Creating a Herb Garden Wheel

Last week I was asked if the scouts and guides could come to the Ladner Community Garden and do a garden project. There is always something to do at the garden from weeding to planting. The group ranged in age from eight to about sixteen with several leaders and parents present.

Creating a Herb Garden Wheel

It was decided that we would plant a three sisters garden and build a herb wheel. The herb wheel is a project that the garden committee had wanted to get done for several years.

Creating a Herb Garden Wheel

I had seen a design in a magazine one day of a herb wheel that looked like the one above.  Could the group build this? We could try. We had a huge pile of recycled cement that had been donated. Using someone’s driveway debris is a good way to recycle the cement. We could use the rocks to fashion the edges of the herb wheel.

Creating a Herb Garden Wheel

The group started by figuring out the center focal point first. I had decided to use a flat paver and place one of our cement planters on top. Inside the planter we could plant  Sage to give it height.

Creating a Herb Garden Wheel

In placing the herb wheel the group measured carefully so that clearance around the allotment beds would be at least four feet. We didn’t want anyone tripping over the rocks. A string line of five feet was used to create the circle so the outer edge was  5′ from the edge of the center.  That would make the wheel approximately 11′ across.

The kids drew a circle in the bark mulch to outline the circle. They wheelbarrowed rocks carefully  to the area to start building the edges. It was decided that there would be four paths instead of five to access the garden so more garden space could be created.

Creating a Herb Garden Wheel

Its outline is done now and we will fill it with soil and plant it up with herbs. I think a few more stones will be needed where gaps may allow the soil to escape. In all, it was a wonderful day. The group took turns helping with the herb wheel. At the other end of the garden they planted a raised bed for the food bank using the three sisters garden method. I told them why it was called the three sisters garden. They planted corn, beans and squash and watered the bed well. They even had time to plant marigold seeds around the food bank beds so it will look pretty all season long.

Creating a Herb Garden Wheel

In early June the group is returning to plant the herb wheel. I have quite a few herbs left over from my plant sale so that will give us lots to plant.

I want to thank my friend Darlene and her group for helping at the Ladner Community Garden. It shows you what a community can do when they come together.

 

May in the Kitchen Garden

May is a busy month in the garden as we plant our gardens with food and flowers to enjoy all summer long. Combine that with plant sales, the first part of May has been one of my busiest times. I am finally getting plants in the garden.

May in the Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden is filling up. The tomato bed above looks like a jail with all my supports and baling twine ready to support what I know will be very large tomato plants. This year I am growing some interesting tomatoes for the seed bank and several favourites that my garden can’t do without. The tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ with its intense flavour is one of my favourites. I have surrounded the tomato bed with Marigolds to add some colour. In the back I have a bed of salad greens, broccoli and peas. A floating row cover is gently placed over the broccoli plants to keep the cabbage moth away.

May in the Kitchen Garden

The first Nasturtiums have opened in the onion bed. I planted a raised bed full of yellow and red onion sets to enjoy all winter long.

May in the Kitchen Garden

The kale-brusssel sprout plant  or what is now called kalettes that I tried last summer is going to seed now. Kale forms its seed pods along its stems after it finishes flowering in the second year of growth.

May in the Kitchen Garden

I will leave a few pods on the plant to mature and collect the seed. I doubt it will come true from seed but my curious nature has to try some seed to see what happens. Its time to plant a new kale plant in the garden to replace this one.

May in the Kitchen Garden

The hardneck garlic is producing scapes. They are early this year which means the garlic will be ready next month. Last year I made garlic scape pesto with the scapes. Do you have a good way to use them? This gardener would love to know any recipes for scapes.

May in the Kitchen Garden

The raspberries have berries on them! It’s the second year for these transplanted raspberry canes so we should get a few berries for dessert in late June.

May in the Kitchen Garden

At the front of the kitchen garden, sweet peas are growing up the new fence that Farmer Jim put up. I must admit they take a bit of training to get them to stay on this fence as they would prefer a netting. Fresh soil has gone down and I have worked in some organic fertilizer. I hope this area in front of the kitchen garden is as colourful as it was last year.

May in the Kitchen Garden

All the Dahlias are in the ground and this morning I added a border of Snapdragon and Alyssum along the front. The new plants look like soldiers so I will pinch them next week to encourage them to branch out. For now I will let the roots get used to their new home.

May in the Kitchen Garden

Last year this are was a huge mess of raspberries mixed with horsetail and bluebells. Farmer Jim built two new raised beds to go in its place. Last summer the raspberry canes were dug up and the roots washed off before being moved to a raised bed in the kitchen garden. These two beds are planted with tomatoes. Originally it was to be our fruit beds but it’s too late to move the blueberry plants now as they are fruiting. It will wait until next year. With 27 tomato plants in the garden, I better start planning what I will do with the harvest. Containers on the old deck will get a makeover this week. I use perennials in containers as they use less water. There is still lots of planting to be done. I have yet to touch some of the gardens. Does it ever end?

May in the Kitchen Garden

That’s about it for today in the garden. I will leave you with this bouquet of roses. This is undoubtably the best the roses have looked. I took these to share at my garden club last night and everyone enjoyed their fragrance.

 

The Beginner’s Food Garden Kit

Last week I had a full class of new gardeners. I hope I was able to cover everything they would need to know to get a garden started. Growing food isn’t as hard as it looks and we all learn from trial and error. I went over some basics for growing vegetables. 

Site-When  designing or starting your first vegetable garden, you want to choose a site where you get six hours of sun each day. All fruiting vegetables need  sun to produce fruit. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale and parsley can do with some shade. Even peas can take some shade but the harvest will be reduced.

The Beginner's Food Garden Kit

Containers– Many of you may be growing vegetables in containers. You can grow most vegetables easily in containers. Try to use the largest containers you can for a better harvest. The good thing about containers is you can place them on plant dollies and move them around to maximize the sun. So what is a container? A container can be anything. You can use standard nursery pots. Sure it’s not as pretty but they are usually free. You can also use large five gallon white buckets. As long as you drill holes in the bottom for  drainage, your plants will be happy.  

The Beginner's Food Garden Kit

Raised beds or not? Raised beds warm up earlier in the spring but dry out faster in hot weather. In ground beds hold moisture longer but the soil is slow to warm up in the spring. Containers can be used but watering must be done daily and harvests are not as large. It is easier to amend the soil in containers and raised beds than in the ground. 

In ground beds– Most people grow vegetables directly in the ground. It takes longer for the ground to warm up than in containers or raised beds. Generally most in ground gardens are planted right about now, the middle of May.  

Tools- You will need some basic tools to get started in your new garden. You will need a hand trowel, claw tool, old pail for weeds, garden gloves, watering can or hose, hand pruners and maybe a kneeling pad. Most of these don’t need to cost you a lot of money. Some tools are made of plastic or cheap metal and can break easily so select a good one and you will have it for years. Gloves come in all kinds. You want gloves that are water-resistant. Wet gloves make for an unhappy gardener.

The Beginner's Food Garden Kit

Soil-All soils are different. If you are using containers, do not use garden soil as it’s too heavy. Use a potting mix that’s lightweight so your containers drain well. In raised beds, use the best soil you can afford as it will be there for a long time. When you need a large quantity of soil for a raised bed you need to order it by the cubic yard. Only use bagged soil for containers. It’s too expensive to use for raised beds. If you are growing your vegetables in the ground you can have your soil tested to see if you need to add nutrients. Soil labs can do that for you. Is your garden soil growing other plants well? Is it heavy soil or sandy soil? Heavy soil such as our clay can be a problem when growing certain crops. One that comes to mind is carrots. Carrots need a very fine soil with no lumps in it to grow without forking or looking distorted.

Water-Be sure to place your garden near a source of water. Water is essential to plants. If you go on holiday, hire a friend to tend your garden for you. You can also hook up a drip irrigation system but they are costly. If you are handy you could do it yourself. 

What to plant-Plant vegetables that your family likes to eat. Don’t bother with kale if you don’t like it. Think about whether you can freeze or can your harvest for winter meals. Plant crops like onions and garlic to last you all winter long. 

Some vegetables are easier than others so let’s start with the easy ones.

The Beginner's Food Garden Kit

Easy vegetables Peas, beans, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, radishes, spinach, onion sets and lettuce.

Moderate-carrots, beets, Brassica, onions from seed, asparagus, tomatoes, peppers

Difficult-Sweet potatoes, yams, eggplant-Note I am growing sweet potatoes and yams this year so we will see how they turn out. 

When to Plant-Planting by using this schedule will really help you.

March 1-15-Broad beans, radish

March 16-30-peas, spinach, leaf lettuce, asian vegetables, turnip, onion sets, shallots

April 1-15-early potato, green onion, bulb onion, kohlrabi, cabbage, leek

April 16-30-beet, carrot, swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, celery transplants, onion and leek transplants, parsnip, kale, head lettuce

May 1-15-cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage transplants, main crop potatoes, parsley, asparagus

May 15-30-tomato, pepper and eggplant transplants, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, Brussel sprout, bean, corn

Start by looking at seeds or transplants in the garden center. How do you know what should be grown from seed and what is best from transplant? Most root crops such as radishes, turnip, carrots and beets prefer to be grown by what we call direct sowing. 

Direct sowing is placing the seed in the soil to grow on its own. Once the seed is planted its growth will happen when conditions are right, when moisture levels soften the seed coat so the tiny plant can emerge. It’s very important to water your newly planted seeds daily until they are above the ground. Once they are up you can cut back watering to every two days. 

Using transplants means you have either bought or grown seedlings to be moved to the garden as fully grown plants. Carefully separate your seedlings and loosen the roots before planting. Always have your planting area prepared by moistening the soil first. Some plants like basil, squash and cucumbers don’t like to be transplanted. If you have to, do it by moving all the soil with the plant to lessen the shock.

How to plant-Each seed needs to be planted at different depths. Now I don’t measure it exactly but think three times the seed size deep. So if a bean seed is about an inch in size, plant it about three times that or 2.5″ deep. Tiny seeds need to be placed on the soil and covered with a tiny thin layer of soil. The tiny plants that emerge from tiny seeds need to be able to reach the surface. Big seeds like beans don’t have that problem.

The Beginner's Food Garden Kit

Plant needs– All plants need good soil, water, nutrients, and air. If you start by feeding the soil and not your plants, your garden will flourish. Be sure to add organic matter to the soil, mulch it when needed to avoid moisture loss and don’t over till as it disturbs the soil and everything living underneath. Water deeply to encourage roots to grow deep and look for water. Watering every day means your plants will have shallow roots. Plant closely to shade the soil to conserve water. Use organic fertilizers at planting time so you don’t harm the beneficial insects. 

Cucamelon Surprise in the Garden

Cucamelon Surprise in the Garden

Last year I grew cucamelons from seed and planted them in our new kitchen garden. I had done research on how to grow them and how to save the seeds. They were easy to grow but sulked for about a week after planting while the plants put on roots. After the first week in the ground, the cucamelon plants sent out more growth from the base of the plant almost as if it didn’t need the tiny tendrils I had nurtured in the greenhouse. This plant literally grows like crazy once established. I made the mistake of using a four-foot high support of wire for them to grow on. I should have used about six feet of wire as they tumbled up and over my short support system. I will know better this year.

Cucamelon Surprise in the Garden

I grew six plants and had a hard time keeping up with the harvest. This year I promised myself I would only grow two plants. Well, the plants proved to be a hit this year and out of 120 plants that I grew, I only have one left for myself. Yes all of my plants were pre-booked last fall and the last go to their new homes today.

Cucamelon Surprise in the Garden

I wanted more than one plant so thought I would plant seed directly in the garden.  Was I in for a surprise! You see, I went out to water the bed of garlic today and noticed something new growing. I had seen that the Alyssum had reseeded. It’s a great plant to attract  pollinators to the garden so I left it. Today I saw new plants. Tiny, tiny leaves about 1/4″ long popping out of the soil. One plant had a second leaf and I knew immediately what it was. The cucamelons had come back! Now I don’t think the plants overwintered as the new shoots are about 6″ away from where the plants were last year. I think that overripe fruit dropped and got buried and now the seeds have germinated. It does say online that cucamelon plants can overwinter but I had one in the greenhouse and it didn’t return. Okay, I wrote this yesterday and today the cucamelon is showing signs of green in the greenhouse.  It was almost as if it knew I was ready to toss it in the compost. So maybe the roots overwintered and they spread in the raised bed. I will have to keep an eye on the plants as they grow. Will they be larger plants this year? I am not sure.

Cucamelon Surprise in the Garden

Either way, I am happy to see that they can self sow in our zone 8 climate in the first week of May. I would have thought to treat them like most cucumbers and plant the seeds nearer to the end of May or early June. It just shows us that the new climate is be noted. To follow my posts on how to grow cucamelon, here are a few worth reading.

It’s the Year of the Cucamelon

Growing Cucamelons From Seed

How to Save Cucamelon Seeds

 

 

Selling to a New Generation of Gardeners

Selling to a New Generation of Gardeners

I had my plant sale last weekend. I had 400 tomato plants ready to go to new homes along with herbs, perennials and a few annuals. It was a lot of work to set everything up but with Farmer Jim’s help we finally got the last bit done by 9pm the night before the plant sale. I also had my friends, Jassen and Janice come with a table full or ornamental shrubs and perennials.

Selling to a New Generation of Gardeners

My plant sale was a week earlier this year but the weather was warm once again. Our summer drought is on the horizon I fear. People came and took home plants on both plant sale days but it was slower than the year before.

Selling to a New Generation of Gardeners

It was late in the afternoon on the first day that I decided to place photos of my tomato plants for sale online. You see I tend to sell plants to young families with small children, new gardeners that need help with their gardening skills. I realized last year that if they were like my children most of the stuff they buy is seen on their smart phones. It’s just the way things are these days. I knew if I posted my plants online I would get more sales.

Selling to a New Generation of Gardeners

It worked. you see when plants are sold online people can pick up when its convenient for them and the seller. Yes, some people may not show but that’s the chance you take. The difference is when they do come they like to ask me gardening questions. Perhaps they haven’t grown tomatoes before or don’t know what type of soil to use in their containers.

Selling to a New Generation of Gardeners

I find myself giving lots of garden advice along with the plant sales. I think that’s what we are missing these days. If you go to a big box store to get plants, you are hard pressed to find knowledgable advice on growing.

To be successful in this business you need that personal service. It’s what makes customers come back year after year. I love to talk about plants, and my education in the field means they will get good advice. My customer service skills come from working retail for 35 years. Of course, I am just a little bit passionate about what I do.  So in the end I realized that almost half my sales this weekend were online. Yes, times are definitely changing and we have to move along with them.

May Brings New Flowers

May Brings New Flowers

Its been a busy week in the greenhouse and hardening off plants for the garden. I was so busy I hadn’t realized the roses were in bloom. You know what they say, stop and smell the roses. It’s so true. Life gets busy and we miss out on the simple pleasures. Our garden is full of fragrant roses and over the weekend I had people ask me about the one above. In the garden we have six old-fashioned shrub roses. They are in full bloom this week and the fragrance is intoxicating. May Brings New Flowers

It wasn’t until I was out watering the kitchen garden this morning that I saw this. Wow! It must have been all the great weather we have had this week as this apricot coloured climbing rose is stunning. We are way behind in the garden and many of the canes haven’t been tied in over the arbor. The advantage to that is I get to reach them and enjoy their fragrance. I may even cut some for a bouquet.

May Brings New flowers

This is a closeup of the climbing rose. I have no idea  which rose this is as they were all here when we moved in. The stems of these plants are three inches across so it has me thinking they are about twenty years old if not more.


May Brings New Flowers

On the other side of the arbor the white climbing roses are just opening. They cover a ten foot wide section of the arbor and are amazing when all are in bloom.

May Brings New Flowers

This rose drives me crazy. I love that it’s so pretty and fragrant but after it blooms it send out masses of wild shoots that bear single petalled roses. They are most likely suckers coming from below the graft and even though I cut them back they return each year.

May Brings New Flowers

It’s not only roses out this week. The peonies are open among the Centaurea montana. In behind, the variegated Weigela is in bloom with its light pink flowers.

May Brings New Flowers

Aquilegia or columbine is out with its granny’s bonnet shaped flowers. Such  a nice perennial to have in the garden.

May Brings New Flowers

For years we have been wanting to prune this monster Weigela before it eats someone coming through the gate. We never seem to get around to it. The bees love the trumpet-shaped flowers. It blooms now and then again in late summer.

May Brings New Flowers

May is Iris month. The early Iris are long done and now the main season Iris are here. I think of Iris as the orchid of the garden, flowers so perfect in so many amazing colours.

May Brings New Flowers

I rarely show this back area of the garden. The Rhododendrons are fabulous this year. My favourite are the whites as they show up so well in the evening. Someone asked me once if I deadheaded my Rhododendrons. I answered back, we have forty plants, so no. I have to admit I tend to take some spent blooms from the white ones but the rest I leave for mother nature.

May Brings New flowers

This Iris has to be my all time favourite.  I love the purple and white blooms!
May Brings New Flowers

The last of the spring bulbs are the Allium. They are planted throughout the garden. They are great architectural plants to have in the garden. Once they are done blooming all the spent foliage from spring bulbs will be removed to make way for annual flowers. That’s about it for this week. Its time to get my Impatiens, zinnias, purple millet grass, sunflowers and salpiglossis out of the greenhouse and into the garden.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Last weekend I was invited to do a short presentation on growing food to feed yourself year round . So why plant the crops I will talk about? They can be either stored in a cool garage, frozen or canned so you can eat them all winter long. This lessens your footprint on the food chain and you only have to go into your garage or freezer to get what you want.  

Growing Food for Winter Meals

These potatoes were freshly harvested. How are they different from the ones at the store? Yes, they are dirty. Potatoes must never be washed before storing or they could rot. I like to grow potatoes as a late season crop. If harvested early they can start to sprout in the garage. I will be growing some Kennebec potatoes as they store better than most. The best place to store potatoes is in the ground. You want to harvest the last of the potatoes before a hard frost. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Here is a cucumber plant that I grew in a container. Last year I had 70 pounds of cucumbers from six plants in a raised bed. The problem is you can’t freeze cucumbers. So what did I do with so many cucumbers? I made hamburger relish. You can also use cucumbers to make pickles that you can eat all winter long. Can you store them fresh? No you can’t, so you really need to plan what you will be doing with your harvest. If you don’t know how to preserve it, perhaps grow only one plant. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

 Pumpkins are great for not only jack-o-lanterns but for eating as well. When choosing a pumpkin to grow read the label to see if it’s a good eating pumpkin. Who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? You can cook your pumpkins and freeze the flesh for future use.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Maybe you want to make some pumpkin soup. Looks yummy!

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Do you recognize this plant? Since most of us shop at the grocery store we often don’t get a chance to see what this plant looks like. We often don’t see the long green stems on this plant if we don’t grow them ourselves. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

This may be a better photo as its cleaned up a bit here. Yes, its an onion. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

This is what we see in the store. Here the onions have been cured which means they were laid out to dry in the shade on large trays. The tops were removed, the soil brushed off and sent to the stores when ready. Onions are a good crop to grow and store easily in your cool garage over the winter. I never have to buy onions unless I don’t grow enough.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Cabbage is a wonderful crop to harvest in the fall. When lettuce goes up to $4 per head why not switch to making coleslaw? Cabbage must be stored in a cool garage. This cabbage is quite large with lots of big leaves. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Here is what cabbage looks like when you get it at the store. All the outer leaves are removed and composted. It’s quite wasteful what we don’t eat. Cabbage can be stored over the winter as well. Harvest it late in the season. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Lettuce is one crop that you can only eat fresh. You can’t freeze it, can it  or dry it so why grow it? I grow a small amount of lettuce but its important to make sure you plant some cabbage for a fall crop. Did you know homegrown lettuce will store and keep fresh in your fridge for almost a month. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

It’s not like store-bought lettuce which barely lasts a week. The only reason I grow my own little row of lettuce is so I can avoid plastic. Plastic is something we need to be more aware of when we shop.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Carrots are great for storing. Like potatoes they are best stored in the ground and used as you need them. You can actually plant carrots in late summer to last you into the winter months. If it is supposed to freeze you can harvest the crop and store in a box of sand in the garage. You will need to trim the top off but don’t wash the carrots before storing.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

 You may not know what this crop is. Any guesses? 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

This is my garlic being cured. Garlic has layers of paper covering it and those layers need to dry out so it stores well. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Here is a garlic I harvested last July. Yes, its been nine months and its a good keeper in the garage. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Peas are an easy first time crop but you have to grow a lot to have a good supply for winter eating. It’s a great crop to grow if you have children as they love to snack from the garden. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Kale is one of the hardiest crops you can grow in the garden. It is very nutritious and lasts all winter long. One plant can feed two people all winter.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Anyone know what these are? I get asked all the time what this funny looking plant is. You can grow Brussel sprouts right into December. They taste better once the frost has hit them.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

 I love spinach but I prefer to eat it fresh. You can plant this in early spring and again in the fall for late harvests. It can be frozen but I prefer it fresh. It can be frozen and used in lasagna, as it is or in that wonderful spinach dip we all love. 

Beans, even though it freezes well, is the one vegetable that uses the most water. As our climate warms we need to be aware of how we use our water. Perhaps we grow a shorter beans instead of the six-foot high pole beans. Less leaf surface means less water to keep the plant alive. I found in growing beans in the greenhouse this year that they couldn’t go 24 hours without water. If I decide to grow beans this year it will be a french fillet koala bean that grows 10″ tall. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

We need to think about what we waste. This potato would never be sold in the stores because it isn’t perfect. It still tastes the same. Why do we expect perfection? Is it really responsible to throw food like this away? 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Think about planting to save water in the garden. Using plants to shade the soil will help.This is a three sisters garden where each plant has a supporting role. The corn is planted first allowing the beans to grow up its stalk. It is followed by squash that covers the soil with its huge leaves. Shading the soil allows for less watering.  Squash is one of the easiest plants to grow if you have room. One plant can take up ten feet of space. Its harvested in the fall and stored in a cool garage on trays that allow it to breathe. The good thing about squash is that its growth habit with its large leaves covers the soil. This helps to prevent water loss and erosion. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Plant close together to get the most out of your garden. If you harvest a crop always plan to have something else go into that space. Never have a bare spot in the garden. 

So thinking about what we talked about so far. Choose seeds to plant that will give you a harvest that can be stored in a cold garage, canned or frozen. Select seeds of crops that will store well. Plant wisely to save water.