Friday, 14 June 2019

Winter Gardening Experiment!

With the recent onslaught of guru vegetable gardeners, and all the information there is from them and in the world of media, I was on a mission to see if it could be done.  Living in a Zone 3 climate, vegetable gardening outside in March is unheard of, but what I was hearing "yes, you can garden in March outside".  And so the 'experiment' began!

On March 5th, 2018 I seeded two varieties of lettuce, Mascara (Seed Saver's Exchange) and Garden Babies Butterhead container lettuce (Renee's Seeds).  I seeded them in a six pack coir container and did not put it onto a heat mat.  In approximately 3 weeks they were ready for the shock of their lives, to be put outside!  I transplanted them into, cut open (almost all the way around), 4 litre plastic milk jugs with drainage holes punched into the bottoms.  In went the potting soil and I planted the lettuce seedlings, with their coir pots (making sure that none of the pot edges protrude out of the soil as this would wick away the moisture from around the plant) into the soil.  I planted four lettuce in each milk jug and watered them well.  They were duct taped around the cut sides sealing the jug up, virtually making a mini greenhouse or terrarium.  And out they went into the snowbank with  most overnight temperatures dropping initially to the mid-teens fahrenheit.  There they sat with not a peek inside until mid-April when the daytime temperatures were beginning to heat up. 

I unscrewed the top and Wow!  had they grown and were so beautiful. The Butterhead grew better than the Mascara.  As they were both outgrowing their spaces I transplanted them into large patio containers.  In these they matured to harvest and dining on fully mature heads in mid-June.

Update to 2019 where I grew only the Butterhead lettuce and changed two growing procedures, seeding directly into the milk jug soil, and secondly not using coir mini containers but rather reusable cell packs where I could remove the seedlings and plant into the milk jug.  Seeding directly into the soil the lettuce was much later in germinating but did eventually almost equal in maturity, approximately two weeks later.

The conclusion is that both methods work, seeding directly or pre-growing, and an excellent way of doing so as it offers a staggered maturity and accessible edibility over a longer period of time.

Gardening is always a challenge but sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to step out of our gardening box and have fun.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Awaiting Spring!

Today is the first day of spring and I am anxious to do some gardening!  So off I  into go my cold room where I overwinter my succulent and Phormium collections under a 3-tier light system.   As the name 'coldroom' implies, the room is very cold during the winter months, approximately 5 to 10 celcius.

At these temperatures the plants go into a somewhat dormant state with my attending to them very little.   This is a great benefit as the plants require next to no watering.  From October, when they are placed into the room, to late April, I may water them a wee bit 2 to 3 times....and when I say "wee", it is exactly that, maybe one-quarter cup in an eight-inch pot.  In this dormant period there is no fertilizer added until the end of March and given a very weak solution.

Today they are doing very well although I do cut off some of the blossoms that have occurred in my absence from last check.  I also notice some dried up dead 'leaves' along the stems which I gently pull off.   If they resist, I leave them as this would show that they are not quite ready to be removed.  I notice that along the occasional stem there are roots growing from it.   I think these plants too, are anxious that spring arrive and they be placed outside to savour the blissfulness of full sunshine to bask in and show their ultimate beauty.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Cardoon - a Great Garden Feature!



A first for all the Cardoons I have planted over previous years--blooms!  I love large plants used as exclamation points in my garden and this summer my Cardoon performed outstandingly.  I have planted it occasionally over the past 10 years and enjoy the fast growth and large leaves.  I was quite happy with this but for some reason this summer offered this floriferous reward.
I have always planted them in the same location: the only full sun area of my yard.   Our summer began quite late, cool and wet and said plant was planted in the second week of June.   This was a rather late date as normally our planting time is May 24.  By August it had buds on it and the following picture shows how tall it grows as the five foot seven inch me is beside it. 
With very late frost this autumn the buds began opening in late September. 
Downside - don't get too close as it is of the thistle family!  Also, sometimes referred to as the artichoke thistle. 
As a herb parts are edible, mainly the succulent leaf stems.  The Cardoon is of the same family as the globe artichoke whose fame is the delectable edible "globes" or unopened flowers found in markets or grocery produce sections.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Medinilla magnifica

My most recent houseplant Medinilla magnifica, is my pride and joy.  After having read about it in a Canadian magazine, I went on a search.  I could find none close to home but on a trip to the Niagara area of eastern Canada, I discovered one for sale at a local garden centre.  I was thrilled!  With two stems blooming how was I to carry said plant on the airplane.  Carefully lifting the stems I wrapped it up and carried the plant as hand luggage.  The plant arrived beautifully and ready to grace my home. 

Eventually it lost the flowers but now a dilemma - should I cut the stem off at the leaf joint or leave it intact where the stem broke at the last pink calyx.  I left one and the other I cut off at the leaf joint.  The experiment continued as I kept the plant in the screen porch for the summer.  New leaves pushed out but I discovered that where I left the stem to the pink calyx, the leaves were coming out crinkled and the other not as nice smooth leaves emerged.   Lesson learned, cut back the flower stem right to the leaf joint.  Although with no blooms on the plant the leaves are large, thick and shiny and lovely as a non-bloomer during this period.

As there is little information on this newly discovered plant from the mountains of the Phillipines, all my care for it was experimental.  I only water it from the bottom and only when it is light in weight.  I used a light fertilizer of 20-20-20 every watering during the summer months and into October when I stopped. 

In April I began to notice small flower shoots pushing out from the leaf junctions.   I was ecstatic with the four flower stems emerging.  They continued to elongated and by May they were in bloom and continue to do so two months later.

Do I recommend having this in one's houseplant repertoire?  Definitely!  It is a challenge with being the "new kid on the block" and very little information available for it.  I love the rewards of my experimentation of its care regime and hope to enjoy my Medinilla magnifica for a very long time.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


All gardeners can probably sympathize--the summer season is a busy one outdoors with little time to be at the computer blogging.  How come I find time to put up short snippets and pictures on facebook and not write here?

As per my previous entry summer had a late start but once it arrived the plants grew and continue growing in leaps and bounds.  Spring flowers were so abundant this year I began to think that the plants thought they would not survive the harsh past winter and they had to quickly reproduce in large quantities.  The shrubs and trees in Bunn's Creek Park were spectacular in such glory that I had never seen in 35 years of residing with it in my backyard.
Out at the lake a similar quantity of bloom showed its fancy dress-pincherries, saskatoons, plums, hawthornes and blueberries.  We are now reaping the rewards of those berries!

My mesclun lettuces continue to feed our family and guests this summer with the French filet beans being harvested and enjoyed too.  A woodchuck was discovered (and hence chased from) in one of the chicken wire fenced gardens having gnawed through the wire.  Good that daughter was in close proximity to do the chasing!!  With a kale leaf in his mouth he went a waddling.

The container plantings are showing their beauty with my Muskoka Sunset dahlia topping out at 6 feet.  The bloom is gorgeous!  A few of the plants are being munched and after numerous investigative looks I still have not found the culprit.   I am suspecting a climbing cutworm but he is doing an excellent job of hiding.  I guess he has to eat too!

At home in the city my favourite delphiniums are unbelievable!  The Asiatic lilies are finishing their blooming with a few markings from the unsquished red lily beetle--a constant source of consternation with any lily grower here.  When will a product be placed on the retail market?  So far I am using neem oil and it is a somewhat good deterrent but one must be vigilant.

The blueberries are calling me either to do more picking or baking--pies, muffins etc.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


This past Monday a very rude awakening as I opened the curtains on this 'spring' day in Winnipeg.  I should not be complaining as I am a snowbird and have been home only two weeks.   But this snow has to go so the outdoor gardening can begin.   I think that spring will not be experienced this year.  We will go from winter to summer.   Thank heaven I am a gardener who does clean up my yard in the autumn.  Yes, I chop down the Hostas and many other perennials.  I especially do not enjoy their sloppy leaves after being frozen.   I do leave some perennials with wonderful seed heads to offer food for the birds and winter interest to the yard.  Eupatorium, Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and Rudbeckia with their stiff stems are the chosen ones to remain.

As a true gardener not to be dismayed by the snow falling outside, I headed down to the basement to do my seeding of plants that I enjoy growing that are not readily available for sale in the nurseries.   Some are just very easy to grow and this guarantees that I have them in my repertoire for planting season.  Tomatoes are my favourite to seed;  Park's Big Whopper, Sungold and Black Cherry.  Miscellaneous vines;   Adlumnia fungosa, Cobaea, Tropaeolum peregrinum (Canary Vine),and  Ipomoea sloteri (Cardinal Vine) are seeded.   One plant that I have yet to see at a nursery is Park's Mirabilis 'Limelight'.   It grows large and has stunning electric chartreuse leaves with brilliant fuschia flowers.  A beautiful addition to one's sun garden!

Playing further in my downstairs den I plant my favourite Dahlias 'Park Princess', Cannas 'Red Futurity' and Dahlia 'Muskoka Sunset' which I received in my goodie bag at the National Master Gardener conference in Huntsville, Ontario last weekend.  It is not for sale to the public as of yet.   I will be looking forward to its bloom.

As you see gardeners make the most of what nature hands them and are always positive thinking regarding their gardens.  They are dreamers who are always thinking and planning their next sojourn into their gardening world.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Welcoming Christmas!

As always gardening is never far from my mind even with the snow on the ground.  Although the weather does limit one's gardening....ha! ha!, there are containers to be filled.
Nothing welcomes guests during the Christmas/holiday season than seasonal 'planted' containers on your doorstep or house front.
With temperatures hovering just below the Oc mark with no wind this past weekend I knew this was the perfect time to do my outside gardening.
I love the look of the birch trunks in the containers and although I have been using them for at least 4 years, this will probably be my last one.  They are becoming way too common now with them available for purchase at both Superstore and Sobey's.  Mine were brought from the lake using the trunks of dead trees.
My new finds this year were the 'light bulbs' that attracted me at Target in Scottsdale and my other find of the giant grapevine ball at Mori's Nursery in Niagara Falls.  As you see, I am always on the lookout for unique items all year long even if I don't quite know what I will be doing with them.  A challenge for the brain to think of what unique way for their usage.

Wishing all a Merry Christmas season and a 2013 that is filled with great gardening keeping us healthy and young!