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Garden Basics: Water

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Gardens, Irrigation, Vegetable Gardens |

Weeping Hose Lay Out in Veggie Garden

Weeping Hose Lay Out in Veggie Garden

Gardening can be a little hard on the wallet.  There are always new gadgets and more plants to fill in that space, you know, between the hostas and the astilbes.  That said, I think that hands down the best purchase I made this year was a handy contraption: the Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer Watering System with Four Valves.  I bought mine at Lee Valley Tools, but it is widely available online.  Once I got it set up I realized how it helped address one of those key garden basics: water.  I am now convinced it will pay for itself in water savings and the increased produce from a regularly watered garden.  

The key problem I was trying to solve was that I had two separate garden beds initially  with two lines go out two separate sections of weeping hoses to water my front flowers gardens and my veggie garden running off a splitter attached to a manual timer (up to 120 min) screwed onto the tap which I had to manually activate each day.  Then if I wanted to do anything else, set up the lawn sprinkler or water my pots by hand, I had to start disconnecting hoses.

120 min Manual Timer with Splitter

120 min Manual Timer with Splitter

Now the two weeping hoses are on dedicated valves to water my front flowers gardens and my veggie garden for two hours each at 6 am daily.  Using the digital screen, there are loads of self explanatory programming options.  It was easier because I practiced programming it before attaching it to the tap.

Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer

Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer

The big upside for me was that I  now I have a the fourth valve which I can operate manually for these other jobs like wasting the car or manually watering my pots.

A couple other things to bear in mind when you are ready to install this digital water timer: 1) it takes two AA batteries  and 2) it has a high profile and will require some head room.  I installed mine in the garage and had to shift some shelves to fit it in.

If you search this product the online reviews were quite mixed.  I think this is because there is one critical piece of information that is not clear from the trouble shooting guide for this product.  After the first day I realized that the weeping hose off valve two was not closing and the water just continued to run.  If you just switched it to another valve, valve two would just consider to pour out, no matter what is was programmed for.

The instructions indicated that you should take out the batteries to reset the device, but this did not work.  Eventually I came across a very helpful review on Amazon.com that indicated that you need to do this as many times as it takes to reset the magnets in the valve.  In my case it took five times.  I was so relieved when it finally worked!  Since that the timer has worked beautifully and I highly recommend it.  It has saved me time switching out hoses and ensures that everything gets watered with consistently.

We’ve had a sunny, cool spring here in Vancouver this year with very little rainfall (except that one record breaking day–but that’s another story) so this system has proved critical to my early success.  I’m looking forward to finding something similar for the backyard.  Ian has another programmable timer but I have  become kind of attached to have that one line dedicated to manual watering without have to disconnect hoses and drag them across the yard, so may look for something that allows for more than just two lines.

I may just be in the market for another Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer Watering System.

If only these elaborate systems could also keep the weeds down!

If only these elaborate systems could also keep the weeds down!

 

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Fresh Swiss Chard from the Garden

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Recipe, Square Foot Garden, Vegetable Gardens |

 

Square Foot Gardening at Our House

Square Foot Gardening at Our House

One of the best reasons to have a plot of land is the vegetable garden I am able to grow.  Some crops provide near-instant gratification.  One of the quickest trips to my table was by fresh chard from the garden.

I use a modified version of a square foot garden, but not in raised beds.   We started out with a 4 x 3 grid last year and this year for Mothers’ Day my son helped me build two more frames.  I’ve added in some weeping hose and a timer, so it basically waters itself.  The squares keep me very organized and makes it easy to know how much to plant.   You can see how quickly this rainbow chard filled out it square.  I’m pretty sure I had four plants per box last year.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard needs very little maintenance and will happily continue to grow as you harvest the leaves.  I just take a small paring knife out to the garden with me and cut it close to the ground.

Here’s my first crop of the year:

Swiss Chard Ready to Cook

Swiss Chard Ready to Cook

The trick then is to find recipes for all these healthy greens.  One of my favourites and a great choice if you are looking for some meat substitutes, calls for Pinto Beans and goat cheese.  How can you go wrong?  You can find the recipe here.  I especially like the pinch of red pepper flakes.  After you bake it it looks like this:

IMG_0367

 

Do you have a favourite Swiss Chard recipe?  Be sure to share it.  We’ll be eating a lot of chard this summer!

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Grapes for my Pergola

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Inspiration | 2 comments

My Backyard Now

My Backyard Now

On of my goals for the backyard was to make the space more usable.  The back deck off the house is nice, but is in the shade after about 3 pm.  Since we’re so close to the ocean, it can be a little chilly sitting there.  So, I had our handy handyman Chris build a Pergola.  I’m still not sure how we’ll use it yet, but I made it big enough for a six person rectangular table, but also lovely for just a couple of Muskoka chairs or maybe a hammock, should I find the right one.  The structure was very nice when stained, and I was ready for phase two, which was to plant some grapes for my Pergola.

So I picked up three grape plants from a local shop.  I decided on one green and two red grape plants.  Then proceeded to dig up my lovely grass.

Breaking Ground for Grapes

Breaking Ground for Grapes

The instructions I found recommended digging a hole 12″ x 12″ and 12″ deep.

I worked into my wheelbarrow so I didn’t have to pile dirt on the grass.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

I had read that it was a good idea to fill the bottom of the hole with compost, so you can see the lovely black stuff here:

Compost in the Hole

Compost in the Hole

I added the grape plant and used some of the soil from the wheelbarrow to top it off.

IMG_0273

 

Here’s how things looked when I was done.  I can’t wait to have them climbing the posts.  I’ve read it could take two or three years to get grapes, so I’ll have to be patient.

Three Grapes in the Ground

Three Grapes in the Ground

Do you have grapes in your yard?  What do you do with them, snacks or beverages?  Be sure to send us a picture.  We’d love to see your vines!

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Garden Inspiration

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Gardens, Inspiration | 2 comments

 

 

Inspiration

Inspiration

 

 

This whole project (meaning this particular yard and everything that has flowed from it) began two years ago when I purchased my home. The guy I bought it from had renovated much of the inside but had not tackled any of the outdoor work and it was in very sad shape.  We were in need of some garden inspiration.

 

My Backyard when we Moved In

My Backyard when we Moved In

Yes, the backyard was particularly bad.

 

Backyard from under Deck

 

I was horrified by the quote we received from a landscaper for leveling, sodding the yard and putting in the garden beds. My partner Ian, who had done similar work on his own homes in the past, figured he was up for the task. It took us about six weeks over the summer of 2012, but slowly the yard and gardens took shape.

Here’s a little peek at how far we have come:

 

My Backyard Now

My Backyard Now

 

Through this blog, I am hoping to share some of the projects and decisions we’ve undertaken along the way: both for the build and the day-to-day yard work.

I don’t have any special training. Most of what I do is by trial and error, relying on suggestions and advice from friends and professionals, in person and online. If there is a better way, let me know. I am open to it.

My end goal is the desire to recapture a space like my grandmother’s yard when I was a kid. She had immigrated from Finland in 1930. When I was growing up, she and my grandfather owned a small two bedroom house in a Toronto suburb. The yard had a raised platform for her to hang the laundry and for us to launch our adventures. A traditional Finnish swing that had been built by my maternal grandfather could serve as a car, train or airplane depending on our journey. Privacy was ensured by the lilac hedges that ran the property line and tucked underneath were tiny lilies of the valley.  No place smelled better during May.

She also had a round perennial garden with purple and yellow Violas juxtaposed against some tiny white flowers a little like Alyssium but which returned every year. Behind the garage she had a small vegetable patch where she would grow carrots, English cucumbers and rhubarb. My grandmother always had a four gallon pail filled with clean water beside the garden so we could rinse our freshly picked carrots before we ate them. The whole yard was dominated though by a huge cherry tree.  For a few weeks every year, we would climb onto the garage roof and eat our fill, gorging on summer goodness.

When we were sent outside to play, this yard marked the passage of time in flashes of colour, scents and tastes.

As I talk to people about the gardens and gardening, it seems like everyone has a similar story.  We are all drawn to a personal Eden: sunny summer days that we hope to recapture and share with a new generation. We do it in different ways and in different places from our original Edens, but they prove satisfying nonetheless.

Every week, I will publish some successes and failures from my garden and share the stories I collect from others. I am hoping to post lots of pictures and harvest a few tips.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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About Us

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Gardens, Inspiration |

Garden Sketch is inspired by our own experiences.  In our day job, we are documentary film producers who like nothing better than to get up early and spend time puttering in our gardens.  Over the last two summers we have completely re-landscaped our respective properties.  When all the heavy lifting was done, the garden beds were set and the grass laid, I had to choose the plants that would fill my gardens.  To do that, I wanted to map my yard, so that I could experiment with my ideas before committing to the plant purchases.

As I started to measure and sketch, I thought, “I should use my iPad, there must be an App for this!”  After spending a lot of time in the iTunes store, I couldn’t find anything that met my needs.

In the end I had to use a tape measure, and old-fashioned paper and pencil.  My garden is coming along nicely but we’re still keen to create an App.  Garden Sketch will be a tool for home gardeners to help them get the most out of what they spend in, and on, their gardens.  We look forward to your input and feedback.

 

Maija and ian

 

 

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