On Finally Admitting I live in Zone 2

When Jamie and I moved back to Alberta from the lush green province of Prince Edward Island, I had just started to get the “garden bug”. Granted, the gardening I did in PEI wasn’t spectacular, as usual I let the weeds get ahead of me, but the plants I planted (trees, shrubs, and veggies) all grew. I figured I had this gardening thing figured out.

Of course, I started my gardening in Alberta in the same way I had finished it in PEI. Planting the plants that worked for me out there, in basically the same ways I did out there. I knew that the hardiness zones of PEI and Alberta were “slightly” different, but I figured, “Eh, both are provinces in Canada, how different can they really be?” and went on my merry little way picking the same plants I had picked before.

(Side note, they are VERY different, PEI is hardiness zone 5-6, where I live in Alberta we are a zone 2-3).

I figured any minor difference in the hardiness zones could be overcome with love. (Yes, I am aware with how silly that sounds).

Finally this year, when the greenhouse became a reality, and I was sick of trees and bushes lasting a season or less, I figured I better get real with the hardiness zone I live in. I did a bit of research and found that we are in a zone 2-3, so this year when we were a the greenhouse buying our plants (lilacs! and blueberries! and a snowball tree!) I made sure they were all a zone 2 or lower. I didn’t even want to take a risk on a zone 3, because dammit, this year my plants were going to live!

It was a long road to get to this point, and it seems so silly that it took me almost 9 years to finally come to grips with the fact that I live in a semi-desert, with -40′C winters and +35′C summers, and I needed to buy plants that would survive that. I’m hoping for much better success this year in the garden!

 

The Greenhouse has Landed!!

On Sunday my family arrived home after a fabulous week spent on the Hawaiian islands celebrating my patents 40th Wedding Anniversary. When we pulled up to the house I saw something in our front yard…. I practically squealed when I realized it was my greenhouse!!

On Tuesday Jamie, Donovan and I moved it to the side of the house and it’s new home!

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I’m so excited to have the greenhouse here! We’ve already started with a few plans to be completed before the plants move in (of course I need to wait a few more weeks for the weather to stop threatening random snowfalls before the plants move out there as well!). First up we need to level it a bit better, right now the door doesn’t latch properly, largely because it’s not levelled yet. Next up, I want to paint the particleboard floor and sides. I want this greenhouse to last me for some years and protecting the wood is a good place to start.

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(The dark blue in the corner is the colour the wood will be painted).

Of course I can’t forget about the plants that will be living in the greenhouse! The plants in the house are doing way better than I had ever hoped!! And at the paint store I happened to see some wallpaper trays, which will work perfect as planters, so I picked up a few (and score! They were only $3.95 each!!).

My Rubbermaid container potatoes are doing so well I had to add another layer of dirt to help grow more potatoes and less greenery.

I’m so excited for this spring to finally, well, spring! I’ll update with photos of my plants and the progress of the greenhouse in the next days. :)

How are all of you? Have you started your plants or seedlings yet??

Transplanting

This week it was becoming more and more obvious that some of my seedlings were going to need transplanting before my greenhouse was ready. Of course I didn’t have enough pots to actually transplant them to, so off to the store we went. The first store only had plastic pots that were big enough for what I needed, but it found them to be expensive, and not exactly what I was after. Yesterday we stopped into Canadian Tire and I found the perfect containers! They were clay, and cheaper than the plastic ones! They had a nice big 10″ diameter and a drainage hole in the bottom. I bought four.

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When we got home on Sunday night I filled my pots and transplanted the tallest beans, and Donovan’s corn. While I was organizing I came across an old tin, and decided to plant some basil and spinach.

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I couldn’t resist some purple seed potatoes while I was there, and came home to do some research. Jamie laughed at me of course, because growing up on PEI, the idea of wasting garden space with potatoes when every other driveway in the country has a little “on your honour” potato (and strawberry, and honey) stand at the end of the driveway, seams silly. After reminding him that we live in Alberta now, he agreed that it might be worth a shot.

I did some research when we got home about building a potato box, but quickly realized I could use an old Rubbermaid container, with a few slight modifications to grow potatoes, onions, carrots and such.

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Last June my sisters basement flooded and she had a bunch of her things stored in Rubbermaid containers, so we made a deal, I’ll share some fresh produce with her, and she’ll supply the containers.

I know container gardening is usually done by those in the city, but I’m hoping it will also help those in the country with a gopher problem!

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Love Bomb Weekend

For the past year or so, I’ve been reading a blog called “Chasing Rainbows” and often Kate will talk about taking her Children (or herself!) on a “love bomb” day. A day (or afternoon, or few hours!) where you spend one-on-one time with your child, and say “yes!” (within reason of course). A day where you let your child make the decisions. A day (or hours, or whatever you can spare) that you go out of your normal routine, and just make them feel loved.

Yesterday after work, I picked Donovan up, and said, “Ok buddy, what do you want for supper?” (Jamie was out-of-town for the weekend, so it was just me and Donovan to think about). He looked at me kinda surprised, “You mean, anything I want?” and I said “Sure!”.

“Ok Mommy! I pick the place with the fancy ice-cream!”, which in Donovan language, translates to Moxies, because the kids meals come with ice-cream in a little “dry ice” boat, so it looks like a volcano. This was actually the perfect restaurant for Donovan to pick, since it’s one we don’t go to often, so it really was a treat for me to say yes. After we ordered, Donovan did a bit of colouring and then asked about getting a special “Lego Chima Speeder”. I suggested we search on my phone so he could show me what they were, and we could see how much they cost, as I wasn’t going to unknowingly agree to a $50 Lego set!
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I smiled as we sat huddled together in the restaurant, looking at the different sets available, it really was an evening of “yes” and an evening of all my attention on Donovan. We had no reason to rush home, and I had no other plans, so I could just spend my time with him, and not worry about “other stuff”. Even though I was love bombing Donovan, I felt a little love bombed myself! Our meal came and we put away my phone, and chatted as we ate. I LOVE hearing about his time at school, and what girls are pretty, and who got in trouble, and what they did. He is a great little conversationalist (when he’s in the mood!).

After supper we got into the car, and Donovan asked, “Can we go get the Lego Chima Speeder now?” and I said “yes!”. He asked that we go to Walmart, as they have a “whole isle of Lego Mommy!” and although I generally try my best not to shop there, off to Walmart we went. Our first stop was to look through the garden centre, which ok fine, was more of a “Mommy thing” than a Donovan thing, but he enjoyed being able to push the cart around all on his own. Then he lead us to the Lego isle.

One thing about Donovan, is when it comes to buying something, he is not quick. He often gets buyers remorse, so he spends a great deal of time looking at each item, and deciding which thing to get, so he can make sure when he gets home, he is happy with his decision. Of course, most of the time when we are shopping, I am just wanting to get what we need and get home, so I rush him. Last night, we took our time, and I sat back in the isle and let him study each Lego set. I gave him a bit of guidance and suggestions, but mostly just let him look at each option on his own. I smiled to myself, when he got down onto his knees to get a closer look at some of the sets. It won’t be much longer that he will be able to do something like that without being too self-conscience.

After a time he said, “Mommy, they really don’t have the one that I want here.” So I said, “Ok, why don’t we try another store?” and the smile on his face lit up the room.

Donovan and I got in the car, and drove to Target to try their toy isle. This time when we got to the store he said, “I’ll meet you in the Lego isle!” and because it was a quiet Friday evening, and I am trying to enforce his independence, I said “ok!” and I slowly made my way to the toy isle, making sure he had enough time to get there on his own. I found him once again studying all his options. This time there was less choice, and he wasn’t really impressed. I offered an alternative, still a Lego Chima, but not one of the Speeders he was looking for. He agreed to hold it while he “thought about it” but asked if we could look at the movies and Wii games for a bit. I said yes!

We spent another length of time in that section, when he decided he really wanted a Wii game, but didn’t like any of the Wii games they had to offer, and wanted to “talk to the worker at Target and tell them they need to get better stuff.” I suggested instead we could just go to the video game store in the mall. He agreed.

After another 20mins of browsing all the games, he decided what he really wanted was a Lego Star Wars Wii game, but of course we couldn’t find one. I suggested he ask one of the workers. So all on his own, he walked over, asked for what he was looking for (a game that I didn’t even know existed!) and the worked took him back to the games, and brought out a used one. Finally! he had found what he was looking for! and it was only $15.

On our way back to the car he said he was thirsty, and after 2 hours looking for toys, I was thirsty too! I asked if he wanted a Starbucks on our way out, and he agreed. We stopped in and ordered. Donovan settled at a table and I said, “oh no Buddy, it’s late, we are taking our drinks home.” He asked, “Can we please sit here?” and I thought, what the heck! It’s already 7pm (his usual bed time), what’s another 15mins on a weekend night going to hurt? And we sat and drank our lemonade. Before we left, I thanked him, “this was a good idea Donovan, sitting here and enjoying our drinks.” We both left happy.

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Window Sill Garden

Shortly after I started my seeds, I was cleaning up around the house and came across two little “seeds to go” containers. When we bought our Christmas tree this year it came with a “Tree in a Can”, so that got planted first.

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And then yesterday, while looking for an old jar to store my egg shells in, (what can I say, I’ve been pinteresting lately!) and I came across a “basil egg” that I was given way back in 2010 at Blogher NYC. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I cracked the top and added water. With any luck I’ll have some fresh basil soon.

Of course I have “back up basil” seeds that I plan on starting as well, just in case the 4 year old egg doesn’t prove fruitful.

(Most of) The rest of my seeds are doing great! There are a handful of slow starters, mostly the tomatoes and peppers, but I’m hopeful they will break through the surface of their little peat pellet homes soon. This weekend Donovan and I will transplant some of the bean plants to bigger spaces. It’s still too cold to take them outdoors, even if my greenhouse was set up (it’s still living at our neighbours). Next year I’ll stagger my planting a bit more, rather than planting all of the seeds at the same time.

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Have any of you started your seeds yet? What have you had luck with so far?

Canning

I’ve previously mentioned that a big part of the “what am I going to grow?” decisions revolved around “what do I want to can?”. Two years ago I bought the canning pot, but didn’t end up having much time to do any canning, so last summer I decided that was going to change! Donovan and I went strawberry picking at a local strawberry patch (less than ten minutes down the road). Of course we ate our far share of strawberries, but I also started making Jam.

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My first batch of jam turned out great! I wanted to make it as true to a fresh strawberry as possible, so I made my jam with strawberries, a dash of lemon juice, and sugar, and of course time. Making jam this way, rather than adding pectin takes longer, but I believe, makes it more delicious! I used regular white sugar in my first batch, and the jam turned out great. Donovan and I loved strawberry picking so much, that we went out again the following weekend, only this time we took Daddy along, and I had enough strawberries for two more batches of jam. This time I used Organic Cane Sugar, which I think made the jam more delicious, but also made it more of a preserve and less of a jam. It was runny, and didn’t ever set up fully. At first I was really disappointed, but the deliciousness of the fresh jam/preserves won me over. I think this summer I will use a combination of white sugar and cane sugar, so I still get the good taste, but my jam will set up a little better.

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Making the jam was just what I needed to help push me into the direction of canning. And shortly after I made the jam, I found myself searching amazon for some cookbooks. I ended up with these three: Food in Jars , Canning for  New Generation, and Put ‘em Up! I loved them all, and not sure that I could pick a favourite yet, but after this gardening/canning season, I will post the recipes that I used, and let you all know which book I ended up using the most.

Last year not only did I make strawberry jam, but blueberry as well. I also canned tomatoes, and beets. Finally, I tacked cucumbers, making relish and mustard pickles.

I absolutely love to can tomatoes, and make sauces with them throughout the year, so when I read on the back of my Tomato seeds that one plant would provide a family with enough tomatoes,

I went ahead and planted 6.

 

Do you have any “tried and true” canning tips or recipes? I’d love to hear them!

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