Saturday, 8 November 2014

Duck Endevours

Well, yes, I know, I did a very poor job of keeping the blog up to date this season. A good part of this blog is to for my own reference on what I found successful and what I learnt, hard way or easily.

So one of my grand plans this year, was to add a few ducks and birds to my garden to try close that permaculture like circle of sustainability further. Ducks would control insects, while offering manure and eggs. I chose the Indian Runner ducks as they are predominately land ducks, smaller, good for eggs, and were bred for insect eating. Oh yes and they hilarious to watch.  They very excitable ducks, squawking and going nuts running around and chasing each-other at the smallest thing. That said they skittish as well, and not overly friendly. That said, Omlette, Duck Down (DD) and Yolk have worked their way into children and adult alike in the the neighbourhood.
Worms, lettuce and peas in a silver platter

Now my duck mistakes are in the dozens. Were do I start?

  1. Ducks Eat Greens - I came home one day to find my entire Pac Choy crop eaten to the ground. Rabbit? The next day I came home to find 8 young Chinese cabbage missing. There went my plans for Kimchi. Now I was on to the ducks as culprits as I caught them standing in the garden. Day 3 I lost most of my speckled lettuce. The result was I had to hastily put up a 2 foot fence around my main flower beds. I have still not really made this permanent, but suspect I will do that now.
  2.  Ducks Need Constant Water - Regardless of if the supply is 1 litre or 50 litres, they use all that is available. Hence I quickly learnt that smaller amounts more frequently was far better than larger amounts less frequently. I ended up using a smaller plastic tub on the lawn than the bath tub pond,  which could be emptied and filled every day. Forget large bowels or extended supply systems, I resorted to a pump that pumps a 1 litre ever 3 hours from a large reservoir to a smaller bowel for them to drink from. I currently trying ideas on how to prevent this watering system from freezing in winter that wont take a ton of electricity to keep heated. 
  3. Ducks have Enemies - I lost one duck just at dusk right at the start of summer. I had gone out and tried to get them to go into their house at dusk, but they were not interested, and so had gone into the house to do something and came out 30 minutes later to find the remaining 3 hiding in hostas. When its dark, they just seem to lay down. I guess it must have being a raccoon, but my neighbours have also all seen skunks and opossums and even a fox. This means they need to be safely locked up before sunset. I have also seen to hawks watching them, but so far, they just sit in the tree and watch. I just bought a solar electric pet fence from an amazing couple, Miranda and Chris for bargain of the century.  They showed me their  incredible Japanese garden they had built, which they have another fence to keep he raccoons out of. I currently trying to design a system now that hopefully work should I not be able to be home at dusk.
  4. Duck Houses - Since I wanted the ducks to range freely, I originally built and elaborate, cedar, insulated, duck-house - much like a large kennel with a door. This was large enough for them to spend the night, but not large enough to stay in. This worked well for summer months, but now that winter approaches, I realized that something nearer the house, that could leverage some of the house heat and larger to enable them to stay in doors would be better. The result was a I built a second 4 x 10 foot lean two against the side of the house. This I left with some venting higher, but well protected from wind and with a large clear poly "window" for light and heat. I laid down 4-6 inches of pea gravel for drainage and bought some straw bails to keep the floor covered. The straw can be raked up and put in the garden during winter. A full size door allow me to go in to collect eggs and top up feed and water. I am now wondering if I need to pump water from inside the house or if a reservoir in the shed would work.
I am certain I will learn a dozen things more before my next post. But keeping ducks has being both educational and rewarding. Not if you looking for a pet that you can stroke and play fetch with, but totally fitting to the outdoors and somehow make the escape to the back garden so much more of a escape. A little like teens, you never know what you see them up to when you spy them out of the window. How do the eggs taste? Well more like eggs. They have a bigger, brighter yolk - although how much of this is because they free range I have no idea. 
From left, Omelette Yolk (male), and DD

Sunday, 8 June 2014

8th June Growing

Well, I broke my promise. I simply did not have veggies to eat on May 21st, so started 1 June with eat only what I grow. This years late spring really slowed things down and I have just got my first first peas. I collected and old Iron tub on the side of the road and expanded my pond. The birds really love it and the bird life has increased 10 fold with that and a feeder. This year, 2 of my vines grape vines did not make it again. They spouting from the ground, but not from last years growth. The other two have though, and so I should at least have some grapes. If you noticed I moved the evergreens up against the fence to my neighbours yard. I hope they survive as they were well over 8 feet. At the back now I have nut, mulberry and persimmon (that has not leafed out this season and I am concerned the move and winter did it in). This allowed me to add a new Anjou pear and 2 plums.

My romance series cherry bushes are really growing, but I only got a few flowers, so I may not have cherries this year again. The currents are very happy this year and so are the gooseberries. On the other hand my Haskaps are tiny, although this is only the second year and so perhaps as they mature more they will grow bigger. They are quiet tasty.

The French Grey Shallots seem happy, well mostly, and the garlic behind looks good. I have a number of tomato flowers already, and expect in 3 weeks to have my first first. I have a few small peppers already. Mostly though my mustards, pak choy and lettuce. (left) with green onions. Another great success for this season has being my Rapini. In particular the 45 Day Zamboni is great even on the BBQ with a little olive oil. As mentioned, I am only starting to get peas now, and it does not look like a great season for them. In the back I added a white privacy fence as a new climbing trellis. I have cucumbers and beans on it.

My beans are growing really well, framed by chives I use around some of the beds. The chives in bloom attract a lot of insects. I am hoping for a good year for climbing beans. There are French purple pod, but even my runner beans seem to be doing well.

Well my ducks decided my Chinese cabbage was a rare delicacy and ate 6 to the ground. I have 2 still growing in the cold frame, but so much for large amounts of Kimchi. on the other hand, the diakons look pretty good. They flowering though and I don't know why. Any ideas? Another discovery has being my Japanese Hakurei turnips. Butter smooth and taste great in a salad. I cant bring myself to cook one. The komatsuna although vigorous, is not as tasty as I had hoped. Well at least raw. I have not really tried cooking it yet. My squash is still tiny, so I am not yet at the squash eating stage, the same with eggplant. but potatoes are doing well and I considering adding a box layer to them.

Its mostly greens still, but its tasty greens after a winter of tasteless food, its amazing. I be sick of salad soon and onto squash. Fruit and Veggies in their season!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Attempts at Balance

Well, I added a pond and a bird feeder to try attract more wildlife and insects into my urban garden. That said, I would really like these two to move in to one of the vacant trees in my surrounds. They come by a couple times a day none though and always a sight.  (Disclaimer - I am not a photographer this I snapped through the window)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

An Odorous Affair

Well its spring, I even have daffodils. This weekend I took the little truck and got a yard of triple mix which I spread on lawn and some backfill. The went back for a yard of mushroom compost. With my headlights pointing skyward I headed home. I am not sure if the mushroom compost is organic or not, but its potent stuff. Anything you put it near will grow simply from the desire to get as far away from the odour as possible.

At first I thought it smelt like horse, but today I thought more cow. Its definably animal manure and straw.  I used it mainly for a new flower bed in the front, doing cardboard and compost over lawn vs digging up the lawn approach, but put a shovel around some evergreens and flowers elsewhere. Its funny how you get use to the smell. This evening I was out collecting logs to use as mushroom medium. When I arrived home the odour assaulted me. Not nearly as bad as last years organic chicken manure though. Aaah the smell of spring, as the snow melts there is a distinct odour usually in the country side. But just sometimes you can smell it in the city as well. Poor neighbours!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Got Ramps!!

Well 3 years of reading about ramps. How they banned from being removed or sold in certain provinces (Quebec) and how its expected to be extended, today Shechar from gardenweb sent me an email saying he saw them at St Lawrence Market. I quickly ran on over and bought 6 bunches, which got planted in rain and wind, under the large Linden and my growing oak trees.

Now ramps are supposed to be picky on location, but it is my hope that next year this time I will have established my own "colony" and in a few years I have early season garlic ramps for harvest! Thanks you Shechar!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Its spring

This weekend, we had bikes, shorts, rollerbladers and baseball in the park. I woke this morning to an incredible noise as birds sang proud, sure I would open the curtains to some exotic jungle. To top it off, the first crocus are blooming on in my lawn! Yes oddly enough we have no Forsythia in bloom. And apricot or cherry trees are not even swollen budded yet, a full month after the year before last.

I sit and do the math, thinking, my last frost date is first week of May, but how can everything catch up now? There is simply not enough time and then I check the weather forecast and it shows below seasonal averages for next 2 weeks. and so I rush to my PC and check the 14 day weather forecast - again. it hasn't changed since 30 minutes ago.

Today the guy at the post office asked if I had a landscaping business, having seen me somewhere I guess. As much as gardening started with a desire to do manual labour away from the digital world I work in, it has in many ways connected me with both the past and nature. I feel keenly the seasons and weather, and notice shoots, birds even daylight hours, I normally would not. My body aches from my weekend endeavours, and I laugh that there is gym fit, and then garden fit.

As usual I was a in a bit of a rush and planted out a few hardy seedlings late last week. Checking on them today, it appears I had a high mortality rate. Mainly due to wind, wildlife and a bit dry. Yet I am so excited about the seedlings its and my limited space indoors, I find it hard not to. This year I am planting a couple fidderkraut cabbage, which I am really excited about to try and learn to make sauerkraut. I have planted daikon's and Chinese cabbage for  kimchi making and I really eager to try my rapine, Japanese turnips and Kumatsuna and some new mustards and maybe try some Tsukemono, I am also trying small potatoes from Scotland and France and made potato boxes on the weekend, only to wake in the middle of last night with a far improved design!

Gardening has become an amazing hobby for serial hobbyist. There seems a never ending supply of challenges, opportunity and learning. I went over to fertilize my neighbour in her 80's lawn for her and realized  that I am constantly learning and developing skills that most modern people my age have forgotten, yet to her, it has always being a way of life. How can a little over a generation change so far and what does that say for the next.

Winter is a time of planning and spring the time for implementing that plan. So although the season may be late, and I am reliant on store bought, globally shipped produce,  today I am so excited. I got my peas in!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

They arrived

Well My eggs are here... 12... Not that I can handle more than 2-3 ducks. but I have a friend looking too add a few as well. Ironic, with all my planning and logic, that it takes a young kid to say, but were will they fit when they hatch? Well I did not really build it large enough for 12... 
I have the next 28 days to work that one out. In the mean time my duck-tape, pc fan and light-bulb with willhi controller seems to be doing just fine.

Yesterday while wrestling with their pond, I suddenly noticed the first crocus flower. Stunning, pause and gawk. but by the time I fetched my camera it was closed for the evening. But signs of growth on everything, and kids in shorts all over, so I suspect we well started now. Soil temperature at end of day was around 8-9 degrees.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

I say Potato

Well, This season seems to have turned out to be Asian veggies and Potato fingerlings year. After Raymond le Blanc raving about his mothers potatoes - la Ratte, I searched for ages online and in person and could not find any at the nurseries etc in Toronto. In the end I ordered a tiny sample from Bryson farms in Quebec along with a second Rose Finn Apple Fingerling which the store claimed was also amazingly tasty and paid shipping. These I am still waiting to arrive.

Today I drove out to Peel Hardware and Supply after making a few calls, to buy Alfalfa for my garden beds as a green manure. Something I know my grass loves. Their price was very reasonable and also closer than anyone else to Toronto. When I found the store, I realized that my much abused, and still very much in use, wheelbarrow had being an impulse purchase one day as I had stopped at this very store.

I wondered into the store, gawking like a city slicker gardener in a hardcore farm store, at the hardcore tools and practical things  (they even had a Scythe -  but I could not work out how I fit that in my square foot garden). I came across a bunch of buckets of different sizes with Potatoes in it. On the left was the "Special" potatoes in smaller buckets and on the right was the large regular potatoes. I cant remember the price of the regular potatoes (yukon gold etc) but it was well under $1 a pound. What caught my eye, was Pink Fir potato. This is a Scottish Heirloom, that is to the English much the same as Ratte is to the French.  I added A Russian Blue (late blue potato - for fun) and Candy Cane (who can resist candy) $2.58 a pound. He may have, but could not find Linzer Delikatess, another I am looking out for and had about another 6-8 "special" variates.

Supper helpful and the nicest of nice folks, these were new idea they trying this year, and I sincerely hope that it will become known to those looking top grow or try some a little different to the regular Canadian Tire. They also sold bulk corn, fava and some other interesting seeds and some really sturdy garden utensils. I may just have to check in later in the year to see how it went, before I eat all mine and have non as seed potatoes for next year. The trip for Alfalfa makes potatoes a double bargain.

Now last weekend I built 2 potato boxes and I now have 5 varieties expected and over 3 pounds of seedlings.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Well I never !

Nuff said.

I wonder if my seedlings I planted last week that looked so happy will survive. It is -8 Celsius without the wind chill. Hard to believe it was +22 2 days ago. Mostly cold hardy, that's a bit low. I may be restarting my brassicas!

Monday, 14 April 2014

3 Weeks Till Last Frost

Well, Normally by this time, I have planted up a storm and things are developing quite well. A weekend around 20 degrees Celsius, eventually made the soil workable and tulips and daffs are all starting to poke their heads out. Even the garlic is showing.The pussy willow has burst out, yet, there is no sign of a flower other than snow drops.

Well I took the time to do a few early garden projects. Last week, I built bird houses, which although seem to get a fair amount of attention are still tenant-less. This week I build a new raised bed and extended another. I added some sheep and cow compost and some alfalfa (any one know a good source near Toronto for alfalfa pellets, please let me know), Pulled out the parsnips and leeks that got frozen last year and planted out some hardy seedlings. Here is the new layout.

I had quite some debate on if the new 5 x 9 Bed in front should be marked in square foot or perhaps 1.5 feet for larger plants, but decided for crop rotation, I would leave it in square foot. The garden right at the back is now a 4 x 8 and not a 3 x 5, gaining a few extra feet, although somewhat shaded by the tree next to it, it be a good nursery and leaf vegetable spot.

I used my own compost bin, lots of peat moss, store bought sheep and cow manure and some vermiculite. They could do with more vermiculite in the mix, but the local nurseries had only tiny bags. I think I add more alfalfa or some green manure.

The bright green bins in the background is my new attempt at composting. I have already filled up 3 of the 4 bins with spring clippings. My compost takes to long and newly added stuff making turning difficult and decided to try worm bin composting. I drilled a hole near the bottom and put a hose connector on it, much like a rain barrel. Then drilled a series of holes higher up for air. Now I have thrown a few garden worms in there, but on the lookout for some red wrigglers. They sell them on Kijiji, in a wide range of prices and sizes.
I also used some of the surplus wood from resizing the one bed and the old composter to build my potato boxes.  The idea is rather simple, I will plant the potatoes, then in a few weeks add one layer, and top up with soil and then in a few weeks add a second layer again. Its only about 1 foot high with the 2 boxes, but should help with hilling the few potatoes I plan on growing, while allowing me to move the location. They only 2 feet square, for a total of 4 feet growing space. In order for the boxes to fit more securely, I used 2 x 6 on 2 sides and 2 x 8 on the other. When stacked, they square (background). 
Well today I am tiered and sore, with thorns, splinters and body aches from lugging bags of peat-moss and etc. Such a good feeling. Then I saw that the weather after today turns cold again, and the temperature is expected to drop to -8 on Wednesday.  I am not sure even my kale seedlings I planted out can take that. My peppers indoors under lights are looking like the ready to flower already and the tomatoes are now trees. I suspect spring my be late this year. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

4 Weeks to Last Frost - Well Normally...

With this lingering cool weather and very early winter, I was eager to get started and beefed up my indoor growing. Going from one light and 2 trays to 3 lights and 4 trays. I also started a week early, my logic being that it was a early winter, and was hoping for a early spring. The result is my plants are ready for the garden and I am still 4 weeks away from last frosts.

So I spent a peaceful evening up potting my Tomatoes and Peppers, to what I hope is my last potting. Although they ready, I just saw a flurry fly by the window and dont even have a crocus in bloom.

That's 15 Tomato plants and 15 Pepper plants. As much as will fit under lights and really pretty much one of each type I had planted. Now what you don't see in the picture is the mass of plants that did not make the "cut". I called up my neighbours and said, first come first serve, if you have a windowsill, come and get. I just cant seem to murder them.

The tray has my seedlings I am starting over with. Rapinni, kale, broccoli etc. On the far left back is a few eggplants I have started. Labelling mistakes there have resulted and a large number of "white". Speaking of labelling, I am still using a permanent marker on aluminium blinds that I cut. It really works well. This weekend I need to finalize the beds, rake and prune., but tomorrow is suppose to be 10 degree Celsius and I think I would rather do it in sun, than flurries.

On another note to self, the BX potting mix I bought is proving to be so much better than anything sold at the big box stores. light, fluffy, holds moisture and yet not soggy or crusting. Perhaps its explains some monster plants this year.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

1st April - Learning to Grow disasters

I was one of them, I have to admit. One of those people so divorced from nature that I naturally presumed that a seed sown, was a plant grown. How many times did I ponder the many times you hear of people starving on farms in yesteryear, wondering, why don't they plan better and plant more. Come on people this is what you do.

Well do to some health issues, this amateur gardener left things downstairs, on the deck and in the cold frame on Saturday. Today I eventually managed to make my rounds, all 3 have suffered from different issues.

1) Downstairs was dry, but alive. Things under 6 tubes grow much faster than my last years 2 and its looks like a jungle. There is a lot of up-plotting needed and I will need to rid myself of a number of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, especially since I need the space now for new early outdoor crops which should been done by now.

2) On the deck, the trays I taken out are all pretty much dead. I think the tiny cabbage may survive and one or 2 others. All 3 types of Rappini, lettuce, 2 types turnips etc are dead. This was exposure damage, taking them out for some sun and acclimatization from the warm basement, and leaving them through a couple negative temperature and windy days.

3) Those in the cold frame are half dead. This includes all my onions, leeks, kales and broccoli etc. Its not the wind or the cold that did these, but the dry heat. We had a sunny 12 degrees day, and its bone dry in the cold frame. These died from lack of water, so I watered them and see which if any recover.

Having to start again a few weeks later is not the end of the world, especially since we having such a late spring (ground is still mostly frozen) and the new lights seems to speed up the germination process. I also have at least 10 sources of groceries within 2km. Maybe those pioneers new a few things more than I did.

With my bathtub sitting in the middle of the garden (future pond), the wind blown row cover, all the new wood chips and snow still on the ground, the 1st April 2014 is not feeling
very spring like yet.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Ghetto Incubator

Well, I wanted to raise my own ducks, although I know I could have bought them cheaper and easier, this seemed important parental step for some reason. So Here is my Ghetto Incubator.
After searching for a cooler, I gave up and did the insulation ducktape project. Inside my insulation box I have a basket with a good layer of vermiculite. What you dont plant eggs you say?  Well vermiculite is soft cushy and an incredible incubator. Plus helps maintain humidity levels. I currently have 3 temperature / humidity gauges in there. Why, well, I put one in, thought I better check it and the second was different, so I added a 3rd. All 3 are less than  degree apart, but still.

The heating system is a light bulb. I am testing this in terracotta pots, the idea was to add some thermal mass, thereby giving off heat more consistently, but it appears the temperature controller does a better job of it. Next to this I have a small bowel of water and a sponge for humidity. This I put into a clear container, to make it easier to carry and hold the wiring. Clear so I can keep an eye on the controller.

I bought a willhi temperature controller eventually on ebay. Its a popular choice for home brewing, home incubators and other home temperature projects. Wiring this things was ... lets say not as straight forward as it could. Note to their marketing department, why prewire this thing? Its set up to switch the light-bulb on when the temperature on top of the vermiculite gets less than 37 degrees and switch it off at 38 degrees Celsius. The ideal temperature for incubation being 37.5. The vermiculite should hardly change temps at all. I do need to open this to turn the eggs, but considering putting them in a eggbox and being able to do this in seconds. I think I may need a blanket over the top or something for a extra layer of insulation, at the same time, turning eggs needs to be quick and efficient. Baring power failure, I think I am on the right track.

The weather is really looking up. 6 degrees in forecast for tomorrow and then dropping again but back up on the weekend. we should hopefully get to season positive on a daily basis after that. It be much needed as I have some plants by then to plant out in the cold frame.

Post Note. OK the thermal mass is in the wrong place. I switched things a little adding a PC fan to improve circulation and removed the ceramic pots that bulb is in. Then added a brick under the eggs for thermal mass and trying again.

This worked really well and my temperature is now maintained within 1 degree.  Again, thermal mass (aka bricks) under the eggs and away from the heat. Fan near the heat source (bulb) and away from the mass. The heat source bulb is much lower wattage worked better as well. No insulation around the eggs. A bowel with a sponge for humidity.  I did have to arrange the temperature probe to be near the eggs and at about the same height or level. On 3 different thermometers this combination kept the temp within 1 degree Celsius. Even when opening it briefly to "turn the eggs".  I guess, the principal here was trust the Wilhi temperature controller to maintain the temp at the source. dont add thermal mass near it. This is opposite of what you do in winter to warm coop.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Just a regular Grow Op

Well, I asked my garden keen neighbour if they had started and their response was no, I do seeds in place only and buy peppers and Tomatoes. When I mentioned that I now have 4 trays already going in my basement, the response was "you have a regular Grow Op". "Mr/s Police please, they really are only my Peppers, Tomatoes and a couple other veggies."
 I found the lights at Home depot on sale for and so bought a regular box of bulbs and 3 lights which I then spaced with some galvanized strapping and small metal screws. The automatic timer turns them on at 6 am and off at 10pm. They a little high for the picture. They all seem to be working great, although I need to work on the hanging mechanism still, to raise and lower them easier.  In front I have some onions and 2 artichokes I am experimenting with. Next is a tray of peppers, then Tomatoes and then kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce etc (ok I have some overlap.) The final tray is a few hard to get sprouted peppers, still on heat. The soil temperature there around 29-30 degrees. (wonder if too hot). They all sitting on some pink insulation which helps them maintain the heat from the lights.

I am still using a aluminium blind, which I cut up write on with a permanent marker for tags. It was a great idea I found on the web and works great for me. In a week or 2, I will consolidate the Pepper and Tomato plantings into larger cells or small pots, throwing out the weaker and perhaps dropping to 2 or 3 of each seedling. I was hoping to move some of the cold hardy outdoors by then to the cold frame and begin more serious round of planting.

Weather wise, we are warming for the weekend to a more seasonal +3 odd. But by mid week we back down to -10 Celsius. The 14 days forecast has it just getting back up to 0 at the end of 14 days, with night time lows around -5. This winter is not releasing its hold yet and I may have a jungle in my basement soon. I have still not got my duck eggs, but I can hope for this weekend. The number of Furry Tailed Rats (squirrels) in my yard this season is incredible. It seems the more I grow, the more they come, but lets hope its just since its being a hard winter for all. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014


The year before last I grew a few potato's in a not all that successful attempt and to my retired polish neighbours (who was raised on a potato farm) great amusement. I decided at a couple dollars a bag, it really was not worth the effort, and so last year, did not try again.

Darn this internet. While reading some garden blogs, I came across a English vs North American potato debate. The debate was much around was it the type of potato or the environment that we grow in North America that makes our potatoes taste so different from England and France. The result, I started looking up favourite potato types. 

One name came up surprisingly often was Ratte. Even mentioned by one of my favourite TV personalities Raymond Blanc as his favourite salad potato. Consistently being mentioned, even if not winning as favourite as one of the tastiest waxy varieties. After some hunting around, I found a source in Quebec online with very reasonable shipping. At $10, I could buy a more potatoes than I eat in a year, but if these taste much better, its worth every cent.

So for science purposes, I  order half a pound of "la" Ratte and half a pound of Rose Finn. Both finger potatoes that they list as their tastiest. I think I will build 2 small potato boxes out of cedar, and do the taste test myself. For taste comparison, would I not need to then take a trip to France?

Friday, 28 February 2014

Tomato's and Brassica's are in (9 weeks to go)

I woke up this morning to severe weather alert of wind-chills at around -35 Celsius. So like any good gardener, I decided to plant. 9 weeks till my last frost is tomorrow and I was planning on waiting till 8 weeks to do my tomatoes, but this cold winter can't hang around and I needed the therapy.

Problem is If I give each plant 2 feet on the trellis, I should only plant 5 plants. Squeezing them to 1.5 feet each gets me 7 else I have no place for cucumbers and other climbing. Does anyone else see the issue I face? I think I need a new trellis.

Planted 4 seeds each

  1. Isis Candy
  2. Black Cherry (my personal favourite)
  3. Belgium Giant
  4. Green Zebra
  5. Black Krim (not a huge success in last years poor weather)
  6. Purple Cherokee (not a huge success in last years poor weather)
  7. Red cherry
  8. Sungold
  9. Italian Heirloom
  10. Kumato
  11. Roma (determinate)
I also planted 
  1. Copenhagen Cabbage
  2. Filderkraut Cabbage (excited about this one)
  3. Blue Hybrid Chinese Cabbage
  4. Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  5. Romanesco Broccoli (no luck last year, but I love the look of these) 
  6. Covolo Broccolo Spigariello
  7. Brussels Sprouts (last year I started these too late and only got a few)
  8. Tuscan or Dino Kale
  9. Red Russian Kale
  10. Blue Curly Kale
  11. Noble Giant Spinach
  12. Okra ("They" say plant in place, but last year I only got 2 or 3 fruits before frost. so lets call it an experiment)
I still have some chard and a few other seeds that I could try push the time envelope with, but I will do another tray in a couple weeks as back-up as these may be a bit early. Perhaps if I keep planting, spring will get the message.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Season Started

Well I was expecting to be mothering my duck eggs, but have had a few challenges. Firstly my temperature controller I bought on ebay, did not arrive. After a week of haggling with s-chupost, asking him to resend, I thought a new one was well on the way and did not buy another. Today I got an email asking if he could refund me rather, leaving me to scrabble now for a local solution. Secondly the cold weather, has kept the ducks from laying, or at least, provided any confidence that the eggs had not frozen.  The weather forecast currently says at least 4 days above freezing later this week, so lets hold thumbs! 

I was supposed to wait till next weekend, but since I am not sitting eggs, and seeing some of the other bloggers I follow started, I decided to start a week early. It's 11 weeks till my last frost, which tends to be a little earlier than the official given the proximity to the lake and the city (It's 12 weeks till the official last frost). I pulled out all my seeds and started to plant, only to find that I had far more seeds (as usual) than I thought. With that goes, my ever ongoing problem of far too little space (indoors or out).

Additions this year I found a seedling heat mat for $19 at the tractor store and I trying new cell packs I got at William Dam seeds. I bought 6 cell and 4 cell a square size packs to go with my far smaller cells trays I used last year. I drove over and visited the store in person (about 1hour drive) and a very helpful young lady advised me this year on which vegetables she liked (daughter) and I look forward to trying some of these seeds out. I also found another double 4 foot florescent light on clearance at home depot, and wish now I just bought 2 so that they were the same size and weight (I am sure I could found another place for the existing light). Perhaps I go check this afternoon... This gives me about 4x2 feet of indoor light and I hope that 4 trays. This is all on a table in the laundry.

So notice the stainless baking dish? I found that the heat mat was not really helping much on a steel table. So I put 1 inch foam insulation on the table, then the heat mat and then the stainless tray. Only the stainless try is currently heated. The white plastic tray had gaps for water and the heat was not really making it into the soil. 

So what did I plant? 6 cells of everything, those that are potted up, I will keep 2 odd of the best as that's about all the space I will have.

Hot Peppers

  1. Aji Limon (lemon drop) which I am very excited about 
  2. Peri Peri - (African Birds eye) 3rd year I am trying to grow these. I have still not found seeds and trying this year from a new source of dried whole peppers
  3. Chili d'Arbol  - South American bird chili relative
  4. JalapeƱo - Last year these were early and great fresh with BBQ
  5. Ancho Rojo - last year not the most successful, but I cooking with store bought all winter
  6. Hungarian hot wax - early

Sweet Peppers

  1. Pepper Friariello di Napoli - From Weston Seeds  (love them for Italian herilooms) Last year I got a bounty really late in the season.
  2. Corno di Toro Giallo - Also from Western Seeds. Last year like Jimmy Nardello these did not hold up to bugs
  3. Chocolate pepper - Just for colour
  4. Lipstick Pepper - One I read much about
  5. Jimmy Nardello - This is one of my favourite, but last year the thin walls did not hold up well to my insect problems.
  6. Alma Paprika - My last year staple, small thick walled and very tasty fresh or cooked
  7. Antonhi Romania - Love these, with their strong taste and smell and be the 3rd year I am growing them.


  1. Celery stalk/leaf
  2. Red Okra - (I know, these generally dont like to transplanted, but last year direct planting provided a few orkra just before first frost.
  3. Black Beauty Eggplant - New edition
  4. Ping Tung Eggplant - Got an abundance of these last year.
  5. Purple of Romagna Artichoke - Call it an experiment.
Now, am I the only one that find his gets really hungry and salivary glands kick in while I plant? Mouth a'watering and stomach rumbling in eager anticipation for the season? 

Well The season has started, and in a week or 2 we add tomatoes and early cold weather greens!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

1 Feb 2014 Garden

Garden is still at rest for some time. It is one of the coldest winters in years. My Tuscan kale, leeks and parsnips I never harvested still buried in the frozen ground.

Today I planted 3 seeds of a few of peppers I bought this year. I sourced them from people I had not before, and so want to just make sure I can get a few to sprout. That does not prove they will breed true, but will offer me some comfort. I also put my first leeks into a single pot, which after sprouting I can divide out. I am expecting more leek and onion seeds and will plant those out in a week or 2. I am close now to duck egg search, but yet to complete my incubator. I better leave this machine and planning and to the doing.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Duck Crazy.

My organic growing has being having some ups and downs. I fully expected to have 10-25% of my crop damaged by insects growing organically, but instead what I seem to have is mini plagues that wipe out 90% of a a particular planting. To me this indicates the lack of balance. The need to develop a ecosystem again. Last year my project was  a tiny little pond, plagued by the raccoons, who trashed it every night. 

This year I picked up a cast iron bath tub (not clawfoot unfortunately) on the side of the road and the Pond is moving above ground for easier draining and growing. I will also work on adding more plants and hideouts now.

My research though has come up with the need for ducks, and I have narrowed it down to Indian Runner ducks. Now, I can buy a couple ducks from a number of places, but for the full experience, I decide to raise from egg. My friend has a number of chickens on a small holding 1 hour away and was very keen on ducks as well, so this city slicker is not in this alone.

So My plan is to build a incubator out of a cooler box per hundreds of youtube videos. I found a nearby source for eggs in Mid Feb (weather pending) as if they freeze, they wont hatch. That will give me 28 days to hatch and another month odd before we getting close to last frost and they be ready to move outdoors.

Too heat my incubator I first bought one of these Ceramic heaters. Then realizing at that temperature, I would have baked eggs, I decided I needed to control the heat a little better. These can later be used in the duck house in winter.  When these arrive, I can build my incubator. Yes, I am blending my day job with my passion. These will be hightech ducks, maybe I should consider wearable computers for them?

While driving down the road in found a dog carrier (yes scavenger I am) and so I have a home for the chicks already till they large enough to emerge. Should keep my floors cleaner. 

To say I feel like the old "person" who swallowed a fly, I don't know why...  is just the start of it. I had tiny bugs, I bought bigger bugs to eat them and now I buying ducks to eat the bigger bugs. 


Ek is n'Boer, en ek het 'n plan. 

Stay tuned for the adventures of hatching and raising