Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How do your seedlings grow?

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Before I go over the pond, I send you this photo of my grassy field of onions being hardened off. I will be putting them outside in the coldframe while I'm away.

Your challenge will be to guess which country the snapped garden photos will be from. See/read you next week.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Seed Ball

I wanted to draw your attention to this post on Heavy Petal about the seed ball.

The Seed Ball?

Yes, it is formed by encasing seed in compost, and clay to form a little ball that is not eaten by animals, does not dry out easily and comes with its own natural fertilizer. It is especially useful for broadcasting seed (this seed is not planted but simply tossed on top of the soil) over neglected sites with poor soil.

Guerrilla Gardeners might be interested in this idea if they know of an abandoned area that could use a little native plant life re-introduced.

Guerrilla Gardening?

Yes, this is when people take the land into their own hands. Know a patch of pathetic soil forgotten by the city? Why not garden it.

Don't I need premission?

That's why it's called guerrilla gardening. Get it?

I have my sights on one site not too far from here. P.S. If you live in the captial region and want to join ranks, contact me... my camera takes night shots.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Update on overwintering peppers: the saga

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Long red cayenne fruiting indoors

The good news is that my two 'long red' cayenne are fruiting. I was hoping that they would wait until they were outside so they could get the full push power of the sun but I'm not complaining. (Thanks Patrick for suggesting that I leave the flowers on).

However, the four(teen) leaf fatali has dropped its buds! Otherwise, it looks fine... no new growth, nothing dying. I just hope that next March, I am not writing about my fourteeny fatali's ability to resemble a plastic plant. One of these years, I'll get to taste the citrus fire of fatali.

Note on fun and games with latin names:

According to Ashcroft in Seed to Seed Capsicum chinense (which Fatali belongs to) has been reclassified as belonging to the Capsicum frutescens. I have noticed a W I D E spread use of the original so am not sure of the level of acceptance of this new nomenclature. I will report on further findings!

Floridata discusses this on their capsicum page.

More on overwintering peppers:

Cayenne in flower
Fatali budding
Latin names of hot peppers
Overwintering Peppers - the beginning


Fatali in flower and a whole load of other peppers in flower. Some have purple blossoms.
Fatali fruit. It's a habenero type.
hot pepper blog
You have got to check out the maturing hot pepper plant - wow!

Forced Fruit Twigs
Green Thumb Sunday

What to do with those twigs after you prune your fruit trees:

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Forced plum tree twigs

1. Give 'em to your friends to graft on to their trees
2. Use the ones that aren't diseased for the bottom of a compost pile
3. Force them for early indoor blooms.

Hortiphilia Fact
Forcing means to trick bulbs or twigs into flowering.

I just stick mine in water and wait patiently. This is from my 'indoor garden.'


Basic Grafting Techniques
More techniques on grafting
Forcing twigs

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The lawn's a Yawn - Part III
Add Edibles

Most gardeners, even the avid kind, hesitate to site their veggies in the plain-view-front-garden even if it is the coveted south side of the house. Veggies, and other edibles, are seen as the utilitarian and best relegated to the backyard. But in the interests of demoting the lawn, let's discuss some attractive options for supping on what you sow.

Expand and snack
(comment about pictures: for some reason, wide angle shots aren't popular so most of the linked photos are closeups to my chagrin).

Take the standard perrennial flower bed flanking either side of the entrance to the house, expand it by 2 or 3 times, spread out perrennials as foundation plantings, and fill in the spaces with vegetables. Of course, many vegetables will start out small, or be harvested before the end of the season which means that a little planning is needed such as combining fast and slow growing plants or replacing spring / summer crops with fall crops.

Here are some attractive veggies to grow proudly in front of your abode.

Lettuce comes in a miriad of leaf colours and shapes from open headed to the tightly coiled. Combine with any number of brassicas such as the bold heads of cabbage or the hardy (and equally varied) kale which lasts until covered in snow.

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Young Mammoth Red Cabbage (ignore the weeds)

There are many other leaf crops that are interesting to the eye such as orach (linked picture, red plant) whose striking seed heads rivals the purely ornamental. The oft mentioned 'bright lights' swiss chard, parsley, the deeply cut leaves of mizuna, and bull's blood beet complete a sumptuous salad.

For every theme, you have a vegetable. Need fall colour? Add the bright fruits of hot peppers whose leaves vary from the variagated fish to the deep purple of black pearl. Want something bold and architectural? How about Cardoon with it's long serrated leaves, or Palm Leaf Kale. Have a grass garden? Try striped maize (okay not actually listed as edible... but oh so pretty). Want something to climb a trellis? Where do I start... Of course, the famous scarlet runner bean, whose equally beautiful salmon coloured cousin - Painted Lady deserves a mention or instead of growing sweet peas, try the blue podded Capucijners pea.

I have not mentioned the cucurbits mostly because they are suseptible to a host of mildews that can make them unsightly by the end of the season, but if you have less of a problem with that, then why not try a mini pumpkin?

Tuck in a tomato plant, or two, for a snack as you walk by. Grow the feathery foliage of florence fennel, the bent or spiralled flower spikes of garlic or the blue toned strap like leaves of leeks. The ideas do not stop with mere vegetables of course. Need a tree, or shrub with long season interest? Why not a sour cherry that flowers in the spring and has fruit in the fall?

Pretty Potager

Are you now so inspired, you are wondering why you should bother with mere flowers at all? Perhaps you are ready for the potager. That's french for, we like food better than flowers too - or at least it should be. If you are not familiar with the potager, imagine a riotess combination of cut flowers, fruiting plants, vegetables, often contained in a geometrical pattern.

What makes some people hesitant to plant just any veggies in their 'plain view' is that they can be (and we hope that they are) vigorous, even rangy looking. One way to conteract this is by containing their exhurberance in a geometric shape such as four squares surrounded by clipped boxwood or raised beds lined with stone or wood. Between these gardens are pathes, and perhaps a focal point in the center such as a sundial, or a chair so that you can admire your handywork.

To make a vegetable garden more landscaped... landscape it. Sounds radical? It did to me at first. Here are some ideas:

  • Make beds and pathes permenant.
  • Use ornamental trellis or arbours as vertical elements
  • Grow fruit trees as fans or columns
  • Add edible flowers such as nasturitum, cosmos or borage
  • Add cut flowers
  • Companion plant herbs as a border or interplant
  • Plant veggies in blocks such as a ring of lettuce around a giant cabbage - think of creating tapestries of colour
  • Grow a knot garden with herbs.

It took a while to convince my hubby that we should put a mini orchard in our front yard but now he's happy with the gooseberry / black current hedge, the fruit tree focus points, and the foliage kale. We'll see how he feels about the raspberry extension to the lavender hedge but I suspect sweet success with our first harvest.

Stay Tuned

For: Go wild, really wild

Part I

Part II


Edible Flowers by cook's thesaurus

Edible Flowers by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

One of the many sites on companion planting

Scroll down for a cool picture of little red lettuce trees.

Parsley as butterfly food - leaf a bit for the catepillars and get even more beauty

Clearly an artist's garden - Bonnie Meltzer

Pumpkin in the evergreen

Pretty Veggie Garden

Another garlic scape pic

Green Thumb Sunday Blogroll

Created by As the Garden Grows and it her words:

Green Thumb Sunday should be fun too! I’m creating this meme for gardeners or gardener wanna be’s, house plant enthusiasts, and nature lovers. All you need to do to participate is post a picture on Sunday of a plant in your yard or that you are growing, a landscape or nature scene. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

The Blogroll

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Snow stick - the movie

Here is a clip of the snow melting in Ottawa.

But don't be putting on your gardening gloves just yet. This is Maddening March and no sooner do you think it's spring then they (whoever they are are) will send you a blizzard.

I enjoy driving myself crazy by watching the 14 day weather forcast which is about as accurate as if I went outside and said, 'hmmm the catepillars are a bit more fat than last week, bet they'll be two days of limited visibility 10 days from now.' Okay so they are a 'bit' more accurate but, and this is a personal psychological flaw, I interpret them unevenly.

If it says that we are going to be experiencing above seasonal temperatures 5 days from now, I'll look forward to it until of course those temperatures moderate and we end up with slightly cooler than average temperatures on those looked forward to 'warm days'. However, when it predicts extreme weather, I just shrug it off and say, ah, it'll probably pass by us. My problem really.

Anyhow, it was in the double digits today but they have been variably predicting snow in the near future. We'll see.


The Weather Network - 14 day forcast

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday - proud momma

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Brassica seedlings most prominent, with basil and solanums (ground cherry, tomato, pepper).

I moved the flourescent bulb for the mood lighting effect. Otherwise it was the 'I'm blind' effect.

From the 'indoor garden'.

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Correction - Cumberland Farmer's Market

Re: Seedy Saturday Post

- The Cumberland Farmer's Market will be open Saturdays, starting June 23rd, until Sept 15 -

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Gardening Carnival - Mint

Thanks to Doug (Doug's Green Garden) for suggesting this.

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Mint Leaves: Copied under the Creative Commons License. Photography by Gunslinger.

My great grandfather's garden.

I have a patch of spearmint in my garden corralled by concrete walkways that flowers a bee-happy-lilac, and provides my family with endless minty treats. It was given to me by my mother when we bought our first house in Canada, but it is descended from much older stock.

My family history is filled with the usual mixed bag of sailors and salesmen, but as far back as anyone can remember, one branch of my family were gardeners. My great grandfather held the official title of gardener at a manor house in England. He had taken over from his father and so on down the time line. In the tradition of cottage gardens, they took cuttings and seeds from where they worked to their own little dwellings. It made for the beautiful and barely controlled chaos. One of these men, brought home with him a spring of mint. Another carried that mint to Canada. Later my mother put it in her garden. And one day, I intend on giving it to my daughters.

Some may curse the exuberance of mint, but I think its tenacious grasp is inspiring. I remember thinking it had been killed by its first year of deep cold in Ottawa but come spring, mint green peeped out as soon as the soil warmed. Another year, our neighbour decided to weed whack our perennial beds while we were away. He told me that he had been puzzled by the sudden overwhelming smell of mint. The plant survived that too.

Mint is a plant for sharing. In fact, to get the best flavour, you must try your mint before you decide to plant it because plants from seed vary greatly. Luckily most people have more mint than they need. It also roots very easily so if you like the fresh stuff you bought from the grocery store, put some in a cup of water and see if it will root. I have had success with peppermint using this method.

And think of all the wonderful food you can make, from tabouli to mint tea. It enlivens the mind, and at least for me, warms the heart.


Mint Varities from Ritchers
- I'm sure there's more!
Tabouli (with mint) recipe
Rooting mint cuttings by the Gardening and Allotment Blog

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Gardening Blog Directory Map - flashy!

Who is the dark haired man staring up at me seriously? Some kind of gardening nut like me? An entrepeneur venturing into the blogosphere? Both? When I read about this new gardening directory on Cold Climate Gardening, I had to check it out, and it fulfills its promise by being easy to use, pleasant to look at and informative.

Graciously, he agreed to help us all learn a little more about him.

Interview with Stuart Robinson
(my interjections in purple)

Ottawa Gardner: What draws you to gardening?

Stuart: Plants. I honestly can't get enough of them. Even when I'm driving somewhere I often catch myself half gazing out the window trying to identify plants in other people's gardens or native plants that grow on the side of the road. (I always say that a gardening obsession makes you a worse driver)

I'm intrigued by flowers, leaves, and the diverse mix of plant textures, colours and shapes that we have available to use in our gardens.

I see gardening much like sculpting. It's an art form that takes a lifetime to master but mere moments to enjoy.

Ottawa Gardener: When did you start blogging and why?

Stuart: I started blogging in October 2005. Some friends were already producing their own blogs but they were predominantly personal blogs full of anecdotes or daily activities which didn't really interest me. However, I saw blogging as a way that I could record what I was doing in my own garden as well as pass on some information to others who were just starting out in this awesome hobby.

I'm as big a computer freak as I am a gardening freak and so the two have really gelled. (No kidding. The gardening directory map is an impressive piece of code.)

Ottawa Gardener: Where do you see this blog directory heading?

Stuart: The blog directory came about because I was becoming increasingly frustrated trying to put blogs into the context of their location. They would be showing pictures of plants that I had never seen or talking about soil conditions and pests that I have little understanding. I tried to create a blogroll on my blog that helped identify their location but soon realised that a one dimensional list still wasn't going to do it for me. So in reality, I built the blog directory for my own benefit but it seemed like many others would also find it beneficial so I made it public.

Where do I see it heading?

Great question. I can't reveal all, but I can say that I'm keen for it to become a garden bloggers one-stop-location for all their blogging needs. The gardening blogosphere is growing so fast and it's quite unique compared to other specific blogging topics. Due to its growth, I know for myself that I struggle to keep on top of what's happening and where it's happening. Therefore, I want to make the directory a community where bloggers can participate and share ideas and meet other bloggers - and I'm not talking about adding a forum (which may or may not happen in the future as well). Stay tuned. (the intrigue... I wonder what my blogging needs are)

Ottawa Gardener: If you had to choose, would it be:

a. Hardscaping or Allotment

Stuart: Tough choice. I love hardscaping because I enjoy turning a piece of dirt into an awesome garden that has many facets. However, I also endear the allotment concept. While I'm privileged to have my own garden I think I really would enjoy being a part of a communal garden and enjoy the social aspect of allotmenteering. I truly respect gardeners who can enjoy their hobby from an allotment and produce amazing plants.

Ottawa Gardener:

b. Hybrid hosta or heritage tomato

Stuart: Definitely heritage tomato. I'm a big fan of keeping seeds and continuing to grow produce and plants that originated from natural seeds rather than those that are modified by scientists. I think we should honour those who make it their practice to retain heritage seeds and help keep them in cultivation. Having said that, I do appreciate hybrids and the different plant varieties we can enjoy because of this diversification.

Ottawa Gardener:

c. Gear head or radical recycler

Stuart: Radical Recyler. The more aware we are of the environment and how our gardening practices affect it the better we will become at sustaining our world. I often mock both sides of the argument because I detest fear-mongering and the obverse head-in-the-sand approaches, but I would certainly lean more toward conservation and finding effective ways to live without damaging the environment that we often take for granted.

Ottawa Gardener: What is your best and worst plant moment?

Stuart: My best plant moments are always when I'm successful propagating a cutting. Honestly, I act like a little child who's been given a new toy when I discover that my cuttings are now growing and I now have some new stock to play with.

My worst plant moment happened just recently when I painfully had to admit that my magnolia soulangeana (my favourite tree -ever) had died. I personally felt like I had failed it and repeatedly asked myself the "What if?" questions.

Want to know more?

Check out his gardening tips 'n' ideas site and the Gardening Blog Directory of course.

As for all you Canadian Bloggers out there... Hey where are you? Calling all Canadian bloggers? I can't be the only one in Ottawa; and I certainly can't be the best one. Come on, sign on. It'll be fun! Well, I can't guarantee that but it's been fun so far and wouldn't you like to see your little dot on the big map?

Thanks again to Stuart for taking the time to answer these questions and let us know a little bit about himself and his project.

Cayenne in flower and four(teen) leaf fatali
Overwintering Peppers

An update in pictures:

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The smaller of the two long cayenne peppers is producing tonnes of flowers. There are even some signs of immature fruit just starting to swell.

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The previously named 4 leafed fatali has shocked me by putting on a magnificent flush of leaves and even producing flower buds. I'm waiting impatiently for them to open as they grow oh so agonizingly slow.

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For those of you with unusually accute vision or who are afflicted with hortiphilia, you may now be able to see the buds drooping delicately down.

(abundant alliteration accompanies alegere?)

Only two more months before these go outside, maybe less time before I can put them outside for short soujourns under cover. Right now, they have been inside from October onwards - 4 months!

Optimistic Gardener Warning

Will my mini bell peppers make it if I try and overwinter them too? How about tomato stem cuttings?


Hot Peppers - more facts on growing by self sufficient (ish), a fun site on urban living
Propagating Tomatoes by stem cuttings

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Seedy Saturday 2007 - Ottawa

I came for some seeds, not many because my seed drawer is embarrassingly full, but a few for my daughter's garden. I asked her what she wanted and with her fanciful child's mind, she answered, "I want tomatoes - black tomatoes, little ones." Sure, I said, because I knew that this was an organic, heritage seed sale, where such things were possible. We found it at La Ferme de Bullion:

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Black Cherry

Mid-season, indeterminate. Round 1" fruit
with rich brown colour and distinctive "black tomato" flavour - sweet and spicy. 70 days.

Pictured here is La Ferme de Bullion seed display being set up by Heather (I believe). They are a family organic farm located 45 minutes north of Montreal, at the foot of the Laurentian Mountains who uses and sells OP seed.

There were lots of other seed vendors, including:

Greta's Organic Gardens which will also host a plant sale (open daily) in May and June. She will be selling Over 50 varities of tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, lots of heirlooms, and aquatic plants and fish.

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Yuko's Open Pollinated Seed, whose website I love for its personal touches - her on the right.

It is the local place to go for asian seed and more. She also has a tomato seedling and perrenial sale, on May 12 and 13, from 8am to 2pm.

La Vie en Rose Gardens carries a wide collection of flower / ornamental seeds. They also sell bearded iris (My left hand is preventing my right hand from reaching into my cheque book), and garden accessories. Growing up in the lush temperate rainforest of coastal BC, the complex and delicate petals of the beareded iris made it my favourite flower.

Eternal Seeds with their victorian styled paper catalogue has a good selection of vegetables, herbs and flowers, even some books.

Heritage Seed and Produce, whose stall I did not get to visit long but who farms in the 'heart of the Rideau Lakes'. To quote his homepage (content soon to follow), 'Feed the dirt, not the plant.'

Seeds of Creation (seeds-of-creation@hotmail.com) - This is her first year at Seedy Saturday, pictured below right. She told me that she has been saving seed for 18 years, and grows 'high in the Madawaska Valley...' And I continue to quote:
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'... on an isolated bio-dynamic, self-sustaining, BEYOUND ORAGNIC, 300 acre farm, that's way off the grid! We herby certify, with the God-given word, that we grow BEYOUND ORGANIC, this means; that there are no chemicals or synthetics used for any crops grown here, that every level of life and craetion is up-held and respected...'

She had a basket of carrots which were very tasty - my girls and I shared some.

By the way, I asked her if it was a lot of work saving seed for sale and she said that the packaging was the least exciting part but that it was a labour of love!

Under the grovy picture on the front of their catalogue, it says 'Nothing ever comes from Nothing.'

Swap Table

Too true, but you did not need to have money to get seeds at Seedy Saturday, you just needed to bring some of your own (all the more reason to save seed, eh?). They even had some branches from an Ida Red apple for grafting. If I had known that I could have added some plum!
Because I am possibly the worst organized parent in the world, I forgot to bring my seed for trade, but the nice swap table coordinator saw me eyeing the egyptian topsetting onion and offered me some bulbs to try.
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Speaking of kids

They were not left out of this event. A craft room was set up with containers of seed, emphasizing their amazing variation. I really liked the corn.

It was also great to hear so many kids ask their parents for plants. Did you know your eight year old could be into gardening? Well maybe not weeding but... all in good time. I heard a five year old beg for beans, and a middle schooler dance because he got white pumpkin seeds.

And that's not all

There were other purveyors of natural supplies such as Urban Forest Soap, Honey Pie Hives and Herbals, Terra Foods Extra-virgin Greek Olive Oil, Homestead Organics Farm Services, Hunts Wholesome Honey, Green House Books, and Nature Candles by Marlene, as well as The Collective Conscience, a delivery service for natural and organic products from comsetics to party supplies.

I would also like to highlight the Tucker House featuring the Bunching Onion Community Shared Agriculture which offers you organic vegetable boxes when you purchase a small share in the farmer's crop in spring.

And a hearty welcome to the new Cumberland Farmer's Market, which was open a couple days last year but will be open - correction (my mords were wuddled) Saturdays, starting June 23rd, until Sept 15 -.

If you were feeling hungry after all that, don't worry there was lots to eat. My kids loved the cookies at this bread shop (what was their name).

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A is for Activism, B is for Beans

Choosing not to use chemicals, and growing open pollinated seed that can be saved for future generations is a political action. It is tied up with all sorts of issues that effect our consumer culture and it shows. These events are always filled with activism.

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Canadian Organic Growers Society. I bought the book Seed to Seed by Ashcroft.

The subjects run from the campaign to Ban the Terminator Seed to Awareness to Action , a campaign to challenge the bottle water industry. But if you prefer your mind to be enlightened by film, then check out the Reel Food Film Fest, Ottawa's First Film Festival Decidated to Food.

There was more

What you need to sit down? Plenty of time during the many free talks that were offered on organic gardening matters. I was not able to attend tagging my rambunctuous toddlers in tow but one year soon I will report.


Heritage Seed Sellers in Canada
Greta's Organic Garden List of vendors

More seedy saturday events in Canada

Canadian Organic Growers

Other blog entries on seedy saturday

You Grow Girl


Edible Tulip

Playing in the Dirt

Blogging Biodiversity

As always, I'd love to add more, especially recounting of the event itself.

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Warning snow stick storm approaching.

I hear we are in for up to 30 cm of snow over the next two days.