Saturday, May 20, 2017

Flowering shrubs and retaining wall

With most of the garden planted, we spent much of this week admiring the flowing shrubs. The alpine currant hedge we have on the south side of the yard has such understated blooms that you can miss them if you don't look carefully.

That is less of a problem with the Saskatoon bushes which have a nice early showing before getting down to work making berries.

About the only thing to come up in the yard this week was the early planting of beets. Good old reliable beets!

We walked around the neighbourhood a lot this week and the edge of the valley has lots in bloom. I can't recall what this bush produces. I'd guess soap berries.

 The crab apple trees are also in full bloom (regular apples seem a touch behind).

The cherries are almost done as are whatever these pretty blossoms are.

The MayDay trees are really going great guns (albeit several week later than last year!). The grape-y smell is lovely.

We've also seem the raspberry bushes fill out.

About 15 year ago I built a small retaining wall in the back yard to hep level the ground out. It needed replacement and was on my list of things to do this fall. Unfortunately, the east-west part of the wall that keeps the potato bed off the path gave out on Wednesday.

So I pulled the old wood out and replaced it. I've left the near end uneven so I can interlace the north-south part of the wall when I get around to replacing it this fall. I have a bit more clean up to do on this today and then some weeding.

I noticed the red elder berry on my evening walk is also about to bloom. I've made a yucky jelly from the berries before but I hear you can make a delicious syrup from the blossoms. I'll see how ambitious I get in the next week.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spring flowers and more planting

Spring seems to have finally arrived and we decided to plant the tomatoes. All of the blush and the crimson sprinter tomatoes we seeded came up and I managed to avoid cooking them while I hardened them off (like last year...). So we plunked them in along with some starters we picked up at Apache (some roma and early girl and beefsteak).

The garlic came up quite suddenly last week and has really jumped ahead. The onions are also now peeking above ground.

We still have a bed in the back where I'm making a determined effort to eradicate the purple bell flower. This stuff is a nightmare. After literally years of fighting it, we're getting the upperhand. But the picture below shows what we're up against: there was 1 inch of growth above ground and 11 or more inches of root (gardening knife is 12 inches of scale).

Only in really loose soil is this kind of extraction possible. In heavier clay, I'm basically stuck topping it and hoping to starve out the tuber. In happier news, the oregano is back and seems to have spread over the winter.

Along with the tomato starts, we also picked up a tomatillo and hot pepper plant. Jess was keen to plant. I questioned her wardrobe choice ("I'm glam-ting!") and, after getting snagged on the black raspberry canes, she saw my point.

The raspberry hedge we put in along the north side of the property is coming up very nicely this year. I'm hopeful we'll get enough to make lots of jam as we ran out this winter).

The peas have come up so we planted the pole beans in behind them to get two crops from this trellis this year.

We're also starting to see the flowering shrubs start. This crab apple tree is one I pass on my daily walk.

Our efforts to move this tulip tarde have only been partly successful and it came up in the back veggy bed again (really thickly) so we'll pull these out when the leaves die back and move more around to plant among the irises.

Rain has kept us inside today but we'll be back out putting on some annual flowers and herbs. Our efforts to grow musk melons were a bust (second year nothing happened so we bought a watermelon start and planted it in the back.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


Spring seems to be here for real this time. The perennials (like the day lilies below) are up and jumped a couple of inches in the heat of the past few days.

While we waited for the soil to warm a bit, I dug out one of the compost bins. Amazing how organic debris breaks down and gives you... spoons. I have scheduled a refresher on what you can compost and what you can't for the next staff meeting.

The wheelbarrow of stuff I dug out made some nice additions to the beds that I'm building on top of a huge pile of clay from the foundation dig seven years ago. We then planted a bunch of walla-walla shoots.

Jess also puts in 40 or so potato plants after I loosened the soil I touch. We went with more purple caribe, a russet variant, and a yellow boiling potato.

It is interesting to poke around in last year's debris. I found this Roma and was surprised to see the colour change in the skin over the winter. Very striking against the greys and browns.

The storage onions we put in more than a month ago have started to jump up out front. No sign of the last fall's garlic yet.

The bird house we bought for Jenn last mother's day has tenant (chickadees). Hard to get a good shot with my camera and zooming. The best I could do is this one (you can see the chickadee launching itself out of the house--pardon the distortions through the three panes of glass).

The rhubarb is up. We were drinking some of last year's rhubarb wine and quite enjoying it last night. I think we'll do this again this year. We plants the carrots, turnips, and zucchini yesterday. It looks like the radishes self-seeded last year n one bed so we'll just leave them.

I need to uncover the soil in the corn bed to let it warm up a touch over the week. There is also some early weeding to do.

The good news is that the bulbs are starting t come on. This daf was the first to flower but the tulips should follow shortly. The greening up of the shrubs has bee fast enough to almost watch it happen.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

New rain barrel and stand

Spring comes in fits and starts. While we wait for the latest snowfall to melt, Jess and I have been busy knocking one of the long-standing projects off my to-do list: add a second rain barrel to the garage eaves. This entail making a stand. 

With Jenn out of town for a well deserved spa weekend, we decided to tackle this. Jess is currently taking construction at school so I thought this would dovetail with the finer work she's doing on a crib-board project. We also decided to use hand tools--you can still hurt yourself with a hand tool, but not nearly as badly!

The only complicated part of the plans we downloaded from the web was a pair of inset cross-braces at the bottom. I think this was mostly an aesthetic choice by the designer (we likely could have just screwed to the face of the legs). But insetting was a good chance to add in some chisel work.

We did use a power drill (because I'm too old to screw around with a hand drill) to put in some pilot holes and drive the screws. Jess did about 80% of the cutting and drilling and half of the screws. I ended up freehanding the screws on the top decking to save some time (she was pooped out and the angle was tough for her to apply enough force).

The result was pretty much as intended. We even used carpenter's glue! It held my weight no problem and even appeared plumb!

While the glue dried, we fiddled around with the downspouts and managed to fashion a run that moved the water around the corner from the alley and into the backyard. To my surprise, no one cut themselves on the sheet metal.

We then assembled everything and put the new water barrel in place. It looks like we'll get more snow or sleet tonight so hopefully it will fill alright.

The cooler temperatures have meant the garden is still slow. I was able to rake the back finally and some of the perennials are up. The rhubarb has made the most progress.

It always looks so alien coming up from the winter decay. I was quite happy with the rhubarb wine I made last year so we'll do that again this year.

Today we went out and bought potatoes. If the weather improved next week, we'll drop them and some walla-walla onions in the ground.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Getting under way

Spring has finally arrived (a few weeks later than last year) and the garden has thawed and dried out enough to start the season.

As usually, the first plant up was the wild onion. This patch is slowly expanding and there might even be enough of it to get a harvest off!

As we've waited for spring, I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. One of my goals this year is to learn a few new recipes. Indian seems like a favour so I have been making paneer. And then I've bee cleaning out the veggies we froze last summer to make things like saag paneer.

We decided to start a few plants inside this year. I planted a two types of tomatoes and also the last of the melon seeds (an indoor start may be more effective than our efforts last year). Jess planted a bunch of flowers.

Last weekend, we got out in the back yard to put up the bean and pea trellises. Jess is strong enough to swing the sledge hammer. No injuries so we'll call that a success.

It is a bit hard to see but as the beans and peas rotate into the north bean, we're trying some vertical gardening. Against the fence (right) are the raspberries. The a high trellis with peas and later beans. On the left is a lower trellis for peas and some low plants in the open bed on far left.

After we got all of this banged into place... it snowed. Fortunately, it quickly melted.

This drove us back into the kitchen for some korma and a strawberry-rhubarb pie. We canned the filling last summer and it was delicious.

The melt revealed the first of the bulbs (tulip tarde) are up. Each year I try to clean these guys out of the vegetable bed and move them around front. And, each year, more appear!

While the back bed dried out (again), we planted a couple of hundred storage onions in the front yard.

Jess unearthed a couple of ladybugs to play with so I finished the onions.

 We also got the peas and a few beets in. The chives are also up in the back.

And there are the first few sprouts of the rhubarb. Last year's rhubarb wine was amazing. This year I want to try strawberry wine.

The seed we plated last week are also just beginning to sprout in the window.

So far this weekend, I've cleaned the bed behind the garage. I may plant some lettuce there as the raised beds are warm. The daunted task of raking the lawn also beckons.