Category Archives: Gardening

Strawberry Picking in August? Yes!

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Well I bet you’ve never seen this before? I know I haven’t. Farmer Larry Pegg of Homestead Orchards in Georgina saw this type of hydroponic strawberry set-up in England and decided to try it 3 years ago. This year is his first viable crop and it’s a bumper one. As with anything brand new there are bound to be hiccups and this year it was an earwig infestation. Farmer Larry devised a very creative pesticide-free method of dealing with the pesky bugs – tuna tins with a little of the tuna left in the bottom and covered with a half inch of oil. The earwigs fall in and can’t get out!
The type of strawberry planted in these greenhouses is an everbearing strawberry, which means we’ll be able to pick strawberries right through to November. They are very easy to pick as they hang at waist level. You just have to be very careful and use a pair of snippers (provided). The taste is astonishing. Probably the most flavourful strawberry I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten quite a few!
If you’re in Georgina you must give them a try, as well as their u-pick apples which start in September. (note to Islanders – Homestead Orchards is off Woodbine just 5 km East on Old Homestead – worth the detour!)

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you have to snip the strawberries carefully from the stem

 

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and in no time flat you have 2 quarts of super delicious berries

 

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Before and After

In the last week I have had so many requests for before and after pictures of my cottage bedroom and dresser that I thought I should comply.
These photos were joined together using an iPhone app called Pic Jointer which is super easy to use. The Before and After text was added using an app called Overgram, which has, as you can see, a watermark. There’s another app called Over which doesn’t leave a watermark.

This first set of pictures are of my potted tomato plant that I planted on May 22, and the After picture was taken on July 30, so about two months later. The After picture does not really show how enormous this tomato plant is. It is well over 5′ tall and has roughly 50 tomatoes on it!
My secret, you ask? Well, if I told this to my parent’s or grandparent’s generation no doubt they would chuckle at my ignorance in terms of reducing, re-using and recycling. You see, for the past couple of months, since living in our little cottage, by necessity I have been watering my outdoor plants using my kitchen sink “slops” – the rinse water from i.e. my blender after making my morning smoothie, rinsing fruit and vegetables and from hand washing dishes. This is because I have no outdoor spigot or hose so rather than use watering can after watering can of tap water, I thought I would just recycle some waste water that would just be going down the drain. The plants absolutely LOVE it. I have never had such a good crop. This can partly be explained by the fact that tomatoes, more than other plants, really require a steady moisture level in the soil. They don’t like to dry out completely, nor be flooded all the time, so a daily “slops” regimen at approximately the same times every day is just the sort of routine that allows for their optimal growth. I have not used any other fertilizer at all, just the kitchen waste water. Amazing! I will definitely be doing this again next summer and I recommend you to try it too. It’s just one of those old-fashioned practices that have fallen out of favour but which makes a whole lot of sense in terms of recycling.
And, of course, here also are the much requested before and after pictures of my cottage bedroom and dresser:

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Gotta love marigolds!

20130618-212607.jpgMarigolds and Basil are perfect companions for tomatoes – even in a pot!

 

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Thai basil is an excellent companion plant

The theory behind companion planting is that certain plants such as marigolds, and nasturtiums are so pungent and produce an odour which many insects absolutely loathe. Tomatoes are particularly susceptible to aphids, whitefly and root nematodes. Marigolds work well to repel these harmful pests. When you plant basil with tomatoes both plants will grow stronger and better. Even if you just have a tomato in a pot you can plant some flowers and herbs around it. You just have to make sure you provide enough water for all the plants that are in the pot, and fertilize more frequently as well.

Allotment Heaven!

For the 2nd year in a row, Burlington Green, working together with the City of Burlington, has offered garden allotments to the public via a lottery process.
29 8’X12′ garden beds plus 2 raised, accessible beds were offered in this years’ lottery, and, luckily, my daughter was able to get one.
This is such a marvelous opportunity for people to be able to grow their own, local produce if they don’t have the space for a garden where they live. In early Spring the beds are all ready to go – soil turned over, beds clean and tidy. There are rain barrels for every couple of plots as well as a hose hooked up to City water. Thanks to donations from community partners there are garden tools, gloves and even hats available for the budding gardeners.
If you have the space to grow a garden you should definitely do so. There’s nothing quite like the freshness and tastiness of something you have just plucked out of the ground. It’s also a lot easier than you think.
All you need are a few packets of seed or some bedding plants. Thanks to the potential energy contained in the seeds, all you really need to do is either broadcast the seeds directly over the soil, if the seeds are small, or push them down into the soil about 1/8″ if the seeds are larger. Mother Nature, the Sun and some diligent watering will take care of the rest.
If using bedding plants, dig a small hole, add a tablespoon or so of compost and bury your plant into the hole, making sure to tamp the soil around the plant firmly, to try to minimize air holes (air is the enemy of roots!).
If you have broadcast lettuce seeds then you will need to thin out the plants every couple of days to make sure they don’t get overcrowded, otherwise they will just perish. This is such a good method for having fresh salad greens every day, at least until the weather gets very hot, when the lettuce plants will hurriedly flower (called bolting), after which you can’t eat the lettuce as it’s too bitter.
Even if you just experiment with a few packets of lettuce and spinach seeds and maybe a tomato plant or two, your health and well-being are bound to improve. You get outside every day, plus you get to eat the fruits of your labour – how good is that?

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Burlington Green garden allotments at Central Park. Growing like mad!

 

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this is what happens when you broadcast lettuce seeds: mega salad!

 

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Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album). A weed which is actually quite tasty!

 

Planting Time!

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A gorgeous Persian tree lilac in my back yard

Plant peas in your garden when the daffodils bloom.
Plant tender plants in your garden when the lilacs are in full bloom.
I grew up hearing these phrases from my Grandfather and then my Mother and always followed this advice, with great success.
Although it’s basically an old wives tale, there’s actually a science devoted to studying how cues from nature can tell us when to plant, harvest and when to watch out for insect invaders. It’s called phenology and it’s based on the fact that even tiny changes in climate can affect plants, insects, etc. and their behaviour. Long ago our ancestors would have noticed that there isn’t usually a frost after the lilac blooms so it’s safe to plant out tomatoes, peppers and other warm weather crops.
Phenology is a very old science and has been useful in showing the general trend of global warming. For instance, records of the exact date of the pinot noir grape harvest in Burgundy have been kept for over 500 years and so meteorologists were able to very accurately track temperature trends during spring-summer-fall for those times before we had instrumentation (like thermometers!) A more advanced science of phenology using weather satellites in orbit around the earth which pick up tiny changes in climate over whole ecosystems is now commonly used to track changes in the weather resulting from global warming.
This year, however, my own gardening efforts will have to be limited to a cherry tomato plant and a few herbs in a pot due to the house sale and build. Next year, however – a BIG garden, I hope!

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My “garden” this year – a cherry tomato plant and a couple of herbs. C’est la vie.

 

Don’t throw out those dead daffodils!

20130409-141812.jpgDon’t throw out those dead daffodils! Or tulips for that matter. Did you receive potted tulips, daffodils, hyacinths or lilies for Easter and now the blooms have faded or dropped and the foliage is looking a little worse for wear? It seems such a shame to just throw them out when you can plant them outside and chances are, they’ll pop back up next Spring to give you a nice surprise.
Bulb planting time is usually in the Fall, but whenever I dry my potted bulbs to save them for Fall planting I usually forget and they lie around for years, unplanted, and finally die, so now I just plant them as soon as they look a bit dead. If there’s still quite a bit of green leaves left they will likely establish themselves in your garden or an outdoor planter quite well. Eventually the leaves will go yellow and die off, so just cut them back to the soil and wait and see what happens. I have had great success with daffodils, hyacinths and asiatic lilies but tulips are hit and miss. I don’t know if it’s because they freeze and die or if the squirrels dig them up to eat in the winter, but I suspect the latter. If you are planting them in an outdoor planter, mix in some pansies, ranunculus or other Spring flowering plants. They will keep blooming for a long time, if not all Summer, and after you have cut back the foliage from the bulbs you planted, the other plants will have room to grow and fill in the rest of your pot.

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Surprise! Look what popped up in my outdoor planter – daffodils!

 

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If you have sorry looking potted bulbs leftover from Easter, just plant them outside

 

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buy some ranunculus or other flower that’s growing outdoors at garden centres in early Spring

 

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pansies are very frost tolerant, should the weather turn cold suddenly

 

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leave any green leaves on the potted bulbs, shake off any excess soil and plant a few inches deeper than any other plants you are planting

 

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leave the foliage on while you’re planting as it’s easier to handle them

 

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then just cut the dead leaves and flowers off at the soil level

 

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fill in the rest of the pot with sunny ranunculus and happy pansies

 

 

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don’t forget to water the pot very well

 

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and please recycle all your used pots. (As of April 1, Halton region takes plant pots – finally!)

 

Holiday Floral Arrangement

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Make this Seasonal floral using some old ornaments and a some fresh florals

 

Well, I still had a whole bunch of leftover Christmas ornaments so I decided I was going to upcycle them into a couple of floral arrangements. I had the picks left over from last week’s wreath, so I decided to use them as picks for my large pine cones. I cut out the centre wire, making a sort of cup which I hot-glued to the end of each of the 9 pine cones. Then I spray painted all the pine cones plus some old holly berry picks in a metallic chrome colour and let them dry overnight. I had a couple of metal containers leftover from last Christmas. One of them had a plastic liner but the smaller one did not, so I made a waterproof flower holder by putting a soaked floral wet foam into a plastic zipper bag, taping it down into the container with electrical tape and making a few slashes through the plastic at the top to allow for the flowers and pine to be poked through. The large square container had just the soaked floral foam held down with electrical tape. I then raided my backyard for white pine and juniper. In case you think I have denuded my white pine tree, rest assured I have 3 large ones in my backyard, so all I did was a light pruning. The reason I love using white pine for my floral arrangements is that the needles are so soft, even the tiniest fingers won’t get prickled. Anyway, I harvested a large bunch of the white pine and just a few juniper branches, which were arranged in the containers using the tallest and largest in the middle and the smallest ones towards the outer edges. Then I added the juniper in the middle. I purchased a dozen small red roses and a bunch of green fuji chrysanthemums. These I arranged rather haphazardly throughout both containers, 9 roses and 5 fujis in the larger container, 3 roses and 3 fujis in the smaller container. The chrysanthemums came with a couple of stems of Salal, so I incorporated these into the larger arrangement. What I was trying to do was fill out the container, but without it looking too stiff and formal. Lastly I added the silver painted pine cones and holly berries throughout. Since I had intended from the beginning that the larger container would be a table centrepiece, I made sure to add all the elements right around the container, by walking around the table whilst putting them in. The smaller one will go onto a hall console table, so is more one-sided.
Finally, to make a nice gift presentation, I wrapped them with cellophane and tied them with festive bows. Total cost: $20 for the fresh florals for two floral arrangements, $5 for the silver spray paint. I hope you are inspired to make some floral arrangements yourself. It’s really very easy.

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soak the floral foam before using. Make sure it’s “wet” foam!

 

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Leftovers from last week’s wreath project

 

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Use secateurs to snip off the main “stem”

 

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Hot glue a pinecone onto the leftover pick

 

 

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Leftover ornaments ready for spray painting

 

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After spray painting with Krylon “chrome”

 

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Use electrical tape to secure the soaked floral foam into the containers

 

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Just keep adding greenery and flowers from the inside to the outer edges

 

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Keep going! There are no real rules – just do what looks best.

 

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Add the silver pinecones

 

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And the hollyberry picks at the corners

 

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Eh Voila!

 

 

 

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Add some cellophane and a bow and it’s ready for giving!