Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sheds for the Garden

With every garden should come a shed. Personally I think in this case bigger is better, as it doesn't take long to fill a shed. As the pictures showed in the squirrel post last week, my shed has a lot of stuff in it. I should have perhaps also taken a picture of the pile of things outside while taking pictures of the cleaned out inside.

My shed is a 6'X8' metal structure and not near as big as I would like it to be. I put a wooden floor in it (makes it easier for the squirrel to access this way) which keeps the contents up off of the ground. It did come with a metal base which I screwed the wood to. With the added weight of the metal base and wood, it is more stable than if it were just the shed alone. I have seen what high winds can do to this type of shed, and it isn't pretty. Mine has been slightly moved by the wind, but never tipped over.

For those of you who don't care for the metal type, by all means build your own. Cost wise it is roughly the same - if I had been wiser I would have built my own instead of buying the one I did. The lumber doesn't have to be perfect, as long as it can be screwed together. There are many types of shed plans available either online or at your local hardware store. In all honesty, I think building a wooden one from scratch would have been simpler than putting together the metal one. If I remember correctly, I had to disassemble it once because I didn't line up the panels for the doors properly. When I moved I took it apart and set it back up again; and it has had wooden doors ever since.

My advice would be to start with a shed no smaller than 8X12 feet; that way there is at least room for a lawnmower, a bench, a toolbox and some floor space. Plus there will be room for the smaller gardening tools and equipment such as an electric hedge trimmer, weed eater, rakes, shovels, hoes, garden hoses, electrical cords and more.

Building a shed with windows lets in natural light which is beneficial if you plan on using it for any type of woodworking or transplanting. If the windows are positioned properly and it is insulated, you can even use it for a sheltered place to harden off bedding plants.

If you don't already have a garden shed perhaps it is time to build one (or for the not so handy person, buy one). Many building centers do have them already built, but keep in mind you will pay for the convenience of having it delivered to your yard. I will be doing my own shed pattern searching and hopefully building one at some point over the summer.

Happy gardening!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Garden Ornament Pictures & More

It took a few shots, but I was able to capture the solar butterfly after all. With the wind today and the spinning of the motor, it was a difficult shot to get. I must say, I am pleased with how it turned out.

The next picture is of the bird feeder my sister gave me for my birthday. I took the picture before I attached it to the trellis and filled it.

As I did my little tour around the yard with camera in hand, I also noticed my strawberries were blooming. They do appear to need a drink, as the sun and wind have dried out the bed. I will be adding a layer of alpaca beans to the bed to help keep down the weeds and feed the strawberries.

The final picture is of the pile of pine cones I cleaned out of my shed last week. Remember the squirrels stash?

Have a great afternoon! I must go do some planting now.

Happy gardening!

New Garden Ornaments

Good morning! I hope everyone had a great weekend! I was doubly blessed yesterday, as it was my birthday and Mother's Day all rolled into one. My daughter made breakfast, then we went to our niece's dance recital in the afternoon. Supper was spent with the in-laws, which is always a good time.

My older sister gave me a couple of neat things for my garden: one is a solar powered butterfly ornament (sun powers a little motor which turns and spins the butterfly) and a bird feeder. She also gave me some Citronella bracelets, which are supposed to ward off mosquitoes - I sure hope they work.

My younger sister gave me a cookbook called "The Big Book of World Tapas - 365 Delicious Light Bites for all Occasions". I will be trying several of the recipes soon I'm sure. I will be able to use some fresh produce from my garden for many of the recipes, but it will have to wait until my garden grows.

Today I will be planting my multiplier onions. I am also going to plant peas today, as they are a favorite in our house. Our favorites are the Sugar Snaps, but the Homesteader are good as well - just a little more work to eat them. Perhaps some lettuce and Swiss Chard will be going in as well.

I was very pleased yesterday to see my Bleeding Heart survived the winter. I was afraid it had winter-killed due to lack of snow, but when I went out yesterday I noticed the shoots coming through the soil. I think the Bleeding Heart is one of my favorites as far as perennials go. What is your favorite?

We stopped at one greenhouse yesterday as well and my son bought me a hanging basket filled with strawberry plants. I have the perfect spot for it - right outside the door. I have a plant hanger that attaches to the deck railing and will hang the planter there. I could have spent much longer in the greenhouse but we were pressed for time. There is a new one in our area that opened last year; one I didn't get a chance to go to. I will be visiting it sometime this week, once I decide on which bedding plants I want.

I will take my camera out to my garden and take some pictures of my butterfly ornament and bird feeder. I will be posting them either later today or tomorrow.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Educational Supper

Today was a busy day. I had an appointment in the city, which is always a tiring trip at the best of times. It was also an educational trip, and I learned a little more about gardening than I already knew.

We were having supper at Moxie's by Kingsway Garden Mall and I overheard a lady at the next table talking to her friends about gardening. This is what I learned:
  1. There are two types of ladybugs - good and bad. The red ones are good and will eat the aphids; the orange ones will eat your plants.
  2. Marigolds are great for keeping nuisance bugs away from your garden, such as aphids and mosquitoes. They do attract the pollinators, such as bees. I knew about the mosquitoes, but didn't know they kept aphids at bay as well.
  3. Garlic is also an excellent aphid deterrent - plant it among your rose bushes and your roses will be aphid free. The bonus is you harvest the garlic in the fall and use it in your kitchen. In my opinion, it also works well to keep flu bugs away.
I wanted to share this little tidbit of information with you; it just goes to show one never knows who they will learn something from in a day. I didn't speak to the lady at all, but I would like to thank her here on my blog. I may never see her again, and she may never read this - but if she does, she will hopefully be honored.

Until next time, happy gardening!


p.s. The next post will be longer and filled with more information; I wanted to share before I went to bed and forgot what I heard her say. It is information all gardeners will benefit from at one point or another.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Squirrel Stash

Good morning!

For those of you who belong to my group on Facebook you may have already heard about where our squirrel stashed his food for the winter. For those of you who aren't, keep reading. :)

The garden shed gets opened regularly through the spring, summer and fall, but throughout the winter it usually stays closed. This past winter was no exception. Yesterday I decided would be a good day to open it up and get out the watering can and some flower pots. Wow, was I in for a big surprise when I opened the door!

Our squirrel had been very busy! I do have to say he was well stocked and was in no danger whatsoever of going hungry. Today he is going to be quite upset with me, as I will be cleaning the shed. I will have to empty the pine cones and crab apples out of my watering can before I can even use it. It's nice to know he had a comfortable place to spend the winter. :)

As I was giggling to myself and taking pictures I couldn't help but marvel at just how much he had stockpiled. I am sure he has enough in there to last another winter. I'm not sure if he did any other damage to the contents of the shed; I can't really tell for all the pine cones and mess. He did make a nice little hole in the bottom of the door, which was one of his access points. His other entryway is in the corner, where the metal is separated (kicked by a horse last winter). I'm glad he was able to utilize my shed, but did he have to make such a mess? Hmmm...I wonder - do you think if I left a broom and dustpan he'd clean it up?

My question for today - have you ever had a surprise such as this one when you started your spring yard cleanup?

Happy gardening!


Monday, 7 May 2012

5 Greenhouse Planning Tips

Good morning!

It is a beautiful day today, which means I should be enjoying it outside. I wish my computer didn't need to be plugged in all the time, or I could be writing this out in the garden. I don't really want to run a cord that far. 

For those of you who are considering a greenhouse, here are some tips to help with planning and utilization. The rising cost of produce and chemicals used by commercial growers is forcing even the most novice gardener to try their hand at growing their own produce. A properly designed greenhouse can extend the growing season in all but the harshest of climates.

1.     Size – it is important to know what your needs will be regarding amount and type of produce you will be growing. It is a good idea to build bigger than not big enough. A 6X8 foot size is perfect for a few tomato and pepper plants, but if your plans are to have a larger variety of produce you may want to go with a larger size. A 10X12 foot structure is ideal.
2.     Materials – There are several types of greenhouse structures available on the market, from pop-ups to poly-tunnels to conservatory-type glass buildings. A good starting point is a basic 2X4 stud frame covered in corrugated plastic. Roll plastic will work for one season and will do in a pinch, but the corrugated type is longer term. It will last several years so is worth the initial cost. When erecting your structure keep the wind factor in mind, as it may need additional anchoring if made from lighter materials or placed in a location subject to high winds.
3.    Ventilation system – The ventilation system is one of the most important factors to consider when building or buying a greenhouse. If you will be able to monitor the temperature during the hottest part of the day a simple roof vent and door will be sufficient. For those who are away during the day an automated system will be more desirable. Thermostatically controlled fans and cylinder vents are expensive options but may be necessary depending on your individual situation.
4.     Watering system – every greenhouse owner needs to have an irrigation plan in place. This could be as simple as walking a watering can back and forth from the rain barrel to a fully automated watering system. Most backyard greenhouses do not require an automated system, although it is not unheard of. A trickle irrigation system can easily be set up to ease your mind if you are away during the day.
5.     Growing area – pots or staging (shelving)? Will you be growing tall plants which would benefit from an eight foot high space, such as cucumbers? Or will you be growing bush and dwarf varieties of fruits and vegetables? One option is to put staging (built in shelving) on one side and leave the other side open for pots, a removable bench, or a combination of the two.

Once you have decided on the above characteristics, it is time to get building and planting. Within a few short weeks you will be enjoying the fruits of your labor; tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more.

A personal note: I cannot wait to have a greenhouse again. It has not been for lack of trying though. I made a very nice one out of cattle panels and 2X4s about three years ago. I put split doors at both ends, covered it in plastic and had it ready to go. I had gone into town for a bit in the afternoon, and while I was there got the picture below. 

I was devastated! Notice the clear blue skies? Apparently a whirlwind (one large enough to rattle the windows in the house) had come through the yard. I picked up the pieces, we bought some anchors and cable and I tried again. It wasn't meant to be because the wind knocked it flat again. I have tried a couple times since, even using an existing building frame. We live in a wind tunnel and my choice in placement wasn't the best apparently. The question is, do I try again or wait until we move? I think the worst part was I didn't even get a picture of the finished product - just the destroyed product. :(

One more tip: location, location, location! Do not put up a greenhouse made from lightweight materials in a wind tunnel.

Happy gardening!


Thursday, 3 May 2012

4 Tier Mini Greenhouse

Good day fellow gardeners!

For those of you who want to get a jump on the growing season but don't have much room, the 4 Tier Mini Greenhouse is the perfect solution. It comes with all the pieces and a plastic cover so you can have your plants in front of the window in a controlled environment.

I have used the 4 Tier Mini Greenhouse for more than just starting bedding plants. When I was short on space, I also used it for my houseplants. I do have to say anything tall does not fit too well on anything but the top shelf. I had my fig tree, banana tree and a couple others on the top shelf and spider plants, Devil's ivy and African violets on the lower shelves. I did not use the plastic cover when my house plants were on it, as it would have been too hot and humid for a few of them. I'm sure the fig and banana trees would have thrived, but the African violets not so much.

It is also a space saving shelving unit for in a larger greenhouse. It does come with casters so it is semi-mobile, but I do suggest you be careful when moving it (especially if it is full of plants). I assembled mine a few days ago and when I moved it I lifted too much and had it come apart; would not have been good if it was full of plants.

It is quite versatile and I do recommend anyone who needs extra shelving for plants to get one. If using all four shelves for bedding plants remember to rotate them every couple of days so they receive proper light, especially if the window isn't right to the floor. Also, try to avoid heavy items on the top shelves as it may become top-heavy and tip over; not something anyone wants to happen.

Enjoy your 4 Tier Mini Greenhouse! Mine will be on my deck housing my bedding plants when I get them.

Happy gardening!


Note: be sure to check the temperature during the day, as it can become very hot if placed directly in front of a South facing window. Even with the cover on it is still important to check individual plants for drying out or being too wet.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Garden Plans and Pictures

Good morning!

I had such big plans for today...until the wind picked up and threatened me with clouds and rain. It was sunny at 6:15AM when I got out of bed, and still sunny at 7:15 when my daughter got on the bus. What happened to my sunshine? As they say, "Welcome to Alberta!"

I am hoping it blows over. I know I should check the weather report, but then I'll just be disappointed if this is supposed to carry on throughout the day. We had our April showers (and snow) - bring on the flowers!

Yesterday I rearranged my solar lights and moved a few things around the yard. I was sad last night, because I noticed my wind chime solar light (not to mention a few others) wasn't working. I have a few extra batteries, I just hope they will fit in the lights I need them to. The extra batteries were the result of the dog thinking the lights were his personal playthings. I realize he must have been bored but couldn't he chase the squirrel or something, instead of destroying my lights?

I will venture out and see what I can do in the yard in a little while; raking will not be on my list though. There is much to do before I can even think about planting anything. Although, I do have one garden bed ready - perhaps my multiplier onions can go in today.

As I was cleaning on of the garden beds, I noticed my Bleeding Heart may have winter killed this year. I am hoping I am wrong, but when I pulled on the dry stems the roots seemed mushy. Looks like the local greenhouse will be selling me another Bleeding Heart this year (or maybe two). The Bleeding heart is one of my favorite flowers; this one would have been huge this year, as it is year three or four since it was planted. I guess I will have to wait until it warms up a little more to know for sure.

Another of my favorite flowers is the Morning Glory. I had a garden bed full of them last year, and they were huge. The funny thing was I planted peas in that bed, not flowers. I have no idea how they got there, but was pleasantly surprised. I didn't have a trellis so they grew out instead of up, but were beautiful just the same. I took a picture of one (see below), which is the Heavenly Blue variety. I had planted some in a planter, but the volunteer ones did much better.

My daughter bought me a planter for my birthday/Mother's Day last year, and I had put some Morning Glories, Nasturtiums and a Citronella plant in it. I had envisioned the trellis covered with flowers and the base overflowing with greenery; it was not to be so. I'm not quite sure why, but I do have my hunches. It is a very nice planter (pictured below) and a good size, but I do believe the wood stain has a lot to do with the quality of growth. I'm guessing perhaps it leached into the soil, or maybe the planter just got too hot?

This year I will be adding soil that retains moisture better, so hopefully that helps the plants grow. The question is, where do I put it this year and what do I plant in it? (Okay, so that's two questions.) It does have one disadvantage, and that is being a bit top heavy. When the wind blew it would fall over, which perhaps didn't help the plants grow either. I am contemplating placing a few rocks (a quick walk out to the field and I should have more than enough) inside to give it a little extra weight in the bottom.

In behind the planter you can see my Bistro table with the solar lights on it. The table sat on the deck last summer, but yesterday I moved it next to my trellis covered in a Virginia Creeper. The vine doesn't look like much right now but it is beautiful when it leafs out; and in the fall when the leaves turn red it is prettiest of all. (Oh my, here I am talking about fall when spring has just arrived...shame on me!)

It is time to go out and see what I can do; the rain hasn't started yet so I may be taking a walk to the field to get some rocks. I don't think the farmer who rents the land will be too upset with me. :)

Have a great day, and please join my Facebook Group, Gardening - Inside & Out! I would love to see pictures of your garden and hear about your experiences.

Happy gardening!