July 2015 In The Garden

The garden has been keeping me really busy this year. It’s been good though and I finally feel like things are starting to slow down. Which means I can kind of sit back and enjoy it as it is for a bit. And also maybe think about what I’d like to accomplish in the garden for the remainder of the season.

We recently had a huge heatwave, followed by some big rainfalls, and there is some more heat in the forecast, so things are really starting to get lush. There has already been some heavy duty pruning going on (we may have pruned away some branches from our neighbor’s tree)

Garden July 2015

Looking pretty darn lush. I believe this is going to be the year of the squash in my garden, they are all looking so full and healthy – and I’ve even got a few baby squash forming. Making those squirrel proof seedling cages was a good idea – I didn’t lose any squash this year to those pesky creatures.

Last year I included some to-do lists for the garden, and I thought I might try it again this year. I really enjoy reading other garden blogger’s to-do lists, so maybe readers might find mine interesting as well. And if not, just skip to the pretty pictures.

– Weeding! I’ve been pulling out a few dandelions in the back yard as they pop up, but I really need to dedicate a couple of hours to just weeding, especially in the front yard. I rarely post photos of the front yard on my blog because it is so so sad, but I’m going to try to start. This is a realistic blog where I post the good, the bad, and the ugly, so I should be posting the front for your viewing displeasure (I’m being really hard on myself here, it’s not that bad).
– Figure out some sort of trellis for the back alley raised bed. I’m growing some pumpkins back there, so instead of having them grow down where we park the car, I’d prefer if they grew up. I have no idea what I’m going to do there. I need to think of something quickly though – I noticed that they are now growing out of their little squirrel-resistant cages.
– Clean up the alley. It is in a pretty shabby state right now. It needs to be weed whacked and I need to dispose of the dead corpse that is my former Christmas tree. And there is a lot of garbage. I’d really rather just keep forgetting this area exists, but those pumpkins are planted back there, and I water them almost every day, so I would rather look at something less horrifying and garbage-ridden. Also, our alley is a mud pit when it rains, so we really should get a load of gravel in there to help things. That task has been on the to-do list for awhile now.
– Fertilize the peppers and tomatoes. I am such a delinquent when it comes to fertilizing. I maybe do it like once a season. Must fertilize.
– Figure out what to do with the front yard. I referenced the nightmare of the front yard above, and I’m probably way over exaggerating it, but it really isn’t the way I want it and I kind of just want it to not exist right now. The main problem is the awful state of the lawn. The truth is, I don’t care about my lawn and I really haven’t made an effort to care for it for about 5 years or so. And it really shows. I wouldn’t actually even consider it a lawn anymore – it is mostly weeds and old cigarette butts (lots of pedestrian traffic on my street). The real reason for not caring for it is mainly because I think lawns are useless resource vampires, but also because it will eventually not exist in our yard. My vision for the front yard is for there to be no lawn, to expand the front porch in to something useful and pretty, to replace the front walk, to have some raised beds for edibles, and for the rest of it to be a low maintenance perennial garden with a couple of trees. The plan this year is to remove a little bit of the remaining lawn each week. Originally when I was thinking about what I wanted to do this summer, working on the front yard was not even a thought in my mind. The only real thought I’d had was that I wanted to come up with a rough plan to implement over the next 5 or so years. But then seeing the lawn this spring, and feeling nothing but embarrassment, rage, and contempt every time I saw it, I changed the plan. The good news is that it will cost me nothing but time. And possibly some money on cedar mulch if I get far enough. I’d love to hire it out and just have someone come in and set fire to it in one fell swoop, but I’ve already spent way too much on the garden this year, and I’d like to be able to eat, so I’ll have to do it slowly myself with nothing but my trusty spade.

Garden July 2015

I guess that’s the garden right now in a nutshell. Things are growing and even though my front yard is a bit of a touchy subject right now, I am pretty happy with the back yard this year. All in all, things are decent! How is your garden growing?

Honeyberries

One more photo! The honeyberry harvest this year has been great so far! I have three small plants and I’ve never gotten more than a handful of berries in past years. This year the branches were bursting with fruit and it looks like there will be a second harvest! I intended to actually make something out of the first harvest, but they all got eaten raw before I had the chance #gardenerproblems

Garden Life Lately

This time of year is always the busiest for me in the garden. And all of the busyness seems to hit at once. I spend the winter sitting around crafting and sewing and watching copious amounts of Netflix, doing a bit of garden planning, spending lots of time in the kitchen, and then BAM! EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE DONE IN THE GARDEN NOW! Luckily winter ended a bit early this year and I got a wee jump start on the season, but still, I probably didn’t do as much as I should have, and now the weather is nice and I have a million plants to lug in and out of the house while they harden off, a hundred million pots to clean and fill with dirt, and so many seeds to plant. I’m not complaining – I actually love it. But it is somewhat stressful. Throw in to the mix that I am trying to open up a new Etsy shop, as well as maintain my current one, blog, go to my day job, and do the hundred other things I’ve committed myself to, and yeah, things are a bit crazy.

But things are happening! And that is exciting. In the last week I have visited a few garden centres, bought a few plants (mostly herbs and annual flowers), bought a metric tonne of new pots, bought two metric tonnes of garden soil and manure, ordered a new bistro set for my patio, and planted a few handfuls of seeds. There is really a lot to be done.

Garden Containers

I wish I could say this is all of the pots, but it isn’t. And it is also a mess, but gardens aren’t always pretty and are hard work, and I am not one to mask this with only beautiful photos – hence the abandoned gloves, random succulent tray (it’s going to go on my new bistro set!), trash bin, and mountain of soil bags in the back.

Luckily, since I gained a couple of weeks of spring garden season this year, I don’t feel like I’m being rushed. I’ve been spending a couple of hours every afternoon after work in the garden, moving things around and mostly figuring out how I want the garden to look this year. I’ve planted a few garden centre purchases, but most are still living in the greenhouse for a few more days until most of the danger of frost has passed. After all, our official average last day of frost is supposed to be May 23rd, but I usually wait until about a week after that to plant my delicates. It only takes one time of hauling giant pots of snow covered tomatoes in to your kitchen in June to err on the side of caution when it comes to precious plants and average frost dates. Am I being dramatic? Maybe.

So about all of these new pots. I realized a few weeks ago, when I decided late one sleepless night to take an inventory of all of my seedlings, that I was going to need to come up with somewhere new to put all of these seedlings. I already had lots of pots and always use all of them, but I would say that I probably doubled what I normally plant, kind of willy nilly, without a plan, so I needed to come up with a plan other than “oh I’ll just find places for them somewhere”. There were no more places. I don’t have any more room for raised beds in my back yard, so that was pretty much out of the question. So that left either giving away a bunch of seedlings, which I really didn’t want to do, or buying some new containers. I obviously went with the latter solution. And then spent a small fortune. At least a lot of the containers were on clearance, but still, when you’re buying as many as I did at once, it adds up fast. At least problem solved. Hopefully – we’ll see once I start actually planting things.

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At the back of my garden I have a few wooden boxes living under my wild rose bush that I’ve seeded with lettuce (pardon the photo taken at a crappy time of day).

So I guess that’s my life in the garden lately. I’m going to continue moving containers around, filling them with dirt, prepping my raised beds for planting, planning the community garden plot (more on that in a later post), setting up my patio area when the new furniture arrives, and getting the greenhouse ready for planting. And of course, continuing to lug one million seedlings in and out of the house every day for another week or so.

Princess Kay Plum Tree

I have to leave you with at least one pretty close up! These are the blossoms on my plum tree right now.

Tell me all about your garden in the comments! I’d love to hear what you’re up to, what you’re growing, if you’ve planted anything yet… really, anything! Happy gardening!

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

Introduction

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!