July Long Weekend

Yesterday we went for a hike in near Canmore, Alberta and it was beautiful. Lots of lovely photo opportunities and native plants, but I am out of shape and didn’t want to hold my group back, so no photos were taken. The highlight was seeing two giant owls nesting in a little cave on the side of a mountain overlooking a pond. And of course the afterwards stops at the local brewery for beers and the local candy store for treats.


As for the rest of the weekend, the gardening chores begin today. Canada Day is on Tuesday, but I also took Monday off from work so I could enjoy a four-day weekend. What can I say, I’m a sucker for punishment. But I do love working in the garden. My aching back at the end of the day will tell you otherwise, but I love it.


IMG_3113Radishes almost ready to eat on June 29, 2014

Here are my somewhat ambitious plans for the weekend:

– Pick up a small load of gravel for my greenhouse floor (it is still currently just the dirt floor from last year so my shoes get muddy if water get on the floor.
– Begin the task of cleaning up Sod Mountain and building a new compost raised bed. I hope to share the results and process of this soon!
– Finish weeding the back yard (I did most of it last weekend, but there is a tight fitting area behind my trellis that I noticed has some quack grass coming in from my neighbor’s yard
– Weed the front gardens
– Clean the shed. You literally cannot walk inside of my shed.
– Wash all of the plastic seedling pots. You know how when you find out last minute that someone is coming over, so you shove all of the dirty laundry under the bed and all of the dirty dishes under the sink? Yeah, that’s kind of what I do with those plastic pots. I have a giant tub full of dirty ones sitting in the bottom of my greenhouse and I threw a bunch of dirty trays under my deck in a mad dash to make things appear clean. No one was coming over, I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.

I’ll also take some time to relax in the garden. Maybe try a new beverage recipe? What sort of projects do you hold off on until a long weekend?


Rhubarb is one of my favorite things in the spring time. This is the first year that I’ve had a real good harvest from my rhubarb plant. The first year and second year it was in a raised bed but I ended up moving the bed last year in order to make space to build our greenhouse, so the plant got moved to a different location in my yard – which was actually a good thing because it was a better area. I harvested a few stalks last year but I didn’t want to put too much stress on the plant, so it was mostly left alone. But this year it was an absolute monster, which is basically what you want your rhubarb plant to be.

Growing rhubarb is really simple and the plant will last for many years (I’ve often noticed rhubarb plants in front of abandoned farm houses where any other evidence of a garden is long gone). I don’t do much with my rhubarb plant except top dress with a little compost in the spring or fall and cut off any seed heads that pop up. My only advice is to give your rhubarb plant a very big area to grow – mine is about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.


IMG_3107Rhubarb plant as of June 23, 2014

Usually I just turn the rhubarb into a sauce for topping vanilla ice cream – simmer chopped rhubarb with lots of sugar and a little bit of water in a pot on the stove until the sauce has thickened (about 20-30 minutes) and store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a week. Sometimes I take a little bit of the liquid from this recipe and use it as a syrup for adding to fizzy drinks like ginger ale. But this year I decided to try some new recipes – and also I’ve been getting more into preserving the last few years. I cannot rave enough about blogger and author Marisa McClellan. I discovered her blog www.foodinjars.com just over a year ago and immediately bought her first book Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. The reason I love it so much is for 3 reasons. 1: I haven’t found a bad recipe in it. 2: Small batches! Perfect for a family of two. 3: It is organized by season which the obsessive organizer in me loves. This year she just put out another canning book which I am also in love with called Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. And this is where I tried two of her recipes. The first was for a rhubarb and rosemary jelly and the second was for a rhubarb chutney.


IMG_3090Rhubarb & Rosemary Jelly and Rhubarb Chutney

Both of these preserves are amazing and go so well with some fancy crackers and fresh soft goat cheese. The recipes I used were from the book but I found similar recipes on her website which sound delicious as well: Marisa’s Rhubarb Chutney recipe can be found here and her recipe for Rosemary Rhubarb Jam can be found here.

What are your favorite rhubarb recipes? I would love to know!

June 2014 So Far

It would be an understatement to say that 2014 has been a roller coaster so far. We started the year off with unbelievably low temperatures and mountains of snow. Actually, it started before Halloween and it didn’t let up until sometime in April. These are the joys of gardening in zone 3. May had some decent weather but June has brought constant rain and cooler temperatures. I don’t really expect anything less in June, but it always seems to be a really gloomy month regardless of whether I expect it or not.


Lovage about 3 feet tall at the beginning of June 2014 and my wind chimes

Unfortunately, one of my rain barrels decided to have a hairline crack last night which was causing it to leak. So I hooked up a long hose and drained it in the yard. I hate to lose all of that rain water, but I wasn’t really sure what else to do in the moment I discovered it – I had visions of the barrel exploding and water gushing into my basement. Realistically, that probably wouldn’t have happened, but better safe than sorry, right?

I will give a bit of an explanation on our current garden set up. Our back yard is approximately 40 feet long and 20 feet wide and is south west facing – this is primarily the edible garden. Our front yard is approximately half the size of the back yard and is currently mostly an ornamental perennial garden with a few pots of edibles, but we do have future plans for transforming it into both an ornamental and edible growing space (I’m sure I’ll write about that in future posts). We also have a narrow side yard that is full shade where I grow a few ornamental perennials and keep a few pots of annual flowers. Since we live in a duplex, we only have 3 sides of our house with yard space. We’re also lucky to be involved in our community garden which is conveniently located about a 30 second walk from our house.

June 2014 marks the 9th garden year in our current home. When we moved in, there wasn’t much in the way of a garden. The yard was a typical suburban yard: mostly grass with a few low maintenance perennials in the front yard and I can count on one hand the number of plants that we inherited with the home. The back yard was mostly dead anyway – the previous owner had a big dog. I would say that we actually got lucky with a pretty blank canvas, but I’m not going to. We’ve spent 9 years removing sod, cutting down inappropriately planted trees or digging out old stumps and removing the long spreading roots of raspberry bushes – and pulling out a lot of cement blocks from really weird places. It could have been worse.

Back to the garden this June. I was actually a few weeks late planting my seeds in the ground. In zone 3, the May long weekend usually marks the time it is safe to plant your garden. I actually think this is a lie and I try to hold off longer if I can. I can’t remember the exact date, but I’m pretty sure it was the first week of June before I finally got things planted. This isn’t terrible – I was actually talking to someone recently who said she thinks it is actually smarter to wait until a few weeks later because we seem to get a longer fall than we think we do – and I actually have to agree.

When it comes to planning my vegetable garden I usually aim to try at least one new plant each year. I am now at the point where all of my edibles are started by seed indoors or directly sown into the garden. This year I decided to experiment with some different heirloom zucchinis and growing a butternut squash vertically. I can report right now that only one of my heirloom zucchinis and none of the butternut squash survived the squirrel attacks.



Three Sister’s planting: corn, pole beans, squash

In the back yard I am attempting to grow tomatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuces, kale, swiss chard, garlic, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, a sugar pumpkin, corn, pole beans, and various herbs. I also have a small greenhouse where I attempt to grow things that require a longer season: hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and a watermelon. I have a number of edible perennials in this space as well: rhubarb, chives, mint, asparagus, lovage, lavender, and strawberries. The rest of the growing space is taken up with various ornamental perennials that I have planted to attract the pollinators.


Mixed lettuces as of June 23, 2014

As for plans for the back yard this year, there really aren’t a lot. There is a composting area and “Sod Mountain” in the back alley that requires some attention – I’m sure our neighbors love looking at it. I have learned to appreciate the down time in my garden as it is evolving – it is important to stop every now and then and just live in the space to determine what works and what doesn’t and tweak the plan as necessary. I can often get caught up in the “we need to do everything now” mindset, which I think many other gardeners can relate to. So anyway, June obviously isn’t over yet, but I can’t wait until July when everything in the garden has exploded and I can’t stop complaining about the jungle that has taken over my yard.


A little bit about me. I’m a young, urban gardener in a zone 3 climate. I have a full-time job in the non-
profit sector and in my spare time I love to tend to my gardens, knit, cook and care for my husband and three cats. I’m known to a lot of my friends and family as an old lady trapped in a young person’s body. I decided to start this blog as a place to document my gardening progress and share my successes and failures with others who may be living in the same sort of climate as I do. From time to time I will also write about other things that interest me.

I’ve been “gardening” since I was little – I grew up in the country where my Mom kept (and still does keep) a huge vegetable garden. One of my first memories of gardening is when I was given my own garden, which consisted of a little patch my Mom declared was mine to plant whatever I wanted. I remember planting the seeds, but I don’t actually remember anything after that. As I got a bit older, helping in the garden was definitely a chore, as I’m sure it is to many teenagers. Then I moved out on my own and didn’t think much about gardening or keeping plants until I moved into the main floor of a house that already had a space for a garden. That was where I started my first “very own” vegetable garden. Fast forward to a couple of years later to when we purchased our first home, a 1⁄2 duplex with a yard of our own where we’ve been slowly transforming our small urban space into a flourishing and productive garden.

I am by no means an expert but I don’t think that you need to be an expert to garden. You do not need to have a lot of space, money or time to garden – you can literally make it into whatever works for your space, budget and lifestyle.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you!