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"

Monday, January 29, 2007

Garden Gnomes

Montelago Village, Lake Las Vegas, Nevada

The number one question I get online is "Why the nickname Garden Gnome?". The nickname originated from a smart alec comment from my youngest referring me to a Gnome because of my short stature. The Garden part came because ove my ever expanding garden and desire to spend more time there. Gnomes have always been interesting to me likely because of their mystical qualities so I didn't mind the nickname. I just had to take a picture of the gnomes in a little shop in Motelago Village on Lake Las Vegas.

Statues of gnomes have been popular garden decorations for since the 1800's. The traditional depiction of the male gnome is short, elf-like beings with wrinkled and gnarled human-like features and a head slightly too big for its body. It is dressed in bright, solid colour clothing. They wear a conical hat usually red and have a long, white beard. Quite often they are hunchbacked or misshapen. According to Wikipedia the first garden gnomes were made in Gräfenroda in Thuringia, Germany based on local legend that gnomes helped in the garden at night. They are usually depicted doing some type of activity like holding a lamp as in the picture or holding a rake like mine. While originally made in terracotta, garden gnomes are now available in other materials including resin that tolerates the weather well.

Gnomes are legendary creatures associated with the classical element of earth because of their subterranian habitat. In lengends they protected secret treasures concealed in vast caverns underground. While the origin of the garden gnome indicated that gnomes helped humans in their gardens at night, older legends indicate that gnomes were not naturally inclined to help humans. But they could be valuable allies if a human were to gain their trust. In gardens, gnomes are seen as good luck charms for aiding in the growth and protecting that which is planted. Not everyone views garden gnomes as beneficial garden inhabitants. J.K. Rowling referred to garden gnomes as "potatoes with legs" in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. In the wizarding community, garden gnomes were pests much like moles so wizzards had to routinely de-gnome their gardens. The de-gnoming method was rather simple. Grab the gnome by the legs and swinging it around to make it dizzy then toss it from the garden.

Garden gnomes are often depicted globe trotting since they became popular items to snitch. One garden gnome gained his moment of fame when he was uprooted from his garden and sent on a trip around the world. Pictures came from each destination assuring his owners that he was having a wonderful time. He finally made it back to his home garden safe and sound. While this sounds rather humorous, no one should remove a garden gnome from his own garden! It disorients the gnome and brings bad luck to the garden and it will bring bad luck to those who remove a gnome. Remember a gnome is not naturally inclined to help humans and have magical powers that can cause humans to feel sad. So to those so inclined, please don't remove a garden gnome from his garden.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Technorati Profile

Friday, January 26, 2007

Vegetation & Gardening in Las Vegas

Our winter vacation was spent in Las Vegas, Nevada. We stayed at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street in the downtown core area. While the main attractions in Las Vegas are entertainment and gambling, the area offers so much more. As always we rented a vehicle for sight seeing.

Las Vegas lies in the northern region of the Mojave Desert, a desert that is hot and dry with little precipitation, influenced by the Great Basin Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south. Although my husband insisted on wearing his famous Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sandle combination the week was really jacket weather. It was warmer than here in Zone 6A more like our later March weather but blissfully dry. The vegetation in the area always amazes me. The primary natural vegetation include: creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) and yucca (Yucca spp.) however at higher elevations like Mount Charleston there are pine and alpine forests. Cooler winter temperatures limit cold intolerant species like cactus. We have seen a surprising number of cactus on our travels through the area. Their size can be very impressive!

Joshua Trees

The drive to Montelago Village on Lake Las Vegas takes you through desert scattered with Joshua trees. While many wildlife species use Joshua trees, we were not fortunate to see any. Lake Las Vegas lies just east and bordering on the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Turning onto Lake Mead Drive takes you past the Tuscany Golf Club then turn up towards Montelago Village, The Falls Golf Club lies to the east just before the village. While it boasts a setting of natural beauty, there is nothing desert-like about the golf course. At night the lights of the Las Vegas strip provide a vivid backdrop for the course. The lush green of the course belies the fact this resort is in the desert, an impressive example of how much man can change his environment. Ecologically, this this is not a good thing! Of course, there is nothing ecologically friendly about Las Vegas either. Satellite images of the environmental change can be seen at USGS Earthshots.

Gardening in the Las Vegas area presents quite a few problems but mainly soil and heat. Some of the larger casinos and businesses still use grass but others are using artificial turf or xeriscapes that are water efficient with a natural desert look. However, water features still remain quite popular with the casinos. Palm trees appear to be the tree of choice for the area. This trip I noticed that many places had ice pansys (Viola heimalis) planted. Many of the homes are also using xeriscapes but we did see a few with artificial turf. Some homes had natural grass but that is discouraged due to water conservation. I noticed two things while driving through various residential areas. The first was the lack of vegetable gardens or hobby greenhouses. Given the growing conditions and urban demands perhaps this is not surprising. However, the University of Nevada Extension Service indicates that asparagus, cucumbers, onions, garlic, green peppers, squashes, table grapes, plums and some variety of tomatoes grow well with some type of protection. Potatoes and cantaloupe grow well in Northern Nevada. Vegetable gardens are possible in Las Vegas and it is more likely on this trip they were winterized. I would think raised garden beds would do nicely in Las Vegas with adequate watering and perhaps shade cloth during the summer months.

I also noticed a lack of solar panels or anything indicating solar power. This area would be perfect for solar and I'm sure it is in wide use. It just isn't an obvious thing. I can't recall seeing any CF lighting in the casinos however there were signs of other energey efficient lighting such as: fluorescent, rope, halogen and LED. Mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors amplify the lighting. In the city of lights that never sleeps even that is changing. Older signs are being replaced by newer and more energy efficient lighting and in some ways the flavour of old Las Vegas is being lost. What I've notice in our past couple of trips is an increased awareness of energy conservation especially water. The city is growing at a rate of 6,000 people per month so energy conservation is going to be a paramount concern.

Cactus Kit

I wanted to bring back a few cactus from Nevada but thought I would have problems with transporting them on the plane as well as going through customs. This cactus kit was just the answer as seeds are easily transported and seldom is the problems with bringing seeds back into Canada. The kit came with the pot, soil, dome lid and a packet of seeds containing up to ten varieties of cactus seed. The varieties include: saguaro, preckly pear, cholla, firebarrel, fishhook barrel and hedgehog. I set up the pot yesterday using about a quarter of the seeds. Germination should occur in 3 to 15 days at 68º to 80º F. I'll pick up more cactus soil this weekend and sow the rest of the seeds. Once the seeds sprout, the watering becomes crucial as too much water will cause the young cactus to rot. When the seedlings develop tiny spines, watering is decreased and the dome lid is removed. After that it is recommended to water the cactus once a month. This should be rather interesting! I report back with pictures of the cactus as they sprout and develop.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

January 16 - 25, 2006
See You Soon!

Garden Gnome

Garden Water Features

Water Irises

Garden water features need not be elabourate or expensive. They are a fun way to add interesting aquatic plants to your garden. A previous entry showed water hyacinth growing in a large potting tub this past year. Anything that will hold water can be converted to a water feature so get creative. Containers can be camoflauged by using other potted plants if you wish. Be sure to locate your container where it will get plenty of sun in an area you wish before filling. It will be too heavy to move later.

Just after the greenhouse was installed, I put in a tote pond inside the greenhouse. The main purpose was to provide a heat sink along with increase humidity levels in the greenhouse. I simply used a tote filled with water then added inverted pots to create a shelf for the water irises. The water lily was set directly on the floor of the tote. Duck weed and marsh reed completed the mini pond. A small submersible pump created just enough movement to keep the water from becoming stagnet. Fresh water was added as needed. In both water features, I used a couple of rosey red minnows to control mosquito larvae.

Mosquitoes like water features or any other standing water. Unfortunately mosquitos are vectors for the West Nile Virus so measures must be taken to prevent them from breeding. Any standing water should be emptied. Mosquitoes can be prevented from laying their eggs in water features by adding small submersible pumps to keep the water moving and for good measure add a couple of rosey red minnows or feeder goldfish. Both fish like to feed on mosquito larvae. They are small enough to be transferred to winter in an aquarium if necessary. Never release fish into a natural water source!

In cold climates treat the container aquatic plants as annuals. Some may overwinter indoors and of course it is always worth a try if you have the space. Most water plants require a great deal of sunlight. I have never had any luck overwintering water hyacinth so mine ends up in the compost bin. An alternative to overwintering indoors is find someone with a deeper in ground pond. They will gladly take aquatic plants off your hands. Never discard of your aquatic plants into a natural water source!

You will note I ended the two previous paragraphs with a "Never" statement. This bears repeating. This practice is simply not good stewardship. There are reasons for not releasing fish or discarding your aquatic plants into natural water sources. It disrupts the natural balance, can introduce disease and in some cases can become very problematic.

Have fun incorporating aquatic plants into your gardens and landscaping!

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

When to plant?

This question comes up over and over and with our changing climate it is still a hard question to answer. When I was younger everyone aimed to have their gardens planted on the Victoria Day Weekend (May 24). However, things have changed as far as when to plant. I follow the Average Day of Last Frost (ADLF) for our location and plant according to that. Last year the ADLF was May 9. One month before the ADLF I planted lettuces, onions, peas, radishes and spinach. Two weeks before the ADLF I planted beets, carrots, swiss chard and potatoes. On the ADLF beans, tomatoes, ground cherries and sunflowers were planted. Two weeks after the ADLF I planted cucumbers, melons, zucchini and peppers. Ok, so this likely sounds a little complicated however it really isn't.

The whole concept of staggered planting and continuous plantings makes common sense for managing square foot gardening. The square are contantly being harvested and replanted as the method calls for and that is because you are only working with a square foot at a time. Staggered planting allows you to get an early start on those vegetables that tolerate the cold well which can be achieved in any garden but with raised beds, you can get an even earlier start since the soil warms faster. But one thing I like about staggered and continuous plantings is the work is not done all at once. It helps to keep your interest without the gardening feeling like work.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Friday, January 05, 2007

Guinea Hen Revisited

Charlie on Greenhouse

He's back and he brought his buddies! We now have three of the guinea hens frequenting the neighbourhood. They make enough noise that I can tell they are in the yard even with a well sealed house. One neighbour built a little shelter for him and now his buddies. One is feeding them. I'm getting some pretty neat pictures as seen above with Charlie sitting on the greenhouse. Yep, I named him. Today they were squawking unbelievably so thinking there was a problem I went out to investigate. Sure enough another neighbour was chasing them away. Well I would squawk too at that! Then later this afternoon I heard them squawking again to find some young lad taking aim at them with a pellet gun. Why it is people have to try destroying what they don't understand?

The guinea hens are harmless, maybe a little loud at times but entirely harmless. Now the owner is being irresponsible by letting them roam. There is no doubt that something will happen to them given the young lad, other critters and vehicles. But some of us are enjoying them in our gardens and they are beneficial too. As critters go these guys are pretty enjoyable.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Secret Fortunes

One of my kids gave me this cute joke gift for Christmas. The can does say it is a real plant so that is a relief! Apparently a magic message that tells my forture is supposed to magically appear on a bean. Now this I have got to see! I don't know what others think but I'm very skeptical and you can be sure I won't be eating any of these beans.

The can is about 4 oz pop can size. On the bottom end there is the pull tab to let excess water into a plastic snap on protector. The entire top lid pulls off to reveal gorgeous vermiculite. The instructions said to water, drain and sit in a sunny winter to be rewarded with a plant in about 5 days. Well, I followed the instructions on Dec 27 but so far no plant or even sign of growth. The container does indicate the plant is a friend and is a male in need of love and care. Well all righty then. This year I might just as well be bad to see if Santa can bring me something a little more useful like a garden trowel!

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, January 01, 2007

Garden Gnome
© 2007