Tag Archives: organic gardening

the art of growing fruits, vegetables, plants, trees, flowers with soil & amendments derived from living things…kitchen fruit & vegetable waste, grass clippings, garden waste, leaves, branches, etc…

Garden Oasis

We have continued the work on the “Front Yard Oasis” this fall.  The design is coming together and it is even more stunning then the computer generated design.  We have continued excavation of the river bed.  What we originally thought would be 3 to 4 more yards of waste has become 9 to 10 yards of excavation.  Painstakingly done with shovels and wheel barrows.  The yard is very rocky so we have sifted through much of the waste to keep the larger rocks to incorporate back into the dry river bed we will be creating.

The garden bed areas are now all installed and filled with organic soil, peat moss, bone meal and blood meal…and are ready to plant.  A path way will be installed to run along the river bed to allow stepping access to the garden areas and to visually separate the patio from the river bed.  The path will consist of 3 inches of rainbow rock that has been purchased at “Hillside Stone & Garden” near Duncan BC.  We will be using low edging along the pathway that Beryl – our garden owner has purchased.  It will help to define the edges of the river bed and the pathway as well as the patio and will keep the decorative rock from mixing with the river bed.  We excavated the path down to approximately 3 1/2 inches to ensure the path will be slightly lower then the patio so the stone will not migrate onto the patio.

These are the original designs on paper.  In a future post I will post the original designs with the actual designs to show the evolution of creating a garden space and how similar and also how different it becomes.  There will be many areas that mirror the designs but also differences as there are always changes and challenges that come with such an undertaking.

Proper pollination of fruit trees and other fruit bearing plants

Recently, I took a phone call from a garden owner wanting some advice on how to insure his fruit trees would have a good pollination which correlates to a higher yield of fruit.  It is quite simple really.  He explained to me that his fruit trees are in an area of his property completely separate from his flower beds and flowering shrubs.  He has fenced in the area to keep deer and other plant eating rodents out and has struggled for two years with low fruit yields.  The trees themselves are quite healthy and growing well.  They just have not produced the amount of fruit he felt they should.

I explained to him, the past year of strange weather did not help.  Here on Vancouver Island we had a very late spring, many of the flowering trees and shrubs were 6 weeks behind because we had such a cold winter and a late one at that.  So when the pollinators (bees, ladybugs, butterflies,etc) have come to your garden and cannot find food, they move on.

Plants give off what is called “Pheromones” which are used for many things…one of which is communication among plants and with insects.  When the plant starts to flower and needs to be pollinated for sustainability, it releases its pheromones into the air to attract pollinators.  So to increase the pollination processes in your garden and off set things like cold winters, late bloomers, etc…choose companion plants to grow with or near your fruit trees that will increase your trees chances of getting a high pollination count.  Choosing flowers that bloom for long periods of time to overlap with the fruit trees helps encourage pollination.  Choose daffodils, garlic, lavender, rosemary, marigolds or heather.  They will not only attract the right pollinators to your garden but also deter pests with their strong odors and  help to keep your garden healthy for years to come.
Also…these choices are also deer resistant.  I have never seen deer eat these plants so it just might help to keep your plants from being eaten.

Happy Gardening…see you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

 

 

Planting Reminder

We are fast approaching the end of garlic planting on Vancouver Island.  Ideally it is best planted during the month of October but can still be put in now.  Garlic is easy to grow and can be planted in pots, raised beds or direct into the ground.  Planting in a pot I would suggest using a pot with a depth of 8 to 10 inches to allow for plenty of root space.  Just place the separated cloves and plant approximately 3 inches in depth and 4 inches apart for best results.  Use only organically locally grown garlic as many of the grocery store varieties have been sprayed with chemicals.  Plant in organic soil and harvest next year.

Ladysmith Health Food store has an abundance of garlic for sale and very reasonably priced.  They are located on 1st Ave in downtown Ladysmith.

 

A front yard oasis

In an earlier post I showed the beginning of a new front garden design.  The work continues and here is the design on paper with the before pics and the concept design.

The patio will not be exactly as shown although she has chosen different hues of pink.

Transforming a Front Yard

We were hired by Beryl to transform her front yard in Ladysmith.  After several discussions we came up with an initial plan so I could design the area.  She wanted raised garden boxes in front of the house and smaller raised garden boxes on each side of her trellis.  There will be no grass in the front yard.  The grass is non-existent anyway, with only the weeds growing.  She wants a low maintenance design, with a large curving patio.  We incorporated a dry river bed to run along the perimeter of the patio.  This will add visual appeal as well as natural drainage from the yard.

The fence and arbor were installed last year.  The shrubs in front of the house had to come out and the garden boxes installed.

Then the yard had to be taken down in height.  In some areas it had to be taken down 14 inches so that it would be level.  This design is an ongoing project.  I will update with the design pics next.

Clean-up and Re-design of a patio garden space

In October last year, a lovely senior lady contacted me in regards to cleaning and re-designing her small patio garden.  She loves gardening but found she could not do the manual labour of weeding, digging and replanting some of her potted plants and some of the plants that were already in her garden.

Small garden spaces are a challenge and take some getting used to…not to mention they try your patience at the worst of times.  Such small spaces make for cramped quarters for the gardener and can cause cramped muscles, short fuses and damaged areas if not careful from miss-steps in the garden area itself.  After many many small garden projects for many garden owners (as well as my own small garden space) I have discovered that often times these small spaces can take as much time and sometimes more then a larger space, due to the confined quarters.  What I truly love is the final display of the garden owners design.  Sometimes, the design is left up to me and sometimes (most times) Mother Nature shows you how the garden should look…if we really open our visual telepathy we will see the plants characteristics…in terms of colour, size, growing patterns, leaf patterns and flowering times…then the design picture comes to light…such was this garden…it really just unfolded as I weeded and cleaned the area.

Eva is a lovely lady who waited since last October as it froze up before I could get to her garden and was kind and patient enough to wait for me to get to her re-design this spring.  A sincere thank you Eva for giving me the opportunity to beautify your outdoor space…it really was a pleasure for me and I am so very please that you are happy with the end result…hope you enjoy your patio all season long!  Cheers Eva !

Total length of time was 5 hours…which included weeding and mulching her front gardens as well, although I did not include before and after pics as I forgot to take them. Total cost to her was $175.00 which included the mulch costs.  The plants that were in pots she had me plant into the ground.  With the exception of her mint…because if you have ever grown mint you know how invasive it is.  In a small garden like Eva’s, the mint would have spread to every area of her garden by fall.  So we agreed that I should heal in the entire pot with the mint in it.  I dug the hole 3\4 the depth of the pot and placed the pot in the hole and filled in around it.  The pot will maintain the mint in the pot and not allow it to travel throughout the garden area.  It will go to seed and spread that way but it will be much slower and easier to manage…just by pulling out the seedlings as they sprout.

 

 

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.

 

 

My Garden Labyrinth

In an earlier post, I uploaded a garden labyrinth design for my own back yard.  The challenge is to create privacy and grow all of my own food this year.  Each year I grow more of my own food and this year I would like to grow 100% of it organically.  I have purchased all organic seed.  This is important as seed that is not organic has residual chemicals which would be left in the soil.  I have purchased organic soil from Milan on Brenton-Page road-250-667-1029     https://www.facebook.com/highlineenvironmental/

The first two garden boxes took 2 yards of soil to fill.  Each box measures 4 foot x 8 foot and are 12 inches high.  I placed them parallel along the south side of my driveway with enough space between them to get a lawn mower or a wheel barrow between them.  This area of the yard is very wet due to the gray water from the laundry room being drained here, so it should be a perfect place for a growing medium.  I have added bone meal and blood meal to the boxes and worked it in.  I will test the soil today and see how high the nutrient level is and if anything more is required.   In a few days I will plant some early vegetables.  It is a busy season already so I will have to fit my garden time in after work as I did the last two nights.  When buying seeds it is important to verify they are organic non-GMO seeds.  West Coast seeds are offered for sale at almost every garden centre and many other retail outlets.  They also offer mail order for convenience.  They are high quality certified organic seeds and their website is a wealth of information on gardening.

Cheer!

See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

Creating A Spring Flower Garden

Originally this job was supposed to be completed before Christmas.  There were 300 plus bulbs that needed to be planted once the garden was built.  However, Mother Nature disagreed and so the bulbs had to wait.  There was also a boxwood hedge to plant along a newly installed walkway.  That is if Mother Nature could ever release her icy grip!

The spring garden design was a simple one.  Clean the garden area along the driveway, install garden ties, amend the soil and plant the spring bulbs.  Simple right?  Wrong!  Previously there were coniferous trees growing on that side of the property and had been taken down long before my arrival.  Their stumps were in the garden bed area and the roots were everywhere.  Some had traveled underneath the paved driveway bulging the tarmac upwards.  Intertwined with the tree roots grew english ivy…everywhere.  I never ever thought there would be something more difficult to remove then english ivy.  But I was wrong again.  When I originally looked at the job last fall the ground was covered in leaves and did not give a clear picture of the labour that would be involved to beautify the area.  And so the work begins.  A pic axe was purchased to chop the roots out and a chain saw was used to cut the roots off at the driveway edge.  The easiest part of the job was planting the boxwood hedge.

Organic soil was purchased from Milan at HighLine 250-667-1029 located on Brenton-Page Road near Ladysmith.    You won’t find a better soil.  Milan creates the soil himself from organic matter.  The soil is well balanced with sand and rich organic compost.  I added bone and blood meal, peat moss to retain moisture and triple steer manure to enhance the growing medium.  However, this soil is so rich that you could just plant and grow.  I amended it to minimize the work for the garden owner.  She is not an avid gardener so this will allow her to have a no fuss garden for a couple years.  She will not have to add anything.   I planted over 300 bulbs of daffodils, tulips, narcissus and crocus’.  I am looking forward to seeing this garden in full bloom this spring.  stay tuned for the update in a couple of months.

Warning: If you are using a pic axe or any other equipment for digging or cutting, make sure you know if there are water lines, hydro lines, gas lines or telephone lines in the area! 

 

 

 

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!