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).

2 thoughts on “A Look Back at 2014

  1. Anna @ NorthernHomestead

    Hi Conrad, nice to find your blog! Glad you had a good gardening year, with some new adventures! Planting before the last frost day is a big one. Love your idea with the aquarium heater. Hope to learn more from you in the future!

    1. Conrad Post author

      Hello Anna, thanks for reading and the kind words! I wish I could take credit for the aquarium idea, but I got it from Gary Pilarchik on his Rusted Garden YouTube channel, where he got it from, or whether or not he made it up though, I am not sure.


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