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 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.
It is the New Year and, while I am not technically setting any real "resolutions', I do have some goals for the next phase of my life.
I have a vision of where I want my life to be, and the following goals will help me get there. I am recording them in my public blog so I can be held accountable!
1. Write every day. Blog, journal, poetry, short stories - it doesn't matter as long as I put figurative pen to paper.
2. Get outside as much as possible. I live in the midst of a rainforest and it is time that I made a point of appreciating that. It is also important that I model this appreciation for my children.
3. Consciously relax every day. Meditate, do yoga, breathe deeply - do what I need to do to keep anxiety at bay. I want to develop a daily routine that allows me to stay relaxed and better able to cope with life.
These are my goals for the next couple of months. I will revisit on my birthday (mid-April) when I typically take stock of my life and determine the direction for the sunny, "easy" months of the year.
Any suggestions on how I can acheive the goals I have set above? I know they are too vague, but I have trouble setting concrete benchmarks because I get so frustrated if I fall short.
What goals have you set lately?
Here are some pictures of my new space! Pardon the quality, they are from my camera phone.
The small patch of grass currently occupied with a Japanese maple tree will become my herb garden and strawberry patch. My mother-in-law is kindly finding the tree a new home. This is much appreciated as this is a spot where I will be able to grow anything that requires much sun. I also have the front balcony (you can see it slightly peeking into the picture) where I intend to grow tomatoes, peppers, and flowers.
Above are some pictures of my new "backyard". I will be continuing on the tradition of container gardening and I hope to replace those cedar bushes with more ornamental plants and berry bushes in the next couple of years.
Below you can see a couple angles of my garden bed. I don't get a lot of sun but I should get enough for some veggies - I am thinking cucumbers on the lattice and lettuces in the bed. The other half of the bed (the half in shadow) doesn't really get direct light and will probably remain as shade loving plants like hostas.
We have been nearly a month in our new home and I am finally feeling settled.
However, no garden will be planted this year. It is just too late in the season and this summer is just too filled with plans.
Next summer, however, will be filled with PLANTS.
Thus, this summer I will need to find time for planning.
I have two different locations (at this time) to grow. There is talk of starting a community garden in the complex and, if that comes to fruition, I will definitely be a large part of that initiative! However, for now I am just looking at the growing space attached to our townhouse.
I have a small area in the front of our house that gets a significant amount of morning and early afternoon sun. However, this area is for "ornamental" gardens only, so while I might get away with an herb garden, I certainly won't be allowed to grow cukes and carrots.
The balcony off of our bedroom faces the same direction, and this is where I intend to plant my tomatoes and peppers, possibly some strawberries. It is a small deck so I will have to be fairly creative with space but I think there is potential for a fairly high yield mini-garden. After all, I do have a fair bit of experience now with small space gardening.
My actual garden plot is in the back, and unfortunately it does not get a lot of direct sunlight. Currently the plot is filled with semi-shade and shade plants (clematis, hostas, a few various bushes and a baby pine tree). I am going to try to salvage as many of the plants as I can but next year I want that entire plot cleaned out.
My goal is to grow lettuces and any other shade-tolerant veggies. I also want to expand the lattice work on the patio and grow cukes and sweet peas on the walls, where we get more sunlight. I still have a few plants in pots (my chestnut tree, hibiscus, mint, and oregano) and they seem to be doing fine, and over time I will probably be adding to the potted garden back there as well.
Finally, outside our back patio is a space with some cedar bushes and gravel. I am not a huge fan of cedar and my husband is allergic, so I am going to look into removing these and replacing them with berry bushes (blueberry and raspberry, hopefully, although the raspberry will probably have to be potted to prevent spreading).
All of my indoor plants seem to be adjusting well to the dramatic change in light. We have big windows and I have a couple grow lights set up inside and (yay!) we haven't lost any yet. *FINGERSCROSSED* it stays that way.
Pictures of the new space to come!
With all this rain it may seem hard to believe, but Spring is just around the corner.
We all know what that means. It is time to start planning your 2013 garden.
If this is your first year growing a garden, or if you are trying something different such as growing your own seedlings for the first time, then this entry is for you. Below I have compiled a step-by-step approach to starting your garden this spring.
Step One - Decide what you are going to grow.
This can be done at any time before planting begins, so before late February. You need to look at the growing space you have available and figure out what kinds of crops you want to fill it with. This sounds relatively simple but there are a lot of things to consider. Are you growing in a plot or in containers? Do you have a spot with full sun or are you limited to partial sun? Are you growing crops that will take an entire season to grow (eg, corn), last an entire season (eg, squash or lettuce), or crops that can be sown several times (eg, beets or radishes). All of these things must be considered when planning out your garden.
For example, you want to ensure that you don't end up crowding out or shading plants with things like corn, squash, sunflowers, and other plants that either grow tall or spread out. You also want to make sure you start seedlings early enough, and that you are ready to direct seed as soon as the ground is ready for you.
The best way to design your garden is to draw out a diagram. This allows you to see how everything will fit together once you have it in the ground. Trust me, it's not so easy to figure it out at planting time!
Step Two - Start your seedlings.
Late February is usually when I begin my first seedlings. For myself, this would be the time I start my marigolds, nasturtium, and basil. I am also going to try onions this year (I haven't had much luck with them in the past). Other herbs and flowers I tend to direct seed. I believe sunflowers and corn could also be started now as well.
I start my tomatoes and peppers around mid-March. They can be started earlier but be prepared to need lots of room as they grow very quickly.
The easiest way to decide when to start your seedlings is to look at the seed packet, or, alternately, Google it to see when you need to get started.
How does one start seedlings in February? Obviously the lack of warmth and natural light is an issue. You will need at the very least a grow light. Ideally you will also get a warm pad, or place your plants in a warm location, to encourage growth. I have a very basic set up in my kitchen - one small grow light on my kitchen shelves - but it has served me well for a few years now. I usually move to natural light during the day, when possible, after the equinox.
I do recommend using seed starter for your seedlings. Although some people do say that compost or regular soil works just as well you are risking disease and contamination of your plants when they are at their most vulnerable.
Step Three - Direct seed and plant your seedlings
Once spring is well underway, usually around early to mid-May, it is time to start putting your plants outside.
Plants can be put outside earlier if they are in a protected spot such as a covered deck. Plants that will be exposed to the harsh environment without any protection, however, shouldn't be planted until the risk of a frost or near freezing weather is over. In Vancouver, May is usually a safe bet for this.
Seedlings should be hardened off before they are planted outside. This means setting them outside for a gradually increasing amount of time each day until they are accustomed to the harsher climate of the outdoor world.
When direct seeding you don't need to worry about hardening off, but be sure to read the seed packet to see if seeds need to be prepped prior to planting. Some seeds, especialy legumes, sprout better if soaked in water for 24 hours before being placed in the ground.
Read seed packets or Google to find out how deep and close together your seeds should be, and for the ideal time of year to plant them. Since every type of plant is different and everyone likes growing different things I'm not going to go into details in this how-to about how to grow particular plants.
Step Four - Maintaining your garden
Planting your garden is an ongoing process. As things mature and are harvested more things can be planted even into July. In addition some crops can be grown starting in September so you can feasibly continue planting for the entire growing season!
Make sure you plan in advance what crops you will plant once your first crop rotation is harvested, and it is good for the soil to change up what crops are grown in each location . It's also a good idea to add nutrients to the soil prior to growing and after the growing season. Some like to add compost to the soil in between plantings.
Do you have any questions about getting ready for the upcoming growing season? If you do please put them in the comments section below!
I began the first seedlings of the 2012 growing season about 72 hours ago, and I already have my first sprout!
Although it still feels a lot more like winter than spring outside I couldn't ignore the itch any longer. I scratched it by cleaning out my seedling tray (in the bathtub with a very dilute bleach solution) and filling it with seedling starter, then popping in seeds saved from my last growing season.
I am growing marigolds, nasturtiums, hollyhocks, scented evening stalk, cilantro, three types of basil, and dill. I have more plants I would like to grow later in the season (mainly tomatoes) but that seemed like a good start.
All of my seedlings are now under my grow light in my kitchen. My husband isn't overly fond of the arrangement but I think it works like a charm. This way, my plants stay warm and cozy and out of the way in our none-to-spacious apartment.I recorded everything I grew in my seed journal. This is one thing I highly recommend to anyone planting, because once it's in the dirt it's really hard to remember what plant it is until it grows up. By keeping a seed journal, not only do you remember what you planted and where, but you can make notes about what you did this year and suggestions for what you might do next year. I've had my seed journal for a year now and it's been incredibly helpful.Below are just a few other shots of my Sunday afternoon. It felt so good to get my hands dirty! And today I saw my first sprout, VERY exciting, especially since these are all saved seeds and have no guaranteed viability.
The time has come for spring planting!
At least, seedling planting. It's still a little too cold and dark outside to put anything in my garden plot but that isn't stopping me from setting up my grow light and getting my seedlings going this weekend.
I'll be starting marigolds, nasturtiums, and basil at the very minimum on Saturday. These will all be grown from seeds I saved from last year plants. I am very eager to see if my seed saving was successful.
I have few things to do before I can start the fun part (actually putting the seeds in soil). First, I need to round up sterile potting soil for the seedlings and clean up all the pots from last year to prevent disease and pest transfer. A quick article about the importance of the right soil for seedlings can be found here.
I had issues with both mildew and mites last year so it will be very important to ensure that my new seedlings are started in sanitized homes.
Last year I did try growing my seedlings in compost but found that increased the odds of problems. I think this year I'm going to go for the sterile soil, but when I replant will put them in a mixture of compost and potting soil. At this point the plants should be strong enough to resist disease and pests (at least, I hope so!). Using organic compost is the ideal option; however because I don't want to use pesticides or herbicides on my plants, preventing them from getting sick in the first place is my number one priority.
This year I'll just be focusing on my balcony garden and indoor plants. I know it will be a busy summer (and probably a sleepless one!) but I'm hoping that I can still grow a successful garden on our deck nonetheless.
Plants I would like to grow include: sweet peas, nasturtiums, marigolds, basil, dill, cilantro, and garlic. These are all seed types I've saved from last year, and I have high hopes they will all deliver healthy plants for me this growing season.
Anyone else out there planting yet? If so, what successes or challenges have you faced this year?
As spring looms so close on the horizon it is impossible for me to not start plotting my gardening adventures for the upcoming season.
As our baby is due in early June, I have definitely toned down my garden plans for the year. I have given my plot in the community garden to my plot mate for the season, and I'll be focusing my energy on the food bank plot for the season. I do hope to log some hours there, but I probably won't be spending a lot of time there until later in the season.
So basically my gardening this year will be confined to my deck. I will be using the seeds I saved last season and focusing mainly on growing herbs and flowers. I will be starting seedlings next month and hopefully transplanting them into pots on my balcony sometime around May.
I have garlic taking up most of my BBQ planter right now, but once that is ready for harvest I'll probably use it to try to grow some veggies. The lighting isn't fantastic, but the plot is deep enough that I might be able to grow some beans and carrots if we have a sunny summer.
The final entry in my seed saving series is on herb seed saving.
This year i saved three different kinds of basil seeds, coriandor (cilantro) seeds, and dill seed. Each type of herb has a unique method of saving, but the beginning process is the same for all:
Allow the herbs to flower and go to seed. Wait until they start to dry on the plant, then cut off the portion of the plant with the flowers/seeds and hang to dry for a couple of weeks. The drier the plant, the easier the seeds will be to save.
From a great website on Dill Seed Saving:
"The dill flowers produce a pod in which the dill seeds grow. Collect these seeds as they turn brown and before the seed is scattered as the pods open."
As I said, I generally let mine dry a little longer just to ensure they were easy to harvest. Dill seeds are easily recognizable as they are frequently used for pickling and flavouring different foods. Once you have removed the seeds from the pods, put them in an envelope and save for next year's planting season
Cilantro seeds are just as easy as dill to save. Also known as coriandor, they too are easy to recognize because of their common use as a spice in food.
Again, simply allow the plant to flower and produce seeds. Let the seeds begin to dry out on the plant and then cut them off the plant and hang them to dry for a couple weeks.
Once the seeds are completely dried out, remove from the plant and store in an envelope, A bit more detail about saving coriandor seeds can be found at this website. The above image was taken from that website (thank-you!!).
Finally basil seeds. These are not as easy. In fact, of all the seed saving I did this year, I would have to say that the basil seeds were the most difficult. Although the process is essentially the same (allow the plant to flower, let the flowers dry out, harvest and hang to dry for a couple of weeks), the extraction of the seeds from the flowers is time consuming and nit-picky work.
Basil seeds are tiny and are found within the also tiny flower that the plant produces. You have to carefully extract the tiny seed from the tiny flower and then put the seeds carefully into an envelope for planting next year. It's worth it, of course, if you have a successful variety of basil that you would like to grow again next season, but it will take time and patience. And nimble fingers.
Tools that might help with basil saving include a large tray and tweezers. The large tray will contain the seeds as you try to extract them from the flowers, and the tweezers will make it easier to pick them up.
This year I saved Genovese (typical) Basil. Red Ruben Basil, and Cinnamon Basil. All plants grew easily and produced well, but as they got older (toward the six month mark) they got leggy and woody and tended to develop bugs. As a rule, I've found it's better to just try to keep a supply of young basil in the house, and use the older basil just for seed saving.
Holiday blog entries are also coming soon! Christmas plants, New Years Resolutions, and a preview of what I'm hoping to accomplish with this site in 2012...in between starting school and having a baby, of course