Gardening Blog

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


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.

Urban activism: Greening Toronto one plant at a time

posterplantpotsHere’s another cool example of guerilla gardening. The creators of these ingenious little plant pots, Toronto residents Eric Cheung and Sean Martindale prefer it be called ‘urban activism.’ Either way, I love how they have set out to add a beautiful, living element to poster-plastered spaces. Read about their project and find out how to download their free templates on the green design blog Inhabitat.

Have you seen any in the city?

Photo courtesy of Michael Chrisman/Torontoist

Houseplant vacation

3-169With the nights getting colder, I thought it was time to bring my houseplants indoors. I don’t want to risk my 25 year old ficus (Ficus benjamina) and other tropical plants from getting a chill.

Each spring I go through the routine of moving them outside to enjoy a breath of fresh air. They thrive during the summer with all the sunlight. The rain waters them and washes all the dust of the leaves. I’ve never had a problem with any insect infestations, but to make sure I don’t bring any bugs into the house, I give each plant a bath at the end of their vacation. I use a spray bottle with water and a tiny bit of liquid dish soap to coat the leaves, stems, and branches. I gently wash the leaves, and then rinse the plant with the garden hose. Some of the plants need a trim after enjoying a summer growth spurt, especially my ficus. If I don’t trim the upper branches, I can’t get in through the door.

Just like the rest of us, some of the plants have a hard time adjusting to life after a relaxing vacation. A few leaves may turn yellow and drop and their growth slows, but for the most part they all transition well. I’m sure my houseplants enjoy fond memories of warm summer days as winter approaches and dream of the day when they’ll be able to enjoy their next vacation on the deck when spring comes again.

How do I know when to pick things?

In the spring, when I first started planting my seedlings and sowing seeds, I pictured myself under a deluge fresh produce. I haven’t quite yielded the quantities I would have liked, but it’s still so fun when you can even eat that one fresh tomato. My problem currently is I don’t want to pick things too soon, but I ‘m not sure if a couple of things are ready or not. And I don’t want to waste the precious few specimens that I have!

Here are the veggies I’m unsure about:

onionsMy onions:
This is another tricky one. I have what look like green onions sprouting up, but I remember the tag had a small bulb at the end in the picture. I pulled one out a couple of weeks ago and it just looked like a green onion. I’m not quite sure when to go in and yank out the others.








My Hungarian hot peppers:
I’m glad I looked this up on The Cottage Gardener site. My peppers are currently a deep purple, but apparently they will be ripening to red.










My green peppers:
I have three currently, that are about the size of a Delicious apple. I want to pick them before the squirrels catch on that they’re there, but I’m worried they still might have the potential to grow bigger.





My beets: I have four. Some of the beets I’ve purchased at the farmer’s market or at the grocery store have these giant leaves. I’m sure mine won’t grow to be that big, but I’m not sure when to determine if they’re ready yet.





Sure bets if they would just hurry up!

cucumber1* My tomatoes: Ready any time they decide to ripen!
* My cucumbers: Every time one gets to be the size of a really good dill pickle, the squirrels get it!
* My tomatillos: Still flowering! Maybe I should go out and give them a little shake!
* My eggplant (behind the onion): Still hasn’t flowered.

(p.s. I can’t get WordPress to co-operate, so I had to put those extra characters around the pictures to make them line up!)

Yin and yang bush beans — so pretty, but how do I eat them?

beansOne of my vegetable garden experiments was the Black Calypso Bush Bean from The Cottage Gardener. The seedlings that were not attacked by squirrels yielded a fair amount of seed pods, but I wasn't sure when to pick them. When they first started to develop, I ate them as I would a sugar snap pea and they were delicious, but they were green and did not resemble the black and white seeds I planted. Patiently I waited for them to mature even further and I finally got the beans pictured here. Unfortunately some were left on the vine a little too long. But at this stage, these ones were a little tougher to eat and I didn't know what to do with them.

I went to the Cottage Gardener site (which I should have done in the first place, duh!) and the description recommended using them for baking or soup making. Now I don't quite have enough for a hearty soup, but I may throw them in to one with other beans to see how they taste!

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