Friday, July 13, 2012

My Do-Good-For-Me Garden

My first Science Sews & Sautes post is to share with you my garden joy.  Making a successful garden was on my “Do Good Things for Me” list this year. Some of the other things on the list included: take vitamins every day, make 2 new recipes per week,  eat meat-free at least 2 times per week, read 2 books per month, and appreciate the little things (amazing how hard this is to do sometimes).  I’m happy to say I'm doing really good on my list, but I knew the garden one was going to be a challenge.  See, I’m not really known for my green thumb. In fact, I’m known for killing anything that is green (I had an aloe plant  live for a year and that was likely only because Andrea looked after it for 6 out of those 12 months). I know some of you are extreme gardeners, so you may scoff at this simple task. But this was a big goal for me, and I was excited about it. Maybe a little too excited....

We got a streak of beautiful weather in Grande Prairie at the end of April. And because I was feeling so ambitious (and it was on my list, dammit!), I stood staring at the grass-less spot in the yard that had clearly at one point in time been a garden, and declared to Tyler that I was making a garden this weekend. I mean, summer was CLEARLY here! So I went out and bought a bunch of organic soil, a whole slew of seeds, and a couple starter tomato and pepper plants. And I made a diagram and put it on the fridge so I could remember what I had, and where, when all my wonderful veggies started growing prosperously.

Hah! So much for the weather! The next week, we got frost every night. Needless to say, my starter plants promptly shriveled up and died.
And then, the dog decided that muddy spot looked like a good spot to dig. Right in the middle of the carefully set-out garden plot. She got a good talking to after that. But she’s cute, so we forgive her. And, she hasn't done it again (in fact I'd say she looks quite remorseful in this photo). A dog that learns, is a dog that's loved.

I kept my fingers crossed that something (anything?) survived the dual attacks by Mother Nature and Zoey, and continued to buy my veggies in the organic section of the grocery store. And when it seemed we REALLY were done with the below zero temperatures, I threw in some more seeds in miscellaneous places. So much for my fridge diagram.

 I got another tomato and pepper starter plants and put them in pots so I could bring them inside, just in case the weather went bad again. Unfortunately, the dog once again ruined the pepper, when she bulldozed into the pot one day while playing with her human-father. Luckily, the tomato plant survived (so far).

So here we are, in July, and guess what… THERE ARE GREEN THINGS GROWING IN MY GARDEN!!! :) 
Now, I don’t want to jinx myself, but things are looking good. I believe what I have below is the following (I'd label the photo if I knew how to do that in photoshop):
Left-side column, top to bottom: squash, green onion, cucumber, and miscellaneous greens (spinach I think)
Right-side column: pumpkin, miscellaneous greens, carrots

Ok, I admit,  it’s not the most exciting garden of all time. As of right now it looks like this fall we will be "feasting" on 3 squash, 10 carrots and some greens… and maybe carving a pumpkin or two. But it’s growing!! There may even be a pepper seed that survived the dig and is in with the cucumber, but I can’t tell yet... it might just be a weed. The herbs are growing like mad though, especially the dill, so much so that I’ve started drying them because there’s just too much to go through (know any good recipes that call for massive amounts of dill??).

Alright, major lessons learned:
1)   This is Alberta. Do not get excited about nice weather in April. Be patient and don’t plant until at least mid-May.
2)   Chicken wire does not keep a curious dog out of the garden, aka the muddiest spot in the yard.
3)   Don’t be so sparse with the seeds. My garden could be a lot denser but I was trying to give the seeds room to grow. I might have overdone it. But this year I’m just gonna blame that on lesson #1 and 2.
And now my questions for the group:
1)      I started spreading my used coffee grains on the garden after I was in a Starbucks and saw a free bin of used ground coffee to take for gardening. Do any of you do that? I read a few places online that it's best to mix it in with the soil, but how do I do that without messing up the plants that are now growing?
2)      Will I be able to transplant any of these things into pots and/or plant new things in pots and keep them growing all winter? Or should I stick to an indoor herb garden?
Any tips for the beginner gardener are welcome! In the meantime, if you're looking for me, I'll be out by the garden shooing away the dog... and keeping my fingers crossed that we don't get frost in July.


  1. LOVE your garden Michelle!! my 2 cents:
    1. I've heard coffee grinds are great for your garden. I put mine in the compost with the rest of our kitchen scraps (that don't go to the chickens), and I would add that compost to your soil in the fall after you've harvested your garden...or you can add in the spring (which i seem to always end up doing cause i forget in the fall) and mix it into the soil before you plant. I try and do that as soon as the soil is workable to give it time to chill before I plant. No idea if that's a thing...just what I do. So yeah - use grinds, but you want to make sure to put them in at the right time...
    2. I haven't transplanted my herbs, but am planning on doing just that this fall with my didn't survive the winter outside here. I would think that the perennials should transplant just fine (rosemary, oregano etc.). I'm not sure about cilantro or dill...i think they're annuals, so i'd be surprised if you could bring them in. Parsley is a biennial, so if you just planted it, it'll probably transplant ok and last for another year.

    I'm still a newbie too and have been burned by getting excited and planting too early. I now plant a few things early (spinach, peas, lettuce) that like to germinate in the cold, but otherwise, I do most of my planting the first week of June! I think you'd be safe where you are to plant much earlier than that...I hear May 24 weekend is often the time most people plant.

    Keep the posts coming - you've got the first one under your belt now!

  2. Michelle!

    Yayyyy, I love your post! Unfortunately I have zero garden advice - the only thing I've ever transplanted is basil and rosemary, and the basil lasted until the following summer indoors (I think the rosemary fared well as well, but I only have a vague recollection of it's half-life).

    The idea of a 'do good things for me' list is great - going to make one today!!

  3. Catching up on the blog. Can we get a garden update, Michelle?? How'd the rest of the very short growing season fare?