Tuesday 30 July 2013

An above ground pool finds a home

Over the past record breaking 33 days without rain I've been pondering the idea of getting a small above ground pool.  The visual eyesore as well as the extra amount of vigilance around safety and supervision required around a pool has kept me from getting one for our backyard.  However, the concept of having our very own water fun place to play in finally won out.  Unfortunately, by the time I finally decided to take the plunge we discovered every store is sold out of every make and model of every size above ground pool in our entire area and beyond.  A sad little girl and I tried one more store only be told "yeah, we sold out a month ago".  At check out the cashier asked if we found what we were looking for and we told her our tale.  She quickly replied "oh I was given a pool last year and my husband hated that it killed the grass, you can have it."  She kindly insisted that we take it for free and included all kinds of pool accessories - truly our chlorinated fairy godmother.
So yes, now I have my very own suburban water feature.  In the few days we've had it my children  and I have had a splashing good time.  The question remains: how to blend this very temporary yard structure into the landscape, in other words, how do you hide an above ground pool without spending any money?
Below is the before picture: big, blue and not so beautiful

I decided to do some quick relocation of some plants that either needed dividing or had been growing in pots.  A miscanthus was divided into three and a sad old lilly was chopped into four.  A hydrangea that had been grown from a found sapling under my front yard bush was plunked out of the pot.  It was free, easy and cheap.  As soon as summer is over the pool will be stored, plants put back into more permanent homes and the round patch will be reseeded with grass.  Shannon laughed when she saw my attempt to hide the pool, I suppose because it isn't exactly  much of a disguise.
Marshmallow the Hippo appreciates my poolside landscaping.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Integrated garden: "Pardon me, is that a cucumber in your front yard?"

Growing vegetables integrated within flower beds is an idea that has been around for a long time but is becoming popular again.  I find I don't always have room for all my vegetables in the backyard so squeezing in a few more in my sunny front yard is a great solution.  Since fruit tree's need a lot of sun, the best place for them is along a strip of my front yard that gets the most sun.  In past years, we've kept the neighbourhood entertained by growing pumpkins near the sidewalk.  Pedestrians of all kinds stopped to admire it and also fretted about the possibility that it could be smashed to ruins.  The pumpkins have always survived the season and made great pies and jack o'lanterns.  Last year planting pumpkins got missed and passerbys asked me what happened.  The fact is,  last year I spent a wee bit more time growing a newborn over growing front yard vegetables! Here are a few more pics of vegetables mingling with my perennials:

Rainbow Chard planted from seed in May mixed with vanilla marigold and Japanese blood grass.  Chard is often recommended as a front yard veg as it blends well into a flower bed.
Cucumber and pumpkin beneath fruit trees and roses in a recently expanded bed.  Cuc's and pumpkins aren't usually recommended in a flower bed as they tend to take a lot of room and the leaves start to look ugly late in the season but it works for me! 
Red cabbage and Hostas in Shannon's front yard.

Friday 26 July 2013

an alien in my garden aka kholrabi

Last fall, my organic master gardener class visited a local backyard gardener who had an impressive vegetable garden. He was growing Kohlrabi and he mentioned it was a good substitute for cabbage and you could share the leaves with pests and they would leave the bulbous part that you eat alone. Since I do get tired of seeing my cabbage patch being ravaged by cabbage moth caterpillars and can only handle squishing so many of the green guys, I planted Kohlrabi this spring.  I choose Kolibri Kohlrabi from Westcoast seeds. 
They have grown great and so far have been left alone by the cabbage moth.  We have eaten it grated in coleslaw which was pretty good but next time I will squeeze out some of the moisture after its grated so it’s not so watery.  I also cut them up in large match stick pieces, added a little lime and fresh cilantro and put it to our fish tacos instead of the usual cabbage - this added a nice crunch and kick to the tacos.  I find the flavour to be a cross between cabbage/broccoli and radish.  Anybody have any good Kohlrabi recipes they want to pass my way?

Sunday 21 July 2013

Lavendar Harvest

Yesterday we harvested lavender from the five bushes along our driveway.

Lavender Crème Brulee for dessert.  The recipe is originally from the "Girl in the Fig Cookbook" By Sondra Bernstein. "The Girl in the Fig" brings nostalgia from my California days of good food and great friends.

  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried lavender, plus more for garnish
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus about 4 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons wildflower honey
  • Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and add the lavender. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Let the lavender steep for about 15 minutes or until the milk has a lavender flavor. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, the 1/2 cup sugar, and the honey in a separate bowl until smooth. Whisk into the lavender-cream mixture. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and skim off any foam. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
    Preheat oven to 350F. Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins. Set the ramekins in a baking pan and add enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the baking pan with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until set. (Test for done-ness by jiggling the ramekins.) Remove the baking pan from the oven and allow the ramekins to cool in the water bath for 5 minutes. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
    Before serving, sprinkle the tops with a thin layer of sugar and caramelize with a small torch or under a broiler set on high. Garnish each crème brûlée with lavender blossoms

    Saturday 20 July 2013

    diy patio complete

    Last fall I ordered enough paving stones to install under our cedar pergola and to replace the cracked/ugly concrete under our sundeck. 
    We managed to install the pavers under the pergola in the fall but procrastinated until now to do the install under the deck.  To get this job started we had to use a sledge hammer to break up the concrete into manageable pieces and wheel barrow it to our truck to haul to the local landscape supply place where they recycle it. 3500 kg of concrete, two very sore bodies and one broken sledge hammer later the concrete was all removed.  Next we had to remove a layer of dirt so we could properly prepare the substrate.  We dug out four truck loads of dirt that we delivered to family members who all had a need for more dirt…who knew!  Next we lay down filter fabric, according to my HH its purpose is to prevent fine soil from migrating up into the gravel.  I’m not sure what would happen if the fine soil and gravel got together but apparently it would be a bad thing...  We finally reached the stage of building things back up.  We added about 2.5 yards of ¾” road mulch aka gravel. 

    After spreading the gravel we rented a tamper from Home Depot and compacted the entire area.  Next we added a layer of sand and started to lay the pavers.  We used 12”X24” natural concrete colour pavers bordered by brick sized pavers in charcoal. 
    The large pavers are tricky to install as they are very heavy and also hard to adjust once dropped in place.  After all the pavers were in place we rented the tamper again, vibrated the heck out of everything, swept joint sand into the gaps between the pavers, vibrated one last time and called this project DONE!

    The munchkins are already enjoying the new patio!

    Thursday 11 July 2013

    Vegetable Garden Time

    Often I am asked how much time and effort it takes to make a vegetable garden.  I realize this is a difficult thing for me to estimate, as for me spending time in the garden is an enjoyable task not a chore.  This year I really didn't have a lot of time in May after picking up a bit of work post year long mat leave.  I opted out of getting a load (yard) of manure this year.  Dad rototilled the garden with his ride on lawn mower attachment.  In past years I relished planning out my garden on paper and measuring it all out before planting.  This year I wrangled my husband, grabbed my box of seeds and we literally threw rows of seeds down spacing out with a garden rake as we moved across the plot.   All the seeds were planted in less than 45 minutes.  I had to water a few times during a heat wave in May.  June rained a lot, so no watering and also I used this as an excuse to avoid weeding.  Eventually I put some weeding and plant organizing time in - potatoes and perpetual spinach had popped up everywhere from last year  (probably about 1.5hours).  Now it is harvest time - potatoes, carrots, zucchini and peas have arrived!

    HH contributing to dinner by digging up tators.


    Thursday 4 July 2013

    a wannabe garlic farmer

    A couple years ago I decided I wanted to be a garlic farmer… That dream hasn’t quite come to reality but I did convince my parents to let me plant garlic on their property and I got Lauren on board with the plan. Last fall after buying red Russian garlic from a few sources we headed up to our parents to plant garlic in a freshly rototilled (thanks dad) garden. 

    The garlic has grown well so far, we have only had to weed it a couple times and besides that have ignored it allowed it to flourish all on its own.  It has just produced scapes that we cut off this morning.  I plan to make garlic scape pesto this afternoon.  Here`s to hoping that the garlic bulbs are growing big and tasty down in the soil!