{ Author Archive - Tara Nolan }

Tip to help tomato flowers turn into tomatoes

I was reading advice in our forums the other day and one of the posts piqued my interest. A reader was having trouble with her tomato flowers dying before they turned into little tomatoes. “Beeman” came to the rescue and recommended vibrating the flower stem or spritzing the open flowers with a small hand sprayer filled with warm water to encourage pollination. Ten days later, “Crazy4Columbine” reported that the spraying worked! I thought I’d pass along this helpful tip and I might see if it works on my zucchini plant. Some of the flowers have been dying before I get a mini zucchini!

My neverending squirrel dilemma

I've had a terrible problem with squirrels this past season. They carried off several of my veggie plants, and a few summer bulbs, and dug up some of my seeds. A lady up the street feeds them peanuts, so I find peanut shells all over my yard as well as random holes from their relentless digging.

harvestmoongardenEarlier this season I would sprinkle cayenne pepper all over my gardens and chase squirrels out of my garden like a crazy person. A few folks here at the office were horrified about the cayenne as they had heard that if the squirrels get the spice on their paws, they'll rub it in their eyes and scratch at their eyeballs. A Canadian Gardening colleague did a little digging and found some information from the Humane Society, which recommends cayenne pepper in the garden and I found a page online that I figure makes it OK if it’s coming from a society that protects animals. The only problem with cayenne is you have to constantly reapply after giving your garden a good soak or after it rains.

In the recent issue of Toronto Life, I read Brent Preston's memoir about becoming a farmer. Brent's battle was with groundhogs and insects. To control the destructive flea beetle from ravaging his crops, he covered his plants with row cover, a finely woven fabric that allows sun and water to pass through but keeps insects out. I'm wondering if this would help deter the squirrels from my plants and seeds–at least until they're strong and sturdy. I think I saw an example of row cover last week when I was in the Bruce Peninsula. We came across Harvest Moon Organic Bakery and Sculpture Gardens while looking for a mountain biking trail. At the end of a long driveway we came across this lovely little bakery with the most delicious treats. Part of their vegetable garden was covered in a light cloth, which appears to be row cover. I think I might try it next year.

How do you deter squirrels in your garden?

A case of veggie garden envy

I was so excited about my veggie garden this year. We carved out a whole new area in the backyard and I was so optimistic about reaping a bountiful harvest. Sadly, I had a real problem with squirrels… they carried away all but one of my eight cucumber plants, all but two of my eggplants and dug up half my seeds. On the bright side, my two plants that I got at the President’s Choice Lawn & Garden event–a zucchini and a sweet pepper–are doing amazing and I have some hot peppers, onions, tomatillos, beets and bush beans that will hopefully yield at least a couple of vegetables.

But then I went to my sister’s place the other night and her balcony garden is doing amazing! She has green tomatoes already and her plants are all big and bushy. My garden is quite stunted by comparison. I’m thinking maybe I need more nutrients in the soil. Needless to say, I was a little envious of her success. But I still hold out hope that my plants, however stunted, will give me a late harvest. Last year I was still picking tomatillos and tomatoes in November! Fingers are crossed.

An ingenious example of guerrilla gardening

guerrillagardening2If you can find them among the ever-growing piles of garbage in Toronto, abandoned newspaper boxes can be an unsightly blight on our street corners. Karina at Canadian Gardening magazine forwarded me a link yesterday afternoon to a local blogger’s attempt to beautify our city. ‘Blade Diary’ actually built wooden flower boxes this past spring that fit perfectly inside some of these abandoned, tagged garbage targets. I guess once some of the owners found out they gave the flower boxes the boot and starting using them again. Too bad…I like the petunias better.

You can find more photos of Blade’s gardening project here. He even shows sketches of his project plans!

Did anyone see these boxes in their urban habitat before they were taken away? Have you seen other great examples of guerrilla gardening where you live?

Tabouleh from the garden

Last night while I was pondering what side dish I could make out of some tomatoes that were on my windowsill, I remembered a “Super quinoa tabouleh” recipe I had tucked away from Body of Knowledge Healing Arts. Now usually I wouldn’t have had mint or parsley just hanging out in my fridge, but then I remembered, “duh, they’re growing in my garden!” Out I went with my little snips to cut my fresh ingredients from the garden.

It may be awhile until I see a veggie, but it was very satisfying making great use of my herbs in the meantime.

Taming my rosebush and treating its spots

After three years of basically avoiding my monster rosebush, I got a pair of Wells Lamont rose gloves for my birthday from my sister. Now I'd already made a few cursory cuts here and there to try them out, but the last couple of days, after reading Stephen Westcott-Gratton's really helpful article from the June issue on renovating roses, I decided to tackle this thorny task wholeheartedly. There were no thorns scraping my wrists or spikes under my fingernails. I could get right in there with my pruners grab the scary-looking canes and chop them up in my yard bag.

One thing I did notice, however, is that a lot of the leaves on my rosebush have these weird orange spots under the leaves. After a quick Google search, it appears I have rust, a fungal disease that can actually overwinter, so I'll have to be careful to get rid of all the offensive leaves and treat with wettable sulphur. One thing I want to look into first is that the treatment I choose is organic…

My yard is abuzz!

Yesterday during my mid-week holiday (Happy Birthday Canada!), I was able to get out in the garden for several hours. Amid the weeding and trimming and edging I noticed that a few of my tall, yellow wildflowers that seem to have bloomed overnight were a little bent over. As I tried to lift them, not one, but several little bees flew out. This made my day. And as I looked around, I saw bees on my other blooms, as well. I've been reading a lot lately about the importance of bees in the garden and about their alarming decline in Canada. Knowing that I'm attracting these vital pollinators to my garden makes me want to plant more bee-friendly blooms.

Here are a couple of articles on CanadianGardening.com about how you can make your home a healthy habitat for bees:

My alien succulents–find your own at a succulent and cacti show this weekend!

This past spring at Canada Blooms, I attended one of Marjorie Mason's seminars where she spoke about xeriscaping. It was inspiring to hear how some of Marjorie's land was originally very sandy and through continuous mulching she was able to feed her soil and make things grow. Part of the magic is also knowing which plants will thrive in drier conditions. That's where xeriscaping comes in — choosing plants that can adapt to a dry environment and finding native varieties that have already adapted to the growing conditions in your particular area. This was a really helpful seminar for me as the soil tends to be very sandy in front of my house and I came away with some great ideas.

hensandchicksSucculents, such as hens and chicks, do very well in dry conditions as they retain water in their leaves, stems and roots. Last year I planted some hens and chicks out front in an area that gets a lot of sun and that can become rather dry. I've included a photo to show how they've spread and spawned (I say `spawned` because these sweet alien-looking flowers sprouted out of my little cluster and ‘spawn’ seems to be an appropriate description).

You can look for your own interesting succulents and cacti this weekend at the annual Ontario Cactus & Succulent Society (OCSS) Show at Sherway Gardens. Hundreds of rare, unusual and expertly grown cacti and succulents will be on display and there will be experts available to give you more information about xeriscaping and to provide valuable growing tips. Maybe you, too, will be able to find that perfect succulent for a dry spot in your garden.

The irises I thought would never bloom!

I finally grabbed these photos off my camera after writing about how I was worried my irises wouldn’t bloom. As you can see, they did just fine. I wished they would last the whole summer!

These ones I knew would bloom, but I thought I'd share them anyway!

These ones I knew would bloom, but I thought I'd share them anyway!

The blooms on these purple beauties are magnificent! And they get so top heavy, they fall right over!

The blooms on these purple beauties are magnificent! And they get so top heavy, they fall right over!

Did your irises bloom for you this year?

A few weeks ago my leaves on my irises were lush and green, but not a bud was to be found. Then one little bloom made it's way up in a completely different place in my garden, so I was wondering why I didn't have any blooms on the others! In a panic (OK, I’m being overdramatic–I’ll say out of curiosity), I consulted Anne Marie, who gave me some very helpful advice. Then, lo and behold, a couple of rainstorms brought forth the giant purple buds on my beloved irises and they’ve been blooming ever since.

In any case, I thought I'd share Anne Marie's tips for any readers who were not lucky enough to have blooms this year.

These are probably a type of bearded Iris. They should bloom reliably for you each year unless…

  • They have been moved or were divided last year (they take about three years to get back to full bloom again).
  • They are now too shaded; they need at least six hours of full sun.
  • The soil is too rich or too lean; too much nitrogen fertilizer can cause them to have little or no bloom and lots of foliage.
  • They are planted too deep; the rhizome should be peeking through the surface of the soil.
  • They are overcrowded; this will cause fewer blooms.
  • They have been attacked by an iris borer–look for shriveled or sunken rhizomes where the iris borer has done its damage.
  • They are being grown in too soggy of a location; they prefer to be slightly dry.

I definitely need to thin mine this year and will be following the tips in this article to divide them.

Pages: Prev 1 2 3 ...11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Next