Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sweet Potatoes

We had a frost two nights ago and although we had covered our entire garden, the cold proved to be too much for the sweet potato plants. We had covered the vines with sheets and when I uncovered them mid-morning, I noticed the tiniest bit of leaf damage. I knew it was soon time to dig the sweet potatoes, the leaf damage just put some urgency on the project.  

If frost damages the leaves on a sweet potato plant, the damage basically travels down to the roots of the sweet potato, causing problems with storage quality. If your vines are affected by the frost, you simply have to harvest the roots. 

This was our first year growing sweet potatoes and I truly wasn't expecting much. My hope had been to grow them in our new greenhouse, which we have yet to construct, so instead we covered the ground with black fabric and planted them in the warmest, sunniest spot our garden had to offer. 

Here's the sweet potatoe vines to the right of some regular potatoes. The black fabric was  covered with either the vines or some extra soil to hold it down at this time. 

I had grown a few in containers, mostly for the vines as an ornamental plant, and harvested them first. I didn't expect anything at all, although I harvested several small, skinny and  carrot like sweet potatoes. When we got into harvesting the main crop, we were pleasantly surprised. Lots of really good sized tubers came up with the vines, looking similar to what you'd buy in the grocery store. Digging around in the soil the tubers just kept coming, and most were a really good, usable size. For almost every vine we scored a really big tuber, with this one pictured below, probably being the largest. 

We had ten plants in all and this is what we harvested. 

Some things that likely helped were; the black fabric, really loose soil and really well aged manure from the previous year. Root crops don't really love  manure that's too fresh, if spreading manure where root crops are too be grown, it's always suggested to spread it over the desired area the fall prior to planting. 

The verdict? Sweet potatoes can definitely be grown in Nova Scotia, in the open garden and provide a substantial harvest. They've now earned a permanent spot in our garden.
Now I just hope the curing of the tubers goes as well as growing. They need to be cured at around 30 degrees for 5 days, during which time they'll develop a second skin for storage. 

I bought my sweet potato 'slips' as rooted cuttings from a seed supply store. When I lost two of the cuttings after setting them out in the garden, I bought a few more from the Antigonish Farmer's Market. Our local Nusery, Pleasant Valley Nurseries, also had sweet potato plants this year.  Look around, I'm certain you'll find them! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Busy Gardening with my Hoss Wheel Hoe.

Every spare moment I have is spent in the garden. Often I get home from town, work or an event and it's straight into the garden. Soon I realize I'm weeding and wiping dirt all over my good clothes. It's really hard to stay out of the garden, and I truly spend days out there. Blogging moves to the very back burner, behind jumping in the ocean to clean the garden muck off me or taking our dog for a walk. Summer's busy enough with all the events that come with it, that every spare moment needs to be seized for gardening and working outdoors. 

Luckily this year I have a very special tool helping me make the absolute most out of my sparse gardening time, this year I have a Hoss Wheel Hoe. 

I have wanted a Hoss Wheel Hoe for a really long time now, ever since I realized that my garden would likely never be any smaller than it was, and would very, very likely only grow over the years.  I'm not going to lie, it's true that growing a well maintained garden requires many hours of hard work.  Weeding is quite likely the greatest task after planting, which takes considerable time in itself. Cultivation, row and drill forming and weeding, if required,  need to be done before any plants or seeds can be put in the ground. Thankfully the wheel hoe can shave considerable time off all these tasks, and did for us. 

Fresh out of the box, I received my wheel hoe in February then daydreamed about using it while the snow melted.  

A couple of years ago we decided we were done with tilling. We had both grown up with the consensus being that planting a garden started with the routine of tilling your garden, every year. Not just the first year when you were breaking ground for a garden, every single year. We did this for several years. Then when we started to get into practicing organic gardening methods, we felt compelled to incorporate no-till gardening into our bag of tricks. With our hopelessly clay soil, no matter how much manure, seaweed and compost we add, this was easier said than done. That initial shallow cultivation and row forming had to be done with a hoe and without my forever hard working boyfriend's help, I would never have been able to plant the garden myself.  Swinging the hoe into ground that could be as hard as concrete to cultivate the soil and form rows was a really tough job, and took an awfully long time, especially with all the breaks a person would have to take.  We were determined though, that things would get better every year with the addition of more and more manure, compost and seaweed. 

My boyfriend running the harrow attachment up and down this part of the garden to loosen and shallowly cultivate the soil before planting. 

Things did get better, when we received our Hoss Wheel Hoe. 

The base of the wheel hoe set up with the three tined cultivator, harrow like, attachment. 

With the wheel hoe we got three separate attachments; the three tined cultivator that comes with the wheel hoe (a harrow like attachment), left and right plows (sold separately) and a weeding attachment (also sold separately) . They are easily attached and unattached to the wheel hoe using only a wrench, and can be changed in a matter of minutes. 

All three have proved to be invaluable. I cultivated the soil, formed the rows or drills and planted almost the entire garden by myself with the help of my wheel hoe. The left and right plows can be put on the wheel hoe like this:

  With the two plows arranged this way, I dug down and turned over the soil for perfect shallow cultivation. The plows dug down to a depth of almost a whole foot, turning the soil over itself making it really loose and workable. 

Just a quick note here; we form rows, drills and hills in our garden due to it's poor drainage abilities. You may plant your garden on the flat if drainage isn't a problem, planting on the flat should reduce the need for watering in dry garden beds, as the raised soil dries out much quicker than flat soil. If my soil ever behaves properly, I'll be planting more on the flat in the future. 

Then I used the harrow attachment to loosen the soil up even more, breaking down any clumps into loose soil. Both the plows and harrow attachment dig up any weeds that are in the way under their root level, allowing you to remove the entire weed, roots and all. 
I just went back over the soil I had worked, scooping up any weeds that were unearthed and collecting them in a bucket to compost. You can really run the harrow over the garden as much as you want. It cultivates at a shallow enough level to keep the soil undisturbed underneath while still fluffing up the soil enough to make it easily workable. 

Running the harrow over the soil before planting. 

Digging in, the wheel hoe makes light work of cultivating soil. 

Once I was content with how much I had cultivated the soil, it was a simple as putting the plows back on the wheel hoe, this time like this: 

With the plows like this, they work perfecting for  forming the rows.

Freshly formed mini row, formed with the two plow attachments, ready for planting some extra carrots. 

 After that, all that's left is planting. 

I easily formed all these rows myself using the wheel hoe. No string lines, I eyeballed the whole thing, and managed to get things quite straight in substantially better time than using a hoe.  

Seriously, that's how easy it was to plant my garden this year. Normally, I'm swamped with trying to get it in. Normally, I try and do as much of the row forming as possible by myself before asking my extremely helpful boyfriend to swoop in and save me from hoeing hell. 
Normally, it's a ton of work that I struggle to get done. 

The garden the Hoss Wheel Hoe planted. 

Now, I'm extremely proud of myself for planting the garden almost entirely on my own. Now, I have extra gardening time to take on way more work than I can handle, elsewhere. Now, I've made it my own personal mission to eradicate every weed that dares grow in my garden with the help of my weeding attachment for the wheel hoe. Now, I take the wheel hoe up and down the aisles almost every day to keep the aisles completely free of weeds and now, I have already had more time this year to enjoy and appreciate my garden. 

The oscillating hoe attachment, a blade that digs in underneath roots of weeds, uprooting them for easy retrieval. On really hot days I was able to let the weeds die in the rows without having to retrieve them, if it's wet or overcast it' s best to collect them or they may have a chance to re-root. 

Digging in, the oscillating hoe weeding attachment digging down to up-root pesky weeds. We planned the garden so most of the rows have enough spacing in between to run the weeding attachment between, for the rows that are too tight for it to fit, I use the three tined cultivator instead as it also works great for weeding.  

If you're putting in any considerable sized garden, the wheel hoe is a life saver. Along with gardening every year comes a constant back ache from bending, crouching, kneeling, pulling, pushing and hoeing. If you're like me, you work through this constant backache, almost forgetting about it until standing up straight for the first time in an hour. Out of all the things the wheel hoe has saved me like; time and sanity, the lack of a backache has been one of the greatest awards. Mind you, I'm young and can work through a backache, for the older gardener (or injured) the wheel hoe could make gardening a possibility again, or just take the burden off of a big job. 

For the market gardener, the wheel hoe will pay for itself. I would label myself as a grow-all-my-own-food-for-hopefully-the-entire-year gardener, and if you would also label yourself accordingly the wheel hoe will be completely invaluable.  

My Hoss Wheel Hoe has a new permanent place in my garden as my most used, most valued tool. 

Check out Hoss Wheel Hoes for yourself at (Link in Blue) 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Romaine, Romaine.

Homemade Caesar salad for dinner,  time to use up some of this romaine. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Back in Business

After our worst garlic harvest to date last year, follow the link and read about it HERE,  this year's harvest has more than made up for last years shortcomings. Yesterday I harvested these massive, beautiful bulbs, likely our largest bulbs harvested to date. I knew it was going to be a great harvest judging by the size of the greens above ground, although I never would have guessed things would be this good underground. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Strawberry Bed is Made.

I have been gardening, a lot. I've been gardening so much that not only has my blog been neglected, my strawberry bed renovation was put as far on the back burner as possible. Finally, my boyfriend and I tackled the job in one evening and got it done. The strawberries aren't much work really, they just require some immediate attention in the spring before they start setting fruit. We were a little later than I would have liked to be this year, and thankfully so was the weather. Due to the weather our strawberries are just setting fruit now, making it OK but not ideal to only be cleaning things up now. We have ever bearing strawberries pictured here and requiring the clean up, as I also have a separate bed of alpine strawberries requiring only a weeding. 

To renovate the ever bearing strawberrie's bed, we gave it a good weeding (since no matter how much you mulch around the strawberries with straw for the winter months,  you'll likely still have weeds poke through) then we remove any new runners crowding the row, which you can use to replace any plants that didn't make it through the winter or plant them in a new bed ( strawberries shouldn't be grown in the same spot year after year, usually you hear a three to five year rotation schedule, as growing them constantly in the same spot promotes disease.) if you don't have any use for your runners you can just discard them. We keep the runner population down by pinching them off when they start, allowing the plant to put more energy into berries rather than runners. With that being said, you're likely to miss a few runners that get away on you. After the runners are dealt with a dressing of compost and a good fertilizing will have your strawberries on their way. I only mulch around my strawberry plants in the fall for the winter months. The straw can go sour during the summer months and rot, not ideal to have a lot around the plants at the time. 

Half of my strawberry bed is three years old now and the other half is two. We'll probably be lucky to get five years out of this bed before we start a new one, although as long as it is healthy and producing I'll continue to nurture the plants until it's time to mow them under. This is our second strawberry bed since moving into this home and after being spoiled with having our own strawberry bed, I'll very likely always make the time to have one. There is nothing as amazing as picking your own strawberries and eating them in the sun. 

Asparagus in front, strawberries in the middle and garden 2 far back. 

Our strawberry bed is located behind our home on a south facing strip of lawn, between our asparagus bed and back garden bed, often referred to around here as garden 2. This strip of lawn is a great place to grow more crops and cuts down on the mowing we have to do.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Sometimes problems aren't really problems at all, like these self seeded radishes. See, where I'm planning on planting my pole bean teepees this year is covered with these self seeded Easter egg radishes. I let them go to seed last year to collect some of the seeds and since the best place for the seed pods to dry is on the plant, often a few slip through your hands and onto the soil when collecting them. No problem, I love self seeded crops for one and two we can eat as many of these baby sized radishes as we want between now and bean planting time, sometime after the full moon on Friday, when temperatures are supposed to rise to stay above 10 degrees overnight. I'll also be planting my tomatoes, peppers and ground cherries as well as all the squashes, cukes, zukes and melons that I'm hardening off now, in the next couple weeks. 

Before their bath. 

All shined up. 

Mustard greens and mixed kale, love that we can make garden meals already. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday.

Quick garden update: 

First rhubarb harvest. 

Asparagus, kale tops and broccoli raab aka rapini. 

Mostly rapini and one or two kale leaves. 

A lunch of all the greens that needed to be eaten at the time, one of my favorites.