Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Permaculture: ABC

Permaculture is an ethically based design methodology. The word permaculture was coined by its co-founders Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Permaculture is formed from two words permanent and agriculture.

A is for Ant. Ants help to protect the garden from Aphids.

B is for Bee. Both honey bees and bumblebees help the garden to grow. Bees pollinate the plants so the plants will produce fruit and vegetables.

C is for Chickens. Chicken give eggs and help to recycle food and yard waste.

D is for Ducks. Ducks eat slugs and snails that want to eat your vegetables.

E is for Ethics. Permaculture design is based upon an ethical foundation: people Care, Earth Care, Fair Shares.

F is for Food Forest. A food forest is a garden modeled upon a forest.

G is for Gardening, garden, and gardener. Gardeners are growing food, herbs and flowers in the garden.

H is for H├╝gelkultur: H├╝gelkultur is raised garden beds filled with rotten wood and covered with soil and compost. These raised beds require little attention after the seeds are planted.

I is for Insects. Not all insects are bad, some help the garden grow, be able tell a friend from a foe.

J is for Jam. Jams are made from berries that grow in a garden.

K is for Kale. Kale is a green leafy plant that you can grow.

L is for Leaves. When the leaves fall from the trees, rake them up and put them on the garden. This keeps the garden bed warm.

M is for Mulch. Mulch protects the garden. Leaves, straw, and even cardboard can be used as mulch.

N is for Nitrogen. Nitrogen is a naturally occurring chemical which helps plants grow.

O is for Oxygen. People need oxygen. Plants give off oxygen during the day.

P is for Permaculture.  The word permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. It is a combination of the words permanent and agriculture.

Q is for Queen. Honeybee hives have a Queen bee.

R is for Renewable Resources. Use and value Renewable Resources is one of the Permaculture Principles.

S is for Seeds. Seeds planted in the Soil will become the vegetables you have with your Supper.

T is for Trees. Trees provide us with oxygen, food, shelter, shade and fun.

U is for Urban Agriculture. Urban agriculture is growing food in the city.

V is for Vegetables. Carrots, potatoes, radishes, turnips, cabbages and beets are all vegetables you can grow in the garden.

W is for Worms. Worms work the soil creating tunnels so air and water can get to the plants’ roots.

X is for Xylem is a type of tissue in plants that carries water.
An example of xylem is the material that moves water and some nutrients through a plant.

Y is for Yield. A Yield from the garden are the vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers you harvest.


Z is for Zero Waste.  Create no waste is a permaculture principle.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Perennial Vegetables


If you are looking to reduce labour and increase your personal food security, take a close look at perennial vegetables. Rhubarb is a well known perennial food source.  However, it is far from the only one that will thrive in our environment.
Adding one or two of these perennial plants can increase your family’s food security. It is difficult to say what the future weather will be like, so, it is best to be preparade and to embrace diversity in the home garden.
The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) also known as the sunchoke is native to eastern North America.
The plant was given the name Jerusalem because it is allegedly connected to the Italian word girasola, which means sunflower.   This plant does have attractive yellow flowers. The root is the edible part and the principle reason for adding this plant to the vegetable garden.
The tuber of the sunchoke can be used like potatoes. This plant is a prolific breeder so the grower can anticipate a good yield. However, this plants is prolific and can take over a garden.  It may be best to grow sunchokes in large containers in order to keep them under control.
Please do not ignore this advice, sunchokes will overrun a garden if not controlled from the beginning. What started as a plant o increase personal food security could end up in a garden disaster?
I am considering adding three plants to my community garden box as a test.
Some suggest to control the amount of the sunchokes you consumer at any one setting as it is possible a severe gas condition will develop. Others say the nutty flavour is tasty but the sunchoke is not a potato substitute. Which is fine grow them for their own food value and, if desired grow potatoes. Potatoes give you a good food value for your investment.
Remember the intent is to diversify the garden and to add plants that need little care and are perennial, not to replace favourite foods.
Sunchoke tubers should be planted about twelve to eighteen inches apart, about four inches deep. Any part of the tuber with an eye on it can produce a new plant. Harvest the tubers yearly being sure to leave a few in the ground so they will grow the following year.
If you prefer hill the tubers the same as you would potatoes. This is said to increase the yield. Some say it is better to harvest the tubers after the first frost as the taste is better, experiment and decide for yourself when the best harvest time is.
If the sunchoke does not appeal to you, there are a number of other perennial vegetables that might. To find them do an Internet search, or take a trip to the public library.

Eric Toensmeier has a website perennialvegetables.com which is based on his 2007 book Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Edibles published by Chelsea Green.


Gardening is meant to be fun and a wise gardener loves to experiment. Take a chance and try a perennial vegetable or two next year.


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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sunny Day in The Garden

A great day between rainfalls to get out into the garden and take some photos. May 27, 2017.





Friday, May 26, 2017

Weather and the Garden


I never actually stop gardening. I do not think about it all the time. When I talk about gardening in this context, I am considering a bigger picture. How will the garden season evolve over the next few years is one question I consider? What will a changing weather system bring to the growing season? What can we grow that will thrive and feed our families?
The weather has a direct and often an immediate impact on all living things, including the farm and the home garden. An unanticipated frost or cold snap can kill those tender annual vegetables. A prolonged dry spell may, at first, help plant roots grow as they go deeper and deep to find precious water. However, without irrigation, the crops will wither and die.
The last few years have presented the region with some unusual weather. I do not know what is to come but I do believe in being prepared.
There are steps we can take to keep our environment viable, even when the local weather presents us with challenges. For example, Synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pest killers destroy all life in the garden. In addition, the runoff pollutes streams, creeks, rivers, lakes and eventually the ocean. Use organic fertilizers.
Take care of the soil for without it the garden will not produce. The health of what we eat depends upon the health of the soil it is grown in.
Honey bees are at risk. No pollination and our available food supply shrinks significantly. Honey bees are not the only pollinators. Bumble bees and mason bees also help our food grow. Learn about them and what to plant to feed them and keep them visiting our gardens.
Growing food organically addresses these issues to a great extent but we need to go beyond organic if we are going to be able to produce, fresh, local, healthy food during a period of changing weather conditions.
Permaculture design is a holistic, nature-inspired design methodology. Permaculture design enables us to create human environments which are modeled after natural process and drawing upon both modern and indigenous technologies. 

Smart gardening involves understanding that repeating the same activities year after year, in a changing environment, will lead to frustration and failure.
The smart gardener knows how to create a garden that is resilient, or, in other words, can withstand the drastic shifts in local conditions. Growing food, for many gardeners, is often repeating the same actions year after year, even if the previous year was a disaster due to too little or too much rainfall, cooler temperatures than expected and so on.
The grower continues to plant the same annual plants. The exact location of the plants may be shifted. Tomatoes and potatoes are grown in a different spot than the previous year, but they are still grown.
The use of annual food plants means the beginning of the gardening season can be a busy one. Backyard gardeners are often rushed, trying to prepare the soil and get the plants in on time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

English Cottage Garden

I believe people should do what they can to grow some of their own food. I also believe that a garden without flowers is missing an important element.
The English Cottage Garden fits perfectly with both these beliefs. The plant options the gardener can select from are numerous. If the garden was mine there are plant that would have to be included.
For me, the ideal cottage garden would include hollyhocks and cosmos. These two add a majestic and ethereal beauty to any garden. There are also bee attractors.
The hollyhock takes me back to my boyhood and the cosmos with its feathery foliage speaks of ancient times and a sense of mystery.
After our long and sometimes, seemingly endless winters, a bit of early colour is welcome.  Thus, tulips, daffodils and crocuses belong in this garden.
Lilies can bring beauty throughout the season due to the wide variety available Lavender, thyme, dill and basil will be there to add fragrance and flavour.
Of course, tomatoes, strawberries and beans are all essential elements of this landscape.
Picture a sunny summer morning, you step out the back door and into the garden, which is alive with the sight, sounds and smells that only a thriving garden can bring.
The bees are busy pollinating the various blooming plants and the butterflies are flitting from flower to flower. The fragrance of lavender gently floats across the tranquil but active scene.
It is a bright sunny morning, the garden an ideal place to enjoy the first coffee of the day and to pause before going on your way.
The cottage garden provides not only food for the eyes and body but a place to retreat from the daily world, a place where you reunite with nature and rejuvenate.
The garden reawakens our primal connection with the earth and engages us in her ever-turning cycle
The garden I am describing is based upon the English Country Garden. Outside of the backyard food forest, which I will discuss in an upcoming article, the English Cottage Garden is be one of the more holistic and environmentally sound garden styles.

The backyard food forest is, without question, a better way to meet all your food and other needs, but not everyone is going to turn their space into a food forest so the next best thing or rather a choice that any gardener can select is the cottage garden.
The Cottage Garden traces its origins back to the 15th century and the English villages of the time. The gardens are a mix of flowers, herbs and vegetables and can meet many of the residents’ daily needs, such as, medicinal teas, herbal balms, insect repellents and food.
The size of the garden depends upon the time the gardener has and the space that is available for a garden. The English Country Garden can start small and gradually grow over the years, as space, time and interest change.
Next week because we are coming close to valentine’s day, a look at flowers for that special someone, until then happy gardening.



Monday, May 22, 2017

Daffodils

A favourite flower, I really do not have one, my taste in plants covers a very wide range from asters to zinnias but there is one flower that gives me the most pleasure to grow and that is the daffodil.
Daffodils are easy to plant as long as you remember pointed side up and plant them deep enough in a spot where they get what they need.
They are ideal for a naturalized lawn such as the one we had between the house and the driveway in my parents home. 
The daffodils come into bloom with another favourite the tulip right behind them.
The daffodil makes a great cut flower and will last for approximately a week, maybe a bit more indoors.
While there are many varieties available today, my choice is the traditional yellow; there is something so happy about that yellow that it can brighten even a grey day.
However, the daffodils cheerfulness is not why this beauty brings me pleasure to grow; the real reason is that it is my wife’s favourite flower and her birth flower. I grow them for her so that during the season she can have one on her desk at work and a small bouquet indoors.
This year we were able to plant these fall bulbs for the first time in three years as we had been moving and did not have access to a balcony for container plants or a yard.
Daffodils and other bulbs can be readily grown in containers and look great on your front steps adding to your home’s curb appeal or on a back deck.
I will plant more bulbs daffodils especially this fall but also tulips and maybe hyacinths. Daffodils do well in crowds and a planting of 20 or more can really brighten a yard in the early days of the gardening season.
As I said earlier the daffodil is not a difficult plant to grow or look after and will come back for years if it is planted where it gets what it needs. So indulge yourself and add a few or more to your garden, the bulbs are not expensive and they will reward your efforts over and over again.
I get great pleasure from growing things and there are plants I insist on growing or recommending others grow, sunflowers and marigolds, however, the daffodil has a special spot in our garden.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Greenhouse: Andrina Tomatoes

This heirloom cherry tomato originated in Russia and is one of the earliest tomatoes there is. The plants are extremely dwarf reaching 6" high and produce good yields of tasty cherry sized fruit. Great for containers! Determinate. (60-65 days from transplant)



Planted today (2017-05-17 in Greenhouse

Monday, May 15, 2017

What to Grow?


Over the years I have designed and grown a wide range of gardens from a one pot with tomatoes and basil on my balcony to a 1 acre commercial operation. One reoccurring question raised through all these various gardens’ projects over a 17 year period is whether to grow flowers or not.
I am not talking about edible flowers but flowers that are grown purely for ornamental or ascetic purposes either as cut flowers for the table or bouquets or dried flowers for various craft purposes.
To clarify the discussion further, I am not discussing commercial growing of cut flowers or flowers for drying, both of which could be solid business opportunities, but rather flowers grown purely for personal use and ascetic qualities.
There are gardeners and then there are gardeners; some will only grow food and scoff at those who grow, for example, gladiolas. Te glad has no edible value but it perhaps one of the most beautiful flowers that I have seen.
I have grown glads in containers on my balcony and in the backyard just so I could have them to cut and bring inside to admire.
I remember on evening some years back I was sitting on my balcony looking up at the sky when I noticed a small bird hover near the deep red glads growing in the container. It was a hummingbird. It paused in its flight and gave me a look that said hey what you are doing here this my space.
The hummingbird bird came back at approximately the same time every night for a week. Now that is what I call a good reason to grow flowers; to attract these winged jewels.
The group of gardeners who want to grow only food; or plant trees will argue that growing flowers for purely aesthetic purposes is a waste of time and resources (soil, water) but I simply cannot agree.
Beauty is a function and one that deserves our respect and attention. Spend, even20 minutes, in a backyard near the flower garden, feel the sun warming your face, hear the hum of the bees and watch the butterflies float from plant to plant and you will see the value that beauty brings. The dance of life is taking place before your eyes.
Besides a cut flower garden can attract the beneficial friends, (bees and other insects) to you garden that will help you do the work.
My perspective is this; if you have enough space for a garden then take a diverse approach, grow the vegetables that you want for your table but add a few herbs and a few cut flowers into the mix so that your garden will not only provide a greater bounty for your table but so that you set out a portion for your garden helpers.
The successful gardener does not work alone. Another saying that is worth remembering here is that we do not live by bread alone; vegetables will feed your hunger but flowers will feed your heart.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Preparing Balcony Garden

This garden is located on the third-floor balcony, only 3 hours of the sun per day and only near the edge.





Thursday, May 11, 2017

Getting Balcony Ready

Good day, well tomorrow will be the first mild and sunny day in awhile so I will be getting the balcony planters ready. The upper balcony is my ornamental garden,. this year morning glories and nasturtiums will be the stars.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bees


I was leaving Sobeys the other day when a reader stopped me and asked if I would write a column about bees. I encourage my readers to make suggestions about the column so here it is, bees and what we can do to keep them buzzing.
Honey bees provide us with much more than honey.  The honey bee is a major pollinator of many of our food crops, almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many other crops all rely on honey bees.
When the honey bee is threatened, our food supply is threatened and we are also threatened. Fortunately, there are actions we can take to reduce the threat. One is to include in your home gardens plants that will attract and support the honey bee.
The second is to provide an environment for other bees so that our gardens do not rely solely on the honey bee.  The bumble bee and the blue orchard mason bee, among others, also provide pollination services. They do not produce honey.
The honey bee came to North America in the 17th century. Some may have been intentionally brought over by people who intended to grow the fruit and vegetables they were familiar with in their new location.
Prior to the settlers’ arrival there were a number of bee species already here.  Some sources say there were as many as 4,000 native species spread across North America. Their source of nectar were the native plants.
If you are concerned about bees in general, then the best way to make sure they survive and thrive is to plant a mixed garden.
A mixed garden will contain plants that appeal to honey bees, bumble bees and other garden helpers.  The most effective way to create this mixed plant garden is to use succession planting. Succession planting involves selecting plants that will bloom throughout the gardening season.

To bring the bees in in the spring plant crocus, hyacinth, borage, and calendula.  To keep the bees happy through the summer, add bee balm, cosmos, coneflower, snapdragons foxglove, and hostas. Asters and sunflowers keep the bees feeding when fall arrives.
Plant the flowers in the vegetable garden bed either in the border or better place them amongst the vegetables. The early blooming flowers will bring in the first bees who are hungry and seeking sustenance.

Herbs are also powerful bee magnets. Chives, sage, thyme, borage and summer savoury are all good choices.  Borage with its bright blue flowers is a personal favourite.

Dandelions and clovers will also draw bees to the yard. Both are edible plants and this we will talk about another day. 

An added value of clovers and dandelions is there is no need to plant them in the garden bed. Most lawns will provide all of these two plants the bees need.

The first step to taking advantage of both clovers and dandelions is to stop thinking about them as the enemy and accept them for the many garden services they provide. So, until next week, happy gardening.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Annuals

An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers and dies in one year. 
Some love annuals because they make excellent cut flowers; some because annuals are easy to grow; some love them for their brilliant colours while others just love to create a new garden every spring. 
The reasons do not matter as they are all sound; if you love to garden and enjoy bright vivid colours then annuals will satisfy your needs. I am very fond of annuals and cannot imagine a garden that does not have a few. 
They enlarge the palette but perhaps, more importantly, they enable me to make simple but noticeable changes to my garden and perhaps even better, they give me a reason to get out in the garden.

You can add annuals to your garden, throughout the growing season.

Annuals bloom continuously and produce prolific amounts of seed and this requires the production of many flowers; all making a win-win situation for any gardener.

Indoor seed Staring

I was at the Galerie Restigouche Gallery the other night and among other topics, I was asked when is the best time to get seeds started ind...