Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Original Christmas Decoration

The original Christmas decorations? I am not sure but this mountain ash is beautiful under the new snow this month and this photo is my present to all my readers. 

I am away from my computer now until after Christmas but please enjoy the beauty of nature and of your gardens this time of year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Basil is Germinating!

Yes- the basil planted to test out the new recyclable pots is coming up. Teeny tiny seedlings are appearing. Okay - it is a weird time of year to sow seeds but - heh- I have grow lights and basil is on ongoing pleasure.

By the way- the seeds in the plastic, non-recyclable pots are up first. What does that mean?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to Attract Mice - 101

They are cute and they are trainable but do you really want mice in your garden? 

A caller this week asked me to suggest a source of weed free straw so that he could put it on his garden to protect tender perennials from frost. The trouble in our crazy climate in Southern Alberta is that we frequently lack a snow cover in winter and gardeners are always trying to push the zones and grow risky plants. Of course I immediately called  back to say there is no such thing as weed free wheat or barley straw because it is impossible to get all the seeds off the straw and the wheat or barley itself becomes a weed. Meanwhile the seeds attract and feed the hungry little mice who were wondering what they would eat now that the weather is cold. 

The caller then asked if hay would work better. In a word - no. Hay just provides a cozy home for mice and comes with it's own fair share of weed seeds. The only viable straw for protecting gardens and not contributing to mice food or habitat is the very tough and difficult to spread Flax straw. It can be purchased in square bales and spread out in the fall over tender perennials. It is almost impossible to compost so it will still be there in spring and can be raked up for reuse in the fall. Trouble is that very few farmers grow flax anymore so I am not sure the average city gardener would be able to find a bale or two for their use. 

Other options for fall protection of tender plants are piles of dry leaves. I have noticed a lot of those blowing up against fences lately. Once the soil is frozen solid - which it appears to be right now - the leaves can be collected and piled on the plants. Organized gardeners already have their piles of leaves in bags at the ready. The mice won't be able to burrow into the frozen soil and the leaves will give a bit of frost protection to the plants as the snow comes and goes this winter.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Marilyn Needs Help

Dear Donna-
I transplanted about 20 of my houseplants in the fall. I used a reputable President's Choice houseplant soil and clean plant pots. Unfortunately, I had some other unwanted things appear in my home about a week later. They are a small black quick flying little bug. They are very annoying and they are everywhere....

Dear Marilyn - Refer to my previous "It's Bugs In The Wine Time Again" blog. You have a different bug than I have but the cure is the same. You have fungus gnats - and they came free in your soil. In the future when you buy new soil put a bit in a glass jar, moisten the soil, seal the lid and wait a week. If you see flies hatching be ready with your nematodes as soon as you use the soil.  See "Fly Killers Have Arrived" entry for nematode info. 
Dear Donna- Thanks for your quick reply. A major offensive was launched when I found them in my drink of water...
Dear Readers- I couldn't make up anything this good!