{ Archive for the ‘seasons’ Category }

Things to do while it’s raining

Day 1

-Grumble about wishing I had more planted before the weather changed.

-Resolve to be productive anyway.

-Enjoy the smell of spring rain.

-Tidy up the shed.

-Read gardening magazine/books.

Day 2

-Grumble a bit; then think positive.

-Edge a flower bed, careful not to step in the bed.

-Clean some tools that got missed in the fall.

-Measure the rainfall.

-Watch birds.

-Read more.

Day 3

-Sigh.

-Do top-to-bottom organize of shed.

-Repair and prepare hoses (meant to get that done ages ago, three points for me!).

-Watch grass grow in front of my eyes.

-Inventory seeds that could have… I mean, will be planted.

Day 4

-Go to greenhouse for sympathy and support.
-Update garden scrapbook.

-Count worms.
-Tidy up houseplants.

Day 5

-Watch dandelions go to seed.

-Lose boot in mud after attempting to “check on things”.

-Consider collecting stamps with flowers, trees, and vegetables on them.

-Retire to couch with scrapbook and magazines.

-Give up and actually get something done inside the house.

At least I am well prepared with my new boots!

The epic search for puddle boots

My footwear of choice for gardening is a pair of beat up Crocs, but I see rain boots as a stand-by piece of equipment for the dedicated gardener. When you’re digging a big planting hole or fishing something out of a pond, dealing with prickly brush or wrestling with ornery hoses, you want your feet good and protected. My old stand-by black rubber boots got a crack in the heel last fall, so I told Chris I wanted new, fun ones for Mother’s Day. He said, “Great, go ahead and find the ones you want.” Smart man, huh?

So the last couple of times I’ve been in town I’ve looked around a bit (translate: while dashing through the grocery list with the kids I’ve noticed a few), but never took the time to try anything on. But this week I found myself in Edmonton all by myself (!) with a few hours to kill (!!) and decided to find my new puddle boots. Fairly straightforward, right?

Well, let me tell you.

I thought with the old “April showers” saw it would be easy to check a hand full of retailers and be able to peruse a reasonable selection of rain boots for somewhere between $15-$40, depending on the quality. Not so much. Walmart, Old Navy, and Payless had all gotten rid of theirs already: either sold or sent back to the company because the “season is over.”

Excuse me? The runways and window dressers may be switching gears to flip flops, but there’s still plenty of mud at my house. Are we expecting NO rain ALL summer? A lovely lady at the Shoe Company in Calgary sympathized with me: “How come they don’t realize it’s not just about fashion around here, but also nessecity?” She had a great pair of green ones, but they had a fuzzy, winter-minded lining. Pass. The few I did see were either no fun, ill-fitting, or not my size.

I’m kind of picky about my footwear because I have widish feet with high arches (thanks, mom) and fit is tricky, especially with a fairly rigid item like rubber boots. I was against getting anything online for this reason, but since the on-the-shelf retail life for rain boots appears to be 9.3 days, I decided to see what I could find in the web world.

Kamik Janis Plum Rain Boots

Love these, but they're kind of tall and kind of more than I wanted to spend. Also they seem awfully narrow through the ankle = impossible for me to get on.

Gum Drops has a pretty impressive range of choices, but the prices are mostly higher. Sears carries a few, there’s some American retailers, Walmart’s website has nothing but Spiderman…

Sperry Top-SiderĀ® Women's Waterproof 'Nellie' 8'' Fashion Rainboots

These are available from Sears, but I'm not crazy about the colors.

Then I found RainCo — a Ladner, B.C. company that makes their own funky rain boots (and umbrellas!). They have several styles, including a shorter-topped one that seems like it would be more comfy for me, and they have a big tab in the back to help pull them on over my beautiful arches. And they come in my favorite color! After checking the return policy, I think I’m going to splurge on these. I love them, so I’m willing to go a little higher in the price range… anybody want to clue me in on other options?

I think these are the winners.

The wonder of it all

I’m going to stop for a moment from my usual narration of events to draw your attention to the affairs of nature we observe and encourage as gardeners.

Watching seeds sprout and perennial roots send out new shoots, I’ve been thinking – how does this happen? How is it that we take the growth of plants for granted as absolutely normal? Even with the understanding of biology, cell division, photosynthesis, isn’t the the whole process just this side of impossible?

Seeds turning into flower, or food, or tree is simply a part of our lives. We’re surrounded by it. But think for a minute. A tiny 1 millimeter seed. Add water, soil, light, and time, and you’ll end up with a 10 inch carrot. Isn’t that on par with pulling a rabbit out of a hat? Or Scotty beaming us up?

These little packets of cells know entirely what they are doing. They know how to make beautiful, useful somethings out of dang near nothing. And after exposure to cold that would end the life of most respectable living things, many of them come popping up cheerily as if nothing were ever wrong.

I invite you to mentally pack away your spring to do list, your gripes about mud or snow, everything you know about botany and cultivars and fertilizers and landscape design, and go find a crocus or a tree budding. Watch it for a bit. Marvel at the absolute ridiculousness of it all.

And remind yourself–this is reality. And this little bit of reality is a full-on miracle.

Building my cold frame

Well, it’s not built, but it’s ready to be built. Do I get an ‘A’ for effort?

After studying up on the basics again, I think I’m ready to begin.

When I revamped my front yard in 2009, I planned this spot (where you see my materials waiting) with a cold frame in mind. It’s a south facing wall, out of the worst wind, with full sun exposure. There’s gravel to walk on, as my yard is known to be a mud hole in the spring. Also, it’s about four feet from a tap for quenching thirsty seedlings.

We’ve had this old window sash hanging around since we bought our house (this is where it pays to have a pack rat around). It’s old and worn and absolutely gorgeous. The glass is all intact, but it does wobble just a wee bit. We will probably reinforce it some so it will stand up to being raised and lowered, not to mention kids trying to sit on it, and cats laying on it to bask…

For the box itself, I bought cedar fence board. It’s rougher than your nicely planed boards sold for decking, but I’m not going for any woodworking prizes here. With bottom line in mind, I paid $3.80 each for 6 six foot lengths, a total of 22.80. The 2″x2″ post for the corners I found with the decking stuff; one eight foot length was $4.28. All the hardware I’ll need is kicking around the garage, so all told I’ll pay just over $27 for this project (plus a little sweat and maybe a few splinters).

Next step: power tools!

So is it spring or isn’t it?

I woke up at 3 am this morning to a baby fussing. I rolled over, and thought, “Just a few more hours, little girl, it’s not time yet. If you wake up now, we’ll both be miserable for the rest of the day.”

She settled down on her own, and slept until 7:30, but I found myself repeating similiar words as I looked out my window at breakfast.

“Just a few more weeks, little tree, it’s not time yet. If you wake up now we’ll both be miserable, and you’ll end up dead.” The object of my mother-naturely concern: the European mountain ash I planted in my front garden last year.

The poor dear is so confused. Between the chinooks warming everything up and blowing away his nice chilly blanket of snow, he’s convinced it’s spring. We had a warm spell a few weeks back, and I had to bring snow from the drifts around the yard over to his base. I covered his toes while mumbling (yes, out loud), “Go back to sleep, you silly thing. It’s February.” No matter what the ground-hog may guarantee, I’m an Alberta girl. I’ve seen one too many April snowstorms. Around here, you don’t plant anything tender before the May long weekend any more than you’d give chewing gum to an infant. I’m not that worried about the big old poplars; they’ve seen more winters than I have and will hardly wilt at a late frost. A young tree budding in early March is doomed.

Or is it? Driving around on the highways today, the Canada geese are everywhere and the gophers are running around getting themselves run over. There was frost on the windshield this morning, but my tulips (and the shepherd’s purse) are showing growth. Maybe it is spring, and I’m being overprotective. Maybe I need to let my baby tree out on its own — sink or swim — just like a toddler learning to walk is going to get a few bruises. But I can’t help wanting to coddle him just a little this first year. I know spring and its fickle nature can have too many casualties.

On the top of my priority list for this year: start a shelterbelt to protect my little mountain ash and all his friends (as well as eliminating the snow drifts across the driveway. Hopefully.)

Counting my blessings

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time this year griping about everything going wrong, mostly with the weather. I’m a little late for Thanksgiving, but I thought a list of “good things” would be a great way to end the season.

1. I have a great crew of dandelion pickers. Just imagine how many more would have gone to seed if the “flowers” on my countertop had been left in the lawn.

2. The sparrows who were trying to nest in my dryer vent were ousted in time to set up housekeeping in a poplar.

3. I planted a dwarf Alberta spruce, a golden flowering current, a Medora juniper, a bunch of ninebarks, some baptista, and a European Mountain ash, all last fall in my big overhaul. They had a really good start, as well as the yarrow, blue flax, yellow flax, moss phlox, and mugo pine I put in this spring. They’ve had nice damp soil all year to get established and I haven’t had to worry about anybody getting scorched or dried out. And we got a crash course on how the new flower beds drain, so we got that sorted out before it got planted right up.

4. The weeds pulled out really easy out of the damp soil. Of course, they also grew really well…

5. Along with #3 and #4, and despite my complaining, I hardly had to haul hoses at all this year. One huge chore less. Who can complain about that?

6. The tomato plants that almost bit it in an early wind storm thrived once I moved them into my enclosed porch. I’ve used it as a “greenhouse” to start stuff in the spring, but I’ve never kept anything in there the whole season. The little sun we got this year was multiplied by the glass and we got quite a few tomatoes when I was expecting none. (Had to move them outside on good days for pollinators to do their business.)

This Echeveria bloomed on stalks about six inches tall.

7. I’ve never seen hens and chicks bloom before.

8. I forgot to plant marigolds around my broccoli and kale. I always plant marigolds! Guess what? Major bug infestation. Why is this a blessing? I now know that marigolds really do help deter pests (make sure they’re the smelly kind though!). It also led me to learn of Btk, a safe bacterium I can try next year to save myself some grief on the cabbage worm front.

9. Ralph and Brenda.

10. Berries.

11. I finally went to Nikka Yuko.

12. I started some yellow flax from seed I bought from the Bedrock Seed Bank. It is the first time I have messed around with anything requiring “moist stratification” (or anything more than your basic sprinkle and cover) and it lived. And is quite happy.

13. We just picked the last of the lettuce to have with supper last night. November 5. Those of you reading in Victoria are probably just blinking at the screen, unimpressed, but you prarie people know what I mean.

14. Our tacky, broken down shed got a new door, a paint job, and improved shelves. Just waiting for a latch, and the kids to quit dumping all their toys and tools right in the doorway.

15. We only lost one major limb off our twenty-odd poplars in this year’s spring storms. Evidence that arborists are worth their bucket trucks in gold. It did come down on the roof of the house though, but that’s also a blessing because Chris is now convinced that we really should be looking at gradually replacing the poplars with some younger, different trees.

16. These last several weeks have been dry and warm. The farmers actually got their hay off, and I got a bonus deadline extension on all my fall tasks.

17. The steps Jenni built me got through their first year in decent shape. I only had to fine tune two stones (by planting thyme and echeveria in the cracks around it–the root systems stabilize the stones, I ‘ve been told. So far so good.) As for the rest of the mess around them… there’s always spring.

18. My eight year old casually named about ten of the plants growing in our yard the other day. And I’m not talking “beans”, “carrots”, and “potatoes”, either. It’s rubbing off!

19. While the giant pumpkin never got to Cinderella’s carriage size, we actually got corn this year! Not bushels, but edible corn, nonetheless! And we were not buried in zucchini!

20. My Rudebeckia is no longer a John Doe.

Final blessing of the year: the chance to share all of my adventures with you.

Water plants, winter style

It’s bedtime. Autumn has pretty much wrapped up; there’s just a few odd jobs to putter at if your gloves can keep out the frosty air. Many gardeners now turn their minds to houseplants or windowsill herb gardens to get their green thumb fix until the seed catalogues start arriving. I’m usually one of them, but houseplants seem kind of ho-hum right now. My hoya and peace lily have both stopped blooming and my norfolk island pine is wasting away (too much watery love from the small people, I think).

But never fear! Inspiration has ousted the winter doldrums before they could even set in!

I was in Lethbridge today doing some early Christmas shopping (yes, I know) at the pet store. Our (Chris’) big plan this year is to get the kids (Chris) a fish tank. We picked one out and I was assigned to pick it up and get it hid before anybody was the wiser. Well, we picked the right pet store. I wasn’t in there five minutes before I had the ear of Alan, gardener and fish lover. He gets his gardening kicks in the snowy season by growing water plants in his – wait for it – 175 gallon aquarium. He taught me pH, fertilizer, growing medium, and even offered to share with me a cutting off his sagittaria plant (lawn for the underwater set).

I’ll admit, I was lukewarm about the whole fish tank thing. But I’ve warmed up to it with the realization that I can have the “pond” I can’t handle in the backyard, right in my living room. And in the winter, too!

Not to mention a whole new array of flora to investigate. Things are looking up.

And if you’re wondering how we plan to get this thing set up and keep it a surprise… well, so am I.

Making a deal with Mother Nature never works

Me, last Wednesday: Hey, Mother Nature, thanks a lot for the lovely mild weather we have enjoyed the last couple of weeks. It’s been nice to enjoy the sunshine, and the farmers are getting caught up a little around here. We really appreciate that.

Mother Nature, last Wednesday: You’re welcome. Here’s another couple of sunny days for you with no frost!

Me, Friday morning: Wow, thanks. You know, I’ve got company coming for Thanksgiving. I know I’m half done this little landscaping project here, and it’s your general policy to abhor a vacuum, but could you, just this once, ignore a vacuum, until I can get back to it on Monday?

Mother Nature, this morning: Mmmmm…. no. I think the dandelions will return and begin to flower even though it’s October.

Me, this morning: Dang. Okay, well, can you keep the lovely clear skies going for a few more hours, and hold off that huge black cloud building in the west? I can get this mulching finished up real quick! And most of the farmers just need today to get the hay off…

Mother Nature: Mmmmm… nope. Time for rain! Lovely, cool, soaking, autumn rain!

Me, rather wet: Alright. I’m going to finish this right now anyway, in case you decide to turn this into snow.

Mother Nature, noon-ish: Sunshine is so lovely, isn’t it?

At least she knows how to make these crazy changes look good...

Pick the perfect gourds for Thanksgiving decorations

I love hearing about it when an article on the site inspires a reader. Last fall, the talented Jennifer Roos created a Thanksgiving centrepiece and table accessories. Our advertising sales director, Julie Wiggins, emailed me to let me know she saw the idea featured in our newsletter and decided to create a similar centrepiece for her Thanksgiving table. The photo is below!

What are you creating to decorate for this weekend’s feast?

I love those large acorns nestled around the gourds and mini pumpkins!

A gorgeous fall container and a pumpkin covered in peanuts

Tuesday afternoon I headed to the TBG to shoot a video with director of horticulture, Paul Zammit. Paul is a natural on-camera, and had shot another video with us about two and a half years ago that still gets viewed every month. So I arranged to have him create a fall-themed pot and set a date with Carrie Shibinsky, the marketing and communications director. When I got there, Paul had chosen a very picturesque focal point outside. Our new media producer extraordinaire Ryan DaSilva, accompanied by Mark the intern from the Hockey News (talk about a change of scenery!), was there to film the unique setting and, of course, Paul’s masterpiece.

When I got there, Paul announced he wasn’t going the traditional orange and red route. I wasn’t worried, but I also wasn’t sure what to expect. Well the final result is quite stunning and unexpected. Paul chose a palette of chartreuse, yellows, greens and silvery blues. Even the pumpkins matched! Not only does Paul have a great eye, but you always learn important tips as he takes you through the steps. You’ll have to watch the video to learn more! And I’ve included a couple of behind-the-scenes shots below. If you’re in the mood to share, post your fall pots on our Facebook fan page!

Mark and Ryan setting up the right angles!

Paul always brings along lots of interesting plant material!

This is the pumpkin I mentioned in the blog title. After the video shoot, Paul took me out back to see it because it looks so interesting - like it's covered in peanuts!

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