Monday, November 28, 2011

Hurray for McFayden Seeds: Brilliant

Last week I proposed starting posts of my favourite gardening things from 2011 on this blog over the Christmas season and the snow on the ground certainly cooperated to get me in the mood sorting through photos and making a plan. Then suddenly my McFayden Seed Catalogue arrived in the mail and I had to share the exciting news: this Canadian company is featuring my newest book "No Guff Vegetable Gardening" in their catalogue.

"Brilliant...terrific information...humorous illustrations...unlike any gardening book available" according to page 24 of their new catalogue (order your book, or seeds, or free seed catalogue from

I love to support the companies that support small business in Canada.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Few of my Favourite (Garden) Things - Stay Tuned

It is a fact. There really is nothing new in gardens or gardening- just new ways to look at old things. But personally I have had an interesting year for travel and I saw some incredible things in unlikely places that I want to share.

Like Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music" I am going to be sharing a few of my favourite things over the coming days leading up to Christmas. Unlike Julie my favourite things are all about gardening and do not involve kittens or string. My present to you is going to be garden visual. Are these the best plants or photos or most impossibly creative ideas? Well you be the judge. Tell your friends to follow along too. I know for a fact they aren't out weeding!


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Monday, November 21, 2011

Chapters Now Selling No Guff Vegetable Gardening

Well the big announcement of the week is that my book No Guff Vegetable Gardening is now at Chapters in both Alberta and Toronto! This is a huge step forward for such a small publisher so we are thrilled and want all our friends and friends of friends to go out and look for it this Christmas.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Leaf Magazine a Winner

Loved this new online magazine- maybe you will too. Check out:
What I learned:
Random knitters knit graffiti on trees
There are a lot of rich people (the landscapes are luxurious)
The young farmers look very fashionable.

Trouble is I am not big on reading online so I mostly skimmed. Wouldn't want to read the NewYorker this way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cleaning your home greenhouse

I was delayed leaving for a ski trip one year because of clean-up. My husband offered to help and asked if there was anything in particular that needed cleaning. I suggested he clean-out the fridge. After all I hate coming home to left-overs but I especially hate green two-week-old leftovers.

After making beds, doing laundry, and walking the dog I checked in with hubby. He was still working on the fridge. I could see he was carefully scrubbing each and every corner of the fridge and then grandly re-arranging all the leftovers. I had hoped for clean-out and he had provided clean-up. The left-overs were still primed for decay in their somewhat cleaner containers. Clearly something was lost in gender translation.

Both clean-up and clean-out is happening in my greenhouse right now. Yes, there are still green leaves and even flowers on the tomatoes. The basil is technically still alive, and the Cape Gooseberries are in bloom and in rot, depending on which part of the plant you study. But it is time to clean it all out. I will be away most of December and need to make sure there is nothing left to fester or create a problem.

It is time to tear out plants, dumping them on the compost where they can freeze and die back. I will also empty pots onto my veggie beds and move my tomato containers to a shed where it will freeze. I am getting out the power-washer - a big "tool" my husband usually reserves for driveways and exterior house cleaning. This is because I know spider mites are like grizzly bears. They go dormant in the lower light of winter but they don't die. They will appear again as brightly as seedlings in spring once we get the longer sunny days of March. Spider Mites cause the stippling white spots on leaves and irritating webbing on greenhouse crops in the growing season. They will raise havoc with their hunger when they emerge in spring.

The best solution for home greenhouses is both a clean-out and clean-up of the greenhouse come late fall. Power washing or a good dose of bleach will get mites and other pests out of the nooks and crannies where they like to hang-out. After that I let the freeze-thaw action have its impact. This resets the clock on pests and by the time I feel like starting little seedlings again the clean greenhouse will be ready and waiting.

Photo above is of Cape Gooseberries continuing to ripen indoors after being harvested in the greenhouse (shown behind).


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Monday, November 7, 2011

Donna's Garden Clean-up Tips go National

My little article from the Calgary Herald "Getting Winter-Ready" has gone National. It was reprinted in several newspapers this weekend including the National Post.

Check out: Getting winter-ready
National Post

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Compost Applied This Fall

Donna is doing her best to make her Calgary Garden a delight for the new owner. Yes- you read this right. As of January this gardener is moving in to a tiny condo and leaving behind her fabulous city garden. I guess there are two approaches to leaving. Number one: take all the plants and head for the hills. Second choice: leave all the plants and add compost so the plants and soil overwinter under a luxurious bed of organic matter. I chose door number 2. After some miscommunication I arranged TopSpray from Cochrane to pop by with some blow-on mulch. I usually get the big bag of compost but wanted to go out with style (and try something I had not used personally before even though I often suggest it with good results to clients).

Is it Nutri-Om or Nutri-Loam? There seems to be some confusion and I was worried I was getting the wrong thing when I ordered one and was billed for the other. When the guys arrived to install the stuff it was dirty and blowing around. Frankly I was worried I had made a mistake but it looked great once it was down and cleaned up. What a super way to put the garden to bed. But I am always worried in Calgary that it won't snow and the garden soil will dry out and before you know it the garden is freeze-dried instead of ready for winter. Of course last year was a change up. It snowed and never stopped.

Anyway I have suggested this to many clients but only this year did I actually get around to doing it myself.... about time. I still don't know what it is called but it looks good. Very good. And reports are it is biologically active so we can expect some super effects in spring....


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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Very Tiny Almonds Grow in Calgary

If you have wondered what those pretty pink shrubs are in spring wonder no longer. If the blooms are bright pink and single on short shrubs they are probably Russian Almonds (Prunus tenella). And believe it or not these Russian Almonds are edible. This seems to have been a particularly good season for almonds on the great plains and while out dog walking I noticed the seeds were bursting open. Upon closer inspection it was not the seeds but the seed cases. The seeds were not an easy nut to crack. It took a bit of ingenuity and finally I decided on the best course of action. I asked my husband to do it.

My sister thought they tasted like Amaretto. I thought they were bitter and intense with a long dwindling aftertaste. My husband loved them. In any case if you see small almonds ripening on short shrubs, give them a taste. They are ready now and you wouldn't want the squirrels to get them all!
The small Russian almond seed cases are smaller than a penny. The actual "almonds" inside are smaller yet and the taste is more powerful too.


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