Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coir Pots: Yes it's another recyclable pot

Okay - this is something I saw in Toronto at Canada Blooms this spring (2008) but there it was again at LANTA. I realized I did not properly try out my single new pot this spring- I put something into it and it went outdoors and that is the last I saw of it. I only have a single pot again so I can't feed it to the worms. It looks much stiffer than the other pots - may be full of glue -  so I wouldn't want to risk feeding it to the worms anyway. They have been through enough this week  with the nematodes and all.  This pot will join the recyclable pot test - I needed more basil anyway so why not pot up the three different recyclable pots with growing mix and add some basil seed? Well, why not - but not today. The "potting mix" is outdoors and probably frozen.... It's a task for another day.

Ecotainers: New to me

A trip to the Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades (LANTA) trade show last week and I found another "new" biodegradable pot. Ecotainers  are round pots made of Plastarch (PSM). They have only been on the market for two years so there are no long term studies yet. I guess I'll have to give them a try. They are marketed as fully biodegradable and compostable. Of course my compost outdoors is frozen solid this time of year but I wonder if my worms would eat them? I think I will throw a pot in my worm bin just to see. To find out who is selling them in our area contact

Good Idea: Cow Patty & Other Compostable Pots

I have been using plastic pots in all forms and sizes for years and many of them can't be returned or recycled so I was delighted to find Cow Patty pots at the Garden Writers Conference in September. They just arrived in the mail today and I am delighted to share a photo of them. Will they work? Who knows. Will I try them? Definitely. Stay tuned. This is one dairy farmer's recycled manure put to good use. I think. 

Tree House: for the Birds

When a tree dies on a boulevard it is usually cut down and hauled away by the city. After much discussion in the neighborhood of Sunnyside the community decided that this giant old poplar would be turned into garden art instead of being removed. When the urban forester in Calgary drove me by this tree a few days ago I was surprised how it had taken on a new life. Dead tree to folk art - an amazing transformation!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fly Killers Have Arrived

Yesterday was a big day - my nematodes arrived and not a moment too soon. I was almost thinking about giving up wine but - no- let's be sensible. Better to apply parasitic nematodes to my worm bin than to give something up I might regret later.

What surprised me is that the nematodes do not reproduce themselves in the bin - in a way this doesn't make sense. If they are not reproducing how do they kill their prey? The box I ordered contained "Infective Juveniles" so it isn't just a few eggs in a bag. This is the real thing - juvenile nematodes. Of course the quantities are more suited to a commercial greenhouse than a single worm bin - I am now the proud owner of 50 million nematodes. I will use only part of the package and save the rest for later - in my fridge. Okay- I hope my husband didn't read that part.

Last time I ordered Steinernema feltiae I did not let them hydrate in water first. This time I read the instructions and i will let them sit in clean but chlorine free water for five minutes before watering them into the worm bin. It was my idea to use chlorine free filtered water because after reading "Teaming with Microbes" - an excellent book by the way- I realized how harmful chlorine could be to everything really but especially the little microbes and small organisms.

Okay I am off to add a new kind of worm to my worm bin

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Terry and Joan's Favorite Hardy Climber

Terry and Joan are amazing rose growers and in this climate that says a lot. This summer I took a photo of their favorite hardy climber, the John Davis Explorer rose. They don't cover it or do anything special in the winter and look how great it was in August!

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Bugs in the Wine time again

My husband was horrified - well I guess i was a little shook up too. It is really definitely fall now and all the fruit we have been buying and bringing home is alive with wildlife. Yes- the little black flies you see hovering over your grapes might go into the garbage in some homes but we compost them. And we live in a cold climate so we compost with worms in the winter in the basement. In fact we do this year round but right now our compost outdoors has shut down and gone cold and is refusing to take any more peelings so we are using our worm bin a lot more right now.

Anyway we were having a nice glass of wine and the topic came up that I had two flies in my glass. They were paddling around looking for an escape. Like ladies of a certain age, these little flies are very attracted to alcohol.

I knew this was going to be a problem. When I went to dump a recent batch of greens into the worm bin I was overtaken by a "Flock" of little black flies. Yes they could be fungus gnats or shore flies but most likely they are fruit flies. They were too fast to catch. Either way they are way out of control as is usual this time of year. Lets face it - we buy these flies along with our organic produce and we never throw them away - instead we give them a nice warm moist environment and before you know it they have multiplied are are trying to share our glass of wine. The truth is I usually remember to order parasites from a reliable supplier of Biologicals such as Westgro in Calgary or Natural Insect Control in Ontario. This time the fall got away from me and my usual pro-active approach with nematodes was a miss.

All will be well shortly. I am trapping loose flies with the rest of that buggy glass of wine, my nematodes have been ordered and I will be applying them when they arrive by courier on wednesday. Stay tuned.

PS If you have an infested worm bin or a greenhouse with fruit flies or other wildlife order your Steinernema feltiae (Trade names include NEMS -larva parasite and Nemasys). These little guys will not hurt your worms but will do a number on all other larvae in your soil.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lawn Chemicals Banned in Alberta- That's a relief!

Finally - lawn chemicals are banned in Alberta (Calgary Herald November 14, Page B1) - starting January 2010. Well, better late than never. Who are the secret people secretly using these chemicals anyway? Will they stockpile a supply well into the future? Do they know the effect of the chemicals on our water supply and on all the other creatures living in and using the soil? Okay this is sounding like a rant instead of a polite gardening column.

I really do hope this is the end of chemicals on lawns and - hopefully in gardens. Instead of spraying your lawn I often just boil water and pour it on the dandelions - it is simple, doesn't kill much except the weeds and seems to work. A reader suggested the following:

"I have been doing the boiling water thing after digging up dandelions, quite successfully. I learned after the first time to employ a funnel when pouring the boiling water into the hole. Do not use too much water, and lift the funnel out carefully so the water stays in the hole. There will be no brown patch – just healthy green grass ready to take over the space formerly occupied by the dandelion.

Those Russian samovars used to keep water hot for tea would be a great source of boiling water if one were operating far from an electrical outlet.
Ardell "

I say way to go Ardell.... Now will everyone who has secret chemical stashes simply drop them off at the fire hall for disposal and everyone can live happily ever after?

Welcome to Blogs & Blooms - Donna Bio


If you somehow missed her on the award winning garden show Bugs & Blooms (now in re-runs on HGTV and around the world), you can catch her in the summer answering listener questions on CBC. Failing that, open the Calgary Herald and you’ll find her on-going gardening column. There’s also a good chance you’ll see her work in either “Garden Life Magazine” or “Canadian Gardening”

A graduate of the University of Alberta’s Plant science program specializing in horticulture, a Professional Agrologist (P. Ag.) and certified Landscape Gardener Journeyman, it’s no surprise that Donna has become a very well respected freelance garden and environmental consultant. She is well known for her work with architects, landscape architects, high profile commercial clients (The City of Calgary’s Reader Rock Garden to name just one), and local home gardeners. Nine years as resident horticulturalist for the Calgary Zoo’s Botanical Garden, and 2 years as a horticulture instructor at Olds College have also added to Donna’s reputation as a true master in her field.

Donna’s work has also been recognized through several awards. Her first book “Gardening for Goofs is a Canadian best seller and her second book “The Prairie Rock Garden” received the Carlton R. Worth award for writing. In 2003 Donna received “The Distinguished Agrologist Award” from her peers in Agrology. HGTV’s hit internationally broadcast gardening show “Bugs & Blooms” won Donna and her Co-Host Todd Reichardt the Garden Globe Award for best talent in electronic media in 2002.

Garden celebrity, author, local plant hero, Donna’s ambition is inspired by her genuine love of all things green and passion for sharing her life’s work with you. For a detailed resume please email

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where to begin

Welcome, this site is under construction and will shortly be up & blogging. Come back & check us soon.