ch-ch-ch-changes

So I had a garden this year, just like every other year, but I haven’t written about it or posted many (any?) pictures because, well… every other year. For a couple of seasons now I’ve been thinking about taking the garden to the next step, I just never knew exactly how to start. This year after talking to Jenn at Halifax Earth, I knew what that next step was.

I want to start following permaculture principles as I think about how I move forward with our back yard garden. So that means more perennial food crops that are low maintenance because the plants are taking care of each other. Basically it means an edible landscape for both the humans who live here and the visiting birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. And it means giving back to the soil in a natural, sustainable, organic manner.

Since I already have beds installed, I decided to change them to a horizontal position and move them to the front of the yard, making the annual veggies more accessible to the house. That would leave the back for the new perennial foods. But first I had to get rid of the grass. So with a little bit of lasagne gardening and horse manure from the local stables…voila!

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Here we see the beds still travel the length of the property though I’ve started pulling the old beds apart. And other than the beds that have not been harvested yet (I think this was in September), the back has been mulched with horse manure and the middle path is on its way.

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The beginning of the new beds. I treated myself to raised beds from Free Spirit Farm who make gorgeous sustainably grown and harvested wood products. And the beds couldn’t be more simple to put together.

Meanwhile, these 2 really great guys were framing up a new house next door. I’d never heard construction guys singing and laughing and having so much fun building a house. So we asked them if they would build us a shed when they were done. They checked out the space and now, yep, we have a shed. Ask and you shall receive.

Then Jenn came over and started in like a mad woman digging and designing as she went…she is fast and strong and really knows her stuff. I was just trying to keep up planting and transplanting behind her. It’s impossible to show the bigger design right now because there are no brightly coloured plants filling in the edges (most are losing their leaves and going dormant) and I don’t have a drone camera but I’ll try again in the spring. So far we’ve planted Saskatoon berries, air potatoes, perennial spinach, Hazel (yes, we’ll have nuts in our back yard!), walking onions, strawberries and so much more to come. Mouse over for captions or click for larger pics.

Meanwhile, we had a pretty good harvest this year including at least 50 peaches from our pit-from-the-compost peach tree and a bunch of sunflowers that we shared with the birds.

The birds are so used to me now that they chow down even if I’m standing right next to them.

So have a great winter! Share with your neighbours. See you in the spring.

Autumn Light

When the afternoon sun shines on the plants at the front of the house which, I’m embarrassed to admit, I pay very little attention to, it is as though they’re saying they’ve had enough of my neglect. They’re tired of playing second fiddle to the gardens in the back. And they put on a show that stops me in my tracks. It is their last hurrah before winter. I stop and thank them. You are beautiful, I whisper, and the kids on the street playing hockey pay me no mind as they know now I’m just that crazy neighbour who talks to her plants and lets them “steal” snow in the winter for their forts.

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Purple Fountain Grass in leaf mulch.

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Nearly transparent autumn leaves of the Hosta. Probably my favourite season for this plant in particular. It seems rather plain and common in comparison during the other seasons.

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), hostas in the back.

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) I’ve had 2 of these bushes for a few years now and, for some reason, only noticed this year that they have berries.

Yes I do!

I come from the arts side of the corporate world but the corporate world nonetheless. So I understand when some of my friends from those days can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that not only did I walk away from a “successful” career but that I appear to now spend most of my time in the garden. And while not exactly true (I still do a bit of freelance work, I volunteer on Boards, etc.), it’s a fact that in the growing season I spend most of my time in the garden. And the reason I do that is because, selfishly, it keeps me sane. Literally. It is my meditation. My medicine. It feeds my other creative endeavors. It gives me food and beauty. It makes me happy. Even in black & white.

self But I don’t only do it for me. I grow food for my family and give excess to friends and neighbours near and far. I do it for the earth and for the generations who follow us who will be left with this mess that too many of us just sit around crying about. I’ve encouraged neighbours to grow their own food and taught them tricks to make the process more rewarding.

IMG_0930I also have an herb garden where I grow oregano, thyme, valerian, and feverfew year round. I plant rosemary and basil annually and throw in poppies and bee balm to round out the bed. We just dried herbs that will take us through the coming year and sent some more to family who, sadly, don’t live nearby.

New for me are flowers. The flowers obviously aren’t food for us but they are for the bees, other insects, and the birds. Plus they’re beautiful. So just as other gardeners have given me plants, I try to pass on as many seedlings as possible. I don’t really know what’s become of them all but I imagine some of them have grown into beautiful plants.

And somehow it’s the end of October already. The garlic is planted and everything else is mulched. And gardening time has slowed down. Until the spring.

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Some of the greens that we’re still eating out of the garden. Except for the parsnips and beets up front. For them, see next photo.

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Underneath this very thick layer of straw mulch are the parsnips and beets we’re hoping to eat all winter.

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Leeks thickly mulched. Hoping to eat at least through December.

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Mustard greens keep on volunteering.

 

September Still My Favourite Month

September is my favourite month for a lot of reasons … the weather is gorgeous, tourists have gone home (nothing against tourists, it’s just quiet again, enough to hear the crickets day and night alike), the garden continues to do its own thing while us gardeners continue to help it along and happily harvest the food it offers up.

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First step of garlic harvest. One bed dug up and laid out for initial drying before move into our basement/barn to hang and dry.

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One bunch of garlic dried and stored. We grew 88 heads this year which should be enough to plant next year’s crop with plenty left to last us through next harvest.

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We planted a bed of corn this year…popcorn! That’s a row of Limnanthes douglasii (poached eggplant) in the middle.

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A barrel of Tom Thumb Popcorn grown from Heritage Harvest Seed out of Manitoba. 2’ plants produce multiple small cobs that average 2-3″ long.

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We’ve had a bumper year of acorn squash, also from fabulous Heritage Harvest Seed. Lost track of how many are growing out there.

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I found it fascinating that every single time the bees entered the squash flowers, they seemed to just lie down and wrap themselves around the pistil.

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This beautiful little guy seemed to like the leaves of the Black Turtle Dry Beans.

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I have no idea what happened here. Part of the life and death cycle all around us.

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More life and death.

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I decided to cut and move all the strawberry plants so they would have their own bed instead of scattered throughout the flower garden as I’ve had them. This way I can cover them, protect the fruit from the birds so we actually have something to harvest.

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Blue Solaise Leek, squash behind them, black-eyed susans to the right.

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And last but not least, COMFREY! A couple of seedlings were given to us by an herbalist friend early this summer and they have grown like crazy. In fact, I’m going out right now to cut some leaves to make a tincture.

Hello Fall

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Most of the beds have been mulched, garlic planted.

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Bamboo to the left, mustard greens to the right.

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A variety of mustard.

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Last of the brown-eyed susans.

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Newly sprouting mustard and onions.

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The calendula love the cool weather.

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Calendula, spirea, and various herbs.

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The dahlias finally call it a season. Once we have the first frost, I’ll dig up the tubers and bring them in for the winter.

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One last shout-out from the saxifragia.

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Yucca gets mulched from the overlooking maple.

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More veggie beds.

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Last leaves of a blueberry bush.

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Juvenile peach tree which just a few months ago was a peach pit in a compost pile.