Sunday, July 11, 2010

Northern Gardening - P-Day

Having seen that today is the new moon (supposedly the most optimal for planting root vegetables) and googling many an ancient Druidic fertility incantation I proceeded to sew the seeds of what I hope won't be my frustration. After all, I could have sown almost a month ago, so I have missed a lot of the potential growing season.

My choice of seeds was limited to what I bought years ago and never got around to planting. I feel that hardy root vegetables and fast growing crops will do best given the circumstances. Consequently I have chosen decidely unsexy vegetables for this year - rutabagas (indestructible), beets (never had much luck with them), leaf lettuce and green onions for the bathtubs. For the washing machine drum I have dared to plant sugar snap peas, mainly because it is close to the wall of my shack and I can rig something for them to climb on in the lee of the prevailing wind.

To even further strengthen my odds of something to poke up eventually through the soil, I used the most up-to-date gardening techniques and stripped down to my sandals. And proceeded to sow my seed. Sorry, no money shot!

I also planted a few flower seeds which my son brought back from Montreal. I really don't know what will happen, but since this is experimental, it's all good.

After purloining a garden hose from my employer someone and borrowing a nozzle, I watered the beds and covered them with polyethylene sheeting I "found" somewhere. This is to keep the heat and moisture in, as well as deterring the neighbourhood urchins from playing in the beds.

I now realize that the distance between the top of the soil and the plastic cover is only about 2", so I figure I have about 14 days to figure out a way of tenting the cover so the plants will head room to grow.

Any of you DYI-ers out there with some ideas?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Northern Gardening - Adding the Soil

I had about 10 cubic yards of natural top soil delivered to my side yard, and set out cleaning it of rocks and gravel before transporting it by 10 gallon pail over to the tubs. Even with my best efforts, I had to spend about 20 minutes picking out smaller stones by hand for each pailful I added. This small picture gives you an idea of the stony nature of our very best topsoil.

Once the three bathtubs were full (and a washing machine drum) I did a further sifting by hand using a plastic sieve used for pasta. The local golfers looked upon this is the ultimate proof that yours truly had utterly lost it, and I myself felt I looked like I was panning for gold in rusty bathtubs out back of the house. Eventually, though, I had about 3 inches of soil which was pretty free of any stone larger than a piece of kitty litter.

I still felt that there was not enough organic matter in the soil, and not having access to any compost or fertilizer, I broke with my principles and bought three 15-pound bags of top soil from the local co-op, which I mixed in with the top of the natural soil with a rake. The photo shows the contrast between the potting soil and what I got locally.

The washing machine drum with the rock and plywood on top is the beginning of what I hope will be a compost pile. In the past I've had little luck in this respect, with the vegetable matter becoming mummified rather than rotting and breaking down. But having learned that in Iqaluit they were able to get a pile above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I'm going to give it another go. I think I have to keep it more moist.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Northern Gardening - Part II

Before I go any further, you have to understand that I am a cheap SOB. I feel if I have to invest in costly greenhouse equipment, heating, ventilation, etc. I will have only succeeded in indulging in a very expensive hobby. My guiding principle in this project (and in life) is that it is far better to beg, borrow, steal and scrounge than to put much capital into what is basically a pilot project.

The next step is to cover the gravel with some sand, basically to avoid putting too much topsoil into each tub, but also to promote some additional drainage. In the still of this morning I appropriated about fifteen 10-gallon paint cans full from our municipal winter stockpile - it's already pre-sifted and without too much gravel.

For those of you who have never visited Salluit, this picture shows a panoramic view of the municipal golf course in front of the fuel tanks.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Northern Gardening - Part 1

Every spring I tell myself, Nanuk, you're going to plant some vegetable seeds this year. I actually did try planting directly into the ground in around 1998, but the soil (such as it is) is too cold to take the plants much beyond the seed leaf stage. Our soil, by the way, can support vegetation, but the species have to be adapted to growing in a very thin layer (less than an inch, usually) of arable soil, and in cold and windy conditions. For this reason most of our northern flora lies very low to the ground and is much smaller in terms of flower and fruit size.

This year, however, a pile of top soil was scraped from bedrock to allow the pouring of a concrete slab for a garage. The sight of this brown loamy matter sitting in a huge accessible pile spurred me on to planning a small, above ground garden.

My first step was to pick up three scrap bath tubs from our dump, along with a couple of washing machine drums. This, I hope, will allow the soil to heat up and spur growth above ground. I then picked up 1"-3" gravel from a local quarry and transported it back home in 10 gallon paint cans. This I have spread out in a 3" layer on the bottom of each tub for drainage.

I know that the rusted bathtubs look crappy, but I have a plan in mind. You'll just have to be patient.