Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where will the lady beetles hide?

Yes- it is spring and as noted earlier gardeners are busy scraping every leaf off their garden and dumping it in the garbage. I need to ask this little question... where will all the lady bugs (actually beetles) go once all the hiding places are gone and the duff and leaves have been removed? Especially this early in the season when there are still threats of snow and cold conditions. Have mercy on the little guys and leave a bit of stuff in the garden so that they can find shelter.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Early Blooms in Calgary

Suddenly in bloom this week we see perennials, bulbs and shrubs. It was such a freakishly hot week that many early perennials including Primula marginata (purple), Hepatica (also purple), crocus (purple and yellow), Caltha leptosepala (white), sanguinaria (gorgeous white) and forsythia (yellow) are all in bloom. The leaves on the poplar trees are breaking out and it definitely looks like mid-May. Of course it is raining tonight and possibly snow in the morning but that is typical of Calgary in Spring.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dumpster Diving- sort of

Okay - It started out as a walk to the park. With the dog. We did our usual things and as we returned down the back alley on our way home bags and bags of leaves called out to me. I suddenly had the urge to collect garbage - not professionally- mind you- just a few bags. Just to stop it from going into the landfill where it would contribute to methane gas production and greenhouse gases. Where it will be lost to gardens forever as it contributes to landfill. Just to boost my own garden and compost.

I am not talking any old type of leaf or rough debris from the spring garden clean-up. I have enough of that to cut up and slowly compost over the summer. I am talking about gathering the black gold - the really special spring cream of the crop. The material that is whisked off the lawn in the early days of spring: it has finely chopped leaves, dead grass and the fresh bits of new young grass bustling with nitrogen and millions of mictobes ready to begin their annual work.

I approached the subject with my husband. Would he mind helping me in the garden a bit? I mean - would he mind helping me collect a few materials for the garden? Always enthusiastic he jumped in until he realized I wanted him to drive while I picked up the bags - "Just one more" I begged as we crammed the eighth bag into our station wagon.

So the bags are home now. Some immediately went into my tumbler compost to start a fresh spring batch of compost and wake up the old cold materials left there over winter. Others went in deep piles at the back of the garden in newly developed areas sure to have weeds if not covered quickly. A few precious bags were kept for summer composts.

We went for a dog walk again last night. Still more materials were being left curbside - I mentioned we should go home and get the car. "Just keep walking Donna" said the usually helpful husband. Sigh. So much garbage - so little yard.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Boxwood in Calgary

Hi Sheila- As you can see I am a new blogger and not able to figure out how to reply to you directly. Boxwood is delightful in sheltered areas of Calgary but don't make a hedge of it... instead use it in small yards as a special plant.... unless you are sheltered and downtown. Check at Edward's Garden center because that is where I bought mine!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dandelions in Salad?

I'm sure I am not the only one to see a recipe and immediately decide to make it. I might be the only one to see a recipe and make it even though I only have a few of the ingredients. This is true of the recipe for Pancetta and Dandelion salad in the Globe and Mail yesterday. It looked delicious. The only trouble was the only ingredients I had that were called for in the recipe were the dandelions and the dry bread. So I made it anyway and added some homemade sprouts and home grown lettuce and grated a bit of parmesan on it and added the last bit of lemon from an old rind I still had in a bowl. The result? Fabulous. But that is mainly because of the fact the dadelions were deep fried and what isn't good deep fried?

When to seed outdoors?

Yes I was surprised when a classmate declared that the last frost free date in Victoria is May 20 and in a later conversation another classmate told me she seeds her outdoor veggies in Paradise Valley, Alberta on the May 24 long weekend. These two planting regions are separated by 6 zones and yet the gardeners were discussing doing the same work at the same time. This is just crazy and an example of an old practice (planting on the May long weekend) that has become so ingrained people do it without thinking even if they are in relatively balmy Victoria or frigid northern Alberta.

I have an announcement to make. Read the seed packages. Some seeds can be planted "after danger of hard frost" is past. Yes, light frost may still happen but this danger (of hard frosts) in Vancouver Island is well behind us and in this spirit I seeded all my plants in that category outdoors in Qualicum Beach this weekend. I am talking about kale, swiss chard, beets, spinach, arugula, lettuce, calendula, peas, brocolli, brussel sprouts etc.

Of course I am saving the tender seeds to plant after all danger of frost is past. So regardless of where you live, order your seeds now, read the labels and follow the instructions on the packages. In Alberta "all danger of heavy frost" is about a month away and all danger of frost is 6-7 weeks away but for Vancouver Island we have already crossed that heavy frost threshold so don't be afraid!

PS I seeded salal and lettuce outdoors in February just because I could and it is well up now. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thank-You Planters' Pride- Heat Mat

Yes it is a heating pad but this one is plastic covered and waterproof so it can be placed under a tray of seeds and left for days or weeks until they germinate. Using bottom heat like this will really speed things up - that means it takes a few days instead of a week or more to sprout seeds. Cover seeds with clear plastic just to keep humidity in until seeds are up. Lettuce in 2 days- beets in 5!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Moving the Greenhouse

It's built! My hard working husband finished rebuilding the greenhouse we had to move last spring. It lay dormant in piles of numbered pieces all winter and now - unlike humpty- it is back together again. I hope to get all my tomatoes shifted from their rootrainers into the maxi-caps later this week but for now it is just good to know it is built and ready to go.

This time we put the structure on cement blocks - instead of timbers- and ran wiring and water into the greenhouse. This means I can plug in a light or heater in the shoulder seasons and take water out of the tap when the irrigation is up and running. Although this seems simple it is a great addition to what we had before and we are excited.

Meanwhile I mixed fish hydrosolate and kelp with water to give all the seedlings a boost of minerals as they are now settled in their rootrainers and busy building roots and new leaves.