Category Archives: Garden

Vegetables and flowers

Eggplants extrodinaire

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The eggplants flourished in the greenhouse this year.  We had the pleasure of picking about two dozen of these firm purple gems.  The eggplant is an interesting vegetable to grow as they start as exotic looking purple flowers growing on tropical looking plants.  Then they develop into these extraordinarily beautiful vegetables.  They have such rich purple colour  – something not often seen in nature.  I held this eggplant up for a photograph and the shiny exterior reflected the clouds in the sky.  The true satisfaction of a backyard gardener.

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The melons are coming…

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There are five melons hanging on the vines in my greenhouse!  In two weeks they went from being walnut size to baseball size.  They all look healthy and strong dangling without any support on the vine.  The melons are coming!

There is actually a sneaky sixth melon on the shelf behind the pots.  It is the largest of them all.  It is growing on a piece of vine that grew out down instead of up.  Six melons are coming!

I am thrilled with the cantaloupes this year.  They are substantial gardening prizes for all my efforts to date.  The golden globes of the greenhouse!

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Melons of the North

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Settling in to the greenhouse

Gardening is about challenges.  The elusive cantaloupe melon is one of my annual challenges.  For someone who does not naturally have a green thumb, the ability to grow things in a greenhouse with an irrigation system is my only hope.  Last year I planted some Charantaise melon seeds I had received for Christmas.   These are a small french heirloom melon.  The plant was amazing. It grew so much I felt like it was in a Stephen King novel and the vine was going to take over the greenhouse.  Ever weekend when I came up to the cabin I had to go at the plant with my secateurs to keep it somewhat contained and hopefully focused on fruit development.  I managed to get one small fruit which we ate with sheer delight.

This year, like my eggplants, I started these plants earlier and on a heating mat to try to fool the little seedlings into believing that we were somewhere in the tropics.  The plants were then moved into the greenhouse when the risk of frost had passed.  This year I planted Westcoast seed’s Halona Cantaloupe seeds.  By the time I transplanted them they looked a little gangly and sickly, but in the warmth of the greenhouse they have become lush and full of yellow flowers.

There are two confirmed small melon sightings and many small possible future fuzzy melons so we shall see how the next two months of summer go for these plants.

The secret to growing melons in the north is to grow them in a greenhouse and trick them into thinking that they are living down south.

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The Queen of the South

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Year of the Eggplant

 

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And so it begins…fingers crossed we get eggplants.

Last year was our first year of gardening in our greenhouse.  We focused on tomatoes – and boy did we grow tomato plants!  They were the giants of our greenhouse.  We did however, also experiment with peppers, herbs, cantaloupe and eggplant.  The eggplant last year was an interesting success.  Though they never produced a single eggplant, the small little seedlings we had started on April 6 (Westcoast Seeds: Ping Tung Long)  –  were potted in the Greenhouse on June 3.  They bounced back into huge lush plants.  Purple flowers taunted us – but no eggplant.

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End of the Season

This year we have declared the “year of the eggplant.”  With the conservative goal of growing one actual eggplant – we shall see how it goes.  With the experience from last year we made a few changes.  We started the seeds earlier on March 17, on warming pads under a grow light – we also selected an eggplant seed (Westcoast Seeds: Traviata) that is better for a short growing season like Alberta.

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Eggplants and Cantaloupes on heat pad

Two weeks ago the seedlings were potted in larger pots in the Greenhouse on May 28 and now we wait and see if they can do their magic.

Within a week we saw growth and after two weeks there were clear buds developing.

With the irrigation system providing a twice daily drip, and the miracle grow vegetable fertilizer on the soil, here’s hoping that we have a prosperous year of the eggplant.

 

 

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The Greenhouse Experiment Report

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Nearing the end of a successful first season

This year we set up a greenhouse at our cabin as we were not having the best luck out in the garden.  It was either too dry or too wet – and our season is short – so we wanted to try the idea of a somewhat controlled atmosphere with some increased warmth.

Except my basil plant which I bought at a local hardware store as a small seedling, everything in the greenhouse was grown from seeds.  I started them back at home in front of a sunny south-facing window.  When it was time to plant them – I planted a lot.  I still had a few extra tomato plants and pepper plants so I popped them into the garden.  I gave them the same luscious compost rich soil but I will admit I didn’t give them much more attention than that.  On weekends I would water them but they were not the benefactors of our irrigation system in the greenhouse.  In essence they became my control subjects.  What is the difference if a plant is grown in the warmth of a greenhouse with a twice daily drip irrigation system?

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The control subject (tomato) in the garden by the porch is relatively healthy and has some tomatoes forming

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Control subjects (peppers) growing above sceptic tank with onions -show minimal signs of growth

In comparison to the control subjects, the plants that were placed in the greenhouse have for the most part flourished.  Some tomato plants are over 8 feet tall and they are heavy with ripening tomatoes.  The pepper plants have all done fairly well with all of the plants generating peppers and more still to come.

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In the greenhouse the tomatoes are like a jungle

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The pepper plants are healthy and producing a delicious variety of peppers

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The harvesting begins

Overall the greenhouse experiment has been exceptional and exciting.  A verifiable success.  A controlled environment of good soil, some fertilizer, regular drip irrigation, protection from wind,  and most importantly the lovely warmth (approximately 38c most days).

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Sweet little berries

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Purple fingers!

This year we have a healthy harvest of Saskatoon berries.  We have spent a few hours each of the past weekends gently shaking loose the ripe berries into metal bowls.  The berries are so plump and juicy.  We have a few bushes by our vegetable garden but there are also little secret hidden bushes down in the woods by the pond.

We have been giving away the berries to friends who are ambitious and want to make fresh pies and other baked goods.  We tucked away a big bag in the freezer for future muffins and waffles.  A sweet little burst of fresh berry flavour brings simple recipes to life.

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A perfect moment

The best gift of berries that I gave – was to a wonderful friend who not only helped me pick the berries but she sorted and cleaned them – and then best yet she turned them into a delicious Saskatoon crumble that I ate for breakfast (with a fresh coffee and the paper!) Oh yes.  Sweet little berries.

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A Month in the Greenhouse

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Everyone continues to grow

The plants have all been in the greenhouse for one month now.  Many seeds were started three months ago and it is hard to believe how far these plants have come in that period of time.  Most of the tomato plants have been moved down to the floor now to give them room to grow up toward the top of the greenhouse.  I have pruned the plants to keep them focused on growing the main stem.  Most have the telltale yellow flowers and a few have small tomatoes starting.

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Might have peppers, eggplants and melons after all

My plants that were all so small I wasn’t sure they would make it have started to show real progress.  For the first time I think it is possible that I might actually harvest some peppers, melons and eggplants.  All were so small that they would have been dwarfed by large pots so I chose to grow them in the smaller peat pots.  It is exciting now to see the melons reaching up the twine and starting to form yellow flowers.

The real early producers have been my cucumber plants.  Outside of the greenhouse these failed in my garden the past two years of attempts so this is particularly exciting for me.  In the greenhouse these plants are easily reaching up the twine to start to grow along the wires.

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Socrates cucumbers are the early stars of the greenhouse

My little cucumbers are developing and will soon find themselves on my plate! One month in the greenhouse and I am still excited with our success.

 

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Jute String Theory

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The String Experiment

After adding yet another five tomato plants to the greenhouse – we moved them around and reset up the irrigation system to handle the additional plants.  The indeterminate tomatoes in large pots were moved to the ground so they have the most space to grow vertically.  Vertical is the theme of the greenhouse.  After watching a number of YouTube videos of other greenhouse enthusiasts I decided to give the string theory a try.  We placed three wires across the greenhouse.  Two along the sides and one in the centre.  Then for all the plants that need support and will grow up a string (cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes) we attached jute strings that either connect with the wires or wrap directly above on the rafters.

 

The cucumbers seem quite happy to have the support of the string and the space to stretch out.  The melons aren’t all large enough to even reach the string but in time hopefully they too will grasp the jute and head upward.

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Happy Yellow Flowers

The tomatoes will apparently need coaxing to use the string.  I almost feel like I can watch the tomatoes grow in the greenhouse.  They have been very happy with the heat and the drip irrigation system.  The top of the soil looks dry but the water has been flowing out the bottom of the pots when watered.  The plants all look so healthy and happy so I am presuming that the roots are having to find the water deep in the pots which is making them that much healthier.  They seem to all be standing a little bit taller with the string supports.

Happy healthy plants make for a happy healthy gardener.  Another little experiment I am trying is to place milk jugs full of water in the greenhouse on the north side.  The theory is that they heat up during the day and release that heat at night which will help keep the ambient temperature a bit warmer on our cool Alberta evenings.  Though I read that I should paint them black – I went with motivational statements instead which make me happy regardless of whether or not they are doing their job.

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Gardening is a series of learning moments.  This jute string theory is yet another opportunity for me to grow.

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A Week in the Greenhouse

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Everyone has grown

After only one week the plants have all clearly grown and settled in to their new home.  All week I was worried about how they were doing.  We had a few very sunny days so I knew they were feeling the extreme warmth of the greenhouse effect.  I was also concerned about whether or not we were watering them appropriately with our irrigation system.  Too much and they would all be over watered or too little and they would be completely parched in that heat.

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Healthy Happy & Green

One tomato plant didn’t make it through the week but most had nearly doubled in size and are looking vibrant and healthy.  I am excited as all but the basil has been grown from seeds.  It makes the successes that much more satisfying but it also makes the losses that much more disappointing.

The seedlings that were small to start with – were my biggest concern but they seem to have weathered the change and are all showing signs of growth and happiness.  My melons, peppers and eggplants all seem much happier in this warmer environment.

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There is hope for the little guys.

I planted a tomato outside the greenhouse and though he was doing ok – I can really see that the greenhouse experience is successful at providing a better environment for growing tomatoes in Alberta.

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The Greenhouse Experience

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The plants settle in to the Greenhouse

Today was a busy day of planting.  We brought up a huge bag of self-serve compost and nine and a half bags of soil as well as some vermiculite to lighten the soil mix.  We used it all and still need to fill a few large fabric bags.  I also planted some corn, cucumbers, scallopini and tomatoes in the garden today.  All the bending, shovelling, reaching, dragging, and walking – was followed with a few advils and some quiet time blogging! I am going to be sore tomorrow!  Gardening is lovely but these annual planting days are absolutely exhausting.

The plants which were grown from seeds made the trip up to the cabin Friday night. The car was so full of soil and plants that we had to leave the cat at home this weekend.

The seedlings spent their first night in the greenhouse and then were potted in a variety of pots including fabric, plastic, and fibre.  It is a year of experimentation.  It will be interesting to see which pots, which tomatoes, which cucumbers, and which peppers we prefer – or at least which ones are successful.

 

After all the planting was completed the irrigation system was set up.  We went for a drip irrigation set up and we are experimenting with two ten minute sessions per day to start.  I have read that as the plants increase in size we may have to double that timeline.  It can get quite hot in the greenhouse.  We have seen the thermostat up to 50c but some days it is more in the 30c range.  It is hard to say what the right amount of water will be when we are only here on weekends (and the occasional mid-week visit).

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The steady flow of water

The greenhouse experience will be a season of learning.  So far we are really excited to see how this experience goes for us.  The optimism is palatable.

 

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