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"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Signs of Spring in the Herb Bed

The herb bed is springing to life thanks to the beautiful sunny and warmer weather. I am excited to see good initial growth since the herb bed was put in just last year. The herbs will be transfered to pots for the move. I posted a picture of the thyme that is looking quite good a few days ago. A few days ago I noticed good growth in the oregano and chives.


Oregano is one of my favourite herbs. I use a fair amount of it fresh during the growing season and preserve enough to get me through to the next growing season. As with most herbs oregano tends to be rather problem free.

I've never had problems growing it. It is a rather low growing, sprawling plant. The sprawling nature gives the appearance it is invasive and while it does spread it is no where as invasive as members in the mint family. It behaves nicely in the garden as well as in containers.


Chives are just a wonderful herb. They are practically indestructible making them the ideal garden plant. Despite our cold winters I have had them survive over winter in a wooden planter without any protection, coming back just as strong the following year. Chives spread through the main clump and self seeding that will form additional clumps. In many ways this makes chives invasive in the garden. I grow chives in the raised herb bed as well as in containers.

Chives are ideal for filling in those small strips between sidewalk and the house. They perform nicely in containers even on a sunny windowsill. Chives also transplant nicely so growing a nice sized clump of chives is quite easy. This is another herb that is pretty much problem free. When the plant is in bloom it will attract beneficial pollinators as well as adding a splash of pretty pale purple to the garden. Chives is one of my must have plants in any garden!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First Robin of 2010

first robin of 2010
First Robin
March 24, 2010

A few days ago I spotted the first robin of 2010. That's a sure sign of nicer weather to come so now it's time to get excited. Spring is always a fun time of the year in the garden. This one will be just a little bittersweet with the upcoming move. I'm sure everything will work out well and I'll be able to report not only on this garden until we move but the new garden as well.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Monday, March 29, 2010

Controlling Garden Insects Effectively

Yesterday I wrote about the reasons why electronic bug zappers should not be used in the yard or garden for insect control. One of the biggest problems with these devices is the do not distinguish between harmful and beneficial insects. In one evening they can easily kill 10,000 insects effectively destroying the balance in your yard. Less insects mean less insect predators giving other more destructive insects the chance to gain a good foot hold in your yard and garden so essentially creating more of a problem than originally existed. Any form of insect control that kills insects indiscriminately creates the same problems. The first step in insect control is proper identification. Once identified as a garden foe then use the least damaging method of control possible. How can damaging insects be controlled?

  1. Encourage insect eating birds (eg. Purple Martins), bats, toads, spiders, ladybugs and frogs in and around your garden. Install both bird houses, bird feeders and one or more bat houses. Provide few toad houses or hiding spots as well. While harmful or poisonous spiders should be controlled, encourage any beneficial spider by providing little nooks and crannies where they can spin their webs. Provide one or more water sources for birds and bats. Control any mosquito larvae problem with water sources by changing daily or if larger use a couple of rosy red minnows that will feed on the mosquito larvae.
  2. Manual removal continues to be one of the most effective methods of insect control for certain insects. Inspect your garden in the early dawn hours when damaging insects like the Japanese Beetle are sluggish. Knock them into a pail with a bit of soapy water.
  3. Make a solution of 2-3 drops liquid dish soap, 2-3 drops vegetable oil in 1 quart of water. Put this in a spray bottle. Use it discriminately against insects that are harder to manually remove.
  4. Keep a few weeds. Surprisingly the very weeds you don't want quite often are edible but more importantly they serve as natural weed control. Last year I left 2 pigweed plants in with the sweet and hot peppers. Apparently the insects preferred the pigweed to the pepper plants which was fine with me.
  5. Use companion plantings such as certain herbs with certain vegetables to control pests that don't like the herb but would normally damage the vegetable. Plant petunias specifically pink petunias with beans, squashes and peas to repel the Mexican bean beetle, potato bug and squash bug. Marigolds also act as natural pest control.
  6. Control slugs (mollusc not an insect), earwigs and pill bugs using finely crushed egg shells or diatomous earth as well as removing decaying vegetation from around the house and in the garden beds.
  7. Observe your gardens at various times of the day to catch any insect infestations before they become a problem.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Controlling Bugs

While the weather is still cool soon it will be time to consider insect control for those pesky insects like mosquitoes and the damaging insects in the garden. In many urban residential areas folks turn to using an electric bug zapper. The premise is the insects are drawn towards the light then are electrocuted effectively serving as insect control. However, bug zappers are one of the worst things you can use for controlling insects in your yard or garden. Why? Bug zappers simply are not an eco-friendly approach to insect management.

  1. The light from bug zappers actually draw more bugs to it than you would normally have.
  2. Bug zappers use electricity the entire time they are on. When every kWh counts they are a wasteful use of electricity.
  3. Bug zappers do not discriminate between beneficial and harmful insects. In one evening they can easily kill off a number of beneficial insects. In one single evening a bug zapper can lure and kill 10,000 insects, most of them not damaging insects.
  4. Despite the claims and the reason many people use bug zappers, mosquitoes are not attracted to the ultraviolet lit used in these devices.
  5. Most people will leave bug zappers running all night. This has to be one of the most annoying aspects of these lamps especially if you like to sleep with an open window but instead of hearing the wonderful night sounds all you hear is the zitz, zap, zitz from your neighbour's bug zapper.
  6. Bug zappers are ineffective. Sure they kill bugs when on but they offer no permanent or effective solution.
  7. Bug zappers are ineffective during daylight hours making them a poor choice for protecting a garden or yard against insects that do their damage during full daylight, dawn and dusk.
  8. Bug zappers reduce the food source for natural predators such as centipedes, spiders, bats and insect eating birds like Purple Martins.
  9. Bug zappers disrupt the disrupt the natural biodiversity of your yard creating the potential for further insect problems by reducing natural insect predators.
  10. Bug zappers cost in the $40 or more range, cost in terms of maintenance and electricity use all of which can be avoided by using natural insect control methods.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just A Reminder of What the Growing Season Holds

home grown organic tomatoes
July 2006

Just a little reminder of the upcoming growing season. Can you tell I'm gearing up for this summers's garden? Oh I am so ready! Even though we are moving I am still biting at the bit. The new garden promises to be a good one :)

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Friday, March 26, 2010

Popularity of Urban Edibles

In a recent post I discussed briefly urban gardening. Urban gardening and landscaping has always been a popular except now the focus is turning towards growing edible plants. Growing urban edibles is now becoming quite popular as folks realize they can grow a variety of flower, herbs and small vegetables in small urban spaces. Why is growing urban edibles becoming more popular?

The idea of growing urban edibles is not a new one. Anyone with growing space regardless how small were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens during WWI and WWII in an effort to support the war efforts by providing food for themselves. Planting a Victory Garden was viewed as a national duty. The recent recession combined with a growing concern for food quality and safety have many turning to growing whatever they can where they can whether or not they have even a small yard for a traditional garden. Urban growers are turning to utilizing patios, decks, balconies and anywhere else they can tuck pockets of small space gardening.

Urban growers don't need to sacrifice aesthetics either. Edible plants can be grown right along with non-edible plants as well as in planters, window boxes and hanging baskets. With a little creativity small patio or balcony gardens can bring a rich lushness creating a peaceful oasis in the midst of a city while those with larger yards can create a private outdoor room to enjoy while reaping the benefits of edible gardening:

  • tasty, inexpensive organic fruit and vegetables amid attractive plants
  • a better connection with the food you eat
  • reduced transportation costs for produce
  • connecting with nature
  • increased self-sufficiency
  • healthy exercise

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Small Gardening Water Features

All gardens whether they are traditional row gardens, raised box, container or any combination thereof really need some type of water feature. Why? Water features attract beneficial pollinators, insect eating birds and bats. They extend your growing possibilities to beautiful aquatic plants, some of which are edible. They also add to the aesthetics of the garden. Water features do not need to be large or complicated at all.

small garden water featureWater Feature

Pictured is a very simple water feature I set up in my previous garden. It was planted with water hyacinths and duck weed. Water hyacinths are beautiful aquatic plants that bloom early in the morning with the bloom being spent by the evening so those working daylight hours may never see the plant in bloom. Duck weed is the smallest flowering plant. This small water feature that did have a very small bubble fountain in it would be extremely easy to set up on any patio.

The container is a simple 5 gallon plastic planter. On the bottom of each planter there is a drainage hole complete with plug. Leaving the plug in turns the planter into an easy, low maintenance water feature. Simply fill the container with water then let sit for 48 hours before adding any plants. A small aquarium pump provides just enough movement to keep the water from becoming stagnant. A couple of rosy red minnows will prevent any mosquito larvae problems and they are rather problem free eating any algae that accumulates in the planter. Pick up a couple of aquatic water plants to put in the planter and you are done. The planter will basically look after itself. Total cost should come in well under the $20 mark but it will really add great value to your small space garden!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


purple crocuses
March 19, 2010

A few days ago the weather was so gorgeous I took a walk around the yards just simply enjoying the beautiful sunshine. Tucked into the corner of a rock bed we had intended removing I spotted this pretty clump of purple crocuses. They weren't there last year so the squirrels must have been busy moving a few of the bulbs around. Crocuses are one of spring's colourful delights!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Gravity Fed Self Watering System

Keeping container plants sufficiently watered can be a problem especially on hot days or days you are away from home. I found this great video from a permaculture designer. The balcony garden plants water themselves, using 2,000 year old desert technology. The water travels from a rainwater collection tank through tubing to buried unglazed terra cotta wetpots via gravity then is distributed to the soil by osmosis. More detail for this method can be found on This Sustainable House.

This is be an extremely easy to set up, DIY watering system for any container garden including those on balconies, decks or patios. The main consideration is installing the tank a few inches higer than the highest container. The tank does not have to be mounted on a wall either. In fact you could use any larger volume container such as a rain barrel providing it can be raised slight above the soil level or tallest container.
This method allows a low cost, low maintenance way to water your plants with collected rainwater. Larger unglazed terra cotta pots can be used in larger garden beds by simply burying them to about 1 - inch below the top rim then filling the pot with water where it will be distributed through the soil by osmosis only. Place a rock over the opening of the pot to prevent evapouration and creating a breeding ground for mosquitos.

Here's the video of the hosed irrigation method being used on a balcony garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Monday, March 22, 2010

Signs of Spring

March came in like a lamb this year which isn't much of a surprise given what a mild winter we had. I don't doubt that we are still in for a few days of nasty weather but those are getting less likely with March more than half over. The first day of spring was on March 20th. We've been experiencing above average temperatures with nice blue skies. The sun has been out doing it's magic so there are a lot of signs of spring!

maple tree budsMaple Tree Buds

The sap has been running in the maple bushes and our silver maple trees are budding but the others aren't yet. Once they start budding it really doesn't take them long to burst out in full foliage. The buds look gorgeous against the bright blue sky!

Maple trees are one of my all time favourite trees. We have four maple trees here that I really enjoy not only for the beautiful summer time shade but also for the nesting sites they provide for the numerous song birds. They are majestic, problem free trees. I know there are maple trees at the new house but not sure how many.


I was quite pleased to see some of the herbs peeping through the dead growth. Most of my herbs will be transplanted to our new house. I don't cut back my herbs when winterizing my raised beds. The reason is the dead growth provides protection against soil erosion during the winter months. When I see the new spring growth then I trim back the herbs once the danger of frost has passed. Our average day last frost (ADLF) still a ways away yet just after the first week of May.

Folk lore has it that gardens area gardens should be planted by May 24 to have corn knee high by the fourth of July. I don't grow corn because it doesn't lend itself well to small gardens. However, I do plant according to the ADLF to get cold loving plants in the ground a couple of weeks before ADLF and warm loving plants a couple of weeks after last frost.

tulips sproutingTulips Coming Up

You just know spring is around the corner when tulips start poking through the ground. I can't wait to see their gorgeous colours. Don't they look beautiful poking through the ground? I spotted the bright green sprouts a couple of days ago. I was so excited so headed out to take a few pictures. There's just something about seen new growth after the winter months even if it wasn't a harsh winter.

Tulips, crocuses, hyacinths and daffodiles are very common garden plants in our area. Given that the owner of the house we are buying is a gardener I'm sure all of these plants will be in those gardens as well. It will be a lot of fun next spring discovering the wonders of a new garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Few Container Gardening Tips

Quite often urban gardeners are forced to grow in containers due to lack of ground space. The ground space may simply be non-existent as in apartment buildings or unavailable to use as in row housing, rental houses and residential areas governed by Home Owners Associations (HOA). While each container is small in comparison to a raised bed or traditional row garden it is surprising how productive a container garden can be. One benefit to gardening in containers is you can always move your plants around to take advantage of natural sunlight. You can also bring as many containers as you want in for the winter so that you can continue to enjoy fresh vegetables throughout the winter. This is known as continuous harvest gardening.

Unlike growing in traditional row or raised beds, container gardening presents a few unique problems when it comes to watering needs, soil nutrient and stability. A container can easily need to be watered three or more times a day on a very hot day to prevent it from drying out. At the same time it is important to not over water. Knowing the watering needs of each plant in your various containers is a must. Soil nutrition is limited in a container so using soil amendments is a must. Containers can easily be blown over by the wind or tipped over by a curious dog. Here are a few tips for dealing with these three container gardening problems.

Before you plant your containers consider how prone they are to tippage. To combat container stability issues:

  • Use heavier terracotta pots rather than plastic pots that may be blown over in stronger winds.
  • If using plastic pots, place a couple of inches of gravel or a couple of bricks in the bottom to prevent the pot from being blown over.
  • Anchor smaller and mid-sized containers to walls or fences by securing a bungee cord hooked onto 2 hooks in the wall or fence on each side of of the container. This will keep the container from tipping yet you can undo one side to move the plant if desired.
  • Arrange your patio and balcony plant containers so the taller ones are at the back sheltered from the wind with the smaller containers around their base where they too are sheltered.
Lack of water or over watering are the two main watering problems in container gardening. To help combat the container watering problems:
  • Use Mel Bartholomew's (square foot gardening) soil mixture of equal parts of peat moss, compost and vermiculite. This mixture is designed to hold additional moisture reducing the watering demands.
  • Use a mulch on top of the soil to slow drying.
  • Mix watering crystals into your soil mixture. These will absorbe water when you water then gradually release it as the soil dries out. These crystals are inexpensive and can help prevent your containers from drying out if you are away for the day.
  • Use a watering bulb. This is a very simple, inexpensive device that can serve not only a practical function in your container garden but also a decorative one. The one piece unit is usually made out of glass in the shape of a small balloon shaped bulb and long tube. Once the unit is filled with water it is turned so the tube is inserted well below the soil line in the container where it will continue to water the plant as the soil dries. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well.
  • Set up a self watering system that consists of a rainwater holding tank, irrigation hose and wetpots (more on this method on March 23, 2010 post).
Soil nutrients are limited in containers so you have to provide additional nutrients as the plants grow. In addition to that everytime you water your containers nutrients leach out with the drainage water. Provide soil nutrients using one or more of the following methods depending on your needs:
  • Use a good quality, organic fertilizer according to the instructions. Some recommendations are to include a slow release organic fertilizer in with your soil mix. This works well except for tender seedlings.
  • Use a fish emulsion or compost tea to add natural nutrients biweekly.
  • Use epsom salts (2 - 3 tbsp) especially for tomatoes and peppers when they are planted then add 1 tbsp per foot of plant height around the base of the plant biweekly. Mix 1/2 c of epsom salts in 1 gallon of water and use that solution to water your plants biweekly.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Balcony Gardening

Yesterday I introduced the topic of urban gardening. Urban gardening presents several issues because in most cases it falls into small space gardening. In some of these cases no actual ground is available for traditional row gardening and while raised beds may be an option for some those living in apartments and row housing may not be able to use raised beds due to restrictions of the tenancy. Even if the unit is owned restrictions may prevent raised beds or traditional row gardening due to home owner's association restrictions. With this in mind there are still plenty of ways that urban residents can still produce some of their own food.

One area to look for growing fruits and vegetables is the balcony. A balcony may be about 8' x 12' or 96 square feet. If half of this was used for growing space it would be just slightly larger than one of my 4' x 10' raised beds (40 square feet). So that is a good sized growing space. But consider on balconies you can add planter boxes on the railing and hanging baskets to help increase the growing space. You can also add shelving to increase growing space. When used effectively a small balcony can produce a surprising amount of food.

Balcony gardening is the same as any other gardening in that you need to take into consideration sunlight and watering. There are a few things you do need to consider:

  • lightweight yet stable containers
  • fertilizing the containers
  • additional watering demands
  • shading
  • wind effects*
*Surprisingly wind effects can be quite problematic. Wind effects especially in higher located balconies have a profound effect on balcony gardens. Not only are the winds extremely drying increasing the watering needs, winds at higher located balconies can cause leaf burn on plants as well as stem breakage.. Tomorrow's post will address how to deal with the damaging effects of the wind especially for those with balconies on the third floor or higher.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Friday, March 19, 2010

Urban Gardening

image courtesy of The Graphic Fairy

When most people think of gardens they think of a large plot with neatly arranged rows of fruits and vegetables perhaps with a fruit tree or two. This method is known as traditional row gardening and while still popular for those with extra space, it is going by the wayside for urban gardening where other methods are proving to be more productive. High intensity gardening (eg. square foot gardening) in smaller spaces that produce high yields is becoming a favourite with urban gardening. Quite often this method is combined with container gardening as well.

Urban gardening presents a somewhat more perplexing problem for those who want to grow some of their own vegetables but have no land to do so. Some landlords will not allow tenants to dig an actual garden bed and in other cases there simply is not ground to dig. In this case, enterprising gardeners can turn to container gardening. A surprising amount of produce can be grown in containers sitting on balconies and small porches or decks. Tomorrow's post will highlight a few tips for growing in containers on balconies.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Backyard Chickens (3)

The past couple of days I posted the first and second of an exclusive interview by Green Apple with Toronto Chickens regarding keeping backyard chickens. While this debate rages in communities across Canada it is important to realize that keeping egg laying chickens in your back yard makes good economical and ecological sense. Those growing their own produce do so to have fresh, organic produce right at their back door so it is only natural to extend that to being able to provide an expensive source of free eggs as part of your gardening experience. Chickens also fit nicely in with urban gardening providing you keep them out of the actual garden beds where their pecking will destroy any plants. Here are some of the benefits of keeping laying hens:

  • As pets go, laying hens are: quiet, problem free, smell free and yet give you free eggs. They don't bother neighbours unlike both cats and dogs.
  • Laying hens are a natural choice that fits well with eco-friendly living by providing food for your family in small spaces.
  • Laying hens actually become pets. They each have their own personalities so not only do you get to enjoy their eggs you get to enjoy their company.
  • Laying hens love table scraps so they are a viable option for those who do not have a large space for all their composting needs and in areas where composting is not possible. They are are great companion for composting rewarding you in nutritious eggs.
  • Each laying hen will lay one possibly two eggs daily. A family of two may only need 2 to 4 laying chickens.
  • Laying chickens have less of an environmental impact when compared to other pets and unlike other pets they do earn their keep. They are one of the best natural insect controls possible.
On the flip side there are justifiable concerns over allowing people to have laying hens in their urban backyards.
  • Noise can be a problem if the number of laying hens is greater that 4 or 5. A flock of 20 hens is going to be noticeable and it is even worse if a rooster is introduced into the picture.
  • Negligent owners is always going to be a concern. True most having backyard chickens are going to be responsible owners but that 5% that isn't is going to give the rest a bad name.
  • Other raiding animals such as raccoons and skunks are attracted to chicken coops so this can present a problem in the neighbourhood.
  • There is a concern over the spread of disease (eg. Salmonella, Avian flu) even though there is no supporting documentation regarding laying hens in an urban setting.
On thing is for sure that those controlling the egg prices in Canada are on the forefront of squashing the idea of people raising their own chickens. After all if one family can produce a couple dozen eggs per week the annual loss to the egg industry when multiplied by many families could be substantial. For those so against chickens consider cats that can be quite destructive in the neighbourhood and yet are allowed to run free. Consider dogs that cost a considerable amount of money to keep per year yet can easily take the life of a child should they turn vicious. Consider both cats and dogs spread diseases to humans and through pet dander are one of the leading causes of allergies and asthma costing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually Canada wide in medications alone to treat these conditions directly related to pet ownership. Consider too in Canada you can have pets such as python snakes that can escape their cages, slither into someone's apartment then bite them while they are working at their computer. This actually happened a few days ago in Peterborough, Ontario. Chickens on the other hand tend to be rather benign when it comes to pets.

I don't see this issue going away. People want the option to be able to put safe food on their tables and to become a bit more self sufficient. Like the speaker on Toronto Chickens many are simply going to go ahead and get their chickens then deal with the legalities if/when it becomes an problem. With the growing concerns over our food supply and wanting organic choices for our food, raising chickens is destined to become part of backyard, urban gardening.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backyard Chickens (2)

Yesterday I posted part one of Green Apple Pie interview with Toronto Chickens in November 2009. Here is part two of the interview. The speaker's face has been obscured with two chicken eggs in order to protect her identity. She raises chickens in her own backyard in a residential neighbourhood of the City of Toronto, ON. It's important to point out that as of March 7, 2010 she still had her chickens so this is a current and ongoing debate, one that I am sure is going to get quite interesting.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Backyard Chickens (1)

The debate over allowing people to raise chickens in their backyards continues across Canada. There is no hard, fast rules over keeping chickens with some communities such as Victoria, BC and Niagara Falls, ON allowing residents to have backyard chickens while other communities forbid them. Yet other communities such as Toronto, Calgary, Waterloo and other larger centers are still debating the issue. Some residents have been charged with keeping chickens within city limits while the debate continues. There are a number of vocal pro-chicken advocacy groups including: the Halifax Chicken Group, The Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (also known as CLUCK), Backyard Chickens and Poultry Canada, Omelettes for Everyone and the Waterloo Hen Association.

Over the next couple of days I will discuss the issue of keeping backyard chickens and how this practice fits in with urban gardening. Today's post is part one of an exclusive Green Apple Pie interview with Toronto Chickens. The speaker's face has been obscured with two chicken eggs in order to protect her identity. She raises chickens in her own backyard in a residential neighbourhood in the City of Toronto. Tomorrow's post will be part two of this interview. The following post will be a commentary on the issue of backyard chickens including the pros and cons.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Monday, March 15, 2010

Garden Reflection and Moving On

My gosh when I look back at what we have accomplished here it really is amazing. In some ways we did not accomplish what we wanted but with our decision to sell, it is time to do a bit reflection. This property brought about many gardening challenges with the most extensive one being ripping out extreme over growth. The shear volume of ripping out our first two years was so discouraging. Compounding the problem was having to dig up our yard not once but twice to correct drainage problems with the second ruining all the sod work we did.

Vegetation I will not miss from these gardens:

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Edible Plants Planned for New Garden

As with any move I really start getting excited at the possibilities of growing new garden varieties. My first concern is planting asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries if those patches are not already in the new garden. I suspect they will be already established at the new garden simply because the previous owner is definitely a gardener! The whole back yard has gardens around the perimeter and there are even roses something I didn't have here. Here are a few new to me plants I want to grow at the new house:

  • silver birch - There is a improperly pruned blue spruce that I want to replace with silver birch that will allow more light into the house than the spruce during the winter months.
  • bright lights swiss chard - This is a pretty swiss chard with stem colours ranging from yellow, gold, pink, chrimson, orange, purple, white, green and white stripe.
  • Burpee's golden beet - I traditionally haven't had good luck with beets so will be trying a few varieties including this golden variety.
  • celeriac
  • rainbow carrots - This is a blend of purple, red, orange, yellow and white carrots each with a unique flavour and properties.
  • raspberries - Every house we've owned I have wanted to plant raspberries but never did so this time they are going in right after we move.
Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's Official - We're Moving

It is official. Our house is currently listed privately for sale and we have purchased another house conditional on the sale of this house. The downside to this is I was still in the process of re-establishing and expanding raised gardening beds here. So that work will not see completion. On the plus side we will be moving if all goes well just in time to be right on schedule for planting this year's garden. I thought I would be upset leaving this garden behind but I've only been working on it not quite three years with last year being the first year of the raised beds so I'm not really attached to it.

I'm actually excited about the prospects of creating yet once again another gardening. With this move we will have the large garden at our permanent residence and a smaller garden at our vacation residence in an entirely different hardiness zone. So this is very exciting for me. I'm doing a bit of research so stay tuned to follow my newest gardening adventures.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Friday, March 12, 2010

Frequently Asked Square Foot Gardening Questions

If you have been following this blog you will know that I garden organically using a modified version square foot gardening method combined with companion planting and a bit of the Mittleider method tossed in. The square foot gardening method is a modified version of the French high intensity gardening method and popularized by Mel Bartholomew. Mel Bartholomew answers the most frequently asked questions about square foot gardening in this video clip with Patti Moreno the Garden Girl. Following the video is a brief summary of Mel's methods and how I have modified them to suit my needs.

Mel uses mainly wood to construct his raised beds that can be on the ground or raised to create sit down or stand-up beds. The wood can be anything preferably free as long as it isn't pressure treated wood. He recommends using 1" x 6" or 2" x 6" wood to construct the beds. The wood can be painted on all sided except the inside. He is rather specific that the beds should be 4' x 4'. On ground beds have the grass and weeds removed then the bottom is covered with gardening cloth. Each bed is separated by a 3' pathway. Off ground beds have a plywood bottom with drainage holes 1 per square and 1 in each corner. The beds should be placed where they will receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. The biggest thing Mel stresses is his growing mixture that consists of equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite and compost. When a square is replanted additional soil mixture is added so there is a constant turn-over of the soil.

I've been using a modified version of the square foot gardening method in raised on the ground beds for about 12 years now. I buy 2" x 8" or 2" x 10" spruce to construct my beds. My preferred size is 4' x 10' with 4' being the critical size to allow easy reaching from both sides of the bed. I also like to tuck square foot beds in smaller areas like the narrow space between a sidewalk and the house. I don't remove the grass from inside the bed before filling nor do I use gardening cloth. Here a square foot bed can be as narrow as a foot running the length of the house. My reasoning is my beds are deep enough to prevent any problems and the grass below will simply breakdown providing more nutrients to the beds. The second major area that I modified is the soil mixture. Vermiculite is expensive with a small 9L bag costing $7.99. Using enough vermiculite to fill each of my raised beds a third full of vermiculite would not be cost effective. When setting up new beds as I will be doing shortly I end up buying compost and peat moss then mixing both with sandy loam. This has worked quite well for me. Some vermiculite and pearlite end up in the beds via the potting soil in purchased plants. I also use vermiculite in my seed starting mixture. I use companion planting which is something Mel doesn't talk a lot about. I also use aspects from the Mittleider such as using organic fertilizer and epsom salts.

The important thing to remember with any gardening method is no one method works perfectly for everyone. Borrow from established methods those tips and ideas that you need to make your garden. Modify to suit your growing conditions, spacing and even the produce you want to grow. Remember to have fun and enjoy your gardening experience.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rainbow Carrots

A few days ago I ended up with a bag of organic rainbow carrots as part of an organic produce basket one of our kids picked up for us. The carrots looked like regular carrots in the bag but once out of the bag I could see there was a variation in the orange and yellow. A couple of the carrots were quite yellow in comparison to the others so I did an online search to see exactly what rainbow carrots are. According to the search results rainbow carrots is a mixture of purple, red, orange, yellow and white carrots. Each of the colours has a unique characteristic and flavour. When cooked the present a gorgeous splash of colour for a meal. Rainbow carrots are on my list of new vegetables to grow in my soon to be new garden. I think these will be quite interesting to grow so can't wait to see how well they do.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Weed Control Revisited

I know snow is still on the ground in our area and what a gorgeous sight to behold but soon our attention will be turning to our gardens. This year is going to present a new challenge for us in that we will be doing our gardening in two very different zones. Regardless of what zone you garden in, weeds are an issue. There are a couple of ways to go about dealing with weeds organically.

  1. edible weeds - Identify any edible weeds and use them. These can and should be used to supplement your growing season food supply. At the same time some edible weeds like pigweed can be used as complimentary plantings to protect other vegetables from insect damage so even if you don't eat them one or two cultivated weeds won't hurt your garden any.
  2. non-edible weeds - There are several organic methods available for controlling weeds. The most effective is manual removal aka the old pulling weeds. It's good exercise and somewhat satisfying. A blow torch is another effective method of killing off weed but caution should be used in dry to extremely dry conditions. A 5% - 10% solution of white vinegar sprayed onto weeds is also an effective, non-toxic herbicide. Mulches can greatly reduce weeds when used effectively.
Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome