Well before most of my garden had called it quits for the season, I decided to dry a few herbs. I snipped bunches of sage, oregano, French tarragon and spearmint. As I was crumbling my spearmint to save for tea the other day, I though to myself: “Wouldn’t this make a cute Christmas gift?” For my birthday, my friend Brenda gave me one of those ceramic jars from Anthropologie with the chalkboard label on the front, as well as a package of these lovely little drawstring tea bags. This is the perfect packaging if you choose to share some of your herbs. Looseleaf tea bags can be found at most tea shops. I would recommend a teaspoon of dried herbs in each. Or, make it a spice jar and fill it with savoury herbs you’ve dried, like oregano or thyme.
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!
I was going to keep this post short and sweet, but I thought I should say a bit more about overwintering my fig than simply that I brought it into the garage.
Before getting my fig tree cosied up in its winter home, I first had to remove two small figs that appeared in September. I was so excited because my fig tree was a mere stick when Steven Biggs (aka The Fig Pig) gave it to me at the end of last winter. I tweeted Steven (@noguffsteve) to ask what I should do with my wee crop. He said that the figs probably formed a bit too late to ripen this year, so I should break them off by winter if they did not fall off themselves (check!).
By next July, Steven said I should get my first crop of breba figs. Breba is the name given to the crop that grows off the previous year’s shoot growth. There will be a second crop later in the summer that will grow off next year’s shoot growth.
I should add that I brought the fig tree into the garage after a couple of light frosts, but before our first hard frost. The leaves were starting to drop, indicating that the tree was going into dormancy. My garage is the perfect place for overwintering because it is fairly dark and cool, but above freezing.
Steven recently posted on his blog about overwintering figs outdoors using a “door” method. It’s worth a read if you can’t bring your fig trees inside!
Late this summer, my friend Halli led me through her fading garden collecting flower seeds for me to bring back from my visit. Many of the plants she showed me were planted by her grandmother, self seeding annuals that have thrived for years outside the family home. There were nasturtiums, poppies, blanket flowers, sweet peas, and bellflowers. Some were familiar, some were new, and all got me excited about adding them to my own garden.
Then I got home and life took over.
I took the seeds out of the plastic I brought them home in, but the plate where I spread them to dry got knocked over, and the little slip of paper where I had noted the description and identity of each seed went missing. I moved the seeds to a safer location, and forgot all about them.
Now, here we are, the beginning of November, and I’m feeling guilty. I can’t waste this gift, but we’ve already had a couple of snow falls. The ground is starting to freeze. Should I hang on to them until next year, and hope they are still viable? Shall I give them an artificial winter in the fridge?
To the rescue: what I call my “sandbox” (an idea I think I gleaned from Marjorie Harris)–a little spot of ground specifically left empty for playing, experimenting, and housing the random plants that jump into your hands at the greenhouse. Mine is in a little corner of the front flower bed, out of immediate view, but close enough to where the action is that it doesn’t get forgotten. I think it will make the perfect way station for Halli’s seeds. Loosely sown on the soil surface, scratched in just a little, they should ride out the winter in the way they were meant to, and in the spring (hopefully) I will have a riot of new faces to sort through.
Today I am launching the first in what will be a series of “2-second garden tips” here on the blog (and on Pinterest). I’m going to be asking fellow gardeners for quick, informative tips that I can turn into interesting Pinterest graphics like the one below (by the way, check out our Pinterest boards here). My first tip was inspired by my fall container. I purchased a lovely heuchera with grey-green and purplish foliage and a requisite chrysanthemum (along with some annuals and kale). There was no way I was going to send the heuchera or the mums to the compost, so I planted them in my garden (with fingers crossed they’ll survive the winter). Now my pots are ready for pine boughs and birch branches and whatever else I find to stuff in them.
The graphic was designed by our talented design intern, Emily Swift, who is working on all of TC Media’s brands, from Elle Canada to Style at Home. I’m hoping to post a tip a week, so stay tuned. Oh, and if you like the tip, please share it with your Pinterest friends!
Two years ago I planted garlic for the first time. I had just moved into a new home in mid-October, but I grabbed some organic Ontario garlic from the market in town and planted a few last-minute cloves. I think I got about twelve heads of garlic, but I was over the moon and quickly used it up in my cooking.
Last fall, I dropped the ball completely and was not happy about my garlic-less garden this summer. I vowed not to let it happen again. So when I saw a Facebook post by fellow garden writer Niki Jabbour (aka The Year-Round Veggie Gardener) recommending Eureka Garlic, I decided I should plan ahead and place an order. I did a little Googling and discovered that the garlic Al Picketts grows for Eureka is chemical-free. I emailed Al for a list and was overwhelmed by the 79 varieties that arrived in my inbox.
In the middle of my decision making, I happened to run into Liz Primeau, who wrote In Pursuit of Garlic a couple of years ago. Liz was anxious to get her hands on the rare Rose de Lautrec at the Stratford Garlic Festival in September. She recommended I speak to a couple of ladies who would be there for advice. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, so I went back and read some of Liz’s book and after a bit more research, I settled on ‘Music’, ‘Persian Star’, ‘French Rocambole’ and ‘Polish Hardneck’. I felt nervous about putting all the garlic in one bed, so I divvied it up amongst my two raised beds (which took up about half the space in each), added a couple along the side of my house and plunked the last four or five cloves in a sunny perennial garden at the very front of my property.
To plant, I followed some of the tips in this step-by-step article by Katharine Fletcher. Is it too early to be excited for July?
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.
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.
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.
One of the reasons I love fall is that it gives me more time to read. There’s so much to do in the garden over the summer, I don’t think I relaxed in my lounger with a good book more than once! Don’t get me wrong, I still have a LOT to do to put my garden to bed for the winter, but I can now spare a couple of hours here and there to curl up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good book. One of the new books I’ve been looking forward to reading is The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray Love) because the main character is a botanist. You can read a review of it on the Globe and Mail website (I started, but stopped because I felt it was giving too much away), and read a synopsis or purchase on the Indigo website. Does anyone want to read the book and then chat about it in a few weeks?
One of the great advantages of gardening out in the country is being able to do large scale projects.
One of the great drawbacks of gardening out in the country is finding professionals willing to travel to your residence to help you with large scale projects.
After having the power company remove three poplars from the front yard (due to their proximity to a power line), I spent some time trying to get a hold of an arbourist to come and grind the leftover stumps. No dice.
As much as my kids wouldn’t care if the stumps stayed (play value=very high), they’re a nuisance to mow and trim around and they’re constantly sprouting scraggly growth. And they’re just kind of ugly.
They are rotting away a bit, but not fast enough for me. I’ve decided it’s time to give up on the professionals and help Mother Nature along myself. I bought some stump remover and applied it several weeks ago.
It’s a pretty simple process. The stump remover basically just speeds up decomposition. You can help it by keeping the stump damp, even going so far as to cover it with plastic to hold in moisture. The label advises allowing at least 4-6 weeks for the process to work. This is what one of my stumps looked like after five weeks of intermittent rain and my total neglect.
While doing some research on this whole process, I stumbled across an interesting fact: potassium nitrate, the active ingredient in this stump remover product, is also sometimes called saltpeter. If that word conjures visions of pirates and cannonballs, there’s a reason. It’s one of the main elements in gunpowder. That’s right, gunpowder. Which made the final step in the stump removal process seem suddenly much more exciting.
You can just let everything rot and then hack out the debris, but the manufacturer recommends starting a fire on the stump to burn out the remaining wood.
That’s right, fill your stump with saltpeter, then light it on fire.
Am I a pyromaniac, or does that not just sound fun?
The science behind it is the absorbed saltpeter allows the fire to burn right through to the roots of the stump, whereas a normal fire would burn only until it ran out of oxygen–pretty fast when you’re underground.
How can I not try this?
Ah! But what about…
I was gonna…
Now I can’t…
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.