Musings from the life and times of T. L. Drover
I have a lot of plans for my garden 2015!
Despite the amazing growing season, my garden in 2014 was less than amazing. It was a combination of a steep learning curve combined with a poorly thought out and executed plan.
Not knowing what to plant where is to be expected for the first year in a new garden space. However, the poor soil conditions, lack of nutrients given to my plants, and not maintaining my plants properly (e.g., deadheading when required) were all mistakes that I made throughout the course of the season.
So what to do to ensure those mistakes do not happen next year?
First, planning out what to plant in each location. I have three main locations - the shade garden on the back patio (bed and planters), the front garden plot (approximately fifty square feet of space, full sun for the morning and into early afternoon), and the balcony (all pots, same lighting as the front bed).
I believe that I will be able to grow pretty much anything in the front bed, so it will really be a matter of planning to maximize the use of space. What things do I want to grow? Carrots, beets, cucumbers, beans, swiss chard, and radishes are all potential candidates for the space. I will add some marigolds to the mix, and will probably grow another hanging planter, although this year I will probably look for some flowers that are more low maintenance. Also, I am going to throw in some bulbs this year for spring flowers, and a large planter of garlic!
The balcony will have my tomatoes, strawberries, and peppers. The peppers didn't do exceedingly well, but I am going to try to rig up some mini-green houses to increase the temperature and hopefully get the plants to produce some more substantial fruit. The balcony will also have some herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano, and cilantro) and flowers for decoration, although the exact types are to be decided.
The shade garden will take some more trial and error. Transplanting onions didn't really seem to work, and the cucumbers that grew were stunted and tasteless. The bed may end up being mainly for ornamental plants, but I am going to try some vegetables again next year, just to see. I am thinking broccoli, kale, peas, and maybe try some onions again, as it would be nice to be able to grow those, since we eat so many of them. Lettuce and spinach will be grown in planters (and possibly started from seed in the front). The big planters out in front of the cedar bushes will be used for ornamental flowers. The herbs this year did grow in them, but it certainly wasn't ideal conditions.
The big challenge will be getting my soil up to par. I am going to spend a lot of time prepping it with mushroom manure and fish fertlizer. Also, I am going to ensure that all of my pots have proper drainage and that the soil composition prevents the roots from rotting - I had a lot of problems with my plants becoming deluged with water this year.
The next step for my garden will be creating my garden bed. That mission is going to be happening this spring. Stay tuned, I'll definitely be blogging about that!
I had a beautiful hanging basket outside my house this year, filled with petunia, geraium, and lobelia. For the month of July it was my pride and joy!
Now, however, after a couple months of hot weather, it looks rather dismal. most of the flowers are dried out and dead. My geranium has stopped producing new blossoms. My petunia are leggy. Apparently I dropped the ball on maintainence and because of that my beautiful basket is now being regulated to the back yard.
Does anyone out there have any suggestions on what I can do to prevent this from happening again? I would like to have a nice ornamental basket or two again next year, but they are a lot of money for something that isn't going to last the entire season!
My garden this year has not been my most successful.
Trying to grow in the shade of maple and cedar trees is challenging. The slugs are hungry and the sun is sparing.
And this mornig I fear I killed my beautiful impatiens plant from lack of water...
To look at it from a more positive perspective: What is working?
Surprisingly, my cucumbers are doing well in the back. I planted them as fairly established plants (the cuke seeds I planted directly into the shade bed didn't do anything at all) and they have little baby cucumbers all over them. The slugs don't seem to care much for the taste of the cucumber plant leaves so they are pretty much untouched by the invaders.
Bok choy has also been successful in my shade bed. Although it is growing slightly better in the containers on my fence rail, the plants in my garden bed are thriving, despite some nibbles from the aforementioned evil slugs.
Once moved to the front, my spinach and lettuce are thriving as well. The spinach has been moved back to the shade (it was starting to bolt) but the lettuce seems much happier in the sunny front.
My flowers were doing great - until I forgot to water them, sigh.
And overall my container garden on my balcony is thriving. I haven't gotten a lot of flowers (and thus, not a lot of fruit) on most of my tomato and pepper plants, however. My cherry tomatoes are the exception to this. I should have dozens of sweet little red tomatoes to enjoy soon *happydance*.
My strawberries continue to be a battle.
I've had a bit of nice fruit off the plants I am growing but I am still having issues with tasteless berries, rot, and poor fruit development. I'm not sure why, but I think next year my strawberries will go in a big container out front and I will save my deck for tomatoes and peppers. And basil. And flowers. And maybe something else that likes to grow in a pot in sunny conditions. Any suggestions??
My experimental garden in what will soon be my main garden bed is doing well, also. My cucumbers there are growing like weeds, although I seem to be having some issues getting the flowers to fertilize. My little baby cukes are turning yellow and dying although I seem to see butterflies and bees buzzing around there all the time. I am going to try self pollinating to see if that helps. My sweet peas are (slowly) growing, my radishes have just sprouted, my carrots are starting to poke their heads up above the dirt, and I am still going to see if I can throw one more container into the mix. I'm just not sure if I want to try herbs or more seeds...perhaps more spinach? Lettuce? I am still undecided. And I need more dirt.
The garden this summer has ended up being not much more than trial and error. I have learned much, however, and I am hoping that this means next year I will be able to have a bountiful harvest in my challenging little space.
Key lessons learned:
1. Always ensure that you have soil with good drainage in pots! Use peat or similar (and more eco-friendly, if possible) substance to ensure that the soil in pots does not become waterlogged and stagnant.
2. Seedlings do not grow without sun. However, established plants can survive (and even thrive) in much dimmer conditions. Next year I will be staring seedlings inside hydroponically and planting them into my garden bed, rather than trying to start seedlings in those dark, moist conditions.
3. Most vegetables need a lot of sun to grow. Radishes, carrots, and beets probably won't work in my shade bed. However, the following veggies should be able to work, if planted as established plants and not seeds: bok choy, onions, kale, and squash. Beans will work from seed, if I can keep the nasty slugs away from them.
4. Slugs are evil and hard to kill. Time to try egg shells!!
I'm sure more lessons will be learned before the season is over.
Now time to head home and see if my impatiens will rise from the dead, or if I truly am a murderer.
The solstice has come and gone, school is out, and vacations are upon us!
Summer is officially here.
I am excited for a couple months without school and a few weeks off from work. Despite a disappointing garden this year (shade growing is not easy!) I still intend on spending a lot of time outside nurturing my green babies.
Already this year we've had some good times at the lake, the pool, the park, the patio, and other such summer-y places. I am including a few (unedited) shots from my new toy for your enjoyment.
The first two pictures are of flowers I am growing, and the bottom three are from our recent trip to the Okanagan. Lots of naked running around (that was mostly the kids!) and opportunities to try out my new Nikon D3100!
I have begun creating a new garden in my home. I've been here for nearly a year now, but last year I moved in on July 7th, a little late to do much with my gardening space. This year, however, I (sort of) have the time to do something with it and so I have begun, slowly but surely, to create a little growing space here for me and my family.
I've created a small garden space on my back deck but it doesn't get a lot of sun and I have been really struggling to get it to produce much.
Fortunately I have a small garden plot in the front that gets a decent amount of morning sun, so next year when I have a chance to build a raised bed there I should be able to get some veggies to grow.
This year I am focusing on the small part of my outdoor gardening that seems to be working - my deck. I have tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries growing quite happily.
My youngest and I had a lovely time at the Van Dusen Cherry Blossom Festival in Vancouver this past weekend.
Although I have enjoyed watching the cherry trees blossom each spring since I moved to the coast in 2007, this was the first year I had the opportunity to attend the celebratory festival. The Van Dusen gardens portion of the festival only lasts one weekend, but the cherry blossom festival continues throughout the month of April. For more information on the events that are still ongoing, check out their website: http://www.vcbf.ca/
A couple words of advice - arrive early and arrive hungry! The food is reasonably priced but the vendors get busy and the wait gets long as the crowds arrive. If you can get to the doors for the 10 am opening and go immediately to the food vendors you will get your first choice of ramen, gyoza, and the very popular takoyaki balls. Deep fried Japanese food makes for a great brunch.
There aren't many tables to sit at but there are lots of places to stretch out on a blanket. The festival area near the food vendors and stage are very crowded but, despite the large line up to get in and the beautiful weather, we found that it wasn't too chaotic in the areas of the garden away from the main events.
The gardens are gorgeous this time of year. Not only are there cherry blossoms, but the magnolias and rhododendrons are also in bloom. If you are like me, however, and have seasonal allergies I highly recommend taking some antihistamines before venturing to Van Dusen!
Below are some pictures from the day. Enjoy!
Cherry blossoms at the festival.
Some images of the day.
Lately we have had a lot of rainy days in Vancouver. In fact, nearly every weekend for the past two months has been filled with rain or snow. I know I'm not the only parent looking for some projects to fill the hours without having to turn to television (well, at least without having to turn to it too much!).
For the most part my boys are good at entertaining themselves. The eldest spends most of his spare time creating Lego creations and drawing comic books. He's ten and has already created his own characters (Supa Odin and ThunderFred) and drawn several comic books starring them. The youngest will occupy himself colouring outside the lines, stacking blocks and then knocking them over, and throwing things. He's not quite two.
For the ten year old, we just keep lots of paper, pencils, pens, and notebooks around for him to fill up. He has file folders of old drawings and we have partially wall papered his wall with his artwork. One idea for a future project is allowing him to paint a mural on his walls, based on his comic book characters. First, we will get him to create a rough draft on paper and, once he has shown us that he has the ability to plan a project of that scope, we are going to get him the materials (and help) that he needs to give himself the coolest room of any kid, ever. Has anyone out there done something similar (or has seen a pin on Pinterest that might offer direction)?
For the smallest boy, we recently purchased an easel (great learning and creative tool!) and keep a stack of nontoxic markers handy at all times for his colouring habit. Right now he is working his way through a book of dinosaur colouring pages. $5 of art supplies and he literally has hours and hours of fun.
However, after awhile these things get boring. So what is a parent to do? Get creative!
Below are a few ideas for parents looking to do some fun, easy, cheap, and not-too-messy projects with their kids. Most are adaptable for all age ranges (at least until they are too cool to want to do projects with their parents).
1. Use old, crusty playdough to create a "mini volcano" (I stole this idea from the Creative Parenting group on Facebook, I think it's really quite fabulous!). Put all your crusty playdough together in the shape of a volcano and fill the inside with baking soda. You can paint it, or make a little village for the "lava" to overflow onto, whatever your kiddies desire. Then simply pour some vinegar over the baking soda and watch the magic! I think adding a drop or two of food colouring to the vinegar would add some extra sparkle to the event as well. If you are feeling especially crafty, you can even try making your own playdough (try this recipe here from mommyfootprint.com).
2. Face Painting in the house! Why not? Face paints aren't that expensive, and if you have an older child (that is careful) this could even be a fun way for the older child to gain a new skill! There are also ways to make homemade facepaint (see this easy how-to from growingajeweledrose.com.
3. You know all those cool "fruit bugs" and other fun food ideas that you always see on Pinterest? Why not have a little tea party with your little ones and have them help you make the appetizers? You can make apple ladybugs, spooky spiders, or the old standby, ants on a log (do we really need a recipe for that??).
4. Get a cardboard box. Seriously. My ten year-old can spend hours entertaining himself with just a cardboard box and a pen. But why stop there? Grab paints, stickers, glue, sparkles - you can make a decent sized cardboard box into ANYTHING. It is one of the best examples of what a child can do with their imagination. It is also more tactile than just drawing on a piece of paper - it adds a whole other dimension to their play.
5. FINGER PAINTING. Even better, get a large piece of paper or tape/glue a bunch of scrap together and finger paint a mural with the whole family. Okay, so this is messy, but so what? Finger painting is awesome. Tactile, creative, and it creates memories. So get down and colourful with your kids. And, yes, you can even make your own! Try this recipe from the Imagination Tree.
Let me know about your adventures trying these ideas with your kids at home!
Although, to be honest, I'm kind of hoping for some sun and outdoor play in the weeks ahead...
Finally! A decent dump of snow here on the Wet Coast. It feels like it has been years since I've seen this much snow fall from the sky.
It has been snowing for nearly three days without much of a break. Despite the nasty driving conditions, I for one am thoroughly enjoying the winter wonderland.
I've been out for lovely walks in the white stuff (see photographic evidence below). My youngest boy isn't quite sure what to make of it but my stepson is enjoying it to the fullest.
Our new home feels like a cozy ski lodge in this weather. It might be time to get that wood fireplace going!
Here are some quick snapshots of the snow around here:
Front of the complex:
Out on a walk:
My blog has been awfully wordy lately, so I thought I would post some pictures from this beautiful winter season to liven it up.
Below are some random images from my life from the winter of 2013 - 2014
Christmas at the Drover House
At Bright Lights in Stanley Park
Stanley Park, on the Christmas Train
All of us have projects that we want to finish. They may be the scrapbook we've always intended to put together, the herb garden we want to start growing, the dress we want to sew, the shelves we want to sand and repaint - the potential list is long and often daunting. And when, amongst all of the day-to-day stuff we have to do, are we supposed to get to these fantasy activities? When are we supposed to have the time to be productive for ourselves?!
That is a question I am seeking to answer these days.
I have quite a list of projects myself and the list just seems to keep growing and never shrinking. This is concerning me. I don't want to end up one day with a huge list of "should haves" weighing me down. The answer? To try and find way to make these pipedreams into realities. I want to figure out how to make more time in my day.
I have two children, a husband, and a full time job in addition to taking courses and still trying to find time for my hobbies and friends so this time isn't going to be easy to find. But I really think it is possible if I am determined enough.
To hold myself accountable I am going to record my progress here. I am also going to record the actual projects, with handy "how tos" and tips on how you can find the time to do the things I am planning on doing.
If you are interested in following along I would love some company on this journey!
My list is below, in no particular order:
1. Finish my son's baby book
2. Develop a garden in front of our house
3. Replant the garden plot in our back deck
4. Self publish a book of poetry
5. Sew reusable bags and napkins from all the fabric I have sitting in my storage room
6. Put up all of our pictures and art around our "new" home
7. Work on my writing website (Tricia The Artist) and start posting previous journalings/writing samples to the point that I feel the site is ready for "release"
8. Develop a little mini-greenhouse on our upstairs deck
9. Start learning the guitar (find a way to fit practice into my daily life)
10. Sort through and reorganize all of the storage space in our house
That is all I have (for now) although I know I have more things I want to do. I just think 10 is a good round number to start with!
I'll be starting on #6 first, since it is a relatively easy one.
Look for more entries about this soon!