This Years Experiment… (2017)

Historically around here, I have at least one experimental garden thing. Last year I had my cactus and Venus fly trap, along with a few new varieties to try outside. This year, I’m going for Sweet Potato.

It will probably fail, so I don’t have any huge dreams of a big Sweet Potato harvest. Because it is cold here. Sweet Potatoes like a much warmer climate than I live in.

BUT I have read of a few people who have been successful. So I am going to grow them in a container in the warmest part of my yard. The patio will help add some heat.

My major issue, I think, is going to be the length of season. That is all in Mother Nature’s hands. We may be able to figure out a temporary greenhouse situation for them for early and late in the season to try and get that length. OR, Mother Nature could just be nice and generous and give us a nice long summer this year.

Step 1… Buy a sweet potato from the grocery store. I found one that had little tiny sprouts starting to happen and picked that one.

Step 2… Put sweet potato into a jar of water. If you want, you can cut it in half and stab some toothpicks in to raise it off the bottom of the jar… I didn’t. I just put the potato in a wide mouth mason jar and made sure the top  (the part with sprouts starting) was pointing up.

Step 3… Wait til sprouts start coming out the top, and roots start showing up in the bottom. 

We will revisit the steps once there is something else to write.

And I will add photos whenever I can… Probably when I next update on this.

Grounds For Your Garden

Posts around here have been a little few and far between. Not because life is getting overwhelming again(everything is pretty great); It is because I have put the majority of my energy back into our Etsy shop (Iceberg Empire). It has been a little neglected since November. So when we started getting warm weather courtesy of the Chinook winds, I could finally get out in the garage to make some things. It was really nice to make things again. But you are probably wondering what any of that has to do with the title of this post.

Well, you see, when we have meetings about our little business venture, we treat ourselves to Starbucks. The location closest to my house has a big meeting table, so we can spread out with notebooks if we were lucky enough to capture the table for ourselves. We can get our plans and ideas on the same track, and catch up on friend time… And enjoy delicious overly priced coffee. 😉

If you didn’t already know, Starbucks has bags of grounds available that you can take. For FREE. They call them “Grounds For Your Garden.” Other similar coffee shops probably do as well, just ask them if you are curious.

These free coffee grounds are a great addition to your compost pile. They can also be used straight into the soil. This adds organic matter and can help attract worms and beneficial microorganisms. If you are worried about messing with the pH of your soil, Don’t. Used coffee grounds are near neutral… Its the fresh/unused/unwashed coffee grounds that are acidic.

However you choose to use them, they are a great FREE resource to add some organic matter into your garden. It also helps to keep this great resource out of the the landfill.

I plan on keeping mine frozen in the shed (or my car, as that is where they currently reside) for as long as the weather allows it, then adding some around plants, and some into my compost bin.



1 Year In – Update on my Cactus Experiment

I am still trying to hide my seed stash from myself for fear of starting a million things far too early. I’m still in the mindset of keeping things simple this year, and starting seeds in January is not in tune with that. How long I’ll be able to actually hold out is anyone’s guess.

So I thought I would update you on the cacti that I started from seed last year in January. There was an incident. The cats knocked the whole thing over, so there are a few less survivors than there would be otherwise… I currently have 4 survivors. 2 are in peat pellets, and 2 in the original 3″ pot I sowed them all in. The two in peat pellets were the only ones left with any rootball still attached when they fell to the floor. I didn’t want to disturb the ones in the pot that stayed in the soil any more than they already were, so I used some peat pellets that had un-germinated seeds in them, and here we are.

ooo look how in-focus the soil is! Sorry the actual cactus isn’t the focus 😦

The two in the original pot are my favorite. They are doing much better than the little peat pellets ones… understandably. I’ve always wanted one of those cacti that are really pokey, but I always talk myself out of buying them when I see them in shops. So to grow one from seed… needless to say, I’m pretty excited about it. Now I just need to not have it thrown on the ground in a fit of feline angst.

I will pot them into a proper pot once I get sowing seeds later this spring… I may even splurge on some fancy cactus soil for them. My aloe needs some attention as well so It may be worth my while to give it some soil more catered to their special succulent needs. (somehow “succulent needs” just sounds wrong doesn’t it? That’s why I had to leave it in)

If you are interested, This is the link to the original sowing of the seeds post from January 17, 2016. And this is the link to the update a few weeks later once everything started germinating. I haven’t really updated you on them since then.

sorry for the blur
Again…Sorry for the blur… But look how Pokey it is!! 🙂

Vinegar as a Weed Killer

In trying to find things to write about in the winter, I find myself trying to find solutions for problems I have in my garden and how I can solve them. So today, I’m talking about how I might get rid of the weeds along the edges of our new patio

I’m not a huge fan of chemicals in the garden. I feel like as a society, we want instant results rather than working for them. We want nice beautiful lawns, beside our garden beds, but we don’t want the beautiful lawn IN our garden beds.

I was searching for some kind of helpful concoction to use when the grass and weeds start trying to grow through our patio (in the areas where I couldn’t get their masses of roots out before the gravel went in). Because, I don’t want to use the unapologetic-killer-of-most-things-it-contacts… Round-Up (or it’s other chemical friends). I like the bees, I like plants, I’d like my dogs to not get poisoned.

And in most cases, I would just put in the work… Dig up the roots, and be all “You Shall Not Pass” to them by putting in that labor and elbow grease, and out-stubborning the weeds.

But on the patio, I can’t. I can’t just lift up the pavers, break through the weed barrier and compacted base that we worked so hard on to get the proper drainage and levels just to get rid of the grass that will inevitably grow up along the side, because its resilient and wants to live.

I did manage to get the worst offending areas dug up before the gravel went in. Seriously, I pulled out a 2 inch cable of grass roots all intertwined around each other. It was insane…. I just couldn’t get EVERY area done, or we still wouldn’t have a patio in… or mostly in, as the weather froze us out.

I have tried vinegar before. It worked okay, but its not magic. It is only going to slow the plant down. If the plant was healthy and had a bunch of reserve energy built up in its roots, it will recover. They key, I think will be to play a long game, and keep hitting it every time it manages to recover. Eventually it will run out of the energy to come back from the acid attack.

Have you tried Vinegar as a weed killer? What were your results?

If your curious, I found a decent page that has some real world experience with testing the vinegar claims. It isn’t just a pinterest meme that says it works, they have actually tested it, and other similar “recipes” and I appreciate they took the time to put the information out there.  “Vinegar Weed Killer: Grandma’s Recipe for Fast Weed Control”


Next, I need to plan a way to protect my harvests from the damn thieving squirrels.

2016 Tomato Harvest


This photo is all the tomatoes that I was able to harvest in 2016… with the exception of a few Tiny Tim’s that I ate straight off the plant.

There is a singular Black Cherry there. And I got one or two Yellow Pears. The rest in the photo are all Sub Arctic Plenty.

I sound like a broken record… but the damn squirrels stole all the rest.

If you remember, I had planned to grow a ton of the heirloom varieties I have seed for, to replenish my seed stash. I sowed 17 varieties, with at least 1 plant of each kind. For some varieties, I sowed up to 4. with at least 1 for me, the rest to share with friends. So to only get tomatoes from 4 of those I planted and tended was so disheartening.

Here is the list of tomatoes I grew last year:

  • Orange Wellington
  • Black Russian
  • Black Cherry
  • Beefsteak
  • Pink Brandywine
  • Rutgers
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Yellow Pear
  • Boxcar Willie
  • Golden Cherry
  • Chadwick’s Cherry
  • Principe Borghese
  • Sub-Arctic Plenty
  • Tumbler
  • Tiny Tim
  • Manitoba
  • Green Envy

Even though the squirrels were the main problem, I am also chalking the poor season up to to the weird weather, and the fact that 2016 was the worst year of my life thus far. I also didn’t bother saving any seed.

Thoughts for 2017: I have yet to decide on the varieties for this year. I’m trying to keep my seeds out of sight so I don’t start too many, and too early. I think the tomatoes this year in the yard are going to look far different than in previous years. “Tomato Island” doesn’t quite work. There isn’t as much sun there as in other areas of the yard. And since we finally have the patio started (and will hopefully finish in early spring), I can dot the tomato containers around in the warmer areas on the patio. Other people have had some success spraying with aspirin, so I may try that. It causes a reaction in the tomato that makes it think it is being attacked, so the plant becomes stronger thinking that it was attacked, when it is really fine. However, in my plan to simplify things, I may just cut down on the amount of tomatoes and just provide them with what they need rather than getting in over my head with all the extra things that don’t NEED to happen. Time will only tell what ends up happening in the garden this year

Do you have any suggestions on what tomatoes to try?