Flowery blurbs, volume 12.

I’ve been gardening “by the minute” lately…that is, cramming five or ten minutes’ worth of work in before the next bout of rainy, windy, or otherwise highly changeable weather.  Ah, glorious Spring!  Yesterday I managed to get one flowerbed edged and weeded before the thunder and lightning started (thankfully, the storm lasted about five minutes, total, and no hail came out of it).  If you’re having to do the same thing with your gardening work, here are a few little Flowery Blurbs to chow down on while you’re waiting for the sun to come out again….

When I was working in a garden centre, some of the most frequently-asked questions concerned tomatoes.  Actually, it was ONE gigantic question:  how do you grow tomatoes in Calgary?  It really is trickier than most other places – if you’re from here you know what I’m talking about.  We have a short growing season, really cool summer nighttime temperatures, and we’re always looking over the horizon for snow, so a vine-ripened tomato that was grown in a Calgary garden is like a shiny nugget of pure gold.  (Okay, so I exaggerate.  But only slightly).  While I should have posted this article up a few months ago when gardeners were starting their tomato seedlings indoors, the information about hardening off and recommended hardy selections is still very useable, and you can always hang onto these excellent tips for next year.  Check out Stacey McDougall’s post about Growing Resilient Tomatoes from Seed on Big Sky Permaculture’s website.

Are you growing fruit trees or shrubs in your garden?  Do you know how to prune them in order to maximize fruit production?  This article from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development is a short primer on the reasons why pruning fruiting plants properly will give them that extra oomph! factor.

I love the article, From the Shrubbery, by Noel Kingsbury in Gardening Gone Wild – not only does it have a great title (I’m a Monty Python fan and the word “shrubbery” always gets me giggling, what can I say?), but the premise is fascinating.  Kingsbury argues that shrubs more than deserve a status update, and should no longer languish behind perennials for garden dominance.  Of course, he insists, proper management is key – shrubs only work if you culture them properly.  Do you agree with what he suggests?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m interested in vermicomposting, even if I don’t find the worms themselves very appealing.  (By the way, my red wigglers are doing spectacularly; I harvested enough castings to nearly fill a 4 litre ice cream pail about a month ago and worked them into my perennial beds during spring prep).  Although vermiponics has absolutely nothing to do with composting, it does involve worms.  Check out this article that takes the science of aquaponics to a new wriggly level, and removes the fish from the equation.  (Perfect for someone who wants an aquaponics system but can’t keep it up year-round due to the cold weather!).   What do you think of vermiponics – or aquaponics, for that matter?  Would you attempt these systems? 

Finally, from the files of They’re Seriously Serious (I Think):  if the sight of a lawn full of dandelions doesn’t make you hurl curses or gnash your teeth, and you actually have feelings of love and kinship for the sunny yellow flowers, then check out Dandetown‘s Facebook page.  If you’re a creative soul, they’ve got a call for submissions of “your favourite dandelion stories, photos, song lyrics, and recipes.”

On that note, I’m heading out to check on those plants I bought on Sunday and still haven’t put in the ground….  🙂

Related articles

Something’s fishy….

Okay…so how many of you keep freshwater fish in an aquarium?

And how many of you who are fish owners also use the waste water from the tank to give your plants a nitrogen pick-me-up?

We’ve kept freshwater fish for nearly twenty years.  At the moment we have two aquariums, full of various species of tetras and two very whacky golden Chinese algae eaters (Gynocheilus aymonieri).

We don’t keep live plants in our tanks, although this is something I would dearly love to get into – our algae eaters are very fond of digging, however, and they do enough damage to the plastic plants and ornaments we have.  One day, perhaps, when we get some more laid-back fish, I’ll give the live plants thing a go.

Our aquariums have been in place a very long time now, so we have a pretty balanced system, plus we’re very conscientious about the amount of food and the types of food we give our fish so that we’re not generating excessive waste material in the water.  Too much waste from decaying food and poop = a proliferation of nitrates, which are toxic in large amounts.  To keep our fish happy and our system running smoothly, we do a 1/3 water change and clean the filters once a month, and we change out the filter media two or three times a year.  Because we’ve closely regulated the numbers of fish we keep, this schedule seems to work nicely for us.

Whenever we do a water change, we save back some of the water and I give it to my houseplants.   I don’t add any more fresh water – I just pour it straight out of the bucket into a watering can and then into the pots.  The waste water makes an excellent fertilizer, and because I only apply it once a month, I don’t worry about over-feeding.  In the summer, I also take the bucket outside and dump the contents over my flowerbeds.  Why throw this free fertilizer down the toilet?

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An aquaponic system is a working cycle that highlights fish/plant interaction.  Check out this aquaponic set-up from Milwaukee for a brilliant example of what can be done with some space and expert know-how.  Note the use of watercress as a water filtration aid.

Finally, read about the chemistry of nitrogen cycles from a plant perspective here.  And then check it out from the fishy side of things here.

Related posts:  Chez worms.