Monthly Archives: January 2015

Goals for 2015

Last week, I discussed some of the things that I had accomplished and learned through 2014, so this week I thought we could look ahead at some of the things that I will be putting time and effort into this year. I will break the projects and the plantings into three different groups, things related to the greenhouse, things related to the outside garden beds and areas, as well as touching on other projects that I will be working at that are not directly related, but have to do with the overall areas.

In the Greenhouse

2015 will (hopefully) see some changes for the better in something that I already love to garden in; the greenhouse will go under many small changes to make it work even better in the coming years. Those changes include:

    • One of the biggest changes in the greenhouse will be the addition of a raised bed on the north side right next to the wall. Though I was mildly successful with the containers I used in 2014, I could fit a lot more plants into a raised bed with a lot better quality soil than I had with the containers last year.
  • The floor in the greenhouse is going to change as well, the tarp that I had for a floor in 2014 just wasn’t good enough. By the end of the year, I was picking quack grass out from through it almost daily. This year I am going to be putting in a layer of cardboard underneath some landscape fabric, and laying cedar chips down. Not only should this get rid of my grass problem, but it will look great too.
  • I will be adding more windows to the structure as well, it’s nice in the fall (and I would assume in the early spring) to trap the heat inside on cool, sunny days. However when it was hot and sunny outside, it was extra hot on the inside of the greenhouse, even with my “shade cloth”. To help with venting, I am going to be adding two windows each to the bottom of the North and South sides, these windows will open from the bottom outwards to allow more air in. I will also be adding a window to the door, as I don’t like propping the door open as much as I had to last year.
  • Due to the parachute shape of my greenhouse, and the fact that I will be putting windows in the bottom, I am now deathly afraid it will fly away in a good wind storm. To sooth my worries, I will be anchoring the greenhouse to the ground with some cement and bent rebar.
  • While I am doing that, I will also being leveling the area the greenhouse sits on and laying a level layer of bricks for it to rest on once the anchors are ready. This should eliminate the problems I have with gaps around the bottom that I noticed this winter and will save the wood from sitting on the soil when it rains.
  • I am going to try to get a hold of some bamboo that I can grow in the greenhouse to make into stakes for other plants around the garden. This isn’t really a necessity since bamboo products aren’t that expensive around here, but after all of the rest I am planning for it, I need to save money in the greenhouse somehow! I would bring the plant inside the house for the winter so that I could keep it alive as well.
  • The last thing I have planned for the greenhouse is to make some cold frames for the raised bed in it for next winter. I don’t know if I will just do an unheated hoop house over them, or if I will get an extra aquarium heater and do what I did this year with my fall garden to keep it warm. Either way, I have lots of time to decide.

In the Gardens

I will be expanding my outdoor gardening area yet again this season, I won’t just be adding in extra beds as I did last season however. Here is what I am planning on:

    • I am going to make a raised bed just for strawberries, before I was just growing them in pots, but we never got enough berries for my liking. I think I will make it a little taller than my other raised beds, with a 2×4 around the top for sitting on.
  • A new technique that I have been looking into, mostly on Larry Hall’s YouTube channel, is air pruning. Basically, you grow a plant in a cloth container (in my case some old cloth grocery bags) and when the roots get to the edge of the bag they hit the air and stop growing. Instead of growing around like they do on the inside of a pot, the plant grows extra roots and root hairs and it is supposed to give great results. I will try a couple of bags this year, and if they work out, I will expand on it in 2016.
  • I am going to plant my gladiolas in pots that are put into the ground instead of just growing them in the greenhouse like I did last year. This will allow me to have the extra space in the greenhouse when it is full during the summer, but come fall, I can extend the season for the gladiolas by bringing them into the greenhouse once there is risk of frost. I am hoping this will lead to more growth of the cormlets that I will be planting come spring, and that the mature corms will produce more, and larger cormlets this year.
  • I will be adding more variety to my gardens this year as well, with turnips, Swiss chard, kale, and garlic being guaranteed for this year, as well as some hopefuls, like grapes, blueberries (which I had last year, but never found a place for, I’m hoping they’ll live out on the deck for the winter, if not I’ll probably buy new ones), rhubarb (mine died), and at least one goji berry bush if I can get a good deal on one.
  • The last thing I will be doing in the fall for the outdoor gardens is collecting leaves from the neighbours. I want to mulch all of my outdoor beds with them, as well as starting a pile just for leaf mold if I can get enough. It’s too bad we only have the one tree and some of the neighbours lilacs to get leaves from, or I would have done this a few years ago.

Planned Projects

As with 2014, this year will involve some building on my part, though I have decided to keep it as cheap as possible, as these projects are optional in my book and I could just as easily leave them for a year or two:

    • I want to build a small tool shed out of pallet wood. I will probably buy a couple of 2×4’s just to rip down the centre and make a solid frame out of, but the sides, roof, door, and floor will all be free materials. It won’t be too big, probably a couple of feet deep and wide, by about six feet tall. I have already started collecting pallets for it, but I still need a lot more of them to get the materials that I need.
  • Mason bee houses. I have some pieces of cedar that came off of one of the pallets I mentioned I had in the last part that I am going to fashion into some mason bee houses. Hopefully I can see some of those hardworking little guys this spring since they are native around here, but we’ll see. If all else fails, I will order some for next year.
  • I am going to try my hand at hydroponics. The system I have chosen is really cheap to make, it is all done in a five gallon pail, but it will be my first time trying it and I am excited to see the results. I haven’t decided whether to do tomatoes, or a watermelon in it yet however, but I found the design on MIGardener’s YouTube channel.
  • I also want to move forward with my solar project plans for the future. At very minimum I want to turn our current shed so that I can have one of the slanted sides of the roof facing south so that I can put a solar panel or two on it in a year or two. I may also, if I can get the parts, and some batteries for cheap, start on the small wind turbine that I found plans for as well. That is a very big maybe though, and I doubt it will happen this year.

So there you have it, that’s what I plan to do with my garden areas this year, I would love to hear what new and exciting things that you are planning on building, growing, or expanding as well. You can tell me in the comments below, on Google+, or show me on Pinterest, I can’t wait to see what you guys are up to!

A Look Back at 2014

Hello everyone, and happy belated New Year to you! Today I just wanted to take a look back at some of the things I did, and some of the things I learned in 2014. It was a good year for me, I don’t think I produced as much in terms of food in 2014 as I had in years passed (except for a record number of Evan’s cherries from our tree) but the garden had more diversity, and grew in size by quite a bit. I might have even doubled my growing space if you count the greenhouse are. Here are some of the projects that I completed last year:

    1. I built a greenhouse. I used TexasPrepper2’s plans to build a nice sized, sturdy greenhouse that I absolutely love and am proud of. I will be adding some more things to it this year, as well as posting about building it, so stay tuned for those posts! Here is the video that started it all for my greenhouse, as you can see, there isn’t much to making one like it.
    2. I added two new garden beds to the yard and moved another one to a better position. It took a lot of digging, and I never got around to planting the two new ones, but they should look great growing this season. You can read about them here.
    3. I bought and planted an espalier/grafted pear tree. It has three types of pears on six branches, is hardy to Zone 2, and looks fantastic. I will be doing a write up about it this year as well.
    4. For the first time, I actually saved some seeds from my garden. I know many of you reading this will think I was crazy not to before, but it was never something that I had been taught how to do, and never really thought of before this year. I managed to save some marigold, viola, chili pepper, and dwarf arctic iris seeds for this season, and plan on collecting many more for 2016 and beyond.
    5. Many of you might already know this, but I also started a YouTube channel for this site, it’s still very small, but I will be doing a lot more videos in the future so keep on watching! You can subscribe to the channel by clicking here.

Just some of the many things that I learned last year:

    1. Before 2014, I had no idea that you could plant anything before the frost date in my area. I had seen it written about in gardening books, but it took until I saw some YouTube videos that I actually believed it. I planted radishes at the start of April this year, and spinach not too long after with great results. You can read about the radishes here.
    2. This isn’t necessarily gardening related, but can help if you have any projects that you’re going to be doing any time soon: having two drills will save you tons of time. I built the first ¾ of the greenhouse with only my one cordless drill. Between switching between drill bits and driver bits, and constantly having to change batteries (or both being dead at the same time) it took me two or three times as long to do the drilling for the first ¾ of the greenhouse as it did compared to the last ¼ which had way more pilot holes to drill, and screws to put in.
      Also, make sure that one of your drills has a cord; having a million drills wouldn’t help if you can’t find a charged battery!
    3. If you can afford to build, or buy one, get a greenhouse! When I got the plans for my greenhouse, I thought I would just extend the season a bit, and keep some frost off of my plants for an extra while in the fall. I decided to put a watermelon, some gladiolas (which we’ve never had luck with) and some cantaloupe in it. One taste of watermelon and the money and time I spent were well worth it!
      It is just a joy to garden inside, where even on miserable, rainy days outside, the plants inside are happy and you can do a bit of gardening without getting wet. It really keeps one’s spirits up.
    4. An early snowfall can crush your homegrown jack-o-lantern dreams. I planted my pumpkin a little later than I wanted this season, as the two seedlings that I had died before I could get them in the ground, so once the frost was passed I planted some seeds in the ground. To my surprise, I had a pretty big pumpkin growing; it quickly got to the size of a soccer ball and then the snow hit.
      At first everything looked fine; the big green pumpkin looked great despite the vines starting to die almost immediately, so I left it where it was. Once the snow melted a few days later, that’s when I noticed the skin starting to wrinkle on the top. A few more days and the top started to rot, however, it looked as though the other side was perfectly fine, I think if I had covered it (or brought it in the house) that I could have saved it.
    5. Remember everything I said about a building a greenhouse before? If you’re planning on using a tarp for a floor, don’t. I had so much quack grass grow up through my tarp that it became a real pain in the arse. By the fall, I spent almost as much time picking grass out from under the tarp as I did tending my plants! Adding a layer of wood chips may have helped, but I guess we can find out in the spring when I replace the tarp with cardboard underneath landscape fabric before putting cedar chips overtop of it. Though the cardboard will probably do more to stop it growing through than the wood chips.
    6. Growing potatoes in a mixture that mostly contains peat moss does not work well. Not only did my potatoes not produce well, they also had some weird marks on them which are caused by too much organic matter in their growing medium. You can see what I did with my potatoes last year here, or to see just the results, click here for the bags, or here for the garbage can.
    7. Carrots taste better after a frost, or in this case snowfall. At the same time my pumpkin was being ruined, I worried about my carrots still being in the ground and having the snow sit on them, possibly freezing or breaking the stems. All of that worry was for nothing, as I forgot that carrots are biennials, so they are used to living through winters.
      What I did not expect was how delicious that cold weather made them, I have never had sweeter carrots than I had this fall, and I will try not to pick any before we get a frost this year either (I am not going to make that an official goal, as I already know I won’t be able to resist once the tops get big).
    8. I do not like beets. Years passed I thought that maybe it was just they way we had prepared them, so last year I tried a number of recipes… None which I found pleasing. It’s not all bad though, I used the last of my beet seeds in 2014, and now I can use the space they were planted in for something else!
    9. Simply having chives, dill, and cilantro in the gardens will make your eggs taste fantastic. Adding a little bit of one, two, or all three of these ingredients to your eggs just make breakfast better!
    10. A cheap 25 Watt aquarium heater in a 5 gallon bucket and some warm blankets can keep your plants producing under a grow tent in an unheated greenhouse through the harshest an Alberta winter can throw at you. I picked fresh greens for a salad on Christmas and everyone loved having some fresh from the garden produce to eat, of course we mixed it with store bought vegetables as well, so it wasn’t quite summer fresh, but it was still delicious.
    11. Gardening is a great way to get in touch with people. Whether it is a neighbour stopping by to chat while you’re out in your garden, or whether you’re sharing stories and getting tips from Google+ communities, or by making and reading YouTube comments, it can be a very rewarding experience.

Thanks to you guys reading and commenting here, or on my YouTube channel, or Google+ account, I had a really great 2014. I invite you all along as we step into 2015 and beyond, I know I can’t wait to see what you all are up to, I hope that you guys feel the same!

Next week I will be doing a post about my goals for what I hope to accomplish for 2015, it should be an interesting read, I have some good ideas (or at least I think so).