gardeners need to be told how to deal with ripe tomatoes any more than they need advice on what to do with a cold beer on a hot day. No, the tricky part about growing tomatoes is knowing what to do with the green ones. More specifically, knowing how to turn them from green to red once they’re off the plant and in the house. Well, wonder no more. Here’s a little 411.
If we are going to start at the top, we may as well start at the top of the tomato plant too—which is exactly where the greenest tomatoes live. Well, my advice for harvesting these little green marbles is this: don’t bother trying. There’s absolutely no cajoling fruit that immature into ripening. The reason is simple. Immature fruit contains immature seed. And immature seed won’t mature once it’s removed from the mother plant. In essence, it’s a genetic dead end. Think about it: a tomato plant wants nothing more than to pass on its genes to future generations. When humans eat tomatoes, we become (theoretically at least) good vehicles for partially digesting and eventually…urm… “distributing” the seed to good growing sites. One of the ways tomato plants encourage us to spread those mature seeds is by tipping the gastronomic scales in favour of ripe fruit. Simply put, we eat what tastes good. And immature fruit loaded with bitter glycoalkaloids is a tomato plant’s way of saying “Don’t eat me!’
Okay, that leaves the green tomatoes on the rest of the plant, the ones I like to think of as “tomatoes in transition.” Now, provided that transitional fruit is not too green, it can be rather easily transformed to red. Here are the three most common techniques.
Some gardeners swear by the old technique of hanging an entire tomato plant (stem, leaves, fruit et al.) upside down in the basement or garage. It works quit well, too. Many of the green fruit make the transformation easily thanks to leaves and stems that continue (at least for a little while) to pump water and nutrients into the fruit. The technique still isn’t sufficient to transform highly immature fruit from green to red, but it works well on the marginal fruit.
A second technique is to pile the tomatoes into a cardboard box, lined and covered with newspaper. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing miraculous about the newspaper itself (although it is remarkably good at wicking moisture from the tomato skins, thus reducing the incidence of fruit rot). What is miraculous is the ethylene gas that the tomatoes produce. Not only is the ethylene gas something plants produce naturally, it’s also what’s ultimately responsible for turning the fruit red. Important to note, however, is that the ripening process isn’t necessarily accelerated by “trapping the gases” beneath the newspaper. All the newspaper really does is reduce physical damage to the tomatoes.
The last technique involves placing the tomatoes on a sunny windowsill. The common belief here is that the sun will ripen the fruit, but the ripening process really has more to do with sunny sills being warm, and it’s that increase in temperature that aids the ripening process in this instance.
And that’s all there really is to know about harvesting green tomatoes. In fact, I think the hardest thing to understand and accept is that you’ll always have more green fruit than you can ever use. After you’ve transformed, fried, made into relish, crushed into sauce, eaten fresh out of hand or thrown at a sibling, September will still provide more than its share of inedible fruit. January does the same; it’s just known as “field-grown imported.”
I'm not sure what I did to get such a good crop of strawberries this year, but I'm glad I did it! This spring, I thinned out the plants and lined the raised strawberry bed plus dug in some compost and peat moss when I replanted them. Was it the thinning? The extra fertilizer? The additional moisture? Any or all?
Anyway, I've got the most strawberries this year, ever. If only I can keep my 18-month-old from picking the white ones, I should have strawberries at least another week! Yum!!
Here's the strawberry bed under the sunroom windows at the back of my house. Besides the fact that it dried out and needed to be lined to retain moisture, there were a few other problems with it before.
It used to be all strawberries and so it was fairly boring to look at. I like to have garden designs, especially up against the house, that are tied with the house in some way, rather than looking like the garden was just plunked there with no regard to the design of the house. Also, the back of the garden is under the eaves and therefore is quite dry, so the strawberries growing at the back were fairly thin anyway (not to mention hard to reach).
I added some dwarf alberta spruce (which I will probably end up treating as an annual since they don't do well here... I have until next year to think about what I want to replace them with) and ornamental millet to add height and texture at the back of the bed. Whaddya think?
PS Um, don't look at the lawn. I am not a lawn person. Maybe I will be someday after I finish all these other projects...
Last week-end I finally got around to lining my strawberry bed with plastic lawn edging to keep in moisture. Concrete is porous and the retaining wall bricks just seemed to suck moisture right out of the soil. I think the strawberries will be extra happy this year!
The other problem with a raised bed, especially lined with concrete or stone, is that it can get very hot if it is in a sunny spot and/or if the bed is not very big. So if you plan to build a raised bed with concrete, brick or stone, my advice is go big or go home!
For a bigger bed, pond liner would make a good waterproof lining.
My tomatoes are getting too big to move around so I am starting to plant them outside in their pots. A little early, but what else can we greenhouse-challenged gardeners do?
They are in nice big black pots, which will provide lots of room for roots and warm up nicely in the sun (tomatoes like it hot). The kozy coats will stay on until the plants get too big for them. They are filled with water to help insulate against low temperatures.
Something funny going on with the underline function today, but anyway...
Here is one of my blue honeysuckles that I planted last year. They are very new (just released in 2007, I think, and I got 2 small rooted cuttings last year) and I am thrilled they are growing and already blooming. The shrub itself as well as the flowers are supposed to be very hardy (zone 2) so therefore perfect for the prairies. They are being promoted as a substitute for blueberries (which don't do well here because they don't like our alkaline soil), are supposed to taste similar but not as sweet, and are similar in colour but much more oblong in shape.
I won't hold my breath for fruit this year since the plants are so small, but since they flower so early, they usually produce fruit in June, much sooner than cherries and other berries here. Can't wait!