Thursday, May 29, 2008

Warm season crops are finally all in

We finally had a warm day on Tuesday and I was able to plant my tomatoes and it turned into a funny and painful story.


I had just planted them and then came in to phone my grandma and she told me we are suppose to get frost Tuesday night and I thought, we're not going to have frost. Then I was talking to my Mom and she said we are getting frost overnight and I thought, we're not getting frost. Later in the evening I was then talking to my Sister and she said we are getting frost tonight so then I thought I should look at the weather channel. Low and behold it said the temperature was going to drop to 2c with a wind chill of -2c. At this point it was 11pm and here I was running around the yard in the dark covering all the large pots with old sheets and putting all the smaller pots in the shed. In the process I managed to pinch my finger between two of the large tomato pots and then when I was covering my agave I ended up getting a spike stuck in my hand, those thing are nasty. Live and learn I guess with the latter taking the longest.

Potted Tomatoes with mulched soil

Thursday I was 99% sure we are frost free so I planted everything that was left to plant, pole beans, lima beans, soybeans, cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini & herbs. Now I know what you are all thinking, where are you putting all those plants? In every available square inch I can find and I am hoping they learn to like each other because everything is rather close together. The tomatoes and eggplants I have placed in pots, the beans & cucumbers are on my newly built trellis, the zucchini I snuck in the ground in a 3'x3' space between the tomato pots and the rhubarb and the soybeans I planted where one of my broccoli died(cut worm I think.)


It has certainly been a very cold spring this year, the last few years we have almost had heat waves this time of year. The warmer days and cold nights have done wonders for the cold season crops through, they are getting huge. Over the weekend I will post pictures of the hole area to show how quickly things are growing.

Peppers, the large ones came for the nursery, the wimpy ones in the front I grew from seed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to build a removable vegetable garden trellis for Beans, Cucumbers, Melons, Peas

Material List (this is what you will need, quantity will vary by project size)

  • 2x2x8 lumber
  • 1x2x8 lumber
  • trellis netting
  • staples
  • 3" screws
  • 1 1/4" screws
  • 3.5" bolts w/ nuts
  • 3" corner braces

Start off by deciding how you want to build your trellis, weather it is a single trellis or multiple trellises combined like mine. If you were to build a long single trellis I would place a 2x2 every four to five feet depending on the width of your netting. Doing this will determine the quantity of materials that you will need.

Once everything is ready to go make a little sketch of the trellis you are building and include measurements for your width and height.

Then cut your 2x2 to form the three sides of your trellis. I found the best place to assemble the trellis was on the laneway so you are working on a hard surface and not compacting your gardens soil. Using the 3" screws to attach the frame together and follow that with the 3" corner braces with the 1 1/4" screws. This will make a very strong corner that will not separate over time.

Now you are ready to start stretching your nylon trellis netting over your fame.

Start by stapling the netting to the top rail forming an X over the string and use a hammer to make sure the staples are very tight. Once the top is stapled on cut your 1x2 to the width of your trellis and pre-drill a hole on either end. Then take the 1x2 and weave it through the netting two squares up from the bottom.

Then pull the 1x2 down to stretch the netting. Once it is pulled tight drive one 1 1/4" screw into the pre-drilled hole to hold it in place and then use a square on the other side to square up the frame and then add a screw to the other side. This 1x2 will add rigidity to your trellis and will keep your netting from sagging.

With the netting secured to the top and bottom rails all that is left to do is stretch and staple the netting to the two side rails, one at a time. When it is all in place cut off the excess and like in the photo below trim the bottom so a single strand is hanging just above the ground making it easier for the vine to take hold.

Now that your frame is built and your netting is all in place it is time to decide how you are going to install this trellis.

If you are installing this in a raised bed you can screw a cleat inside or outside of your raised bed frame and then bolt your trellis to the cleat.

If you are installing this trellis in a vegetable garden that does not have raised beds your best bet would be to dig a hole 2 feet deep x 6" wide and cement your cleat in, not a lot maybe 12" of cement in the bottom. You can then bolt your trellis to the cleat once the cement has set.

In both cases your cleat should be as long as your raised bed frame or hole plus 9" to accommodate your bolts and it should have a 45 degree cut on the top to shed water. So if your raised bed frame was 6" high you would need a cleat that is 15". You should use two bolts per cleat and the bolts should be on the thicker side so they stand up well in the weather.

With all this done, you will now have a trellis that is removable and with the main parts above the ground so it should never rot. Your only maintenance will be to change out your cleats if they deteriorate and this could be avoided if you use cedar or plastic composite material for your cleats.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A very unproductive weekend for the veggie garden

I had big plans for the vegetable garden this weekend but they never really happened. I was planning on going to pick up the trellis netting, mulching the area that my tomato pots are in, building my trellis as well as planting my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini & cucumbers. The only thing on the list that was done was picking up the trellis netting and building a quarter of the trellis.

On Saturday my Mom and I left early afternoon to go to Burlington to pick up the trellis netting at Lee Valley. We then ended up spending the whole afternoon touring around Burlington and lounging on a patio eating Mama's Pizza and drinking Caramel Macchiato's from Starbucks. When we finally came home we ended up having a fire in the backyard and my Sister and her friend Shannon came over. I am still not totally sure it is legal to have a fire in the city but I would rather beg for forgiveness then ask permission.

Sunday morning and early afternoon was spent driving all over the city and the remainder of the afternoon was spent bike riding out on the trail along the river. Once I was home I started on the trellis. This is when things started to go wrong, you know the saying measure twice cut once well this is a phrase I have yet to master. I was to the last two side pieces of the trellis and I cut both of them to short. So in other words I am done for the day and will have to pick up another couple pieces of lumber and complete the trellis tomorrow.

I do really need to get going on this though, I started to soak my beans seeds Friday for Saturday planting and now they will not be planted until Monday. I have transfered them from the cup of water to paper towel in the mean time, I figured this would be better then leaving them water logged for four days.

Even though the garden did not get a lot of attention with the camera this weekend I did end up getting some great photos of others things while I was out and about, so enjoy:

Rooster on the prowl

Friesian horses, Martha Stewart purchased horses from this farm
Wild Apple Blossom

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How quickly things add up at the big orange store

Plan One
I decide that I was going to build a trellis out of 2x2 spruce and nylon netting. I planned on building two simple C frame, then installing 2 eye screws on each side, 6" apart at the base of the C frame that would correspond with rebar that would be drove into the ground. That way the wood would not be rotting in the ground and it would be easy to take the trellises on and off. This was the plan before I went out to buy the materials:

4 rebar 13.96
8 eye screws 4.72
4 corner braces 3.88
5 2x2x8 10.70
netting 9.50
sub 42.76
tax 5.56
total 48.32

I think this is crazy, fifty bucks for 2 small trellises made of finger jointed spruce, its scrap wood! So it was back to the drawing board.

Plan Two
My second plan is to use 1.5 foot cleets attached to my raised bed frame thus removing the need for rebar. Then build my trellis in an E shape as appose to two C frames and screw that into the cleets thus removing the need for one of the 2x2x8.

4 2x2x8 8.56
4 corner braces 3.88
netting 9.50
sub 21.94
tax 2.85
total 24.79

This will basically serve the same purpose at the same time reducing the cost greatly. The cleets will separate the trellis frame from being in contact with the soil which will stop it from rotting. The trellis will be screwed to the cleets and will be almost as easy to remove as it would have been if it was supported by the rebar.

Now all I have to do is return some materials, go to Lee Valley to pick up the trellis netting and I will be able to build the trellis.

I will follow up with a post on how to building a vegetable garden trellis once I have all the materials on hand.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Impatiently Waiting to Plant My Warm Season Crops

This past weekend was a long weekend, what the holiday is for I have no idea but I do know that this is the time you are supposed to be able to plant out without the risk of frost. Unfortunitly this is not the case this year and it is to cold to plant my tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchini, peppers & eggplants. I don't think that we will have frost over night but it is going to 3-5 Celsius at night and around 10-15 Celsius during the day so it is defiantly a little brisk.

The only other problem I have been having is getting to my vegetable garden. I have aerated, top dressed and over seeded the lawn so I have not really been able to walk on the lawn until the seed germinates and establishes. So needless to say it has been a bit of a balancing act to walk on the edge of the raised beds, some times succeeding and some times not and I am sure I look like a nut well attempting it.

This weekend I did manage to plant the second 1/3 row of radishes. The first 1/3 is growing well and the stems are start to plump up. I bought and planted a cell pack of romaine lettuce from Walmart. My original plan was to plant the romaine from seed in thirds but the first third I planted from seed is growing slowly so I think if I continued this method the weather would end up getting to hot and it would not do well. The Walmart romaine will be my first harvest and my seeded romaine can be my second harvest.

The peas, carrots, beets are growing very well. I have just thinned the carrots and I thinned the beets about a week ago. The only thing that is really not doing anything is my onions. I planted transplants and they have really not grown at all in the 2-3 weeks that they have been in, I am not sure if this is normal, maybe its been to cold?

The one group of plants that have really amazed me is all the brassicas. They have all grown at least 4 times there size within a few weeks. As shown in the photo above, my broccoli is almost 15" tall! The cabbage and brussels sprouts have also grown very fast.

My next project is to build some kind of trellises for my beans and cucumbers. I'm not sure weather I am going to go with the sqaure foot gardening method of using netting and electrical conduit, build them with cedar 1x1 or use spruce 2x2 with concrete-reinforcement wire with the latter being the longest lasting.

I will post again once I have built my trellises and planted all my warm season crops.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spring Photo's

There has not been anything new happening in the garden so I through I would post some of the photo's I have taken in the last couple weeks.

Female Baltimore Oriol

Male Baltimore Oriol

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Grey Blue Gnatcatcher

White Breasted Nuthatch

Red Trillium

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Monday, May 12, 2008

Potatoes Planted

On Saturday afternoon I finally planted my potatoes, I have been waiting for them to sprout. The fingerings potatoes sprouted but the white potatoes did not so I just ended up purchasing some seed potatoes to replace them.

The ideal time to plant potatoes in my climate according to the Ministry of Agriculture is April 5 - May 5 for early potatoes and May 1 - June 1 for late potatoes. I guess I am still within the time frame, the only problem that could arise is if the temperature goes to warm to fast which can impact on the tuber development.

I also researched on potato spacing and found a lot of conflicting information, some said to space the rows 2.5 feet apart! If I was to space like that I would have ended up with one row of potatoes. I ended up going with the spacing suggested in the Square Foot Gardening book which is one potato plant per square foot.

Before planting the fingering potatoes I laid them out in the sun so the cuts would dry out. In doing so I am hoping it would make them less susceptible to rot.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

May's Progress Photo's


Romaine (First Planting)/French Radish (First Planting)


Celery, Broccoli , brussel sprouts, Cabbage

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Plant and Seed Inventory

This year I have started seedings indoors as well as outdoors and I have purchased cold seasons crops as transplants from the nursery.

Next year I want to build a cold frame so I can start my own cold season crops and to make hardening off my indoor seedlings a lot easier with less trips in and out of the basement.

I ordered most of my seeds from the Seeds Savers Exchange, I have been order from them for 3 season this being the first season that I ordered more then just heirloom tomato seed. I think it is really important that there are organizations that are saving old varieties of seed that would other wise be lost in this world of uniform, hybridized and at times genetically modified crops. Not to mention that heirloom varieties taste better, I am will to accept the fact that the plants may be more prone to disease or insects.

Seeds I have sown indoors in April:

  • Tomato's:
Hillbilly Potato Loaf
Cherokee Purple
Aunt Ruby's German Green
Japanese Trifele Black
  • King of the North Pepper
  • Eggplant's:
Vittoria Long Italian
Rosa Bianca

Seeds I have sown outdoors in the raised beds:

  • Dragon Carrot (purple with orange interior)
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • French Radish
  • Beets
  • Green Arrow Peas
Seeds to be sown outdoors after last frost:

  • Marrow Squash Zucchini (not sure were I have space for these)
  • Sieva Lime Beans
  • Pole Beans
  • Double Yield Cucumber
  • Red Fingerling Potato
  • White PEI Potato
  • Jamaican Sweet Potato (a bit of an experiment, they are purple skinned)
Plants I have purchase as transplants:

  • Onions:
Large Sweet White
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Butter Crunch Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Chocolate Peppers(to be planted)
  • Yellow Banana Peppers(to be planted)
Everything that has been sown indoors and outdoor is doing really well and the transplants you can almost watch grow. All the work and triple mix is really going to pay off with very strong plants this year.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Big Dig

To rectify the problems I had in my first attempt I decided to:

  • Make deep beds, against the foundation to maximize the sun light I have available
  • Terrace the slope with raised beds to solve the run off problem
  • Dig out 1.5 feet of the poor soil and reinstall 4 cubic yards of good quality triple mix
Mid way through the project:

Completed! Taken with my fish eye lens:
I wish I could say this was easy but it was not, It was a full week of off and on work to get this accomplished. I was told by the lady at the landscape yard that the triple mix weighted approximately 8000lbs!

The good thing is that this only needs to be done once with the only maintenance needed in the future is adding organic matter yearly and replacing lumber as need. I am hoping the lumber will last at least 5 years with out any serious rot.

In my next post I will listing the varieties of plants I am starting from seed, also what I have recently planted out as well as what transplants I have brought home for the nursery.

I welcome any commentary.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A second approch to growing food

The first year we moved to our current home I made an attempt to growing vegetables with very poor results:

  • The soil was horrible, consisting of sand, gravel & stones. The kind of soil that your shovel wants to bounce off of.
  • I placed half my beds in the shade, who would have thought the hedge would grow leaves and block out the sun
  • The other half of the beds received direct sun, against the foundation, on the south side of the house. It was literally impossible to keep moisture in the soil aka gravel yard.
  • The area is sloped so when it rained it washed everything to the bottom.
  • I planted everything in June just as it started to really get hot
With this combination of things it really did not turn out well. The following years all I attempt to grow in the food department was heirloom tomatoes in large pots.

Now in the fifth summer in this home I have decided to make another attempt at growing a vegetable garden and actually succeeding at it. I have came to this decision from:
  • Being inspired by Jamie Oliver's show & book 'Jamie at Home'
  • Rising food inflation
  • Poor quality produce with unknown amounts of chemicals
In my next post I will explain my game plan for tackling the problems I encountered in my first attempt.