Tag Archives: alberta

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!

 

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!

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!

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!

Greenhouses: More Than Just Functional

Some of the most popular articles that I’ve written on this website have been about my inexpensive greenhouses. From my Giant 24′x48′ A-Frame to my hail-proof PVC hoop-style greenhouse, I’ve explored all kinds of options for how to keep my garden safe from the harsh Alberta climate. And while most of my ideas are functional solutions – I can’t say they are always beautiful solutions. Rough cut lumber covered by a plastic sheet does keep the tomatoes from freezing, but it may not enhance the overall look of your yard. And in many cases, that’s ok. A hoop-frame greenhouse out behind the barn on the farm fits in nicely, but it might look out of place in your beautifully landscaped city yard.

So if you’re looking for a more attractive way to extend your growing season, you may want to consider a Victorian greenhouse. These beautiful glass structures are not only functional, but they also add character to your garden and value to your home. When I was making the landscaping plan for my backyard, this is type of greenhouse that I designed for.

Search through several Grow Lights and other necessities for your greenhouse all at an affordable price!

Ideally, I’d like a fully heated, cedar-frame glass greenhouse – about 12′ x 30′. (My current hoop-frame is 12′ x 20′.) It would be great to start my own annuals out there (instead of in my basement like I currently do). And it would be nice to have my greenhouse as a key feature of my garden, rather than something to be hidden in the back corner.    Of course, I’ve been doing my landscaping in phases, (doing small projects as the budget allows) and so that type of greenhouse is still a few years away – but that’s the goal.

Until then I’ll be happy to keep on growing in my inexpensive hoop-style greenhouse and be just slightly envious of those of you who enjoy your beautiful glass greenhouses.

Are you one of the lucky people to have a Victorian greenhouse? I’d love to see your pictures! Feel free to attach them to your comments below!

 

The Corn Likes the Weather…

I don’t think I have ever experienced a summer in Alberta when, by the 20th of August, we still have not experienced a 30° day. It’s been cool and wet. And frankly, I’m ok with that. 23° is warm enough for me. But I wasn’t sure my garden would agree. I thought for sure with all this cool, wet weather, my plants would stop growing and start rotting. And indeed, when I picked my beans last week, there were lots of pods that were just rotting away on the plant. But in spite of that, I still picked a bumper crop of beans. And my peas have done better this year than they have since I moved here. And the corn! Well, let me just show you the corn…

And it’s only the 20th of August! So needless to say, I’m impressed. And excited. We’re going to be having some major corn roasts this fall!

So what’s been your experience with all this wet, cool weather (if you’re in Alberta)? Has it been a good year?

Kiwis, Grapes, Blackberries, and More!

In my last post, I took a photo stroll around the yard. But at that time (May 20th), there were quite a few plants that still hadn’t grown enough to have much to show. But now after a long spring, I can show you all the other odd and unusual plants that have finally made an appearance.

But first, an update on my plums! Here is one of about half a dozen Pembina Plums.

Nice, huh? Am I ever excited for these guys! But back to the update… First of all, this is one of my grapes. Its a Marechael Foch Grape – my other one is a Valient. Both are doing nicely so far!

Then, there is my Issai Kiwi – I have two of them as well. I’ve tried growing them twice before. The first time a heavy frost just after planting took them out. The second time was an accidental death that I’d rather not get into!

I also have two Blackberry Vines in the works. This one was just planted this spring – so we’ll have to wait to see how they do over the winter.

I’ve also dug up some Black Raspberry plants from the farm and brought them to our new place. They will be planted along the fence, once the fence gets built! But for now they live in pots.

My cucumbers are doing nice. Just ate the first cucumber of the season yesterday.

And my tomates are happily growing in the greenhouse.

And that’s about it for now. Perhaps next time I’ll update you on whether or not my pole beans have overtaken the corn in which they have been planted! Until then…

Here’s What’s Growing By the May Long-Weekend

It was way back in in the June of 2008, that I took a Photo Stroll Around the Yard. That’s some time ago, so I figured it was about time to do it again. Of course, now I have a whole new yard to stroll around in! Anyway, here’s some of the things I found growing around the yard…

First of all, my tulips are just starting to open up.

And my raspberries are just starting to show signs of life.

My watermelon is looking just fine. (I haven’t had success with watermelons for about 4 years, so I’m hoping this year will be the one!)

My Borealis Haskap seedlings are doing well. I just got them planted last week.

And I always love seeing the white blossoms cover branches of my plum trees!

And my hostas are just starting to unfurl…

It’s amazing to me how soft the needle/leaves of the larch trees are.

And of course, I wandered over to my neighbors yard and had to take a few pictures there too! They’ve got all kinds of little violas popping up everywhere.

This was one of my favorites so far this spring – sandcherry blossoms in my neighbors yard  just about to open!

And finally, bleeding hearts, also growing at my neighbors. (Mine just got planted last week – so they’re a little behind.)

And that’s what things look like around here. Next time around I’ll have to show you my tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, kiwis, and grapes!