Gardening Blog

Gardening with Michelle Obama on Sesame Street

The U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama will be making a special guest appearance on Sesame Street to kick off the children’s television shows 40th anniversary season.

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Richard Termine / Handout / Reuters

With the help of Elmo, Big Bird and a few eager gardeners-in-training, Obama will be demonstrating how to plant a vegetable garden using tomato, cucumber and lettuce seeds. Obama’s appearance is part of Sesame Street’s Health & Wellness Initiatives.

This isn’t the first time Obama has been an advocate for gardening. This past March, she had the first fruit and vegetable garden planted at the White House since World War Two. The fruit and produce harvested from the 1,100 sq. ft. garden will be used in the White House kitchen.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Sesame Street and the furry muppets that live, work and play in the friendly neighborhood. I’m so excited that they’re now teaching kids about gardening on the show!

The episode will be airing on television in early November, but check out this sneak peek. I especially love the basket full of talking veggies!

Fried pumpkin flowers anyone?

Well, it’s official. My pumpkin crop has failed again! That having been said, I still found a scrumptious, lip-smacking use for the flowers. pumpkin-flower

Last year I discovered a new recipe while I was flipping through Jamie Oliver’s cookbook ‘Jamie at Home.’ In the book, he has a recipe for Fried Zucchini Flowers. I tried it with zucchini flowers, but I also tried the recipe using pumpkin flowers. I was amaze at how distinctively different they tasted. The zucchini flower was mild and buttery, while the pumpkin flower was extremely flavourful almost peppery.

Stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese, dipped in a white wine batter and then deep fried, they were delicious. So now, every year I grow a few pumpkin plants in hopes of growing a decent sized jack-o-lantern, but I also grow them to harvest the yummy flowers. Since I only harvest the male flowers, I don’t sacrifice my potential pumpkin crop. Only the female flowers develop into pumpkins.

pumpkin-fryingHere’s a photo of the stuffed flowers, battered and frying in vegetable oil. Unfortunately, they didn’t last long enough on the plate to get a photo of the finished dish. Next time!

Fabulous fall bouquet and a mystery plant

fall-bouquet-triangle1

What is this interesting-looking thing?

fall-bouquet

My lovely fall bouquet

Today's the first day where it's actually started to feel a little like fall. There's a slight wind here in Toronto and it's overcast and raining. We’ve had a very warm September until now. Even Northern Alberta, Vancouver and Whistler, where I spent the last week, have enjoyed an unusually warm fall. Only a few leaves here and there were beginning to turn various shades of gold in Northern Alberta, but everywhere else still seems fairly green.

My first real glimpse of fall colour is in this lovely `welcome home` bouquet that greeted me when I returned from my trip. Especially interesting are the red and furry, pie-slice-shaped flowers. I have never seen them before. My fiancé said they were called `high fives` until I realized he was pulling my leg. Does anyone know what these are?

(photo taken with a Kodak EasyShare M381 digital camera)

Athabaskets!

alberta-athabascabasketAfter a morning of fishing in Athabasca on the river (I caught an 8ish-pound pike!), I was treated to a historical tour of the town by my local guide, Nadine Hallett. Besides the rich, fascinating history of the area – the historic Athabasca Landing Trail was an important trading and settlement corridor that included people bound for the Klondike Gold Rush – there were these gorgeous barrels of flowers and baskets hanging all over town. Apparently they are watered and fertilized every day, so the results are these brilliant globes of colour. One proud fact is that in 2005, Athabasca won a Communities in Bloom award for their lovely green thumb efforts throughout the town.

(photo taken with a Kodak EasyShare M381 digital camera)

Cool gadget – time lapse garden camera

I stumbled upon this nifty garden device the other day while I was surfing the web. The GardenWatch Cam is perfect for gardeners who love gadgets. Maybe this is something you’d like to add to your wish list for Santa I know, I shouldn’t be thinking about the ‘C’ word already, but Santa’s elves needs time to build all the toys you know!

be41_gardenwatch_cam_ingroundThe GardenWatch Cam by Brinno is designed to be placed outside in your garden to take photos at specific predetermined time settings. Simply put, you can record your flowers blooming, speed it up, and then watch it on your computer. It’s not like sitting on your deck watching the grass grow in real time. The time-lapsed images are sped up so you can watch seedlings sprout, a morning glory climb up a trellis, bees pollinate flowers, or capture the sneaky garden gnome who mysteriously manages to be in a different spot in your garden every morning.

Housed in a weather resistant plastic case, the GardenWatch Cam blends into the garden so you won’t even notice it’s there. At the end of the season, you can download the images and play it back to watch your garden bloom all over again. Take a peek at some of these videos filmed with the GardenWatch Cam.

Seedlings sprouting

Hyacinth blooming

For bird watchers trying to catch a glimpse of visitors to your bird feeder, be sure to check out the BirdWatch Cam.

Touring wild rose country

alberta-wildroseI'm currently in Northern Alberta taking in all the pristine, untouched wilderness this lovely province has to offer.

Kodak lent me one of their new EasyShare M381 digital cameras to capture the gorgeous sites. My old camera had a big docking station you had to plug into the wall and then the computer to upload photos. This one just takes a USB cord and was pretty easy to use out of the box.

alberta-jackpinesI haven't seen any wild roses, but I love the trees pictured here. I'm not sure why, but I call them scrubby pines. They're actually Jack Pines and apparently they are one of the first trees to grow after a forest fire. This is what Wikipedia says about them: “It is fire-adapted to stand-replacing fires, with the cones remaining closed for many years, until a forest fire kills the mature trees and opens the cones, reseeding the burnt ground.”

These would be perfect to line the back of my yard to give us privacy from the giant house going up behind us. The soil in my yard is pretty dry and I wouldn't have to trim as they grow fairly straight. I'm wondering if it's something I could buy at a nursery…

Spending the night in a nest

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The Nest

My first night in the Lesser Slave Lake region of Northern Alberta was spent at a hostel called The Nest. These accommodations were especially interesting because they are on the grounds of the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation (BCBC). And hostel is kind of misleading when you compare it to some of the more (ahem) squeaky-clean-challenged places you might have experienced. This was more like a comfy cabin. It sleeps 10 in two separate wings with a common area and kitchen in the middle, complete with a big fireplace. Super cosy!

Tracking the numbers: Because of the great weather conditions Alberta had this summer, they didn't get the same numbers they have in the past as the birds kept right on flying instead of stopping!

Tracking the numbers: Because of the great weather conditions Alberta had this summer, they didn't get the same numbers they have in the past as the birds kept right on flying instead of stopping!

The next morning after a walk to the rocky beach for views of Lesser Slave Lake, I visited the centre for some bird education. Charity and executive director Patti Campsall were very helpful in explaining what the centre is all about as well as the eco-friendly aspects of this LEEDS-certified structure.

Lesser Slave Lake and nearby Marten Mountain act as a natural barrier for migratory birds making their annual voyage. The BCBC has provided a haven for researchers to study the birds` important relationship with the Boreal forest. Of special interest are the neo-tropical birds. Some of these tiny specimens travel for thousands and thousands of miles!

Walking through the exhibit and reading about these amazing bird populations was fascinating. Afterwards we headed down towards the lake again to talk to Richard, who is the head bander for the bird banding program. Richard and his team use special nets to catch birds and gather important data about them (such as their age, sex, measurements and muscle development).

Unfortunately it was a very windy day — not great conditions for the birds, so we weren't able to witness the banding. But the BCBC does host a number of educational programs, including the opportunity to tour the banding station and see Richard in action (when he's a little busier). If you're there in winter, the centre rents out cross country skis and snowshoes for free!

This didn't come out very well, but Richard has photos in his research building identifying the birds that are of most interest for the purposes of his studies.

This didn't come out very well, but Richard has photos in his research building identifying the birds that are of most interest for the purposes of his studies.

So what’s the connection to gardening? We can provide important habitats for them in our own backyard! During my visit, I picked up some great tips on attracting songbirds to your yard. We currently have the one article on the site and I intend to talk to Patty for more helpful advice!

(photo taken with a Kodak EasyShare M381 digital camera)

Scary garden spider

spiderAfter reading Tara’s post ‘Does this spider look dangerous’ at The Budding Gardener, I noticed this spider hanging around my front door.

I try to appreciate all of Mother Nature’s creatures, but seriously….FREAKY!

I wouldn’t mind if this eight-legged miniature monster would go hang out somewhere else, instead of living in the euonymus by my front door.

I Googled ‘black and yellow spider’ and discovered that this is a Black-and-Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia). They’re also known as the Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider, because they are commonly found in the garden. Apparently they’re harmless to humans and feast on large insects, like grasshoppers and butterflies. Either way, I’d prefer if this little arachnid keep to himself!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year for shopping for your garden that is. Garden centres are reducing their nursery stock, putting perennials on sale, marking down tools and garden gadgets, and clearing out pots and planters. I don’t need much of an excuse to visit a garden centre, but I definitely can’t resist a fall sale.

Within a 10 km driving radius of my house, there are six nurseries and garden centres. I can easily spend a Saturday afternoon driving from one to the other to see what I can find. It’s plant bargain shopping at its finest.

Sometimes I go with a game plan, while other times I just wander around to see what captures my fancy. This year’s shopping list includes ornamental grasses, perennial rudbeckia, tulip bulbs, and maybe a new squirrel-proof bird feeder.

Happy Shopping!

Does this spider look dangerous?

spiderTo me it does. To me this is what nightmares are made of. I know, I seriously need to cure myself of my arachnophobia, especially if I’m going to continue gardening. This creepy thing has spun a web from a tree to my rain barrel and I have to look at it every time I get water. If he’s not going to send me to the hospital with paralysis should I somehow get close enough to be bitten, I will grant him squatter’s rights. If he’s dangerous he’ll need to pack up his web and move.

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