2018 Garden

I always peek back at my first garden blog page to see how far I have come and I am always amazed and impressed that so much can happen with effort, care, time and not too much money. This was the most rewarding year I have had, even though we suffered through yet another historic fire season.

Same angle as the 1st blog, can’t see the house anymore!
Smoky skies but the new “pops of colour” help, at least!
Boo to smoky skies and air pollution.

SOIL

I spent more time working on the soil again this year, and I wish I had started with this five years ago, but you can see what a difference it has made on the plant growth. I added a small amount of biochar (5%) to the soil to sequester some carbon, which I got through Passive Remediation Systems (PRSI) and mixed with compost for about 3 weeks before applying to allow it to “charge”. Biochar is basically woody material or carbon that is burned at very high heat with no oxygen in a process called pyrolysis.

I also added compost tea to the garden, which is a great way t make your home compost go farther. You can apply a few times over the course of the summer, I just did it once.

Small piece of biochar that was mixed into the compost.
Biochar adding carbon to the soil.

Another important step in improving soil and plant quality is the addition of compost tea. This is the system I set up with a double pump to make twice as much. Yes, those are thigh-high stockings I am using as a bag to hold the compost (whatever works, right?). I ran this for 2 days using my own home compost. I did not add molasses, as some do. This is a subject of debate, I encourage you to “dig a little deeper” if that subject intrigues you.

Harvesting homemade compost
Making compost tea to spray on the soil.
We rented this aerator for a half day, then added compost and it did the trick!
Every year I have added more mulch to hold water in the soil. The neighbourhood boys love to play in the pile of soil or mulch comes in.

FLOWERS

But you’re really here to see pretty pictures, right? Well, I DID incorporate a lot more flowers again this year and I was not disappointed, nor were the pollinators that I planted them for. I was SO happy with the bee balm, especially because the show from the hummingbirds who came for it was spectacular and it sure beat filling little plastic feeders with sugar-water! Easier, cheaper, better for them and then I got to have close-encounters with these gorgeous birds who clearly were not afraid of us humans.

Of course it all starts with tulips in the Spring 🙂
Colour was alive more than ever this year!

A friend of mine who is great at making home garden flower arrangements inspired me to take even more joy in what I had grown by making sure to bring the flowers inside more often, something I didn’t have enough flowers to do with before. I also learned the trick to “cut and come again”, which is, as you can imagine…the more you cut them, the more flowers that grow! Bonus! I know, this is old knowledge, but remember, I lived in cities for my entire adult life until 5 years ago with not much garden to speak of and therefore no ingrained wisdom like this.

Pink lupine
Dahlia, zinnia, aster and black-eyed susan
Contrast is underrated. Spike gayfeather and friend.
Dianthus
Can’t recall the name of this one.
Purple lupine
Multi-layered and coloured flowers
The sunflowers seemed pretty happy! In January I still get joy from them as the chickadees and downy woodpeckers visit to feats on them int he winter.

FOOD

Being a certified Permaculture Designer, I of course always want to grow food and obtain a yield. I am a big fan of agroforestry, food forestry, edible landscaping, whatever you want to call it. One of the most rewarding moments I have in the garden are when children come and not only EAT vegetables, but LOVE them and learn something in the process of picking their own food, which is an incredibly empowering experience. I also committed to more measurement this year, so I could set a baseline of how much edible food I grew. My totals are not entirely accurate due to human and animal and insect grazing, but now I know how to grow even more next year. The key will be succession planting.

Picking snap peas and candy-like “golden cherry” tomatoes
No comparison to store bought.
The taste of fresh basil is something else!
Harvested mint ready to be dried for tea
I finally grew enough banana peppers to preserve! I got two jars, better than nothing
Purple pea pods, but the peas are green inside. These were left a bit too long.
Use the tools you have. This ice cream scoop worked pretty well to make the holes for my fall garlic planting. Planted about 4x the amount from previous years. Mmmm Garlic.
The data nerd in me loves this scale so much. The weight of the garlic seemed to magically keep rising as I was taking this photo (garlic ghost?)

WATER

As I have mentioned, I live in the driest watershed in Canada, so capturing and storing water and having a bit available for the bees, cats and other creatures (seems to usually be mainly wasps, actually) is crucial. Harvesting rainwater on-site is a service to the plants that prefer it to the chlorinated water from the taps and a fountain or other water feature addition just makes you feel more fresh. In our case the fountain also acts as a slight sound barrier to the noisy road we live on, making things a bit more peaceful and pleasant. In terms of irrigation, we didn’t expect to be in this house long, so if if were to do it all again, I’d make self-wicking beds, maybe put in a swale pathway and a greywater drainage area. Next time.

We decided to put in a recycled rubber patio and rebuild the herb spiral as well as adding a water fountain. Every little bit helps.
Went for the “gusto” and invested in a 1000 Litre rain tote to harvest rainwater. It’s amazing how fast these things fill up when it rains!
Isn’t watering fun?

And finally…

All in all, I was very happy with everything that we did to improve the outdoor space this year and as always, I learned a lot and enjoyed the entire process. This has taken 5 years, but now that the foundation is solid, each year will get easier as I have switched to largely perennial plants and foods but still have raised beds for annual veggies to feed the family. With all of the craziness going on the world, all we can really do it start to make improvements in our own backyard and start to take local food security seriously. Even if it seems daunting, start today and be patient with yourself. Patience was a big word for me this year, and one example where it paid off was that I finally got an avocado seed to sprout! It may never turn into a full plant or produce fruit, but the lesson is in the process. Just keep at it, try something different or just…wait! I hope some of this garden journey has inspired you and if you’re interested in digging even deeper, have a look my “creatures” page to see what kind of biodiversity I have welcomed back to this wee plot of land.

The new patio and accessories made a huge improvement to our garden enjoyment this year.