Category Archives: Gardening

Square Foot Gardening

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Square Foot Gardening

Traditionally gardening is done in rows, and is what my parents always did. So last year that is what I followed. I had started reading a bit about square foot gardening, so decided this year that I would give it a try. Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert, but here is what I have learned, and done so far. 

The basic idea behind square foot gardening, is to try to plant more efficiently in a smaller space. Depending on what you are growing, it is anywhere from one plant, to sixteen per square foot. As well, by planting in a more compact space there should be less weeds among the area planted. 

To lay out your square foot garden you will plan 4 foot by 4 foot plots (16 square feet), then three feet between plots. You can also do these as raised garden beds or as I have done right in my garden, and just marked off with wood stakes and twine. 


If doing raised beds, make sure to fill beds with enough good quality soil and compost for nutrients. Between you can have grass, or other mulch. You can even have permanent paths using cement blocks, bricks or stone. 

Before measuring out my plots the garden was tilled, by my husband. There was a layer of straw mulch from last year that was worked into the ground. 

I then measured out 4 foot by 4 foot plots with 3 feet between, and allowing a boarder around the garden itself. I then put a wooden stake in each corner of each plot and used twine to outline each plot. 


Next my husband shoveled on well rotted chicken manure from our laying hens onto each plot. It is supposed to do wonders for your garden. And it was racked into the soil. 

Next I took a wood stake to ruffly draw out the 16 square feet. Now depending on what you are planting, depends how much you plant in each square. Here is what guide I used:

Potatoes – 1

Tomatoes – 1

Beans – 5

Peas – 8

Carrots – 16

Peppers – 1

Beets – 9

Zucchini – 2

Pumpkins – 1

Melons – 1

Cucumbers – 1

Broccoli – 1

Lettuce – 16

Herbs – 16

I drew out my garden space with the plots and walk paths between. I ended up with 24 plots. I figured what I was planting, and decided what I would plant in each plot. Here is my plan (good or bad, time will tell).


Now we had so much rain that my garden was delayed (again) this year getting planted. I am all done except for transplanting the seedlings I started inside. Those will be planted in garden in the next week or so. 

Once all planted, we will be using straw as mulch between the rows again. It worked well last year. 

Once everything is up and established, I will post an update. 

* In first picture, books I got from local library. Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholornew. Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Foot, DK Publishing. 

Happy Spring … Happy Gardening!

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Happy Spring … Happy Gardening!


Well summer is just around the corner, and with that comes the new growing season. But before I get started, I thought I would post a recap from last year. 

With last year being my first year planting a full garden and in a new part of the country … it went fairly well. Had some difficulties, but also learned at least a few things from those mistakes. 

The Spring of 2015 was very late, with 18 feet of snow on the Island it took a LONG time to get it all to melt! Then the ground had to warm up. Needless to say it took a while before we could even prepare our new garden plot. Starting from scratch, removing some bushes, removing sod, tilling it, removing rocks. Whew, I’m tired just thinking about it! Oh and did I mention the black flies apparently love to eat me!! All I can say is, suit up, bug spray, gloves and netting hat saved me. 

I had decided to go with all Heritage/Heirloom seeds. Which I don’t think was a bad idea, just they did not grow as well as I hoped, and some not at all. There was some contributing factors that may have affected things, such as poor soil condition (heavy clay), temperature of soil, weather conditions. There were some winners though, and would grow again. 


Opalka Tomatoes – a sauce or paste tomato. Though the plants looked fragile to start with they grew and produced the best yielding tomatoes. Did not have any problems with any rot or other disease. 

Russian Mamoth Sunflower – they got to around 10 feet tall, full heads, very impressive. Though the sunflower seeds did not quite get to full maturity before the season was done, I think being planted in fuller sun, south exposure would have solved this issue. 

Squash (Zucchini) – grew like crazy, and had a long production period. Generally these type do grow well in most areas. 

Irish Cobbler Potatoes – grew well, nice sized potatoes. Was able to get new/baby potatoes fairly early which was great! A bit of scabbing once they got to full size, but not a big deal if just peeling them. 

Bull’s Blood Beets – one of my best growers. Came in thick and strong. Tops are edible as a green while young to cook or put in salads. My fault was not thinning them out enough. Lesson learned!

I had also tried growing onions from seed, which did not work out. It took a lot of time and once I transplanted into garden they all died. Maybe I will try again, but not any time soon. 

Something we did last year and will be doing again this year is mulching the rows with straw. Really helped keep down the weeds, and will really improve the quality of the soil this year. As our soil is heavy clay it will help lighten it. 

So onto this year, some veggies I will be growing again are Bull’s Blood Beets and Irish Cobbler Potatoes.  Among many new varieties I will be trying this year (more on this will come in a new post).

We will be improving the soil conditions as well by tilling in the straw we used as mulch last year, and chicken manure (from our hens that has composed down). I figure each year the soil should improve in quality. 

I will be trying a few new techniques this year and will try to be better at posting my results as I go along. 

So here’s hoping for a great year of growing!!

Black Currants – My First Harvest of The Summer

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Black Currants – My First Harvest of The Summer

  

I’ve been busy picking black currants from the bushes on my acreage. 

So far I have had four pickings with about 10 cups in the freezer now. The bushes were loaded with currants, but as I have discovered they don’t all ripen at the same time. So I go out and pick every couple of days. Each time getting a little more. I think I will still get one or two more pickings before I’m done. Probably just in time for my raspberries to be ready!

  
I’m not familiar with black currants as they were not really accessible growing up. From the reading I’ve done on them, they seem to be plentiful in the UK. At some point they were banned for sale in Canada as they were thought the carried some type of disease they thought could affect the agriculture industry. I think now they are more available. 
  
Any ways … they are easy to freeze. Just pick, wash them, remove the stems, dry and put in freezer bag and pop into freezer. I plan to make some jam and/or jelly this fall or winter. 
  
If any one has some other ideas what I can do with them, please share!

MY JOURNEY TO THE “DIRT” SIDE!

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Garden Plot

 

It is so true that everything takes longer than you think!  So here is my latest escapade.

We were starting from scratch for our garden area this year. I did some research and figured, “no problem” we can totally do this!  Wow was I delusional!!

I thought the easiest solution to removing the sod was to rent a sod cutter. So we rented one (once the garden area was dry enough)!  Let it be noted that it looked like a garden may have been in this area many years ago, as you could see an outline.  The ground was just left to grow over the years. So it was a mix of grass, weeds and moss. The ground was also uneven, and had two large areas planted with small oak trees.

Before we could remove the sod we had to dig out the trees (3-4 foot tall and about 20 + trees clumped together like a hedge). Even at that size, the roots were insane!  I left that job to my husband. In the end we saved about a dozen trees which we replanted elsewhere. The rest were too twisted.

While my husband dug, I started with the sod cutter.  It seemed to go pretty good other than it really gave me a good upper body workout!  I was a little nervous as I read that they are hard to control, but this seemed to go good.  After a full day, I was done.

The next day we went out to “roll up” the chunks of sod.  Okay, it did not exactly work out so perfect.  Remember I said how the area was uneven and a mix of grass, etc … well those pictures of sod “rolling up”, are of the perfect ground with the perfect sod growing on it, in the perfect soil!  Needless to say, I had none of the above.

So what happened?  We were left with chunky, lumpy bits.  To top it off, we seem to have a fairly high clay content, so they were very heavy too (yeah! ).  I took the edger tool and started cutting every foot and a half so we were left with about 18” x 18” pieces.  After many many many days of prying this stuff out of my future garden we finished.  Now that was a good workout!  You can see in the picture there is still some sod sitting around the edge (will get to removing that … eventually)!

Oh, and did I mention this was all happening at the peak of black fly season!  I remembered my mom talking about them and how one year she ended up having to buy mosquito netting hats for her and Dad.  So my husband and I went into town and bought a few (and a few for the kids too).  What a life saver.  We may have looked like aliens, but the bugs weren’t eating us.

As the last piece of sod was removed we stood back and admired our hard work, thinking holy shit was that hard work!  Who needs a gym, just start gardening!!  Now, all we had to do was till up the soil and plant the garden, no problem, we can be done in a couple of days.  Ha, ha, joke was on us!

So the tilling took a while, as the ground was very compacted and with the high clay content, hard.  My husband did get the whole garden tilled eventually and my two kids and I picked out the rocks.  The kids even had a chart on the blackboard in the kitchen keeping track of how many buckets they picked (mind you they were motivated by money as we were paying them per bucket).  We even found an old leather boot, or at least what was left of it, an old brown glass medicine bottle (not sure how old), and an empty shot gun shell.  Oh an a billion rocks, and a few bolders too!

I initially thought a 20’ x 20’ garden would be lots, it ended up being 25’ x 35’, and still was not big enough.  A few items did not make it in the garden, like my herbs (I did get the dill planted though, need that for my pickles).  I think next year I may reconsider planting in rows, and go for the square foot planting and see how that goes.

After a few weeks and all the work, we finally got the garden planted, a little late, but it got done!

What did I learn, well a few things.  First maybe on the first year plan the garden space, remove sod, and till.  Just get the space ready.  Then on the second year you are ready to go.  Now we had a really late Spring here due to the amount of snow we got, so if you have an early Spring, go for it.  Removing sod is a lot of work, if you can get extra help, get it!  The planting part is the easiest part of all, it is all the prep work that is the killer!

I hope you learned something, or maybe just had a good laugh at my newbie experience!

P.S.  So far I have the tomatoes and onions I transplanted, potatoes, lettuce, beets, multiplier onions, corn and sunflowers up so far.  They are little but mighty!

GARDENING UPDATE – MAY 2nd, 2015

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Front yard May 1 2015

 

Happy May!  Hard to believe if you look out my living room window.  With Prince Edward Island receiving a historic record amount of snow this year, I guess it takes a while for 18 feet of snow to melt (we actually got just over 18 feet, with the last “sprinkle” a few days ago)!!

It’s been a while since I last reported about my gardening plans.  Check out my previous posts from March 21st and February 15th.  I was hoping the snow would have been gone by now, and that I would have a lot more to report.  But alas, it is what it is!  So what have I been up to … well I received all my seeds in the mail, and have started some of my seeds.

I figured with the amount of snow that we received, that I was planning to plant my garden the first weekend in June (6th / 7th).  With the hope that all the snow would be gone and the soil would be warm enough!!  Here is a picture I took yesterday of where my garden will be!

 

Garden space May 1 2015

 

I started with my onions, by planting them on April 3rd.  Onions started by seed are to be started about 10 weeks before you plan on planting your garden (I planted mine 9 weeks in advance).  The variety that I chose was Yellow of Parma onions.  I have never started onions by seed, but did a lot of reading about it.  I figured either they would work out or not, so gave it a go!  I decided to use some containers from my recycling, and found some salad/greens containers.  They were a good size and had the plastic dome already!  I started by washing out the containers good to make sure there was no bacteria in there.  I took some organic seed starter mix and added warm water and mixed.  You want it to be moist, but not a sloppy mess!  I filled two containers about 2/3 full.  Then sprinkled the onion seed on top spreading it out as evenly as I could.  I then sprinkled on about ¼ inch of dry soil on top of the seeds.  I gave it a good spraying of warm water with a spray bottle, and put on the lid.  I kept in a warm area, and gave it a mist of water every couple of days.  At this point they did not actually need sunlight yet.

 

Onions 17 days

Onions 17 days 2

 

Within 7-10 days most of the seeds started to sprout.  I was pretty happy with the germination of the seeds.  I planted approximately 60 seeds in each tray, and about 55 germinated.  I took off the plastic dome off at this point, and placed in front of a window.  I also drilled a half a dozen holes in the bottom at this point, and took the plastic covers and put underneath them as a drainage tray.  I found as long as I gave it a good spraying every day or two that I really didn’t have to water it too heavily.  The seedling are pretty tender at this point and did not want to drown them!  I found they grew pretty quickly, and I kept them trimmed to about 1-2”.  You want them to put their energy into growing the bulb under the soil, not into growing tops.  At this point, four weeks in, they are growing their first sprout off the main stem.  Once they have two sprouts off the main stem, they will be ready to transplant.  At that point I will take them from their trays, and plant into individual pods.  I will post an update when I do this.

 

Onions 4 weeks

 

I then started my tomatoes on April 10th.  The varieties I chose were Brandywine tomatoes and Opalka tomatoes.  I also got some free Mary Unger tomato seeds in my order so started those as well.  I was not sure how many to start, so decided to do a dozen of both the Opalka and Mary Unger, and 18 of the Brandy Wine.  I started the soil as I described above, and filled 3” pots and some small yogurt containers.  I put three seeds in each pot, and covered with ¼” soil.  This time I did not have a plastic dome big enough, so I covered each with a sheet of wax paper as recommended by my mom.  It worked really good as it keeps in the moisture but can breathe enough as well so you don’t have to worry about any mildew forming.

 

Tomatoes 10 days 2

 

Tomatoes 10 days

 

Within the first week they had all sprouted and I took off the wax paper.  I watered daily or every second day as needed.  Again the seedlings are super tender at this point.  Once they reached about 1.5 inches in height, it was time to snip off some of the plants.  Instead of having three fighting for all the nutrients, you keep the strongest and snip the other two off.  This way the roots do not get disturbed!  It was hard as I wanted to save them all, but I did cut them off in the end.  They are now almost 3” tall, and I will need to transplant them into a 4” pot.  You know they are to be transplanted when they get their second set of “true” leaves.  The first two leaves you get are just from the germination process from the seed.  The next set of leaves are the “true” leaves.

 

Tomatoes 3 weeks 3

 

Tomatoes 3 weeks

 

Tomatoes 3 weeks 2

 

Tomatoes can be transplanted two times before they actually get planted in the garden.  The next size container would be a gallon size container.  I hope to have enough 4L milk jugs to use for mine!

This weekend, I will also be starting my cucumbers, zucchini, melons (musk/cantaloupe and watermelon), and pumpkins.  All of these are to be started 3-4 weeks before your garden planting date.

I’m looking forward to continuing to grow my little seedlings, and eventually being able to plant them in my garden!  As things progress, I will post more updates, and hope to do a full post of each category of vegetable I am growing from start to end.  That will be in the fall, and over next winter.

MY GARDEN SEEDS HAVE BEEN ORDERED – AND HERE ARE THE WINNERS!

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Brandywine Tomato Veseys

Brandywine Tomato (Photo by Veseys)

 

Despite winter hanging on here in Prince Edward Island, I am moving onto Spring!  On Sunday, I sat down at my computer and started my order of garden seeds.  It was a bit of a process, but I am glad to say that I finally decided what I am growing this year, and the order has been placed.

If you remember from my last blog on gardening, Gardening – Starting to Contemplate Spring, I was talking about how I was trying to decide what to grow.  Well after much reading I decided to go with all Heirloom seeds for my garden.  I am really happy with my decision as my choices should make for an interesting garden this year.

 

Touchon Carrot Veseys

Touchon Carrot (Photo by Veseys)

 

If you do not know too much about Heirloom seed growing, well here is a bit of information I found.  Depending on the school of thought, they are seeds that have been in use since 1945 or earlier (other say anything before the 1970’s, as that is when Hybrid seeds started in production).   Heirloom (or sometimes called Heritage) seeds are cultivators that have been saved and passed down for generations.  Some seeds go back as far as the 1700’s!  These seeds are also seeds that are longer used in mainstream agriculture.  The result is beautiful, hardy vegetables and fruits that have an amazing and true flavor!

Perhaps I am getting a little too ambitious, but here is the list of what I am growing this year:

 

Five Color Silverbeet HHS

Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard (Photo by Heritage Harvest Seed)

 

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce

Drunken Woman Lettuce

Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard

Dwarf Curled Scotch Kale

Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach

Brandywine Organic Tomatoes

Opalka Tomatoes

Irish Cobbler Potatoes

Bull’s Blood Beets

Touchon Carrots

Yellow of Parma Onion

Kentucky Wonder Bush Green Bean

Jacob’s Cattle Baking Beans

Little Marvel Peas

Golden Bantam Corn

Improved Long Green Cucumber

Boston Pickling Cucumbers

Costata Romanesco Squash (Zucchini)

Styrian Hulless Squash (Pumpkin)

Small Sugar Pumpkin

Minnesota Midget Muskmelon

Moon & Stars Watermelon

Sunflower ‘Russian Mammoth’

 

Styrian Hulless Squash HHS

Styrian Hulless Squash Pumpkin (Photo by Heritage Harvest Seed)

 

I got my seeds from both Veseys and Heritage Harvest Seed.  There were a few other varieties I wanted to try, but unfortunately some were already sold out for this year.  With these types of seeds, there are only so many available, so selection can sometimes be limited (order early).  I was surprised that there are actually many Seed companies that specialize in Heirloom seeds or carry a good selection of them in Canada.

Another great benefit of growing Heirloom vegetables and fruits is that they can be saved and grown year after year!  This is how they are around still today, by being preserved and passed down through the years.  I will write another post about how to do this closer to fall, as I myself have not tried this before, I need to do some research on how this process works.  This is also a great thing for those trying Self-sufficient living!

 

Moon and Stars Watermelon HHS

Moon and Starts Watermelon (Photo by Heritage Harvest Seed)

 

I am sure that I will add a variety or two each year, and my garden will just get bigger and bigger!  But, that is part of the reason why I moved to the country, is so that I can have any size garden I want!

Once my seeds arrive, I will next have to get some of the plants started to be ready to transplant into the garden in May!  I will continue to post on my gardening escapades, and the end result, a wonderful harvest in the fall!

 

Russian Mammoth Sunflower HHS

Russian Mammoth Sunflowers (Photo by Heritage Harvest Seed)

GARDENING – STARTING TO CONTEMPLATE SPRING!

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Garden Carrots Pic

 

I would say that I would fall somewhere between a Beginner and an Intermediate when it comes to gardening.  Growing up, I always remember Mom and Dad having a garden of some kind.  Though sometimes the garden was not very big, it was always a treat to get garden fresh veggies!  I wish my children could appreciate this, and maybe they will with the garden we are planting this year!

I always helped to plant the garden, weed the garden, weed the garden, weed the garden (was never ending), and harvesting.  So I have some basics, but definitely need to build on my knowledge and experience.

This year we are planting a garden of our own.  I tried once before when I first got married, but it was not well planned out, poor soil conditions and too much shade!  Okay, so I have learnt that I need a spot that has more sunlight, and to make sure that the soil in rich in nutrients.  See I guess I do learn from my mistakes!

 

Garden Lettuce Pic

 

Our acreage is on a sloping hill, so I am trying to plan a good spot that will be somewhat level, and will get enough sun light.  You see, I have a forest (literally) surrounding my home!  I hate to cut down trees, but may be forced to clear some for the greater good.  No worries, the wood will not be wasted (fire wood, building materials, carving, etc).  I am thinking my front yard may be the best option, though a Northern exposure, it is the sunniest spot in my yard (which is like 2 acres).  I have been advised by my parents to watch the area to make sure it gets at least 8 hours of sun light.  So as the snow goes away (which can be any time now!), I will start watching the area I’m contemplating to make sure there will be enough hours of sunlight.

I am thinking a type of tiered garden, with raised garden beds, so that it does not get washed down the hill side with the rain.  I will use the fallen trees in my forest to use as the sides of my raised garden, and stack them as if building a log cabin.  What I need to do still is decide how big I should make the tiers, the spacing between them, and ultimately how much room I will need to plant everything on my list.

 

Garden Radish Pic

 

So on this snowy February day, I pull out the seed catalogues that I have ordered, get out my gardening books, and I even search out a few topics on Pinterest!  With paper and pencil in hand, I started my list with what I want to grow.  I started with the regular potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, etc. then added a few special things I would like to try, and some herbs.  Then I ask my son what he wants (he is the fruit and veggie kid in our home), he lists what he would like (watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, etc), so I add them to the list.  Then I ask my daughter, she states she would like donuts and cupcakes (she is the candy kid in our home), I did not add this to my list.  I could ask my husband, but pretty sure he will just say whatever I want, or that he doesn’t know!

As my list grows, I think back to when I was a kid, and how I would watch my mom pouring over the seed catalogues, going through them over and over, making lists, and then finally putting in her final order.  I thought she was bonkers, guess that is what I am now!  Funny how life changes your perspective on things!

 

Garden Leeks Pic

 

So I have the basic list of what I want; now I need to decide on the varieties to grow.  This I find the hardest, there are so many different kinds, which one is the best?  I am anti GMO for sure, as I just feel there are certain things that you just do not mess with, and nature is one of them!  Hybrid seeds, not 100% sure on those.  So I am leaning towards the Heirloom or Organic varieties.  Hoping this will narrow my list.  And also if I go with the Heirloom seeds, I can harvest some of the seeds to grow year after year.  You cannot do this with Hybrid seeds.

 

Seed catalogues

 

While I sit here sipping on my herbal tea, looking out the window to see a winter wonderland, I will continue to work on my list, and check it twice!  Stay tuned to see what I decide to grow this year, and how my plans for my garden develop.

Vintage vegetable images from The Graphics Fairy.