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Herb and Vegetable Gardens: #DesignThis Contest Week 3

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Contests, Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Inspiration, iPad App, Vegetable Gardens | 2 comments

Loved all the Week 2 entries in the Garden Sketch App #DesignThis Garden Design Contest! Makes us want to have a number of gardens, so we can design different ones to suit different moods and to entertain different sets of friends.  I suppose that’s the idea of the old manor houses with their different gardens throughout the estate.

Which is your favourite of the three Week 2 entries below?

 

Garden Sketch #DesignThis Water Feature Challenge Entry

Design A

Garden Sketch #DesignThis Water Feature Challenge Entry

Design B

Garden Sketch #DesignThis Water Feature Challenge Entry

Design C

 

As a reminder, #DesignThis is a weekly Garden Sketch App Contest that will be hosted here, and on facebook and twitter, weekly until October 31st, 2014!

The contest is quite simple.  Each week, we shall post a different garden design challenge here, and on facebook and twitter, and we challenge you to create a garden design of your dreams while including that week’s challenge in the garden design, using the Garden Sketch iPad App. Challenges might be things like including a water feature, rockery, or themed area in your garden. For the purposes of this contest, the Garden Sketch App is free in the iTunes store until October 31st, 2014.

We will be accepting new entries each week, until midnight PST on the Sunday of the week, at which point our esteemed judges will select a winner (or we will go to one of our various gardening communities to help us pick out a winner). Weekly winners will be announced on Tuesday evening.

To enter:

  • Download the Garden Sketch App to your iPad for free;
  • Use Garden Sketch to create a design for a dream garden including  the week’s challenge element;
  • When you are done designing, select ‘Share’ and email yourself a .png of your dream garden;
  • Then share your Garden Sketch dream garden .png with us by posting it on our facebook page with the #DesignThis hashtag on your entry description, on twitter by including @GardenSketchApp and #DesignThis in your tweet, or by sharing a link to the image in the contest post comments; and
  • Check back on Tuesday evening to see if you won!

To make entering easier, we’ve written a sample tweet below, that you could use to enter:

#BeddingDown with the @GardenSketchApp ~ URL to image. I showed you mine, now show me yours! http://ht.ly/BNofB #DesignThis

For various tips and tricks to creating a Garden Sketch, check out our Garden Sketch Tutorial, by clicking on this link.

So what will the weekly prize for the winners be?  $50 (Canadian) gift certificate to a local-to-you garden centre (or in lieu of that, to an online seed catalogue or garden centre).

In honour of Canadian Thanksgiving, this week’s #DesignThis Contest Challenge is to include a vegetable or herb garden in the Garden Sketch dream garden design that you create.

*We are extending this week’s entry deadline to Tuesday October 14th, 2014 at midnight, due to the Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday, and will announce this week’s winner on Wednesday October 15th.*

Happy Garden Sketching!  We look forward to your entries!

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Bush Beans A-Plenty

Bush Beans A-Plenty

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Recipe, Vegetable Gardens |

In addition to the joy I get from my flower gardens, I love being able to go into my own yard and pick vegetables for dinner.  One of the easiest things that I have found to grow are Bush Beans.  Unlike pole beans they do not require any special structures. They grow about 30 cm high and produce lots and lots of beans.  If you are very organized, it is worth planting new batches about every two weeks so you spread out your harvest and you can enjoy fresh beans for a month or six weeks. The big caveat with beans is that they are best planted when the soil is warm, so I waited until nearly June to plant my first crop.

Last year I purchased this package of tricoloured seeds.  Of course you can tell from the seeds whether you can expect yellow, green or purple beans.

Bush Bean Seeds

Bush Bean Seeds

I planted the seeds in front of a south facing fence that received full sun.  The seeds sprouted within ten days.

Bean Sprouts

Bean Sprouts

They grew with little intervention on my part, save having run the weeping hose down the middle to water them most days.

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Then about six weeks or so, they began to flower.  They really filled in the empty spaces in my garden quite nicely with a beautiful green ground cover.

Beans a-blooming

Beans a-blooming

At about nine weeks, we were able to begin harvesting.  I think I might have planted them a little too close together, but they seemed to do alright.

Thick with Bush Beans

Thick with Bush Beans

I was able to harvest at least three times from these plants.  The results were beautifully colourful.  The purple ones are my favourite.

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

What to do with all those beans, especially if you plant multiple times?  Bush beans seem to freeze well and I was able to share lots with the office.  My all time favourite recipe though is for spicy Szechuan Green Beans courtesy Gwendolyn Richards of the Calgary Herald.  It smells amazing when you fry up all my favourite things: garlic, ginger in some sesame oil, then topped off with some toasted sesame seeds.

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Interestingly, the purple beans turn a shade of green when sautéed this way.  Enjoy!

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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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