Tuesday tidbits.

If you embroider and are on the hunt for new patterns, I recently discovered that the DMC website has about a zillion five hundred or so available for free.  Download away and enjoy stitching!

My favourite recipe of this past week?  Judi’s Sweet Potato and Apple Latkes, found here.  They are the ultimate in comfort food and are a breeze to make.  I could probably eat these every day.  I’m totally not exaggerating here; they are that tasty.

It’s a few years old now (it was published in 2013), but if you haven’t already checked out Deborah Madison’s cookbook Vegetable Literacy, go grab a copy from the library pronto.  If you have a passion for cooking and gardening, you’ll delight in this breathtakingly-photographed tome.  The recipes look amazing but I can’t stop drooling at (on?) the pictures. (And this one of the reasons why we sometimes find water-damaged books at the library, lol). Take a look at the author describing her book in this video.

The Spring issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates will be out shortly on newsstands across Canada and a couple of articles I wrote are inside: “Carrot Cousins” and ” Preventing Common Lawn Problems.”  The magazine also features the annual Plant Picks section, which I always love contributing to.  And will you get a load of that cover?  WOW.  We don’t have many print gardening magazines left in Canada, and I would encourage gardening enthusiasts to support this amazing publication if possible.

Do you have any “tidbits” you want to share this week? – favourite or new recipes, interesting links or news items you’ve come across, fascinating blog posts you or someone else have put up?  Feel free to mention them in the comments!  

 

Book review: Gardening Complete by Authors of Cool Springs Press.

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Gardening Complete: How to Best Grow Vegetables, Flowers, and Other Outdoor Plants – Authors of Cool Springs Press (George Weigel, Katie Elzer-Peters, Lynn Steiner, Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule, Jessica Walliser, Charlie Nardozzi, Rhonda Fleming Hayes, and Tara Nolan) – 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Minnesota

I ♥ the concept of this book! Take eight highly knowledgeable and experienced garden experts and get them to write individual chapters covering essential gardening topics and bundle it all into one comprehensive volume. Everything you need to know to start a new garden or refresh a mature one is here: understanding soil, managing weeds, planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, composting, mulching, propagation, and harvesting. The detailed, accessible writing and sumptuous photography make this book a delight to browse AND the kind of reference you’ll find yourself going back to over and over again. The design chapters are also highly useful, addressing native plants, water-wise gardening, pollinator-friendly landscapes, and container and raised bed set-ups.  This is a well-researched and beautifully-presented project – definitely a recommended read!

*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Gardening Complete; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.

Book review: Practical Organic Gardening by Mark Highland.

Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally – Mark Highland (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, Minnesota)

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Gardening is all about inputs (and, obviously, outputs): you need the water, nutrients, light, soil, seeds/cuttings/transplants, and a bunch of elbow grease and sweat and love and passion to reap the rewards.  I’m thinking that most gardeners have substantial overflowing reservoirs of passion and love for their plants, but I’d argue that one of the most important of the remaining inputs is soil.  Specifically, healthy soil.

Which brings me to one of my favourite aspects of Mark Highland’s new book Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally.  He talks a lot about soil (he does, after all, own a soil company in the United States).  More importantly, he stresses how to respect instead of work the soil – a statement which really aligns with my whole abject laziness when it comes to that elbow grease expenditure.  I can respect with the best of them!  Seriously, however, his discussion of the significance of the relationship between the microbial activity in the soil and organic gardening/no-till (or low-till) principles is one many gardeners may be interested in.  No matter if you garden organically or not, knowing something about the biological and physical properties of your soil will help you offer the very best for your plants. And understanding how to conserve your soil brings your garden closer to sustainability.

When he’s not presenting valuable tips about boosting soil health, Highland covers everything from irrigation and siting, to amendments and mulching, and using organic controls within Integrated Pest Management.  He talks about food forests and mushroom farming.  He offers solutions for container and raised bed gardening, and explores xeriscaping design.  He wades into the lawn/no lawn debate. Chapters explore planning your garden, seed starting, and vegetative propagation.

With its accessible layout, excellent photography, and straightforward, experienced voice, Practical Organic Gardening is comprehensive and highly informative; I can easily see this as a go-to manual for both novice and experienced organic gardeners.

*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Mark Highland’s Practical Organic Gardening; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.

Cool beans.

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Okay, it’s that super sweet time of the year…I’ve got all the seed catalogues open at the ready and I’m wanting to order some “new-to-me” varieties of beans. (I’m a total newbie bean grower – scarlet runners are the extent of my experience.  They are so fun I’ve decided beans are totally my thing and I must. grow. more.). Before I make a decision, I thought I’d do a little brain-picking: what bean varieties have you grown and loved and would recommend to me?  Pole/climbing beans only, please (I don’t have room for bush beans). I’m looking forward to hearing about your favourites!

A very short list of a few of the things in my neighbourhood I’m going to miss…

…now that moving day is nearly here and we will be heading to a new community all the way across the city.

The grocery store just up the street. I know where absolutely everything is, aside from the egg replacer (turns out no one there knows where it is, either…might have something to do with the fact that there is some question as to what, exactly, it is). The friendly faces of the staff members will be missed, as well – including one gentleman my hubby and I both worked with years ago at a different job, and a courtesy clerk who treats my hubby like a rock star and makes us smile about it every time.

Our landlady, who has a magical green thumb and grows the most incredible nicotiana and tomato plants I’ve ever seen, and who has always been so kind and generous and thoughtful.

The perennial flower beds that I’ve tended for nearly twenty years…which, well, *sob.* I can’t even begin to tell you how much I will miss them. The balcony in our new place is small and I will be restricted to just a few plants in containers. It will be very difficult for me.

The community garden that I’ve been a member of for five years and served on the organizing committee for.  I met some fascinating people through the garden – everyone with diverse backgrounds, education, and opinions – and learned several lessons about plants and life (!) during my experience there.  I am delighted that there is a community garden near our new place, and I’m already growing some veggies there. I’m starting off small this year (both due to a serious lack of time and a cutworm problem that is unfortunately keeping the plants in check), but hopefully next year’s growing season will be more promising.

The plants in the community that mark the seasons in their own ways: the neighbour’s yellow forsythia in early spring, the soft-needled larch trees in the park next door, the ginormous lilac hedge along the drive.  The mayday tree out front with its sickly sweet-scented but gorgeous white flowers, the snowball viburnums in front of the building across from us.  The plums and crabapples down the street, and the splendid mountain ash with their persistent berries.  Even the green ash tree that has threatened to drop branches on our truck in stormy weather several times over the years.

Nose Hill.  If you’ve followed Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know this is my favourite place to walk and I have posted many, many photographs of the flowers and the landscape there.  Of course, I will still be living in the same city and I will still be able to travel to Nose Hill to walk there but because of the distance, I know I will not be able to go there as often as I do now.  On the plus side, in the new community, there will be several new parks to explore.

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The northern flickers that nest in the trees outside the back door of our apartment building. They are a joy to watch.

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Photo credit: R. Normandeau

The jackrabbits and the squirrels.  Yes, they ate or dug up great chunks of my garden most years, but you can’t help but smile when you see these little furry bundles of energy.  Even while you’re clapping your hands and chasing after them, screaming, “Get out of there, you little ********!” and your neighbours are all going to their windows and lifting the curtains and wondering what the crazy lady is doing this time.

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The library branch I used to work at, a twenty minute walk from my home. I dearly miss the friends I made there – but I know I will keep in touch with many of them in years to come.

That dude who takes his acoustic guitar out on sunny days in the summer and sits on the bench in front of our building and treats us all to some great music.

Cross country skiing in the park next to our apartment.  Especially fun after a fresh snowfall, at night, when it’s quiet and you’re the first to make tracks and the snow is all powdery and perfect and sparkling in the street lamps.

The courtyard of the school where, in the summer, I used to go to read and enjoy the weather on my lunch breaks from work.  One late afternoon, I hid out under the roof for nearly an hour while the most insane thunderstorm I’ve ever seen raged around me.  There was so much lightning and thunder and rain that I had to wait it all out before safely walking home.  Lightning hit a generating station a few kilometres away and the resulting sonic boom was terrifying and awesome.  And…then there was that time I was reading and I heard a noise nearby.  I looked up to see that something…someone…had opened the window of the classroom next to me and stuck a hand out the window.  To say I was freaked out is an understatement, as the school was closed for the summer.  Sure, it could have been a janitor (that’s what I tell myself, anyway), but in truth, there were no cars in the parking lot and the hand sort of just “felt” the air and went back inside, leaving the window ajar. Not really the behaviour of a janitor, but how else to explain it?  And no, I wasn’t reading Stephen King at the time.

The neighbourhood Korean barbeque place that doesn’t have an English name, where my co-workers and I delighted in some really delicious, cheap meals for birthday and other celebratory lunches.  It has the plainest decor and you can seat perhaps a maximum of twenty people in the place, but the food is really stellar.  Sometimes those tiny hole-in-the-wall places are the best.

The community arena where my hubby and I occasionally watched junior lacrosse games.  It’s one of those places where the reek of sweat has completely saturated the entire building, from the floorboards to the ceiling, and you can probably get athlete’s foot from merely sitting on the spectator bleachers, but it’s so fun to watch Canada’s national summer sport grow with these kids.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we caught a glimpse of one or two well-known professional (current and retired) lacrosse players coaching their students in the field outside the arena.

If you had to move today, what are a few of the things you’d miss about your current home and the community where you live?  

 

More seeds to give away!

I’m organizing!  Or something like it, anyway….

If you live in Canada and would like any of the following seeds, please go to my CONTACT FORM and fill out your name, mailing address, and a list of the seeds you’re interested in. I’ll ship them out to you free of charge within the next few weeks.

I’m so sorry, but I cannot mail seeds to anyone outside of Canada. As well, I have very limited quantities of some of these, so drop me a line right away for best selection.

Although many of these are salad greens and vegetables, there are a few that you may need to research ahead of requesting – look for things such as hardiness zone, size, growth habit (some of these are spreaders and reseeders, so be warned!) etc..  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

And, of course, even though I’ve made all attempts to store these properly, there is no guarantee that they will germinate and/or grow.  But I think you should have pretty good results.  Happy gardening!

Up for grabs:

Calendula (unknown cultivar, single blooms)

Rock soapwort

Chervil

Lupine (unknown cultivar)

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) – SORRY, ALL SPOKEN FOR

Rat’s tail radish

Mache

Golden purslane

Chives – SORRY, ALL SPOKEN FOR

Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) – SORRY, ALL SPOKEN FOR

Magentaspreen (Chenopodium giganteum)

Poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii) – SORRY, ALL SPOKEN FOR

Komatsuna

Hu hsien

Red frills mustard greens

Radish (regular white-fleshed, red-skinned variety)

Mitsuba (Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica)

Tsoi-sim

Rapini ‘Sorrento’

Alyssum (perennial)

Ground cherry ‘Aunt Molly’

Shiso (Perilla frutescens)

Hamburg parsley

Tatsoi

 

Book review: Build a better vegetable garden.

There’s still snow on the ground here, although there have been sightings in the area of crocus foliage (not in my garden, sadly – although I’ve been going out every morning to take a look, just in case something’s changed overnight.  Nope, just snow). It doesn’t matter. I’ve already ordered some seeds and I’ve got the veggie garden all mapped out (Version 8.0 or thereabouts – we all know I’ll be revising until the very day I plant, especially if the seed catalogues keep coming!).

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And I’ve been looking at a few new books. I was sent a copy of Joyce and Ben Russell’s Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve Your Harvest (2017, Frances Lincoln Limited/Quarto, London) for review and it hasn’t left my desk…I keep picking it up and browsing through it.  Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a newbie, there are projects in here that can get you growing in no time: setting up a raised hoop tunnel, designing and constructing a raised bed, building your own wooden planters, creating a cold frame, or making a trellis for climbing beans.  Other projects you may not have immediately thought of include making your own seed trays (and dibber!), a storage rack for your tools, a wire support for raspberries, a handy trug, a cabinet with trays for drying the harvest, and a beautiful decorative obelisk.  The best part about this book is you don’t need to be a certified woodworker or carpenter to do any of these projects.  You don’t need specialized tools (most can be done with a basic drill, a couple of types of saws, some hand tools and hardware you can easily pick up and afford).  Nearly all of the projects are made from wood.  And the instructions are straightforward, easy to understand, and very clearly photographed so you’re not guessing at any stage of the project.  I am the least crafty person I know, and I have confidence I could undertake most of these projects without making a huge mess of them (or losing a limb in the process). 😉  I really think this book would be a fantastic gift for a new gardener or homeowner – and it would be extremely useful for anyone setting up a community garden or allotment as well.  Highly recommended (and that’s my honest opinion!).

Do you have any recommendations for gardening books that have you feeling excited and inspired as you plan (or dig in) for the new season?  Tell me what you’ve been poring over, I’d love to hear!