2013 Edible Garden Tour a Great Success!

I want to thank Claudia Bolli and Amanda for bringing a bunch of fabulous green thumbs to my place to view my garden and yard. It was great to meet people who love gardening as much as I do.

Here are some quick links to some of the things we discussed:

Sheet Mulching Workshop (2011)






Thanks everyone for coming by!

Edmonton Horticultural Society Gets a Nice view of my Above Ground Pool

Well, there is rain and then there is torrential downpour. Guess which one I had today, the day that the EHS judges tour the city’s gardens and choose the best of the best? Maybe this photo will help.

Had they come one hour earlier or even a few hours later they would have been able to appreciate the hard work I’ve put into my vegetable garden this year. Sigh.
Here are some photos from yesterday.

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.

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

Silver Spoon Plant Markers: Buy Them at Salisbury Greenhouse

imageYup, I finally got up the nerve to contact Salisbury Greenhouse and ask if they’d be interested in selling my silver plated spoons. They were kind enough to place an order for 22 spoons, all herb markers.

I was so excited about making them that I forgot how hard it is to pound out two dozen spoons (not to mention the several spoons I made only to have a letter skip and destroy the finished product).

Anyways, it’s not going to make me rich, or even remotely famous. But it was a good learning experience.

Now go buy them!

Salsa: Summer in a Mason Jar

Canned and Ready for Eating

Salsa is one of my favorite things to eat during the long months of winter. It reminds me of all the good things I grew over the summer, and combines all of my favorite flavors. I love the zest of garlic, the scent of cilantro, the punch of the hot peppers.

I made my salsa as soon as I had 3kg of Roma tomatoes, even though I’m likely to get a bunch more in the coming weeks. Those will be for making tomato sauce, another favorite.

Here’s my salsa recipe (adapted from this recipe):

Garden Salsa

Blanch, peel and core 3 kg Roma tomatoes. Chop them coarsely then layer with a sprinkling of pickling salt in a colander over a pot. Let them sit overnight in a cool place, allowing much of the liquid to drain.

The next morning, start chopping. You can use a food processor if you like, but I prefer to chop by hand to get a chunkier salsa (with the exception of the peppers – those I use the food processor for).

Including the tomatoes, chop and add to a stock pot:

3 medium onions

1 large head garlic

200 g Serrano peppers

1 medium green pepper

1/2 medium red pepper

3/4 bunch cilantro

1/8 C cumin seed, ground

1/2 can (3 oz) tomato paste

Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. It’s now ready to can. When canning, add 1 tbsp lime juice to the bottom of each 250 ml jar or 2 tbsp to a 500 ml jar. This increases the acidity and makes for safer water bath canning of tomatoes. Please refer to another website such as this for canning instructions.

Makes 2 liters of salsa.

Making Salsa

Winning Garden 2012!

The Edmonton Horticultural Society holds an annual contest to determine the city’s finest gardens in twelve different categories. Anyone who has the entry fee can participate, and this year I threw my tilley hat in the ring in the “vegetable garden” category.

To my surprise and delight, I won first place. My Mom’s first response was to ask, “How many entries were there?” So like my Mom.

In any case, here are a few pictures.

Sheet Mulching: Workshop

Finished Bed

The key to a successful workshop is copious amounts of preparation. Or so I hoped.

Claudia Bolli of Wildgreen Garden Consulting was on her way to my place to teach a workshop and I was hoping that as the host of the event I was ready. Ten students were coming on this crisp fall morning to learn about sheet mulching and I had been collecting material for the hands-on portion of the workshop for two months.

Sheet mulching, sometimes referred to as lasagna gardening, is the process of creating a garden space through the layering of compostable materials in a very specific manner. Basically you lay down a cardboard barrier then nitrogen rich greens and carbon rich browns alternating until you have a tall pile of material that slowly decompose into a workable garden plot.

Sheet mulching saves the back-breaking labour of digging out sod and the budget-breaking expense of hauling in soil. A garden can be created right over the grass using clean, chemical-free biodegradable materials found on your own property and/or scrounged from neighbours and friends.

And scrounge I did. I collected grass clippings from my own lawn, but was given additional lawn waste from family members. My critical stipulation was that the clippings couldn’t have any traces of herbicide, as I didn’t want to poison my brand new garden for years to come.

I advertised on the internet and found a woman who offered me bags and bags of her garden waste. With this material I was careful to remove any weed seed heads and avoid anything that might infest my garden. I took nearly twenty bags of material from her yard and with a shredder I reduced it to the equivalent of two.

Leaves were the easiest to find – a drive down my back alley netted a dozen large bags.

I also brought home a dozen bags of washed up partially decomposed reeds from a beach in Manitoba which were rich in carbon and micronutrients.

I had wood shavings from a neighbour’s attic, a pail of chicken manure, a bag of bone meal, two bales of partially rotted straw and a bin of finished compost from my own compost pile to use as an inoculant.

I had shovels, a pitchfork, rakes and a hose ready to be put to work.

Claudia arrived shortly before the seminar was to begin and through the magic of modern technology we managed to project her PowerPoint presentation on my flat screen TV.

She presented a two hour interactive talk which covered everything from permaculture to soil-building. There was so much material to cover, but the participants were anxious to get to the hands-on portion of the course. After a brief break we found ourselves out in my front yard and it was time to find out if I had done enough preparation or if my efforts were to fall short.

Earlier in the week I had dug a swale along the highest point in my front yard. To the north of the swale was where the new bed would be created and the idea was to run water from my roof into the swale allowing it to ultimately reach the plants in the new garden. This eight-inch deep trench would later be filled with bits of old brick and covered with wood chips to create an attractive border for the bed.

After the students had looked over the area to be transformed, we began loosening up the sod with a fork, poking deep holes every six to eight inches. I had watered the area the day before, so the soil was relatively easy to penetrate. We spread an even layer of chicken manure followed by a dusting of bone meal, both high in nitrogen.

Courtesy of Wild Green Garden Consulting

We laid down a single layer of dense cardboard, filling any cracks or holes with several layers of newspaper and overlapping the cardboard by a minimum of six inches to prevent future grass growth.

After watering down the cardboard we added a two inch layer of grass clippings and fresh garden waste, also high in nitrogen. We followed this with a layer of leaves, then alternated layers of greens and browns until we topped off the twelve-inch lasagna with the nutrient-rich reeds I’d hauled back from Manitoba.

With everyone helping out the project took just over an hour, and I had enough material left over to make an admirable compost pile under my spruce tree. A few finishing touches to the border and we were done. Many hands make light work.

By building up instead of digging down, sheet mulching is a great way to develop a new bed without all the sweat and tears. This won’t be my last lasagna project. Mmmm….lasagna.

Baked Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

At the end of the growing season I had a large container of cherry tomatoes (thanks to my very productive Tumblers) and decided that I needed to find a new recipe. I had simply been popping them in my mouth every time I opened the fridge door. At that rate I wasn’t going to get them all eaten, so I decided to try baking them and having them as a side dish. Here’s the delicious result.


Cherry tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

fresh thyme and chives

fresh ground pepper

1 tbsp olive oil, drizzled

1 tbsp lemon juice, drizzled

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes and enjoy

Winners and Losers in 2011 Growing Season

Meet my favorites and those I wouldn’t grow again

I sowed many varieties of both vegetables and flowers in 2011, and I know which I’ll be bringing back in 2012 and which will not be making a return visit to gardeninggrrl’s garden. In addition to direct sowing, this year was the first time in many that I started dozens of my plants indoors under grow lamps. I had some successes and some failures, and I’m happy to share my experience with everyone.


Beans Straight 'N' Narrow

Green Bean Straight ‘N’ Narrow (T and T)

-high rate of germination

-more beans than I can eat

Pepper Serrano del Sol (T and T)

-10 days to germinate

-high rate of germination

-lots of hot peppers per plant

Pepper Jalapeño Mucho Nacho (T and T)

-10 days to germinate

-high rate of germination

-4-5 hot peppers per plant

Onion Candy Hybrid

Onion Candy Hybrid (T and T)

-8 days to germination

-high rate of germination

-large, flavorful onions

Tomato Tumbler (T and T)

-6 days to germination

-high rate of germination

-dozens of cherry tomatoes

-early tomato, still producing until end of August

-great in containers

Eggplant Hansel

Eggplant Hybrid Hansel (T and T)

-19 days to germination

-high level of germination

-lots of eggplants per plant

-needs a ton of heat and sunny spot

-plants with only moderate heat never flowered

Lettuce Romaine Baby Star (T and T)

-3 days to germination

-high rate of germination

-extremely tasty lettuce

-should have started more a few weeks later

Lettuce Esmeralda (T and T)

-3 days to germination

-high rate of germination

-excellent butter-type lettuce

-lasted long before bolting

Oriental Greens Mix

Oriental Greens Mix (Harmonic Herbs)

-excellent mix of early greens

-bolt quickly

Leaf Lettuce Mesclun Mix (T and T)

-excellent mix of early greens

Carrot Nantes Scarlet Coreless (Seed Centre)

-excellent rate of germination

-very sweet carrot

Petunia Shock Wave Denim

Petunia Shock Wave Denim (T and T)

-9 days to germination

-low level of germination

-extremely prolific flowering plant

-excellent in containers or beds

Sweet Basil (T and T)

-8 days to germination

-low level of germination

-prolific production once established

Cosmos Double Click

Cosmos Double Click (T and T)

-moderate level of germination

-huge plants with tons of blossoms

-lasts for almost two months

Viper’s Bugloss (Bedrock Seeds)

-11 days to germination

-high rate of germination

-lovely early flowers

Morning Glory Carnevale (T and T)

-moderate germination

-prolific flowers for over a month

Impatiens Super Elfin Blend

Impatiens Super Elfin Blend (T and T)

-10 days to germination

-moderate level of germination

-slow to develop

-lovely once established

Dahlia Unwins Dwarf Hybrid

Dahlia Unwins Dwarf Hybrid (T and T)

-6 days to germination

-moderate rate of germination

-lovely flowers for well over a month

Peas Sugar snap (McKenzie)

-high number of pods per plant

Cucumber Early Russian (McKenzie)

-low level of germination

-excellent production


Cucumber Early Mincu (Pike)

-low level of germination

-low production of cucumbers

Tomato Prairie Pride (T and T)

-11 days to germination

-high rate germination

-poor number of tomatoes per plant

Tomato Centennial Rocket (T and T)

-no germination on two attempts

Tomato Charlie’s Red Staker (T and T)

-8 days to germination

-high rate of germination

-poor number of tomatoes per plant

Swiss Chard Bright Lights (McKenzie)

-low level of germination

Spinach Catalina (T and T)

-low level of germination

-quick to bolt

Spinach Razzle Dazzle (T and T)

-low level of germination

-quick to bolt

Onion Evergreen Bunching (Pike)

-low level of germination

Sweet Pea Royal Family Mixed (McKenzie)

-low level of germination

-slow to germinate

Portulaca Sundial Mix (T and T)

-no germination

Coleus Wizard Mix (T and T)

-low germination

-no significant development of plants


Eggplant Asian Ping Tung Long (McKenzie)

-16 days to germination

-high rate of germination

-none flowered due to inappropriate growing conditions

Beet Deep Cylinder (T and T)

-good germination

-small beets, uneven growth

Parsley Champion Moss Curled (McKenzie)

-16 days to germination

-low level mod germination

-prolific parsley once established

Peas Lincoln Homesteader (McKenzie)

-low number of pods per plant

-slow to germinate

Bean Pole Scarlet Runner (McKenzie)

-high level of germination

-non-edible beans (although Lucy ate some)