The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter – July/August 2020.

The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter

July/August 2020

Welcome to the fourth 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

Request for book 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!

We’ve been on a podcast! 

Janet and I had the pleasure and honour of being guests on Agriculture for Life’s Know Your Food podcast, for not one, but TWO episodes! We talked about growing veggies and other edibles, encouraging children to catch the gardening bug, and the connection between the coronavirus pandemic, self-sustainability, and growing your own food…and a few other topics, besides!  Go to Ag for Life’s website to listen.

EPISODE ONE – click here!
EPISODE TWO – click here!

Winners of Flowery Prose blog contest

Congratulations to Sherryl H. and Linda H., who each won a set of The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases by participating in a contest run here on the blog earlier this month.  A huge thank you to our publisher, TouchWood Editions, for supporting the contest and providing the prizes for the winners!

Out and About

Sheryl:

After being laid off for nearly four months, I am back to work at the library and, combined with my writing schedule and gardening and the need to eke out a few fun summer activities while there is still time, I’m a wee bit swamped. I have an ever-accumulating load of articles to write, questions to answer for curious (and occasionally desperate and fed up) gardeners, thunderstorms to dodge (my tomatoes have spent half of their lives covered up with sheets to prevent hailstones from destroying them), and So. Much. Weeding.  The weed du jour (besides quackgrass, which is actually the bane of my existence): stinkweed (Thlapsi arvense).  At least stinkweed is an annual, and it spreads via seeds instead of rhizomes (or seeds AND rhizomes – shudder).  It’s easy to pull but there seems to be an incredible amount of it this year.  Stinkweed has the glorious distinction that if it is allowed to set seed, one plant can produce 15,000 seeds.  I’m pretty sure all of those germinated in my raised beds this year, alongside a zillion annual chickweed plants (Stellaria media), which are another story altogether.

A few articles that I wrote earlier in the year have made it to publication – check out “Harvesting Rain’’ in the Summer 2020 issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates and “Superb Serviceberries” in Mother Earth Gardener.  Both of these are available on newsstands across Canada – and in the case of Mother Earth Gardener, you can find it anywhere in the United States, as well. (You can also read the article online here!). I also went a little farther afield than usual and wrote an article called “Opossums as Pollinators in Brazil” for the April 2020 issue of 2 Million Blossoms.  As you can imagine, that one was fascinating to research! This is a beautifully-produced, brand-new publication out of Arizona, dedicated to celebrating and “protecting our pollinators.” (If interested, you can order a subscription from their website).

I also had a chance to do a story about houseplants, for a change – my article “Devil’s Ivy vs. Philodendron: Which is Which?” can be found online at Farmers’ Almanac Check it out here! And, finally, “Using Colour in the Garden” was published in the July 4, 2020 issue of the newspaper The Calgary HeraldYou can read it here

Janet:

Unlike Sheryl I have been taking a hiatus from writing and workshops since the middle of June, although my article ‘Attracting Butterflies with Annuals’ is in the Summer issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates. It was a joy to research, write and photograph and I hope any of you that take in this magazine enjoys it too.

My Horticultural Therapy programs are all in abeyance too, except for one that is online!

So, my days have been filled with planting, sowing and weeding all the gardens that folks in the programs usually do. Plus, every so often, getting into my own garden.

One thing I haven’t had to much at all is watering, seeing as the sky has repeatedly provided ample moisture. Apparently, Alberta is experiencing La Nina like conditions in the atmosphere which have been contributing to our cooler and wetter weather lately. There is also a 50/50 chance of a full blown La Nina for this winter. Can we say cold and snowy?

I have been loving the chance to get out into the wild where the wildflowers have been stunning along with the insects and birds.  Usually my days are filled in the summer months and I seldom get the chance to go out and about. If there is a silver lining to this year, it is the joy we Albertans are getting from relearning our own backyards and wild spaces!

Mountain bluebell – Jasper, Alberta (photo by Janet Melrose)
Western lily – Jasper, Alberta (photo by Janet Melrose)
Lady’s slipper orchid – Jasper, Alberta (photo by Janet Melrose)

In Our Gardens

Sheryl:

As I already mentioned, weeds are what’s happening.  We have had a lot of rain and now there are weeds everywhere.  I’m a bit weird in that I don’t mind weeding: I like to relax in the sun and pull and dig them up by hand.  Weeding is just a really nice opportunity to turn the ol’ brain off and listen to the birds sing and the bees buzz in the garden.  More importantly, it’s a way to get really up close with your plants and see what’s going on almost at soil level.  Sometimes you get in a rush and you run to the garden to grab a handful of lettuce for a supper salad, or you sprinkle some water over everything before you dash out to work in the morning and you don’t really SEE what’s going on out there.  You need to sit and go slow to do that.  If you take a look at our pests and diseases book, you’ll notice that we talk about Integrated Pest (Plant) Management.  One of the tenets of that practice is monitoring.  That’s one of the things you can be doing while you weed: monitor your cultivated crops and ensure they are healthy and stress-free. If they aren’t, maybe you can see what the problem is while you’re out there weeding.

In July and August, everything is up in the garden and you’re just taking it all in, harvesting a few crops here and there and waiting on others to get larger or to produce more.  We’ve been enjoying spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, scallions, garlic scapes, kohlrabi, and various herbs – and, of course, potatoes (which are honestly the real reason I grow vegetables, LOL). And now the beans are coming along as well and the zucchini (which is seriously late for me this year).   

A bit of hail damage isn’t stopping those nasturtiums and calendula! I always mix edible flowers into my veggie beds. (Photo by Sheryl Normandeau)

Janet:

I have been having so much fun working in my bed at Inglewood Community Garden. It is a 10’ x 4’ bed so I have taken our Victory Garden plan (which you can see here) and used it in this bed using the square foot gardening technique to control my urge to just add a bit more into it.

Bumper harvest – Inglewood Community Garden (photo by Janet Melrose)

It is producing magnificently with my four kale plants in full production, along with lettuce and chard galore. This year with all the rain our radishes were wonderful….mild tasting, beautiful round orbs and nary a radish maggot to be found. Soon it will be the turn of the pole beans, garlic and tomatoes as they all come into their own. And I grew the best cilantro I have ever done, with it tucked in the shadow of the tomatoes and under floating row cover the entire time. A testimony to the benefits of using this ‘gardeners’ best friend’, not to mention the value it provides as hail protection!

Best cilantro ever! (Photo by Janet Melrose)

As I love to get as much as I can from a space I have already sown more radishes where the cilantro was in the hopes that the conditions there will good enough to get a second delicious crop. While the first lettuces are being harvested using ‘crop and come again’ I have sown more seed to germinate while I munch through the first round of delicious leaves. When the garlic come out in a few weeks I have more seedlings growing in wintersowing jugs to take that space to continue the bounty!

Fantastic radishes! (Photo by Janet Melrose)

Floral Miscellany

Sheryl:

A couple of the questions that keep cropping up (pun intended) on the Alberta Gardening group on Facebook concern the topic of growing onions.  If you’re waiting on your onion bulbs to plump up and you know it’s going to be a few more weeks, what do you do if flowers suddenly show up?  Do you cut them off?  Do you leave them?  And some gardeners stomp down the tops of their onions at this point in the growing season because they think it will promote fatter bulbs – is that something that should be done?  (I’ve seen people recommend this for potatoes, as well).  Let’s get down to the bottom of this! 

Janet:

Continuing on with the Allium family, garlic (Allium sativum) is taking centre stage now. Our late and cool start to the growing season has meant that they are only now developing the distinctive curl to the scapes, but now is the time to snip those scapes back to the first set of leaves. A gourmet delight and expensive in stores, use them just as you would the cloves for your summer cuisine. They pickle and pesto perfectly too if you have too many to use fresh!

Then watch for the leaves to turn yellow and die back in the next few weeks. Once they are about one third brown harvest one to see if the bulb is big and well formed. If it is, then harvest the lot as left too long after that the quality starts to degrade. Cure for three weeks in a dry and warm spot and we have fantastic garlic for the winter months plus using the best bulbs our stock for planting come fall when the cycle begins again!

If you love growing garlic like I do check out Ron L. Engleland’s iconic book ‘Growing Great Garlic’.

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

The books are here!

Picking up today’s mail was a much more delightful experience than usual….

“Over the moon” pretty much describes the feeling.  ♥

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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! ❤️

 

Two new publications! Disasters in Canada: Prepare and Be Safe – Wildfires and Floods.

I’m delighted to announce that Beech Street Books has published two more of my non-fiction books for children! Floods and Wildfires are part of the Disasters in Canada: Prepare and Be Safe series.  They help children understand the causes of these disasters and what to do if their communities are threatened.  I really enjoyed researching and writing these titles and hope they will be educational for young readers!

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The series Disasters in Canada: Prepare and Be Safe is available for order from the publisher here.  And, if you’re interested, please check out my other titles from Beech Street Books: Canadian Science – Technology and Sustainability: Natural Resources; Canadian Science – Technology and Sustainability: Biodiversityand To Be Canadian – Fairness for All: Equity.

Slipstream fiction.

As a first reader for the online speculative fiction publisher Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, I am privileged to read many amazing stories that writers have submitted. We were working through a reading period this past month and one story in particular really resonated with me. (Unfortunately, I cannot talk more about the work – if it is published in a future issue, I’ll update this post and let you know how you can find it).  The story was slotted by the writer into the “slipstream” genre and I got to thinking that I wasn’t aware of the origin of this term.  A quick jaunt on Google revealed that Bruce Sterling, a prolific American SF author and a creator of cyberpunk, coined the word a couple of decades ago. (A personal recommendation for anyone who hasn’t read Sterling’s work: scour around for a copy of The Difference Engine, a steampunk novel that he co-authored with William Gibson and published in 1990). Basically, slipstream stories blur the lines between mainstream (literary) fiction and science fiction, bringing elements of SF into genres of writing that are usually determinedly and decidedly un-SF. (Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is oft-touted as one of the more famous and commonly read examples). I uncovered a document Sterling wrote in 1998, discussing the not-yet-fully-accepted term and its meaning, but the real gem of the missive is the end, where he lists a fairly significant number of what he considered “slipstream” works to that time. Take a look at a copy of the list here.

These are books which SF readers recommend to friends: “This isn’t SF, but it sure ain’t mainstream and I think you might like it, okay?”

~Bruce Sterling, Slipstream (essay)

Do you have any more to add, over two decades later? Goodreads has put up a list of what it considers Popular Slipstream, found here.  One of my favourites on this list is Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane…and I’d argue that more novels by Douglas Coupland belong here, in addition to Girlfriend in a Coma. Have you read any of these slipstream works?

Book review: Library Lost by Laurie Graves.

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I know for a fact that Laurie is currently hard at work on the third book in The Great Library series and after finishing Library Lost, I’m excited and eager for her to get it out into the world so I can find out what happens to Maya Hammond and her companions!

The fate of the Great Library – the source of all of the knowledge and information in the universe – remains at stake in Library Lost.  As Time and Chaos battle for such a powerful and valuable prize, other players have their own agendas.  It’s up to our smart, strong teenage heroine, Maya, and her allies to stay out of danger and initiate a plan to save the Library.  Unfortunately, the best-laid plans don’t always pan out the way they should, and the result is an engaging, action-packed (and magical!) adventure with brilliant pacing and and an exquisitely detailed and realized setting.  This is truly the kind of book that you take to bed and read by flashlight under the covers until the wee hours of dawn. ♥

(If you want to order a copy of Library Lost and the first book in the series, Maya and the Book of Everything, click here to go to Laurie’s website).

Floral notes: June 2019.

And without further ado…wait, there was ado?

Harvest time is now virtually over for this early season crop, but a few weeks ago, my hubby and I headed out to Edgar Farms (near the town of Innisfail in central Alberta) for their annual Asparagus Festival.  The celebration is held over three weekends in May and June, and features a farm tour, lots of yummy food, and artisans selling their locally-made wares.  The star of the show is, of course, asparagus, which isn’t cultivated very much as a commercial crop here in the province – the family-run Edgar Farms is one of the only producers that I am aware of.  Interpretive signs near the asparagus fields offer fun facts about this fascinating perennial veggie,  tips to successfully grow it, and a history of the farm and its owners. (You can also take a guided wagon tour if you’d rather not walk the property; we chose to walk because I always find you see more if you’re on foot).  One of the highlights of the festival is the opportunity to go out into the asparagus fields to break a spear fresh out of the soil and pop it in your mouth.  And, of  course, all the freshly-harvested asparagus you can bring home from the marketplace…YUM! It’s going to be difficult to wait another whole year for such a delicacy!

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Purple cultivars of asparagus taste a bit sweeter than green ones, and wow! that colour!  Spectacular! (Just like many purple bean cultivars, purple asparagus spears turn green when you cook them, and actually, if you slice open a raw spear, the interior is green).

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A man with more literary awards than you can shake a stick at (as well as a little bauble called the Order of Canada!), renowned Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer was recently in Calgary acting as the visiting writer-in-residence at the Calgary Public Library.  My hubby and I managed to squish in Mr. Sawyer’s highly entertaining lecture “Why Everyone Should Read Science Fiction” on June 2.  In addition to defending his position on Star Trek’s superiority over Star Wars (I’d say the room was divided on that one!), we were treated to an educational and fascinating discussion of the history of science fiction writing  and its focus on social issues.

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Speaking of science fiction, I’ve published writer Geoff Hart’s flash fiction work “Fly Fishing” over at Paper Butterfly.  It’s a story you’ll fall for hook, line, and sinker…guaranteed. Head over there and enjoy!♥

 

 

 

 

Floral notes: May 2019.

Heartfelt gratitude

Flowery Prose has sort of been languishing on the backburner for the better part of a year now as I’ve been tackling a zillion other projects…and while this has been going on, I’ve completely broken all the rules of good blogging.  Blogs that are worth their salt are built on the interactions between writer and reader. Although you’ve all been utterly fabulous and continued to read and comment whenever I’ve managed to squeak out a post (which has been less and less often as the months have gone by), I have, sadly, completely failed with regard to responding to all the fantastic comments I’ve received, as well as reciprocating by reading your blogs.  I not only need to issue a huge apology, but I need to take action.  So…effective immediately, you’re going to see a re-energized Flowery Prose.  I am also going to make a far greater effort to spend time finding out about what is going on in your part of the world, via your blog posts.  Please don’t expect huge strides, as I’m still swamped with projects.  But I am going to make a change.  Baby steps.  Thank you so much to all of you for sticking around this entire time, even when there was a whole lot of silence on my end – I am deeply grateful for your kindness!

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It looks as if I will have to fire my research assistant…this is the fourth time today I have caught her sleeping on the job….  😉

Writing updates

The Central Library here in Calgary and the local writer’s group Loft 112 have a cool little thing going on…they’ve set up a Short Story Dispenser, conveniently located near Luke’s Café on Level 1M.  While you’re sipping your tea or coffee, you can indulge in a randomly-selected one-minute, three-minute, or five-minute short story that is released from the dispenser at the touch of a button.  The stories have been written by both international and Calgary-based writers – and I’m absolutely delighted to say that two of my five-minute stories are currently stuffed somewhere in the dispenser, waiting for someone to read them. If you live in Calgary and area, Loft 112 is still looking for more stories to fill the machine, so take a look at the call for submissions and have fun with it!

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Local interest

I recently found a little gem of a book by a southern Alberta-based writer, Joyce Moore: A Guide to Alberta Outdoors – Rides, Hikes, Birds, and Beasts (Bayeux Arts, Inc., Calgary, 2009). It’s a brief but lively collection of nature/outdoors columns that were syndicated for several rural newspapers in the 1990’s.  She writes about ranching in the Highwood River area, the undertaking of several challenging and stunningly beautiful mountain treks, and observations of birds and other wildlife found in the Rockies and the foothills.  A one-lunch-break read, and a fascinating look at our beautiful province by a woman who clearly loves and respects the environment.

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Really cool places to get short stories.

If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that I LOOOOOVE all forms of short stories.  I publish flash fiction by many amazing authors over at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, and I occasionally write short stories myself.  (If there were more than 24 hours in a day, I’d write quite a few more!). But I have an especially soft spot for reading short stories…and I particularly adore science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  The more eclectic and inventive, the better!

If you love short stories as much as I do (especially speculative fiction), give these sites a try!  I am a first reader for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, a longtime print subscriber to On Spec (which is based out of Edmonton, in my home province of Alberta), and I’ve had my work published in Polar Borealis and 365 Tomorrows.  Sites such as Daily Science Fiction are fun because you can have them send you one story each day – a treat to go with your morning coffee!  (Every Day Fiction is another source of daily stories, as their publishing schedule permits – and they publish all genres, not just speculative fiction).

On Spec (Canadian; print and digital editions available for a subscription fee)

Polar Borealis (Canadian; online only, free to read but donations welcomed)

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores (must pay to subscribe, but they always have a free sample story up on the website to enjoy; a new feature are the podcasts, which you can listen to for free!)

365 Tomorrows (free to read!)

The Martian Magazine (free to read; The Martian publishes drabbles (fiction of 100 words or less) so you can gobble down several of these in one sitting)

Daily Science Fiction (free; if you give them your email address, they’ll gift you with a new story five days a week!)

Every Day Fiction (free; subscribe by email. New stories are published frequently)

Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction (of course I have to include this one!  Free to read!) – right now, I’m featuring a hilarious gem by Gregg Chamberlain, “Poetic Licence.”

Do you read short stories?  Do you subscribe to any short story magazines, or do you prefer book-form anthologies or collections (one author or multiple)?  Please share any recommendations you may have – it doesn’t matter where in the world you live!  

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).