Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wild Turkey Update

The what I thought wild turkey has been hanging out a lot in my garden and two neighbouring yards. But he or she is not a wild turkey. According to my neighbour it is a guinea hen! I had to go online and google that one and sure enough it does look like the picture of a guniea hen. Well it sure looked like a turkey to me. At any rate this beneficial and congenial critter is welcomed in my garden. I do hope it patrols my garden during growing season! It should may for perfect natural insect control.

I'm assuming it is a male because of the brighter colours. The theory proposed by my neighbour is this is an escapee from a farmer over the next concession and somehow this bird makes its way back and forth. For whatever reason this bird just likes hanging out in my garden. So I've been thinking that it might be a bad idea to get a few of the guinea hens myself.

Garden Gnome
© 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Miracle

Our new grandbaby made her debute Dec. 23, 2006 at 8:03 pm. She weighed in at 8 lb 6 oz and is absolutely the most perfect little sweetheart you have ever seen!

Garden Gnome
© 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Garden Gnome
© 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Don't Throw Out That Poinsettia!

This doesn't look all that much like a poinsettia but it is a left over one from last year. It had special meaning so I decided to try saving it. I'm not sure if any red will appear this year but the plant is alive and thriving.

Once the holiday season was over, I removed the foil cover from the pot and gave the plant a good watering then kept it moist but not wet. After a couple of weeks it looked like it was dead so I cut it back to about 4 inches, watered well then left it alone. A week or so later there were signs of new growth. Once I opened the greenhouse, the poinsettia was transferred there in the hopes it would revive. Well it did and here it is a year later!

So don't throw out those poinsettias. Take a chance to try reviving them and you just might be rewarded with a lovely houseplant.

Garden Gnome
© 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Trees

This is the time of year for heading to the bush or Christmas tree farm to cut the Christmas tree. It takes a lot of time and effort to find just the perfect tree. We haul it home to decorate it yet only to have to discard it in a couple of weeks at best. Others head to their local nursery or temporary Christmas tree booth to get their trees only to suffer the same fate.

So what does this have to do with gardening? Consider this year instead of buying a tree that will ultimately be discarded or a best burned in the woodstove, of buying a potted tree. You can buy them in larger sizes or for smaller homes consider a Norfolk Pine. These trees will keep giving back for years to come not only for your landscaping but also for bird shelter and the environment. Simple care for indoors until spring then plant outdoors. There are a few tips I would like to share if you decide to go this method.

When choosing a potted evergreen, consider where you want to plant it later if you will be planting. I've already mentioned the Norfolk Pine for smaller spaces and this tree will grow happily in a pot indoors so you could use the tree for several holiday seasons. If planting outdoors later, make sure you consider how big an evergreen can get. Leave plenty of room for growth. Choose a spot where a larger evergreen will not shadow your vegetable or sun loving flower beds garden. Ideally choose a location where you wil benefit from house shading in the summer or wind break in the winter. Once you have picked out your living Christmas tree, try to bring it home on a relatively mild day and even then protect the branches from wind burn. Place the tree in a spot where heating vents will not be blowing on it. Lighting should be LED if at all possible not only for energy savings but to prevent any heat damage to the branches. Don't hang heavy decorations on tender branches as this may damage them. Other than that, decorate as normal. Keep watered and once the holiday season is over, remove lighting and decorations then treat as an indoor house plant until spring.

When planting, dig a hole twice the diameter of the tree a little deeper than the height of the pot. Place a bit of peat moss in the hole. Carefully remove the pot and lightly loosen the root ball. Place the root ball in the hole and cover with soil, mounding slightly above ground level. Water well. You may need to add stakes to keep the tree straight until established.

Now sit back and enjoy your new bit of landscaping while you decide where to plant next year's Christmas tree.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Winterizing a Hobby Greenhouse

A small hobby greenhouse is an ideal way to extend the growing season as much as three weeks on each end. Winterizing a small hobby greenhouse for continued winter use can present a challenge in areas such as ours. Our average minimum winter temperature is -9ºC (15.8ºF) for January. At these temperatures I found it was not feasible to keep the greenhouse going year round even with the winterizing I did and a small electric heater.

One problem with hobby greenhouses is they are leaky. To partially solve this problem I used clean marine grade silicone to seal along all seams inside the greenhouse. This solution was pratical and cheap. It did improve both heat and moisture retention. This is important because once a hard frost threatens water hoses should be disconnected. Two warnings, do not put any plants in the greenhouse until the silicone is cured! The fumes will kill plants hence the second warning. Keep the door and vent open during application. A fan will help move the fumes out quicker.

The hobby greenhouses generally have one roof vent that is difficult to seal and since it may be needed for temperature contol during the day cannot be sealed shut for winter. The best solution to this is to use a piece of bubble wrap or quilted material attached with velcro. The worst air leak problem is the door. When I bought mine, the door was the sliding design. It is virutally impossible to get a tight seal. I see where they have now changed the design of the door so perhaps the new hinge style is a bit better.

Heat Sinks

Every greenhouse needs one or more heat sinks. My greenhouse has 4" gravel base that absorbes sun then reflects it back into the greenhouse. In summer it acts in reverse when hosed down cooling the inside temperatures. However, for extending the growing season and winterizing, additional heat sinks are needed. One problem that will become immediately clear is in an 6' x 8' greenhouse there is not a lot of room for large barrel style heat sinks although I am still contemplating trying a smaller barrel.

For this project, I used recycled margarine tubs, plastic food pails, matte black spray paint and water. I got margarine tubs and food pails from two local restaurants that were happy to let me cart them away for free. The spray paint cost about $5 for store brand. I washed the containers then set in the sun to dry. Then I put them in the shade upside down on carboard and gave them two coats of spray paint. Once dried I moved the containers into the greenhouse, filled each with water leaving 1" headspace and snapped the lids on. The containers were distributed throughout the greenhouse to absorb the sun during the day.

I found these small heat sinks worked relatively well. They went through the first winter well and held up well during the following summer. The next winter, the paint started flaking off likely from age, expansion and contraction. I left them for this winter as I simply shut down the greenhouse. This spring I plan to clean them up and re-spray. The only thing I plan to differently is add an anti-freeze agent to the water.

Bubble Wrap North Wall

The north wall was sealed with clear marine grade silicone then insulated using bubble wrap and clear draft sealing tape. I used regular packaging bubble wrap that comes in a roll and draft stop clear tape. Total cost for bubble wrap and tape was about $This insulation remains on that wall year round. It is going into it's third season and has held up very nicely. I've done nothing to it since installation.

Installing the bubble wrap wasn't really difficult just tedious at times. I wiped the trim down with rubbing alcohol and let that dry before installing the strips. Strips were installed horizontally. The trick I used was to use a small piece of tape to hold the strip in place then secure all around the strip. The lower section took two full width strips. The upper section took one full width strip and a triangle about 8" high. Each strip slightly overlapped the previous and the joint was sealed with draft tape. As the strips went up so to did the temperature and humidity level in the greenhouse.

Inside View

After the installation was complete, the plants were loaded into the greenhouse. These were mainly plants I wanted to take clippings of along with seedlings I hoped to grow during the winter. This picture taken at night shows the amount of condensation than in itself provides low temperature protection. All in all I was pleased with the results of the bubble wrap but the true test was how it would last the winter and if it would allow me to keep the greenhouse open year round. As already mentioned the bubble wrap did not provide enough insulation to keep the greenhouse open year round but it has proved to be very effective, durable and low cost.

Roll-up Door Insulation

I created a bubble wrap roll-up blind for the door. The sliding door is almost impossible to seal so this was the next best thing since I had left over bubble wrap. On cloudy days and at night, I simply unrolled the blind and secured with two rocks then shut the door and put a rock in front to hold the door tight.

The first year the door would actually fall off in high winds something that I couldn't have with plants in the greenhouse. I took to using a rock until my husband devised a modification to secure the door.

Other ways of effective insulation include styrofoam or straw bales around the base and putting a blanket on the roof at night. Once the snow falls, my husband certainly would not be too keen at the blanket idea. The straw bales make a surprising amount of mess on garden paths and since mine are gravelled that was a consideration. The biggest problem with straw is it provides rodents a place to nest for the winter. Then there is the availability issue. Securing the styrofoam is a problem but I'm sure one could be overcome if you are so inclined.

A word on heating: There are many ways to provide supplemental heating for your greenhouse. My philosophy is to always start with the easiest then move up to other methods if needed. I started with a 150 watt grow light. It threw off enough heat so even heavier frosts were well tolerated. A long burning pillar candle an be added if the light is not enough heat. Be sure the candle is in a tip proof container secured by wet sand. I do not recommend this method overnight! Here the next level that is easiest and cheaper than other methods is surprisingly a small electric heater. These work well but only to a point with the smaller greenhouses and if you are anything like me the idea of the electric meter spinning because of the greenhouse heating is not a comforting thought. Other heating sources recommended but not tried sterno (cost), campstyle catelytic heater (cost), woodstove (definitely not inside for a 6' x 8'), hot water heating powed by a woodstove (ok if you have a shed near the greenhouse that will house the woodstove) and natural gas (expense of running lines). So that's as far as I am on heating the greenhouse.

Happy Gardening,

Garden Gnome