Adventures in Growing Food

I'm pretty excited as this is our first year with a proper vegetable garden.  This time last year we had just moved to our new home in small town Southern Ontario and even though our new yard was perfect for planting, we just didn't have the time.  But this year I was on a mission!

A mission to grow food for my family!

My husband and I decided on a perfect spot for the garden that would allow us to enclose it (read: keep dogs & rabbits out) and still have some big open spaces for romping.  We decided that some raised beds would work best given we live on a giant sand dune and I really didn't want to spend days tilling and trying to make our dirt suitable for veggies.  And then it was on to finding materials to build our beds.  We definitely didn't want pressure treated wood given all the toxic chemicals that would leach into our homegrown veggies and cedar was super expensive.  So what then?

But as luck would have it we managed to find a much more environmentally friendly and frugal solution.  We had a dead tree taken down a few weeks before and the guys that did the work live on a farm right around the corner.  Their property is gorgeous and littered with piles of lumber and boards!  So hubby headed over to ask them if they had any planks for sale.  Talk about perfect...not only did that have wood, but gorgeous 12 ft aged ash boards that they would deliver for us!.  I don't even remember how much wood they brought, but it was way more than we needed and it was only $50!  And even cooler was the fact that these brothers also have a small sawmill so that had made the planks themselves from other trees that had taken down in the area.  So cool!

So then we built the beds, or rather my handy husband did.  We decided on four 12x5 beds with walk-ways in between. We lined the area with heavy duty landscape fabric and installed the beds.  And then it was shovelling and more shovelling.  We ordered 4 yards of triple mix soil and had to lug it all from the front yard to the back.  And then wood chips to fill in the paths and make our garden area complete.  All I really remember from that week was shovels, calluses and sore arms.

raisedgardenbeds.jpg

But wow, did they ever look good.  We then needed to protect the area from rabbits, and our dogs who would tromp through all my seedlings. Talk about good karma, our neighbour had 2 large rolls of chicken wire she didn't need and happily donated it to the cause.  And my crafty husband then found some awesome metal trellis/fencing that someone was getting rid of and that's how we crafted our enclosure.

Then of course it was on to planting.  I had started all kinds of seeds inside in the early Spring and couldn't wait to get them in the ground.  I had everything just about planted the weekend before Victoria Day.  In hindsight, it was way to early, but I was just sooo excited!  So after having to cover up all my plants multiple times over the following 2 weeks due to frost I was home free!  Let the garden grow!

Everyday we take a tour through our new little plot.  The kids love checking out whats popping up and all the veggies that are getting bigger each second.  We've already started picking some of our veggies including kale, lettuce, spinach and radishes.

I remember being sweaty and cranky and in the thick of building and filling the boxes and my husband saying "wouldn't it be easier to just go to the grocery store?"  And initially, there were times when I definitely thought so, but now, watching my plants grow and seeing my kids get excited about picking food for supper I know that growing our own food may not be easier, but it sure is way more fulfilling AND delicious!

Have you got a garden this year? What are your favourite things to grow?

Getting Ready for Gardening

With Spring just a day away, I started to get excited about digging in the dirt and getting my garden going.  This year will be a little different than usual as it looks like we'll be moving in May.  So for now, it will be wishful thinking until things firm up with the sale of our house and hopefully a purchase in the near future of a new home .

I really want to grow some veggies this year. I had plans for turning my front yard into a vegetable garden but not sure the new owners would be so keen.  I'm thinking I'll start some seeds and then transplant them to our new home.  But I can't go overboard as we're looking at downsizing and I know I won't have a giant yard.

Here's a great info graphic for starting seeds and when to transplant them.  I need to check out my seed stash and see what I've got so far.  Anything in particular you want to grow and eat this year?

Sow What?

Since our living arrangements are uncertain at the moment I've been looking for creative ways to garden with limited space.

  I love the look of pallets and I have my fingers crossed I can make this in the Spring - small yard or not, I just love it!

Pallet Garden in 7 Easy Steps

And this would be perfect for my Herb Garden!

Vertical Gardening, Clever!

DIY Vertical Planter

And don't forget a little pop of colour too!

Unusual Vertical Garden

Vertical Garden

I can totally see this hanging on the front porch!

Love this

DIY Hanging Planter

Have you started dreaming about Spring?  What's on your To-Do list for your garden this year?  If you're looking for more ideas, check out my Gardening Board on Pinterest!

4 Awesome Waste-Less Veggie Hacks

Yes, I strive to be frugal and yes I try to only buy what I need, but there are times when I feel like I'm tossing out a lot of veggie bits.  Even though they hit the composter, it still seems like a waste. But no more!  Check out these 4 super awesome Veggie Hacks to keep you spending less green and eating more of it!

4 Awesome Waste-Less Veggie Hacks
 
1.  Freeze Your Wilted Greens - got a bag of limp spinach or a few leaves of less than fresh kale or chard?  Don't toss them in the bin, freeze it instead.  Wash & dry your less than stellar greens and toss them in the freezer.  They make great additions to soups, stews and even muffins.  I just tossed a bunch of frozen chard in my meatloaf and it was lovely.  I wouldn't use it to make a salad or anything, but those lack-lustre leafy greens can be added to so many dishes for an extra veggie boost.




2. Re-grow Your Green Onions - you know how you always cut off that dangley-rooty bit off the end of your green onions?  Well, next time...keep it.  But if you put those little rooty parts in some water in a sunny window they will actually regrow into a whole new green onion! Amazing! You'll never need to buy another green onion again! That's a picture of my new onions after a few days in the front window.



Vegetable Stocks3. Make Vegetable Stock - when you're busy preparing your meals and chopping and dicing and peeling make sure to keep all those scraps.  They can be easily turned into delicious and nutritious vegetable stock with very little effort.  Simply gather up all those peels, ends and skins and toss them in a bag or container in the freezer.  Once you have a whole bunch then it's time to get your stock on!  It's incredibly easy and frugal and you'll have loads of homemade stock to use for all your lovely meals.  Check out this easy tutorial for making homemade vegetable stock.


4. Eat Your Broccoli - or should I say broccoli stems?  Most of us (myself included) end up tossing out most of our broccoli ; simply cutting off the large stems and only keeping the tender flowery bits.  But we're actually pitching some of the best parts of the veggie.  Instead of sending it to the heap, instead slice it up and sautee it with some garlic for a lovely side dish. Or use it to make your favourite broccoli soup recipe.  The stems are far more flavorful than the tops and you'll maximize your dollars spent while reducing waste. Want an even crazier idea? Juice 'em! Yup, cook the tops and save the bottoms for your juicer. Wild!



Got a great frugal Veggie Hack? Please share below, I'd love to check them out!

Cheers,

post signature

Tip Tuesday: Skip the Grocery Store and hit the Market!

Summer is in full swing!  And do you know what that means?  Farmer's Markets and Roadside stands....no more shopping for pathetic produce from another continent.

I'm a big supporter of local food and organic is even better.  There's no comparing the taste of a fresh picked veggie from a roadside stand to something that travelled hundreds or thousands of kilometres on a truck or boat.  I hardly visit a grocery store these days.  I love grabbing veggies from a stand and having my kiddos pick out their favourite zucchini or cucumber.  There is something fulfilling about purchasing that quart of mismatched new potatoes or the curly foot long cucumber or funky looking squash.

As part of our belief in supporting local and organic, our family is part of a CSA group for produce.  What's a CSA you ask???  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.   Essentially, you buy a 'share' in a farm and you receive a portion of what that farm produces. Pretty awesome!   We pick up our CSA box every Saturday at the Farmer's Market and it's like Christmas each week.  We never know what's going to be in the box so it's always a blast opening it up to check our our bounty.

So skip the grocery store, hit a Farmer's Market or Roadside stand this summer and taste the amazing food these farmers have cultivated.  You won't be disappointed and your body with thank you!

Supporting my local farmers,

Jen

PS.  Want to learn more about CSA programs.  Visit the Ontario CSA Farm Directory to find one in your area!