Rock-n-Zen Gardening Experiments

2015 marks my second year of gardening in Seaforth, Nova Scotia. Living beside the Atlantic Ocean serves up lots of challenges with growing food and flowers.  

We have red hard clay soil which is nasty to grow much of anything in it successfully so choose to garden with alternative methods such as in 4'x4'x6" plots, pots, and straw bale gardening. I also had some success with transplanting 3 kinds of daisy wildflowers and tried various methods of growing them too. 

Pond Feature in garden

Rock-n-Zen Garden

The Atlantic ocean blows its salty breezes across my plants, burning, smashing, and tearing at every living thing. We also have lots of wildlife roaming our lands such as deer, pheasant, Canada geese, Mallard ducks, foxes, rabbits, and groundhogs that can also be destructive to gardening but for some reason the way our back armor rock wall creates a pit, the critters seem to not want to venture into the pit, except for the groundhog who likes to sun itself on our rocks, driving Ziggy completely MAD!  Another serious issue that can not be remedied is the blanket of fog that can stick around for a month slowing down all the growth of my plants. The worst culprit of all is the evil SLUGS which I am still trying out solutions to!

Herb & Flower Garden decor

Skull, shells, rusty metal & driftwood

used for garden decorations.

I have spent endless hours online researching and learning what others do with their gardens but the only way to truly learn is to get down and dirty and see what grows! Rock-n-Zen gardens produced a bounty this year of glorious fresh vegetables which was enough to feed both of us and enough to share with neighbors and visiting guests.

Vegetable Garden: Spaghetti squash and Butternut Squash

Spaghetti & Butternut Squash with Ziggy on Groundhog Patrol!

2 Years ago we built eleven 4 feet x 4 feet x 6 inches deep garden plots based on a book I signed out of the library titled Square Foot Gardens.  LINK here to read my previous blog entry about our building and landscaping journey which we fondly now call the Rock-n-Zen Gardens.

My first trouble in the garden is the SLUGS which are evil and will show up in the dark while everyone is sound asleep and eat every new sprout. I found out over and over again that SLUGS love young shoots such as squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, pickles, lettuce, peas, and green beans. This year I tried various natural safe remedies to deter the slimy slug pests and I will share the failures and successes with you!

I got this idea one day while at the beach to scoop up some stinky, freshly shelled clams shells and of course, bring them home immediately (OMG stinky!). The crushed shells were spread out in thick barriers around each plant thinking that the salt and sharp edges would deter the slug. NO that didn't work. Then I tried putting plastic HATS over my lettuce for the night. NO that didn't work.

A collection of pennies surround a pickle plant  to protect it from the EVIL slugs. IT WORKS!

A collection of pennies surround a pickle plant to
protect it from the EVIL slugs.

The NEXT experiment was successful! I read that slugs don't like copper so using pennies I had on hand, was able to protect the young sprouted plants from slugs! So far that was the only safe natural remedy I tried this year that works! Sadly thou, in Canada, we have been encouraged to give up our pennies to the banks so I had only a hand full left to use. I could use copper strips along the edge of the garden boxes but  $ times 11 boxes and it is just too expensive to consider. 

Here is a very informative website I just found in 2016 that dedicates an entire site to evil SLUGS...read more here about slugs.

STRAW-Bale gardening is an inexpensive way to grow flowers and veggies anywhere on any surface as it requires no shoveling nor any structure or much dirt. My neighbors had 4 straw bails and wondered if I could use them for something. I took their offer to experiment with another way to create a garden plot for my front yard using one bail of straw already seasoned over winter. The decaying hay is ready for new plants as it doesn't kill new seedlings with too much nitrogen released during composting of rotting hay.

Straw Bale gardens

1 Straw-bale to create 
a little garden plot.

What is the difference between the STRAW bale and HAY bales? 
Straw is the cheapest about $5.00 a bail and is used for bedding for animals and is stripped of any grains.  Straw bales are the ones you want. HAY is used for animals' food and is more expensive and not useful in gardening as it will sprout hay caused by the grains.

Buy STRAW bales before using them and leave them outside in the elements for one season, as time and water encourage the inside of the bail to compost and release excessive nitrogen that will kill young plants. There are several recipes to treat the straw bales to encourage the fast release of nitrogen but I left mine out over the winter so it was ready to work into a garden. No FUSS NO MUSS!

Straw Bale gardens

Starts with a landscape carpet
 found with rocks for edges & not seen in the photo, 
add a thin layer of ditch gravel for drainage.

On the front lawn were remnants of concrete sticking out of our grass which was leftover from building our house and is very ugly to look at. Nothing will of course grow over that concrete spot. Last year, I found a cut white barrel and put wild daisies into it, and stuck it over the concrete spot. This year I thought to place around the barrel a little garden using one straw bale to give a nice shape to our otherwise ugly front lawn.

First, I placed around the white barrel, a landscape carpet which is sold in rolls at various Garden & Home stores and helps stop weeds. I edged the paisley-shaped garden with large rocks collected from our beach walks to create a nice natural border edge where plants can drape themselves over it in a wild unrestrained garden style.

Straw Bale gardens

This is what it looks like after planting.

Straw-bale gardening holds moisture and uses less water for plants.

What to plant in the straw bale garden: I took my bare hands to peel back layers of straw while forming a hole large big enough for the potted plant. I added a cup of dirt into the hole, then placed the seedling plants directly into the hole and fluffed the surface around the plant with a bit more dirt. That's it, straw bale garden created! 
Look MA no shovels!

Straw Bale gardens

August: Everything grew successfully in the straw bail garden.

I had planted pickle plants, squash plants,
wild brown eyes daisies, gaillardia daisy, coreopsis daisy,
white alyssum, pampas grasses, geraniums, & silver fox plants.

This year I thought more like a painter to design my gardens. I wanted the gardens to look wild, natural, colorful, and have seasonal interests. I plan to eat this art but till that time I want it to look great! I like to mix my veggies in with flowers and add some roadside & beach finds as decorations adding detail and interest to my plots and mini gardening displays. Below are various objects placed among my plants and creating mini garden displays. 
Vegetable & Herbs & Flower garden

What's growing in one 4 x 4 garden plot:

Cosmos flowers, Pumpkin, beets, lavender, Silver Fox,
nasturtiums, oregano, chives, snapdragons, chives, etc. 

The garden this year was beautiful and appealing to lots of wild bees and hummingbirds to help pollinate my veggies. I loved to just squat up close to the garden and listen to the business of nature and surround myself with such fabulous light energy from the growing plants. I love to Zen out in my garden! 

Vegetable garden: Buttercup Squash

Buttercup squash on an armor rock wall.

The armor rock wall acts as a heating element and found out the squash and pumpkin plants strive to grow up the rocks to display their gorgeous veggies! I am the type of gardener who loves to watch things grow and take great pleasure in giving them the freedom to do what it likes.

The last three cucumbers and a couple of pickles survived the SLUGS.

Grew some GIANT pickles to try out a new recipe for natural fermentation. I also pickled some FRESH off the vine green beans for garlic jalapeno bean pickles. The winter squash and the cucumbers did very well but did not get the expected abundance I was hoping for with the yellow zucchini. The long foggy month turned my baby zucchinis' bottoms into mush so only got a few zucchinis to cherish. 

One nice surprise thou is when I bought the zucchini seedlings, I thought it was regular green zucchini but was pleasantly surprised when the zucchini came out yellow-skinned. I love how the yellow skins glow in the garden like a lamp. The leaves of zucchini plants are most gorgeous and next year will put some into big pots!

Two years ago I found all these white daisies growing everywhere so I thought why not dig a few up before they got mowed down along our dirt road. I stuck them into the white bucket with good dirt and was hoping they would grow. I watered and fussed over them, deadheading and fertilizing. The wild white daisies grew endless blossoms for me right into the late fall and came back the next year.

Walking the dog Ziggy, I came across some Black-Eyed Susans (coneflowers' or official name Goldsturm). I dug up a few plants in the spring, carefully while not hoarding the whole patch but just selecting a few here and there so they will reseed themselves and fill in the gap. I planted a couple of the black-eyed Susans in the straw bale, adding a handful of dirt. The spent flowers were regularly dead-headed and grew flowers right through to the late fall. The dried flower seeds will attract little birds.

I planted the Black-Eyed Susans in various spots around the perimeter of the house and in various containers and tried out where they would grow best but it seemed no difference between full sun and partial shade, pot or straw bale. I transplanted all of the wildflowers in the fall into a patch on the ridge so will see next year if they will come back and spread more wildflowers in our back area.

My deck out back is cool and mostly in the shade but does get the later day sun. As you can see in the photo, the Black Eyed Susans grew abundantly among my tomatoes, chives, and squash plants attracting lots of bees and butterflies to my gardens.

Mid-season I found another small bushy plant called Fleabane with is a small daisy that was growing wild along the edges of the driveway gravel. I dug it up and stuck it into a pot of nice organic soil and placed it in the partial shade by the back deck. It grew all season too and was later put out to our hillside during the late fall. I hope to start a daisy-growing frenzy in our fields along with the lupines and wild grasses.

Tried out The Slice Master Cucumbers and found them to be the STAR produce of this year's gardening. They were sweet, crisp, and grew large and plentiful, despite all the fog weather and slugs!

Vegetable garden: Egyptian Walking Onions

Cucumber plants weave themselves around the pepper plants 
and The Egyptian Walking Onions.

The 2015 gardening plan was to dedicate an entire 4'x4'x6" deep garden plot and would mound the dirt to get some extra height and better water distribution to encourage large carrots. I planted radish seeds around the mound edges of the carrots to keep the dirt loose to also encourage bigger carrots. The radishes were not very good so I let them become compost after pulling up the carrots at the end of the season.

Vegetable garden: carrots

Dedicated to just carrots. 
The earth is mounded in three hills and on the edge of the hills I planted radish seeds that keep the dirt loose around the carrots. I thinned out the carrots as they were growing to get bigger carrots and transplanted those little baby carrots throughout the gardens. 

Where ever there was a spot in my other garden plots I would tuck in the baby carrots which took off growing very well, supplying me with seasonal raw garden nibbles and payment for my DOG BONE SECURITY who LOVES baby carrots and likes to STEAL off with his stash. The 4'x4'x6" mounded carrot plot was saved for the very last plot to be harvested just before the first cold frost. Plucked them out of their cozy mounds and weighed the lot to be close to 6 pounds of carrots. Most delicious and sweet!

I look forward to next year's experiments in the garden! Till then, I can stretch out my GREEN THUMB on a few indoor potted herb plants in anticipation of spring!

Green is Good, Minaz

Ziggy stops to smell the cosmos!
Ziggy stops to smell the cosmos!


Lori said...

I loved walking amongst your zen art in the garden last sept. Your amazing ability to turn discarded items into art! It was hard but rewarding work. I know your garden will continue to grow. For the copper for slugs, did you look at the copper dish scrubies? I don't know what they cost but worth check out. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to seeing this years adventure. I'm sure the dog bone patrol is looking forward to it as well.

Artist Minaz Jantz said...

I will check out the copper scrubbies and maybe stretch them out long and tack them along the top of my wood plots.

Katherine said...

These raised gardens can save your cash, time & efforts and at constant time these can generate the areas of well productive soil. For developing the vegetable gardens the raised bed is that the good initial step.

Artist Minaz Jantz said...

Now that I have had 3 years of growing in the 4'x4' plot (2"x6" boards), what I have noticed is the vegetables that need more depth are not growing as abundantly as they should with deeper soil over 6". Maybe next year I will add to some of the plots, another layer of boards and dirt mixed with straw bale as it will keep the dirt looser and less dry. Everything that has grown in the straw bale for the last 2 years is the happiest.

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