The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter – April 2020.

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You are reading the first issue of the Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter!  With the first two books in our series Guides for the Prairie Gardener scheduled for release very soon, my co-author Janet Melrose and I have decided we’re going to publish a monthly newsletter here on my blog Flowery Prose!  We’ll be keeping you up-to-date on everything related to our books, 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 here on Flowery Prose.

Book News and Events

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases were originally scheduled for release by our publisher TouchWood Editions in April, but due to the current global health crisis, we are looking at a May 12 release instead. At this very moment, you can preorder our books from Amazon and Chapters-Indigo and they will be shipped to you as soon as they are out!

To preorder The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables, click here. 

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To preorder The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases, click here. 

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Back on February 2, Janet was a guest on the “Let’s Talk Gardening” programme on Calgary radio station 770 CHQR.  If you want to hear her talk about our forthcoming books, click over to the 18:00 mark on the audio recording and enjoy!  (You’ll have to make sure you’ve selected the February 2 tab in the drop-down menu).

Our publisher, TouchWood Editions, is currently running a blog feature called “Authors at Home,” where their authors write about what they are doing while in self-isolation.  Take a look at our entry here, and especially note our list of Prairie Gardening Stuff You Can Do Now! 

Out and About

Well, not really “out and about” this month; we’re more like “indoors and room-to-room.”  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting stuff done.  I have some new gardening articles published in various magazines, out on newsstands now (or, as we can’t really get out to shop, available for order online directly from the publishers). Look for “The Lovely Lady’s Slipper” in Mother Earth Gardener (Spring 2020); “Choosing the Right Irrigation System” in The Gardener for Canadian Climates (Spring 2020); and “Refresh Your Wardrobe with Herbs” in Herb Quarterly (Spring 2020).

Photos by Sheryl Normandeau

Janet has been writing, as well: her article “Balloon Flower: A.K.A. Japanese Bellflower” is in the same issue of The Gardener.   As for other going-ons in the world of Calgary’s Cottage Gardener, Janet says: “Unfortunately, all the workshops planned for April have been cancelled or postponed at this time. Yet the interest in gardening has never been stronger, especially edible gardening. Do stay tuned as I am getting set up with a mini-studio for webinars from my home to your yours. We get going with a hands-on workshop or two where I make up kits of supplies and plants and after a mini-talk and demo we all plant up together.  All talks will be posted on my Facebook page.”

In Our Gardens

Space limitations and a cat who pretty much chews on anything (and I do mean anything – I caught her gnawing on the plastic paper feed guide of the printer the other day) add up to not a lot of seed starting going on in my place, BUT I do have a handful of ‘Candyland Red’ and ‘Black Krim’ tomatoes happening under lights.  And I’m growing sprouts for eating…I was digging in my seed stash and came across a bunch of kale seeds that I’m not planning to use this year, so they’re designated sandwich fixings for the next few weeks.

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Photo by Sheryl Normandeau

Janet: “Spring is stirring, every so slowly! At home the snow is melting, but the ground is still oh so frozen. It will be some time before we can get into the soil. But above ground is another matter. By the second week of April, I plan on having containers full of arugula, spinach, endive and lettuce sown. Peas and sweet peas will follow. I am still wintersowing with kohlrabi, cabbage, broccolini, and kale going in. Later on I will use the milk jugs to sow squash of all kinds.  Indoors there is a full array of seedlings on the go from tomatoes and cucumbers, to green garlic, Swiss chard, kale and herbs. I am having fun with lots of different funky containers from eggshell trays, to big tin cans with holes punched through the bottom, and my TP roll trays. It has been fun to try out all sorts of techniques as I usually don’t have that much time to do so! Soon I’ll be out in the garden searching for the first crocus popping up and spring will truly be well underway!”

Photos by Janet Melrose

Floral Miscellany

While working on an article about colour theory in the garden, I came across a reference to the fact that early man was unable to see the same full colour spectrum that we can. Apparently, it involves quite a substantial evolutionary shift – you can read more about it here.  Something to think about as you admire the flowers growing in your garden!

Janet: “I am always amused at the traditional lore for the best date to plant potatoes being Good Friday! The idea is the soil will be ready to cultivate but temperatures still cool. While my grandfather in England might have followed the rule, we can only gaze out on still frozen fields and gardens! But it is time to get your order in for seed potatoes or check on the ones you have stored away to plant this year. Potatoes do know that it is time as they will want to get sprouting, so get them started by chitting (pre-sprouting) them on Good Friday. They will be ready to plant when our soil really is warm enough to plant in early May!”

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Chitting potatoes.  Photo by Janet Melrose

Get social with us! 

Sheryl: 

Facebook: @FloweryProse

Twitter: @Flowery_Prose

Instagram: @flowery_prose

Janet:

Facebook: calgaryscottagegardener

Twitter: @calcottagegdnr

Instagram: calgaryscottagegardener

‘Til next month!  ♥Sheryl and Janet

Floral notes: September 2018.

I have realized the benefits of carrying around a couple of folded brown paper bags in my book bag. (I don’t usually carry a purse. You can’t fit enough books in the ones I own so they’re pretty much useless to me. And if you’re going to carry around a ginormous purse, you may as well lug a sizeable, sturdy book bag, right?).  You never know when you might be strolling around and see seeds that need collecting or just enough ripe rose hips for a cup of tea or a leaf that needs identifying or pressing….  I’m certain my neighbours just shake their heads when they see me toodling around. At least I’m entertaining to others!  Do you forage in your neighbourhood as well?

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The apple trees on the property where I live have produced like mad this year so I’ve been picking and processing over the past few weeks.  I’ve made a bunch of unsweetened applesauce, a carrot/applesauce blend, some jars of apple jelly, and infused a few slices with whole cinnamon, allspice, and anise in vodka in preparation for the winter warm-ups that will certainly be required within the next few months.  (Perhaps sooner: we have snow in the forecast for this week!).  I wanted to make this apple jam but it will have to wait until next year; sadly, I cannot hog all the apples to myself.

Juicy, sweet freestone peaches from our neighbouring province, British Columbia, have been so inexpensive this year – I suspect they had a bumper crop over there!  I mixed up a bunch as pie filling and froze them for use later in pastry or over top of ice cream, breakfast oatmeal, etc..  But I also made this peach barbecue sauce, which was fantastic!

And…I made blueberry soup.  I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently, it’s a common dish in Sweden.  You can eat it either chilled or warm (we opted for the latter).  If I had enough blueberries in the freezer, I could see eating this every day – it’s so delicious!  The recipe I used isn’t quite traditional – I was eager to try this one because it has maple syrup and cardamom in it.  If you’re nervous about fruit soups, don’t be – this is a great breakfast meal and not too sweet. Actually, it sort of makes your tummy smile. Which is weird, but comforting. And comfortable, at the same time.

If you remember this entry I posted I about the non-book items our public library carries, you’ll recall that I mused aloud-ish about trying out a musical instrument.  True to my word, I carted this splendid item home on the train late last week:

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Now to find some good beginner keyboard tutorials on You Tube!  Or, I’ll just have some fun and mash all the buttons for the “crazy noises” feature that the machine sports (those are the librarian’s words, not mine, but it’s the description I would have used as well). My neighbours will be elated with my efforts to learn new skills. I can already hear the knocking on the door, the broomstick tapping on the ceiling. If I can just get them to time it to my playing, we’ll have a band and we can go on tour tomorrow.

And, in the “Endlessly Bragging” Department, I have not one, but two, articles in the Fall 2018 issue of Herb Quarterly magazine: “Rock Your Garden!” and “Dooryard Garden Design.” The magazine is out on newsstands all across North America.

Share any new recipes you’ve tried recently or let me know what new ideas or fun things you’re working on this week!  

Floral notes – May 2018.

A lightning round of links to explore this week:

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

 

What if my seeds are past their expiry date? Can I still plant them? Let’s talk about seed viability.

You know when you’re rummaging around in those old seed packets from years back and you look at the “sow by” dates and they’re long past but you just can’t bear to throw the seeds out and you hope against hope that you haven’t wasted money and time by not planting them sooner…?

Well, have I got a story for you.  It appears that a group of biophysicists at the Russian Academy of Sciences have managed to “resurrect” a plant from a seed that has been trapped in permafrost in Siberia for 30,000 years.  Although the scientists didn’t merely pluck the seed of Silene stenophylla out of the ground and plop it in a container with a good soilless potting mix (rather, they cultured tissue from the seed), they eventually ended up with a blooming flower that supposedly has set viable seed of its own.  While the science of this is hardly new – tissue culture is a widely-used method of plant propagation, and scientists from around the world have “revived” other types of old plants this way, this is by far the oldest sample of plant tissue that has ever been successfully grown.  See a photo of the plant and the news story here.

So, what does this mean for you, besides the fact that if these clever guys get going, we may one day have woolly mammoths trampling our perennial beds and omnivorous ice age squirrels running around stealing our tulip bulbs and stalking the neighbour’s cat?  It means that perhaps you shouldn’t throw out all those old seed packets just yet.  Yes, you shouldn’t expect much of the seeds they contain – the truth is, plant seeds do have a certain time-limited viability (determined by species) and the germination rate is indeed influenced by how the seed is stored and for how long.  There’s a huge chance that your success rate will be very low, or even non-existent.  But, maybe it’s worth planting them anyway, just in case.   A single fertile seed is all it takes.   And if you’re storing your seeds in permafrost, well, that’s all the more reason to get growing! 🙂

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Here are the Silenes of my garden….

Silene schafta (moss campion)

Are you growing any campions (catchflys)?  What are your favourites?

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And, if you’re curious about seed quality issues, check out this post, from Going to Seed, which offers a grower’s perspective.  Take to heart his suggestion to keep in touch with your seed providers – they can learn a great deal from your input!  (But…don’t go complaining to them if you can’t get your seed to germinate after the “sow by” date.  They don’t like that).