Sunday, May 28, 2017

Developing the Fruit Beds

In preparation for when the sod was to arrive last Tuesday, we cleaned up the yard & I was able to move in some soil & start developing one of my fruit beds.

We had picked up a Dolgo crab apple at a Seedy Saturday event this spring & this is where I planted it.

When we moved in last year & started working on the yard, there was a shrub up beside the house that I dug up & put in the front yard. I discovered it was a red gooseberry! So I have now replanted it in this bed & gave it a bit of a prune so it would fit the space. It already has fruit & looks like it will produce a good crop this year.

The rest of the bed has iris & other plants I rescued from the previous gardens. I have also picked up a rhubarb plant that will go in towards the back of the bed. It might be a couple years before I'm harvesting much off it but I'm looking forward to adding it to our spring feasts.

Eventually we will fix that back fence panel & I want to install a compost pile where the large pot is. Raspberries are in the future planning as well.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

New Garden Structure

We have wonderful full southern exposure in our back yard. As sun lovers, especially during the winter months, we really enjoy this aspect of our property.

Now, in the summer, it can get rather hot - too hot with the concrete patio - so the hubby designed & built a structure that will provide shade as the sun moves across the sky.

We may put up some extra shade material on the top during the high heat summer days and we have a lovely clematis (Vancouver Sea Breeze) to plant at the post by the bbq.

I'm going to stick some bamboo stakes by the other post & grow Scarlet runner beans or maybe sweet peas up. There are some stock & dianthus plants, as well as some scented geraniums & I even found some strawberries growing in a corner of the yard.

We are looking forward to watching the birds & insects come to the colourful & fragrant flowers just as we are looking forward to enjoying quiet moments out in the back.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bring on the GREEN

On Tuesday the sod arrived.

Our dry & dusty backyard is now GREEN! And it feels so much more like a garden retreat or paradise!

We now have to water it diligently (which includes watering all my veggie & flower beds too) so that the grass will take & grow.

There are a few cracks that we will fill & rake & I'm going to give the whole lawn a good blast of EM (effective micro-organisms - more on that later) to encourage the soil ecosystem to flourish.

Amazing how the feel of grass on your bare feet is so calming & grounding. One of the first things I do when I come home from work is to take off my shoes & socks & wander around the yard looking at the plants & watching the insects.

We may have started the spring off very cool & gray, but these warm sunny days are helping the plants make up for lost time!

Time to head out for a bit of therapy. Come on over!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

And then a Little Seeding

Back on the 18th - only a week ago - I picked up some fresh seeds & dug through my collection of herb & veggie seeds to see what I could direct seed & if I could follow 'the plan' that I have on paper.

I've intercropped my radish with the leeks & onions & thrown down some carrots in a small patch. The beets are behind the lettuce & I've intercropped the lettuce starts with some mixed zesty greens.

Along the front I have 2 large areas of arugula & zesty greens - how I miss fresh greens from the garden right now! & I'm trying some new things: pac choi & yu choi sum (which is like a sprouting broccoli) - greens that you can steam or stir fry or each fresh in salads.

I'm also trying summer celery - not looking to grow your grocery store bundle of celery stalks, but tender stalks with savory leaves.

I also seeded lots of herbs: basil, parsley, chervil, thyme, winter savory, sage, oregano & more summer savory as well as some spinach as I know I'm going to be munching on that pretty quick. The sugar peas & shelling peas are seeded along the back lattice & I just picked up some bamboo stakes so I can weave a growing trellis as I don't think they'll grow up the lattice initially.

I still have room for tomatoes, peppers & maybe a cucumber (I did pick up pickling cucumber seeds & should get those started right away). These I will pick up towards the end of next week once the weather is more reliably warm in the evenings.

BTW: the seeds have sprouted!! At least the radish, arugula, lettuce, pac choi & yu choi sum have. The herbs might take a bit longer or they might just be too old. I have a lot of older seeds from my previous garden & we shall see what happens this year with my broadcast seeding.

Sun is shining - need to get out there & build that pea trellis!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Finally a Little Planting

 Back on the 15th I picked up a couple flats of veggie starts & finally planted something in the raised veggie bed.


I've got red onions & leeks up in the back left along with lettuce starts to the right & spinach! I've never grown spinach & the flavour & crunch of fresh spinach from the garden... why have I never done this before??

I also planted a mix of kale & Swiss chard & something called Packman broccoli. I'm not too set on growing actual broccoli heads as I do enjoy eating the stalks steamed.

Then I plunked in some smelly marigolds & some chives & summer savory & cilantro.

Plenty more room for seeding & picking up my warm weather starts later in the month!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Kale Blossom Apple Cider Vinegar

 The kale survived the winter & we've been snacking on the sweet tasty leaves for a few months now.

The warmer weather means that the kale is going to go to flower, produce seeds & if I am able to collect those seeds, I'll have some to plant next spring. If I don't collect the seeds & they fall down & start to sprout, than I will have some transplants to move into the veggie bed for overwintering!


Wait - there's another win too!!

The blossoms are edible & one of the best ways (other than eating them in salads) to preserve this goodness is to infuse them in apple cider vinegar for use later on in the summer & winter. Great for making tart & tangy salad dressings or a splash in meat dishes or on eggs or whatever your kitchen witch needs!

I harvested some blossom stalks rather early in the day - just after they dried from the morning dew.

Popped stalks & blooms into a tall mason jar & poured in the apple cider vinegar.

Give the jar a few swirls to remove air bubbles & let infuse on the counter over night. I loosely covered the jar & that kept out any insects or curious cat tongues.

Simply pour the liquid through a mesh strainer to catch any bits & I store mine in beer bottles with snap tops (Grolsch bottles work out very well).

I don't store mine in the fridge - things get lost in there, so it lives on the counter beside my herbal salts, herbal oils & other vinegars so that I remember to use it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Stomping through the Flowers

~ basket of gold alyssum ~
 Now that the weather is starting to warm up, the flowers are starting to catch up to where they should be in blooms.
~ forget-me-not ~

Some of my favourite delicate blooms are Basket of Gold and forget-me-nots. They bloom in profusion & confusion & attract a great many pollinating insects & other creepy crawly critters. And they spread themselves quite easily without my assistance - a necessity in my gardens!

But that also means there are a couple of curious creatures that will stomp & jump & dash & hide & dig into them in search of these wonderful creepy crawly critters!

But honestly, how could you not enjoy watching another creature enjoy the garden space as well?? I'm not growing award winning plants & prefer the wildness that allows them to feel a bit wild when they are out with me.

Maybe they are finding the bad bugs & eating them for me? Well, the cat would...

Maybe they are spreading seeds around or inadvertently dead-heading some spent blooms...

Maybe - just maybe - I'm a bit jealous that they can play like that in the plants & forget that they are domesticated...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Violet Harvest

~ Viola cornuta ~
 This spring has been very generous to some plants. Violets (I call these Johnny Jump Ups) are very prolific right now and have been for a month already.

They grow wild in my yard & I'm constantly digging up wee plants & moving them to where there are holes in my flower beds. They transplant very easily & you can eat the flowers!

I tried a violet syrup (made with honey) but found it much too sweet & just not what I was looking for. The blooms can be used in desserts, on cakes & cookies or scones & my choice of use is for tea.

~ fresh picked blooms ~
 So I head outside every week to gather fresh bright blooms & lay them out to dry. It doesn't take long for them to dry in my pantry closet nor does it take long for the plants to put out new flowers!

~ dried blooms for tea ~
I'm going to dry as many as I can right now so that I can blend different blossoms into a tea for the dreary winter months, but I also want to try a fresh blossom tea & once I find the recipe for that, will do so & let you know what it is like. I've not tried to make my own herbal or floral teas but am discovering all the ingredients for them in my back yard. This might the summer of teas & infusions!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Planting Potatoes

 Earlier this month I finally planted my potatoes!

They don't look like much & it is not a very big area as I don't eat a whole lot of them. I actually don't have potatoes in my garden plan, but when I found a few that had sprouted, I thought I would try a new technique this year.

I scraped out a small trench in the dirt in an area that receives a fair amount of sunlight (despite the shadows in the photo).

Then I just dumped on some wood shavings! This particular type is something I picked up from the local farm feed supply store that I usually use in my compost - Stallion Shavings. It's made out of soft woods like pine - not cedar, which would not be something I would try to grow in unless it were extremely composted.

In order to keep the shavings from blowing around, I put on a layer of fish compost & whenever I water the garden I made sure to water the potato patch as well.

We shall see if the potatoes decide to grow or if I have just created a new compost pile this year.

Fingers crossed - gardening is always about trying something new!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Green Gage Plum in Bloom

 Last year we harvested only 2 or 3 plums off our wee tree & there is still so much I need to learn about fruit trees!

For instance, there are ants inside my blooms - are they pollinating my tree or stealing nectar that would otherwise attract the bees?

I've also notice there are no blooms on a few branches that are growing vertical so I need to figure out if plums grow like apples or should I wait a few more years to see if those branches will also produce fruit... Again, everything in the gardens has been neglected for so long that our initial care & attention has probably set back fruit production in lieu of structural growth...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Garden Produces Amidst it All

 Over the last few days of wonderful Spring weather & working outside on our projects, I noticed that the kale plants were starting to put up some flower shoots! I managed to harvest another 2 large bags of leaves off the plants & will let them go to flower so the insects can enjoy the blooms. I can also add those flowers to my salads or dressings.

And while out cleaning up things, I stumbled across an amazing find - lemon balm! I have 3 wee plants that I'm going to properly plant in my new herb garden and am looking forward to bringing this into the kitchen as well, maybe as a tea or addition to salad dressings. I rather love finding free herbs already growing in my space!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rhododendron Season - 'Viscy'

 I found a replacement to a rhodo I had to leave behind in my old garden - it's not exactly the same, but still stunning & brings a warm feeling with the delicate colour.

This is 'Viscy' - a larger shrub than my dwarfs out in the front. I planted it in the back corner where we just installed our lattice panels and in a few years, it will grow to fill the space & bring a splash of colour.

I do enjoy the evergreen rhodos and am trying to steer away from the harsh reds or the generic purples & pinks. The older rhodos in our gardens are just that and we'll see how they perform over the next few years after being pruned & cleaned up last spring. We had a strange Autumn and half of them bloomed again, so I don't think we'll get much of a bloom this spring from them. I'm glad of this new addition.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Rhododendron Season - 'Blue Baron'

 I purchased a few 'unusual' rhodos a few years ago & brought 2 of them with me to the new gardens.

This one is another dwarf variety: 'Blue Baron' and is looking very happy in its new home.

I love the wee flowers & how you are drawn in to really take a look at them after they call to you from across the lawn.

It's nice to have a long season of rhodo blooms to satisfy the visual senses til the annuals start their parade!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Back Yard Project(s) - Part 3

Ok - am doing 2 posts in one day just because we accomplished so much today & I can't wait to share it with you!!

First thing this morning we got out to finalize the cementing in of the posts to the newly installed lattice panels.

A quick check on the back side of the fence shows that we do have a wee short chain-link fence in-between the neighbour's fence. There is 'just barely' enough room for us to squeeze behind to do maintenance or to push vines through or maybe to harvest food if it decides to grow on that side...

A look down the front side just to make sure it is all level. A good long length of south aspect garden space.

Now we move forward to about 10:00 a.m. & the arrival of our dump truck of soil!!!

Yup - a full 15 yards of soil for us to move around. I rather like this idea of bringing in a vast amount of soil in one big pile versus a bunch of bags full of soil. No bags to get rid of!

(I don't have a photo as to what is left at the end of the day - we'll see what I can get up to tomorrow!)

After a solid hour of duelling wheelbarrows, we now have a filled raised bed all set for growing vegetables & herbs this year!!

Wahoo!! This bed has been waiting for us to fill it since the end of January, but the weather just has not cooperated with us until now.

I estimate there is about 5 yards of soil in the bed plus 200 pounds of finished horse manure compost. I hope to have a few rains to settle the soil a bit before I plant for the season.

It might be a week or 2 before I put in transplants but I'm really itching to stick in a few seeds.

 I still would like to get some sand to put in around the stones in the walk-way to aid in stabilizing the stones. As you can see, when we finished this part of the project, there is plenty of sun in the raised bed - it was not yet 11:30 a.m.

I'm curious to see what amount of shade the lattice panels will provide in the summer, if any.

The next stage of today's project was to bring in soil to level out the back yard prior to the sod arriving.

This was a longer process than the veggie bed & there were some serious dips that needed a lot of soil.

The end result looks like something I just want to throw seeds out onto & grow flowers!!

The smell of fresh dirt & sunshine is such a great reward at the end of the day.

We are hoping to install a stone edging around all the flower beds, but that might not happen this year. Either way, I will be bringing in some more compost to top dress all the flower bed at some point in the next month or two after the sod is laid.

Things are really starting to look better out in the back yard for us & we are not yet done... We enjoy spending time out here & can't wait to start growing more of our own food.

Back Yard Project(s) - Part 2

The weather is finally cooperating with us & allowed for the installation of the lattice panels & posts along the back fence line.

This is a great privacy barrier, wind barrier, partial sun shade & vertical growing tool.

I have 1 & 1/2 panels to use directly in my raised bed, but will be making use of all the panels along the back for perennial vines & seasonal vegetables or flowers.

This time of year is difficult to be working in the existing flower beds - digging holes for the fence posts means bringing up soil that has a lot of clay in it, which then gets dumped on the plants that are growing. A lot has been trampled & buried but there is a lot of other plants that I can transplant into these areas or just throw down some annual seeds to fill in the empty spots.

You can see Spook - our constant companion out in the gardens. Curious as ever & not afraid to get in the way for attention.

At least the fence is low enough to still allow us to have conversations with our backyard neighbours on occasion.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Medicinal Herbal Syrup

~ start of Violet Honey Syrup ~
 I attended a wonderful day course just up the island in Cumberland at Black Bear Herbs where I was introduced to some hands-on learning on teas, decoctions, tinctures, poultices, salves & syrups.


I'm experiencing a bit of Gardener's Anxiety (thank you TJ for that definition!), so this was exactly what I needed.

Remember all those lovely little violets I have growing in my yard? Well, one thing I gleaned from everything we talked about was that violets can be used medicinally in teas & in a honey syrup.

~ darling violet faces ~
So I gathered up as many as I could find first thing in the morning & let them steep in boiled water over night. The colour was this lovely green...

The following day I removed the spent flowers & warmed the liquid up again so that I could add the honey. I found another cluster of blooms in the backyard & tossed them into the bottle & the mix went a fantastic shade of purple!

~ completed violet honey syrup ~
I've now placed the cooled syrup in the fridge & am looking forward to a nice glass of sparkling water with violet syrup at the end of a busy day in the gardens.

I will gather the next harvest of blooms to dry & use in teas this summer.

Next month I am headed back to Cumberland to partake in another day course about growing a Medicinal Herb Garden - which is perfect timing as I am redesigning & replanting my entire growing space.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Back Yard Project(s)

Due to the unhealthy state of our back yard (years of chemical treatments, poor drainage, moss, renovation debris & slope), we decided to strip the lawn & top layer of soil off & start fresh.

What a mess! But in a good, positive way...

Day One was focussed mainly on cutting the sod down to the proper depth. The sod cutter was a tricky machine to use, but sure made the job go by quickly! Could not imagine trying to dig up the lawn with a pick & shovel!

Yesterday the last 2 loads of lawn was hauled away & now we can see some of the bones of the landscape.

There is a big dip in the yard towards the back corner right where the plum tree is planted. We'll be bringing in a load of fresh top soil & making everything level before bringing in some sod.

To plant grass seed vs sod... pro's & con's on both sides, but for ease of having a quick lawn & for the pets, we chose to go with sod.

Shows what the current flower bed outline is & has me thinking that maybe I should widen them a bit more while I have the chance...

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Rain Drops on... Tulips!

A morning stroll through the gardens with the cat & a cup of coffee are such a great way to start the day. Thankfully, it seems we are finally getting some warmer weather & are being rewarded with plants that are eager to show off & get growing!

It is tulip season right now & I have a plethora of red. A stunning colour in the gardens but very difficult to capture with a camera, especially in the sun light.

Our potted maples are also starting to finally leaf out & have wee blossoms hidden under the leaves. Hopefully I'll be able to capture a few as the days go by. I do know our Big Leaf Maples are now blooming & am looking for a nearby tree where I can harvest a few bunches to add to a salad or an egg scramble...

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Magnolia Blooms

 This wet & chilly spring weather has not given us much of a bountiful Spring bloom. Everything is delayed - some by weeks & some by a full month.

Mother Nature knows best.

Mother Nature is also messy...

My Star Magnolia in the back yard outside the kitchen window is a bit of a disaster. Well, this whole space is a bit of a disaster - which will soon be fixed up.

There were rotten cedar stumps along the fence line from a previous cedar hedge. The hedge was cut down years ago, but we just removed the stumps last week. Thankfully, they were rotten & came out easily. It revealed that there is a layer of soil on top of black plastic... I have some work ahead of me if I want to rejuvenate that 2 or 3 feet of space all along the fence line...

This Magnolia is in the front yard along a flower bed that we worked on last spring. We actually removed about 3 over-grown rhododendrons & pruned the Magnolia hard. The wee azaleas have yet to bloom & there is very little soil in which to plant this things just yet.

We will be working on this once the back yard is more under control - I have pots of bulbs & transplants from the back yard that I want to move into this bare & neglected space. It will first need to have some serious digging done - move the azaleas into more appropriate positions & hopefully dig up what we can of some horrid orange plastic that someone thought to lay down when originally planting things. What a disaster...

BUT, it will look so much better with a load of top soil & plants in a few months.

Once the weather warms up & dries up...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jungle in the Sunshine

 Sort of feels like spring out here this morning! The sun is shining & it is actually warm!

We are preparing for an overhaul of the backyard & I thought I'd take a 'before' picture before things start to change...

As you can see, the raised bed is waiting for soil & we have lots of lumber for our privacy & vertical growing projects. We've not bothered to mow the grass yet this year so things are looking more lush & healthy than they really are.

This afternoon when I come home from class (more on that later), we'll be taking the potted maples & stones off the yard in preparation for stripping the sod off the back yard tomorrow.

It's rather sad to have to scrape off the top layer out there, but the soil is very compacted, full of moss & paint chips & nails & goodness knows what else from last year's reno projects & years of previous abuse. It will be leveled (a really good low spot is right where the plum tree is planted) & a fresh layer of top soil will be spread out. Will be a good move to start creating a more healthy space for plants & for the pets who roll around in the grass & sand.

Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate with us & give us a few days grace from the rains...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!
Just in time for a wonderful long weekend with some sunshine (I hope) are my pots of late-last-minute planted bulbs. I will be planting these in the fall into a bed that is lacking in so many aspects, so it is nice to see that they have survived a few seasons of neglect & are enjoying some spring sunshine at last.
Have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Creepy Crawlies

~ Western conifer seed bug ~
Finding insects in the house is not always a wonderful experience. But I try to identify as many of them as I can before they get squished or chomped on. I like to know what sort of 'good guy vs bad guy' population I have going for me in the gardens.

This particular insect had me going for a day or two and after some digging on-line, we figured out that it is a Western Conifer Seed bug - not a true stink bug, but there is that stinky back-side explosion potential waiting for an unsuspecting chomp from the cat or squish from the squeamish.
I look at this particular bug as a traveller through my garden (here's more info) and will keep my eye out during the season to see if there are more as we do have some large Douglas fir trees in the neighbourhood.

The legs and colouring on this insect are rather interesting - I might have to invest in a magnifying glass AND a proper insect ID book. I always want to know before hand if the cat is going to chomp on something that might injure her... or at least give her a shot of something nasty.