Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Compost Tea - Details this Friday in the Calgary Herald

It seems like a never-ending topic but it is time to fertilize again and - as usual- I have chosen the organic route. This year I tried out my new compost tea maker (a Growing Solutions product purchased last fall in Oregon). Of course I used my own home-made worm castings for the compost component. They of course came from my can-o-worms worm bin... the garbage feeding these worms came .... okay you get the picture - this isn't just fertilizer - this is slow food for plants.

My friend asked why I do it. Why do I make tea when everyone else just opens a package. Well I make bread too and soup from home-made stock. Maybe I am weird but I want to try new and innovative things from scratch. (And this is not my first commercial tea maker - I had a Soil Soup unit a few years back).

So- after 24 hours and a trip to home depo to buy a new sprayer and figure out how to set it up and how to strain my tea I am the proud owner of too much tea. But- heh- I did notice a small change in the powdery mildew on my Dahlias today- Coincidence?

Check out the full article this Friday in the Calgary Herald.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sea Asparagus - a little wild foraging

One of the advantages of visiting the seaside is indulging a new-found passion for foraging. During my last visit it was my delight to find sea asparagus growing wild on the west coast. A gourmet delicacy free for the taking!

Here are some photos of Marionette "picking" with her scissors, Chelsie and Cohen wandering the salt flats and a close-up of asparagus in case any readers are on the west coast in the next few weeks. This plant grows in the marshy areas between high and low tide in the mud flat areas. We googled how to cook sea asparagus and found a great fastfry using water chestnuts and oyster mushrooms. Delightful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wildflowers(?) in Bloom

On my way home yesterday I took the little train - it ends in Courtney on Vancouver Island and I was early for my plane so I took a little walk around. Imagine my surprise when I saw this "wildflower" meadow in a lot for sale downtown. Usually if a property is sold and the building is bulldozed the land is left to weeds. Good for the developer and the town! Of course these are not really wild flowers in the literal sense. Instead they are probably a mix from a commercial supplier - wildflowers are or should be local plants and many of these annuals are from Europe but - heh- it looks a lot better than an abandoned lot.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Last week Frost - This week Potatoes

Well it isn't just that the weather has gotten better- I have simply changed locales and come to our Island paradise.  Believe it or not the potatoes have taken over the garden which is only strange because I didn't plant any potatoes this year! Planting lettuce and celery in April was the last job before I left clean beds in April.  Here it is early June and I came back to (almost) full grown potatoes. Because baby potatoes make such a fine lunch we have decided to dig a few for that purpose. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

CBC Question: Will Sumac Grow Here?

 I had a caller ask about sumac on my CBC phone-in show this week so I decided to post a photo of Tiger Eyes sumac. It usually dies back in winter but meanwhile it makes a nice addition to the bed because of it's unusual colour and form. Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) and the native sumac (Rhus trilobata) also work here. I actually love the little native sumac because it is a small round shrub and is very drought tolerant and hardy - it never dies back in the winter.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Springtime in the Rockies.... June 7/09

Well -  we knew it would happen but today when it froze, and snowed, and warmed up so much I hung my plants back up just in time for 2" of hail I knew this was Calgary at it's best. I heard it snowed in Medicine Hat and Saskatchewan so I guess we aren't the only ones hard hit. 

I honestly think if I hadn't dropped that hanging basket when hanging it back heavy with water after the snow and before the  hail it would have survived. Oh well- more bits and pieces to add to the compost. In good news it is wonderful to see snow and apple blossoms on my neighbor's outdoor table. What could be prettier?

Don't Squish Lady Beetle Eggs

Yes- they have barely emerged from winter but lady beetles are already laying eggs. While visiting my daughter in Edmonton last weekend she squished some while we were looking at leaves on plants. I pointed out other eggs on other leaves and she realized she had squished the good guys. Just in case you didn't know the eggs are laid in clusters and are yellow - usually on the underside of leaves but sometimes they are on the upper. Look for them and don't squish them!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gentian in Bloom!

This is why I love alpines. This week when it was hot and (almost) unbearable my favorite dwarf Gentian (Gentian acaulis) popped into bloom. This weekend, with snow threatening it will be just fine, thank-you very much. It seems bizarre to have blooms 4-5 cm above a carpet of green foliage but this is definitely a drive-by beauty ... or as my son calls it " a positive externality"

Only other Calgarians will notice I find the flower form bizarre and not the weather. Go figure.

CBC Today

Call in toll-free today to CBC radio (1-866-468-4422) with your questions or ideas for the show. It is live on 1010 AM in Calgary from 1:30-2:00 PM today.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dandelion roots - get them all

Seems like a simple enough task but digging dandelions to get the roots out is easier to say than do. This root was "dug" with the Lee Valley water weeder. This tool shoots a strong stream of water down beside the dandelion root and in the end a very long root comes out. This dandelion is not likely to re-grow but it does take a lot of effort and water to remove a dandelion with this system.

Keep in mind that overuse of commercial fertilizers gradually reduces available Calcium (which is displaced off the clay particles by Pottasium and then leached). Low calcium levels are implicated in poor soil conditions and higher dandelion populations.  Underuse of micro-organism stimulating organic matter can also lead to compacted dandelion-prone soil. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Something White this week in the Calgary Herald

What are all those white trees, shrubs and flowers in bloom this week in Calgary? This photo is the double bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis 'Flore Pleno') in bloom just before it's glorious lezves appear. 

Mayday and Apple are also at their prime right now so look for them on a street corner near you!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Poppy Moment

A little poppy moment on today's dog walk reminded me that everything does not need to be planned out completely in a garden. Here an icelandic poppy (yellow) seems to have sprouted in place.

Growing in front of a rock edge and seemingly on a paved path, this poppy doesn't take up much room and is a reminder that we don't need to deadhead everything - a few poppy pods left standing led to this happy surprise.