Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - It is Sunny in Napa

The Beauty of Simple Things

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of how beautiful simple things can be. Last week, a friend from work gave me a cute little arrangement of Lilly of the Valley flowers picked from her own garden. The next day my 80 something year old neighbour gave me this and I was in awe of how beautiful this simple gesture was. I was waiting for my son's school bus and while talking to me, she carefully picked up some flowers here and there from her front garden and made me this little bunch. So precious! So simple! So beautiful!

Wilton Tent Sale for 2011 is here!

Just wanted to let you know that the Wilton annual tent sale starts on June 3rd - 21st, 2011
The Wilton Tent Sale, which is held in Woodridge, Illinois, is a popular event for cake decorators and crafters. This year’s Wilton Tent Sale will offer amazing deals on a wide selection of Wilton cake decorating and baking supplies as well as kitchen and paper craft products from Copco, EK Success Brands and K & Company.

Hours of Operation:

Doors will open June 3rd at 4:30 pm
Mon – Fri 9:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sat & Sun 8:00 am - 6:00 pm

If you live near Woodridge and you like to decorate cakes, you should truly make the effort to go to this event. They have up to 75% off on a lot of items. I always go and stock up on supplies for the year.

So you know, Wilton does not compensate me for this free act of word of mouth advertisement (they probably don't even know I exist!!!), I just truly like the sale a lot and thought you might too!

Have fun shopping, I know I will!

For more details click here

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gardening 101: Sweet Potatoes - First year experiment!

Sweet Potatoes: What is not to love about this root? This is my first year growing sweet potatoes, so this will be our experiment. I did not even have them on my plan for this year, but I went to my garden center looking for herbs and there they were - the last tray of sweet potatoes! so I could not resist.

I did some research on the internet and discovered the little plants are some sort of climbers, and nope! they are not really a potato!! There are also a hot crop, so do not plant if frost or cold temperatures are still in your horizon. I reassigned some space in my vegetable garden beds and planted them. So let's see how it goes.

Here is what I did:

Choose a place close to a wall or where you can put a trellis. I am going to start with a short metal one as I have no idea how tall these plants are.

I am planting one plant per square foot, just in case they grow wide. I have a row of three to start with. Make a hole as big as the sweet potato plant root ball. Put some vermicompost at the bottom (What is vermicompost? click here) of the hole and plant your sweet potato.

Put your trellis at the back making sure you do not disturb the roots of the sweet potatoes. Water and wait.

I will be monitoring their growth and let you know if the sweet potato experiment works.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gardening 101: Growing Potatoes in Tires - Part II

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I have planted my potatoes in tires this year. If you have not, that is OK, you can catch up by clicking here!

I just wanted to give you a update on how the potatoes are doing and on the instructions on how to add the second tier of tires. 

Before adding soil
After adding soil

As the potato plants start to grow in the tires you need to start adding soil to the hole, covering the stalks as this is where the potatoes will grow. You should leave only a leaf or two and wait until they grow some more.

Full first tire

At some point, the first tire will be completely full of earth, then you should wait until the plants are about 6 inches tall until it is time to put the second tire.

Second tire stacked carefully

To do so, simply stack one tire on top of the other, being careful not to crush the leaves while doing so.

Once the tire is in, start putting soil and covering the stalks again as you did with the first tire, and repeat the whole process as you did with the first tire.

Once the second tire is full, you can add a third tire or leave the plant to mature with only 2 tires. Your choice depending on how many potatoes you want to eat!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gardening 101: Planting Tomatoes

Tomatoes are by far the most "planted" vegetables by home gardeners. They are easy to grow and produce great results - No tomato tastes better than one grown in your own garden!. So here are some tricks I have picked up throughout the years while planting tomatoes.

First of all you need to pick up the right place in your vegetable bed. Tomatoes grow tall and they need support. You can support them with a trellis (click here to see how to make one),  a cage or a simple strong pole (I do not recommend this one).

I like to place my tomatoes towards my wall so they do not shade the rest of my vegetables. Tomatoes do not like the cold, so please make sure that you plant them outside when there are no chances of frost in the future!

I am planting 3 different types of tomatoes this year - Cherry, Brandywine and Early Girl. I grew the last 2  plants from seeds from last year's tomatoes. The Brandywines were a gift from my neighbour. If you are buying plants from your nursery, make sure that your tomato plants are long - You will see why later!

Your tomatoes will grow stronger if they have a big root ball. They are real good at growing roots, so it is best to plant them as follows so they get more roots: instead of opening a hole in the soil, open a long deep canal. Take your tomato plant and place it sideways in the canal, bending it a little.

Cover with soil and make sure that you are planting all the way up to the first set of leaves.

You can plant 1 tomato plant per square foot as they grow big.

This year I decided to mulch the plants to keep the soil moist for longer. Let's see if it works!

If you want to use a tomato cage for your tomatoes, plant your tomato plants the same way as explained above and them place the cage firmly on top of the newly planted tomato plant (Plant in the center of the cage). Make sure you will not break the roots with the cage, so try to place the cage legs away from where the roots where. As the plant grows it will be supported by the cage.

Water and wait until they grow!!

New Additions: Cats, Frogs and Koi Fish

It has been a great week in our household. We have some new additions to the family!!!! A kitten, a frog and 7 Koi Fish.

First came the fish. We went to a Water Garden Weekend fair and got 2 great Koi for free. My daughter was in love with them so we bought 5 more and named them all: Spotty, Whitey, Blacky, Dot, Sunshine, Metagross and Orange.

Then came the frog: Charlie the frog. He decided to appear in our pond and has stayed there. We think we saw another one the first day we saw Charlie, but has not seen it again.

And finally, our most precious Moo - (Yes! the kids named our new Kitten Moo). I am calling him Mooshy Moo!! He is a rescued Kitten - only 7 weeks old and so cute!

Friday, May 13, 2011

How to start your own backyard flower diary!


Starting this spring I decided to keep track of all the flowers in my garden. I have been in this house for about 2.5 years now and I was quite lucky that it had a fantastic garden when we moved in. The thing is, we moved here in January so the whole garden was blanketed in snow, so our first Spring was sort of magic. I did not know what to expect and all the beautiful trees and flowers started to wake up.

Since them I have added a few plants of my own to the mix, particularly Spring bulbs (we had none!) but I never took the time to really study and learn what I had in the yard. This is our third spring here and I thought it could be fun to finally learn the names of some of the flowers and keep a photo diary of everything that flowers in my own back yard.

You can see the pictures in my garden pics page. I have learnt so much, if you like gardening, this is such an easy project to do. Everyday, take your camera and walk around your garden, paying attention to any changes and hunting for any new flowers!

When you find them, take a picture of the plant in bloom and then a close up. 


Azalea close up

Put your pictures in your favorite photo album.

Then you need to do the cataloguing. If you know the name of the plant/flower you are done, but if not, it  is quite fun to find out online. I have been quite successful finding some of the flowers, like my great ground cover Sweet Woodruff.

Sweet Woodruff

I did a google search of "Flowering ground cover white flowers photos" and voila - my plant appeared! so now I know that I have some Sweet Woodruf!

If you have kids, you will also realize that they love finding new flowers for you. It keeps them entertained and in touch with nature. Really a win-win hobby for the family!

I hope you like the pictures!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Gardening 101: Got rain? Get rain barrels!!! How to install them and why?

I have been after some rain water barrels for a while. Collecting rain water has many benefits, on top of just being cool, it saves you money, it's good for planet earth and your vegetables will do better! Yes vegetables watered with rain water will grow stronger as rain water does not contain all the chemicals that we add to our water supply these days. Rain water is just what nature intended.

My goal is to use our sprinkler system a bit less this summer to water my vegetables, my flower beds and to refill my pond (no need for dechlorinating chemicals here either!)

So how do you go about collecting rain water? The easiest and cheapest way is to buy some rain barrels. You can find them in any garden center, online or just like we did in craigslist (just search for rain barrels). We found ours for only $40 a piece (brand new ones).

If you are going to go the craigslist way, please make sure to check for the following features:
  • Make sure that it used to contain food grade materials (ours were used to store tomato paste)
  • Check that it has a mesh at the top so no debris will enter your barrel

  • Check that it has a spout at the bottom so you can connect a hose to use the water

  • Check that it has an overflow spout or system

My husband has been nice to me and he has done the heavy lifting installing the rain barrels. I give all the credit to him! He went and got me 3 rain barrels to start with (so far he has installed 2).

To install the barrels, first find the best place for them. It needs to be just underneath your gutter  pipes - we were lucky we can hide ours a bit, so we get not ugly blue barrels in the middle of our garden (you can always paint them to disguised them a little).

Your rain barrel needs to sit high so gravity can work to help you get the water out of the barrel through the bottom spout. Place your barrel on top of some bricks as high as you can.

You will need to cut your gutter pipe, make sure you measure correctly the height of the rain barrel so you do the cut in the right place. You will need to buy a gutter pipe adapter from a DIY store, they sell them everywhere and connect that to your gutter.

Move your rain barrel and place it just so the other end of the gutter adapter is right on top of the rain barrel opening. Connect a hose to the overflow spout and simply direct that into your flower beds or back into the gutter drainage and you are done!!

When it rains, the water from your roof will collect nicely into your new rain barrel (we had ours installed only a week ago and they are almost half full!) I have been watering my vegetables with the one close to my vegetable beds. I have been using a watering can right now, but the goal is to have a dripping hose attached to the spout so I only need to open it up to water my garden, no more effort! Once I get to do that I will do a post on how to connect and install the hose.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gardening Update: Broccoli

I will start giving you updates on the vegetables so you see how much they have grown since planted. This is the broccoli update. I had planted 4  broccoli plants originally which I bought on the garden center (Click here for a how to). I also grew 4 more plants indoors from seed - I put these baby broccoli plants outside this weekend. Here are some photos!

First 4 plants:
At planting time
4 weeks later

There is something very interesting to notice here. The plant on the top left corner, fell out of my hands when I was planting it and the crown broke (it was only attached by a tiny little amount of stalk. As an experiment, I held the stalk together and planted it a little deeper than the others, so the earth was really holding the plant together. It worked, the plant is alive, smaller but alive.

Second set = Grown indoors from seed:

Anti - rabbits snake!

Happy Mother's Day

I just wanted to say Happy Mother's day to all the Mothers out there.

 In particular to best mami of all: Mine!! (I know I am a little biased) But truly I would not be who I am or be where I am without her. She gave me life (well all mothers do that), but she also gave me all the tools and love I needed and continue to need and receive. My mom did her best as a single mother (divorced and with baby). She did not stop to feel bad about herself, she continued to grow as a person and help me grow with her. She gave me the best education and tools to be self confident and independent. I love you mami!!!

Here is a pick at my mother's day presents:

From my mum

From Hubby

From my son - the best flower in the whole garden!
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