Gardening within my budget…sort of!

I’ve been busy!  I have not been able to post for a few days because well, life happens and so does Birthdays!  My oldest whom I’ve mentioned before and who calls himself “the farmer” turned 10 this month and I have been busy planning and having the birthday bash of his first decade!  Being ten in our family is a turning point.  A milestone if I may.  Turning 10 means you are now in the double digits!

Alex

So a shout out to my favourite 10 year old who couldn’t possibly be any funnier, intelligent and sweet!

Thanks for indulging my proud mummy moment!  Now on to other things that continue to grow in my life!  I’ve also been busy with my seeds lately.  It’s my first go round with seeds and I’ve have learned a lot of things.  Some by education and others by mistake 🙂  however, I refuse to give up and the positive side here is all the seeds I have planted so far are still alive!  Woohoo!

I’ve decided to grow quite a few different things this year to see how things go.  Tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, carrots, potatoes and some herbs all of which I will try from seed.  Tomatoes are by far the biggest crop with 5 different varieties.  Some great for popping in your mouth for a snack, some for yummy BLT’s and some for sauce and well, one that I just though was just so pretty that I had to grow it.  It’s called yellow pear and when fully grown and ripe is in the shape of a pear and a golden yellow.  I can’t wait.

I mentioned that I had made some mistakes and although not terribly horrible it was enough to make me stop, question and learn.  First lesson learned was to label my plantings because when you have an almost 10 year old farmer wanting to help Mum by rotating the seed trays for better light, you don’t take into consideration that it becomes a game of pea and shell.  My written schematic was completely void as he mixed up the trays from one side to the other.  The saving grace here is that each square of 9 sections are the same tomato but which tomato?  We will have to wait to find out!  Oh FYI, I went out and bought a box of wooden sticks to ensure future plantings do not become the pea!

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The second lesson?  I started my tomatoes and peppers first back in early March.  I invested in a little coir growing green house that could do 72 seedlings.  I planted 4 of my 5 tomatoes and then the rest were green peppers and Gypsy peppers that are perfect for planters.  After about 3 days, I had sprouts in most of my tomato seeds but the peppers were bare.  I happened to have a wonderful conversation with one of the knowledgeable experts at West Coast Seeds (www.westcoastseeds.com) about my fears and was quickly made to feel at ease.  Both plants require warm soil, tomatoes around 25C and the peppers around 30C.  Peppers take a bit longer to germinate but if I kept them warm, I should see some action in the next week or so.  Many gardening stores carry heat mats just for this type of scenario but I’m on a budget and $30 for a heating pad was just a little too pricey for me this year.  Considering I would require a huge amount of soil for my existing and new garden as well as some new planters to help me this year, I need to find a way to be frugal and to prioritize my needs. Instead of buying the heating mat, I decided to try my heating pad to see if that would make a difference.  It did!  Little pepper shoots arrived in no time.

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My third lesson here was light.  Plants of course require light but I misunderstood exactly how much and the intensity required especially for tomatoes.  My stems looked so fragile and petite and made me wonder if it was a normal progression or if I needed to something else.  So I took a picture and started showing people at work.  The result?  I needed more light or my plants would become spindly and that is NO GOOD!  So off to the internet I went in search of lighting sources and costs.  Ack I say!  The prices for grow lights varied so much.  The only thing in common was that prices started at $85 and went up from there.  Did I need a 2 foot size or a 4 foot?  Did I need it to be portable?  What kind of table top apparatus did I need?  Did I want self watering?  Who knew so off to the phone I went and called West Coast Seeds again.  Being point blank with them about my budget, they suggested a grow light bulb and although not ideal for the amount of plants I had going but it was better than what the current status was.  They so kindly shipped one out to me right away and within a few days, I had it installed into “the farmer’s” reading lamp and positioned as low as possible over the seedlings.  Three days later, a vast improvement, a week later, a lot bigger and stronger.  Now I am happily the proud Mama of healthy tomatoes and peppers!

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Inspiration

Outside of other people’s gardens, I feel there is nothing like a good magazine or seed catalogue to inspire even the most inexperienced gardener.  One of my first real inspirational reads and thumb through was a seed catalogue.  Thumbing through the glossy pages with colourful pictures of the perfectly grown vegetable made me think anything was attainable.  There were just 2 challenges I needed to overcome besides the obvious fact that the only green on me was not my thumbs but my inexperience in gardening!

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First, I have no idea how or what it takes to grow anything from seeds.  The idea was truly daunting.  Sure I grew 2 children but really, I had nothing to do with it until they were born!  My body just did what it was meant to do at that time and I just made sure to feed and water myself so Mini Me could grow.  So the real challenge was how to take this little seed and make it grow to the point where it was ready to go into my garden?  Instead, I did the next best thing.  I put the seed catalogue down, grabbed my credit card and off to the garden store I went to purchase ready to transplant herbs and tomatoes!

The second challenge was I didn’t have a garden!  Looking back now, this probably really should have been challenge #1.   I had no idea where I wanted to put a garden nevermind having anything prepped.  I don’t have have much of a garden outside of flowering shrubs and trees and definitely no garden beds for flowers or veggies due to the fact that I have hips that cause me great grief.  Any position akin to cross legged on the floor or squatting has me basically hobbling around for days.  So where to put my newly purchased plants?

Hmm, raised beds you say?  Why yes!  Except that they cost crazy amounts of cash for a small growing area and I wanted CROPS!  To use the famous line “build it and they will come” that would be the fix right?  Why not build one to the size and height I wanted.  EXCEPT, my hubby isn’t the best handy man around and by far, he is not mechanically inclined.  So I thought maybe I could give it a go and at the very least, we could do it together.  So I started looking online at DIY projects and found one that literally fit a grown man!  It was about 6 feet long and 3 feet deep, very much the coffin but hey, great for veggies!  So I show my hubby and he point blank says he could do that.  Really?  Really!?  My heart grew despite my skepticism and I bolstered all my positive energy towards his plans.  For Mother’s Day 2014 I received not one but two raised garden beds of cedar lovingly made by my husband!

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I hurried out and bought organic soil and organic fertilizer to go with my organic tomatoes and herbs and I planted them.  I stood there staring at the newly planted tomatoes and had there been a glass between us I would have looked like the child at the bakery window!  I lovingly watered my garden and staked what needed to be staked.  Had long discussions with my 9 year old who nicknamed himself “the farmer” about the different tomatoes we are going to be eating and the basil & parsley that will grow.  It was F.U.N.!

A few weeks went by and it was obvious that something was not right.  The plants weren’t really growing and again, my black thumbs of death had risen from the depths of hell and was slowly killing them!  I added more fertilizer and it didn’t do much.  At the same time, I had just finished buying more soil for the 2nd planter.  I had run out of the soil I had bought previously for planter #1 and went down the street to buy some more at the local hardware store.  It wasn’t the same kind but it was organic.  I also added a bag of worm casings to the soil.  When the bed was ready I added a few more herbs (newly purchased) and some scallions.  The plants in planter #2 were growing like stink!  Within days of planting scallions, I had shoots!  It was amazing.  Planter #1 however was a real dud.  I was a little depressed and would moan about my failure to the kind ears of my neighbours.  It turns out that my neighbour used the same soil in her garden as I did in mine and was experiencing the same issues!  Turns out it was just bad luck and bad soil and not my hands of death!  Yay for me!  Haha!

So I got a few measly little tomatoes from the plants in planter #1 but what did grow was my ambition to make things better this year and of course, bigger!  That’s right!  I have a list of veggies I want to grow, I have drawings and schematics for planting, hubby is building me a larger raised bed and I have seeds!  I have determined that this is going to be the year and I can’t wait to show you my seedlings!

And So It Began…

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It’s glorious today!  The sun is shining and the chill in the mornings is getting warmer.  I must be upfront here, Vancouver has had one of the driest and snow free winters this year.  So dry that the local mountains including Whistler had to cut short the ski season due to lack of snow.  You can see from the picture I snapped from my office building this morning of downtown Vancouver that the mountains that are usually snow capped at this time of the year are really quite bare. Vancouver is a rainforest climate.  It rains A LOT here and like I said, it’s been pretty dry here this winter.  Hardly any rain at all.  My moto for my adopted city is “Vancouver is a beautiful city when the sun shines!”

Adopted city you ask?  Yes.  I am originally from Toronto, Ontario another great city with the hustle and bustle akin to New York which is one of the reasons why I left.  I don’t like the speed in which life moves there.  When I left home for university, I lived happily in London, Ontario (2 hour drive away) for 4 years.  Each time I ventured home, I’d hit the outskirts of Toronto and my heart rate would pick up and I noticed that I had to be more alert to everything around me because due to the pace that the cars drove on the 401 and the masses of people flowing in and out on the sidewalks. I felt you needed to be aware of where the next hole was to slip into just to make it across the street, highway or in/out of transit.  The constant hustle and bustle was not for me.  I realized I needed a more slower pace. London was sleepy.  Perfect for university but too slow for life.  I was not destined to stay there, obviously.  In my last year, I met a young man in university and followed him west all the way to Vancouver where I have stayed.  The pace of Toronto still lingers in my body as I still move/process quicker than most Vancouverites but the pace is just were I need to be and where better to enjoy the mountains, rivers and wildlife just minutes from your door?

I live in a wonderful community in a suburb of Vancouver.  Nestled in a little valley at the foot of the mountains.  We are surrounded by lush green towering cypress and cedar trees.  We are lucky to have a large river just outside our front door with a community trail that connects to the Trans Canada Trail ( http://www.tctrail.ca ).  On a daily basis you can walk along the river for a good 5km enjoying the lush greenery and wild berry bushes, the river that depending on the season, can be a quiet relaxing flow of water or a raging current as the water travels off our mountains.  We are treated to the sight of salmon spawning in the fall and late winter, the stately blue herons, mallard ducks and the majestic bald eagles who nest along the river, the sweet sight of a doe with her fawns, the howl of the coyotes at night to the black bears who travel back and forth from the mountain to the river in search of food.  Sometimes that involves your garbage and your back yard if you aren’t careful to lock away your bins or freeze food waste prior to putting it out on garbage day.  Sometimes putting garbage in an away doesn’t quite work either:

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This is where the bear fell into our shed one night after dragging our garbage can from our wood shed across our patio where he tripped and fell.  I personally think he was so embarrassed that he left our garbage bin and wondered off home!

I could and probably will in the future tell you all the stories I have about the bears in my ‘hood including one of my fav’s of the bear who ate fermented apples off the ground at the bottom of an apple tree, got drunk, weaved in and out of lawns, back yards and streets that had police and conservation officers shut down several city blocks and put a middle school in lock down. Yup and a great one about a cougar too.  The 4 legged kind not the 2 legged that run freely in our neighbourhood too!

Apparently, I digress here!  I felt the need to give you a feel for where I live so you understand my love for the nature that surrounds me and my how it has lead to my love of gardens.  I can’t help but feel the natural progression of bringing more of that nature inside my fences.  The colours, the smells and the fruits it produces all thanks to a future helping hand from me.  I’ll leave you now with another pic of the cherry blossoms that have been in full bloom for the last few weeks and for those back east who are continuing to shovel themselves out from under the snow…it will come and look what you get to look forward to!

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Short and Sweet

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Hello!

This is truly an adventure for me.  I don’t necessarily have tonnes of adventures in my little gem of a community nestled in the mountains just outside of Vancouver, BC and honestly most have them have been in parenting my 2 children which I haven’t stopped having (adventures that is – I am SO done having children!) but I thought I would start something new.

I have been following blogs for several years on many different hobbies or interests and I have always wanted to blog but didn’t quite think my life in particular was any more or less interesting to write about so it has taken me a while to figure out a path which has lead to well, a 2nd adventure which I am hoping to share and take you along with me!

I love gardens.  I love walking along paths flanked by beautiful flowers to yes, literally stop and smell the flowers, touch the leaves and pedals or crouch and see fruit or veggies in various stages of growing.  Herbs are one of my favourites to stop and explore.  A gentle rub of the leaves and then the scent on my finger tips to smell.  I L.O.V.E. it!  Problem is, I’m not a gardener and what I do have around my home I truly believe has survived in spite of myself.  I have best intentions, I really do.  I start pruning innocently enough and sometimes it works out perfectly and other times it has lead to a scalping of the poor thing or shocking it to death!  So I have resolved to educate myself then start a garden and hopefully in the next few years I will have my own secret (not so secret) garden to walk along smelling and touching and eating the fruits/veggies of!

So I can’t wait to share with you my trials, successes and well yes, my tribulations as I embark on my little adventure into gardening!