2015 Garden Report – Part 2

In this posting we would like to share with you our experiences with attaining our 2015 garden goals. Some of the ideas on the internet are intriguing and look like a neat thing to do, but after our experiences this past growing season we will be more questioning of the gimmicks flooding the internet gardening sites and sticking to more conventional, proven methods.  We started 2015 with five goals for our gardens.
1. Start an asparagus bedAsparagus Bed
2. Plant sweet potatoes
3. Begin a straw bale garden
4. Grow vertical potatoes
5. Create a growing bed using sawdust and compost
1. The asparagus bed is done. We had planned to do this for three years and finally did it this past spring. We planted live root stock of Jersey Giant and Purple Passion. The bed is heavily mulched and we await for this springs results. Hopefully we will be able to take a small harvest this year and be patient enough to wait for year three.
2. The sweet potato experiment was short lived. Unrooted vines were planted in our carefully prepared bed. The vines excelled over the next two weeks and then disaster. Our neighbourhood skunk had dug up all the vines and had damaged most beyond rehabilitation. Planted more russet potatoes and moved on.
3. Straw bale garden experiment took on two different approaches. The first was to build a frame from old pallets to contain three bales. Four Zucchini plants were planted into the three bales. Holes were made for each plant and each hole filled with a mixture of our own compost and leaf mold. We had excellent results with an abundance of zucchini. Most is shredded and frozen for zucchini bread and we still had plenty for fresh eating and to give away.
The second SBG experiment was to set up three rows of five bales each and follow the “conditioning” regime. Blood meal was used to condition the bales and the bales were watered every day. It was a long and somewhat expensive process and other than the bush beans, not that productive. The cabbage was a reasonable harvest, broccoli was just “so-so” and cauliflower a disaster.017
Would we do it again? No! We obtained much better results with our “non-conditioned” framed bales with little effort. If we were to try it again, we would use only tight baled straw or frame the bales. Loose bales broke down quickly and plants were pulling out of the bales. We also have developed good soil and have lots of garden space, so really do not need the SBG method. The composted bales are now rearranged into four three foot by twelve foot raised beds.
4. Growing vertical potatoes – A wire cylinder made from concrete construction mesh was filled with a layer of straw, then a layer of compost and leaf mold, then three seed potatoes planted. This was repeated until the four foot potato tower was fully planted. Plant growth was exceptional and plants found their way to the sunshine through the straw to the sides of the tower. The disappointment came with the harvest. Only two to three medium sized potatoes per plant. Production is far superior with the traditional “hilled up” rows. Chalk this one up to a neat idea and totally unnecessary if you have the garden space to grow your potatoes using the “hilled up” row method.
5. The sawdust bed. This idea came from a garden we visited in south-west Nova Scotia. Huge vegetables were growing in sawdust. The key to this is old sawdust. There is an old mill with mounds of sawdust that is over forty years old near our homestead. Unfortunately it was very late in the season before we were able to find ownership in order to seek permission to remove some of the old sawdust. Maybe this coming season we will attempt to get a few loads and try the sawdust bed. If you are thinking about doing this, we recommend a mixture of sawdust and compost for your planting bed.
One more thing. Gardens Jul 2 005We added grids like used in Square Foot Gardening to all of our raised beds in the upper garden. We found them to be very useful for planning and planting. Planning of succession planting and companion planting seemed easier using the organization of the grids.  Using the SFG grids also made proper spacing easier.
If you have had experience with any of the above, please share in the comments. Until next posting, enjoy planning the 2016 garden and Happy New Year!

Tom and Di

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How to Beat the Rising Cost of Produce

Lately I have heard a lot about the rising cost of produce.  Every week there is a story in the news about the drought in California, increased transportation costs, supply and demand issues, etc.  At the same time I see bigger, brighter, fancier and over stocked giant grocery stores being built a car drive away from the consumer.  I’m sure you pay for these fancy grocery stores too!

Then I look out my window and think that in a few weeks, I will be picking fresh salad greens, herbs, beans, peas, beets, carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions and strawberries all within a fresh morning walk and basically free.  Through the off-season, canned and frozen fruit and vegetables that came from the garden, again for free!

Saving money. just another good reason to start a vegetable garden this summer if you have not done so already.  Also a good reason to plan an expansion this year, maybe another raised bed or a few straw bales to increase production.  Even a small plot will start you on the path of savings.

The following article is from the Gardening Channel and covers some financial advantages of growing your own garden full of fresh vegetables.  It also goes into the “best bang for your buck” on which vegetables to grow to save the most.

Saving Money with Your Vegetable Garden: How Much You Could Save?
Growing your own vegetables is bound to save you money during those all-too-frequent grocery shopping trips. But if you plan strategically, you can maximize the dollar potential of your vegetable garden. And we don’t mean selling your crops, which results in instant profit. Instead, we list some of the best and worst financial choices for your vegetable garden based on $2 seed packet purchases. Of course, what you grow is subject to personal preference; these options are purely based on savings potential.
First, let’s take a look at those vegetables that make the least financial sense. Potatoes and onions are so inexpensive at supermarkets that you will not save that much money by growing your own. Also, vegetables like cauliflower and artichokes that are especially susceptible to disease or pest infestation may yield fewer crops, thereby adding to your grocery list. Now for money-saving crops.

Salad Greens
Bags of spinach, arugula, or Swiss chard can cost as much as $5 per bag in stores. These also do not stay fresh for long, so if you cannot use entire bags at once, you are actually losing money.
In order to ensure a continuous supply (not surplus) of fresh greens, plant some seeds each week. These easy-to-grow greens only need about 4-6 hours of sunlight per day and moist soil at least 6 inches deep.
How does this add up? If your garden ends up producing 20 weeks’ worth of salad greens and you previously bought 3 bags weekly for $4 each, you just saved $240 by growing your own versatile leafy greens.

Heirloom cherry tomatoes
With pint prices similar to salad greens, you can save lots of cash by producing your own heirloom cherry tomatoes. This variety has a longer growing season and higher yield, which makes financial sense.
Make sure your plants have at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. One plant can produce about 20 pints of heirloom cherry tomatoes.
How does this add up? If you produce 60 pints of cherry tomatoes per season and avoid spending $5 per pint, you just saved $300 this season.

Heirloom green beans
These heavy heirloom crops can cost as much as $6/lb in markets, much more than other green bean varieties, which makes these crops ideal money-savers. Each seed packet you buy can produce pounds of beans.
Full sunlight is necessary for these beans. And for maximum savings, opt for beans that grow upright on vines, which will yield additional pounds simply due to available space.
How does it add up? Assume ten plants produce three pounds of beans each: your savings comes to $180.

Herbs
Finally, an endless supply of herbs can make a real dent in your grocery bill. You can either spend $3 on a single fresh sprig or buy a four-pack of starter plants. Here’s where the savings really add up: each plant can produce 50 times as much as what you can get for that $3 at the supermarket.
Herb plants will need 4-6 hours of sunlight per day. Make sure to clip flower buds for maximum flavor.
How does this add up? If your four herb plants each produce 50 sprigs, you just saved $600 this season on herbs. However, this is a lot of herbs! Even if you only use the yield of one crop, your savings equals $150. Freeze the rest using filled ice cube trays to use over winter.

Start saving your money!

Tom

Original Source: http://www.gardeningchannel.com/maximizing-vegetable-garden-savings/
For additional resources on how to best utilize your vegetable garden to save money, visit:
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB123983924976823051
http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/can_a_vegetable_garden_save_you_money
http://www.marketplace.org/topics/your-money/numbers/how-much-does-organic-gardening-really-save-you

http://www.newdream.org/blog/2011-09-calculating-the-savings-in-growing-your-own-food

Menu Planting

One of the goals for our garden is to meet our defined needs of fresh, nutritious, organic produced food, for canning, pickling, freezing, and winter storage.  We also wanted to meet our food likes and prepare meals from the fresh foods and stored foods from the garden.  Hence the concept of Menu Planting.   We like beet greens, so we plant beets just for the greens two to three times through the season.  We love Hodge Podge so we plant green and yellow bush beans, peas, and an early potato.  We are very fond of a Grilled Caesar Salad. so we plant Romaine Lettuce.  We like eating roasted vegetables, grilled vegetables, love Italian food, enjoy stir fry and of course need salsa.  Menu planting is simply planting for the meals you enjoy.

You can menu plant easily in any garden. A common method is to use a raised bed for specific needs, such as a salad garden, salsa garden, Italian garden, etc. We will have some special beds, but for the most part, our menu planting is throughout the garden.

  1. Salsa Garden – Some vegetables to include in the salsa garden are tomatoes, tomatillos (need two plants for cross pollination), bell peppers, chile peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro.  Your personal taste will determine choices of peppers from mild through super hot varieties.  Use colour, such as red onion, different colour tomatoes and peppers.  Remember, if you want garlic, it is planted in the fall. Here is a sample salsa garden produced with the Garden Planner.

    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)
    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)

Fresh Garden Salsa
Use a medium sized bowl to combine
• 4 cups finely chopped tomatoes
• 1/2 cup minced onion
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
• 1 jalapeno minced or bell pepper for milder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
• 1 lime (juice and zest)
Mix well,  place in the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Enjoy in your garden!

Grilled Vegetables Kosher2. Grilled vegetables – Grilled veggies accompany pretty well all our BQ meals.  Our favourites include asparagus, green beans, carrots, corn, egg plant, onions, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, green tomatoes, zucchini and Romaine.  Keep it simple, slice veggies to size, toss in olive oil, add salt and pepper and place on the heated grill.  Grill time varies.  General rule is the harder the vegetable, the more time on the grill.  Check for tenderness and nice grill marks, garnish with chopped basil, oregano, or rosemary and chow down.

Here is a grilled salad that we enjoy.

Grilled Caesar Salad

Ingredients (Serves 8)
Ciabatta Bread
8 – 10 slices pancetta
3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus shaved Parmesan for serving
4 heads romaine hearts, sliced lengthwise in 1/2
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Preheat grill to high.
2. In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Drizzle in 3/4 cup olive oil to emulsify. Add the Parmesan and pulse.
3. Cut ends off bread and save for another use. Cut bread into 16 slices and lightly brush both sides with Caesar dressing.
4. Grill bread for approx. 10 sec. per side or just long enough to toast and pick up grill marks. Remove from grill.
5. Heat pancetta for 10 sec. on each side, (use a pan on the grill)
6. Cut romaine in half length wise, drizzle romaine in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes, until grill marks appear and the romaine becomes wilted.
7. On each of eight salad plates, arrange Romaine lettuce halves, pancetta, ciabatta toasts.
8. Drizzle with dressing, add pancetta, garnish with shaved Parmesan and serve.

3. The Italian Menu – Vegetables needed for our love of Italian food include tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, greens, beans, squash, zucchini, asparagus,   Required herbs are basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley.  Besides enjoying fresh ingredients in our Italian eating, we can tomatoes, tomato sauce, roasted peppers, and beans.  We also dry herbs and garlic for use through the winter.  If you are gardening with children, help them create a pizza garden and of course,  make a pizza from the bounty of their garden.

Here is a link to a sample Pizza Garden.

Plant and grow what your family likes to eat and plan your menus around the food you grow.

Herb garden, stir fry garden, pickling garden?

 

 

 

Garden Planning – Set Goals for Your Garden

As I plowed out the homestead today, I had the radio tuned to Stewart McLean, host of The Vinyl Café.  Today’s show focused on Daydreaming. (You can listen to Stewart here.)   Ann Murray sang “Daydream Believer”, and later, The Loving Spoonful joined in with “What a Day for a Daydream”. Those tunes took me back to the Sixties for a while and then the mind began to wander to warmer days and into the garden.  It was more of the “I wonder” kind of daydream.  The kind of thoughtful daydream that one can allow the mind to explore the “whys” of why you choose to do things.  Like, “Why have a garden?”

When we initially started our garden there was not a lot of thought or planning.  We jumped in and created a garden.  You may recall how the seed display at Home Depot became our plan. Since then we have put careful thought into what we wanted to achieve.  We thought out and wrote down goals for our gardens.  The four main goals dealt with production, learning, leisure, and diversity.

  1. Production – We wanted a garden to meet our defined needs. Fresh, nutritious, organic produced food, for canning, pickling, freezing, and winter storage.  And for fresh salads, beet greens, HodgePodge,
    Hodge Podge
    Hodge Podge

    strawberry pie, etc.

  2. Learning – We wanted to gain knowledge about gardening.  Experiment with raised rows, raised beds, square foot gardening, vertical gardening, and straw bale gardening.  Learn about composting, mulching, and soil development.
  3. Leisure – Create a relaxing environment.  A garden for reflection, observation, and of course daydreaming.  (our lower garden plan includes a hammock under the pergola!)
  4. Diversity – Our garden will include vegetables, fruit, flowers, and shrubs.  We will experiment with different varieties, colours, tastes, and textures.

Having these goals allows us to focus on what is important for us.  The goals are like the cornerstones for our garden planning and allow us to establish specific objectives each year.

Looking at the Upper Garden covered in two feet of snow it will be awhile before we will be digging in the soil. Maybe time to relax and daydream about this summer and our gardens.

What are your goals for this year’s garden?

Tom & Di

Time to Plan the Garden

If you have not already started to plan your 2015 garden now is the time to start.  Here is a great tool to help and is a valuable educational resource as well.  We used the free version last year and chose to subscribe this year.  It is the “Garden Planner” from GrowVeg.com

Here are the features we like about the Garden Planner.

  • easy to draw out your vegetable beds, add plants and move them around to get the perfect layout
  • works for traditional row planting, raised beds, raised row or square foot gardens.
  • as you add vegetables the space they need is clearly shown by the colored area around each plant and it calculates how many plants will fit into the area
  • crop rotation is easy as the Garden Planner warns you where you should avoid placing each vegetable based on what was in your previous years’ plans.
  • enter your address and the Garden Planner adapts to your own area using a database of over 5000 weather stations.
  • print a planting chart showing how many of each plant and when to sow, plant and harvest them
  • the Garden Planner sends email reminders of what needs planting from your garden plans
  • you can organize which crops will follow on from others using the succession planting feature
  • add customized varieties with their own spacing and planting dates
  • acts as a garden journal by adding your own notes about what and how your garden grows.

This is our “lower garden” designed with the Garden Planner.  (More on the lower garden in a future post.)

 Lower Garden - Garden Planner
Lower Garden – Garden Planner

Have a look at the Garden Planner in action.

Setting up your Garden Planner account is easy, and there is no obligation to subscribe.  If you find it useful the annual subscription is $25.  We have found the Garden Planner a great tool for a successful garden and subscribed for two years for $40.

Subscribe to the Garden Planner at GrowVeg.com

Enjoy planning your garden.

Tom and Di

Welcome to the Creative Garden Patch

Welcome to the “Creative Garden Patch”.  We left our home of 32 years in Northern Canada to return to the family homestead in New Brunswick.  We are the fourth generation to occupy and work the land.

This blog will document our efforts, our successes, and our “mess-ups” as we dig our way into our gardens.

Raised Row Lower Garden
Raised Row Lower Garden
Raised Bed Garden
Raised Bed Garden

Follow us as we learn, create and develop our gardens on the shore of Washadamoak Lake.  We will share our experiences on raised bed gardening, raised row gardening, straw bale gardening, garden structures, composting, anything and almost everything to do with vegetable and flower gardening.

You can expect information on garden planning, seeds, garden pests and helpers, and delicious recipes for put ups and other eats.

Please join us by clicking the “Follow” button in the sidebar.

Tom and Di