I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a pack rat. I’ll tuck items away for future projects and crafts–sometimes those items even make it into the garden. That is why tomorrow night (Wednesday, March 19), I’m looking forward to joining UsedEverywhere.com’s Twitter chat, aka #UsedParty. The theme of the chat is Upcycling for the Garden. I look forward to sharing a few ideas and hope to gain some crafty inspiration from some of the other panellists: @GatherVictoria, @commoncentsmom and @YoungUrbnFarmer. If you leave a comment on UsedEverywhere.com‘s blog, I will be choosing a question to answer and that person will win a one-year subscription to Canadian Gardening magazine. Keep in mind the chat is at 6 p.m. PST, so that makes it 9 p.m. EST here in Southern Ontario. See you on Twitter! (P.S. Our Twitter handle is @CdnGardening.)
The snow is melting, the cows are calving, and the calendar looks right, but for me, I know it’s really spring because I can smell it. I hope you know what I mean: that earthy, damp scent that’s starting to waft around when the sun is bright. So exciting! Time to grow things! Whip out those seed packets and let’s start digging, right?
Unfortunately, no. At least not outside. Not yet.
I had to learn to curb my enthusiasm the hard way: losing more than a few seeds. Some years I was sure it was frost. Other years it was obvious they had been rotted out from too much rain. Or maybe I’d planted some old or bad seed to begin with. But the main culprit went unidentified until I started hanging out with farmers.
When growing things is not just a hobby but your livelihood, you pay extra attention to some details an average gardener may be clueless about. Such as soil temperature.
You may have heard people talking about the soil “warming up,” maybe referring to how raised beds warm up quicker, allowing earlier planting. They aren’t just talking about the dirt “thawing,” as any farmer can tell you: there are ideal temperatures for the germination of different crops, and if the soil is too cool, you end up with uneven growth or damaged seed, and those depressing blank spots in your rows.
When I learned this, I looked back and realized this was why some years I could get away with planting earlier–the mild spring had fast forwarded the soil warming–and some years even mid-May plantings were sluggish in the cool damp.
So as much as you’d like to dig in, don’t be in too much of a rush. This time of year, you’re probably just wasting your time. Better to use your enthusiasm indoors.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 »