Garden Planning! (and the competition is on!)

So it hasnt been too nice lately despite the last frost date supposedly being May 6.  Last year I was really keen to plant cool season veggies, but this year I held off.  I didn’t have the greatest success planting in the first week of April last year, so this year I held off a little longer.  But today, I planted an entire bed of cool season veggies, so the outdoor veggie season has officially started! Here is a link to my plan for the back veggie garden, which has dappled shade in the summer.  I typically plant cool season veggies here, so that when it does warm up, the plants don’t bolt and go to seed. Last year the Swiss chard worked out well for me, but I didn’t have much luck with the spinach or peas.  This year I am planting swiss chard again as well as the spinach (we still have lots of spinach seeds left over), and I am also trying some Astro Arugula and some kale that we got from our friend Patricia (the kale seeds came from her dad’s garden in BC, which is particularly exciting!). This year I bought a different type of pea, sugar snap, at the seedy saturday seed exchange. The vines are supposed to grow up to 2m, so I am hoping that they will be happy right up against the chain link fence.  Hopefully we have more sucess with the vine type of pea as opposed to the bush variety 🙂

We have three garden beds total, and the other two haven’t been planted yet. This year, Brian and I are having a mini competition of sorts.  Brian was constantly informing me how he would do things differently, so I decided a challenge was in order.  Since we still want to have as much variety in vegetables as possible, we agreed that it wasnt necessary to plant exactly the same vegetables.  We did up a handy seed chart and went through the list to determine what veggies (and how many) would go in each garden.   I think I am the most excited about the tomatoes, and I am planning to have 3 different varieties in my garden.  Brian found some interesting ground cherry seeds, so those will go in his garden. I will have the fence to support my climbing plants, and Brian will have the obliesque trellis to support his climbers.  So we will have to see who has the most exciting crops and the most visually appealing garden! We’ll have to have friends over to vote during the growing season:)

Nicole’s veggie garden plan

Brian’s veggie garden plan

And here is the spreadsheet of all the veggies we plan to grow this year.

I just realized that I forgot to mention the boring (labour intensive) part.  To ensure our veggie growing success, we amended the soil in each of the garden beds by adding two bags of composted manure and one part peat moss.  We also had left mulched up leaves on the beds over winter to decompose and also to act as a mulch, so that was stirred in as well.  We ended up with quite a few weeds despite the leaf mulch, which I think was due to the manitoba maples depositing these little seed packets all over the yard in March. We will have to remember to cover the garden beds with plastic next year, which besides preventing weeds, should also help the soil to warm up sooner.  Oh well, I think I got most of the weeds!

While we were doing that, we also overseeded the lawn.  We had a bunch of top soil brought in last year and we tried to completely renovate the lawn.  There are still some patchy areas, so hopefully we are able to fill those in.  We’ll have to stay off the lawn for a bit now to let it establish, which means no more just opening the back door for Mika to go to the bathroom!

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Dows Lake – Magnolias are blooming!

So I took some pictures a couple weeks ago of the magnolia’s blooming at Dows Lake, but am just getting around to posting them now.  Next up – tulips and crabapple blooms!

This weekend is the first of three weekends for the Tulip Festival, so I plan to take some pictures soon.  I walked by a couple times last week and there are already some tulips out, but the light conditions haven’t been great for taking pictures (I prefer taking pictures on sunny days, and there haven’t been too many of those lately!)

Update on seedlings!

So I think I started my seeds around March 26, and its been since Apr 3 that I posted any photos or gave an update.

Most of the seedlings are progressing well.  I was away in Victoria for a few days and they got a bit dry (I left instructions with Brian not to overwater them, since I thought he might be too enthusiastic.. apparently that made him overcautious 🙂 ) The only casulties were the morning glories, which probably should have been transplanted before I left anyways.  And since they grew so fast, I can start more later 🙂

We transplanted the seedlings into larger containers last thursday. Here are some before and after pictures.

Before

After

I also started a few more seeds, because I got some yellow cherry tomatoes and black beauty eggplant from a friend. I also started a couple more black cherry tomatoes, because the first ones I started didn’t look nearly as healthy as the hybrid tumbling cherry tomatoes.  Could just be the difference in variety though.  Will have to see how they turn out.

Here’s a boring picture of them pre-sprouting. More exciting pictures to follow, I promise 😉

Easter 2012 – My mom’s garden

I also took a couple pictures of my mom’s garden while I was in Victoria.  Daffodils were out, the cherry tree was just finishing blooming, and there was a ton of beautiful pink heather flowering.  While I was there I got to prune dead catmint growth from last year and pull a dead plant out of the ground 🙂 I should have taken more photos of the backyard… maybe next time I’m there I’ll remember to do that!

Easter 2012 – Garden at Hatley Castle

I spent the Easter long weekend visiting my family in Victoria, BC.  While I was there, we visited the garden at Hatley Castle.  While less well known than Butchart Gardens, the gardens are absolutely beautiful and open to the public.

Every time I go back to visit, my parents usually take us on a walk to visit.  Its also somewhere that they bring family friends and relatives to see when they are in town.

Here is a link to the website for the castle http://hatleycastle.com/ and Hatley Park http://www.hatleypark.ca/

Its been a few years since I’ve visited the gardens in spring.  The rhododendrons in particular were spectacular, as were the hellebores.   Below are some pictures. Enjoy 🙂

Seed starting time!

I’m a bit behind with my indoor seed starting this year because it took me a bit longer than I expected to find the seeds I wanted.  I’ve learned that it pays to do a bit of research to find varieties that are easy to grow, unique, or do well in small spaces. I probably could have ordered from a catalogue, but in the end, I found what I was looking for with a trip to Richie’s Seed and Feed.  I also picked up a couple packets of seeds at the Seedy Saturday event back in early March.

Last year I had more seedlings that I knew what to do with and ended up giving a bunch away. This year, I tried to exercise some restraint, and planted about half a tray of seeds.  I also only started things that absolutely need to be started indoors (in past years I started basil and other veggies such as zucchini from seed, but clearly its much easier to just direct sow whenever its an option).

It doesn’t seem like much now compared to previous years, but I have to remind myself that once I transplant the seedlings into larger pots, they will take up a lot more room!

Here’s a picture of my baby seedlings, after 9 days.

From left to right:

  • 4 Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry (McKenzie) – Brian’s pick, and probably one of the plants I am most excited about so far.
  • 6 mini bell peppers (McKenzie) – I saved just the yellow and orange pepper seeds from last year, since they were the crispest and sweetest. We will have to see how they turn out this year. I found that we had much more success with these smaller peppers, given our shorter growing season.  This variety still apparently takes 70-90 days to maturity though.
  • 6 hot pepper super chili – Last year we planted a couple seeds from a plant we bought in 2010, and they grew amazingly.  They are too hot for our taste, other than to spice chilis or salsa, but are very ornamental and prolific.
  • 8 Tomato Tumbler F1 Hybrid (trailing) (McKenzie) – Had great success with these cherry tomatoes last year. They are determinate plants,so they didn’t get too out of control which is great given that we have a smaller veggie garden.  They produced explode in your mouth tomatoes by the handful, so I decided that they were worth repeating.  They mature in only 55 days, but they were the priciest seeds I bought ($3.89 for 8 seeds), especially since you can’t save the seeds from hybrid plants for next year.
  • 6 Black Cherry Tomato (McFayden) – These are a heirloom variety I wanted to try after doing some research.  I am excited to see how the color turns out, and although this is an indeterminate variety, the packet says they should only grow to about 60 cm.  We’ll see.  Maybe in a future blog I will write about the various tomato varieties I am excited about trying in years to come.
  • 6 Morning Glory Heavenly Blue (McKenzie) – I started these indoors for earlier blooms as advised on the package.  However, they are already quite large so perhaps this was a mistake! I havent grown morning glories before, but decided to give them a try since the moonflowers I grew last year weren’t quite as tall and viney as I was hoping.

Here’s a picture of the shelving unit I have set up in the window.  The seedlings are on a box so that they are right up against the florescent light that is mounted on the bottom of the shelf.  I used this light last year to prevent leggy seedlings.  Not sure how well it works, but it was pretty cheap and easy to set up.

Morning Walk – April 2

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Here are some tulips at the end of the road. No flowers yet, but probably will flower quite early given the nice sunny location:)
You can just see the leaves emerging. I love the crab apple trees at Dows Lake in spring.  The Siberian Crab apple is one of my favorites.You can just see the leaves emerging. I love the crab apple trees at Dows Lake in spring -the Siberian Crab apple is one of my favorites.

Close up of the leaves. You can see a magnolia in the background just starting to bud.

And here’s a red splendor crabapple that’s also budding.