Garden is planted!

The last couple of weeks have been a little mad around here. Between work, the garden, the kitchen and all of the usual events that pop up, neither of us have had much time to do anything. Luckily, today we took some photos (finally) to share of the progress in the garden.

Taking advantage of the Victoria Day weekend and having a pickup truck, we moved a lot of soil, plants and wood. Last year we had three raised beds on the vegetable side but left space for two more 4×8′ beds. After visits to three Home Depots for 1x8x8’s (for some reason, Home Depot doesn’t like to carry common cedar planks, and the ones they do carry are so warped, you could wrap them around a corner) we built and installed the new boxes. We moved about 1 1/2 cubic yards of triple mix but fell short of filling both. We did however fill the cedar boxes I made a few weeks ago for our bean wall. Originally, on our patio, we had bamboo blinds hanging that were left behind by the old owners. We never used them, and we aren’t really worried about hiding from our neighbours so we pitched them. To get the most out of our garden, I built the boxes and strung glow in the dark rope for the beans to climb in a diamond pattern. If the cat will stop relieving herself in the one end of the box, we should get quite a crop of beans and a nice living wall.

This photo brought to you by Costco.

After planting the jalapeños and hot banana peppers in a raised bed, we planted the red hot chilli and scotch bonnet in hanging hot pepper planters. Special thanks to the person at my work who decided to throw away hundreds of dollars worth of cedar planks in the skip round back. This salvaged timber has helped build a lot of things around the garden this year, including the brackets for the pepper planters.

The idea behind the hanging pepper planters is that it receives more heat as there is more surface area which enables the plants to produce more peppers, faster. Downside to these planters is that they dry out easily and with the heat we have already had this year, it’s been hard to keep up. Each planter has seven holes around the sides which you plant 7-14 started plants in. Doubling up plants in the holes is supposed to help them root better, but we’ll have to see how that works out. Within the next 6 weeks I’ll start the first batch of hot sauce. If it’s any good, there will be plenty to share with those who don’t mind it being as hot on the way in, as on the way out.

Five bags of heat!

 

On a sad note, our artichokes didn’t make it through the winter. We were really looking forward to them fruiting for the first time this year, but they just couldn’t hack it. Forgetting that miserable thought, our raspberries are going bananas. I don’t mean long and yellow either. We had to weave them to keep the plants off the ground, and if the birds permit it, we should have a nice bounty of them as well. Our neighbours we back onto gave us a rhubarb to transplant. At first it didn’t look good for our latest addition, but over the last couple of weeks the plant has perked up and started some new stalks and leaves.

Raspberries or triffids?

There isn’t a whole lot to see on the vegetable side of the garden as most are still little tiny plants without any fruit. The other half of the garden is devoted to all things flowery and pretty. This is the side to see. First off is the shade garden. We added some hostas, lilies of the valley, bleeding hearts and periwinkle.  The ferns even came back from last year that we thought we had lost to the bastard squirrels.

Shady business

We were lucky to get some nice planters this year from family and friends. My mother gave us an old galvanized wash basin, and a good friend of our gave us two of her concrete creations. She is a furniture designer/maker and uses concrete in some of her pieces. These two were meant to be bedside tables with drawers but didn’t make the cut. (For more on her work, visit http://www.jeanwilloughby.com).

Planters galore!

So with most of the plants in, there was just one piece of business to take care of; the cat who keeps emptying her bowels and playing in the plants. Pretty simple really, we rung her neck, waited for rigor mortis to set in and we now leave her out the back door to brush the mud off our shoes.

Your boots will never be cleaner!

Once we have more growing and worth looking at, we’ll post more pictures. There is still a lot to be done in the next few weeks, but once things get going, it will be time to sit back and eat the proceeds of our hardwork.

P.S. I was joking about the cat, but if do have a dead cat lying around, you should read 101 Uses for a Dead Cat by Simon Bond.

Complete Fruit & Vegetable List for 2012

This is the final list of what we will be planting this year.

Celery
Lettuce (various)
Artichokes
Tomatoes (cherry and roma)
Cucumbers (for pickles)
Cantaloupe Melons
Raspberries
Apples
Pears
Rhubarb
Radish
Garlic
Carrots
Snow Peas
Hot Peppers (cayenne, banana, jalapeños)
Potatoes
Beans
Hops
Mint
Parsley
Chives
Basil
Tarragon
Rosemary
Sage
Bay
Camomile (for tea)

Garden Plan

Last year was our first summer at this house and one of our goals was to get the gardens in order. The previous owners had put up a terraced garden with retaining wall in the back that was divided by stairs leading up to it. So far, it sounds nice, until you look at what they planted. There were various small trees (sumac, pine, and some unidentifiables), patches of random flowers, and a shed load of weeds. It looked as though someone had started and got distracted for a few years. Our first spring, with the help of my mother-in-law, we weeded everything. As the soil was very poor and full of clay, we brought in a few truck loads of triple mix to spread. The trees were cut down and uprooted (the pine was used as our Christmas tree) and we built raised beds so we could add even more soil. After our first year, we had the gardens under control and had quite a good harvest of various fruit and veg for preserving and eating fresh.

Now in year two, we wanted to really plan everything out to maximize our limited space. We sat down earlier in the week to decide what we were growing and where all of these plants were actually going to grow. The below drawing is the slightly out of proportion plan for this year.

Click for the REALLY big view.

We divided the back terrace into three gardens; the left for fruit and veg, the centre and right for flowers. When you sit on the patio you can see the flower garden in all its glory, while the frames and boxes of the veg are hidden out of sight. The flower gardens are half unplanned and we didn’t bother drawing in what is going where in that area.

If you look at the veg garden, you’ll see the five 4×8′ raised beds. This is where the majority of everything is grown. Outside of the boxes we have our raspberries from last year (already growing very well) and hopefully another rhubarb plant. Our neighbour gave us one last year, but the squirrels didn’t read the gift tag on it and assumed it was for them so the ripped it to bits and ate what was left. Also from last year are the three artichoke plants. They’ve been cut back for the winter and covered with tarp and straw, which has hopefully kept them alive until now.

All the lovely veg!

One of the most useful vegetables we grew last year was hot peppers. They were great fresh, preserved in vinegar, and in hot pepper jelly. In one of our beds we are putting in banana and jalapeño peppers for the aforementioned uses, but we also wanted cayenne peppers for hot sauce, so we needed to find more space. We tried to claim land rights to some of the neighbour’s back garden but after a lengthy court case, we were evicted and stuck with what we started with. Luckily, my mom was at a dollar store where they were selling upside down hanging hot pepper planters. Five of these hanging off the fence should produce enough peppers to make a good batch of hot sauce this year. Burning bums coming soon.

The chickens flanked by peppers and hops.

From the drawing it’s hard to tell, but our garage is two stories. With such height not being used, I ordered in some hops from BC to grow up the side of the building. Hops grow vertical, up to 30′, on lines strung straight up. To maximize how much we can grow, we are planning to do a criss-cross pattern to give us even longer vines, and, in return, more hops for beer making. A few years ago we were in England and my aunt was driving us past the hops farms. She was telling us about the plants and the Polish migrants that pick them. As neither of us had seen hops before, we asked “What do they look like?” to which my aunt replied, “Just like you and me, only Polish.”

All over the garden we have different planters and pots to hold long-term veg and invasive plants. A friend of ours is a furniture designer who creates her pieces with cast concrete. She had a few bad casts of a bedside cabinet that she was throwing out, so I saved them from becoming landfill to become filled with land. Once laid on their backs, the cabinets were perfect planters for mint, which is notorious for taking over gardens. I’d like to see it get out of concrete. Not really, I’d rather it stayed where it was meant to, in the planter, and in my tea. Another waste of space in the garden beds are potatoes. They take ages to grow, aren’t the prettiest, and require mounding soil over them every few weeks. To save using up space, we plant spuds in green tarp bags. The bags are cheap (dollar store), reusable, flexible, and you can simulate mounding by just topping up the bag with more soil. More on the potatoes as they grow.

Another big space taker is beans. We were originally thinking of growing them up the fence, but found an even better spot in the end; the patio. Our patio is covered by a proper roof that makes our outdoor space look a little like a Muskoka tiki bar. There is a mini wall on the one side that was never finished (past owners must have been distracted again) that we are building a bed to sit on top to hold our beans that will climb up cords to the roof. The bean stalks will act as a privacy/sun wall and supply fresh beans for dinner.

Bean wall. Not that we want to block out the neighbours, they're actually really nice.

So that’s the lay of the land, literally. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but when it comes time to eat it all, you remember why you did it. Also, for any hunters reading, you’re more than welcome to come over and kill every bastard little squirrel you see.