Blue fescue, bearded iris, feather reed grass, and a volunteer sunflower

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This was supposed to be part of the “White Garden” but I’ve had to start experimenting as it’s been hard to get things to take in this little strip on the south side of our garage.  It’s baking hot at noon but also in the shade a large part of the day because it’s close to the house.  It is also in a rain shadow.  These plants seem to be handling the tough conditions all right.

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notes on preparing and amending raised bed vegetable garden soil

As I get ready to plant the newly-built raised bed at my new-to-me house in Edmonton, I keep referring back to notes I posted on my old Calgary Garden Coach blog.  So I’m copying them over here.  And here is what my old veggie garden looked like in its first year:

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Excerpts from Calgary Garden Coach, April 2011:

According to Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening, a good vegetable garden soil should be made up of at least 25% (up to 50%) of soil amendments such as compost or leaf mold.  Another good rule of thumb is to add 10 – 20% by volume of coarse vermiculite to a new vegetable garden for good moisture retention – vermiculite is like a sponge.

But once you’ve prepared your initial soil, how do you keep amending it each year to maximize production?  Mel Bartholomew has lots of recommendations.  He says (and I agree), “trying to grow crops in any kind of soil without constantly adding organic matter is sheer folloy and a waste of time, no matter how much fertilizer you add to it.  On the other hand, to garden in soil that is rich in organic matter but contains no added fertilizer is not only possible but also very practical.”  He recommends:

  • add a trowelful of compost or other organic soil builder after you harvest each plant in your garden – this will probably mean you are amending at least 2x per year, maybe even 3 or 4
  • supplemental fertilizers to use during the growing season need only be of 2 types: a high nitrogen fertilizer for leaf crops (eg. lettuce, spinach, chard) and a high phosphorous and potassium fertilizer for root and fruit-bearing crops;
  • you can add dry fertilizers when the soil is prepared for planting, plus once a month as crops are growing, in the form of a pre-packaged organic mix, or make your own, see recipes below
  • heavy feeding crops (eg. brassicas) will also benefit from supplemental watering with compost tea, fish emulsion, or seaweed/kelp solutions

Basic, all-purpose fertilizer recipe

  • 1 part bloodmeal
  • 2 parts bonemeal
  • 3 parts greensand
  • 4 parts composted leaf mold
  • approximate NPK value: 2.6 / 4.9 / 1.8

High-nitrogen fertilizer recipe

  • 3 parts bloodmeal
  • 2 parts bonemeal
  • 3 parts greensand
  • 4 parts leafmold
  • approximate NPK value: 4.6 / 4.3 / 1.6

I haven’t been nearly as diligent as I should have been in the past and still got decent results, but this year I am vowing to follow his recommendations to try to maximize my harvest. What do you do in your vegetable garden?  Please share in the comments section below.

Earth Day 2018: filled the new raised veggie bed with soil

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Today I filled up the new veggie box, which was built last fall. It was SO GOOD to be outside!

Because I’m sorta cheap and because I had a lot of suitable materials lying around, I filled this box with half kitchen and garden scraps (last fall), and then today added a mix of newly purchased and recycled (previously used) potting soil.

I won’t add any homemade outdoor compost because it won’t be ready yet, but this week I’ll add some worm compost from my basement worm bin.  And probably a few worms inadvertently, too.  Then I’ll be ready to plant.

By the end of next week-end I plan to have the following seeds planted using the Square Foot Method:

  • arugula
  • beets
  • carrots
  • kale
  • snow peas
  • spinach
  • swiss chard.

P.S. For the record: frost on April 23, …

the Sunset Garden, June 2017

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This garden has been in place for a month now, and so far the hares haven’t touched anything except the artemesia, yarrow, and iceland poppy (see this past post for more plant details).  These are all pretty vigorous plants so if the rabbits only munch these occasionally and leave everything else alone, I will be more than happy.

A friend asked me if I would use mulch, and I will, but I’ve already thought of a few tweaks I’d like to make – a plant to move here, a tree to add there.  So I will have to live with a bit of a weedy garden for a few more months – it’s easier to put mulch down after the planting is done.  Plus I’m still tired from my May new-garden-making marathon.  No more planting/moving until fall.

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To see how this garden area has evolved, click here and scroll down.