Starting Pepper Seeds & Seed Starting Tips

I’d planned to write this post a little earlier since lots of people are getting ready to start their seeds about now, but I ran in to a bit of a dilemma when my local Ikea did not have the shelves I wanted in stock. I’d had plans to expand my seed starting operation (more on this later), but unfortunately I needed to resort to stalking the Ikea website until the shelves were back in stock. Finally last week they were available and I made a special trip there to pick them up. In case anyone else is looking to buy these shelves at Ikea, I will explain a very useful tip that I wish I would have known before bursting in to an Ikea fit of rage at home later that evening. Here’s the story: I am very organized when I go to Ikea – I have a list of the things I want that includes name, product number, and location (I really don’t like spending more time than I have to in most big box stores). So that’s exactly what I did – I went in with my detailed list, went directly to the self-serve furniture area and picked up exactly what I needed, assuming the hardware would be in the plastic packages that were dangling from the shelf frames. Nope. Of course, they don’t actually tell you this anywhere or make it at all obvious. And why would I bother actually checking that little dangling package? It’s Ikea, you would think they have their shit together. Also, these shelves do not include assembly instructions, so how are you supposed to even know what you need hardware wise? You don’t. And most people wouldn’t actually notice any of this until they get home and start trying to put their shelves together. Luckily instead of going all the way back to the store, I decided to google “How to put Ikea Ivar shelves together” and stumbled upon this blog post on Making It Lovely which told me where THE HARDWARE WAS HIDING! (and it seems she didn’t know either until a reader commented on her post. Curse you, Ikea!). Anyway, luckily everything is sorted and now I feel like I can write this post properly.

The peppers! Back in January I wrote about the big seed order of 2015 and about a week after that, I sat down and made a seed starting schedule. If you’re new to gardening, you may or may not know that many seeds require to be started indoors several weeks and occasionally several months early. The timing is really dependent on your climate and what you’re planning to grow. I like to grow a lot of peppers, squash, and tomatoes. I usually start the peppers several months early because they will be transferred to my greenhouse in early spring – plus they don’t get leggy if they live inside the house for too long, like tomatoes tend to do. The tomatoes are started about 6-8 weeks before they will be transferred outside (I usually aim for the first week of June because most of the danger of snow is gone – but I live in Alberta, so is the danger ever really gone? Not really). The squash get started about 4 weeks early and go outside around the same time as the tomatoes. Most seed packets will give you a general outline of when seeds should be started indoors or planted directly outdoors, and you can easily find information online on ideal seed starting times for your climate.

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So the first round was getting the peppers started. I had a few pepper plants that I started mid-summer indoors last year that I’ve been keeping indoors – they are not doing great (see photo at bottom of this post). In the late fall they suffered from an infestation of spider mites that I didn’t catch right away and most of the peppers did not survive. The two that did are runts. I have managed to keep them alive and I think being put under the grow lights will do them some good. Aside from the sad peppers I already had growing, I started about 1/2 tray of new pepper seeds. I didn’t bother waiting until I had my shelves set up, I just went ahead and let them grow on the counter (so there are currently 24 pepper plants started right now – all different varieties. Am I insane? Yes.). They have since been moved to the seed starting shelf below.

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Now back to the actual set-up: I’ve expanded my seed starting set up this year using some of the things I wrote about a few weeks ago here. For almost the last 10 years I’ve been using a seed starting greenhouse that my Mom bought for me, which has worked great (I’m still using it, it just isn’t in any of my photos). I highly recommend these types of shelves for people who do not have a ton of storage room as the whole unit breaks down and fits in to a medium sized rubbermaid container in the off-seasons. For my new expanded section, I decided to use these Ivar shelves from Ikea because I could use them in the off-seasons as basement storage. I will also be purchasing another inexpensive shop light from Home Depot, although right now I only have one (it’s all I need right now but I’ll need more in a few weeks when I start more seeds) – and I just used those screw in hooks to hang the light from. The shop lights are adjustable so I can move them up and down as needed. I am also planning on purchasing a couple more heavy duty plant trays from the greenhouse as I’ll need sturdy trays for schlepping plants in and out of the house during the hardening off phase in spring (this means gradually introducing the indoor grown seedlings to the outside world in order to prevent plant shock, which can cause damage and possibly death to your seedlings). Altogether, I will probably spend around $200 this year on expanding my seed starting set up. In addition to that, I also purchased good quality seed starting soil and the seeds – but those costs are fairly minimal. $200+ is a good chunk of change to shell out at once, but for someone that grows as many plants as I do from seed, it is much, much cheaper than purchasing young plants from the garden centre. And if I think of the cost spread out over many future growing seasons, it isn’t that much. I’ve been wanting to expand the set-up for a few years because I’m finding myself growing more and more plants from seed, but I just didn’t really want to spend the money. Now that almost everything is set up, I don’t know why I just didn’t go ahead and do it earlier. Another incentive for expanding the seed growing operation this year was dining room space. Honestly, we do not use this room for its intended purpose (I can count on two fingers the amount of times we’ve eaten at our dining room table this year) – it is my sewing/crafting area and for a few months a year it also acts as my seed starting area. So in order to continue using it for my crafty projects, I need to ensure the seedlings are contained to one area. It doesn’t look like I’m using much of the shelving right now, but in a couple of months when everything is bigger and has been transferred to larger growing containers, it will look like a jungle.

So now that I’ve talked about the expanded seed starting operation, I wanted to touch on some of my go-to seed starting tips. Seed starting is very easy and I really love taking care of the young seedlings and watching them grow. I never get tired of seeing the first plants pushing their way out of the soil.

Seed Starting Tips
1. Make a list of all of your seeds that need to be started early indoors. This may include tomatoes, peppers, squash, flowers, herbs, etc. Your seed packets will have recommendations on indoor seed starting times (if your seed packets only have a “direct sow” date, you can plant these directly in the ground in the spring, they do not need to be started early indoors). Like I mentioned above, you can easily search online for ideal seed starting times for your climate. I am in US zone 3, so most of my seeds are started in April and May (my last frost date is May 23rd, but I usually push it back to June 1st for my own peace of mind for my delicate plants like tomatoes and squash). After I’ve determined which plants need to be started indoors, I usually make a seed starting calendar. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, I have a list of chronological dates with all the seeds I need to start on that date listed underneath.
2. Put together a dedicated seed starting area and gather your seed starting supplies – here are some of the things you might want to get for your set-up.
3. The most important things to remember are good soil, consistent water, heat, and airflow. Starting seeds in a basement works, but you need to provide adequate lighting and heat (this is where those shop lights and heating mats come in handy). Seedlings do not like to have dry soil, but they also do not like wet soil. Think about how a wringed out sponge feels and that’s what you want your soil to be like. I usually use a misting bottle initially and mist my soil a couple of times a day until the seedlings appear, and then I use a watering can with a very skinny spout that is easy to control. Airflow is important because it promotes strong stems and roots, and also prevents mold and other diseases caused by poor airflow and high humidity. When my seedlings get a little bigger, I like to set up my table fan nearby. Remember that your plants will be exposed to wind when they finally make it outdoors, so you want them to be prepared with strong roots (you know how it feels to jump in to a swimming pool after you’ve simmered in the hot tub? Prepare your seedlings indoors before bringing them in to the outside world, the last thing you want is for their seedling bodies to go in to hot tub/pool shock).
4. Always label your starts with name and date planted. You may think you’ll remember what you planted in which container, but lots of seedlings look exactly the same, so save yourself the frustration later and label everything. I like to also make a little note on my tomatoes on what type they are (dwarf, tumbling, determinate, indeterminate so I don’t have to refer to the packets later when mapping out where I will be planting them outdoors).
5. When your seedlings outgrow their containers, transplant them in to larger containers. You don’t want your plant’s roots to become suffocated. Alternatively you can start your plants in larger containers to begin with, which is what I like to do with my tomatoes and squash which grow large fairly quickly.
6. How about fertilizers? I actually don’t fertilize my seedlings at all. The starting soil that I use has a natural slow release fertilizer in it already, so there is no need for me. I’ve used starting soils without this as well and it has been fine. I don’t like my seedlings to grow too leggy or spindly in their containers while they are living indoors, so it works for me to go without the additional fertilizers. Once everything gets moved outdoors for the season, they get a good douse of fish fertilizer.
7. These are your babies – talk to them and pet them. I know it sounds weird and if you didn’t think I was nuts before, you do now. I always talk to my seedlings because I’m crazy and I talk to everything, but giving them a light brush with your hand has a similar effect as the fan – it helps them to grow strong roots that will help them when the hardening off adventure begins. You don’t actually need to talk to your plants, I’m just insane. Or am I?

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So now here is the first round of seeds started, it’s so great having everything set up again because it means spring is coming! I’m sure I’ll be complaining about plants taking over my house in no time, but for now I will enjoy it. Have you started any seeds yet?

Gardening Goals 2015

I’d actually started writing this post at the beginning of January, right after I’d talked about my overall 2015 goals. Then I sat on it and kept coming back to it, somehow unable to hit “publish”. I talked about how I had these huge plans to build more raised beds, build a pergola in the back yard, do a big overhaul of the front yard, etc. Then I realized what was keeping me from posting it – it was BS. I had all these big plans that I’ve had for years and somehow I thought I was going to be able to magically come up with A) the money to do them all and B) the time to do them all.

One of the difficult things about being a gardener is that sometimes you want it all now but you can’t. Being a gardener is a huge test of patience. I know that eventually my garden will be exactly what I want it to be, but I need to slow down. I need to do a little bit every year within my budget and time constraints. Sure, I could hire all the work out and pay for it with a credit card, but that would be stupid and irresponsible.

Anyway, how about I stop talking about what I can’t do and talk about what I can do this year! So, after I’d taken a realistic look at what can be accomplished in the garden this year, I came up with a few things that I think are reasonable.

1. Try new things. I always make a point to try growing at least one new thing each year. I’m not talking about varieties though – I’m growing a ridiculous amount of new tomatoes and peppers this year and I know they’ll probably do well because I have experience growing these things. I’m talking about plants that I’ve never grown before. This year I’ve decided on orach, shisho, cow peas, fava beans, and sorrel. I’ve heard that these are all fairly easy to grow so the real experiment will be to see how they do in my short season climate. Although I have attempted to grow watermelon before, it has not been successful. I thought I had given up last year, but I just impulse purchased some new watermelon seeds which are ideal for shorter climate growing season, so I’m going to give watermelons another chance in addition to all the news things I’m trying to grow.

2. Re-evaluate the deck space. Up until a few years ago, our back deck wasn’t utilized. Mostly because it wasn’t very safe, but also because it was tiny and lacked any privacy from the neighbors. When we decided to fix the deck up a bit, we wanted to expand it, but not make the yard look any smaller than it is. So we decided to keep the original deck as is (we did replace all of the top boards, front skirt, and also gave the frame a lot more support so it would last for a very long time), but added a ground level that was more than double the size of the top level. This way we wouldn’t need to get a building permit from the city and we wouldn’t need to add in any railings, keeping everything nice and open (although I think technically we are supposed to have railings on the top deck, but we’re lazy and just haven’t gotten to it yet). Anyway, the first year we had the deck I decided we should buy a larger patio table and chairs because I thought we’d be out there all the time and entertain frequently. But this hasn’t happened and I am not pleased with how we use that space – the patio furniture takes up way too much real estate, so I can’t even keep any planters on the deck. So my idea is to sell the current furniture and keep my eye out for a small metal bistro set. As well, I will use a good portion of the bottom deck for container gardening in pots. All those tomatoes need to go somewhere! And although this will cost a bit of money, the cost for a new bistro set and pots will be minimal.

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The original idea was to spray paint these white chairs a bright color, but I think a small colorful bistro set would be a better use of the space so I’ll sell the larger set we have now.

3. Continue removing sod in the front yard. The back yard became sod-free 2 years ago. We took most of that sod and made it in to a mountain, which last year we turned in to Compost Land. And we had big plans to remove all of the sod from the front yard, but just didn’t get to it. Anyway, we’ll continue on with that goal this season and hopefully be sod-free or else as close to sod-free as we can be. Removing sod by hand is time consuming and labor intensive. Some people will argue to differ, but we like to try and save as much of the soil as we can, eliminating waste – so every time we pull out a chunk of sod, we like to hit it and shake it until most of the soil is back where it came from. Anyway, we’ve been slowly working on the front yard and would like for it eventually to be cedar mulch, perennials, and raised vegetable beds. I’m still unsure how the layout will work, but I won’t worry about it much until the sod is completely removed.

4. Utilize the growing space in the back alley. Now that we have the new giant raised bed in the alley, there is an opportunity to use is as a growing space for vegetables. It is going to be an experiment in trust (it is an alley, so sometimes people and animals help themselves to things), as well as an experiment with new conditions. The area is completely full sun and it gets hot in the late afternoon (I got my worst sunburn ever there last year when we built Compost Land). I want to try growing my pumpkins there, but I need to build some chicken wire protectors for the seedlings to prevent squirrels from messing with them, and I might need to put up some sort of climbing support system. We park back there, so I think the pumpkins would have a better chance of not getting damaged if they grow up rather than out. In addition to the large raised bed, I also have a smaller one against the back of my shed in the alley. I currently have raspberry bushes planted in there, which give us a few hand fulls of berries each year, but I think I may want to plant a few more bushes in that space, or else look at something additional I can plant there to fill in a few empty spaces.

I think I’ll leave it at that. Of course I have a million other projects that I’d love to accomplish in the garden, but I’m going to pull back the reins and leave those for another year. I feel good about focusing on removing sod, making the deck space more functional, growing a few new things, and experimenting in a new growing space. Do you have any big or small goals in your garden this year?

The Big Seed List 2015

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Words cannot express how excited I get over picking out new seeds. I am also thrilled to be writing about my garden again. I know it is still months away from thawing out, but this is the time of year I can actually imagine it existing again – I haven’t seen anything resembling a garden in my yard since some time in early November. I guess November wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like its been a year, especially when the really cold weather hit.

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Before I get too deep into things here, I must say that I do not need any new seeds. I have more seeds in my collection than I could probably ever plant (especially tomatoes), but that isn’t going to stop me from acquiring more. I always plant the tried and true, but I also love to experiment and grow new things – it is just part of what keeps me coming back, even if the experiments fail. I’m sure lots of people can relate to this. And because I need to further justify my purchasing more seeds, I usually end up giving away seeds to friends and family. Still don’t need new seeds, whatever.

I usually casually start the process of selecting seeds for the next growing season at the end of the last gardening season – making notes of things that worked well, seeds that may need to be replenished, or things that I’d love to try. Thankfully I was ahead of the ball last year because I took the initiative to go through my three binders of seeds (yes, three), and toss any seeds that I was never going to plant again or that may not be viable anymore (this means old seed or seed that may not be very old, but that is past its prime – we’ll talk about seed viability on another day). I was hoping that by sorting through my seeds, I would miraculously be left with a reasonable amount of varieties, thereby making it easier for me to select what I would be planting. Hahaha! That didn’t happen. I still have like 30 varieties of tomatoes and no where near the room to grow them. Is that stopping me from buying more tomato seeds? No. I’m a gardener, I want to grow all of the everything.

Anyway, this year was actually pretty easy when it came to selecting which types of vegetables I wanted to grow. I knew that I didn’t want to grow eggplant because I failed hard at it the last four seasons (last year was the biggest success year with one eggplant being about the side of a halloween-sized candy bar – if you can call that success?). I might come back to eggplant another year, but thankfully we have a good local grower so I’ll just continue buying them from someone else and save myself the disappointment. Then there are the brassicas. Kale is in – I always seem to have good success with kale and it is something I can easily grow in the community allotment (no one wants to steal kale and it doesn’t mind being neglected), but anything else in that family is out. It’s not like I can’t grow it – I did have a little bit of success last year with cauliflower. But the caterpillars love to slither their tiny green bodies over the brassicas and munch holes through the leaves. Then lay their disgusting eggs all over it. And then I eat the eggs and caterpillars grow inside of my stomach (maybe). Anyway, no brassicas, besides kale.

Alright, now let’s talk about what I will be growing. The ultimate list will be at the bottom of this post, but I wanted to elaborate on some of the selections so I’ll go in to more detail now.

Tomatoes: My favorite things to grow are tomatoes. Growing them in my climate is a bit of a risk. I usually stick with the smaller varieties of tomatoes because I know I’ll have at least some success with them. The larger varieties are usually out for me, which does make it slightly easier to select varieties for growing (don’t get me wrong, there are like 1 million smaller varieties to choose from, but subtract that from the 2 million larger varieties and it does make a bit of a difference). So first I make cuts from the seeds I already own – if there is a variety that I just didn’t like the taste of last year, it gets thrown in the “NO” pile, same thing if it was just a crappy plant (blight, unhealthy plant, etc). Sorry rejects. Everything else goes in the “MAYBE” pile and then I divide those seeds into categories based on color. If there is only one variety per color category, that tomato gets the privilege of growing in my garden. If there are more than one variety per color category, I must make hard decisions. Do I grow all of those varieties? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I usually have a really hard time with the green tomato varieties because those are my favorite taste-wise, so I more often than not, end up growing all of them. When it comes to selecting new varieties I always select varieties that I have not planted before – this year I am really into dwarf tomatoes (which is good because they are very small plants, hence dwarf variety). I’ve also selected a few varieties that I like the look of (a yellow/blue variety, yes please!). And then I end up cursing myself when it comes time to plant them in the garden because I’ve grown 30 tomato plants and comfortably have room for 20. Off to the garden centre to buy more pots!

Peppers: If you’ve been reading the blog since last growing season, you’ll know that I only really got into growing hot peppers about a year ago. I’d grown them a little before that, but my season is short and cold, so they are not exactly an ideal candidate for me. But last year was the first full growing season with my greenhouse, so my ability to successfully grow peppers increased significantly. Choosing pepper varieties was actually a lot easier than the tomatoes. I knew which ones I wanted to grow from the seed I already had and I had a better idea of what I was looking for in a hot pepper (I like the milder hot peppers and my husband like the really, really hot ones). I knew that I wanted a few sweet pepper varieties as well, so that was fairly simple. I also knew that I wanted to grow every type of habanero pepper I could get my hands on. I think growing hot peppers is my new thing.

Squash: This was sort of easy, sort of hard. Easy because I was and wasn’t restricted with space. I knew I wanted to grow a few of the larger vine pumpkins in my alley in the raised compost bed (formerly Sod Mountain) – space isn’t really a concern here, it is out of the way and not technically in my yard (the parking space and compost bins are on our property, but are not actually in the fenced in portion of our yard). It is risky growing things in this area because of pests of the animal and human variety, but I have been growing raspberries in the alley for several years and I haven’t gotten any horrible diseases yet, so whatever. The main thing will be actually remembering to water the plants back there (out of sight, out of mind?). When it comes to actual yard space, maybe I don’t have the most room for squash, so I try to select my varieties based on size. I have quite a few compact bush-type squash, so that works well for my raised beds or larger pots. I do grow a few of the larger varieties vertically so that also helps with the space issue. I have plans to build some raised beds in the front yard for growing vegetables, which will expand my options for growing space, but I don’t have an actual timeline on that project so for now I’m just planning for the space I have. The point is, I am going to start quite a few squash plants in the house and I may or may not have space for them.

Flowers: For a few years I actually believed that planting flowers was a waste of perfecting good vegetable growing space. Oh how wrong I was. Planting flowers that will attract beneficial insects is probably just as important as planting vegetables to ensure a thriving and healthy garden. And it is so easy. I’ve gotten in to the habit the last few years of sticking random marigolds in to my raised beds, but last year I did the same with zinnias (which are now my favorite). I don’t have a ton of flowers on my wishlist, but the few that I do have are ones that will provide a bit of extra color throughout the growing season, as well as attract the little bees and butterflies that I love seeing in my garden.

And lastly, I always try to plant something completely new-to-me each year, so this year I’ve chosen cow peas, fava beans, orach, mexican sour gherkins, sorrel, and shisho.

The Big Seed List 2015:

Tomatoes:
Blue Gold Berries (indeterminate)
Purple Bumble Bee (indeterminate)
Sunrise Bumble Bee (indeterminate)
Blue Beauty (indeterminate)
Golden Bison (determinate)
Andrina (dwarf)
Hahms Gelbe (dwarf)
Ditmarsher (determinate – hanging basket variety)
Lime Green Salad (dwarf)
Koralik (determinate)
Pearly Pink Orange (dwarf, hanging basket variety)
Yellow Pygmy (dwarf)

Peppers:
Hot:
Lemon Drop
Fish
Chocolate Habanero
Italian Pepperoncini
Purple Jalapeno
Tabasco
Pimiento De Padron
Trinidad Scorpion

Sweet:
Mini Chocolate Bell
Mini Yellow Bell
Tequilla Sunrise
Oda Pepper

Squash:
Crookneck Early Golden  (summer)
Marina Di Chioggia Pumpkin (winter)
Jarrahdale Pumpkin (winter)
Thai Kang Kob Pumpkin (winter)
White Acorn Squash (winter)
Zucchini-Lungo Bianco Squash (summer)
Patisson Panache Blanc Et Vert Scallop Squash (summer)
Patisson Strie Melange Squash (summer)
Lemon Squash (summer)

Other:
Scarlet Kale
Meraviglia Di Venezia Bean
Alaska Garden Pea
Blauwschokkers Pea
Holstein cowpea
Lady cowpea
Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto Fava Bean
Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber
Dragon’s Egg Cucumber
Orach
Shisho
Bloody Dock Red Sorrel

Flowers:
Queen Lime Red Zinnia
Royal Purple Zinnia
Morning Dew Pansy (edible)
Mary Helen Marigold

Okay now to go burn my seed catalogs before I start to add things on to my seed order.

Seed sources: Tatiana’s Tomatobase (Canada), Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (USA), Heritage Harvest Seed (Canada), West Coast Seeds (Canada)

The Garden August 2014

I can’t believe that August is half over and it will soon be autumn. This season has whizzed by and I feel like I planted the garden just yesterday. It definitely doesn’t look like that though. Everything is full and lush and in an overall insane state (but good insane). We’re working hard on keeping up with the garden bounty, which is definitely not something I will complain about. I’ve also started jotting down some notes for next year of areas I would like to work on or things I would like to try planting (my seed list is up to like 30 things, somebody stop me now).

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My only non-alpine clematis (variety unknown) that I have managed to keep alive in my garden. I’m so glad I decided to keep a few non-edible perennials in my vegetable growing spaces, especially vertical plants. 

My staycation has ended so work in the garden has slowed down quite a bit, although I am basically going directly from my car in to the garden when I get home every afternoon, desperate to get my gloved hands dirty. This week I was able to prune and tie back my tomato plants, pull the spent delphiniums, as well as finally finish mulching the front yard with cardboard underneath fresh shredded cedar (that is of course until I rip out more lawn – NO LAWN IS SAFE, YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED!). I still have about a cubic yard of mulch left in the alley, so I’ll spread a fresh layer in the back yard and throw some around Compost Land in the back alley to keep things looking a bit neater. What a difference the mulch makes – I love the way it looks and smells, not to mention that it keeps many of the weeds down, making maintaining the garden just a little bit easier.

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One of the raised beds overflowing with corn, runner beans, squash, tomatoes, zinnia and marigolds. Lettuces planted in the ground in front. A few holes in things from either hail or insects, but most everything still looks great. 

And no doubt you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for me to tell you what else I actually accomplished on my staycation. So here is the final update on that:
– Processed 12L of sour cherries. I am saying right now that I will never bring home 12L of sour cherries again. But I only half believe that statement. The most painful part was pitting them one by one “click…click…click”. And it looked like a murder scene outside where I’d sat and pitted them all. Pitting cherries is a long and dirty job. I ended up freezing about 4L, baked an amazing clafoutis, made homemade maraschino cherries using liqueur (delicious little alcohol soaked gems), infused sour cherry bourbon, and then spent a few hours over a boiling water bath making jam and preserves. It was a lot of work, but well worth it. I can say that now that its been a week and my resentment towards the cherries has dwindled.
– Planted a new sour cherry tree. Or rather, bush. Yeah because apparently I want more sour cherries. The variety I planted was a Romeo and I already have a Juliet, so it seemed fitting to get the other star-crossed lover.
– Stained and installed the new privacy lattice. Staining lattice is the worst, it needs to be said. In retrospect, getting a can of spray stain would have been a really good idea. Regardless, the lattice is up and it looks pretty good – it has given me an extra foot and a half of height on my fence for about 12 feet of width starting where the fence meets the house. I planted 3 alpine clematis along the fence as well – I’d originally wanted to plant 6 but my wallet just didn’t allow it at the time. I’ve kept space open for 3 more plants and I’ll try to buy them at end of season sales. It might not be totally necessary because alpine clematis fill in pretty well over time, but I’m feeling a bit impatient about this project and I’d like to see results next year. It won’t give us a whole lot more privacy, but it will give us a little bit and that is pretty important to me in that particular space. It was also important for me to get the privacy lattice up this month – our current duplex neighbors are a short term rental and I didn’t want to feel like I was snubbing the next occupants by putting up privacy panels first thing when they moved in. Maybe I’m over-thinking it.
– Cleaned up the front yard – edged the lawn along the public sidewalk, weed whacked along our side walk and chopped off the dandelion heads before they go to seed. I don’t tend the lawn in my front yard except for the occasional mow – it is horribly neglected and I could really care less. As I mentioned above and in earlier posts (and if you know me IRL, you’ve most likely heard me moan about my hatred for sod in casual conversation), the plan is for all of the front lawn to go and be replaced with perennial and food growing space. So caring for the lawn in the meantime is pretty low on my priority list. Regardless, I spent a couple of hours cleaning it up a bit and it does look much better.

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Coming from the front yard into the back – everything is so lush!

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Rare shot of the front yard with all of its fresh mulch. The perennial gardens in the front yard are relatively new, about 3-4 years old, so this is the first year that a lot of perennials are really becoming established and full-looking. I’m sure as time goes on and more of the lawn goes, I will be more inclined to post wide shots of the front gardens.

That’s it. So between all of those things and the mulch, I’ve gotten quite a bit done. I still have a few little projects like painting the wheel barrow and the front door, but there really isn’t much. I won’t be planting any flowering bulbs this fall because until I pull out more of the front lawn, there really isn’t much space available. Plus I always forget where my bulbs actually are, so the chances of digging up some bulbs in the process of planting new ones is highly likely. I am planning to plant some garlic in October (that reminds me that I need to order garlic bulbs), but otherwise my planting is done for the year. I’ll just continue to weed the garden, keep up with the harvests and then get ready for the autumn clean up.

Stay-cation Update

I’m sure you’re all dying to know how much I’ve actually accomplished from my giant to-do list I created a couple of weeks ago. It seems so long ago that I was full of energy and ambition – but it was only a mere two weeks ago. I have been really busy, but maybe I got a little ahead of myself. Me? Never. 

I was kind of thinking I would give a recap of what I said I wanted to get done, but lets not torture ourselves here – it’ll look much better if I just list the things I have gotten done and not have the original list to compare to. 

IMG_2009The birdhouses my sister and I made. I wanted mine to have a “green roof” and my sister built the other one. We had a brilliant idea to shingle the plain one with cedar mulch shingles, but unfortunately it was a total fail so we stripped the shingles off before the glue dried and before anyone thought to take photographic evidence of our failure. 

So here is the update on what I have accomplished on my stay-cation so far:
– Went to the U-pick. I wrote more about this in my last post on The Saskatoon Farm. But I did actually go back again for 8 more liters of sour cherries. So 12L in total. What the hell was I thinking? How am I going to deal with 12L of sour cherries? I really love making lots of work for myself, apparently. 
– Weeded and edged the big perennial garden in the front yard. God, this was horrible. I did it on the hottest day too because I was tired of looking at all the weeds suffocating the poor flowers. Plus, I was in some sort of mad rush to get it done before I left for the long weekend. I think I felt mostly guilty because this garden edges along my neighbor’s driveway and the part facing her was the worst. I had also declared to my neighbor the morning I started that “I am going to deal with this awful mess today because it looks horrible and I’m sorry”. She said she didn’t care, but maybe she actually secretly hates me because of the weeds and is too nice to say. Or maybe she feels equally guilty because she let creeping bellflower come into my garden from her yard. Regardless, I filled the entire black garbage bin with weeds and grass so that might give you an idea on how bad I let things get – it looks great now though. 
– Picked up the hoses. I’m not going to lie, they are not nicely curled up on a proper hose hanger, but at least they are no longer a safety hazard to anyone who enters my yard. 
– Weeded the back yard. The whole thing took me probably 20 minutes – it is really easy to weed now that the entire back yard is covered in mulch. 
– Put up the bird feeders. The chickadees are back! A few weeks ago back in July, my husband and I put up a 4×4 in the garden to hang bird feeders from. I finally got around to purchasing some inexpensive shelf brackets from Ikea, putting some metal hooks into them, screwing them to the 4×4 and hanging a couple of bird feeders from them. I only have two feeders hung so far because Ikea only had two brackets in stock, so I’ll buy a couple more to hang feeders from the other two sides as well. So far the chickadees and house finches love the feeders. And my cats love sitting at the patio window and drooling over the birds, wishing they were outside kitties. 
– Cleaned the greenhouse and planted some fall seeds on the lower level. I planted lettuces, kale, arugula and radishes. Granted the weather doesn’t dip too low, I should be able to be harvesting these until about December. 
– Started more hot peppers inside the house. My experience so far with peppers has been that they don’t mind being overwintered inside the house, so my plan is to keep these ones inside until next spring when they’ll be moved to the greenhouse. I am a wimp when it comes to hot peppers, but my husband loves to have his faced burned off, so I started some unbelievably hot peppers – scotch bonnet and bhut jolokia (the ghost pepper). I had started a few of these in June but the germination rate is really poor, so I’m giving it another go. 
– Put up the random decor items – some bird houses, the rain chain, wind chimes, etc. My sister and I also built two new bird houses this past weekend for my yard, so those were added today (photo above). 
– Cleaned the shed. I can actually walk in it now. 
– Trimmed the lilac bush. Actually, I just supervised my husband doing this. It looks kind of bad –  not because he did a bad job, but because it was planted in such a poor spot (by a previous owner, I will not take credit for this). Take my word, read the tags of bushes and trees before you plant them to see how tall and wide they will be spreading, otherwise you may be forced to give them terrible haircuts in order to be able to walk up to your front door. Poor lilac. 

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Two of the bird feeders hung in the yard. So far the pesky squirrels have stayed away but I don’t trust them, so I’m keeping a close eye on these. 

That is about all so far. I have about 5 more days left to get things done. I just received the load of cedar mulch about an hour ago so I’ll be working on that mostly – it is enormous. But I have to say it is probably the nicest cedar mulch I have ever had delivered so I am giving a shout out to Bulk Mulch Depot. It was also pretty reasonably priced – I’ve always just bought bagged mulch from the store or gotten those cubic yard totes delivered, which I recently discovered is way, way, way more than I should be paying for mulch. It is $45/cubic yard from BMD, plus $110 delivery within the city, so if you’re getting 2 or more cubic yards, it is worth getting it delivered in bulk. 

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So my plans for the rest of the week are dealing with the cedar mulch, painting the wheelbarrow, and staining and installing the privacy lattice on the fence. And of course doing something with 12L of sour cherries, I’ll be sure to let you know what I end up doing with them, I’ve got preserved cherries on the brain!