Gardening Blog

An edible weed discovery

Out of all the weeds I have to pull, I didn’t realize I was composting a nutrient-dense super food. Purslane is a succulent with a reddish root and little shiny green leaves with more omega-3s than kale and lots of antioxidants. It also happens to love my yard. Apparently purslane is very popular in the Mediterranean, but here in North America we haven’t quite gotten used to eating this weed that likes to pop up in dry places like sidewalk cracks. After reading the chapter on purslane that we’ve excerpted on the site from the book Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas, I pointed out the weed to my husband. He seemed a little dubious about eating something that doesn’t come from the boundaries of our vegetable garden, but I might sneak it into a salad this week. Shh, don’t tell!

All or nothing

The corn is coming along nicely so far.

The corn is coming along nicely so far.

My husband Chris is an all or nothing kind of guy. He's an artist. A big idea man. And that includes his thinking about our yard. He didn't build the kids a play house, he built a play castle. He hasn't moved that metastasizing pile of building materials, because he's waiting to have a full day to tackle it. He hates mowing unless he can finish the whole place at once. But I digress.

In Chris's world, there's no point growing corn unless you grow a whole batch of it. As in half a dozen 100-foot rows. That would take up pretty much all of our current veggie patch, which I'm not up for. Also, as a big idea man, he tends to move on to the next big idea, leaving the last one for me. I know I'm the one who would end up doing most of the work weeding, watering and pollinating. And with our short growing season, you've got to be pretty on top of it and the weather has to cooperate just right if you're even going to end up with any edible corn. Take up all that space and invest all that energy, in a crop that might happen? So I told him, go till up a new patch and you be in charge of it.

Our not quite enormous, yet giant pumpkin

Our not quite enormous, yet giant pumpkin

Hasn't happened. Mission accomplished.

This year he came home with giant seeds a friend had given him. We have always grown pumpkins, but Chris wants to try the “grand-daddy” pumpkin–Dill's Atlantic Giant. I smiled and nodded and rolled my eyes internally. Scanning the seed packet, I realized maybe I should have been more supportive of the corn–these babies need their hills spaced 15-20 feet apart, and need a soil pH of blah blah fertilizer blah blah. My laissez-faire garden mind tuned out. At least hundred-foot rows of corn might give us something to eat other than bragging rights.

His excitement, as usual, was contagious, and the giant seeds got planted. They've had a late start because of our weird spring (the first flowers are just coming now) so we'll see how giant any pumpkins get. And we'll see how much space they actually take up as they wind their way through the rows of (sigh) corn.

Lest you think me a shameless husband basher, here's the upside to having an artist around the house. Chris built these steps and I'm getting a trellis to match this fall!

Lest you think me a shameless husband basher, here's the upside to having an artist around the house. Chris built these steps and I'm getting a trellis to match this fall!

Garden bugs!

My two-year-old Izah has two categories of bugs: “ewww” and “helper.” She likes worms, ladybugs, and bees, because she knows they have jobs that make the garden better. Pretty much everything else is an “ewww.” I hate to admit it, but mostly I agree. I know they each have a role to play, I just wish they would do it somewhere else. Preferably out of my sight.

Gardens have bugs. This is an inescapable truth, in the same category as death and taxes. Some we appreciate, others we tolerate. Then there`s the cringe-inducing annoyances: aphids, grubs, cabbage moth larvae, beetles of various stripes–we all have our personal nemesis.

I`ve had the odd problem with insects over the years. I`ve poured boiling water on inconvenient anthills, hung those fake wasp nests (which I endorse, by the way), and been infested with earwigs. But for the most part, their activity has been akin to punk teenagers egging the neighbour`s house on a Saturday night, and I`ve shrugged it off accordingly and carried on. This year, for whatever reason, the bugs have gotten organized. We`re talking Mafia tactics worthy of Al Capone.

There are hornets finding their way into my enclosed porch, at least one a day. There are suddenly ant hills all over the yard, with scouts all over the house. There are spiders everywhere in and out, big nasty ones too. I`ve got aphids on my broccoli and kale, and I`ve noticed more than one six-legged critter I`ve never even seen before. And don`t get me started on the mosquitos.
I`m chalking it up to the overly wet spring we`ve had. We move every ladybug we find to help with the aphids. Borax and peanut butter seems to have gotten the ants to behave, and we plugged some holes in the porch. All told, we`ll get by. But these mobsters aren`t scoring any points with me and Izah. –April Demes

Introducing our new blogger, April Demes

april-demesBack in the winter, CanadianGardening.com hosted a contest called So You Think You Can Garden. The winner received a prize package along with an opportunity to blog on the site. After receving an overwhelming amount of entries, we finally chose April Demes to be our winner. April was scheduled to start blogging for us in May, but we’ve been waiting for our developers to launch a shiny new blog format for us. Since we’re still waiting and it’s July, I thought I could publish April’s posts for the time being under my blog. I will clearly mark these entries so you can follow April’s adventures in her own garden until we can publish her posts separately.

Here’s a link to April’s winning entry.

Nematodes to the rescue

A few weeks ago, while making a couple of purchases at Home Depot, I saw a little fridge filled with Nema-Globe Grub Busters at the checkout counter. I went to grab some, but the lady helping me couldn’t find the hose attachments anywhere. With a growing lineup behind me, I told her I’d come back. But a couple of days later, at a Garden Writers Association luncheon, I was lucky enough to take home a sample–along with the hose attachment. It was such great timing and I–rather my husband–promptly dispersed the contents throughout our lawn.

nema-globeNematodes are microscopic, parasitic worms and are an eco-friendly way to control white grubs (which I’ve seen more than my fair share of throughout the yard). Packaged by Environmental Factor Inc., Nema-Globe Grub Busters Nematodes also protect against other soil pests like weevils, sod webworm, cutworms and more.

According to the early summer issue of Canadian Gardening, they are best applied to damp soil in mid to late spring and late summer. Do not fertilize your lawn for two weeks before or after application.

It’s been a few weeks and I really think the nematodes did their job! Our lawn has suffered from grubs since we moved in, but last year it was decimated. Now it’s gradually coming back, so my fingers are crossed that those nasty grubs are gone for good.

My invisible squirrel barrier

Last year I had such a problem with squirrels, especially in my vegetable garden. They dug up seedlings, they broke stems off plants and they took one lousy bite out of the only cucumber I managed to grow, and left it to rot. I read somewhere that they don’t like blood meal, so a few weeks ago when I planted my garden, I sprinkled some lightly throughout all my newly planted gardens. I’ve been diligent about reapplying after a heavy rain and so far so good. I hope I didn’t just jinx the fate of my garden with this blog post.

A garden tour of The Beach

I've seen half numbers in addresses before–usually on a house subdivided into apartments. But as I approach 44 ½ Victoria Park, I'm greeted by a gate of sorts framing a path, right between two homes. The path takes me past both houses and their backyards, and leads me to this amazing, magical lot, perched on a ravine. I want to move there. This house is the first on a preview of Toronto Botanical Garden`s annual Through the Garden Gate garden tour. This year, for the first time, the tour takes place in the Beach neighbourhood of Toronto. June 19 and 20, visitors will be allowed to take in 26 private gardens like this one, which you would never know even existed. Apparently it used to be a cottage with its own little road that was eliminated over time–hence the half-numbered address. The other homes we preview each boast their own unique attributes, including a couple with spectacular lakefront views, one with over 50 Japanese maples, and another with a contemporary water feature in a cosy backyard. I will definitely be going back next weekend to take in the other 21 homes on the tour–or at least most of them!

Scroll below the event details for a few preview pics!

Here are the details:
When: The tour takes place Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tour headquarters: Neil McNeil High School at 127 Victoria Park Ave.
Ticket includes: Comprehensive Garden Guide, access to the 26 gardens with experts in each garden and complimentary shuttle service.

Tickets can be purchased online at the Toronto Botanical Garden website (prices are listed there, as well) and at the following outlets:

  • Shop TBG, 777 Lawrence Ave. E
  • Blossoms Rosedal, 1 Rowanwood Ave.
  • Bill's Garden Centre, 903 Pape Ave.
  • Plant World, 4,000 Eglinton Ave. W
  • Sheridan Nurseries, 2827 Yonge St.
  • Sheridan Nurseries, 784 Sheppard Ave. E
Enter this gate at 44 1/2 Victoria Park and you'll never want to leave!

Enter this gate at 44 1/2 Victoria Park and you'll never want to leave!

This is my favourite garden, so I'm showing another photo. By the way there are two other ponds as well as a swimming pool. This lot is an anomaly in the city. What I love about it is the owner and her family all contributed.

This is my favourite garden, so I'm showing another photo. This is the one with over 50 Japanese maples. The lot is over an acre, an anomaly in the city. What I love about the gardens is the fact that the whole family has contributed. And the owner has such an eye for flow and colour and texture.

This water feature at 51 Northern Dancer Blvd. (and the garden) were designed by Kim Price Landscape. It cleverly hides the garage that is mere steps from the back door of the house.

This water feature at 51 Northern Dancer Blvd. (and the garden) were designed by Kim Price Landscape. It cleverly hides the garage that is mere steps from the back door of the house.

Looking forward to chocolate mint tea

Recently I posted an article by writer Charmian Christie about interesting herbal teas you can grow in the garden. Curious about the chocolate mint that `tastes like a Peppermint Pattie`, I bought a plant last weekend at the market in St. Jacob`s. My plain old mint, which I had planted in a pot, didn't come back this spring, so I dug out the roots, amended the soil and plunked in my chocolate plant. I can't wait to taste it!

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!

Weeds 1, Budding Gardener 0

And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

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