{ Archive for the ‘seasons’ Category }

Who cares about soil temperature?

The snow is melting, the cows are calving, and the calendar looks right, but for me, I know it’s really spring because I can smell it. I hope you know what I mean: that earthy, damp scent that’s starting to waft around when the sun is bright. So exciting! Time to grow things! Whip out those seed packets and let’s start digging, right?
Unfortunately, no. At least not outside. Not yet.
I had to learn to curb my enthusiasm the hard way: losing more than a few seeds. Some years I was sure it was frost. Other years it was obvious they had been rotted out from too much rain. Or maybe I’d planted some old or bad seed to begin with. But the main culprit went unidentified until I started hanging out with farmers.
When growing things is not just a hobby but your livelihood, you pay extra attention to some details an average gardener may be clueless about. Such as soil temperature.
You may have heard people talking about the soil “warming up,” maybe referring to how raised beds warm up quicker, allowing earlier planting. They aren’t just talking about the dirt “thawing,” as any farmer can tell you: there are ideal temperatures for the germination of different crops, and if the soil is too cool, you end up with uneven growth or damaged seed, and those depressing blank spots in your rows.
When I learned this, I looked back and realized this was why some years I could get away with planting earlier–the mild spring had fast forwarded the soil warming–and some years even mid-May plantings were sluggish in the cool damp.
So as much as you’d like to dig in, don’t be in too much of a rush. This time of year, you’re probably just wasting your time. Better to use your enthusiasm indoors.

Wintermission withdrawal

We are buried, once again, in several inches of snow today (Ontario and the Maritimes also, I hear) and I’ve got the blues.

It’s Canada, and it’s winter. There will be snow and cold. I get that. But during the last few weeks, we have had a good share of pleasant weather in Southwestern Alberta, what we like to call a ‘wintermission’. The kids were walking around without coats, let alone gloves, and the pussy willow catkins have come out. That last is a little disturbing, I know, but you take the lack of mittens and the abundance of fuzzy-tipped twigs, and add seed catalogue season to the mix, and you have a recipe for spring fever. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy holidays…

This is as close to gardening as I get today. And I’m okay with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A happy thought for blustery days

It’s been a stormy December all across Canada, with heavy snowfalls and frigid temperatures, even by our standards. We’ve had close to hurricane-force winds (110 km/h) here in Southern Alberta a few times in the last weeks, with another blizzard due to blow in today and tonight. It’s not easy on us or on the garden either, though the old adage “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” hopefully applies equally to plants and to people.

Which reminds me of a little poem I heard a while ago, by Douglas Malloch:

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Stay warm.

2-second garden tip: Clever cloches

Halifax-based garden writer Niki Jabbour and I met at the annual Garden Writers Association luncheon at Canada Blooms two years ago. Since then, we’ve been corresponding, mostly via social media like Twitter and Facebook, and I’ve been a guest a couple of times on her radio show, The Weekend Gardener.

Niki is the author of the upcoming book Groundbreaking Food Gardens, which will be released by Storey Publishing in March 2014. She also penned the award-winning book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, which is a fantastic resource for those gardeners who don’t want to confine their edible gardening to our short, Canadian summers. It’s also the name of her blog.

It seemed logical that Niki provide our next 2-second garden tip, which speaks to extending the harvest. I know I’ll be on the lookout for unwanted punch bowls from now on!


Image courtesy of the Year Round Vegetable Gardener, Storey Publishing.

2-second garden tip: Add a peony hoop now

The second 2-second garden tip in our new Pinterest series comes from Amy Andrychowicz who writes the Get Busy Gardening blog. Amy and I met and hung out at the annual Garden Writers Association Symposium this past summer in Quebec City. What really impressed me about Amy is that for her day job she is a software developer, yet she has devoted what I’m guessing is a lot of spare time (and passion) to create gorgeous gardens around her Minneapolis, Minnesota home (USDA zone 4b!). She also finds the time to regularly update her blog with lots of great gardening tips. Now that winter is coming, Amy will be turning her attention to her indoor garden. Apparently she has a big collection of houseplants, succulents and tropical plants.

I have to admit, I first saw this tip on the Get Busy Gardening Facebook fan page. I asked Amy if she would mind if I turned it into a 2-second garden tip, which she happily agreed to. Voilà!

Protect your plants from winter snow

We got our first big snow of the year this week–a good six inches of heavy, wet stuff. It is melting and blowing away as we speak, but it has already done some damage: my ninebarks are flattened.

These were four feet tall. If I had braved the storm, I could have shook them off as the snow came down and saved them. Unfortunately, I slept through most of it.

I’m not overly worried about most of my perennials; they don’t care about some broken end-of-season stems. Even the ninebarks will likely come through not much worse for the wear. My young Medora juniper, however, took a beating last year and kind of languished through the summer. It is getting a burlap teepee this year to protect it both from dumps of snow and the wind: conifers continue to transpire moisture throughout the year and so are particularly vulnerable to drying winter winds.

Poor thing is looking kind of rough, but I'm hoping a little protection might help him through the winter. Use stakes and weatherproof fabric and be sure to leave air space for the plant to breathe.

The other thing I’m looking at is installing some snow guards on our metal roof. Snow comes sliding off in huge hunks sometimes, and one of my cold frames got smashed pretty well to pieces by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A rail-style snow guard by Euramax Canada

 

I was going to rake leaves today…

Ah! But what about…

I was gonna…

Now I can’t…

Sigh.

Today WAS the day to get going on mulching leaves. And I’ve barely made a dent in my long fall to-do list.

This morning I got a little wound up over this slap upside the head from the elements. A total loss of perspective, you could call it. As in, “That’s it, I’m done for the year. Cue the hibernation.”

As if I don’t live in Alberta and the forecast for the weekend is right back to perfect raking weather.

It makes me think of a turn of phrase oft employed by a friend of mine: “It’s not eternal.” As in, “This can be dealt with, passed through, and forgotten.” Her little phrase has helped me think differently about the daily annoyances of life: the spilt milk, the forgotten backpack, the overlooked phone message.

Frustrating? Yes. Insurmountable? No.

Snow melts. The leaves will be there when I get to them.

The flip side of this truth–and most deep truths do have a flip side–is that some things are eternal. Like the kid who forgot that backpack, and your relationship with him.

And that gardening to-do list. It’s eternal too, as in it will never be done. Kind of like laundry and dishes– but that’s just too depressing. Let’s stick with the garden.

I sometimes seem to operate on an unspoken assumption that one day I will complete everything I want to do with the garden, and that I’d better get on with getting it done. When I spell it out like that, it is obviously a delusion. A garden cycles, evolves, dies and is reborn, but it is never done. Not only that, doesn’t such an attitude suck all the joy out of the pursuit? And isn’t joy one of the main reasons I showed up to this party?

In the snow today, I’m letting go of the hurry and worry, and reminding myself that by participating in my garden’s eternity, I can experience some incarnation of this beauty every year. I can continually create something here as long as I breathe, even with the knowledge that breathing is not eternal.

Welcome, winter

The bulbs are in the ground, the hoses are put away, the cold frame is tucked in with leaves.

See you next year!

View out our front window.

Laurel leaf willows in the morning sun.

Mountain ash ready for a snooze.

Who's been visiting the bird house?

Asparagus fronds are gorgeous in the frost.

Quick frost cover-up

Remember the Cubs’ pumpkins?

Since helping the boys start the plants this spring, I have been gently nudging Chris to get his boys to take care of them (or take care of them himself), since it’s really their project, and I’ve got plenty of over things I’m already not on top of.

I “suggested” he’d better cover them up one night a couple of weeks ago, as there was a good chance of frost, but stayed out of it beyond pointing him to the burlap and the extra sheets. Guess what that guy did? Instead of using the flat sheets and weighing down the corners like I would have done, he grabbed fitted sheets and snuggled them right over the plants. The elastic was just right to hold the sheet on the plant without rubbing or breaking leaves.

Genius, right?

And look what they’ve got to show for it:

Ta-da! 'Jack of All Trades' has my endorsement for strong growth and quick fruit. Seeds, flesh, and carving: TBA

 

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