Planting Asparagus 

It was a warm and sunny morning so my immediate impulse was to get outside and do some gardening.  

Yesterday I was at Gardenworks over in Burnaby and I picked up a bag of asparagus roots. Today I prepped the garden bed and planted the asparagus roots. 

Funny thing, in order to fully understand how to plant the asparagus I first went to YouTube to see how it is done. 

Now we wait a year to see if enough grow to feed me and my family.

 

Pallet Garden Update

My pallet garden “experiment” has not gone as well as I had hoped.

Pallet Garden Early Days
Pallet Garden Early Days

I managed to get a few feedings of spinach, radicchio and kale out of the garden but it quickly dried up whereas the spinach and kale growing in the other garden boxes have continued to flourish and produce.

Another problem with the pallet garden is that no matter how I have tried to water it, the watering process makes the soil run out of the pallet.

Pallet Garden Now
Pallet Garden Now

At this point of the summer I have snipped off the spinach and kale plants and planted a special type of ball carrot in each of the rows.

I’ll update later in the summer how this new “crop” progresses.

 

Front Yard Gardening

I have blogged Front Yard Garden and I will probably blog about it again in the future but quite simply, I love my front yard garden. And if anyone tells you they don’t have time for gardening, they don’t understand how easy it is to grow food.

Because we live along a very busy street, our front yard is not a fun place to hang out nor a safe place for the kids to play. We do that sort of stuff in the yard behind the house. So, a couple of years ago or more I built a couple garden boxes. I took some old 2x6s I had and made a garden box. Just small ones, about 42″x30″.

The Garden Box
The Garden Box

I placed the garden boxes right on top of the lawn and covered the lawn inside the box with a thick layer of cardboard.

On top of that I emptied out the contents of our composter. Then I added a layer of grass clippings. And then a couple bags of mushroom manure or some other soil that I bought at our local garden centre.

Then we planted some seeds: carrots, beets, spinach, kale, radishes and a couple of potatoes. And that was it.

I didn’t need to weed the garden because the seeds were planted so densely that there simply wasn’t room for the weeds to grow!

In the fall I collected up piles of leaves from the backyard and piled them, actually mounded them, on top of the garden box. Like three feet deep on top of the garden box!

In the spring the leaves had shrunk down so that I was able to dump a couple more bags of mushroom manure on the garden box before planting again.

In the second year I built a couple more garden boxes as supplies came available. A guy was doing a renovation a couple houses over and he had some extra lumber – quickly turned into garden boxes. Same process to get them productive.


We now have seven productive garden boxes (Pallet Garden) in our front yard to grow a wide variety of vegetables including potatoes, kale, spinach, peas, beans, carrots, beets, a variety of squashes, monster-size sunflowers and many fresh greens.

It really takes no time at all once the boxes are built. We do not turn the soil over – ever. In the fall we still heap the boxes with leaves and in the spring we get a few bags of manure or garden soil delivered to our home from a local high school that is doing a fund raiser.

Having a home garden is very simple and straightforward – once the garden box is built and it is a great way to connect kids to the source of their food. I encourage everyone to grow food – even if it is just a a handful of green onions or herbs, grow something!!

Pallet Garden Update

My pallet garden is growing! I was worried that the seeds had been washed out because when I watered it for the first time a lot of water cascaded off the front. As. It turns out, he seeds held fast. 

  
More updates later. 

Building a Pallet Garden

If you have a limited amount of space for gardening, or you are like me and you like to maximize the amount of garden space in your city yard, a pallet garden may be the answer for you!

The first thing you need is a pallet. You need to be careful when picking a pallet, especially if you are going to be growing food. I picked up a pallet from outside a grocery warehouse and made sure that the pallet had not been used for transporting some wicked chemicals. I then left it outside in the rain for a year.

Of course in hindsight I say that I left it out for that year so that it was thoroughly washed by the rain, but the reality is, I like to think about things for a long time before acting (I am brutal at procrastinating).

As well as the pallet you will need some landscape cloth. I bought the “20 year” strength stuff under the assumption that it is heavier cloth. You also need a stapler and staples to staple the cloth to the pallet.

I then rolled the cloth out to the approximate size of the pallet with enough on each end to double up for strength.

Then I stapled the fabric in place. I have to admit that I went pretty wild with the staples. I riddled the back of the pallet with staples. After all, the staples are what will hold the fabric in place when you fill it with soil. Some people add a piece of plywood to the back behind the landscape cloth to hold the cloth and soil in place. I have not yet done that but I may do so.   (Edit – I flopped the pallet garden down and added two 6″ wide pieces of plywood behind the landscape cloth to make it more solid.)I forgot to take pictures of me filling the pallet garden with soil but I will say that when it was about one third full of soil I tried to lift it (I was filling the pallet garden when it was laying flat on the ground).

Trying to move it was very difficult so I decided to get it into position before completing the fill process with the pallet standing up.

To fill the pallet garden I would dump a bag of composted mushroom manure on top of the pallet slats and then use my hands to “massage” the soil into place. Once it was standing I just slowly dumped the bags of soil into the top of the pallet.

It is important to leave the soil in place for a couple of days before planting the pallet garden. Leaving it for a couple of days will allow the soil to settle into place.

Some people choose to plant the pallet garden with potted plants. I didn’t have any at home today and I did not feel like driving to a garden store so I left it unplanted for now.

I may pick up some bedding plants tomorrow on my way home from work.

As you can see in the pictures, I have chosen a pallet with slats that are relatively close together. I can imagine that if you found a pallet with slats that are a little further apart it might be easier to fill with plants. My intention is to plant seeds in my pallet. To do so, I may try to lay it flat on the ground. My concern is that I will then need a support team to get it standing up again.

All together it took me less than an hour to flop the pallet down, roll out and cut the landscape cloth, staple it in place, fill the pallet garden with soil and then wash up the spilled soil. Adding bedding plants and seeds will take a little more time, but time in the garden is time well spent.

Anyway, I will add more photos once it is planted and has some green showing.

All in, I spent about an hour building the pallet garden and then 15 minutes jamming the radicchio plants and seeds into it.  

Here it is with a radicchio planted in the top row. I’ve seeded the other sLat openings with kale, spinach, seeds for a cool little ball-like carrots and some salad greens. As it greens up I’ll add more photos. 

  

Chayote Squash

I have discovered (much like Europeans say they “discovered” North America) a very tasty and intriguing new vegetable – the chayote squash.

Chayote Squash
Chayote Squash

Next to my mother’s home lives a Chinese family and the grandmother from that home is wild about gardening. They have every single inch of their backyard growing some kind of an edible veggie. It really is a site to behold.

The grandmother speaks virtually no English and so when she comes over to my mother’s place they communicate with sign language and smiles. Anyway, the grandmother from across the lane is the one who gave my mother the first chayote we tried. And I will say, it is was delicious!

The chayote is a kind of summer squash typically found in Mexico. It grows on a wild, sprawling vine that will attach itself to anything in a yard. The family across the lane let their chayote grow along the fence between their yard and the neighbouring yard.

You have to peel the squash with a sharp knife or potato peeler and any peel that you leave on the squash, even after cooking, has a strong, bitter flavour. Once peeled though, the chayote squash has a dense, firm texture softer than a potato but but more firm than a cucumber. The flesh holds together very nicely when cooked in one inch cubes in a spaghetti sauce or soup.

The grandmother gave my mother a couple of the chayote squashes and we decided to plant them. They are in buckets of dirt in our climate controlled greenhouse for now. I will update you in the spring when we transfer them to our gardens.

Bulb Planting at Como Lake Park

Coquitlam’s Park Spark program is hosting a community bulb planting event at Como Lake Park on Thursday, October 23 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Neighbours, school groups and local businesses are encouraged to stop by Como Lake Park to help plant flower bulbs around the park. Volunteers will be able to work alongside City gardening staff and other community members to create a beautiful spring-blooming display.

All necessary equipment and bulbs will be supplied. All you have to do is arrive at the south parking lot, off Gatensbury Street and be ready to get your hands dirty and ready to do some planting.

All those who are interested are welcome to participate.

For more information about the Park Spark volunteer program visit www.coquitlam.ca/parkspark.

Bringing Wilderness Into a Suburban Garden

For many years, gardening has meant bringing order to nature by designing outdoor spaces to feature boxed-in plants and flowerbeds, clearly defined pathways and well-tended bushes and trees.  But there has been a movement of late to work with Mother Nature rather than against her, resulting in gardens that mix both tamed nature and nature that has been left to run wild.

Eco Friendly Garden
Eco Friendly Garden

Bringing the wilderness to a suburban garden has one overriding redeeming feature – it is eco-friendly.  Gardens that are too ordered can be less inviting to wildlife, so a garden with areas that are allowed to grow wild encourages animals and insects and helps the environment flourish.

For example, bee populations have been under threat in some countries for some time and a careful selection of plants will help their numbers to grow.  Bees are important to life itself, as without them, pollination becomes near impossible.

To create a little wilderness in a garden, it is necessary to plant a variety of plant species to appeal to a wide range of animals and insects, as well as to create visual interest.  A mixture of wild flowers, vines and trees, like a combination of lilacs, Boston ivy and Flamingo Ash-Leaved Maple trees, helps greatly in creating this ambience.  Long grasses provide habitats for egg-laying insects and invertebrates, and will encourage certain birds to visit for food.

It is an excellent idea to include water in a wilderness garden, as a pool or pond with plenty of water plants will attract a variety of wildlife, including frogs and toads, insects such as dragonflies and birds.  Garden owners might find rabbits, squirrels, and even deer visiting a garden with all these different, interesting features.

It is true that well-ordered gardens can be easier to maintain than wilderness gardens and they sometimes seem to demonstrate that an owner takes the time and effort needed to keep it so organized.  However, such gardens can easily slide into becoming hackneyed and tacky rather than pretty and elegant.  A garden left to become a little rough around the edges is often more appealing to people, who recognize the benefits of letting nature have its way.

Despite this, wilderness gardens do still require maintenance to stop invasive plants from taking over entirely.  More robust gardening equipment may also be needed to deal with the unrestrained plants and shrubs, such as those found at Pat’s Small Engine store.

Wilderness gardens are not good just for wildlife, but for the family too.  They provide plenty of different play areas for children, whose imaginations will surely be sparked by the unleashed landscape.  Tall grasses become a place for children to play hide and seek; a rocky section becomes a mountain for them to climb and a pond becomes a safari watering hole.

A garden with a wilder aspect can also serve as an education for children by exposing them to a variety of different wild species and how they breed, eat, and spend their time.  It also becomes a great tool for teaching them how to garden.

A suburban garden with a wilderness theme will create and improve wildlife habitats, entertain and educate children and add visual and fragrant interest to the home.

How to Make a Patio Pallet Garden

This is the next step that I want to take in my urban gardening experience – a pallet garden. All you need is a pallet, a couple bags of soil, a roll of landscape cloth and a stapler (with staples).

Pallet Garden
Pallet Garden

This seems so easy to do, and if you have a limited amount of space, it is the most logical thing to do. Fresh herbs or salad greens growing right on the side of your patio or garage? Count me in!

You can read the instructions in their entirety here on Life on the balcony. Awesome.

Swiss Chard is My Kale

Almost as easy to grow is green onions, Swiss chard is one of those crops that never seems to fail. Swiss chard can be planted very early in the spring and grows quickly, providing a first green crop of the season for those who have suffered through a long winter without greens from the garden.
An important note about Swiss chard is that when the temperature warms up, the chard tends to bolt. Bolting is when it forms a crown at the top of the plant and starts creating a seedhead or blossom like thing on top of it. To stop the chard from bolting, snip the top crown off and keep harvesting the leaves lower down.
I actually prefer Swiss chard over the stupidly popular and ubiquitous kale trend that is going on. I also prefer chard overtop of spinach. Sure spinach is a super food but I get a bit bored of it and chard is a tasty and nutritious alternative.

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