Edmonton Journal’s Homes & Design Magazine

 
Wow! The Summer 2013 issue of Homes and Design features an article called “Backyard Eats are Treats” and it has a series of photos of my awesome herb spiral. This online magazine is pretty swanky and worth a read, but if you want to see my herb spiral you can fast forward to pages 36/37.
Thanks to Claudia Bolli of Wild Green Garden Consulting (interviewed along with Jim Hole) for the opportunity to provide the Edmonton Journal with photos of my garden.
I built my herb spiral in 2010 and I grow oregano, thyme, sage, parsley, rosemary, mint, lavender, Serrano peppers, chives, garlic, cilantro and basil right outside my back door. It’s one of my favorite features in my garden.

Installing Drip Irrigation

This raised bed now has a regular supply of water from a nearby rain barrel
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A few years ago my brother bought me a bunch of tubing and connectors to set up a drip irrigation system. The components made it to my garage but I was intimidated by all the little parts and by what appeared to be complicated instructions.
We had a few days of rain this week so I decided that it was time to pull everything out and have a go at designing an irrigation system for my two raised vegetable beds.It turned out I had ample materials for one raised bed, but I needed a few more connectors for the other. I was able to find what I needed at Lee Valley Tools.

I began with 1/2" hose, 1/4" tubing, compression fittings and 1/4" hose connectors
Hoses and connectors
1/4″ connectors: straight, elbow and T
Punching holes
I cut all of the pieces I needed
Then began to connect them all
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Basically I began with a compression connector which connects the male end of my regular hose to the 1/2″ irrigation hose. Then once I determined the length of the 1/2″ hose I needed (just short of 5′) I cut it off and applied another compression connector with an end cap.
I punched 10 holes in the 1/2″ hose at 12″ intervals, 5 on each side. Into those holes I inserted a straight barbed connector attached to a 23 1/2″ piece of 1/4″ drip tubing. A the other end of each of these pieces of drip tubing I used additional connectors and several 11 1/2″ pieces of tubing to make a loop system. 
 
A Y-splitter gives both raised beds access to the rain barrel
Quick connector makes taking the hose off easy
I made my own hooks to secure the tubing
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Shepherd’s hooks were fashioned from clothes hanger wire and used to secure the tubing in place in the soil.
I attached a Y-splitter to my rain barrel so that I could water both beds at the same time. I also added some quick connectors to the hoses so that I could disconnect them when they weren’t in use. Because this is system isn’t connected to a potable water source I didn’t install a backflow preventer. 
 
Because the water pressure is minimal, I didn’t concern myself with a pressure regulator. I would consider at minimum the backflow preventer if I had it attached to my home water supply.
 
The final outcome is a drip irrigation system that uses rain water and gravity

Build a composter from…Whatever you’ve got

When it comes to building something new for my garden, I like to use what I have rather than buy something ready made. Today I decided that I needed a new composter for under a tree in the front yard. I have a pile of compost out there that needs to be properly processed.

I had an old tomato cage and some plastic netting.

I had an old tomato cage and some plastic netting.

I found an old tomato cage that I built a few years ago out of concrete reinforcing mesh. I also had some pieces of plastic garden netting that I thought might keep the compost in place yet assure lots of air flow.

I used zip ties to attach the netting

I used zip ties to attach the netting

Using zip ties (does anybody else love zip ties as much as I do?) I attached the netting to the tomato cage. I moved the new composter to the front yard and filled it with some of the organic material I had piled up. A good soaking with the hose and I’ve got a working compost pile.

Loaded the new composer and gave it a good soaking

Loaded the new composer and gave it a good soaking

New Upside Down Tomato Planters

One of my new tomato planters

One of my new tomato planters

A few years ago I made my own upside down tomato planters from fabric and wire baskets. They ended up working fabulously well and lasted for 3 seasons, but this spring I decided that they were looking a little worn out. Time for new planters.

I took three pails which I already had and drilled a one inch hole in the bottom of each. Then I drilled out a spot where there had once been a handle and used a coat hanger to make a new handle. I decided that the red color wasn’t right, so I spray painted them in a new moss green.

To place the tomato plants in the pail I first wrapped them with saran wrap, then gently poked them through the hole until they were safely through. I added soil and adjusted until the plants were at the correct depth. After adding more moisture control soil, I  planted a wave petunia on top. Overall I think the new planters turned out pretty well and they cost me only $10 for the paint (which I could have done without).

Pails

Pails

Drilling holes
Drilling holes

Add the coat hanger
Add the coat hanger

Wrap and insert the tomato plant
Wrap and insert the tomato plant

Add a petunia and voila
Add a petunia and voila

 

 

 

 

Tomato Wars

Mamma Mia Tomatoes

Mamma Mia Tomatoes

This year I am pitting three of my Roma tomato plants against each other in a head-to-head competition.

Having read about the benefits of fish heads for tomato plants, I thought I’d give them a small scale (pardon the pun) trial in my garden. I’m also a big fan of worm castings as fertilizer, so I got my hands on some nice fresh worm poop to use as well.

Here’s what I did:

I dug three equally deep holes and planted three of my Mamma Mia tomatoes which I started from seed. In one hole I put two fresh trout heads, four crushed egg shells, six crushed baby aspirin and a small scoop of bone meal. In the second hole I put about a cup of vermicompost. In the last hole I put a small scoop of standard 10-52-10 fertilizer.

Fish heads, egg shells, bone meal and aspirin

Fish heads, egg shells, bone meal and aspirin

Worm castings

Worm castings

 

Standard fertilizer

Standard fertilizer

Let the games begin! I’ll keep you posted.

Graduation! Gardeninggrrl is now a Master Composter/Recycler

Counsellor Ben Henderson, Waste Management's Bud Latta, and Graduate

Counsellor Ben Henderson, Waste Management’s Bud Latta, and Graduate Gardeninggrrl

Last week my class of Edmonton Master Composter/Recyclers graduated from the 2013 City of Edmonton’s MCR program.

A like-minded group of 28 waste conscious Edmontonians, we spent 40 hours in class and at various sites around the city learning everything and anything about reducing waste, recycling and reuse.

Our job is to now disseminate this wealth of knowledge by sharing it with our friends, families and communities. My plan is to work to educate people about the benefits of grasscycling, composting and overall reduction of materials that needn’t go to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.

I’ve already worked the Waste Management booth at one event and have another one scheduled for tonight. It is, after all, International Compost Awareness Week! It’s practically a religious holiday for Master Composters 🙏

Early start to the veggie garden for 2013

image This spring has been very unusual here in my zone 3 yard. During the last week of April we were inundated with snow and cold – ok maybe that’s not terribly unusual for Alberta. But on May 6th we set a new record high of 31C (that’s 88F my American friends). I brought out all of my seedlings to acclimate them and its too darn hot! I have to protect them in the shade for crying out loud. That’s just not normal.

image

The forecast says that the risk of frost in the next week is minimal, and Edmonton’s average last day of frost is May 12th, so I should be home free, right? Well, as much as I’d like to believe that I think I’ll wait another week before I transfer my seedlings to soil.

But the weather has been perfect for sowing my vegetable garden. Here’s what’s going in the dirt this week:

  • Corn: Fleet Bi-Color Hybrid
  • Squash: Spaghetti
  • Sunflower: Ruby
  • Zucchini: Raven
  • Spinach: Regal
  • Swiss Chard: Lucullus
  • Peas: Progress #9
  • Lettuce: Esmeralda
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch
  • Carrots: Touchon
  • Carrots: Scarlet Nantes
  • Beet: Chioggia
  • Bean: TendergreenBush
  • Potatoes: Kennebec
  • Onion Set: White
  • Onion Set: Red

As far as seedlings go I’ve sown:

  • Tomato: Black from Tula
  • Tomato: Tumbler
  • Tomato: Mamma Mia
  • Pepper: Serano del Sol
  • Onion: Spanish Candy Hybrid
  • Cucumber: Spacemaster
  • Eggplant: Hansel
Seedlings in waiting

Seedlings in waiting

I have some winter lettuce that will be ready to eat long before the head lettuces. I think I’ll plant a second type of cucumber as well. My chives, lavender, mint and oregano have all returned and I have ample garlic coming up in more than one place. I’ve got parsley and cilantro seedlings started and I’ve bought some basil, thyme, rosemary and sage bedding plants.

Yippee! It’s spring!