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! 

February blog fun.

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Well, hello February!  Did anyone happen to see where January went?  Apparently I blinked at the wrong time and missed it.

While I haven’t actually been blogging over the past several weeks, and my commenting on others’ blogs has been sporadic horrible at best, I have managed to do just a bit of reading, and I’ve found a few entries that are practical and useful, delightfully inspiring, and/or just plain fun.  I know that some of us run in the same blogging circles, so you may have come across these before, but for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, or simply want a refresher, here are the links to a sample of my favourite blog reads of the past month or so:

Don’t Stint – Do Your Stint! (Love Those “Hands at Home”) – Kerry’s hugely inspiring post about time/project management is more than just food for thought.  This is a strategy that could apply to so many aspects of life…and eliminate a bit of stress along the way.

Birding in the Winter (Prairie Birder) – All of the species of birds Charlotte mentions in this blog entry may not live in your part of the world, but her excellent tips about winter birding are extremely useful for those of us in cold climates.

Sauerkraut Apple Latkes (Cooking with Aunt Juju) – Judi’s recipe is divine!  I made these as soon as I read about them and now you should go do the same.

Icefields Parkway (Adventure 69° North) – The photography on Inger and Tor’s blog is beyond spectacular.  This particular entry offers a taste of some of the incredible scenery close to my home.

Grow Your Own Italian Seasoning (Completed) (The Crafty Cultivator) – I absolutely love Wendy’s idea and I’m keen to try it myself during the upcoming growing season.

My 2015 Photography Year in Review (Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things) – Treat yourself and check out Laurie’s favourite images of the past year – so gorgeous!

More to love:

Rocky Mountain professional photographer Paul Zizka’s Top 15 Images of 2015 is a must-see!

Another photographer from Calgary, Richard Gottardo, assembled over 6,500 still photos that he took of the northern lights into an amazing video, found here.

A good friend (and maker of the most insanely delicious barbecue sauces you’ll ever eat) sent me a link to Canadian blogger/writer Karen Bertelsen’s gardening resolutions of 2016. We both agreed these are realistic, achievable goals – what do you think?

Enjoy the start of the month!

 

 

Slugs and shallots.

I spent the morning out at my plots in the community garden, harvesting the rest of the Asian greens that were on the verge of bolting. Seems the slugs had gotten to some of them before me – my mibuna was full of the little slimers. Not impressed. Surprisingly, this is my very first time dealing with slugs in the garden – although I do have experience with them from my garden centre days, when potted roses brought in from the west coast often had stowaways in the form of baseball-sized banana slugs. (I quickly learned Lesson #1: Never, ever unload live plants without wearing gloves!). I’ll never forget the time a co-worker thought she’d be cheeky and put a giant slug next to our boss’s coffee cup on the desk in the greenhouse…let’s just say, it’s a good thing our boss was in a pleasant mood that morning and was already on his second cup of java, because he hated slugs as much as I do.

I’m not certain if these three jokers had any advice about the slugs, but they were sure trying to tell me something:

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I’ll bet they’re the little rascals that have pulled every last shallot out of my plot, pecked holes in them, and then left them to rot. I cannot figure out why magpies would want to eat shallots when there are (slugs) strawberries just a few plots away, but I do know I won’t be eating shallots that I’ve grown myself anytime soon. Oh well, shallots are…overrated. Or something. Right? 😉

What pesky critters are currently bothering your plants?

Snapshots: Colour and texture.

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I remember years ago when I first started working in a garden centre, my boss at the time firmly instructed me “not to order any of that flax!”    His rant was that it was a “junky plant,” and there will definitely be others who agree, I’m sure.  But I love it.  Yes, it reseeds itself freely…and lest you think my garden is a haven for aggressively spreading plants (I just did a post about alpine strawberries, after all!), I just yank them if they go astray.  They’re easier than carrots to pull out.  Plus, if you give them a haircut a couple of times a summer, you’ll likely coax another spell of blooms…and at the very least, keep a few seeds from forming.  I can’t get enough of that stellar blue…and how the feathery stems move in a breeze.

Immature larch cone - 7 June 2013

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know I’m a little bit obsessed with larch trees.  (See my posts here and here…and here).  This year, I missed the flowering of the larch trees that grow outside of the soccer field near our apartment, but I managed to capture these adorable fuzzy immature cones late last week.

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More young cones, these ones on a very attractive pine tree that I cannot ID.  (If anyone can assist, please give me a shout-out!).  My hubby played in a lacrosse tournament this past weekend and during a walk near the arena while on a break, we came across a high school that had the most beautiful landscaping…there were even some large yucca near the front doors.  These pine trees framed the south and east sides of the building.

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A gorgeous Spiraea in the same schoolyard.

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Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Pewter’, in my flowerbed.  You’re definitely wondering now…what is it with me and these spreading plants?  Well, this one is in a hot, dry, full sun location…it won’t go too far.  I’m surprised it’s gotten as large as it has with all my neglect.  Those leaves are stunning, aren’t they?

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One of the not-so green greens I’m growing in my veggie plot in the community garden…this absolutely gorgeous one is ‘Red Frills’ mustard.  I harvested a bunch of them as microgreens the other day – wow, what incredible flavour!  They pack a punch, that’s for sure.  Highly recommended.

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While on a walk in Bowmont Natural Area in northwest Calgary last week, my hubby and I came across this mourning cloak butterfly posing on a fencepost.  He’s looking a little rough around the edges…but that’s texture, too!  🙂

Photo #7 – R. Normandeau

What are your favourite textures and colours in the garden and in nature at the moment?

Wanted: Warm blanket and soft pillow.

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(Photo credit: R. Normandeau)

A grouping of Chionodoxa and Puschkinia poked out of my flowerbeds in a rare sunny moment last week.  Unfortunately, further blooms in my garden have been arrested by the cold and freezing drizzle that has been falling on and off for the past three days.  I can completely relate – the weather makes me want to go back to bed, too.  😉

I hope you have a relaxing Saturday!  Do you have any plans to get out into your garden this weekend?