Gift ideas for gardeners (the dare to dream version).

Yesterday, I reblogged a post of practical and useful gifts for gardeners – a “serious” list, if you will. Today’s list is slightly different.

Gifts for Gardeners (The Dare to Dream Version)

  1. Secateurs of Perpetual Sharpness.
  2. Deer that favour dining on the Weed du Jour instead of precious cultivated plants.
  3. Banana plants hardy to Canadian hardiness zone 2.
  4. 100 percent germination of (desirable) seeds.
  5. An “undo” button for early autumn or late spring frosts.
  6. An instant pumpkin ripener. (Bonus points if it works on tomatoes, as well.)
  7. A dimension to banish red lily beetles/slugs/aphids into.
  8. A trowel finder. (Seriously, can someone please invent this? GPS tracking technology or something?)
  9. An always-accurate plant ID app.
  10. One-size-fits-all-gardens instant pop-up hail protection devices.

Join in on the fun! What “dare to dream” gardening gifts would you love to give or receive?

(Banana plant photo courtesy Pexels Free Images)

Book News: The Guides for the Prairie Gardener

Book News and Events – November 2020

Exciting news! The next two books in The Guides for the Prairie Gardener series were sent off to the printers last week! A couple of weekends ago, Janet Melrose and I reviewed the final proofs and had our first looks at the full jackets for The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Seeds and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Small Spaces. Our designer, Tree Abraham, has once again done an incredible job of the cover illustrations and exterior/interior design! We will be revealing the covers very soon – stay tuned!

And … we have some more thrilling news! We will be spending the winter working on books #5 and #6 in the series! They will be published in spring 2022. We will reveal more details over the next few months. In the meantime, we’re over here doing a happy dance!

Request for reviews!

Do you have a copy of either of (or both of!) our books, The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases? If you do, can you please help us out and take a couple of minutes to give us a rating and review on Amazon.ca/Amazon.com?  Don’t worry about leaving a lengthy review…two or three words is honestly all Amazon requires.  If you’re on GoodReads, leaving a rating over there would be wonderful, as well!  Thank you so much! We are so grateful for your support and encouragement and we hope you are finding the books informative, useful, and fun!

And the Winner Is …

In conjunction with our publisher TouchWood Editions, Janet and I recently held a contest in the Alberta Gardening Group on Facebook, with a set of The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases as a prize.  Congratulations to Kendra Victoria, who was the lucky winner of the books!  Thank you to TouchWood Editions for supplying the prize!  

Get Social with Us! 

Sheryl: 

Facebook: @FloweryProse

Twitter: @Flowery_Prose

Instagram: @flowery_prose

Janet:

Facebook: calgaryscottagegardener

Twitter: @calcottagegdnr

Instagram: calgaryscottagegardener

(Image of fountain pen courtesy Pexels Free Photos)

Botany Word of the Month: Thigmotropism.

Thigmotropism

At this point, I’m thinking this series of posts should perhaps be “Botany Word of Whenever I Get Around to It.” Sigh …

Anyway, this is a fun one!  Thigmotropism is a plant’s growth response to touch. If you have a vining plant with tendrils, you may have watched, fascinated, as the tendrils wrap around a support. Epidermal cells in the tendril (which, in some plants, can be ten times as sensitive to touch as human skin!) cause it to reach and latch on when it contacts a solid object.

The tendrils use differential growth to wrap themselves around objects such as another plant, trellis, or wall. The side of the tendril that is opposite to the side that is in contact with the object grows faster due to the production of the growth hormone auxin by the side that is closest to the object. This causes the side that is touching the object to compress at the same time the other side elongates. The tendril then curves towards the object in a positive response.

Typically, thigmotropism is a fairly slow response, but in some plants, it occurs quickly. This is called rapid contact coiling, which occurs due to turgor pressure. (Turgor pressure is the pressure exerted by water that pushes plant cell membranes against cell walls. It maintains the rigidity of the cell walls and helps support the plant.)

Roots also exhibit thigmotropism (in addition to gravitropism, which is a term for another day, perhaps!). Unlike tendrils, however, roots react in a negative way to encountering a solid object such as a stone in the soil – that is, they move away from it, rather than towards it. This makes sense, as roots want unencumbered access through the soil, to facilitate the uptake of nutrients and water.

And, on a side note, you may be thinking that sensitive plants (Mimosa pudica) also display thigmotropism, but their response to touch is actually non-directional; that is, they don’t move towards or away from a stimulus. Instead, they experience what is called a nastic movement.

Why is thigmotropism important? It allows some climbing plants the opportunity to reach for more sunlight … which means more efficient photosynthesis can occur.

References:

Thigmotropism in tendrils

What is thigmotropism?

Nastic movements

Sweet peas are an example of a common plant that exhibits thigmotropism. (This cultivar is ‘America’.)

October snow.

Gardening so isn’t happening right now.

Gotta love October in Calgary! It’s been snowing on and off all week and we’re currently under a snowfall warning (to see what Environment Canada defines as a “snowfall warning,” click here)…and this morning around six, we hit a low temperature of minus 15.5 degrees Celsius (that’s 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit). To put that in perspective, our average daytime high temperature for October hovers around plus 13 degrees Celsius (55.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Oh well. It’s still rather pretty. (I’m just saying that because I went out and planted and mulched my garlic five minutes before the snow started late last week. Totally squeaked it in on my lunch break from work. While wearing my dress clothes and shoes.) 😉

The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter – September 2020.

The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter

September 2020

Welcome to the fifth issue of The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter! Janet Melrose and I are keeping you up-to-date on everything related to our book series Guides for the Prairie Gardener, 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 on Flowery Prose.

Book News and Events

Janet’s chat on CBC Radio’s Daybreak

On August 15, Janet did an amazing interview with Russell Bowers on CBC Radio’s Daybreak programme, talking about our books in the Guides for the Prairie Gardener series and what to watch out for in the garden in late summer! Take a listen to the interview here! 

Request for reviews!

Do you have a copy of either of (or both of!) our books, The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases? If you do, can you please help us out and take a couple of minutes to give us a rating and review on Amazon.ca/Amazon.com?  Don’t worry about leaving a lengthy review…two or three words is honestly all Amazon requires.  If you’re on GoodReads, leaving a rating over there would be wonderful, as well!  Thank you so much! We are so grateful for your support and encouragement and we hope you are finding the books informative, useful, and fun!

In Our Gardens

Sheryl:

Well, the first frost has already happened here in Calgary and so I’ve been watching the forecast like a hawk and covering the tomatoes as required. I swear, my tomatoes have been covered nearly the whole growing season – first, to protect them against the threat of multiple hailstorms, and now this!  I have already harvested a pleasantly sizeable yield of ripe and ready currant tomatoes and my husband and I have been enjoying them in salads and I’ve been taking them to work just to snack on.  I’m still waiting on my precious ‘Black Krim’ tomatoes, though…they are still green and I’m waiting on a bit of a blush to happen.  If you pick them when they are TOO green, they won’t ripen indoors…you have to reach that special threshold.

‘Candyland Red’ currant tomatoes (photo by Sheryl)

I have picked quite a few lovely zucchinis over the past several weeks and they’ve been cooked up in various ways in my kitchen.  Did you know that you can shred zucchini, drain the excess water from it, then pack it into bags and freeze it for later use?  It’s a good solution if you’re swimming in summer squash! I saw a great tip in the Alberta Gardening group on Facebook last week from a gardener who goes one step further and freezes the shredded zucchini after packing it into the cups of a muffin tin. When it’s ready, she just snaps out the iced zuke pops, bags them individually, and puts them back in the freezer. Nice and tidy and ready for that chocolate zucchini cake at a moment’s notice!

And I’ve been saving seeds…calendula, dill, nasturtiums, beans, and sweet peas so far.  I can’t stress enough the importance of labelling the plants that you want to save seed from so that you can easily locate them later on when they’ve stopped blooming. This year, I just tucked in some old wooden skewers I had kicking around and fashioned a tag with a piece of coloured tape.  I wrote the colour of the flowers on the tape – for example: a calendula with DBL (double flowers) with BRN CENT (brown centres).  I planted several types of calendula this year and wanted to differentiate the doubles from the singles, and identify the colours.  I also had several colours of nasturtiums, so I tagged them to remind myself where the red ones were in the sea of cream-coloured ones.  You’ll be sure to come up with a labelling system of your own – just remember to do it in advance, as it makes seed saving much easier.  I always think I am going to remember the exact location of everything but I never do….

One of the double-flowered calendula plants I am keen to save seed from … (photo by Sheryl)

If you’re planning to save seed from your sweet peas, I’ve done up a little video with some tips – check it out: 

And I’m talking about saving dill seed here:

Floral Miscellany

Sheryl:

Did you know…that hawthorn berries are not really berries at all? They are pomes. (Apples and pears are pomes, too).  Hawthorn berries are commonly called “haws”; rather reminiscent of the ‘’hips” from roses. (And, in fact, hawthorns are related to both apples and roses – they’re in the same family). Right now, you’ll be seeing the bright red fruit on hawthorn trees growing on the prairies – they look a bit like tiny ornamental crabapples or indeed, like oversized rose hips.  I’ve been experimenting with making jelly from hawthorn berries…stay tuned for a blog post containing the recipe! 

Hawthorn “haws” (photo by Sheryl)

Get Social with Us! 

Sheryl: 

Facebook: @FloweryProse

Twitter: @Flowery_Prose

Instagram: @flowery_prose

Janet:

Facebook: calgaryscottagegardener

Twitter: @calcottagegdnr

Instagram: calgaryscottagegardener

‘Til later!  ♥Sheryl and Janet

Community garden theft.

My onion harvest was grossly truncated by theft this year – aside from an earlier picking of smaller bulbs, the remainder of my onions (somewhere between 20 and 30 of them) were stolen from one of my community garden beds just over a week ago.  The garden coordinator said that theft had been a huge issue this year (perhaps understandably, given our current global health crisis and high unemployment rates) and she was taking measures to try to mitigate the problem.  Installing a trail cam to try to catch night-time prowlers was one first step, and she was considering new signage.  I have had some minor theft from my beds in previous years (a few carrots there, an onion or garlic bulb or two), but this was the first time that an entire crop had been taken.  I am always happy to help out anyone in need, so hopefully the thieves enjoyed some good meals from the plants.  It made me chuckle a little when I noticed that they left my beets and kohlrabi alone – it appears the culprits had a refined palate and only wanted onions!

Our community garden actually has several beds in the garden that have been set aside and planted by students from one of the schools in the area for anyone in the community (not garden members) to harvest whenever they want to, but our garden coordinator noted that these aren’t the beds that are mysteriously losing produce in the middle of the night.

If you’re on Facebook, the Calgary Horticultural Society held a Facebook Live session earlier in the year to discuss theft and vandalism in community gardens – you can view the archived video here. (It’s public, so you don’t have to be a member of the page to watch it). This sort of thing is fairly common in community gardens and you just have to be aware of it and try not to get too upset when you’re at the receiving end.  Gardeners do love to share, after all…I just kind of wish that the thieves would have left me a couple of onions.  🙂

*IMAGE courtesy Clipart Panda.

Nasturtium flower infused vinegar.

Nasturtiums are always tucked into my vegetable garden. They are bountiful seed producers, and although I give away plenty, I still always have huge envelopes stuffed with seeds…so I’m a bit free with the sowing. I love how they bloom abundantly and beautifully right up until frost takes them.

You can eat the green seeds, if you’re so inclined – they are fabulous pickled if you’re into their unique peppery taste. The flowers have the same flavour, albeit milder, and are often used in green salads. This year, I was keen on making an infused vinegar with them, along the lines of the one I make from chive flowers.

All you need are two ingredients and a clean, sterilized jar with a tightly fitting lid and you’re good to go. Wash the nasturtium blossoms to get rid of all the insects and soil and other assorted things we don’t want to eat, then pack them tightly into a mason jar. Add white wine vinegar (my recommendation) or plain white vinegar and seal the jar. Place it in a cool, dark cupboard for about two weeks, then strain the flowers from the vinegar and discard them. Label the vinegar and keep it in the fridge. Aim to use it up within two to three months.

Do you grow nasturtiums in your garden? Do you eat them?

Plant profile: Currant tomatoes.

I’m a bit late in putting this up as I filmed it two weeks ago, but here is a short plant profile on ‘Candyland Red’ currant tomatoes. They’re a bit of a novelty, but I really love the size of the fruit for use in fresh green salads – they’re perfect!

Prairie gardening tip: What to plant in place of a tree infected with fire blight.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a question about fire blight – a gardener had a seriously infected hawthorn tree cut down in her yard and the arborist left the chips on the ground. She wanted to know if she should remove the chips or keep them; her second query was what types of trees she should plant in the hawthorn’s place. Fire blight is caused by a bacterium called Erwinia amylovora. It is spread by insects, birds, wind, and water, so it is likely to have traveled from another infected plant nearby.

My recommendation was to remove the chips and dispose of them at a landfill. As for the trees, fire blight affects members of the rose family, so I advised her to avoid those, or at the very least, look for cultivars within those genera that are fire blight resistant. Trees that are susceptible to fire blight include:

Apples

Crabapples

Pears

Mountain ash

Hawthorns

Saskatoons (serviceberries)

Plums

There are a few shrubs to avoid as well, including roses, spirea, and cotoneaster. Raspberries can also get fire blight but it is a different strain than the other plants mentioned can contract. By knowing which plants to avoid, better choices can be made about the new selection.

Janet Melrose and I have written more about fire blight – including how to ID and attempt to control and prevent it – in our book The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases.

Do you grow any members of the rose family? Have you ever had an issue with fire blight?