Book announcement! Well, actually, two books, one announcement!

HUGE, WONDERFUL NEWS! I spent much of last year working with my co-author, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener Janet Melrose, on the first two books in a new series called Guides for the Prairie Gardener. We are beyond thrilled that TouchWood Editions are publishing them, and the first two titles, The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables, and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases, will be out on April 7!

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Tree Abraham did the unique cover art for us, and (with a couple of exceptions) Janet and I photographed the images in the interiors.

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The books are compact but mighty, and hold answers to the biggest, most common questions prairie gardeners may have, and tips and advice for success in a challenging growing region!

Preordering from Chapters-Indigo and Amazon is available right now!  This link will take you to Vegetables, and this one to Pests and Diseases.

We are currently busy writing the next two books in the series and looking extra-forward to spring! ❤️

 

The e-books have been released!

Just bursting in really quickly to let everyone know that the e-book versions of The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases are out today on Kobo and Kindle!  (The print version will be out on May 12 and I’ll keep everyone posted on where copies are being sold).  It’s an exciting day!♥

You can order at these links and have the books on your reader in just a few minutes:

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables – Kobo (Kobo.com) 

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables – Kindle (Amazon.ca)

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases – Kobo (Kobo.com) 

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases – Kindle (Amazon.ca)

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Book review: Soil Science for Gardeners by Robert Pavlis.

Print

Soil Science for Gardeners: Working with Nature to Build Soil Health by Robert Pavlis (2020, New Society Publishers)

The importance of soil – and particularly, soil that is full of life – to the success of a garden cannot be understated in any way.  When our soil deteriorates – becomes compacted, perhaps, or crusty or covered in chemicals – we can’t help but take notice. Otherwise, most of us tend to hum along, grateful that it’s doing well and giving our plants a place to thrive, but we don’t really stop to think about what soil is, how it is composed, and how we can keep it healthy and supportive to our beloved green babies.

Soil Science for Gardeners to the rescue!  (And I do mean to the rescue…there is actually a section at the end that you can use to play doctor with your own garden soil, figure out what is working and what isn’t, and set yourself some “soil” goals for future improvements.  If that isn’t useful, I don’t know what is).

Pavlis starts us out by discussing the components of soil, addressing particles and structure and pH, as well as nutrients and how plants take them up from the soil.  Yes, there is some chemistry involved – there has to be! – but he succeeds in making it all a little less daunting for those of us who are a little fuzzy about formulas….

One of my favourite sections in the book is about soil life.  When was the last time you thought about all the bacteria and fungi and algae and nematodes and earthworms and other organisms that are rumbling around beneath the roots of your kale and broccoli?  Pavlis talks about how they’re all part of the big picture.  He delves deeply into the importance of organic matter and compost (and busts some myths along the way!), as well as gives us a crash course on the rhizosphere, which you’ll then consider and appreciate every time you plant.

Of course, you can’t have a book about soil science for gardeners without talking about all the potential problems with our soils.  The detailed discussion on identifying soil issues and how to resolve them is extremely useful for readers to refer to time and time again.  The focus on how the gardener’s inputs – mulching, tilling, using cover crops and so on – will affect soil health is particularly appealing, and may cause some of us to rethink a few of our practices or make amendments (pun intended).

I cannot recommend this book more highly! Soil science has been an integral part of my horticultural studies over the years and I’ve read a good number of books on the subject.  What sets this book apart is how accessible and practical it is to new and experienced gardeners alike.  It is comprehensive and thorough and yet written in such a way that anyone can grasp the concepts without needing a science degree. Plus, you might actually find that you find the topic rather enjoyable! That takes the kind of skill, knowledge, and expertise that Pavlis consistently reveals on his website Garden Fundamentals.

 

*I was given a copy for review by New Society Publishers, but all the thoughts and views expressed are my own.

Botany word of the month.

It appears that my intentions and reality do not mesh, yet again…a Botany Word of the Week is just simply too much for me to maintain on top of all my other projects.  But I love creating these posts and I hope you enjoy reading them – so I’ll switch to a monthly format which should be far easier for me to complete. We’ll see…intentions, you know….

Dehiscent

If you have a medical background, you’ll already know what this term means…except I’m going to use it in relationship to fruits.

When they are mature and dry enough, dry dehiscent fruit split open to release their seeds. Dehiscence is this act of breaking open at a seam. The part that splits is the pericarp (comprised of ovule-bearing structures of the flower called carpels).

The dry dehiscent fruit you are probably most familiar with belong to legumes.  Peas, beans, and lentils fall into this category.  They all have one carpel and if you’ve ever shelled garden peas, you’ll recognize the way that carpel splits open (except that you’re facilitating the split before it’s “supposed” to happen. When you allow peas to dry for harvesting, and they split open, then you’re letting them do their thing).

Do you remember this post I did a couple of years ago about the ‘Le Puy’ lentils I grew?  What I’m describing there is the explosive way the dehiscent fruit burst open when they’re ready.  And I’ll never forget the way that the seed pods of the Caragana shrubs that lined the driveway to my childhood home audibly crackled and violently burst on hot, late summer days, showering the seeds everywhere.

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‘Le Puy’ lentils…not yet dry enough to split open.

Peanuts are one dehiscent legume that don’t – thankfully – burst open when dry.   You have to help them along by breaking them open yourself.

There are always exceptions. Some legumes have indehiscent fruit, and their carpel does not split open when dry.  If you have a honey locust growing in your yard, that’s a good example.

Legumes aren’t the only dry dehiscent fruit.  There are capsules, which have more than one ovule.  Lilies and poppies have capsules.  There are also follicles, of which plants such as columbines have more than one.  Siliques are another.  These are a type of elongated fruit that kind of resemble legumes.  If you’ve ever allowed your radishes to set seed, that pod you’re looking at is a silique.  Just for fun, there are also silicles, which are not as long as siliques.  Honestly, I’m not making this up, even if it sounds a bit giggle-inducing.

What is your favourite dry dehiscent fruit to grow?  

 

Some links for further reading:

https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/termfr1.htm

http://science.jburroughs.org/resources/flower/fruit2.html

 

The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter – April 2020.

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You are reading the first issue of the Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter!  With the first two books in our series Guides for the Prairie Gardener scheduled for release very soon, my co-author Janet Melrose and I have decided we’re going to publish a monthly newsletter here on my blog Flowery Prose!  We’ll be keeping you up-to-date on everything related to our books, letting you know about what other Prairie gardening-related projects we’re working on, and throwing in some gardening trivia and newsy tidbits, just for fun!  If you like what you see, please follow us on our social media and hit the subscribe button here on Flowery Prose.

Book News and Events

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases were originally scheduled for release by our publisher TouchWood Editions in April, but due to the current global health crisis, we are looking at a May 12 release instead. At this very moment, you can preorder our books from Amazon and Chapters-Indigo and they will be shipped to you as soon as they are out!

To preorder The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables, click here. 

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To preorder The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases, click here. 

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Back on February 2, Janet was a guest on the “Let’s Talk Gardening” programme on Calgary radio station 770 CHQR.  If you want to hear her talk about our forthcoming books, click over to the 18:00 mark on the audio recording and enjoy!  (You’ll have to make sure you’ve selected the February 2 tab in the drop-down menu).

Our publisher, TouchWood Editions, is currently running a blog feature called “Authors at Home,” where their authors write about what they are doing while in self-isolation.  Take a look at our entry here, and especially note our list of Prairie Gardening Stuff You Can Do Now! 

Out and About

Well, not really “out and about” this month; we’re more like “indoors and room-to-room.”  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting stuff done.  I have some new gardening articles published in various magazines, out on newsstands now (or, as we can’t really get out to shop, available for order online directly from the publishers). Look for “The Lovely Lady’s Slipper” in Mother Earth Gardener (Spring 2020); “Choosing the Right Irrigation System” in The Gardener for Canadian Climates (Spring 2020); and “Refresh Your Wardrobe with Herbs” in Herb Quarterly (Spring 2020).

Photos by Sheryl Normandeau

Janet has been writing, as well: her article “Balloon Flower: A.K.A. Japanese Bellflower” is in the same issue of The Gardener.   As for other going-ons in the world of Calgary’s Cottage Gardener, Janet says: “Unfortunately, all the workshops planned for April have been cancelled or postponed at this time. Yet the interest in gardening has never been stronger, especially edible gardening. Do stay tuned as I am getting set up with a mini-studio for webinars from my home to your yours. We get going with a hands-on workshop or two where I make up kits of supplies and plants and after a mini-talk and demo we all plant up together.  All talks will be posted on my Facebook page.”

In Our Gardens

Space limitations and a cat who pretty much chews on anything (and I do mean anything – I caught her gnawing on the plastic paper feed guide of the printer the other day) add up to not a lot of seed starting going on in my place, BUT I do have a handful of ‘Candyland Red’ and ‘Black Krim’ tomatoes happening under lights.  And I’m growing sprouts for eating…I was digging in my seed stash and came across a bunch of kale seeds that I’m not planning to use this year, so they’re designated sandwich fixings for the next few weeks.

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Photo by Sheryl Normandeau

Janet: “Spring is stirring, every so slowly! At home the snow is melting, but the ground is still oh so frozen. It will be some time before we can get into the soil. But above ground is another matter. By the second week of April, I plan on having containers full of arugula, spinach, endive and lettuce sown. Peas and sweet peas will follow. I am still wintersowing with kohlrabi, cabbage, broccolini, and kale going in. Later on I will use the milk jugs to sow squash of all kinds.  Indoors there is a full array of seedlings on the go from tomatoes and cucumbers, to green garlic, Swiss chard, kale and herbs. I am having fun with lots of different funky containers from eggshell trays, to big tin cans with holes punched through the bottom, and my TP roll trays. It has been fun to try out all sorts of techniques as I usually don’t have that much time to do so! Soon I’ll be out in the garden searching for the first crocus popping up and spring will truly be well underway!”

Photos by Janet Melrose

Floral Miscellany

While working on an article about colour theory in the garden, I came across a reference to the fact that early man was unable to see the same full colour spectrum that we can. Apparently, it involves quite a substantial evolutionary shift – you can read more about it here.  Something to think about as you admire the flowers growing in your garden!

Janet: “I am always amused at the traditional lore for the best date to plant potatoes being Good Friday! The idea is the soil will be ready to cultivate but temperatures still cool. While my grandfather in England might have followed the rule, we can only gaze out on still frozen fields and gardens! But it is time to get your order in for seed potatoes or check on the ones you have stored away to plant this year. Potatoes do know that it is time as they will want to get sprouting, so get them started by chitting (pre-sprouting) them on Good Friday. They will be ready to plant when our soil really is warm enough to plant in early May!”

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Chitting potatoes.  Photo by Janet Melrose

Get social with us! 

Sheryl: 

Facebook: @FloweryProse

Twitter: @Flowery_Prose

Instagram: @flowery_prose

Janet:

Facebook: calgaryscottagegardener

Twitter: @calcottagegdnr

Instagram: calgaryscottagegardener

‘Til next month!  ♥Sheryl and Janet

Snapshots: Monday miscellany.

Or maybe “Mundane miscellany,” but I’ll leave that distinction up to you, LOL….

Tomato plants are happening under lights in the kitchen.  Since I took this pic, one set of true leaves has emerged on each plant.  I planted ‘Black Krim’ heirlooms (my first time trying them; my niece gave me seeds last year and I forgot about them until it was too late for me to do anything so I’m rectifying that situation this year) and ‘Candyland Red’ currant tomatoes.  This will be my third year planting the currant tomatoes, but I’ve never started them indoors.  Frost reduced potential yields previously so we’ll try it this way instead.

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Smudge is super happy that I am at home to dispense chicken treats and deliver a cushiony lap whenever required.  I am trying to teach her how to read but so far she’s only demonstrated exemplary skills as a bookmark.

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I’ve used the last shallot in the house…it’s an indicator to plant more this year and it’s also a nod to the fact that properly curing Allium crops can really extend their storage and diminish the risk of rot. Shameless plug alert: Janet Melrose and I write about how to properly cure onions and garlic in our upcoming book, The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables.  (Which you can preorder from Chapters-Indigo and Amazon via this link on our publisher’s website.  I may as well go whole hog on the plug, right?  Why do things halfway?).

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Oh, and I’ve been eating pancakes for lunch.  Pretty much every day.  I don’t have a photo of this (neither the eating, nor the pancakes.  You’re probably grateful for the former, at least).  I use my Mum’s pretty much perfect pancake recipe (say that three times really quickly) but if you want to share yours in the comments, I would love to try it, as well! Tell me about your favourite pancake toppings, too!

Sheryl’s Mum’s Pretty Much Perfect Pancake Recipe (Mum, is it okay that I share this?) 😉 

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt*

1 egg, beaten

1 3/4 cups milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted shortening

Mix all the dry ingredients, then add the liquid ones and combine.  Fry on a hot griddle. Yield: 8 sizeable pancakes, or several much smaller ones. (And in case you’re wondering, no, I’m not eating 8 sizeable pancakes at lunch – these guys keep over really nicely in the fridge for a few days and you can just reheat.  As well, the batch may be successfully halved, if that works better for you).

*Salt is optional.

 

Botany word of the week.

Aggregate fruit (as well as some bonus chatter about accessory and multiple fruits, pseudocarps, drupes, achenes, carpels, and…um…monkey bread?)

Occasionally (or possibly frequently, given the weird world we live in), things turn out to be different than advertised. Sort of like that purse I ordered off of the Internet. But I digress….

Case in point: raspberries and strawberries.  Are they actually berries?  You already know where I’m going with this!

What does it mean to be a berry?  Quite a few things, really, but one of them is that the fruit must develop from a flower possessing one ovary.  Strawberries and raspberries don’t fit the bill.  If you take a look at the fruit of a raspberry, you’ll notice that it is made up of a bunch of little nubs. You could pull each one apart, kind of like a loaf of monkey bread.  (Mmmm…how can you tell I haven’t eaten breakfast yet?).  Each one of these is called a drupe (drupelets), and they are produced from the multiple ovaries of a flower.  Each drupe contains a seed.  In the case of a strawberry, those little seed-like things on the outside are not actually seeds, although they do contain seeds. Those small bumps are called achenes.  Because these fruitlets were all joined together, they are called aggregrate fruits.  (Just to be confusing, not all multiple fruits – those with more than one ovary per flower – are aggregate.  Some don’t join together to form a single entity).

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And, to add to the fun, strawberries are categorized as an accessory fruit (aka pseudocarp) in addition to an aggregate fruit. Some of that yummy fleshy stuff we eat is made up of tissue that originates near the carpel (modified leaves that surround the ovules) of the flower.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…I’m off to enjoy an aggregate fruit smoothie!  (Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?).  Do you grow raspberries and/or strawberries in your garden?  What ways do you use them in cooking and baking?  

Sources:
Geggel, Laura, “Why are Bananas Berries, but Strawberries Aren’t?”, LiveScience, January 12, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/57477-why-are-bananas-considered-berries.html.
UCMP Berkeley , “Anthophyta: More on Morphology,” accessed March 3, 2020, https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/anthophyta/anthophytamm.html.  (This is a really good resource if you need a refresher on how fruits are formed).