Friday, February 28, 2014

Workshop: BUGS- Garden Buddies and Bad Guys

Organic Fertilizers

Examples of organic fertilizers are greensand, bat guano, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, manure, and blood meal.

Blood meal is a powerful source of nitrogen and must be applied properly or it will burn your plants. Follow the directions on the label. Blood meal is dried blood usually collected from slaughterhouses and may not be acceptable to vegetarians or vegans.

Greensand is mined from deposits of minerals once part of the ocean floor. It is approximately 3% total potash, along with iron, magnesium, silica and as many as 30 other trace minerals. There may be some ecological concerns here.

Cottonseed meal is a by-product of cotton manufacturing. Cottonseed will produce a slight acidic reaction; consequently, so is usually used for fertilizing acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons.

Manure has been used as a fertilizer for generations, be sure that any manure you but has been well composted before you apply it your garden. I have used chicken manure and horse manure that was well aged with some impressive results.

I personally like seaweed but then I live near enough to the coast to be able to get it but it does work wonders.

Fish emulsion is a balanced, organic fertilizer; however, it is a partially decomposed blend of finely pulverized fish so again vegans and vegetarians may not wish to use it.

Whatever your choice is, the proper use of an organic fertilizer and the occasional use of a compost tea will give your garden the elements it needs to produce beautiful flowers and healthy and hearty vegetables.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Create A Garden For The Birds

It only takes a little effort to design a bird garden. Start with a some research; what birds are native to your region and what migratory bids will drop by, perhaps only for a short visit during the spring and summer. A trip to your local public library can be useful.

Once you know who your visitors are likely to be, then you can start your design by selecting plants that appeal to them. This is similar to accepting guests in your home, you want them to feel comfortable, but unlike your human guests you want the birds to hang around as long as possible.

It is not necessary to convert your whole yard into a bird sanctuary, although if that is what you want to do, enjoy. You can have your home vegetable garden, cut flowers, herbs and still create an area that is for the birds.

A bird garden will provide food and shelter as well as a look out point, exactly what plants will do the job depends upon where you live. However, regardless of your location, tall and medium size shrubs can provide a nesting place and a food source for many species. An herbaceous ground cover can provide a fine habitat for species, which prefer to feed on the ground. They are among the most vulnerable of birds because they are easier prey than birds up in a tree or on a feeder, so give them some protection.

Plant Choices
Use plants that are native to your area when designing your bird garden. Native plants are adapted to the growing conditions in yoru area and birds and other beings have been using them for shelter and to find food for many generations so the plants and the birds are well matched.

Using native plants not only attracts birds but also helps preserve the natural habitat of your region so you are helping to preserve regional bio-diversity when you sue native plants.

If you have only a small space to set aside for the birds that is fine, two or three shrubs, a few wildflowers and some low growing herbs can be all you need, as long as you do your homework first and match the plants to the birds.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Six Words to Guide Your Plant Choices

There are six words that will help you create a garden that thrives. The words are right plant, right place, and right time.

Right Time: It can be very tempting to rush out into the garden and start planting after a few days of warm weather. This can be especially tempting after a long and cold winter. However, this is often, almost always a mistake.

I have found this out from experience. Put seeds in the ground before the soil is warm enough and they may not germinate. Put plants out before the night’s are warm enough and they may die. If you follow the instructions on the seed pack and know when the last day of frost occurs where you live, the odds of success increase significantly. 

Here, in northern New Brunswick, spring may be a day away, but the ground is still frozen and I will not be planting any seeds until the last week of May at the earliest.
If you are planning to start seeds indoors, again read the instructions on the seed package. Seeds started too soon indoors will be ready to plant out before the outside conditions are ready to accept them.

Right Place: Seeds and seedlings must be planted where they will receive the amount of sunlight they require. You need to know your site; how much sunlight falls on it and you need to know whether the plants you are planning to plant require, full sun, partial sun or full shade, for example.

Right Plant: This is more complicated that it may seem. On one hand it refers to a plant that will do well in you climate zone and in the light and soil conditions of your garden bed.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Mulch Your Garden?

There are a number of benefits to adding mulch to your garden beds. They include:

1-water/moisture conservation - mulch works like a sponge in that it will hold water and nutrients close to the soil, shields the soil from the drying effects of sun as well as reducing evaporation as it protects the soil from the wind’s blast. The plants form strong and healthy roots in this protective environment which also attract earthworms that provide another service, aeration. Aerated soil enhances water absorption.

2- Mulch controls weeds. Mulch makes it difficult for any weed seed to reach the ground and germinate; fewer weeds less time spend pulling weeds and reduced need for pesticides. 

3- Mulch acts as insulation that keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter. 

4- Mulch breaks down and feeds the soil which as any gardener knows is the gardener’s principal task; feed the soil and your plants have a better chance of thriving and feeding you.

Mulching Tips:

1- Mulch is spread on top of the soil around the plants and along pathways. You can use wood chips, leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs, lawn clippings and sawdust as mulch around perennial plants. 

2- For your vegetable garden use nitrogen-rich green materials, for example, lawn clippings and other green garden trimmings.
  • To mulch your lawn leave the grass clippings in place after mowing as this add nutrients and reduce water loss.
  • Annuals, perennials and vegetable seedlings can benefit from mulch which you move aside at planting time and then pull back around the plant as it grows.
  • You do not put mulch too close to tree trunks or near the base of heat-loving vegetables and flowers (mulches cool the soil). Spread the mulch trees out to the drip line, which is the outer perimeter of the tree’s branches.
  • Remove mulch or turn it under in the Spring as slugs and snails will see it as an ideal lace to lay eggs.
You will have a plentiful supply of green material as you cut the lawn, rake the leaves and carry out your regular garden chores. Save your kitchen scarps for the compost pile, keep them out of your mulch.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What to Compost

What can you compost? The following information provides you with a list of items that can go into your compost pile.

From Your Garden:

Leaves (chopped - to speed their breakdown)

Grass (not wet)

Plants & Weeds (without ripe seeds)

Old potting soil

Soft plant stems
From Your Kitchen.
Coffee grounds and filters

Fruit scraps

Vegetable trimmings

Crushed egg shells

Tea bags

Shredded paper
The following items should not be placed into the compost:
Dairy products including cheese
Meat, fish (including sauces) and bones

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Strawbale Garden

Straw bale gardening is a great no dig garden method and a raised bed garden all at the same time. The number of bales that you use will depend upon the size you want the garden to be. You could grow a few cherry tomatoes and some basil in one bale.

Be sure to place the bales where you want them to stay, because, they are not easy to move. The bale will last for one or two seasons and makes ideal mulch or can be composted when its life as a garden is finished.

You can grow, for example, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, greens, peppers, gourds and flowers in straw bales. The peppers and tomatoes could be staked if needed.

I grew potatoes for two seasons this way and then used the straw to begin a new no dig garden bed.
I suggest, when you have selected the spot where the straw bale raised garden will go, you place the bales on their sides. Next water the bales over a seven day period, making sure that they are wet right through.

Add between three and five inches of compost to the bale tops and you are ready to plant. Salad greens will do well in this garden and will begin producing quite rapidly if they are placed where they get the sun they need to grow.

Alternatively to adding soil to the top of the bale, you could cut a few holes, depending upon what you are planting, in the bale, add compost and plant.

It is important to use straw bales rather than hay as hay has seeds in it, and you will get a crop that you are not looking for and one that will compete with the plants you want. Wheat straw is readily available in many places and does very well as a garden bed.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Favourite Balcony Garden Plants

Personal favourites:
  1. Cherry Tomatoes, I use CampJoy but any cherry tomato will do well in a container and the bonus is you can grow basil in the same container. Two containers, 18 inches across and 2 feet deep will hold two tomato plants and two basil plant.
  2. Green Peppers, both peppers and tomatoes enjoy the sun but need heat so if the spot is cool, then I suggest planting something else. Plant peppers same as tomatoes without the basil.
  3. Pole beans need support; I use bamboo poles, available at the plant nursery. They are cheap and last for years. You can put two plants per 18 inch diameter pot.
  4. Peas, you will need a support and there are trellises that will fit into an 18 inch or larger container. They can also support themselves on balcony railings.
  5. Herbs, chamomile, borage, chives, thyme will all do well in a container. You could create an herb garden in one 24 inch diameter container and plant a few of your favourites. They will also help to bring in the pollinators when in flower.
  6. Gladiolas, I must have one ornamental per garden and the glad is an ideal choice. The bees are as necessary on the balcony as they are in the backyard. Fuchsia works as well. Morning glories can grow along railings.
You can use anything that is deep and wide enough as long as it will hold soil in place. A drainage hole is essential and you may want to palce the container in another container to catch the excess water. If you are cramped for space you can use smaller containers and plant fewer seeds or seedlings per pot.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Permaculture Garden at the Community garden

The We Are Nature Working Experience met this am. We agreed we will install a garden based upon permaculture principles at the local community garden. The Campbellton Community garden is expanding from 15 plots to 40.

There is a good sized space left for us to work.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why We Must Value Bees- Part 1- Honey bees

Honey bees are not native to Canada. Honey bees likely hitched a ride to North America sometime in the 1700s.

The honey bee is a major pollinator of many of our food crops, almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many other crops all rely on honey bees for pollination.

So if honey bees disappear, and we do not find replacements that can do the work they do, then, foods we take for granted, will decrease in supply and increase in price. 

The pollination service provided by insect pollinators, bees mainly, was €153 billion (euros) in 2005 for the main crops that feed the world. This figure amounted to 9.5% of the total value of the world agricultural food production.

The main reason that the honey bee is important for our world is as simple as this; if the honey bee does not pollinate the crops, the crops do not grow and produce the food that gets harvested and brought to the store where we buy it and bring it home to feed ourselves and our families.

In other words there is a direct connection between the bees pollinating the crops, and our ability to provide food for our families.

The honey bees do provide a second service; they make  honey.

Friday, February 14, 2014

How Much Time do you Have to Spend Gardening?

Great gardens take time; time to grow and time to learn. To begin gardening, you do not need a lot of knowledge but you do need the time to allow what knowledge you have, to expand, as you get out in the dirt, and discover what you need to know.

When people ask me how to get started with a garden, one of the first questions I ask them is how much time do you have to spend in your garden each day?

The reason I ask this question is people often have great gardens in their minds, but in their daily lives, they simply do not have the time to care for those gardens. Sure, the first few days are full of energy, as the garden bed or beds are prepared,and the seeds and seedlings are planted, and everything is watered.

But then life happens, and the busy schedule that is many peoples’ reality starts to take over and tending the garden gets put aside or left to the weekend. Now, once a garden is established, you do not need to visit it every day, although I do recommend that if you really want a thriving organic garden then allow yourself at least five minutes each day.

During those five minutes all you are doing is observing, looking for changes like any unwanted visitors or signs that something may be wrong, brown leaves, chew marks and so on.

In another post we will explore how to build a garden that almost takes care of itself.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gardening for the Birds, Bees and Butterflies

The three Bs, birds, bees and butterflies are a gardener’s good friends. If you make a few wise plants choices, refrain from engaging in chemical warfare and understand that Nature will provide what you need, then you are well on your way to creating a great garden; one that will provide the fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetables you seek to grow.

The plant choices you make need to be those that provide for the needs of the beings you wish to attract to your garden. Herbs are a great place to start and can be incorporated into a garden bed or arranged throughout your design. 

Dill and mint, for example, will bring the butterflies to your garden. Be sure to consider the whole butterfly family and choose plants that provide a place for the butterflies to lay their eggs. If you also provide them with a drink of water, they will hang around.

Sunflowers will attract all three, bees and butterflies first and then as the seeds develop the birds will drop by for their snack.

There are two things that butterflies are seeking: one is nectar, the food that adult butterflies need, and the other, host plants, the place where the female will lay her eggs and the food that caterpillars need. Both are necessary to create a successful butterfly garden. 

Birds like seeds, nuts and berries so plants shrubs and native grasses to get their attention. Shrubs also provide them with shelter so they have a place to fly to when they feel the need, which can happen quite frequently in an urban backyard.

The plants you choose will do the job best when they are native to your area. The bees, birds and butterflies will recognize them and make a point to visit. 

I suggest that if you are just getting started then take a trip to your local public library or talk to a naturalist society and find out what birds and butterflies are native to where you live and the plants they demand. Butterflies, especially, can be very fussy about what they eat and where they lat their eggs so get that facts first, and then plant accordingly.

The three Bs, birds, bees and butterflies, provide the gardener with a number of services, pollination, pest control and beauty, for example. The plants required to make them feel at home in your garden are all plants that even the vegetable only gardener can appreciate.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Community Garden

We have one community garden which is being expanded this summer and the possibility of a second one.

A community garden is a plot of land that is usually divided into subplots with each gardener having their own plot. You can grow herbs flowers or vegetables or a mix of all three.

There may be a communal plot where you grown corn or squash which is then shared.
Each gardener tends their own plot according to whatever rules the groups ahs set.
For example, you may want to grow organically and in order to do this then all the gardeners would need to agree.

Terms such as whether the garden is organic or not are best set out in a contract which each gardener agrees to and signs before the season gets underway.

There may be communal work days. Especially at the beginning and the ending of the season to take care of site preparation and clean up as well as putting the plots to bed for the season.

There may be chores that all share. When I was in Saint John, New Brunswick, for example, I belonged to a large community garden and there were chores such as cutting the lawn in the common areas and doing a bit of weeding and composting. Each gardener signed up for a shift.

In Thunder Bay I was a founding member and for three years the coordinator of the Regent Street Community Garden. The garden began when a small group of us who lived within a few blocks of each other decided that we wanted a community garden. We contacted the City which leased land to citizens for gardening and asked them if there was a space that we could use.

There was. so we took a tour and did a site inspection. Once we decided to proceed we set up a neighbourhood meeting to inform the neighbours of what we planned and to encourage members to join and to ask any questions that might arise and that way deal with any potential problems.
There were a few questions but the meeting went well and 6 weeks later we met at the site and began to prepare the beds.

The best aspect of this community garden was meeting the people who lived near me but who I did not know. In the garden we became neighbours and when I was out walking I’d often see one of the gardeners and we would chat.

The garden was a friendly place to spend time and talk with others about a common interest.
We held gardening classes on site in order to share our knowledge and exchange experience. The community garden is a great way to grow you won food, flowers and friends. 

So if you want to garden, but do not have a place, or simply want to garden with others find out if there is a community garden in your community, and if not start one if you can.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rotary Peace Park

Last year, I had the opportunity to create a park. The project began as a suggestion for a peace project for the Campbellton Rotary Club. In discussions with the Village of Tide Head, the Club was able to form an agreement to create the Park on land the Village owned. 

Working with both the Rotary Club and the Village council,  a plan came into being that combined the use of perennial flowers, fruit trees, wildflowers and trees to create a place that will attract butterflies and be a quiet, beautiful spot for people to stroll through.

The students at Tide Head Elementary School helped plant sunflower and wildflower gardens. This summer, we plan to add a number of milkweed plants, so Monarch butterflies will be able to visit the site. Appropriate plants will  be selected so the Monarchs will be able to feed and breed. I will be posting pictures here and updates this year as the work continues.

Friday, February 7, 2014

At The Campbellton Community Garden

Ten Steps to a Succesful Organic Garden

All you need to do to grow flowers, herbs and vegetable, organically, is follow these ten steps.

1.      Put the right plant in the right place. In other words, make sure the plant you choose is placed where it gets the amount of sunlight it requires as well as the water and food needed for strong growth.
2.      Do the above in the planning stage so you know what you are going to do before the actual planting, what you will plant, where you will plant it.
3.      Organic gardeners feed the soil because healthy soil will produce healthy plants. One of the most effective ways to build healthy soil is to add organic material, such as compost to the soil.
4.       Mulch, proper mulching prevents weeds from taking over your garden and thus reduces your labour. Mulch also reduces the soil’s thirst, as it reduces the rate at which it dries out after watering, and will warm up the ground in Spring and Fall.
5.      Use organic and heritage seeds as these will breed true and you are then able to save seeds from the most productive plants.
6.      When planting the seeds, especially if you are a novice gardener read the seed pack and follow the instructions.
7.      Rainbarrels allow you to collect rain and use it when you need to water the garden. Dry days are not uncommon and to save turning on the tap to provide the plants with that needed drink if you have a rainbarrel you can meet their needs and conserve water at the same time.
8.      Spend time in your garden simply observing the activity. An evening stroll can serve as an early warning system and help to avoid infestations and diseases. Paying attention to your garden can pay big dividends when it comes to combating pests and diseases.
9.      Keep a garden journal, record your observations and thoughts. This will help when planning next year’s garden.
10.   Enjoy experiment and have fun. We learn by doing so do not be afraid to do.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Indoor Vegetable Garden: Lighting

Planning to grow vegetables indoors, is there enough natural sunlight available (6-8 hours)? If not artificial lighting is needed.

When it comes to indoor lighting sources the illegal grow op has lead to the development of equipment that will assist you to set up an indoor vegetable garden.

It is possible to guide your garden from seeds to fruit under fluorescent lighting and the gardener who wishes to do has a number of options.

The standard fluorescent bulb can be used to start seedlings and for salad gardeners they can suffice throughout the whole season as long as the bulbs are close to the plant tops, say about four inches above them.

Compact fluorescent grow lights may be more efficient but will cost more and still may not provide the green peppers and tomatoes the gardener seeks.

The best solution for growing fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, peppers etc) indoors may well be a combination of metal halide which puts out an intense light that is high in the blue spectrum and ideal for vegetative growth and then switch to high pressure sodium lights.

The high pressure sodium lights favour the red and orange spectrum which is needed for the development of fruits.

To effective grow fruiting plants indoors under artificial lights you are likely to need to switch three times as the as the metal halide are too strong to start seeds.

Stage One: Fluorescent grow lights for getting started

Stage Two: Metal halide for vegetative growth

Stage Three: High pressure sodium for fruiting.

This may not be advisable for the home gardener who seeks to turn a basement into a vegetable garden, unless herbs and salad green are the desired output. A greenhouse in the yard may be a preferred alternative.

There is another option that is making some ground LED grow lights are reputed to be very efficient, my suggestion is do your research before buying anything.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Growing Vegetables Indoors

 Over the years, I have had some success in growing vegetables indoors. Cherry tomatoes did very well in our Thunder Bay, On. apartment. The plants produced tomatoes for 11 months before giving up. They did get 8 (eight) hours of sunlight per day.

Growing Vegetables Indoors

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Working Definition of Permaculture

'Permaculture is a holistic, nature inspired design methodology that draws upon modern technologies and ancient traditions to design sustainable communities on a micro and macro scale.'

Storytelling and other art forms may play an important role in permaculture learning.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Permaculture and Our Community Garden; part 1

I am working with a small group; introducing them to permaculture design as we develop a plan for the local community garden.

Permaculture was coined from the words permanent and agriculture by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s. Both men, Mollison, the professor, and Holmgren, the grad student, where concerned about the environmental damage that industrial agriculture was causing.

Together, they sought to develop a method which would create a self-regulating and therefore sustainable food production system which nurtured the land rather than harming it. Permaculture designers observe and work with Nature rather than attempting to force Nature to fit into a mechanized production system.

Today, many designers, are applying permaculture design to developing communities, project governance and the urban environment.

Permaculture is an ethically based design system for creating sustainable human environments. The permaculture ethics are:

- care for the earth

- care for people

- taking responsibility for personal consumption and production and sharing the surplus

Native Plants

There are two projects happening here in Campbellton that have me turning to the subject of native plants. When we are discussing native pl...