The women in our family, even the children, haul soil to our new garden beds

A week ago we planted our vegetable garden at the Niagara house. I’d started some seeds earlier in the week, and they’d sprouted just as we were heading out-of-town, but of course there was still much work to do on our beds before we could put the little plants into the earth.

My seed starting was pretty basic. I used a collection of paper egg cartons and some basic potting soil for planting, and little wee wooden craft sticks marked with a Sharpie to indicate which plants were which. The girls love planting, and Ayla was a big help with this task. We worked in the full sun on our front porch after school. The seedlings lived on dollar store plastic trays on the desk in my room, where they would get the most sun, but still be protected from the elements. There were several seeds I should have started earlier, so I’ve saved them until next year. Some seeds I will start in time for a later harvest, like our broccoli and our cauliflower. The little plants all seemed to do well, but I worry about how they will make the transition into the actual garden.

We compromised on lumber to save some costs when we built our raised beds. Instead of cedar, we chose fir framing lumber, so it was critical for us to treat the wood to protect it from the elements. We had to be very careful about treating the boards for our vegetable garden that will hopefully yield food that we will eat. Daddy found this awesome Eco Sealant that is allegedly suitable for docks and marinas, and made of completely safe materials. He then went through hell trying to get the Canadian-Made product to us on time from a Canadian supplier. In the end, we had to buy the product’s American counterpart via good old Amazon, our safest bet for shopping and getting things delivered reliably and on time.

Saturday morning was an early start, and a full day. We had a good breakfast, courtesy of Amma, and then tackled our project. Daddy came up with the genius idea of using the pump-action deck sprayer to treat the wood, and so we made short work of this part of the project. I have no idea whether this stuff will stand up to a Canadian winter, but it did change the color of the wood on contact. That must mean something, right?

Next, we lined the beds with landscape fabric to try to help control weeds and pests. There are so many slugs and snails in the country, I think we’re going to need a generous sprinkling of diatomaceous earth from time-to-time. This product is an amazing pest-control solution in powder form that is safe enough to eat. It works by clogging the insects’ exoskeleton and suffocating them. There are acres and acres of tall grasses just beyond our lawn, and near where we’ve built the beds. These acres of tall grass lead to the deer-infested forest at the end of the property. I thought we’d have to worry about Bambi and co. devouring our crop, but so far it turns out that the ticks will be the real bitch of it all.

These hearty little bastards were so plentiful that we could see them on the wooden beds. I counted about ten myself. I had to pull one out of Chacha (my brother-in-love) and we were all properly skeeved out. It turns out that only 3% of tick bites end up with some kind of weird disease being passed on, but still…We’re going to need light-colored long-sleeved, long pants gardening outfits. We will enforce socks pulled over pant cuffs, and a mandatory change of clothes, tick check, and an hour-long clothing tumble on the high heat of the dryer after gardening. It turns out our old friend tea tree oil is handy for repelling ticks too. We’ve armed the girls against the epic lice problem at school with a weekly spray down of their bags and jackets with this handy solution.

An enormous spider from our garden

This guy was as big as my hand. No joke.

Somewhere between sealing the wood, screaming about ticks, and laying down the landscape fabric our massive dirt delivery arrived. We ordered a safe blend of soil and compost from our local supplier Trails End Landscaping. I wasn’t sure there was enough, until I realized how long it takes to move dirt.

With the landscape fabric secured (using a desk stapler because we desperately need to organize the tools in the garage) we got out the wheelbarrow and some shovels and began moving the dirt. I’d never done anything like this before.

Thank god we had the cranky-ass delivery guy drive his dump truck up on the lawn to deposit the dirt on a huge tarp we’d spread out. He was afraid he’d get stuck on our property but moving dirt is insanely slow, and incredibly hard work. It felt great to push my body, and we all worked so well together, even the girls were digging.

We had to break for lunch, but after lunch, Mama S and I had to make a run to a nearby garden centre for some vegetable plants. I figured having some heartier plants to pop in the dirt would be a better guarantee of a harvest. After all of this hard work, I’ll be mortified if we don’t get at least a couple of zucchini!

We discovered a garden centre called Sunshine Express, and I expect to spend a LOT of time there this summer. It’s beautiful, and massive – something you don’t see in the city. Also, one must pass the Avondale Dairy Ice Cream Bar to get there. BONUS! We picked up various veggies that we knew we really wanted (tomatoes, kale, chili peppers, acorn squash) and a few splurges that will be so wonderful if they work out (a raspberry bush, blueberry bush and some watermelon plants).

While we were gone, Daddy gave the girls permission to roll around in the pile of dirt. This began when he shoved Hannu backwards down the dirt hill. So, Mama S and I returned to two very, very filthy children. We chipped in to help finish with the dirt (the crew made so much progress while we were gone!) and then the girls enjoyed the freezing cold terror of an outdoor shower. There was much shrieking, and streaking. We gave the helicopter tours of the nearby vineyards a very amusing show.

Our little girls roll around in the pile of soil for the garden

Sunday was planting day, and the wind was mad, but the weather was beautiful – cooler than Saturday but sunny. My mom and Aunt Delores dropped in for a quick visit, and Delores brought some of her oregano, French tarragon and rhubarb for us to plant. I have such wonderful memories of eating rhubarb in my Auntie’s garden when I was a little girl – stalks taller than me, and a little bowl of sugar to dip in. Thank goodness Auntie D was there. She’s a seasoned grower of things, and she inspired confidence in my own abilities. She also fashioned some really beautiful tomato cages from some twigs in our kindling pile.

planting

I think the hard work of Saturday was catching up, because it was much harder to get my butt in gear on Sunday. The girls helped with the planting, and they were really into it but little Aylu is really challenged by the calm and care required for working with tiny plants. I’m hoping working in our garden will be one of our calming, meditative homeschool practices. I’m sure this will be great experience for her.

plantedbeds

So after much hard work, we got everything planted, and transferred the rest of the dirt (there was LOTS left over) to the front of the house, which we will tackle once we’ve officially moved. Here’s a list of what we’re (hopefully) growing:

Kale

Cucumber

Zucchini

Chili peppers

Brussels sprouts

Tomatoes

Spring onions

Shallots

Cooking onions

Cantaloupe

Watermelon

Acorn squash

Peas

Radish

For later planting:

Broccoli

Cauliflower

We planted marigold seeds around the perimeter of each bed because I read that the flowers keep rabbits and deer away. We’ll see about that…