Haskap Berries

Haskap is an amazingly hardy, fast growing, high yielding, great tasting berry that grows great in the Prairies. More »

Evans Cherries

Cherries are just one of the many fruits that you can grow in Alberta. Read on for 17 hardy fruits you can grow on the Prairies. More »

Delicious Raspberries

Raspberries are probably my all-time favorite fruit! But there are many runners-up... More »

Ladybugs

These little fellows are in abundance around here - but they don\'t bother me much. Read on for the REAL pests! More »

Square Foot Gardening

Get growing! Learn how to make your own square foot garden here. More »

 

Bugs & Crawly Creatures in my Backyard

In addition to all the wonderful fruits and vegetables that fill my garden, I have also found that I have a backyard full of interesting crawly creatures. I’ve shown you the swarms of ladybugs, clumps of boxelder bugs, bumble bees and honey bees, moths and ants, and even a salamander on occasion. Well, not many weeks ago I found a new bug that I had never seen before. It had actually made it’s way into my bathroom and was climbing up the wall. It was just a tiny creature – not more than a quarter inch from top to bottom – but I tell you, it was rather intimidating.

Pseudoscorpion

To get a good view of this fierce little fellow, click the picture to see a larger version. Remember, he’s less than a 1/4 inch! But he looks like a scorpion. In fact, after I did a little research, I found that he is actually a “pseudoscorpion” or a ‘fake scorpion’.He’s in the spider family and despite his fierce looks, is completely harmless to people and their gardens! He is actually good for your garden – he eats other harmful bugs. So if you see this guy or one of his relatives – just wish him well and let him go on his way!

And while I’m showcasing some of the “Bugs of my Garden” – here are a couple more!

Beetle

This giant beetle was crawling around my garden this summer. I think he’s one of the biggest I’ve seen here – he was about the size of a loonie.

snail

I wish you could see this tiny snail in real life. My 5 year old son picked him up (along with his two friends) and was watching them in his hand.  You can see how small they are by the lines in the palm of my hand. The one with his head out is about 3/8 of an inch.

slug

This snail without a shell (also known as a slug) was personally responsible for putting holes in my bell peppers. I never did like slugs much – but they are interesting to watch!

And finally to wrap it all up, here’s a cabbageworm I found. Again, interesting to watch, but it sure makes a mess of your cabbage and other green things!

cabbageworm

Enjoying the “Fruits” of my Labour

For years I’ve been obsessed with growing fabulous, fresh fruit right here in Central Alberta. Not just saskatoons and strawberries – but grapes, plums, cherries, watermelons – yes, even kiwis and apricots. And I want to grow it all in my own backyard. Well, I can’t say I’ve got all those things checked off the list yet, but this year I’ve gotten closer than ever before.

This has been a fantastic season for growing fruit. After starting from scratch 5 years ago, my backyard is now producing all kinds of different delicious fruit. One of my personal favorites has been my Pembina Plums. We had about 5 gallons of these amazing plums this year. So juicy and sweet! I don’t think there is a fruit I enjoy more!

Pembina PlumsThen there are my “Chums” – my Cherry Plums. This is the first year that they have produced, and they are quite a nice little treat.

Manor ChumsThis variety is the “Manor Chum”. They are greenish-purple on the outside, and deep purple on the inside. Very tasty.

Manor Cherry PlumAnother highlight for me this year has been my raspberries. My Wyoming Black Raspberry grew like crazy – so much so that I think I’ll have to cut them right down to the ground this fall! They have almost overgrown the north side of my greenhouse! But they sure produce a lot of raspberries! And they are the perfect compliment to my “Fall Gold” Raspberries. These yellow raspberries are so mild! It’s all the flavor of a raspberry without the ‘raspy-ness’!

Fall Gold and Wyoming Black RaspberriesOf course, my haskaps really started to produce this year. I was amazed at how densely these little berries covered the branches of my little bushes. The kids loved picking these for a little snack. (And I’m excited for when my wife bakes up a batch of haskap berries muffins this winter!

Haskap BerriesMy grapes continue to ripen – I expect to harvest them in a couple of weeks. (My grape syrup from last year has just about run out.)

Valient GrapesMy muskmelons are getting to be a good size too. (Never heard of muskmelons? Think cantaloupe.) They got a late start, but I think they’ll be big enough for a tasty dessert or breakfast in the next days.

MuskmelonAnd finally, another fruit that I’ve highly enjoyed has been my cherries. I believe I had three varieties produce this year – hoping for another two to be mature by next year.

Sour CherriesSo it’s been a pretty great year for fruit. And hopefully next year will be even better! My kiwis have grown like never before (their vines have reached my garage roof), my apricots are coming along nicely, my blueberries are surviving (though not exactly thriving), and my hazelnut tree is slowly making progress. So we shall see what next year brings…

An Interview with Anna: Her Inexpensive Geodome Greenhouse

Some time ago I was introduced to Anna from northernhomegarden.com - a fellow gardening enthusiast from central Alberta. She writes a very interesting blog – and has a most interesting geodome greenhouse. If you’ve never seen a geodome greenhouse before – you’ve got to check this out!

GeoDome GreenhousePretty cool, huh? I recently interviewed Anna (via email) about her garden & her greenhouse, so I thought I’d share our conversation with all of you. It went kinda like this:

Dave: First of all, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Anna: We are Jakob and Anna, passionate suburban home gardeners in Alberta, Canada. We grow lots and lots of food in our square foot garden, in the greenhouse, and at our friend’s farm. Truth is we do not even own a single square foot of land, but we do what we can and call it Northern Home Garden.

Dave: What’s the most unique feature of your garden?

Anna: It sure is our Geodome Greenhouse.

Dave: Why did you choose the geodome style for your greenhouse?

When we started to plan to build a greenhouse, our expectations were very high. In an northern garden we are dealing with frost, nasty winds and hail and also loads of snow in the winter. Our days in spring and fall are short of direct sunlight, so we need to catch every sunbeam we can. Plus, we live in town and the greenhouse in our small back yard needed to be somehow catchy. ;) In our research we came across the GeoDome greenhouse:

  • Very unique, lightweight structure
  • Stable in wind and under snow
  • Optimal light absorption
  • Has the most growing ground space
  • A unique hang-out place
  • An eye catcher

The GeoDome greenhouse is just what we were looking for.

Dave: How difficult/expensive was it to build?

The most difficult part was to figure out how to build a Geodome, what kind of joints to use, what frequency is right for the size. We looked at dozens of How-To instructions and even bought an E-Book (with very little value). But all together it helped to build the GeoDome we have and love.

Building a Geodome Greenhouse

For the structure we used untreated spruce lumber, and stained it before assembling. For covering we used greenhouse plastic that was given to us from an commercial greenhouse. So the expenses were not very high, about $200, and it took us about a month to build it. All in all a very good experience, something we would recommend. We do share our experiences ‘How to build a GeoDome greenhouse’ here: http://www.northernhomegarden.com/2013/03/how-to-build-geodome-greenhouse.html

Dave: Do you have any future projects in mind?

Anna: We would really love to own some land to build up a real homestead, with trees, and berries and some animals (dreaming aloud).

Tomatoes in a Geodome Greenhouse

Got a unique or unusual greenhouse or garden? I’d love to hear about it. Go to my contact page and tell me all about it!

 

How to Build a Garden Trellis for Grapes and Kiwis

For years I’ve had great plans to build a garden trellis for my many varieties of grapes & kiwis – and finally this summer I took the plunge. I built a simple, but solid trellis for the vines I have growing along the south side of my garage. It’s probably a little bit over-kill, but it’s certainly able to hold the weight of all my grapes and kiwis (which is actually pretty significant – as I have two grape vines and two kiwis and all those vines, leaves, and fruit can get heavy!)

So if you’ve been looking to build a trellis in your own backyard, let me show you my design:

First of all – my materials list.

  • (3) 4 x 4 x 12′
  • (1) 4 x 4 x 8′ – (since my one section is under my garage window)
  • (17) 2 x 4 x 8′
  • (1) 2 x 4 x 12′

The first thing to do was to dig my post holes. I dug 6″ holes about 32″ deep – spaced 4′ apart – about 1′ from my garage wall.

The 12′ posts were too tall to fit beneath my garage eaves (even when planted 32″ deep), so I had to trim a few inches off the tops to fit just under my eaves. I had a window (as you can see in the picture below) that I didn’t want to cover up, so I planned to build that section at half height. Once the posts were in, I backfilled with gravel and tamped them in. You could use concrete if you like, but I think gravel holds it just as well (if it’s well tamped) and it allows the water to drain away from the post so it doesn’t rot.

Once the posts were all trimmed to the proper, level height, I simply attached the 12′ 2 x 4 to the top of the taller sections, and a 4′ section of 2 x 4 for the shorter one.

Garden Trellis PostsNext, I ripped the remaining 2x4s in half – giving me 2x2s. (The actual dimensions were 1.5″ by 1.5″)

Grapes: They can actually grow in Alberta!

This week I experienced my first real grape harvest. Sure, I’d had managed to grow a few small clusters before – just enough to get a taste. But this year was the first year that I’ve been able to grow enough grapes to eat all I wanted fresh, plus harvest enough to make up some delicious grape jelly for the winter.

I have four different varieties growing in my yard here in central Alberta, but the two varieties that are mature enough to produce are my Valiant Grapes, and my Marechael Foch Grapes. The valiant grapes are larger than the marechael grapes (though still smaller than what you might find in the grocery store) and are packed with flavour! In fact, they are very similar in flavour to the Concord grapes that you buy in the store.

I have them growing on the south side of my garage on a trellis with my Kiwis. (Yes, you heard right… with MY KIWIS.) I’ve found this location to work great for three reasons!

More Spring Flowers in Alberta

Orange and yellow tulips, flowering crab, and pears flowers – Just another fantastic show of color this spring in my backyard. I don’t have too much to say about these pictures other than I think they are amazing! The details blow my mind every time!

My Fruit Trees Are Budding

Well folks, I took another photo stroll around the yard and snapped some of my favorite pictures yet! I’ve got some beautiful pics of my plums in flower, as well as a super cool close-up of my grape buds about to burst, plus a sweet pics of my haskap, and a new-before-seen view of my Patmore Ash. Have a gander and see what you think…

And make sure you click each picture for a larger view – I love the details of the close-up!

This is a bud from my Marechael Grape. Notice the bits of fuzz… That’s awesome! Who knew, right?

Haskap. Borealis, I believe this one is. Again – who knew flower buds were so fuzzy?

A New Inexpensive Greenhouse within a Greenhouse Solution

Hoop-frame greenhouses are amazing! If you’ve been following my blog for long, you know I love my greenhouse. But as good as it is, I wanted to make it even better. I wanted to extended my growing season without adding a the cost of a heater. In 2009 I tried using milk jugs full of water to hold the heat and slowly release it through the cool of night. That worked pretty good. But what else might I try?

Well, here is what I did this spring: Now this probably isn’t a brand new idea. I’m sure someone has done it before, but its new for me. (And maybe for you too.) I decided to make a mini-greenhouse WITHIN my greenhouse.

It was fantastically easy (it took all of ten minutes to build it) – and completely inexpensive – I simply used materials that were leftover from other projects. Here, let me show you…

I just took six planks (1x6s – about 30 inches long that were leftover from my fence project last fall), and tucked the bottoms inside my planting bed frame. Then I screwed the tops together and attached a long 1×2 (8 ft long) that served as the peak of my greenhouse. It was absolutely simple. Then I just took and threw over some plastic like this…

Then I ran some tests to see just how much of a difference it would make at night. Remember this is with NO additional heat.

On the night of May 2, the overnight temperature got down to 3.1° celsius outside in my garden. The greenhouse was a little warmer, going down only to 4.8° celsius. But inside my mini-greenhouse within my greenhouse, the temperature stayed up at 7.4° celsius. That’s 4.3° warmer than outside with NO extra heat. That might not seem like a large number, but that makes a significant difference in your growing season. That little, inexpensive “greenhouse within a greenhouse” project, according to the weather almanac, could have just added 9 days to my growing season – for FREE!

And of course, if I had wanted to heat that little greenhouse, it would be much cheaper to heat that little space than to heat the whole greenhouse. So maybe I’m over-reacting, but I think this is way cool and will doing this project again next year – nine days earlier!

The Budding of Spring

One of my favorite types of photos are the macro photos of spring buds. There is such detail and such a variety in all the new growth that appears on branches or popping through the mulch or emerging from seed. So I took a bit of a stroll around the yard this afternoon to capture a few moments of springtime budding – I thought you might enjoy!

Click for the full-size picture – but be aware – they are LARGE!

Remembering Autumn

As mild as this winter has been, it’s still been winter! Don’t get me wrong – I’ve greatly enjoyed our -4° instead of our -40° weather – but veggies & fruit won’t grow in -4° any more than -40°. (Well, except for haskap…. but that’s not the point.) The point is that I’m getting anxious for spring as I assume many of you are. I’ve order my seeds long ago and I’m ready to get planting. However, the time is not yet upon us for such things, even though technically, I guess, it’s not ever too early to figure out how to prepare your garden for spring.

So in the meantime, I thought I’d look back at a few of the photos I took last autumn to remind myself of what I have to look forward to. The first is a photo of my prized pumpkin. I only got one this year – that’s why it’s so prized! This baby became pumpkin pie. And pumpkin pie. And pumpkin pie. And more pumpkin pie.  (I can think of no greater purpose for a veggie!… or a melon… or whatever a pumpkin is classified as…)

Another highlight of my garden this year was the corn! Man, did we get corn! Not only did the kids love “exploring in the corn”….

We also enjoyed eating lots and lots of beautiful peaches and cream corn on the cob!

The kids also enjoyed the wildlife that came through this year. We had an ABUNDANCE of ladybugs…

And a we had our first visit by a salamander. This little fellow was living under our composting lettuce heads.

And of course, we took time to stop and smell the flowers.

Well, I’m afraid all that reminiscing didn’t pacify my longings for spring. In fact, perhaps, it even intensified them a little. But as I look outside, I see the sun shining and the snow melting – and I know that, while it’s not here quite yet – spring is indeed coming. And I shall be ready for it!