Finding Ease: Tip #1

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

The gardening season here in the ‘North’ is starting to ramp up which means that, as someone who works in the garden retail industry, my work hours are starting to increase and my work week lengthen. That’s great for the bank account but, unless I’m careful, will wreak havoc with my garden and all my plans for this season. So, I’ve decided to look at all the little ways that I can streamline my gardening…without losing any of the joy, of course.

Sweet Pea 'Matucana'; Grown 2 years ago without inoculant.

Sweet Pea 'Matucana'; Grown 2 years ago without inoculant.

Tip #1 is the ‘aha’ moment from yesterday when, while looking through my seed packets to determine what next needed to be sown inside, I came across some sweet pea and Brazilian verbena seeds. Either flower can be started inside or sown directly into the soil outside but both flower earlier and, in the case of the perennial verbena, are hardier when sown inside. The trouble is that sowing inside is more time-consuming (potting up and hardening-off are two steps not necessary when sowing outside) and I save my precious time for plants like peppers and tomatoes that, unless started inside, will not produce anything due to our short growing season. So, I decided the risk was worth it and I’ll sow them directly outside when the weather warms up a bit (can you believe we still have a bit of snow?).

To cover my bets a bit, I’ll inoculate my sweet pea seeds. Inoculant contains Rhizobia bacteria which helps the members of the legume family (such as peas and beans) fix nitrogen from the air which makes them more productive. This bacteria is less active in cooler soils and, since sweet peas are always sown in the early spring when the soil is just this side of unfrozen, a little more of the Rhizobia will only be helpful.

The Brazilian verbena, however, is on its own.

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Can I Get A ‘Do-Over’?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

I had to take a hiatus from blogging – started a new job with a steep learning curve – but you didn’t miss much in my garden last season. Spring was cold and rainy so the mosquitoes were horrendous and the aphids prolific. I put in the garden about 6 weeks too late so the tomatoes didn’t ripen well before the first frost. The slugs chewed up every broad-leafed vegetable I planted because I just didn’t have time to constantly troll for them. And it wasn’t just the insects and diseases my plants had to contend with – they also had to compete with each other for space and nutrients. And when it’s a battle between the zucchini and the carrots, guess who’s going to win?! I have to say, though, it’s impressive what my poor little neglected garden was able to produce despite my absence and the horrible weather.

2011 Season...Yes, I know it looks lush but where's all the fruit?

2011 Season...Yes, I know it looks lush but where's all the fruit?

So, despite my threats to turn to plastic plant gardening, last year’s little successes have encouraged me to get back in the garden again (and, hopefully, back to blogging) because, as we all know, gardeners are an optimistic lot – and there are so many things I still haven’t tried growing yet like strawberries from seed…and Brazilian verbena…and tuberose…and black radishes…and purple carrots…and there are some interesting new/old lettuce varieties…

16 Days…

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

…until the last frost! We’re coming down the homestretch to spring, to digging in the dirt, to sowing seeds. But we’re not there yet so, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m still depending on CBC Radio to keep me sane until the snow melts, and, specifically, this morning, it was a Spark interview that I enjoyed with my morning coffee – an interview with Ingrid Fetell and her research into the “aesthetics of joy”.

I felt she made a convincing case for the importance of designing for joy but it’s probably because I already believe that we need more joyful spaces – more places that lighten our mood, make us smile, engage our hearts. It’s why I designed my kitchen garden the way I did.

Believe it or not, but I’ve gotten flack for my kitchen garden. I’ve been told it’s not efficient, it doesn’t make the best use of the space, and some parts are too tight to work easily in. These things are all true, to a certain extent, but only if the goal of my kitchen garden is to produce the most amount of food in the allotted space with the least amount of effort.

Hear that sound? That was the sound of joy being sucked out of my garden!

That’s not my goal for my kitchen garden. My goal always has been for it to bring me joy - in the looking at, the working in, and the eating of.

I designed the garden with raised beds because I like tidy edges; with bamboo trellises because I like the feeling of walls; and with lots of flowers…because I like flowers. These things also allow me to control the type of soil I use, provide support for tomatoes and climbing vines, and attract pollinators, but that, to me, is secondary to the joy it brings me to see these elements.

I decided to lay down gravel for the paths – I love the crunchy sound it makes when I walk on it and raking it smooth reminds me of those Japanese sand gardens. Okay, so it’s an inexpensive and easy to lay surfacing material – that’s so not the point.

I plant things we love to eat fresh – peas, radishes, tomatoes, lettuces, beans. These are almost all consumed during the course of the growing season because to me, the flavor of food harvested right from the garden, sometimes still warm from the sun, brings me intense joy. Frozen beans eaten in the dead of winter don’t always produce that same intense sensation – although the Romano bean I grew last year tasted better after being frozen, which was a joyful discovery (Ingrid talks about surprise being one of the elements in creating joy).

And the other thing that gives me joy in my kitchen garden, when the snow is white and thick on the ground, is the designing of it. Below, is this year’s plan for the garden. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

2011 Kitchen Garden Plan; click on plan for a larger image

2011 Kitchen Garden Plan