{ Author Archive - Anja Sonnenberg }

Gardening with Michelle Obama on Sesame Street

The U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama will be making a special guest appearance on Sesame Street to kick off the children’s television shows 40th anniversary season.

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Richard Termine / Handout / Reuters

With the help of Elmo, Big Bird and a few eager gardeners-in-training, Obama will be demonstrating how to plant a vegetable garden using tomato, cucumber and lettuce seeds. Obama’s appearance is part of Sesame Street’s Health & Wellness Initiatives.

This isn’t the first time Obama has been an advocate for gardening. This past March, she had the first fruit and vegetable garden planted at the White House since World War Two. The fruit and produce harvested from the 1,100 sq. ft. garden will be used in the White House kitchen.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Sesame Street and the furry muppets that live, work and play in the friendly neighborhood. I’m so excited that they’re now teaching kids about gardening on the show!

The episode will be airing on television in early November, but check out this sneak peek. I especially love the basket full of talking veggies!

Fried pumpkin flowers anyone?

Well, it’s official. My pumpkin crop has failed again! That having been said, I still found a scrumptious, lip-smacking use for the flowers. pumpkin-flower

Last year I discovered a new recipe while I was flipping through Jamie Oliver’s cookbook ‘Jamie at Home.’ In the book, he has a recipe for Fried Zucchini Flowers. I tried it with zucchini flowers, but I also tried the recipe using pumpkin flowers. I was amaze at how distinctively different they tasted. The zucchini flower was mild and buttery, while the pumpkin flower was extremely flavourful almost peppery.

Stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese, dipped in a white wine batter and then deep fried, they were delicious. So now, every year I grow a few pumpkin plants in hopes of growing a decent sized jack-o-lantern, but I also grow them to harvest the yummy flowers. Since I only harvest the male flowers, I don’t sacrifice my potential pumpkin crop. Only the female flowers develop into pumpkins.

pumpkin-fryingHere’s a photo of the stuffed flowers, battered and frying in vegetable oil. Unfortunately, they didn’t last long enough on the plate to get a photo of the finished dish. Next time!

Cool gadget – time lapse garden camera

I stumbled upon this nifty garden device the other day while I was surfing the web. The GardenWatch Cam is perfect for gardeners who love gadgets. Maybe this is something you’d like to add to your wish list for Santa I know, I shouldn’t be thinking about the ‘C’ word already, but Santa’s elves needs time to build all the toys you know!

be41_gardenwatch_cam_ingroundThe GardenWatch Cam by Brinno is designed to be placed outside in your garden to take photos at specific predetermined time settings. Simply put, you can record your flowers blooming, speed it up, and then watch it on your computer. It’s not like sitting on your deck watching the grass grow in real time. The time-lapsed images are sped up so you can watch seedlings sprout, a morning glory climb up a trellis, bees pollinate flowers, or capture the sneaky garden gnome who mysteriously manages to be in a different spot in your garden every morning.

Housed in a weather resistant plastic case, the GardenWatch Cam blends into the garden so you won’t even notice it’s there. At the end of the season, you can download the images and play it back to watch your garden bloom all over again. Take a peek at some of these videos filmed with the GardenWatch Cam.

Seedlings sprouting

Hyacinth blooming

For bird watchers trying to catch a glimpse of visitors to your bird feeder, be sure to check out the BirdWatch Cam.

Scary garden spider

spiderAfter reading Tara’s post ‘Does this spider look dangerous’ at The Budding Gardener, I noticed this spider hanging around my front door.

I try to appreciate all of Mother Nature’s creatures, but seriously….FREAKY!

I wouldn’t mind if this eight-legged miniature monster would go hang out somewhere else, instead of living in the euonymus by my front door.

I Googled ‘black and yellow spider’ and discovered that this is a Black-and-Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia). They’re also known as the Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider, because they are commonly found in the garden. Apparently they’re harmless to humans and feast on large insects, like grasshoppers and butterflies. Either way, I’d prefer if this little arachnid keep to himself!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year for shopping for your garden that is. Garden centres are reducing their nursery stock, putting perennials on sale, marking down tools and garden gadgets, and clearing out pots and planters. I don’t need much of an excuse to visit a garden centre, but I definitely can’t resist a fall sale.

Within a 10 km driving radius of my house, there are six nurseries and garden centres. I can easily spend a Saturday afternoon driving from one to the other to see what I can find. It’s plant bargain shopping at its finest.

Sometimes I go with a game plan, while other times I just wander around to see what captures my fancy. This year’s shopping list includes ornamental grasses, perennial rudbeckia, tulip bulbs, and maybe a new squirrel-proof bird feeder.

Happy Shopping!

Houseplant vacation

3-169With the nights getting colder, I thought it was time to bring my houseplants indoors. I don’t want to risk my 25 year old ficus (Ficus benjamina) and other tropical plants from getting a chill.

Each spring I go through the routine of moving them outside to enjoy a breath of fresh air. They thrive during the summer with all the sunlight. The rain waters them and washes all the dust of the leaves. I’ve never had a problem with any insect infestations, but to make sure I don’t bring any bugs into the house, I give each plant a bath at the end of their vacation. I use a spray bottle with water and a tiny bit of liquid dish soap to coat the leaves, stems, and branches. I gently wash the leaves, and then rinse the plant with the garden hose. Some of the plants need a trim after enjoying a summer growth spurt, especially my ficus. If I don’t trim the upper branches, I can’t get in through the door.

Just like the rest of us, some of the plants have a hard time adjusting to life after a relaxing vacation. A few leaves may turn yellow and drop and their growth slows, but for the most part they all transition well. I’m sure my houseplants enjoy fond memories of warm summer days as winter approaches and dream of the day when they’ll be able to enjoy their next vacation on the deck when spring comes again.

Bountiful beets

3-1611My vegetable harvest from the garden is slowly winding down. I’ve enjoyed radishes, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, and beets.

This is the first year I tried growing beets, and they did amazingly well. I started them from seeds in early April and they exploded. Unlike my radishes, that were infested by root maggots, nothing attacked the beets.

I had planned on pickling some of them, but they never made it to the Mason jars. Instead, they were barbequed, baked, roasted, and made into delicious salads.

Next year I’ll have to grow more of these scrumptious root vegetables.

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.

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For more inspiring fall containers, check out these articles:

Fabulous fall containers

Plant a fall container with punch

Perk up a sleepy fall container

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!

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