Thursday, June 18, 2009

Organic Gardening Part 3

My second summer here in sunny southern Ontario (2006), I went out into the garden first thing as the soil warmed and it was getting close to gardening time. I took soil samples around the flower beds and in my little garden plot to see how things were doing. My soil was still a bit acidic so I added a bit more lime and more compost.

I had a neighbour come over with his tiller to loosen and turn the soil. He ended up doing a much larger area than I anticipated which increased the size of my garden by about 10 times what it was the first summer. After a week or so of letting it settle a bit, it was time to start planting my vegetable garden. I planted pretty much the same as the year before: tomatoes, zuchinni, beans, onions and I had gotten some raspberry canes. Everything except the raspberries I had started in my kitchen. (I had been a bit anxious wanting to garden in the winter so had used those plastic trays you can get salads and sandwich in as my mini greenhouses.)

I got my husband to purchase some straw from a local farmer to put around the plants and in between the rows to help keep the moisture in and keep the weeds from sprouting too much. Oh, and guess what? I had found a few worms when I was doing all that transplanting! Mind you, it was only about 1 or 2 per couple shovels, but still Worms! Needless to say, I did manage to go fishing a couple times that summer.

Here is a long view of my garden. You can see to the left side of the page the raspberries, and lots of yellow marigolds. Towards the wood fence you can see the red of the ripening tomatoes. To the back of the garage, you can see sunflowers (behind it is the cold frame for next year) and in front is a lot of zuchinni plants.

This is also the year that my husband decided to build my cold frame as I had requested. A cold frame is a little enclosure that one can put in tendar new seedlings to help them harden before transplanting in the gardens. When you buy or grow your own little seedlings, they are used to a protected, warm and damp environment. If you plant them outside too soon you run the risk of frost (if planted too soon), or just the shock of the varying temperatures can kill them. The stems can also be quite weak and you do not want them to be blown flat by the wind. You need to allow your seedlings to slowly get used to being outside and the best way would be to use a cold frame. Carrying them in and out of the house is very time consuming! It takes a total of five days to harden them.

You start with putting them out into the cold frame on the morning when the sun is not directly shining on them, and have the top part of the cold frame partially open. In the evening when it starts to cool down, you close it. The second morning open the cold frame a bit more, closing it once again in the evening. The third morning open it all the way, and in the evening leave it open a tiny bit allowing some of the cool breeze to enter the frame. The fourth morning open it up all the way again, closing it only half-way that evening. The fifth morning open it all the way, and that evening do not close it at all. By the sixth morning you can start your transplanting.

For my cold frame he used the back side of the garage as the back part, used reclaimed wood as the frame and covered it with bits of heavy plastic that was left over from the renovating in the house. It was too late to use it as a cold frame this year but it was all ready for the next spring! Just be sure that if you decide to build your own cold frame, that you put it in a protected area. Somewhere where it will get some sun, but not direct and not all day! You can use various materials for your frame. I have seen some that use the heavy plastic, old windows, doors, anything that will allow sunlight in, and keep the major portion of wind out and away from the plants.

Here is a picture of some volunteer Pumpkins I had. They grew from some seads that were in the compost bin.

That fall I had a good crop of vegetables and decided that I would add more compost to the garden. This time, I was lucky and our 3 composters (two wire ones that had lots of rotting sod in it) provided a boost. I added a touch more lime to the vegetable garden, and left most of the plants to rot for next year. I also got a handful of winter rye to plant over winter. The next spring it would be tilled in to provide some green fertilizer. Since I do not use commercial chemicals in my gardens, I had to find ways of making my own.

In my flower beds I had planted a few more little flowers. Daisys, coral bells, sweet williams, marigolds (for the vegetable garden), pansies etc., that I had started in my kitchen in January. I also added more tulips, daffodils, lilies, and crocii to my flower beds. I was able to get some woodchips from the township when they cut down a local tree to use as mulch in my flower beds. This would help insulate the weaker plants and bulbs over winter, and provide a means of keeping the soil moist during the dry months of summer. Plus, it would help keep the weeds at bay. I choose to use these local woodchips rather than purchasing mulch from a store as one never knows what sprays or chemicals are "added" and I do not particularly care for the fake dyed ones they have. I go for a more natural look.

Since we had replaced the old wooden porch with a new concrete one, we took the opportunity to lay the groundwork for larger front flower beds, and two more closer to the road. We also put in a new front walk. It was all starting to come together!


  1. I am so loving these posts! Your gardens show the lovefor nature and the creativity you have.

  2. Thank you Adornyourself! My goal is to eventually have self-sustaining, self-seeding flower beds. I am almost there! I would also love to extend the vegetable garden but I have run out of room for the time being.