Greenhouses, Straw Bale Gardens, & Hydroponics

Once again I have been lax in my posts, and for that I apologize.

This summer has been a busy one for me as I am creating my own garden oasis. The acreage I bought almost a year ago (July 4 will be my 1-year anniversary of owning this place) has been a learning curve for sure. I think I have all the quirks figured out now, and I have lived here all 4 seasons.

I am gradually converting over an acre of lawn into outdoor living space, gardens, and an orchard. The latter is the next project, and the groundwork for it will be done within the first week or two of July. I don’t have the equipment to do it myself, so my boyfriend will bring his little tractor and rototiller over and do it for me.

As it sits I have 7 saskatoon trees, at least 10 raspberry canes, 3 rhubarb plants, 6 very thin asparagus plants (started these from seed a few weeks ago), and 5 or 6 goji berry bushes to plant in the new space. (That space should take close to 15 minutes off my mowing time.)


I invested in a 10 X 10 greenhouse this spring, and regret not doing so years ago. It’s smaller than the porta-garage frame greenhouse I had at my other place, but being built from wood, tin, and polycarbonate panels it is much heavier and has withstood some wicked winds. I also added a wood bench to one side, which added more weight to it as well. And the anchors holding 2 of the corners down aren’t going to hurt either.

Inside I have 12 tomato plants, which I planted in 5-gallon buckets, several peppers of various kinds, 2 cucumbers in pots, all of the fruit/veggies listed two paragraphs earlier, plus other random plants. It’s a little like Heaven walking into it each day.

The inside of my greenhouse earlier this month.
Straw Bale Garden

I am also trying Straw Bale Gardening this year, as there wasn’t a garden space in the yard when I moved in. I’m not completely sold on the idea, but I may have been too impatient and planted in them before they were conditioned properly. The book I have on the method does recommend setting the bales out in the fall, letting them overwinter, and planting in the spring. I didn’t get my bales until mid-spring so I honestly can’t ditch the concept just yet.

I also built 2 raised beds and filled them with straw bales. I have potatoes in one, and an assortment of veggies in the other; along with a pansy and strawberry plant. It took awhile for the potatoes to grow, but they seem to be doing alright now. I did notice a couple are ready to bloom, which means new potatoes are on the way. When the crops are harvested I’ll cut the strings on the bales and let winter take care of the decomposition process. In the spring I should have some healthy soil to plant in.


The price of fresh produce keeps increasing, and the quality and flavour are decreasing. Summer is great because a lot of people are able to save money by growing their own. But what about those who don’t have the space to have a traditional garden? Or what about the winter months (of which never seem to end here in Alberta) when growing outside is impossible?

Enter, hydroponics. I dabbled in growing houseplants over 30 years ago using a passive hydroponics system and didn’t take the time to understand how it worked so gave up. My ex-husband and I lived in an apartment in the city then, and had I inquired about the other systems available, I could have had a lot more years of experience under my belt.

Jump ahead to a couple months ago and I once again decided to give it a whirl. This time I did more research, and also got to see an AeroGarden in use. I ordered 2 of them and am hooked. I have started plants for my greenhouse, and have been enjoying fresh lettuce leaves directly from the system every few days.

Yesterday my 108-plant hydroponic system arrived, and today I have been familiarizing myself with the way it works. Sadly the directions didn’t state how much nutrient solution to use so I have been letting the system run and adding as necessary. At present I believe 18 litres is sufficient, but I may add another 6 litres just to be sure.

I’m excited to have my own fresh lettuce, herbs, and strawberries all winter long. As the weeks go on I’ll be adding what I have learned to my blog and website. And my family and friends will also benefit, because I know I will not be able to eat as much as I grow.

In conclusion I would like to once again apologize for being so negligent with this blog. Getting back in the swing of things since Ross passed away hasn’t been easy, and I’ve basically done the bare minimum. Grief is a crazy thing, and when we lose a spouse it’s hard to remember who we were as individuals before two became one.

I’ll be posting reviews on the tools and systems I use for my gardening adventure so feel free to follow my blog.

7 Gifts for the Gardener on Your Christmas (or “Just Because”) List

Winter may be on its way in, but the gardener is most likely already thinking about the next gardening season. Fall is when the garden gets put to bed, and winter is when the seeds and plants are ordered for spring.

If you have a gardener on your gift list, the 7 suggestions below are sure to be a hit with him/her. And if you’re also a gardener, feel free to treat yourself as well.

Disclaimer: Links within this post are either to my own products, or products I endorse. I may receive a small commission should you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you. My blog is supported through commissions and sales of my products. Plus, if you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.  Thank you for your continued support.

Garden gloves
A good pair of garden gloves is a must-have for any gardener. They will protect your hands from thorns, dirt, and other potential hazards. Look for a pair that is comfortable to wear and made from durable material. Leather fingers and palms with a breathable fabric on the top is, in my opinion, the best. A soft leather works best as it gives more mobility, plus a better fit.

When I find a good pair of gloves, I tend to buy an extra pair the same; simply because styles are often discontinued. (That said, I should go to my local UFA and get another pair.)

Garden tools
Every gardener needs a good set of tools. Look for a set that includes all the basics, such as a trowel, rake, shovel, and pruning shears. If you are looking for a more comprehensive set, look for one that also includes a wheelbarrow and gardening hose.

For the indoor gardener, a set of mini tools is ideal. A full-size rake and spade are not the best choice for miniature gardens. A tool that’s often overlooked is a wooden platform (rectangular of circular) on wheels; ideal for moving heavy pots and planters.

Gardening books or journals
If the gardener in your life is always looking to learn more about gardening, give them a few good books on the subject. A few popular titles include The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, The Flower Gardener’s Bible, and The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control.

One of my personal favourites is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew. It has taught me a new way to garden in less space, yet have a bountiful harvest.

(If your gardener is into ebooks, grab them a copy of my gardening books over in the sidebar.)

A gardening journal is also a wonderful gift. Your gardener can keep records of their very own garden: seeds, plants, crop rotation, harvest dates, tools used, photos, and more.

Garden tools and journals. Image generated by Jasper Art.

Seeds or bulbs
For the gardener who loves to start their own plants from scratch, give them seeds or bulbs that they can plant in the spring. Some popular choices include sunflowers, tulips, daffodils, and lilies.

Putting together a combination of flower and vegetable seeds, along with blank plastic labels and a permanent marker, in a basket makes a wonderful gift.

Garden statue or birdbath
A garden statue or birdbath can add beauty and interest to any garden. Look for something that fits the style of the gardener’s garden. Popular choices include classic Greek or Roman statues, whimsical gnomes or fairies, or elegant angels or cherubs.

If the gardener on your list loves birds, a birdbath and bird feeder can be bundled together, along with a bag of bird seed.

Gazing globes are also a pretty addition, and are perfect for small gardens. I have a cherub with a 3 inch globe, but would love a 6 inch (or bigger) globe. The beauty of the gazing globe I have is it is made from a virtually unbreakable material. This is ideal because there’s no danger of pieces of glass everywhere when a rock from the mower hits it.

Garden furniture
If the gardener in your life enjoys spending time in their garden, consider giving them some new garden furniture. A comfortable chair or bench is perfect for relaxing in after a long day of gardening. A patio table and chairs would be ideal for entertaining guests in the garden.

A wrought-iron bistro set is a nice addition to a small garden, and can be purchased in green, white, or black (that I’ve seen). I have a white set that I bought over 10 years ago, and it has weathered well.

Gift certificate to a nursery or garden center
For the gardener who has everything, a gift certificate to their favorite nursery or garden center is always appreciated. This way they can choose exactly what they need or want for their garden.

Gardeners aren’t hard people to buy gifts for. It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Give us some seeds, potting soil, and a book about plants and we’ll be forever grateful.

So the next time you’re wondering what to get the gardener on your list, go back over this post and you’re sure to come up with a gift they’ll love.

What is the best garden gift you’ve received?

Small Space Gardens

When my kids were little we had a sandbox in the corner of the yard for them. As they got older they spent less time in the sandbox so I converted it into a garden. I don’t recall the exact measurements but I want to say about twelve feet by twelve feet.

I utilized the Square Foot Gardening Method (by Mel Bartholomew) in it and had fantastic results. I was amazed at how much I was able to grow in that little space. The only thing I wish I could have changed was its location in the yard. We built the sandbox under a big tree so the kids would have shade, but the shade wasn’t exactly welcomed by some of the vegetables.

After trimming a few branches I was able to provide enough morning and early afternoon sun to keep the garden happy. The tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers were grown in my greenhouse which had more exposure to the sun, not to mention protection from the elements.

Jump ahead a divorce, several years, and a few gardens later. When I had a traditional garden the soil was mostly clay, which made it difficult to grow. Plus the weeds always got a foothold which was more discouraging. When we had wet summers it would be days before I could venture into the garden, so I ended up losing some of my produce.

My first raised bed garden experience was a success. Although we had the space for a traditional garden I decided I wanted to try raised beds instead. I made three of them four feet by four feet, which gave me sixteen square feet of growing space each. The others I made two feet wide by eight feet long. They were easy to plant, easy to weed, and easy to harvest.

One thing I didn’t do was leave enough space between the beds. (Mistake #1.) I couldn’t easily get my lawnmower or a wheelbarrow between them, which made my maintaining the pathways harder. I suggest three feet between the beds along the long side, and two feet between them on the short side. And don’t get all fancy and make a design with them: straight lines and longer rows are easier to navigate and maintain. (Mistake #2.)

When I do my beds this year I am going to keep all of the things I listed in mind. Plus I’ll be using mulch in between them instead of having grass. That’s also going to make maintenance easier. Sometimes one doesn’t know how it’s going to work out unless you try it, and when I made my first ones I really had no idea how to do them. I found some old lumber, got some nails, and started building.

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When making your raised bed, which is ideal for small space gardening, be sure to make it no wider than four feet if you have access all the way around it. If it’s going to be along a wall or fence, cut the width in half. You want to be able to stretch across it comfortably to maintain it. Plus when it comes time to harvest, you will want to get every last pea pod, carrot, or tomato.

If you don’t have the means to build a raised bed, you can still garden in your small space. Utilizing large containers which can be moved if necessary will also yield some good results. The key is to have good soil in them and proper drainage. A friend of mine (and co-contributor) has made and used self-watering containers. I have asked him for an article on how he made them, so will hopefully be posting that in the not-too-distant-future. It’s not something I have made, so I only feel it’s fair to get the right information from someone who has done it.

Now that our snow is finally melting I can begin construction on my greenhouse. I’ll be posting updates on it as well, so stay tuned. You can also like my Facebook Page for more updates, photos, and progress.

The view of our yard from the middle of the driveway.

Have you tried Square Foot or container gardening? Let me know in the comments below. If you have questions feel free to contact me and I’ll answer in a post or my FAQ page. (FYI, my FAQ page is looking a little bare. Let me know what you’d like to know about small space gardening so I can add to it. Thanks!)

Happy gardening,


p.s. If any of the links in this (or any other) post don’t work, please contact me so I can fix them.