{ Archive for August, 2009 }

Mourning my wee little pumpkin

My excitement over discovering my wee little pumpkin was short lived. A week after I photographed his progress and wrote about him, I noticed the leaves on the vine wilting. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the whole plant had been chewed, cutting of my wee little pumpkin’s lifeline.

Now I don’t know who the culprit was, but I assure you if I ever find out, they’re going to be in BIG trouble! So for a second year in a row, my attempt to grow a pumpkin for Halloween has been foiled. The two other vines in my pumpkin patch have a few flowers on them, but so far I haven’t found any other pumpkins growing.

Although the nature of gardening is always unpredictable, it’s the trail and error that make gardening as a hobby enjoyable. Whether you fail or succeed, there is always a lesson to be learnt. Today’s lesson…..build a protected fortress around next year’s pumpkin patch that is under 24 hour surveillance to prevent hungry critters from enjoy a midnight snack!

Autumn inspired planter

I hate to admit it, but it’s feels like autumn is approaching. The days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping, and my annuals are looking rather weary.

Autumn is actually one of my favourite seasons, and since we didn’t have much of a summer, I’m welcoming fall with open arms. Last night I decided it was time to give my front door planter a makeover, especially since it was looking pretty sad. The bacopa had become stringy, the shasta daisies were spent, and the potato vine was flopping around. After a few minutes the container was transformed to a cheerful fall planter filled with mums, icicle pansies and ornamental kale.

fall-planter1

For more inspiring fall containers, check out these articles:

Fabulous fall containers

Plant a fall container with punch

Perk up a sleepy fall container

Treat your tomatoes to natural fertilizers

I was reading the summer issue of Reader’s Digest’s new mag, Fresh Home, and I came across an article about kitchen-scrap fertilizers for tomatoes. My tomato plants are doing surprisingly well this year, but they’re still shorter than my basil plant. Here’s what the article suggests:

  • Every week, for every foot of height of your tomato plant, add one tablespoon of Epsom salts to a gallon of water to add magnesium.
  • When you first plant your tomatoes, add fresh banana peels to the hole. They will act as a slow-release fertilizer, providing potassium and trace elements. I’d heard about doing this for your roses… will have to try next year with my tomatoes!
  • Every week or two, add about six crushed eggshells per quart of water and sprinkle on your plants. The calcium will help the growth of leaf tips and blossom ends and will prevent blossom-end rot.
  • When your tomatoes start to turn red, add a spoonful of sugar to your watering can to help make tomatoes sweeter and juicier.
  • Try planting your tomatoes around a compost bin. As nutrients break down in the surrounding soil, the tomatoes will benefit.

I might try the sugar trick… some of my tomatoes are just on the verge of turning. I’m excited because last year I barely had any and I was eating the few I did get in October and November!

Drop me a line below and tell me if you’ve used any of these tricks or others!

My wee little pumpkin

I spent some time gardening this weekend, and finally got around to weeding my pumpkin patch and low and behold I discovered a wee little pumpkin growing.

Earlier this spring, I bought a package of Mr. Fothergills ‘Jack O’Lantern Pumpkin’ seeds and sowed five seeds indoors. Once they sprouted, I nurtured them lovingly until I was able to transfer them outside. Three of the five plants survived the great outdoors and have continued to thrive. Since we had so much rain this summer, I didn’t really pay much attention to my little pumpkin plants since I didn’t have to worry about watering them.

I’ve had loads of flowers on the vines for the past month, but didn’t think I had any pumpkins bigger than a golf ball until I discovered this little guy who is now the size of a large baseball.pumpkin

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my pumpkin continues to grow over the next two months. I’ve never had much success growing pumpkins. Last year I tried growing a giant pumpkin and was very disappointed with my crop. I ended the season with one green pumpkin about the size of a football. Wish me luck!

A few garden casualties

Sometime between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, something ate the base of my giant zucchini plant and it’s now dying a slow death. My guess is the squirrels got hungry, because I found a half-eaten cucumber nearby. I feel so defeated! It was still growing zucchinis for me, too. I’m glad I’m not depending on my garden to feed me!

Other casualties in my gardens include one of my cedars, a clematis and the cilantro I was so proud of at the beginning of the season. I’m not sure why my cilantro decided to call it a day, but my neighbour told me that clematis’ like a plant in front of them so that their roots are shaded, so maybe that’s why it didn’t continue to flourish. And my mulberry shaded my cedar maybe a little too much, so if I plant another, I’ll have to be sure to trim it back and give it more water. Luckily the other cedar still seems fine. Hopefully it will make it through its first winter!

Planning a summer BBQ party

Tis the season to enjoy the backyard and all the work you’ve put into the garden. We’re having a big summer bbq party on Saturday and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain.

I’ve trid to keep up with my weeding, deadheading, and other garden chores, but it’s amazing what still needs to get done outside in the next few days. The grass needs to be cut, the patio swept, gardens weeded, phlox tied up, apples picked from the lawnwe have a huge apple tree in our yard, which is lovely, but the lawn looks like a minefield of apple bombs that hurt when you step on them.

And then the menu needs to be decided. Luckily local produce is in season at the farmer’s market. I’m sure fresh corn on the cob, beans, tomatoes, and peaches will grace the table.

If you’re looking for some great backyard party tips, check out these great articles at CanadianGardening.com. I know I’ll be reading them in the next day or two!

Tips for planning a backyard potluck picnic

Garden party

hamburger-cupcake

Here is a photo of the hamburger cupcakes I made for my backyard BBQ. They were quite a hit!

Eating my way through a veggie tasting

I tried to post this Friday, but unfortunately our sites were down...

Today I had the pleasure of getting out of the office with Canadian Gardening magazine editor Erin McLaughlin and heading to St. Catharines for an event put on by Stokes Best and President's Choice (parents of my zucchini plant). The event was held at Stokes` Trial Farm where they scrupulously test all the different varieties that you may–or may not–see in stores in the next couple of years. Our important task was to provide our feedback on some of the vegetables they were testing for market under the Gigantico brand. We mostly ate tomatoes, but we also got to try some peppers, zucchini and cucumbers.

Erin, myself and Peter Cantley, head of Loblaws Lawn & Garden (photo take by Mark Disero of gardenwriters.ca)

Erin, myself and Peter Cantley, head of Loblaws Lawn & Garden (photo take by Mark Disero of gardenwriters.ca)

Now I'm a very picky tomato eater. The mushy, mealy tomatoes you often find in grocery stores and in restaurants are often left at the side of my plate. That's why I love this time of year! Everything is crisp and sweet and most importantly, fresh and not trucked from hundreds of miles away. I'm excited for my own tomatoes, but I might be eating them in November again at the rate they're going.

What I found funny was that some of the tomatoes I absolutely loved got a lower rating from the other garden writers and the ones I wasn't as excited about ranked as favourites for them. For example, Stokes has a new tomato called `Tumbler` that was bred for hanging baskets. The little tomatoes were crisp and sweet and one of my faves for sure. Some of the feedback was that it was a good tomato for a hanging basket. I guess that means if it was on the vine, it wouldn't measure up. Yet I thought it was one of the most delicious! Some of my other favourites included the `Pepolino` and `Golden Honeybunch.`

The one tomato that seemed to get a unanimous thumbs up was the `Red Candy` grape tomato. It was sweet, firm, juicy and perfect for my picky tomato tastebuds.

Besides the amazing produce, what was also a treat was seeing how both flowers and fruits and vegetables are tested before being deemed suitable for our nearest nursery. The gardens were absolutely beautiful, even despite the excessive rains we've had this summer. I was happy that Stokes got a nice day so they could showcase their gorgeous and tasty gardens.

Pooped on by a bird, doused by a zucchini

Will there be some good luck coming my way? Last night as I was out in the garden, minding my own business amid the plethora of weeds, I felt something fall on my back. As I stood up to look behind me, the giant zucchini leaves I had just cut sprayed water all over my capris from their tube-like stems. When I finally got around to peering at my back over my shoulder, I could see a couple of dark, mulberry-tinged splotches on my pristine white T-shirt. “Not again,” I sighed.

The last time I think I used my recliner, which was last summer, I fell asleep amid a pile of Martha Stewarts and Marie Claire Idees. When I awoke, that familiar-looking mulberry stain graced my shirt.

Since my white shirt was most definitely headed for the wash, I thought I might as well continue, so I stayed out outside weeding for another hour or so, wondering if the birds were up in the tree having a good old laugh at my expense.

Gardeners beware of the black widow spider

The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout

Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain

And the itsy bitsy spider crawled up the spout again.

We’re all familiar with the popular nursery ryhme, but nowhere in the original version does it mention anything about the spider biting an innocent gardener. Joan Brunet was weeding her garden in Oakville, Ontario when suddenly she was bitten on the finger by a black widow spider. She panicked and shock the spider off her hand, but by then the venom was already coursing through her veins. As she rushed into the house to call for help, she began to sweat and her vision blurred. By the time the ambulance arrived, Brunet says her body felt like ‘jelly’ and she’d lost control of her extremities. Doctors were stumped and they had to call in an entomologist to determine that it was indeed a black widow spider bite. After a two week hospital stay, Burnet is only just starting to recover feeling in her legs.

Now I’m a firm believer in coexisting peacefully with the creatures and insects in my garden. In fact, spiders are beneficial because they catch all sorts of annoying insects in their webs. But I never thought that a spider living in my backyard could be so dangerous. I had heard about a view black widow sightings in southern Ontario last year, but was shocked to learn of the effects of the venom.

So how do you protect yourself? Apparenetly wearing gloves will help. As well as being observant. The female black widow spider is the only one who bites. She has a small black body with long legs about 5 cm in length. She has red markings along the top of her abdomen and a red marking similar to an hour glass on her lower abdoment.

Grow a Virtual Garden

nintendodsFor all you hip gamers out there, I thought this might interest you. A media company recently announced they are releasing software that will function as a gardening guide for the Nintendo DS. The Royal Horticultural Society has given the ‘Gardening Guide – How to get green fingers’ their offical stamp of approval.

For those of you who don’t know what a Nintendo DS is, let me clairify. It’s the world’s bestselling portable game system. You’ve probably seen kids hanging around with their gaze glued to the small hand held device. The Gardening Guide is designed to be more of a guide then a game. You can plan an existing garden or design a virtual oasis. It has an encyclopedia of over 400 plants, information on pests and disease, as well as tips and advice on growing plants. The guide even comes with a virtual gardener named Paul, who will help you along your virtual gardening journey.

Unfortunately, the Gardening Guide has only just been released in the UK, but hopefully if it’s successful, they’ll soon bring it to North America.

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