Tag Archives: edible plants

growing edible plants in the garden for food consumption

Creation of my Garden Labyrinth

The work continues on my Garden Labyrinth in my own yard as discussed in a couple of previous posts.  We have now built another garden box and I have started planting the first one.  I have added ever-bearing strawberries to the first box.  The strawberries are later to come to fruitation.  The harvest will begin late in July, about a month after the regular strawberry harvest starts.  Ever-bearing strawberries will produce until late in the year.  I have eaten strawberries as late as December.   I planted two rows and will now plant sunflowers in the back half of the bed.  The sunflowers will create a privacy back drop and will be a beautiful addition as they mature.  They will be facing East so they will get plenty of morning sun.  The sunflowers will also attract many bees and insects that will serve to pollinate everything I have growing in my gardens.  The strawberries were a gift from one of my garden owners who wanted to divide and had lots to give away.  They have weathered the winter a little worse for the wear but are already perking up.  I have tested my soil and it is a well balanced soil and does not need any enrichment.  The first two garden boxes built are 11.5 inches high by 4 feet wide x 8 ft long.  The newest garden box is built from pine 2 x 4’s and is 16 inches high by 4 feet wide x 7 feet long.  Four feet is the widest we will build them as anything wider will be hard to weed.  We have reinforced each box with a brace to ensure they do not bulge from the weight of the soil inside.

I also have regular bearing strawberries that I planted underneath my Japanese ornamental cherry tree so my grandchildren will have strawberries to eat for many months.

 

 

Pruning Fruit Trees

I was hired last year by a garden owner – Sharon – to prune her fruit trees.  Sharon owns a small farm near Nanaimo airport.  She had purchased the property the previous year and had inherited two fruit trees – one apple and one cherry tree.  The trees had not been trimmed for several years and were living in the shadow of a massive Douglas fir.  The trees as you will see were covered in moss and very unhealthy.  I told her I was not sure if the apple tree would recover…it was a 50/50 chance.  She really wanted to try and save it as it had produced wonderful apples the previous season.

I told her it would be a three year plan if the tree survived.  I did not want to over prune and kill the tree.  The rule for any pruning job is to never take more then 1/3 off as it can stress the tree.  I was very happy to hear the apple tree had not only survived but thrived and she had a bumper crop of apples.  I know I cannot take all of the credit as everyone had a bumper crop last year.  Mother nature always has a way to communicate a hard winter coming with the amount of fruit trees bare.  A harsh winter coming means you will have alot of fruit.   So here is year one and year two pictures.  It was very late in the season last year when she called me to prune and I was concerned about damaging the trees but I knew if they were to be saved and healthy then pruning was a must.  The cherry was already in blossom but I went ahead anyway.  I sprayed the trees with “Safer’s De-Moss” and used a soft brush to rid the trees of most of the moss.  We trimmed some of the overhanging branches off the fir tree to increase airflow and minimize the shade as much as possible to inhibit new moss growth.  The product is environmentally safe, is a potassium based soap and is safe around people and pets.

I trimmed all of the dead branches off of the trees, trimmed all suckers off and took some branches out of the middle to increase air flow and sunlight reaching the centre of the trees.

Year 1

Year Two

This year I was so very happy to see all of the new growth on both the apple and the cherry tree.  Incredibly, there is no moss growing on any of the new growth and most of moss is gone from the older limbs.  So this year, I trimmed less off, taking all of the suckers and topping the cherry tree to bring it down lower.  Sharon cannot reach the top to pick the fruit.   We also took some larger limbs off of the fir to continue to open up the fruit trees to sunshine.  It is obvious the trees are very happy now.  Here are year two pictures.   Stay tuned for year three next year.  Thank you Sharon for giving me this opportunity!

Cheer!  See you in the garden or the garden centre!

 

Building Garden Boxes

Last year in our community two derelict houses were being demolished so we approached the project manager on site and ask about the cedar fence.  It was red cedar and was still in excellent condition after years of standing.  It has weathered beautifully and I knew it would be perfect for garden projects.  He happily gave us the fence if we were willing to remove it, after the homes were demolished.

After removing it, one box was built and the rest of the wood stored for future projects.  The original plan was to build garden boxes and sell them.  Then after the move to the new home, I realized that I was not willing to part with it.  The wood is perfect for my garden plan.  Working out the amount of wood required for my Garden Labyrinth, I realized I had enough wood for 10 garden boxes, not including the one already built.

My biggest concern with my Labyrinth design was what wood to use in the garden.  I need something that will stand up to the elements of weather here on Vancouver Island.  The red cedar is perfect.  It has a life span of about 20 years.  The garden boxes will be built and put in place without a bottom.  In order for me to utilize the gray water in my yard, it is necessary to leave the bottom open so it can draw up the ground water.

The yard which is so overgrown is actually a blessing in disguise…a labour intensive blessing, but a blessing just the same.   As I prune each shrub and tree, I will chip the waste and put it in the bottom of each box.  It will draw up the moisture and it will slowly break down and enrich the soil, as well as keeping it aerated.  Keep in mind it does not have to be chipped, it could actually be cut in smaller pieces by hand and added to the bottom.  Wood chips will be added on top of the chipped garden waste as it will retain water and minimize the need for watering.  The garden boxes will be approximately 20 inches high so each box will require approximately 10 inches of waste and wood chips before the organic soil is added.  The soil will be 2 inches below the top of the box.

I have not measured the yard for exact measurements as it is still covered in snow.  So I know my garden plan will have to be tweaked after measuring.

My Garden Labyrinth

I have now lived in this location for 3 months.  I have spent countless hours researching, sketching and incorporating the numerous benefits in the yard. As I said in an earlier post, privacy is my biggest concern.

The back yard gets full sun throughout the year.  I know that the back lawn stays green most of the year from the gray water that feeds it daily.  It was important for me to incorporate a plan that would utilize this gray water in my  garden effectively and efficiently.  I am on town water so it is not an option to water my gardens all year with town water, not only the cost, but with the hot dry summers on Vancouver Island the watering bans start earlier every year.  Incidentally, I am a renter and my landlord has given me the green light to landscape the entire lot as I wish, so that is a bonus.

Each year I grow more of my own food and this garden should suffice in growing all of my own food.  So the plan had to address the privacy issues, create beauty,  utilize the gray water and produce enough food for six of us.  I am including my sons and grandchildren as it is of utmost importance to me for each of us to eat as much organic food as possible, while saving money!  Last year I grew about 60% of my food.  I canned and froze much of what we couldn’t eat fresh and have been eating it all year long.

Privacy Issues – The fence enclosing the yard will provide a backdrop for me to plant shrubs and bushes to allow the privacy I want, but will take time to grow and cover the fence.  The immediate concern was how to create a garden area throughout the back yard with fruits, vegetables and flowers that would be high enough to enclose the area for privacy.

I have always loved the idea of a labyrinth and decided this would meet all of the garden challenges.  Creating a labyrinth from raised garden beds would give me the height for privacy, allow the soil in the containers to draw the gray water from the ground and filter it before it hits the plant roots, create beauty in the garden, incorporate a patio area in the middle while creating a play space for my grandchildren as they love to be in the garden with me.

And so here is my Labyrinth garden plan!  I do know that is a preliminary plan.  The garden plan will evolve and change as it comes to life!

 

 

 

 

What Soil is made of

Soil has an ecosystem all its own.  It is very much alive and supports many life forms.  From the tiny microscopic organisms we cannot see to the plants we grow, and of course to the bugs and insects we can see.  Earthworms, insects, reptiles, nematodes, bacteria and fungus all reside in your soil.  This ecosystem of life supports the soil composition helping  with decay and nutrient cycles.

You have probably heard people say that earthworms in the garden soil is healthy.  This is true.  Earthworms tunnel through the soil.  As they feed, organic matter passes through their bodies and is excreted as granular, dark castings.  This enhances and adds to the soil structure as it mixes with the soil and breaks down.  Earthworms also eat microorganisms that cause plant disease.

You will probably be surprised to find out what soil is made of.  Beneath the ground surface the soil is full of living organisms that interact in a finely tuned living system but on a percentage basis, soil is mostly minerals weighing in at a whopping 45%, followed by air at 25% and water at 25%.  The biological component (the balance of nutrients that is required to support healthy plant growth) is only 5%.  But it is a very significant 5%.

When your soil is out of balance, you will see it through the plants.  They will show signs of stress through discoloured leaves, wilting, blight,  insect infestation, disease or fungus.  You will definitely be able to see it if the soil is poor or seriously lacking something.  Keeping in mind that factors in poor plant health can also be poor drainage or a lack of oxygen.

Complimentary Landscaping for a Country Wedding

Last year an unfortunate accident took place that I am sure many of you have experienced.  I dropped my phone in water and had to have it replaced.  Lost were many garden photos…563 to be exact.  I replaced my phone the next day and left the old one sitting in rice.  After a few days I put it in my desk drawer and forgot about it.  Moving in the fall, the old phone stayed in a box until yesterday.  I charged it and like magic it took the charge and I accessed all of the 563 pictures.

Each year I volunteer landscaping hours…sometimes I advertise free landscaping for seniors and other times the job just seems to appear.  I believe it is important to give something back.  In my lifetime so many many people have helped me on my journey; I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of those helping hands and hearts that have reached out to me.  I believe one of the reasons we are on this earth is to help each other out along the way.  The intrinsic rewards are priceless for me.  For me no amount of money can replace the feeling of helping others.

A few years ago while gardening for one of my regular customers I was introduced to Les.  He was a very kind man as is his wife Lorraine.  He owned a small farm near Cedar BC where he grew garlic for the local health food store.  He offered me some work, helping him with his garlic crop.  Which I was happy to oblige, not only for the work, but the knowledge I would gain.

I was very blessed to meet him and his lovely wife Lorraine.  Wonderful people…so caring and so down to earth.  That first garden season after meeting them, they offered to let me grow a garden along side the garlic.  It was a God send to me as I was living in a suite with no garden area.  That season was so busy I had to rely on Les to let me know when my garden needed watering.  We watered my garden and the garlic regularly.  I grew many vegetables and herbs that year…eating and canning everything I could.  There is such a sense of accomplishment that comes with eating an entire meal from your own garden, which I did enjoy many times that summer!  Thank you Les & Lorraine 🙂

Tragedy struck 1 1/2 years ago when Les passed away from an unfortunate accident; leaving his wife and a daughter who was engaged to be married.  The bride, Heather had her heart set on a country wedding.

So we set to work.  The property is a beautiful farm over looking the Nanaimo River.  It is a place where time seems to stand still.  The farm is 10 acres,  complete with a large home, detached garage, detached shop and a barn overlooking a meadow.

I was so busy last summer that I did not even get to the farm to work until 3 weeks before the wedding so it was a stretch…one that I was not sure I could fulfill.  Lorraine had worked tirelessly year after year gardening and had beautiful gardens everywhere.  There were beautiful rhododendron gardens surrounding the house where she had incorporated peach trees, raspberries and other edibles into the garden space.  The gardens just needed some elbow grease to get things in order.

The driveway was a winding lane over a 1/4 mile long from the road to the house with fruit trees on one side and a fenced pasture lined with black berry brambles on the other.  Years previous had seen the addition of a rock garden along the driveway closer to the house.  It was beautiful but overgrown with weeds and grass.

The bride had her heart set on getting married on the lawn and then having her wedding photos taken near the barn and pasture.  There was a considerable amount of work to be done.  The area where the guests would park was overgrown with weeds and grass also.  And work we did.  There were dozens of volunteers that helped every step of the way.  The landscaping was my expertise and thankfully I met the challenge and finished two days before the wedding.

Driveway before

 

Driveway after

Lorraine seeded the lawn area where Heather wanted the ceremony and watered daily for the lawn to thrive.  I added my landscaping touches weeding and mulching everything in sight.

Even Sheeba, the family pet helped by chasing the rabbits away!

The pasture needed to be cut down around the barn and beyond for the wedding photos.  I used a weed eater to get it down to about 8 inches…cleaned the area of all rocks, trees and branches, then I took the lawnmower to it twice…the last time two days before the wedding.  I also trimmed and pruned all shrubs and trees giving each a hair cut to tidy things up.

The three weeks flew by…I cleared my calendar of other jobs to finish this one…at the exasperation of some of my customers…it wasn’t that their gardens weren’t important to me…it was that this was something I had to do…and the wedding turned out beautiful.  A gorgeous summer day for a beautiful bride & groom!  In total I put in 49.5 hours and am so very grateful that I could do something nice for this family!

Congratulations Heather & Ray!  Have a wonderful life!

 

 

 

 

A Great Garden Link for Children

Recently, I received an email offering me a great garden link to put on my website for children.  I have pasted the email below and would like to thank Nicole for her help in researching and sharing her garden link.  Thank you Nicole, what a great find.  There are so many things for children to learn, do and discover in the garden! Hope you have a great summer growing your own garden, with lots of success and fun!

See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

 

Hello,

My name is Erica , I am from Portland, Oregon. Since school ended a few weeks ago, I have been brainstorming outdoor activities and projects My kids can enjoy and learn at the same time. We have been doing some backyard birdwatching, and have also been working on creating a garden in our yard. With the garden we are also researching and identifying insects we come across. We have been doing research online for gardening techniques and learning about flowers, and we thought your page, http://islandgardenscapes.ca/gardening-links/ was very helpful and wanted to thank you!

While we were doing some looking online about flowers and which ones might be best for our garden, My daughter Nicole found this article, http://www.homeadvisor.com/r/gardening-at-home-with-kids/ about gardening for kids. I thought it was a great find by her and thought I’d share it with you so you could add it to your page for other kids to have access to.

Thanks again for all of the helpful information on your page, we really appreciate it! I would love to show Nicole she was able to contribute some knowledge, and if you are able to add the article to your resources I think that would really encourage her to keep on learning and hopefully develop a life long hobby for gardening. Thanks again and hopefully speak to you soon.

Best Wishes,

Erica

Top Dressing Raspberries

There is nothing like a bowl full of sweet plump juicy raspberries fresh out of the garden.  For me, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to fruit.  So there is nothing more disheartening then raspberry canes that are not doing well.  These canes are two years old and have thrown many new shoots but are sickly with yellowing leaves, especially at the bottom of the plant.  Even the leaves further up the cane are not the deep green they should be.  The smaller new shoots will not produce and are taking nutrients away from the larger, older canes.

The first thing I did was to thin out the smaller shoots.  I left only the healthiest deepest green of the new shoots and only a few.  Then I worked up the soil around the base of the remaining plants and pulled all the weeds.  I also checked to ensure that there were no aphids or other pests living off the plants.  Aphids are a common problem for raspberry plants. These insects feed on the sap of raspberry leaves, preferring the tender leaves of new growth. Over time, they cause the leaves to curl and turn a yellow-brown. If the infestation is too severe or the plant is too young when infested, it may not fully recover. Natural pesticides include a water and soap mixture of 16 parts water and 1 part soap. Ladybugs  also control aphid infestations as they enjoy eating them.

Raspberry bushes enjoy well-drained and loamy soil that is rich in nutrients and organic material. Poor soil conditions can lead to yellow leaves. Raspberry bushes perform best when soil pH ranges from slightly acidic to neutral. Mixing in compost and conducting a soil test before transplanting can help diagnose deficiencies before they become a problem.  Using an organic mulch at the base of your plants will not only conserve moisture, but it will also reduce the number of weeds that take root. Mulch provides extra nutrients as it decomposes over time.

It was obvious that the problem was the growing conditions.  The soil needed amending in order for the raspberry canes to not only survive but thrive.

Soil Amendment – 3 parts organic soil, 1 part peat moss,  2 to 3 cups of bone meal, 1 handful of dolmite lime.  The organic soil will continue to feed the plants throughout the seasons.  The peat moss will help to retain moisture.  The bone meal will add the needed levels of potash and phosphate to the soil.  and finally the dolmite lime will help to sweeten the soil so to speak because it is very acidic.  Once it was well mixed in the wheel barrow I worked it into the soil around the raspberry canes about 2 to 3 inches deep.  Then I added more soil to the rest of the garden doing the same thing…working it in 2 to 3 inches deep and then I thoroughly watered it.  Raspberries once established have very deep roots and only need about 1 inch of water per week.  But they must be well watered during transplanting so as to establish that deep and healthy root system.

index raspberries2 raspberries 3

 

raspberries 5 peat moss manure lime bone meal

 

Trimming out of season!

Recently a new garden owner ask me to have a look at his fruit tree.  It was dropping fruit and he had no idea why.  I stopped by and noticed immediately that there were branches that had been recently trimmed.  When I spoke with him, he said yes, he had trimmed several branches because he felt he had not trimmed enough in early spring and the branches were weighed down with fruit.   I explained to him that you cannot ever trim fruit trees after the fruit has set.  This is the reason why there are so many apples on the ground, they are dropping because the tree is now stressed.  The only time to trim off a branch is if it is dead or has been broken in a storm.  Even then, often the tree will start dropping fruit.  Always trim your fruit trees in early early spring…which here on the West coast of Canada can be as early as late January through until March.  But never after it has flowered and the fruit has set.  The tree will survive…that is not in question…he just won’t get much fruit this year!  🙁

 

Cheers!

See you in the Garden or the Garden Centre

My garden progress

Squirrel stealing bulbs

One of the culprits in my garden stealing bulbs!  Squirrels have to eat too…just not my bulbs! 🙂

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In total now, we have spent 20 hours doing clean up and planting some spring bulbs.  I still have over 100 bulbs to plant which I will get done this week.  The snow last week put a temporary hold on planting but I will go forward this week and continue on the clean up and the planting.  As I mentioned earlier in a post when you plant bulbs (especially tulips) cover with chicken wire to protect from the critters….squirrels, deer,  raccoon, etc…  I did not heed my own advice and the robbers came in the night and helped themselves.  🙁  Note to myself to take my own advice.  My gardens are up high surrounded by a retaining wall but that did not stop the thieves from coming.  So be aware that barriers such as mine are not thief proof!