Tag Archives: Gardening

The Story So Far…

Hey, what the *arse* happened?

Last summer, with hope in my heart and armed with a black thumb, I tried to grow stuff in my garden. For the three people wondering what happened next? Disaster.

Last July was not just the rainiest July ever, but it was actually the rainiest month Ottawa had ever seen. EVER. My backyard, which isn’t terribly sunny at the best of times, was a big puddle. From the 12 bean plants I had, I got six beans. None of them were very good either. My tomatoes, which, if you read back you will see I put outside in MAY, did not mature until October. One got one green tomato on it. The frost destroyed it.

Important lessons learned:
1. Drainage is your friend. First thing I did when gardening weather rolled ’round (in early April), I put crushed brick in the bottom of all my garden boxes and added Perlite to all my soil.

Drainage, drainage, drainage in the form of crushed bricks. I also added Perlite to mix.

2. Water is good, but not all you need: I bought some acrylic panels to put over my boxes to make de factor greenhouses for some of my seedlings to keep them warmer and keep them from drowning.

Acrylic panels. They were already cut this way, so there are gaps I filled in with bits of wood when it got really torrential

Acrylic panels. They were already cut this way, so there are gaps I filled in with bits of wood when it got really torrential

3. Squirrels suck: I planted dozens and dozens of daffodil, crocus, and tulip bulbs last fall and have been finding them dug up and scattered. A lot survived, though, only to be ravaged later.

Nice tulip, dug up and mangled bulb.

Nice tulip, dug up and mangled bulb.

4. Warfare requires good defense: There’s so much wire fence out back that it’s starting to look like Troubles-era Belfast.

Nice broken shovel to smackdown squirrels with. (Kidding! Kidding!)

Nice broken shovel to smack down squirrels with. (Kidding! Kidding!)

Ah well, onward and upward. Here are some more photos:

This barrel has been slowly mouldering for years. I put it out of its misery. I should use the wood for something.

This barrel has been slowly mouldering for years. I put it out of its misery. I should use the wood for something.

The squirrels nipped the heads off of the first two to bloom a couple of weeks later.

The squirrels nipped the heads off of the first two to bloom a couple of weeks later.

Im not proud, but Im too lazy to check what the other thing is, but on either side is English lavender. The lavender I bought last year was in a pot that didnt have enough drainage, so it didnt. And no, lavender is definitely not an annual. (That was French lavender anyway.)

I'm not proud, but I'm too lazy to check what the other thing is, but on either side is English lavender. The lavender I bought last year was in a pot that didn't have enough drainage, so it didn't. And no, lavender is definitely not an annual. (That was French lavender anyway.)

Stringed off a bit of the back yard and seeded it with clover, grass, and wildflowers. Fingers crossed something fun grows.

Stringed off a bit of the back yard and seeded it with clover, grass, and wildflowers. Fingers crossed something fun grows.

Yep, succumbed to the charms of a discounted amaryllis kit. This thing just finished blooming and now looks pathetic.

PS The first few images are from THE FIRST WEEK OF APRIL and most of the rest are from a couple of weeks later).

Baffles.

Gah, between throwing my back out and my internet at home being down for long stretches of the week, I have totally been neglecting my tiny audience.  I did have ten new spam comments this week.  No, I don’t need Moldovan Propecia, thanks.

Anyway, last week, I mentioned that I had cleared a space for a new bed.  But how to keep squirrels out?  Especially as I had no staples for my gun?

Ooo, Blair Witchy!  What does it all mean? It means the fuckers cant dig everything up.  Booyah!

Ooo, Blair Witchy! What does it all mean? It means the fuckers can't dig everything up. Booyah!

Did a similar thing in the newest raised bed/box as well.

Okay, so half of it wasnt baffled.  As a result, when I checked in today, there were holes where I had planted zucchini seeds.

Okay, so half of it wasn't baffled. As a result, when I checked in today, there were holes where I had planted zucchini seeds.

Hey, look at the far end here!  This photo is from last week, but the beans were doing well!

The musical fruit isnt doing too badly in the face of juglone.  The ones in the box are doing even better.  Hooray!

The musical fruit isn't doing too badly in the face of juglone. The ones in the box are doing even better. Hooray!

This week’s even more awesome!

Huzzah!  Now I have taken up the chicken wire up and put bricks and sticks around in hopes that the squirrels dont eat them/dig them up.

Huzzah! Now I have taken up the chicken wire up and put bricks and sticks around in hopes that the squirrels don't eat them/dig them up.

Yup, the squirrels are still the biggest blight in the garden.

I bought these mums and sunflowers last weekend.  By Tuesday, the latter were headless.

I bought these mums and sunflowers last weekend. By Tuesday, the latter were headless.

This is whats left.  All thats left.  I love sunflowers, dammit!

This is what's left. All that's left. I love sunflowers, dammit!

What to do now?  I had scattered blood and bonemeal around them and everything!  I want sunflowers!

Now that I have staples, I finished a giant cage for over the first bed.  Half of it didn’t grow at all, though carrots and radishes are coming up.  Now, I’ve put in spanish onions (which were on sale today) and some spring onions.

This is the most lopsided cage ever.  The fence is in the way, I got tangled in staples and chicken wire, and have no knack for building.  Ah well, itll do the job.

This is the most lopsided cage ever. The fence is in the way, I got tangled in staples and chicken wire, and have no knack for building. Ah well, it'll do the job.

Also, last night, I heard a giant crash and some crazy yowling.  I jumped out of the bath and ran downstairs in case Hamish had a) knocked over a bookcase and pinned himself under it or b) had escaped outside and started a fight.  It was neither.  The motion detector light was out already, so I figured that there was a cat fight somewhere nearby.  Hamish was looking out the window, but didn’t seem agitated. This morning, I found this:

Fur flew!

Fur flew!

Lots of it!

Lots of it!

I’m serious when I say that I am surprised I didn’t find blood splatters or something worse out there.  There was half a cat’s worth a fur out there.  Yikes.

Invasions.

My front and back yards are under constant threat from invaders.  I will talk about three today.  First up, the violets:

This is a wee part of the front yard.  Violets everywhere.

This is a wee part of the front yard. Violets everywhere.

No, really, they are fucking everywhere.

No, really, they are fucking everywhere. I don't even care about the dandelion.

Yup, they are all over the front too.

Yup, they are all over the front too.

Next up, the maples:

No lie, I rip up some of these suckers every day.

No lie, I rip up some of these suckers every day.

I don’t have photos, but I also sawed down two trees that had grown to my height.  There are three or for more to go.

However, I did have fun tackling these two invaders, plus some of the vine-y periwinkle today.

This is a tall wheelie bin full of garden detritus, composed almost entirely of maple and violet corpses, with a few periwinkle thrown in too

This is a tall wheelie bin full of garden detritus, composed almost entirely of maple and violet corpses, with a few periwinkle and bits of lemon balm thrown in too. Note the woody roots on those violets. It's almost like the whole yard is a single organism. A single organism trying to eat my brain.

I’m also putting some clumps of lemon balm and periwinkle into pots to give to brave friends, especially those with balconies.

The cull was in large part a first step in my quest for a path to the garage and composter.  I think I made great strides:

A path!  A path!

A path! A path!

A totally heinous photo, yes, but it was night time.  All told, I probably spent about seven hours in the garden this weekend.  And it rained yesterday.  Addiction!

Anyway, the other day, on a whim, I bought some cauliflower plants and put them in the box.  Within 36 hours, this happened:

Squirrels.  Again.

Squirrels. Again.

Detailed damage.  So frustrating.

Detailed damage. So frustrating.

So I bought provisions.

A heap of marigolds from the local farmers market and a fake owl (!!!).

A heap of marigolds from the local farmers' market and a fake owl (!!!).

This actually confused the hell out of my cat.  Hes perched atop a steel pole that has been in the garden for years, but seems to be immovable.  Finally, it shows its usefulness.

This actually confused the hell out of my cat. He's perched atop a steel pole that has been in the garden for years, but seems to be immovable. Finally, it shows its usefulness. The owl's head moves in the wind, by the way.

The marigolds were put in pots in strategic places throughout the yard.  But then this happened:

Shredded!  What the hell?  Squirrels are supposed to hate them!

Shredded! What the hell? Squirrels are supposed to hate them!

They also tried to dig UNDER the veg box:

Notice all the roots despite the clearing?  Lemon balm remnants, mostly.

Notice all the roots despite the clearing? Lemon balm remnants, mostly.

So, the owl hasn’t caught on yet. Nor have the marigolds done their job.  Now’s the time for the big guns:

This is my first chicken wire experiment, over the pumpkin plants I started indoors a few weeks ago.  I fail at arts & crafts.

This is my first chicken wire experiment, over the pumpkin plants I started indoors a few weeks ago. I fail at arts & crafts.

Coming soon, more chicken wire experiments and weird sculptures/barriers I worked on today.  Got too dark to take good shots tonight.  But I leave you with some good news:

Combo of tall pot and marigolds did the trick for this.  Hurrah!  Fingers crossed that it holds up.

Combo of tall pot and marigolds did the trick for keeping the squirrels out. Hurrah! Fingers crossed that it holds up.

Also?  My twig battlements are still holding up, though I suspect that this pots perch atop a stack of patio chairs is partly responsible.

Also? My twig battlements are still holding up, though I suspect that this pot's perch atop a stack of patio chairs is partly responsible.

Also coming up: Hostas!  They look amazing.

Good days and bad days.

So, it’s been a while.  Lots of new stuff happening, some crap, some surprising, some awesome.  Got a good chunk of prettifying done before the drizzle began today.

First, here’s the crap news:

See what these assholes do?  Eat my tulips!  I hate them so much that I wasnt disgusted by the dead one being eaten by crows at the end of the street.

See what these asshole squirrels do? Eat my tulips! I hate them so much that I wasn't disgusted by the dead one being eaten by crows at the end of the street.

At least the tulips got their leaves out.  This bulb never stood a chance.

At least the tulips got their leaves out. This bulb never stood a chance.

This is the back porch.  Itll be nicer soon, I promise.  We dont have enough space for all that wood.  Heh.

This is the back porch. It'll be nicer soon, I promise. We don't have enough space for all that wood. Heh.

Also, dumbly didn’t take a photo, but I have a bin nearly full of violets that I dug up from proper flower beds.

There’s also good news!  I forgot about this plant:

Are this miniature roses of some sort?  This plant doesnt bloom for long and Im really not sure.

Are this miniature roses of some sort? This plant doesn't bloom for long and I'm really not sure.

Also?  I went shopping!  Hit up Canadian Tire and Loblaws this morning to buy some already-blooming and other awesome plants as well as a proper spade and a rake.

I cant be trusted in a garden centre.

I can't be trusted in a garden centre.

Included in the plant mix are pansies, geraniums, daisies, wild thyme, a hosta, cucumbers (!!!!), and lavender.  I also bought a hanging basket for the back porch.

Not a bad first effort.  Not 100% happy with the sides; didnt stagger layers super well.  I likes it, though.

Not a bad first effort. Not 100% happy with the sides; didn't stagger layers super well. I likes it, though.

I also planted the two planters that live on the porch all summer.  We share planting duties with our neighbour, normally, but she’s done it the last two years.  I didn’t consult, so I hope she’s okay with my choices (she never consults with us either).  Regardless of who takes care of it, spikes and geraniums are always involved.

Okay, I could have brushed off the dirt, eh? I didnt go for a theme this year apart from colourful.

Okay, I could have brushed off the dirt, eh? I didn't go for a theme this year apart from 'colourful'. Depending on space constraints, I might add a couple of more things later in the summer.

About ten years ago, I had a traumatic incident with lavender.  A bottle of essential oil exploded in my backpack while I was traipsing around Scotland for a couple of months.  Everything reeked of it the whole summer and I vowed never to touch the stuff again.  I guess I lied, because I am super keen on having this on my porch:

Hopefully, I can bring this indoors in winter.

Hopefully, I can bring this indoors in winter.

And cucumbers should be ready by the end of June!

Yes, okay, I am going to grow things from seed too, but I couldnt resist these.

Yes, okay, I am going to grow things from seed too, but I couldn't resist these. I've since sprinkled some red pepper flakes in to (hopefully) keep the squirrels out.

Finally, speaking of vegetables, my tomatoes are still doing quite well, though my leeks seem to have dried out entirely.

1. Look!  Real leaves!  2. Why am I growing these if I am allergic to them?

1. Look! Real leaves! 2. Why am I growing these if I am allergic to them?

More work tomorrow.  The garden box isn’t ready yet for lack of the right size of Robertson screwdriver. Doh!  There’s now an area cleared for it, though.  I also started some pumpkin seeds, but they haven’t sprouted yet and are therefore not very interesting to look at.

I’m getting much more excited now that there is colour in my garden.  Fingers crossed that the daffodils or tulips will develop bulbs soon; all my neighbours’ are already in full bloom.

Pilot series.

Welcome to the first (of an expected many) episode(s) of the exciting new game show…Name that Plant!

Yes, such is my ignorance that I don’t know what’s growing in my own yard, even though I know I have been told at least some of these plants’ names in the past.  Please help.

Just to make things interesting, these are shoddy camera phone images.  My camera went on vacation without me, but will be back Monday.  I will be borrowing a friend’s this weekend:

Name that plant!

This is growing at the back of the rock garden. To keep, or not? What is it?

This is also growing at the back of garden, under and around the neighbour's shed.

This is also growing at the back of garden, under and around the neighbour's shed.

Another shot of the under/around shed plants.  They look like wee green tubes.

Another shot of the under/around shed plants. They look like wee green tubes.

This is has a tulip in the middle of it (yeah, I dunno how that happened either).  It's growing in the front garden, right next to the Ground-Hemlock/Yew bush.

This is has a tulip in the middle of it (yeah, I dunno how that happened either). It's growing in the front garden, right next to the Ground-Hemlock/Yew bush.

Okay, this is a diabolically bad photo.  These are growing next to the barrels in the backyard.

Okay, this is a diabolically bad photo. These are growing next to the barrels in the backyard.

And finally, a bonus photo of the massive expanse of periwinkle growing in the rock garden.  Methinks I will have to do a bit of a cull.  Maybe I’ll put it in plastic tubs on my front lawn and offer it to any interested parties.

That is a lot of frickin' periwinkle.  Anyone want some?

This represents about half of the periwinkle in the rock garden. I am not interested in rigidly manicured gardens, but this is ridiculous.

The one good (?) bit of news I got while wandering this morning is that even though the squirrels kicked all the bulbs out of the backyard barrels, a few ended up on the grounds.  I now have daffodils popping up at random locations around the back yard.  Which is better than nothing.

Laziness.

So, I will update later this week.  It’s been raining coldly for the last two days, so I haven’t done much anything since the weekend.

I do have this stuff, though.  I am tempted to mix the heavy clay soil in that blank, maple seedling-infested patch with compost and top soil and then spread a mixture of the wildflower seeds with grass seed, just to see what happens.  It it takes, it would be nice, but if it doesn’t, eh, I’ll live.

Grass really is a total waste of time, though, so maybe I’ll skip that bit.

I also bought about $35 worth of pine and some patio screws to build my first raised garden bed.  Hopefully, I can work on that this weekend.  I don’t know how to use power tools (ridiculous, I know), so I might wait until I have a supervisor and/or helpermonkey (besides the cat).  I am not known for my coordinatory skills.

I also bought a lovely cedar window box for growing herbs on the porch.  Suggestions?  I have basil seeds and..well, I think that’s it.  Unless catnip counts.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Hi.  My name is Megan and I know arse-all about gardening.

My mother was a gardener.  When she died, I inherited her house.  In the 2.5 years since then, I haven’t really been keeping up with things.  Check it:

Backyard mayhem April 18

Backyard mayhem April 18. Click on it for details

As far as I’m concerned, all that is missing is the Trans-Am up on cinder blocks. I have a lot of work to do.  (Click through to see the problem areas.)

Here are the challenges (at least the main ones):

1. My neighbour has a black walnut tree (unseen, on the left) that has made the soil deeply unfriendly to most things and creates a lot of shade in the back.  As a result, very little will grow, including grass.  Instead of lawn (which, IMHO, is a big waste of time anyway), we get millions of violets, a veritable field of lemon balm, and all that periwinkle in the back.

2. The pests.  Squirrels in this neighbourhood are actually the spawn of Satan himself.  Check out the falling pieces from the garage roof.  They also dug up and ruined my first attempts at planting (crocus, daffodils (which they aren’t even supposed to like!), and tulips bulbs put into barrels last fall), they knock clay pots off the porch, and nip the heads off of about-to-bloom flowers in the front yard.  We also get bunnies, crows, and raccoons.  They like seeds and plants.  I want to grow vegetables.  Am I crazy?

3. Random detritus.  You can see that wee gap between the neighbours GIANT garden shed and the garage?  Drunk teenagers occasional toss their bottles, friends, and other crap through there.  Also?  The trees really make it hard to keep the yard clean.  Leaves, yes, but this is also a problem:

In lieu of grass, weve got this?

In lieu of grass, we've got this?

That’s a lot of bloody maple keys, eh?  Big trees are a lovely thing about living in an older neighbourhood (the 1940s is practically ancient history in Ottawa terms), but man, it is pesky and time consuming to clean up after them.

Confession time: the above photo is a bit of a cheat.  It’s from the front yard.  You can tell because there is grass peeking through.  The backyard was just as bad, though, until I cleaned it up (starting last fall and continuing through today).  It ain’t looking so hot either, though.

Theyre everywhere!

They're everywhere!

Confession time 2: This bit was cleared out last fall of a lot of violets.  This was my first step in tackling the trashy yard (check out that broken solar light!).  I also planted random crocuses and daffodils in the back, most of which were dug up by the BASTARD SQUIRRELS.

The green shoots here?  Mostly tiny maple trees, just sprouting, with a few (I think) violets mixed in.  Feh.  This soil is not good, though, so maybe I am being overly ambitious anyway.  I’m not sure what I *can* do with this space because this is the bit that is overrun with black walnut roots not far below the surface.

I just knew, from my mother, that the neighbour’s tree was ‘poisonous’.  Wikipedia, that treasure house of entirely true information, says this: ‘The roots, nut husks, and leaves secrete a substance into the soil called juglone that is a respiratory inhibitor to some plants, such as this tomato that was grown too close to a black walnut tree. A number of other plants (most notably white birch) are also poisoned by juglone, and should not be planted in close proximity to a black walnut.’

Not just tomatoes.  Most plants seem to fail in our yard.  Except maples and violets.  Oh, and dandelions, which should be showing up any time now.

So, what’s the plan?

Well, I want a yard I don’t need to be embarrassed by.  I have seedlings on the go to plant flowers and vegetables.

My aunt tells me that a lot of pesty creatures hate these, therefore I love them.

Nasturtia and marigolds. My aunt tells me that a lot of pesty creatures hate these, therefore I love them.

Among the seedlings I have going are tons of marigolds, nasturtia, Morning Glories, poppies, leeks, tomatoes.  I also have seeds for lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, and carrots as well as bulbs for dahlias and gladiolas.  I will be doing a windowbox of herbs.

Do I know what I’m doing?  Not really.

I listen to Ed Lawrence on Ontario Today sometimes and should maybe buy his book.  I love watching gardening features on VideoJug.  I come from a long line of gardeners.  But other than that?  I’m kind of learning as I go.  ‘Kind of’, in that I’ve already killed some lettuce seedlings through neglect.  Ooops.

You may wonder why I am growing all these seedlings for a poisonous garden.

Old and broken, but not useless!

Well, I am going to build raised beds to avoid the Evil Poisonous soil.  I am going to do window boxes.  And I have these barrels, which are now bulb-free thanks to the bastard squirrels. I just scattered some wildflower seeds in the big barrel today (mixed with red pepper flake, which I heard somewhere might help keep the squirrels out), which I am already regretting.  I could have used it for tomatoes or lettuce or something, right?  Damn my lack of patience for proper spring.  (We had snow until a week ago, so it is still very early to be planting anything.)

Also, I have the front yard which is only kind of trashy.

See, this is one of the maples responsible!  But I love it anyway.

See, this is one of the maples responsible! But I love it anyway.

See?  Squirrels didnt dig up all the bulbs hastily planted last fall.  Woo!

See? Squirrels didn't dig up all the bulbs hastily planted last fall. Woo!

Okay, so the leaf bag and rake arent classy.  Its still better, right?  Check out that monster hemlock!  I could kill so many philosophers.

Okay, so the leaf bag and rake aren't classy. It's still better, right? Check out that monster hemlock! I could kill so many philosophers.

Okay, so the close-up isnt so good.  Check out that discard chip bag in the back!  Probably blew in from someone elses trash.  The tree there is a Japanese red maple.  I think.

Okay, so the close-up isn't so good. Check out that discarded chip bag in the back! Probably blew in from someone else's trash. The tree there is a Japanese red maple. I think. And look! A tulip! I don't think it's one that I planted, though.

So, yeah, I am going to have a busy summer making my outdoor spaces less hideous and embarrassing.  I’m keeping track of things online to get advice (unsolicited is A-OK), to have a place to vent, and to (hopefully) entertain and give hope to other people who have thumbs of deepest black. I am going to try to post at least weekly (with pictures) of my various gardening projects to show off my successes and failures (I’m buying lumber tomorrow, so y’all might get to hear/read tails of thumb loss or nails in the face in the quest for the perfect raised bed).

Fingers crossed, there will be more successes than failures, though.  I mean, look at this hopeful photo: I successfully grew some snacks for my cat, Hamish.

A mix of oat and wheat grasses for The Escape Fartist, Hamish. Grown from seed. My most successful growing project yet, sadly.

A mix of oat and wheat grasses for The Escape Fartist, Hamish. Grown from seed. My most successful growing project yet, sadly.

Wish me luck!  I am already exhausted just thinking about the work that needs to be done.

And no, very few future posts will ever be this long.