Gardening Blog

Gardener’s bookshelf: Worms Eat My Garbage

There is a difference between keeping a compost pile and actually knowing how to compost.

I am a person who was dong the former. Realizing I was going on luck and random tips culled over the years, I took the opportunity to attend a composting class put on by the Calgary Horticultural Society 10 days ago. (As for why it has taken me this long to tell you about it, see previous post re: puppy.)

It was a very informative day, taught by the sharp, funny, Kath Smyth. I learned buckets, but the best part for me was when Kath invited her associate Mike Dorian up to illuminate the world of vermicomposting. Mike runs the Calgary-based company Living Soil Solutions, which provides all things worm, and while I’ve been keeping a worm bin for a few years now, I’ve kind of (don’t tell) been faking my way through it. Mike helped me put my finger on some changes I could make to have more success and enjoyment with my bin.

One of the suggestions he made was to read the book Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. So, like a good student, I came home and requested it from the library.

Me doing my homework

Though it was written in the early ’80s, Worms Eat My Garbage is still considered a primary resource for vermicomposting. A quick look through it and it’s easy to see why: all the basic principles are explained in plain language and simple illustrations. An overview of how worms fit into the food web establishes the bigger picture. How much to feed and how is discussed. The pros and cons of different types of bedding are debated. All in a relaxed, 80 page read. I’ve seen lots of technical writing and research material on worm composting that might win in the details department, but Mary Appelhof’s book wins hands down in the covering-all-the-bases-while-not putting-you-to-sleep category. Highly recommended to anyone interested in vermicomposting.

The dog ate my blog work

So I was going to write this week about the awesome composting class I attended on Saturday, through the Calgary Horticultural Society.

I’ve also been thinking about a post on keeping houseplants happy through the winter, especially so I could show off Chris’ blooming Lipstick Vine (Aeschynanthus).

There was the bird watching report.

The cold frame update.

More books to spotlight.

But we got a puppy on Monday, and all bets are off.

I wasn’t necessarily against getting a dog, but I had a very clear idea of the work involved, having kept pet dogs as a child, and blithely leaving most of the work to my patient, patient mother. Which would now be coming back to haunt me.

I have, however, already taken a shining to our little as-yet-unnamed fur ball. He is incredibly smart and is training very quickly. But I can’t help cringing every time he does his business, because underneath his potty is my garden: the lawn (meh), the vegetable plots (please don’t), and the finally-happy rose patch (grrr!). I’m being patient, and working towards a designated area, but what if he turns out to be a digger? What if my newly planted trees look  to him more like sticks to chew?

I’ve been dealing with kitty consequences for years, but this is entirely different. Puppies are so much… busier. Louder.

It’s a whole new world for the family and the garden. (And the cat. But he’ll survive.)

 

 

Q&A with Cold Spring Apothecary’s Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman

Long before modern science and technology, botany and medicine went hand in hand. I spoke to Cold Spring Apothecary founder and author of The Home Apothecary Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman about going back to basics with homemade natural remedies featuring much-loved healing botanicals. I can’t wait to try the Beauty Salve and the Joint and Muscle Soak that we excerpted HERE.

Read the rest of this entry »

Winter floral arrangements

Now and again, I’ll treat myself to fresh flowers from the market, but I scratch my head when I look at the selection available in the wintertime (fluffy hydrangeas, colourful dahlias, etc.) – how far did these blooms travel before finding their way into my local grocer? Most are likely imported from far away places, such as South America, Africa, China and Europe, and they’re lacking in fragrance, charm and garden-grown appeal.

In December 2013, The New York Times published a fascinating article titled “The Farm-to-Centerpiece Movement.” Writer Stacie Stolie says: “The explosion of interest in seasonal and pesticide-free food tilled in local soil is now spilling over into the commercial flower industry, making it possible to go local, even in the middle of winter.” I always try to choose local and organic produce, so it’s natural that I question where my flowers are coming from, too.

With this in mind, I asked Toronto’s Alison Westlake of Coriander Girl to share some photographs of the arrangements she’s been creating during the deep freeze. Alison favours local flower suppliers (including Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard whose arrangements we featured in fall/winter issue) for her floral design business.

Read the rest of this entry »

The dangers of sending me to the hardware store

I’d just like to say at the outset that Chris is to blame.

He needed some more 1 1/2 inch screws for his current project. I was going into town. He asked me to pick some up for him. I agreed.

The trouble is, all the fasteners are towards the rear of our local Home Hardware, which means I have to walk past aisles and aisles of temptation in order to fill his request. I managed to ignore the racks of seed packets by the front door. I noticed, but did not stop to examine, the kitchen gadgets on special. I allowed my daughter to raid the paint swatches, as we are planning to fix her bedroom up this spring.

Triumph of triumphs, I got to the back of the store without picking up anything. I located the screws in question without incident. But on the return journey, there was birdseed. I mean, a lot of birdseed. Impressed at the varied selection I thought would only be found at a specialty store, how could I walk on? Such meticulous effort to feed our feathered friends must be applauded. Hence, a new suet feeder is hanging in our biggest spruce tree.

Suet brick holder, $1.99; Suet bricks, $4.97 for 3 (several varieties); both Home Hardware.

It would have stopped there, but I had to wait at the till for just a moment or two — long enough to notice that coir seed starter trays were on sale. And soil mix. And oh, that’s right, I should pick up some extra drainage trays. Two cracked on me last year, after all. And what’s this? Daffodil bulbs, just waiting for someone to force them for Easter? Why thank you, don’t mind if I do. They might not be ready by then, but need I repeat… daffodils.

After several weeks in the attic we'll have some buds!

Not the most grievous of financial infidelities, I know. But I was prepared for, and received, the eye rolling when I returned home with two shopping bags instead of a little plastic bin of hardware.

“Hey,” I said in defence, “Count your blessings. I could have come home with a new set of garden hoses. They were on the shelves.”

 

Planting seeds for Valentine’s

I haven’t been quite with it the last couple of weeks — working more than usual, bit of a cold, plain old cabin fever — and I’ll admit: Valentine’s Day snuck up on me a bit.

I’m scrambling for treats for school parties. We had a mad valentine-signing session last night. And, to my shame, I did not have the foresight to create any of these super fancy arrangements.

Hubby’s in town as we speak though, so if he happens to bring a certain something home, I could try one out. Or he could save me the time and find one of these Garden-in-a-Bag flowers. Just about my speed right now.

But even though I have done nothing this week in the flower department, my preschooler is ready to roll. We picked out these Disney Fairies valentines, which come with little paper shapes embedded with flower seeds.

See the little red flower pot on the card at the bottom right? Seed paper!

Way cooler (at least to me) than the current trend of throwing more candy at each other. Down side: the package gives no indication of what type of seeds you are planting. Up side: lots of leftover paper bits after the shapes were punched out. Little Miss can’t wait to plant them. She’ll be bugging me all weekend to dig out the potting soil.

Which leads me to the other up side: I’ve got spider plant babies rooting on the kitchen counter that are ready to pot, and I’ve been wanting to start some early seeds (leeks, specifically).

I think my Miniature Motivator just turned Valentine’s Day into a planting party. Share the love.

‘Tis the season for Seedy Saturdays

This past weekend, I headed to St. Catharines with my husband to attend Niagara Seedy Saturday. The event was bustling. I could barely get near some of the seed tables at certain points, the seminar I attended about composting was standing room only, and the fresh roast beef lunch and pie served by the church where the event was held was evidently really popular. Read the rest of this entry »

A welcome preview of Canada Blooms 2014

Last week, during one of those ridiculously freezing days, I headed to a preview for Canada Blooms. This was the first year that the preview was so early. In past years, it has taken place the morning the show officially opened. I think it was really smart to start building excitement early and give the media a glimpse of what’s in store. I know for a fact I’m not the only gardener who is planning seed orders and new garden designs, and desperately longing for spring. The event featured a honey tasting courtesy of the Toronto Botanical Garden (they were also giving away okra seeds to complement their world crop garden theme), a floral competition and a preview from some of the landscape designers and gardeners who will be working on the feature gardens. Read the rest of this entry »

Gardener’s bookshelf: help with veggies

I love flowers as much as the next girl, but when it comes to gardening, I got into it for the food. Pretty didn’t matter. I’ve come to see the error of my ways, but no matter how many flowers I now grow, my green heart still really belongs to the edibles. As such, I am always on the look out for new insight on growing better vegetables. Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine’s Day gift idea: Garden-in-a-Bag

This charming Garden-in-a-Bag is the most clever way to give flowers this Valentine’s Day (and the blooms will last much longer than ones from the florist). Read the rest of this entry »

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