A glance back at a winter hike taken in late February….
A glance back at a winter hike taken in late February….
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.
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!
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!
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).
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.”
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.
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!”
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!”
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.
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.
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?).
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.
Prairie view from the shores of McGregor Lake. So far, February has been grey-snowy-sunless-slumberous. But kinda pretty, nevertheless.
I quite often set up theme days in the Alberta Gardening Facebook group I administer (especially during the winter, when we’re all suffering from cabin fever!). This morning, for some Valentine’s Day fun, I requested that everyone list their favourite red, pink, and white garden flowers/veggies/fruit. I thought I’d do it here, too, and compare answers. So far, they’ve posted amazing photos of petunias, daylilies, tomatoes, onions, raspberries, roses, poppies, tigridia, dahlias, peonies, and painted daisies…and they’re still at it.
I’ll start us off. Next to sweet peas, roses are my very favourite flower, and I’m especially fond of the hardy roses that withstand our crazy cold climate and look pretty marvelous doing it. The Explorer series is one example…and you have to admit these rich red double flowers of the beautiful shrub rose ‘Champlain’ are quite stunning. (If you’re ever in the small town of Pincher Creek, in southern Alberta, you’ll see this rose featured in the Lebel Mansion rose garden, maintained by the Oldman River Rose Society).
What are your favourite red, pink, and white garden flowers (or vegetables or fruit)? Please feel free to link up to photos on your blog, Instagram, whatever – show us the plants that you love! ♥
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!
Tree Abraham did the unique cover art for us, and (with a couple of exceptions) Janet and I photographed the images in the interiors.
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!
We are currently busy writing the next two books in the series and looking extra-forward to spring! ❤️
A week of seriously cold temperatures has given way to unbelievably warm temperatures ((we’ve gone from dipping as low as -30.9ºC (-23.6ºF) last Tuesday to +6ºC (42.8ºF) today)) and the poplar trees are responding like the rest of us are…giddy with the sunshine and ready to fling off the parkas and toques.
But we had better not throw them too far away. Spring is not just around the corner. Not yet. Despite appearances….