If I could play outside…

So, we’re now in the middle of April and it’s still f*$%ing winter.

I’m beyond my usual seasonal blues. I’m now bitter and angry as we’re hunkered down during what the news is calling a “potentially historic ice storm.” I tired of being cold all the time and I am completely out of ideas as to how to entertain a busy almost 3-year-old inside (she doesn’t like the cold either and loses her shit if you try to get her into a snowsuit).

My seedings in the window yesterday while my daffodils are were getting pelted with ice and snow outside below.

I want to go outside and play in the backyard.

I need sunshine.

I’m withering and wilting!

Right now, all I can do is pin gardening ideas and make plans for better days, if they ever come.

Here are my backyard goals for this summer:

1. Grow more flowers.

Last year I was focused on growing food and will be again this year. I’ve been feeling like we need a bit more colour in our yard though. We don’t have many flower beds that are in full sun so that means I’ll need to cut a bed somewhere in the middle of the yard and I can’t quite decide where to do it.

2. Grow more squash.

I was so excited about my starship squash last summer, I’ve picked up a few more varieties and the seeds are germinating as I write this. I have the same dilemma here as I do with growing sun-loving flowers though. I need to find a sufficiently sunny spot for them. I should also build a structure to grow them vertically too. Maybe something like this arch?

This photo is from Get Busy Gardening)

3. Make our deck cozy and hospitable.

Our deck could be lovely, it’s just unusable at the times we want to be on it. There are three main issues that prevent us from fully enjoying this space.

First, our cushions are usually packed away, either in the garage or somewhere in the house and I’m often too lazy to get them when I want to sit outside. The deck isn’t covered, so I don’t like leaving them exposed to the elements, but we need somewhere to store them on the deck so they’re readily available.

Another problem is our deck is positioned so that the setting sun beats down on it right at dinner time so we can’t enjoy dinner out there. We tried curtains a few years ago but they were destroyed in a windstorm and never replaced. We need something to shield us from the sunset that is sturdy enough to leave out but not permanently in place, as I would like to be able to look out over the yard throughout the rest of the day. I’m currently at a loss as to what I’m going to do there.

This is the deck on a much nicer day than today.

My last barrier to fully enjoying the deck is that when the sun goes down it gets too buggy to sit outside. I’m one of those people with whatever blood type mosquitoes love so I get swarmed at dusk. Aside from planting more repelling herbs and flowers and buying more citronella candles, I’d like to get some kind of a chair that I could cover with mosquito netting at night, if need be, as I want nothing more to than to spend my summer nights reading outside with a glass of wine.

I currently have my eye on this as a solution:

It’s from Wayfair

But for now, all I can do sit inside and sulk.

What are your gardening plans for this summer?

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Garden Update

We are now at the point in the season when my enthusiasm for gardening has begun to wane.

The weeds are getting out of hand and I’m losing my footing in the battle against the backyard critters and crawlers. My strawberry patch was ravaged by squirrels and when they’d had their fill, the robins came along and finished them off (I watched this all play out from the dining room window one afternoon). There’s also something munching holes in my radish greens and digging up my onions, beets and carrots.

I had to rip out my spinach, as well. It was infested by leaf miners, which are also tearing through the nasturtiums that I’d planted because I’d read they were good for deterring pests.


It’s not all bad though. Some things are thriving:

The cilantro I started from seed is coming up beautifully.

I think I transplanted my squash a bit too early and some of the plants didn’t make it. This one looks promising though.

A local woman was thinning out her raspberry bushes and offered her surplus to anyone who wanted to come over and dig them out. I transplanted about six of her suckers in a giant pot on our deck since we don’t really have anywhere else that would offer them enough sun to thrive. They weren’t doing so well at first. I didn’t think any of them would survive, but most of them are bouncing back.

I bought a blueberry plant in the spring and it’s actually still alive. Winning!

Lettuce is so easy to grow. We have a bumper crop.

I can only hope that in a few weeks, the insects and animals will leave me something for another update!

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Inch by Inch, Row by Row

I’m really excited about summer this year, for all the usual reasons that we Canadians look forward to the season, but because I’m also finally getting serious about growing food in our backyard.

This had been my original plan when we moved into our house many years ago. The previous owners had a vegetable garden in the corner of the yard. When I first looked out there from the deck during the open house, when we were sure that we’d found our home, I’d pictured myself out there wearing clogs and overalls, with a basket full of tools from Lee Valley, tilling my fertile soil.

We moved in October that year and the following spring I did plant a few things in that garden – some tomatoes that did well, and some pepper plants that did not. Then, one evening I went out to do some weeding, and as I made my way through the tall tomato plants I walked into a giant spider web that was, at that time, occupied by a very large spider, which may, or may not have touched me. I let out a Hitchcockian shriek, ran into the house and showered for about three hours to ensure that my hair and person was creepy crawly and web free.

That was the last time I set foot in the garden. I planted grass there first thing that next spring.

I’ve never completely abandoned that vision of myself as a suburban vegetable gardener though, it’s just been low on my list of priorities. Then, last year I was talking to my Uncle at a family dinner and we were reminiscing about my grandparent’s house. This is where my mind always goes when think of growing food. They had a huge garden and I remember picking green beans, breaking open pea pods and eating fresh warm raspberries, straight of the bushes. My Uncle then pointed out something I had never considered: gardening wasn’t so much a hobby for my Grandpa, it was a way to help feed his growing family, a skill I sure he’d honed growing up in rural Alberta during the depression. His father had come to Canada from Sweden to be a homesteader and it seems my Grandfather brought a bit of that spirit with him to the town where he’d settled with my Grandmother when he returned from the war. Thinking about this inspired me to try again.

Now, we are not in a position financially or geographically where we need to grow our own food but fresh produce is getting increasingly expensive, even when it is in season locally. Plus, we have a big backyard that we haven’t been doing anything particularly useful with. It just makes sense to try to grow a few things back there. The timing is right too, I have a flexible schedule this summer and now that Britta is getting bigger, we’re spending more time out in the backyard where she will sometimes play independently for a while as I putter around.

I also love the idea of Little B experiencing fresh from the backyard food and being exposed to the growing process. After all, I’ve listened to enough lectures from Jamie Oliver about the importance of teaching kids about food.

So, we begin. Back in April, Jeremy built four 4×4 foot raised boxes that I’ve planted full of salad greens, along with root and cruciferous vegetables. I also have tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in pots, as I’ve always had some degree of success with container gardening. I bought a blueberry bush for our deck and in addition to my already well-established strawberry patch, I’ve planted more berry plants anywhere that needed some extra ground cover.

There is still work that needs to be done. I’d like some gravel or mulch between the beds (we currently have mud), another rain barrel (we have one at the other end of the garage but it needs some repairs), and eventually, I’d like some nicer benches for the containers. Right now they are sitting on scrap wood and cinderblocks. All in due time though. In the meantime, I feel like this is a great start.

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