Gardening is something that I think a lot of people think will be easy to do. We did. And for the most part, it can be. But is can also be a ton of work, especially if you go crazy like us and make the majority of your yard into garden space. And it isn’t just tending the garden that is time consuming, it is dealing with all the food that it produces. Sure, we give some of it away, but we also like to process some of it for winter storage and use to get us through until next growing season. It is totally worth it though.
If you are looking to get started with gardening, I would recommend starting small to see how much time you have for the care of the garden, as well as how much of the food you use. A 4′ x 8′ raised bed is a great starting size. It gives you space to grow a few different types of plants, but isn’t so large that it takes a ton of work. Start with the vegetables and fruit you know you will eat a lot of and focus on those. As you go throughout the growing season, consider if you feel that you could handle more, or if this one bed is enough. If you feel like more could be done, then add another 4′ x 8′ raised bed and plant more variety the following year. Because we have been landscaping our yard as we have been growing, we had to start with 2 – 4′ x 8′ raised beds. They were great, but what we are able to do now is so much better. I am looking forward to more space next year for even more variety.
August is always a great month because everything has grown so large, the plants are producing so much food and it is enjoyable to spend a bunch of time relaxing while tending the garden beds. Mentally and physically, it is such a rewarding hobby. This is the month where pretty much everything is giving you food every few days, possibly resulting in needing to do some work in the kitchen. For myself, we have gone crazy with canning, freezing and processing the garden goodies for the past few years. Although we love having delicious home grown food throughout the winter, it is too much for just the two of us, and definitely bordering too much work to truly enjoy the harvest season.
Instead, this year, I am trying to gauge about how much of certain items we used in past winters and am only processing that amount this year. The rest we are trying to share with family, friends and co-workers. It is nice being able to share the bounty from the garden, especially when food costs are so high right now!
Here is a look at what our garden, in full bloom, looks like this year.
Front yard flower planters
From the top of the yard (literally since it is a slope), our front yard planters. These beautiful wooden planters were a COVID project, where I convinced Kurt to tear up the front garden beds, despite the fact we haven’t finished the back yard. Together we built the 5 beautiful wooden planters that now reside in a rock bed.
We have tried vines for the last 2 years, but have had no luck keeping them. They do great, growing up the trellis, for the year we plant them, but they don’t last the winter, despite buying specifically for our region. The soil depth is plenty deep enough based on the tags and wintering the plants, and we leave mulch on them to try to help insulate them a bit. This year, we decided to not plant vines, and instead over planted with wave petunias in as many colours as we could find. It turned out amazing! Better than with vines. These beautiful flowers have spilled over the edges and have also started climbing the trellis despite not being a climbing flower.
Our plan is to harvest seeds from our favourite colours in the hopes of starting all our own flowers next year. Our living room will truly be a jungle next spring.
Back Yard Planters
The back yard barrels and air conditioner planters are also doing great. The barrels have never looked so good with the canna lilies this year growing so amazingly tall, and sprouting multiple heads with flowers. The wave petunias below have spilled over the edge adding a burst of colour in front of the cedars.
The air conditioner planters are also looking good, but definitely still need some improvement. Next year, whatever we plant in the barrels are also going to be planted in the ac planters. I went with asiatic lilies in the ac planters with wave petunias in front. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the asiatic lilies only bloom once. Although they were stunning, I would rather have something that flowers all summer. The canna lilies will look beautiful against the house, so that is what we will go with next year.
The beets have been producing well despite the amount of weeds overtaking the area. We regularly do our best to gently pluck the intruding plants to give our vegetables space to grow. We have enjoyed quite a few beets in a variety of meals in the last month. My favourite is always the gourmet beet salad.
Don’t let the haggard look and flowering stems fool you. The broccoli have been doing great all summer. The initial harvest of the main heads was fantastic. I was so impressed by how many we ended up with. Since then, we have been harvesting the little secondary heads that continue to produce and sprout. Unfortunately, we haven’t been out to the garden in a few days due to camping, so most of the side sprouts had grown too tall and flowered. Not a problem, we snipped them off and soon will have some new heads forming.
The cabbage this year is ok…but not great. They started off so solidly, and then when they reached a small head size, they just stopped. Last year, each head that I harvested was large and tightly packed. This year, most of the heads are the size of a softball, which is disappointing. I managed to make a batch or rotkohl with the heads that I had, but I wanted to make extra to give to my grandma and parents. I’m thinking I may need to do another planting of them and see if I have time to get a fall harvest in.
The carrots were very slow to start this year, with concern that we would have to replant the seeds for the first time ever. Once they did start growing, they were also a little slow, but I think it is because we had such a cold and rainy spring. It took us longer than usual to get to our normal heat which makes the garden explode with life. Now however, the carrots are trucking along. They have reached a point that has finally enticed Basil to find her way into the garden to pull some snacks. We had hoped to avoid putting up the little fence, but we caught her in the act of chowing down, so up went the fences, much to her disappointment. We planted less this year, and have been enjoying them as they grow.
There was a lot of concern in our area about corn harvests. With the unseasonably cold and wet spring we had, a lot of corn farmers were worried about getting a crop in on time. Luckily, it looks like we will have corn this year, but I guess we will see just how much in the coming weeks when corn is usually flooding into the stores. Our corn is doing great. Definitely behind compared to last year, but better late than never. I put the corn in before it probably should have gone in, but luckily it worked out. This year, the corn is also developing at different times, which is really nice. Last year, it was all ready at the same time, which meant a lot of preserving for future use. It looks like this year, we will have corn ready every few days for a couple weeks. We also tries a different variety this year, which I’m hoping will be a little less starchy than the one last year. Last year, it was great for soups, but not so great for grilling and eating off the cob. This year, it should be better for grilling. We just picked our first cob, so I guess we will see how it turned out.
Cucumber, celery & zucchini
This one is a bit of a combo since they all grow so closely together. The cucumbers grow over a ladder, which has a zucchini growing below. In front of the zucchini is the celery. So far so good, everyone seems happy.
The celery is doing well with lots of flavour. However, I think next year, I will plant less of them so that they have some more space, and hopefully grow a little thicker stalks. That being said, we are still enjoying the celery and I am looking forward to adding it to some soups this fall.
The zucchini plant is extremely happy and keeps growing and growing and growing. It is crazy to think that there were 2 plants under there last year. This one is the size of both my plants last year. It is so big, that I am regularly cutting back leaves in the hopes that it will grow some vegetables. I think I have a bit of a pollination problem since I have had so many zucchinis start, but once they are the length of a finger, they shrivel up and die. The few that have made it to harvest, have been really good, and a healthy shape, which is nice.
The cucumbers are also doing great. The patio snacker cucumbers are definitely going to be my go-to cucumber in the future. They have climbed to the top of the ladder and may start crawling down the other side. They have also been producing the majority of the cucumbers, which have a great flavour with minimal seeds in the centre. The straight eights have taken a little longer to get going, and I have had a few funny-shaped ones, but overall, that plant is also happy and is producing, just slightly slower than the patio snacker plants.
The onions are also doing great, which makes us really happy that we took the risk of starting them right from seed. So far, the red onions have been the most harvested, but there have been a few shallots (which really should have been the first) and lots of scallions. The borettana, or sweet onions, are still growing away. I am keeping an eye on their tops to see when they flop over. Unfortunately, Basil’s visit to the carrot patch (located next to the onions) involved her knocking a few of the onion tops around, so now I am not sure if they flopped over on their own, or if they were slightly trampled by a hungry dog. I’m leaving them a bit longer, but keeping a close eye to make sure they don’t have a chance to rot.
We love our sunflowers for so many reasons. They give us privacy as we walk down our path, which is often visible to the neighbours below us. They are beautiful colours this year with the “Autumn Blend” of oranges, yellows and shades in between. The bees are LOVING them. You can’t see in this photo, but when I took it, there were tons of bees happily buzzing and collecting pollen. Anything that attracts pollinators is a great thing to have in the garden. I think we will go with these ones again next year. They have multiple heads and are just so beautiful to look at.
Tomatoes, Basil & Peppers
So similarly to the cucumber, celery, zucchini pairing, we have the tomatoes, basil and pepper pairing. Once again, all of them are doing fantastic in their spot. The tomatoes have started reaching the tops of the new 7′ high towers, and producing fruit from bottom to top. It’s a great blend between the big beef, romas and sweetie pie cherry tomatoes. A little something for everyone. The sweetie pit cherry tomatoes though will be our go to. They have been the best cherry tomatoes we have enjoyed since starting our gardens.
The Basil in front of the tomatoes are small bushes. I recently harvested some that was getting in the way of the walking path, and I am fairly certain I will be drying out about 3-4 batches based on the amount that I took out. And I barely made a dent in the bushes. Not a bad problem to have!
The peppers are doing wonderful. I was also worried about them because it was warm when I put them out at the beginning of June, but then we had an abnormally cool June, which the tomato and pepper plants weren’t really fond of. But we are doing good. There are lots of vegetables growing along with plenty of new flowers. The California Bell Peppers are flowering like crazy, and some of the vegetables are starting to turn red. We like them green, but the red is always a. bit sweeter.
They cayenne and banana peppers are both also pumping out vegetables. I see some salsa making in my future!
Overall, we are very happy with the garden again. Though we do have some plans to make to help minimize the weeds next year. They are just so hard to control this year with all the rain, but it needs to happen in case we have another rainy season next year.
We hope you enjoy seeing the progress and the mayhem that is our garden this year. We love it all!