Did you want to visit the farm last season?

pasture lambs chicken Birds Nest Garden Farm
Lambs and chickens roam the pasture at Birds Nest Garden Farm.

Maybe we talked at market, but the timing just didn’t work out. Or maybe you were too shy to ask. Or maybe you didn’t even know it was a possibility.

Well, this year we can officially remedy that.

Our farm is a member of Rural Gardens of Grey and Bruce Counties. We refer to ourselves as being members of a “garden tour,” but it’s more like a choose-your-own-adventure story than a scripted tour. It’s up to you which gardens you visit and when you visit them.

Rural Garden Tours in Grey and Bruce

There are 22 gardens ranging from homesteads (like ours), to restored historic sites, to plant nurseries that have developed lovely gardens. Some gardens are open all the time, others on specific dates and others by appointment only (that’d be us.) Many of the gardens have plants for sale and some are even set up to handle bus tours.

We are excited–and nervous–to be part of this group. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed visiting many of these gardens as we developed our own landscape. There is no better way to learn about what grows in your climate than by visiting another plant geek to see what they are doing!

birds nest garden farm wiarton sage flowers
Sage blooms are a welcome sight and a sign that summer is here.

Some of these gardens are now integrated into our lives. Mother’s Day is not complete without a trip to Grange Hollow. “If Mama ain’t happy,” and all that. Art in the Garden at Keppel Croft is our new favourite date day. Like a date night, but it’s in the daytime. We get to wear clean clothes and be tourists. And go for ice cream the Big Bay General Store afterwards. Awesome.

Visiting Us

A visit to Bird’s Nest Garden Farm requires a phone call to set up an appointment ahead of time. I put that in bold because it is important. Well-meaning folks don’t always understand that, as a working farm, we need to schedule your visit so we can give you our best attention. Please use 519 534 3533 and be prepared to leave a call-back number.

In July and August, we are open for guided tours Tuesdays and and Saturdays between 1 and 4pm.  Tours are $20/hour for up to 8 people. Meaning, up to eight people can come for a tour for 20 bucks. There are no public washrooms currently, so plan accordingly.

So, if you’d like to see where your food is grown before we bring it to the Wiarton Farmers’ Market or learn details of our conversion to no-till growing, mobile chicken and lamb set-up or off-grid living, give us a call to set up your visit!

cordwood and straw bale house with blooming flower garden birds nest garden farm
The baptisia in full bloom attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

5 Tips for a Successful Backyard Garden

Fresh red and golden beets
Harvesting red and golden beets fresh from the garden.

Preparing for a local Seedy Saturday today has me thinking about my journey as a gardener. On reflection, I realize that I am entering my 27th year of growing veggies, herbs and flowers. Wow. 27 years!

Growing in downtown Kitchener, then growing in small-town Wiarton paved the way to growing on our rural property and finally growing for market. I guess I might have a little to share with budding enthusiasts, after all.

Want a Successful New Garden?

garden beds prepared for planting
Preparing the beds for next spring’s planting. After weeding (whew!) the beds were broad forked, amended with organic fertilizers and raked to a smooth finish.

1. Start Small

It is totally normal to be super enthused to start your new garden. Most garden burn-out occurs in mid-season when the weeds have overtaken the soil and garden work turns into a sweaty, sun burned, horse-fly biting war. Don’t buy the line that there is a “lazy gardening” style of gardening that actually is successful. Growing and tending a garden is WORK. If you don’t have a lot of extra time to throw at your new project, starting with a smaller area is a wise move. You can always expand as you gain skill. You can grow a surprising amount in a small space. I recommend two classics on the subject Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and How to Grow More Vegetables John Jeavons for more details.

 

Polka Dot Hen Produce fresh produce Wiarton Farmers' Market
Tomatoes, peppers and green beans freshly picked

2. Grow what you like to use

Choose plants that get your attention, whether by stimulating your appetite, your nose or your eyes. Continue reading “5 Tips for a Successful Backyard Garden”

Manic May

honeyberry flowers birds nest garden farm
Honeyberry (or haskap) blooms provide a much-needed early source of nectar for insects and hummingbirds.

It’s that time of year again.

Everything needs to be done. Yesterday.

Warm weather and sunshine have made everything pop. Believe me, I am not complaining. We are loving the weather here at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm.

It’s hard to believe that less than a month ago things looked like this:

snowy field polka dot hen produce wiarton
Yes, that is one of my main vegetable plots on April 22.  So, less than a month ago we had plenty of heavy snow on the ground.

Now we are full steam ahead on ALL of the projects.

Chickens

The chickens finally left their winter coop, for full-time RV status. Our feathered friends are back to the mobile life, being carted around the field every couple of weeks. Now to figure out why the auto-close door wants to auto-close at the wrong time. And then auto-open once everyone is settled in for bed.

chicken mobile coop polka dot hen produce
The first location for the mobile coop. Chickens are loving the fresh grass.

Continue reading “Manic May”

Seasonal Eating – Spring

Close-up of pear tree blossoms
Pear tree blossoms are a welcome sign that spring is has arrived and lots of delicious seasonal flavours await.

 

I used our last homegrown carrots last weekend. They were purple carrots–a variety called Starburst–that I dug out of the garden in January. I put them into a curry that got slammed into the oven so I could get back to transplanting Swiss chard. Hours later, those carrots were still pretty tasty, as was the curry.

Starburst carrots dug in winter from the garden
Carrots dug from the garden January 22, 2017. Deliciously sweet!

 

Seasonal eating has been on trend for a while now. It’s something we are encouraged to explore to benefit our health, and the health of the planet. Growing most of our own vegetables here means we’ve really embraced seasonal eating. Maybe we are embracing it just a little too much, according to certain family members.

Continue reading “Seasonal Eating – Spring”

Peppered with Seedlings

Garden centres are getting better at providing more variety when it comes to vegetable seedlings. Last year I found a surprisingly nice selection of hot peppers at a nursery in Owen Sound. Still, I prefer to grow vegetable varieties that have the characteristics that are most important to me; whether that’s days to maturity, colour or disease resistance. I’m a bit of a control freak that way.

This year my priority is buying organically grown seed. I’m still using up seed from previous years, but most new seed I purchased this year had to be organic. One exception was a package of  blight resistant tomatoes – ’cause who knows when blight is going to strike and wipe out your entire crop. Better safe than sorry.

 

seeding peppers in a tray
The first seeds to be started around here are peppers. I’m still amazed that this little tiny dry speck grows into a lush tropical plant that provides food for us.

 

This is only my second year to grow pepper plants from seed, so I have a lot to learn. Last year it took the seeds almost a month to germinate in our less-than-tropical house. The sweet pepper seedlings I put in the ground were embarrassingly small compared to those hotties from the garden centre.

This year, I did some research into pepper growing so I had a few germination tricks up my sleeve. First, I started the seeds two weeks earlier than last year. Then, whenever I watered, I used warm water instead of cold. Finally, I set the black tray near the patio door on sunny days to heat up the soil.

All was going well until one sunny day about a week after I seeded the peppers. There was a squirrel on the deck which our German shepherd spied through the glass. She was so beside herself with that mix of exuberance and murder that dogs have for squirrels, she knocked over the seedling tray. Soil, seeds and bad words flew in the air and landed on the floor.

My carefully labelled seed cells were a mix of empty, half empty, untouched and overly full. There was also a fair bit of soil on the floor which probably contained seed; expensive, organic specialty seed. Continue reading “Peppered with Seedlings”