{ Archive for the ‘seasons’ Category }

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!

Cool things to plant from PC

This past weekend marked the official launch of the President's Choice Insider's Report (Lawn & Garden edition). And as we head into the long weekend, you may want to check it out and make a list of all the great new flowers, trees, bushes, herbs, fruits and veggies that will be stocked at a Loblaw-owned store near you.

I had a bit of a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago at the annual President's Choice Lawn & Garden event. This year's plant preview took place in Beamsville where we had the opportunity to tour the greenhouses at the family-run Linwell Gardens and Freeman Herbs.

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

Here are some of the plants and products that I took an interest in for my own garden or that were too cool not to mention:

Sunpatiens
Impatiens no longer have to be confined to those shady areas of your garden. There's a new hybrid in town that does well in full sun.

Tumbler tomatoes
I had a nice chat at Freeman Herbs with Bob Martin from Martin Farms. I met Bob last year at a Stokes Best and President's Choice tasting event. He was excited about their tumbler tomatoes, tomatoes that were bred for hanging baskets–genius! I remember them being quite delicious. It's really neat to see something go from the test garden to the store. Another tomato that made it into this year's product lineup was red candy. It was one of my favourites from last year and I recently took one home after our magazine editor Erin did a veggie presentation. Also worth trying, the Kapelo peppers.

Starburst surprise petunias
I'm not partial to any one colour in the garden, but my favourite colour in everyday life is pink–pale or fuchsia, it doesn't matter. So I fell in love with these gorgeous, two-toned petunias and was lucky enough to take one of the luxuriant hanging baskets home. Last night as I was buying soil, I grabbed a couple more individual plants to go in my front garden along with some pale yellow beauties.

A pink Starburst surprise!

A pink Starburst surprise!

Starbright Mock Orange
We have a second story going up on the bungalow behind us, which has killed our privacy. My fingers are crossed the owners build a fence, but in the meantime, I'm going to build a living fence. Currently we have cedars (not including the ones I planted last year that died) and a mulberry tree (which is pretty, but messy). This mock orange will fill one of the vacant spots beautifully–the Insider's Report says it will grow to be about 10 feet tall–here's hoping!

They don’t look plastic!
Rather than sell their pots in something generic that you'll have to hide in one of your own pretty pots, PC has these fantastic, decorative planters that you can just plunk right in front of your house without shame.

Can you believe this is only $30!

Can you believe this is only $30!

Check out the PC Garden blog, written by City Gardening writer Lorraine Flanigan. It will give you even more ideas on what to plant from President’s Choice.

p.s. Many apologies for the delay between posts! I've been under the weather for the last two weeks. On the mend!

Weekend workout

Saturday I went mountain biking for a few hours. The course was full of rolling hills, so I expected a bit of stiffness yesterday after a couple of steep climbs. I woke up feeling absolutely great and headed into the garden for the day. After several hours of bending and pulling and clearing and pruning, this morning I can barely move! It just goes to show how good of a workout gardening can be.

Happy holidays fellow budding gardeners!

Well, my work week is just about done, which means I’ll be taking an indulgence-filled break from being a budding gardener. I just wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. We have lots of great gardening tips and ideas planned for 2010. And, as always, welcome your feedback about what you want to see on the site (please leave your comments below).

See you next year!

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