Saturday, 29 June 2013

Strawberry picking in our front yard

Do you remember our native front yard garden? I have to share with you one of the great benefits of having a no-lawn front yard. Here it is; delicious, wild, organic strawberries that we picked today.

When we took up the lawn on our front yard, we had a small sunny area where we were debating what to plant. I envisioned some wild flowers, but Misha kept insisting on covering the whole area with Ontario native wild strawberries. I must admit I gave him a hard time about the 'strawberry patch' as I thought they were too low for the area and took up one of the most lucrative spots in our yard. At that time, little did I think of the great benefits of them actually producing delicious berries.

In the end, the wild strawberries worked out well as a ground cover. They are very low maintenance, spread fast and survive well under our Norway Maple.

Today was the harvest day and we filled our bowl with tiny, red berries. They take a while to harvest as they are small and hide in bunches under the leaves.  However, it was rewarding to harvest food from our front lawn where two years ago we only had grass growing.

The berries are delicious, sweet and sour, just like the cultivated varieties, but better.

We are debating what delicious culinary recipe to use them for. Might freeze them until we make up our mind.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Yellow twill summer dress - The perfect beginner's sewing project

After a long sewing break I was aching for a summer dress project. I can't resist yellow in the summer, so I picked up 2 and a half metres of this bright yellow cotton twill fabric at Queen's Street West. I love the colour;  just buying it made me happy.

Cotton twill
As soon as I got home, I washed it. In addition to pre-shrinking the fabric, I like to get rid of any paint residue that might be in it. I use a full hot washing cycle with laundry detergent. The disadvantage of pre-washing the fabric is that you need to iron it once it dries.

I was looking for a very easy summer dress project so I picked out the Burda pattern Satin Dress 04/2013 #108. I liked this pattern; no zipper, no button holes, perfect for a beginner like me.

I bought the pattern online and printed it out. The process was quite simple, although Misha got a bit impatient with my 20+ page printing job as he was about to pack up his laptop and leave for work.

Once I assembled the pattern and taped it together, it all started to make sense.

Burda pattern coming together
Reading the pattern, cutting out the fabric and sewing it together was straightforward. Given that the twill is dense, I didn't need to add an underlining. I used the iron intermittently, whenever a pleat needed to be pressed. It made the sewing part much easier.

Once I finished the dress I added a cotton lace trim at the bottom...

...and a small lace bow on the front; just to create some interest. Misha approved of it; he somehow became a self-appointed style consultant in the process.

And here is my yellow twill summer dress. The colour actually looks even brighter in real life.

Burda pattern 4/2013 #108

I get a lot of "you look like a sunshine" comments when I wear this dress. I take them as compliments. I like to spread sunshine around.


P.S. If you are new to sewing this is the perfect pattern to get started with. I am planning to use this pattern again for a printed cotton dress. It will be fun to see how different the dress will look just buy using a different fabric.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

June Veggie Garden

Our garden has really benefited from all the rain this spring and is really responding to the recent sunshine and higher temperatures. Overall, it looks like it will be a great veggie garden season.

Our kitchen garden is rockin' with radish, onions, lettuce, collards (seeded in early April) and kohlrabi, baby pak choi, scarlet runner beans (transplanted from indoors in early May).  The transplants we started indoors needed to go in after the last frost and I find that big healthy transplants resist or avoid pest attacks that seeds sown directly into the garden are susceptible to.  We planted some garlic, marigolds and lovage along the front of the garden to help deter pests.  We are already eating the lettuce, radish and onions and have started on the pak choi.  One row of lettuce we consumed has been replaced with some curly kale seeds that should be poking their heads up soon.

Kitchen Garden June 9, 2013
Our back garden is also doing well with garlic (bulbs planted in the fall), peas, onions, lettuce, kale, rapini, kohlrabi, radish, beets, leeks, carrots, parsnips (seeded early April), broccoli, beans (transplanted from indoors early May), squashes, zucchini, cucumbers (transplanted from indoors mid-May).  Marigolds, parsley, lovage and basil planted along the front of the garden to repel pests.

We tried square foot planting in a couple of rows in the center of the garden that seem to be working well. We used this method for crops we don't use a lot of.  Another benefit is that it reduces pest infestation by avoiding one crop in an area.

The only pest issue so far has been with something eating the leaves of the carrots down to the stem.  It required reseeding of most of the crop.

Back Garden June 9, 2013
Tip #1 Here's a trick to maximize production in a row.  I seeded the spinach in early April then planted bean seedlings beside them in early May.  By the time the beans are bushing out the spinach will be harvested and we will have had two crops from the one row by July (just in time to plant some more spinach or lettuce for a third crop).

Tip #1
Tip #2 You can avoid cut worms from felling your tomato seedlings by wrapping some newspaper around the stem when planting.
Tip #2
Tip #3 Hoeing the garden regularly helps disrupt the life cycle of a number of pests.

It's not too late to plant transplants or seeds if you have not started yet.  Happy gardening!


Monday, 10 June 2013

Privacy screen in our backyard – The cedar battle

A relationship is made up of compromises; we all know that. However, a different vision for the garden can lead to some quite heated discussions; at least in our household.

You might remember that when we bought our house the first thing we did was to plant these cedar trees. I hoped that they would provide much needed privacy in our backyard. Misha wasn’t that keen on the idea so he only agreed to get a few of them. This took the cedar line less than half way along the fence. Here they are.

After two years, it has become obvious that having cedars half way along the fence doesn’t solve our privacy issue. Also, the fence line looked unfinished and it still exposed the neighbour’s unsightly pigeon coop. So, I proposed to Misha my idea: let's buy more cedars and plant them all the way along the fence. 

He didn’t like my idea at all. His vision included flowers along the fence that he had already planted. After two months of discussing, arguing, reasoning and negotiating, Misha finally agreed, with a heavy heart, to plant more cedars. We went to Home Depot to pick out the tallest cedars we could find.

Emerald cedars at Home Depot

It took us several trips to get them home as we could only fit four into our car at one time. Misha never gave up fighting for his vision; after each trip he would say "Don't you think that's enough?", but I persevered.  We planted lilies, poppies, irises, and wild flowers in front of the cedars to tone down their formal look. Here is the before...

...and after.

I love these cedars; they provide instant privacy and the neighbour's pigeon coop disappeared into the green distance. Misha gained a huge gold star in our relationship book.