Wednesday, May 29, 2013

sprouts of sunshine.

i'm horrible at starting things from seed. especially in trays. especially indoors! if it can go right in the ground i'm alright but otherwise... i need some practice. so when i set out a huge tray of seeds out back, i wasn't sure if anything would go, and it was a pleasant surprise after a couple big rains to find sprouts!

this lovely array of seeds were donated by various friends who had left overs, or nowhere to grow them.. i happily adopted them. wasn't sure if i could make them grow, but free seeds are better to try my luck than ones i've had to pay for. so! here goes...

sunnn! sunflower sprouts look so happy.. maybe because as soon as they sprout they're already huge! if these things make it to fullness, they'd be the biggest things i ever successfully grow from seed. they were so easy to start, i'll probably try a few more when i return from down south.

as an added bonus, the lupins sprouted. i love lupins, they're beautiful flowers.. they remind me of taking trips through northern ontario. they should have been started indoors weeks before frost, and delicately transplanted. but here i have started them in peat trays outdoors, on a repurposed trampoline turned planting table.

it will be interesting to see what makes it all the way, i hope more sprouts appear! we've also seen the cucumber seeds break the surface. still waiting on various herbs like mint and sage, and a couple other flowers and veggies. stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

the first big rain.

it's been a long time since i've been to the farmers' market on a tuesday.. it's usually the most quiet of the market days, but it was especially so today as the rain refused to let up. i'm kind of glad it was quiet, it gave me a chance to talk to the vendors and get the scoop on what's happening this week.

i grabbed another load of plants, as many as i could carry on the city bus. the new assortment consists of blackberry, a fig tree [should be interesting], some bush zucchini, pickling cucumbers, two types of tomato.. black cherry [the purple tomatoes!] and a heirloom variety. there's also an assortment of herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme. i've had a hard time finding eggplant, the assortment won't have as much variety as last year's plot, but it will be a good start.

so back to that rain...

all of the seeds we dropped in the ground have doubled in size since yesterday, the rain has really done them some good. matt and i stood grinning with pride at our little radishes.. we will drop some more seeds in a week or two to have some later for harvest.

tomorrow the digging shall continue, and planting what other plants we have so far. the first batch that went into the ground earlier this week are taking especially well since the rain has come. check out the bok choy!

everything is already looking delicious. the kale is so crisp, the little lettuce sprouts are starting to look like grown-up lettuce, and the pepper plants in the ground look like they will begin to flower. thursday is round two this week at the farmer's market, hopefully the rain will let up and more vendors will show with seedlings. next year hopefully we will be set to start seeds indoors, but for now we take what we can get!

can't wait to taste the rainbow... swiss chard! yay for food!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

a freecycle sunday..

it was a beautiful day today.. chilly, but the sun was warm. my brother and i headed out to our parents' house out in the country to celebrate his quarter-century birthday. my baby bro...! anyway, while we were out there, we loaded up dad's pickup with a few things from around the yard. he had an old beater of a mower, no longer sufficient for his huge plot, but perfect for our city yard.. it should survive the rest of the season. we finally got to cut into that meadow that had recently become home to some unwanted creatures; namely... ticks! eeuugh.. and with the dogs on the main floor it had become critical timing to get it cut.

not only did we score a freecycled mower, but we also got to take their extra garden ties, and a load of wood for the fire. oh, almost forgot to mention what i had originally wanted to take home, the rain barrel! we can collect the next storm off the roof to water... for free!

now that the grass is mowed, and we have more soil [we used dad's truck to grab more after unloading the freebies], i'm looking forward to progressing on the beds out back this week. tuesday, thursday and saturday are market days, when we can go and pick up more seedlings of our favourite fruits and veggies. we should have the beds mostly planted by sunday, and i fly out monday morning for a week. hope the boys can keep up with the watering!

the boys will also hopefully find the perfect home for the rain barrel, and get that system set up soon. i think i remember one of the other tenants mentioning his parents having a rain barrel, the more the merrier! we were fortunate enough that our parents had an abundance of things we could make use of, but there's always places to get good stuff for free. there are existing organizations like that helps make those hookups happen. also there's kijiji, and the local newspapers.

our city has a free mulch pile too, a lot of towns around here do. it's rough cut, scrap from fallen trees and cut branches in the area, but it's free! as for firewood, you can go down any industrial strip in this town and pick up truck loads of untreated pine skids piled up by the curb ...for free! these things are there for the taking, and they will be there regardless if they get used, so we may as well.

that's enough about free stuff, you get my drift.. lots more garden work to come, bright and early...!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

staycation in the garden.

it's been a long time since i've taken a vacation.. and this time i didn't want to travel, we are staying home this week and spending quality time in our new backyard. the experiment with the cardboard gardens continues, today we extended next to the first bed attaching the second one to it and leaving a 'key' path in between for good reach.

first we used a hard rake, pulled back the grass that was more or less dead under the cardboard we laid down a few days ago. we used a spade to turn the soil beneath, pulling out some clumps of grass, and turning some back into the ground.

after watering the turned soil, we put the cardboard back down into the shape of the bed we are creating, making sure that all of the tape has been removed from the boxes. we then watered the cardboard. on top of the cardboard we mixed a couple kinds of topsoil, one had a little more sand than the other. then we mixed in black earth, and composted sheep manure.

we rake it out into a nice even bed, leaving a 'key' path to step into for easy reach. we will leave these half-paths all along the bed spaced so that you can always reach into the center of the beds. when it comes time to plant, the soil is pulled back, and an X is cut into the cardboard. we peel back the cardboard, put some fresh soil into the hole, and drop in the plant. the soil is replaced, plus some additional rich mix is added, mulching the plant.

we added more veggies, and some annual flowers that we liked the colours of. herbs were planted in the narrow patch at the end of the 'key' path, and more annuals were planted there at the border.

last year we used white clover as a living mulch to keep soil moist, weeds down, and return nitrogen to the soil. this year we are trying something different. we are using more food between the food to take up the ground space, crowd out weeds and produce as much as we can per square foot of garden.

here we used radish seeds.. in other places we used carrots and parsnips. these radish seeds were planted only a few days ago, and already they have begun to sprout. so exciting! so far so good on the new experimental beds. on the next post, we will look into the lettuce bed!

Monday, May 20, 2013

long weekend planting

YAY GARDEN! yes, we finally got one of the beds done. our first experimental bed started as a grassy meadow of a lawn.. the dirt and some of the grass was overturned, layered with cardboard, and then with various leaf mulch,and a blend of composted sheep manure, sandy topsoil and black earth. we are limited on funds this year so we work with what we get for cheap or free. so far we made out pretty well.. we had plenty of plain corrugated cardboard from the move.

however the move was at a time that made it hard to start seeds before the last frost, much of what we sprouted at the old house didn't survive the move. we have had better luck directly in the ground with the lettuce anyway, it already looks better than it did inside.

the main bed was planted with seedlings from the farmer's market, and some from the grocery garden centre. in between we are experimenting with making the groundcover layers of different low-growing plants from seed such as beets and turnips in a couple spots, and then lettuce mix throughout. once the sprouts start to show i will go in between where there is still space and drop some romaine or other lettuce seeds that will benefit from periodic shade of the taller plants around them.

the planter box with the already sprouting lettuce was infiltrated with carrots, beets and parsnips in patches throughout. we are experimenting with building dense polycultures, some plots we will intentionally overplant to see how much food mass a single plot can hold. this must be done carefully with attention to companion plants, root depths and how much space the plant itself will need to thrive.

tonight i think we may start some of the wildflowers and sunflowers in some peat cups so they are ready for when the ground is prepared for them. otherwise their sprouts would get lost in the meadow! also we have a few spare totes from the move so i'm thinking i will use one to make some super rich compost. Matt drinks a lot of coffee and we eat a good amount of eggs [shells!].. plus we have pulp from the juicer. mix that with some of the brown stuff from last year's leaves and a bit of water and see what we get!

in other news, we discovered quickly that this house doesn't have a hose hookup outside. i'll tell ya i've been getting a good workout going from the downstairs tub up and out to the yard a bunch, but i don't mind.. for now. by next weekend we should have our first rain barrel set up to collect off the roof. also i'm storing all of the water from the dehumidifier in a tote outside for soaking the soil. we seem to pull about 3-5 liters a day out of the air in the basement of this old house... that's a lot of humidity! keeps the basement super cool with all the windows closed too. that and a couple of air circulator fans and it's easily ten degrees cooler down here than on the main floor. love it! well there's a bunch more work to be done, ta for now!

Friday, May 17, 2013

ground break and earth quake..

so apparently there was an earthquake today. i was at work likely running a machine at the time so i didn't notice. if it was felt here that is.. i know it was felt by a couple friends in Toronto but no word yet this far south. just also happens to be the day we finally start digging the veggie beds. good times!

we had to cut into the meadow.. our landlord had promised since we moved in to bring over a mower. the one here was left out to rot, and the grass is about knee height in the sunniest spot. since i'm trying a 'cardboard garden' i started turning some of the grass right back into the dirt where it stands.. when i lay own the base layer of cardboard over the turned in grass it should keep it down long enough to decompose, and hopefully not sprout through.

on top of that will be layers of topsoil, sheep manure compost and leaf compost..and amongst the veggies while they're filling out will be some white clover sprouted from seed to act as a living mulch. the soil was surprisingly moist and crumbly, like a piece of cake.. i thought it would have been much harder to dig into than it was. my upstairs neighbour is trying a more traditional approach in the back corner, it will be interesting to see the differences between the beds. i can't wait to get back at it in the morning!

it's the long weekend, so i'm sure it will be busy at garden stands and markets for the open of garden season. hopefully i will make it over to the farmer's market to grab seedlings of things i didn't get a chance to start soon enough.. oh! and the lettuce seeds are sprouting! gotta grab some radish and carrots to join them in the planter.

well it's been a long day of work, play and gardening.. time to go relax with a book.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


so, we moved.. we lost most of what we had sprouted at the old place, but we now have access to an entire back yard. only problem is.. we're broke! the move happened sooner than expected which worked out well, but we weren't anticipating one of us losing our source of income. while the man looks for another job, we are focusing as much funds as we can on growing some fresh food.

we are very limited on tools this year, literally all that we have at the moment is a spade, a watering can, and a wheeled cart to bring home bags of soil from the market across the street. i have an enormous stock of seeds from last year to experiment with, though for many it will be too late to start. we found a few random packs of mesclun mix seed, so we prepared the already existing pre-dug bed for the lettuce by adding some more soil and compost. it's in a space that will get a lot of shade but still enough sun to grow something, so we figured it's the perfect place to start some lettuce.

there was a patch of weeds growing out of a mound next to the bed so i decided to chop it up, pull the weeds and break up the soil to throw down some clover seed, and in the process of doing so i found a sprouted walnut! we have a big black walnut tree on one side of the yard, a squirrell must have buried itself a snack and forgotten about it. we decided to throw it in a peat pot to see if it will survive.

if it does survive we don't have enough space in our yard for another large tree, so we will give it up for adoption. it will be interesting to see if it grows! our next project will be to start the vegetable garden. we have decided that we will try a 'lasagna garden' method this year, we have lots of cardboard from the move, a large pile of leaves raked into the corner left from last year, top soil and some composted sheep manure.

it's a pretty cold, rainy day today.. we even got some hail. for the past few years we have experienced intense cold snaps in May, hopefully this is the last one. in the next two weeks we should have the veggie bed prepared just in time for planting season. 'lasagna gardens' or no-dig gardens are usually best started in autumn, but it is possible to start one in spring. we will be experimenting with a quick-ish method that will also help us to get rid of weeds and grass while creating a fertile, moist and sunsoaked spot to grow some food.