The 2019 Prairie Garden: Growing Food.

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One of my favourite times of the year is when the new issue of The Prairie Garden arrives in my mailbox!  This themed, annual digest has been in publication for a whopping 63 years and I am delighted to have been a contributing writer since 2011 (although I missed 2015 and 2017). This year, the theme is Growing Food and it includes my article “Integrated Pest Management.”  Check out The Prairie Garden‘s website for more information about the book and the other featured writers, as well as for details on how to order both the new book and available back issues.  (The book is also available for purchase in select bookstores, garden centres, and nurseries in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta).

Flowery Friday.

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Just look at those pollen grains! To my delight, my zygocactus is blooming for the second time since Christmas. I recently heard someone describe the blooms as resembling graceful ballet dancers – I love that fanciful comparison!

Flowery Friday.

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Flashback to mid-summer last year and a public planting found in a playground in the Beltline area of Calgary.  That mix of foliage textures and the pop of lime green, yellow, and pink-purple (possibly combined with the fact that it was crazy late in the evening and I hadn’t eaten supper yet) made me drool.

Pretty much any colour is making me drool right now….the absolutely bananas weather has given me a serious case of cabin fever!

Book review: Starting and Saving Seeds by Julie Thompson-Adolf.

 

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Starting and Saving Seeds – Julie Thompson-Adolf  (Minnesota: Cool Springs Press, 2018)

I’m a bit gaga over this book – as far as I’m concerned, for new gardeners, it is the best book on the subject of seed starting and saving that I have seen so far.  Beautifully written in accessible language that you don’t need a botany degree to understand, Thompson-Adolf’s Starting and Saving Seeds covers all the important stuff: germination, grow lights, heat mats, seed tape (DIY!), propagation and growing media, containers, winter sowing, and wet/dry processing of harvested seeds.  Most of the book is taken up with plant profiles and specific seed starting/saving tips for each one, delving into veggies, herbs, and flowers.  I was pleased to see crops such as asparagus included – not one that we here in zone 4 often grow from seed (we usually use crowns), so the tips are especially valuable.  The expanded section on tomato seeds – apparently a subject near and dear to the author’s heart – will be bookmarked by many readers, I’m certain. This fantastic reference guide is a must-have!

*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Starting and Saving Seeds; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.

Gift ideas for gardeners.

I periodically write online content for Farmers’ Almanac and recently did a story that may help out with last minute shopping for the gardeners on your Christmas list (or any time of the year, really!).

One idea I should include is the valuable (and valued!) gift of time – helping someone weed their overgrown beds, turning compost, mowing the lawn, pruning a tree and so on.

Do you have anything to add?  What gardening-related gifts would you like to give or receive?  This doesn’t have to be small stuff – dream big if you like! 

 

 

 

In the garden: pleasant surprises.

I finally finished my garden clean up this past weekend.  I don’t have perennial beds at our new home; my new garden space is a combination of containers on the balcony and a plot at the nearby community garden. Clean up was easy: I had no issues with diseases with my container plants so all the soil was dumped into a large covered tote and left on the balcony for use next season, and the pots were all scrubbed and put into indoor storage so they don’t freeze and crack.  Clean up at the community garden was also a cinch: our garden committee encourages members to leave plants in place and chop and drop them in the spring.  (I am a huge fan of this! Keeping the dried plants in place over winter helps prevent a bit of soil crusting, as the garden is fully exposed during chinook winds and freeze and thaw cycles. The plants may also provide a safe haven for beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and the sunflowers in some of the other plots may be useful for hungry birds).  I did pull the pumpkin and zucchini plants, as they were beset with a vicious case of powdery mildew.

My garlic is planted at the community garden and mulched and hopefully snug for the winter, and I sunk a large container of alpine strawberries into the raised bed there in the hopes that they might survive. (I don’t have any in-ground spaces like I used to).  I’ll winter sow some more strawberry seeds outside in early March as insurance.

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I haven’t had a lot of time to review this year’s gardening season.  It was a challenging one, as far as the weather was concerned. Spring wasn’t gradual and wet; instead, we were blasted out of the gate with mid-summer-like heat and no rain.  Some direct-sown seeds refused to germinate, even with supplemental irrigation. Our summer was hot and filled with forest fire smoke, and we had a couple of severe hailstorms that handily trashed plants in mere seconds.  Many gardeners I talked to fought multiple insect infestations, but aside from the cutworms early in the season, I was fortunate in that regard. And then, just as everyone was still hoping their pumpkins would ripen on the vine and they would get some tomatoes that were a colour other than green, we were hit with two weeks of snowfall and bitter cold in September.

One pleasant surprise in my garden (besides these) were the ‘Le Puy’ lentils I grew for the first time.  The plants are pretty, resembling some of our common vetches so much that I thought perhaps I’d get in trouble for harbouring weeds.  The deer find them attractive, as well, which definitely reduced the quantity I was able to harvest.  Compared to some of my other plants, the lentils didn’t seem to require much care – a regular watering schedule was the most important thing, and they made it through the heat better than my sweet peas and sugar peas.

I quickly realized that the timing of harvest is critical with lentils.   The pods must be picked when they are dry, but if you wait too long (a scant few minutes, it seems!), they shatter, blasting the seeds across the soil or the entire garden or into the parking lot in the street adjacent.  I swear I could hear them pinging off the streetlights before I got to them.  😉  I still managed to collect enough to enjoy a decent snack (this recipe is easy to prepare and delicious!).

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Were there any pleasant surprises in your garden this growing season? What about any old favourites that were once again reliable?