Monday, October 5, 2009

Flowering Vine: The Mandevilla


This Spring, as I wandered around my local garden nursery, this beautiful Mandevilla Vine caught my eye.

I simply had to have it. I love the sound of the name, “Mandevilla”, as it rolls off my tongue. The name makes me want to do the Samba! Native to the Central and South American tropics, it’s also known as “Brazillian Jasmine”. Here, in the Great White North, the Mandevilla Vine is grown as an annual. If you were to plant the Mandevilla, you would want to plant it in rich garden soil. I decided to leave mine in its original pot and give it a home on our deck.

Throughout the summer, not once did this plant loose its gorgeous, crimson red, trumpet-like flowers.

I would love to keep this vine year-round. I’ve read that I can bring the Vine indoors during the winter. However, I am concerned about pesky insects. Apparently, to bring it indoors, I would need to:
  • Cut it back to about 6”
  • Spay it with insecticidal soap
  • Soak the pot in water for a few hours to get rid of pests hiding in the soil
  • Leave it in a cool place to go dormant and water occasionally throughout the winter
I think, however, that I’ll try taking some 4” – 5” cuttings, let them root, and then pot the cuttings.

Mandevilla Vine Quick Facts

  • Available in pink, white and red
  • They can grow to 10’ in height during one season, and 30’ in their native habitat
  • They will tolerate slight drought
  • Outdoors, place them in sun/partial shade
  • Indoors they prefer filtered or indirect light
Sources:

Annuals for Every Garden, Scott D. Appell
Flowering Vines: Beautiful Climbers, Karan Davis Cutler

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Voting Time at Blotanical!

Are you a member of Blotanical.com? It's a great site to find other gardening blogs, and to meet other bloggers. Right now, you can vote for your favourite blog. There are 75 categories! The Bloomin' Blog, did not, sadly make it into the final round. Sniffle. But there's always next year.

I wish all my fellow garden bloggers luck in the vote.

So get on over to Blotanical and get voting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tomato Blight Destroys Crops in Southern Ontario


This summer I purchased an heirloom tomato plant. It started off great. But look at it now. Very sad. Only two tomatoes. I thought it was me who failed the tomatoes, but it seems there's a blight in Southern Ontario destroying crops, especially organically grown crops, even those grown by experienced farmers.

"Ms. Sosnicki's entire crop of field tomatoes near Waterford, Ont., about 130 kilometres southwest of Toronto, was destroyed this year by late blight – the same fungus responsible for the Irish potato famine. Spores of the fungus have scattered across much of Southern and Eastern Ontario, and the Northeastern United States.

The cool, wet conditions in the last few months has amounted to what agriculturalists call 'the year without a summer.'"

From Thursday's Aug. 20, 2009 Globe and Mail

Being a tomato lover, I was disappointed the heirloom plant became blighted. I just love home grown tomatoes. They have that "umami" flavour that you just can't get from tomatoes purchased elsewhere, unless they're direct from a local farm. I did, however, get a nice tomato surprise. Last year's tomato plants reseeded and those pictured to the right arrived this year. They look much better than the heirloom, but we'll see if they last until they're ready to pick.

For more about blight, this FAQ is an interesting read.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Informative Gardening Site

Where does the time go? Unfortunately, I've been busy and haven't had time to post much lately.

Thought I'd quickly let you all know about a gardening site I've just come across at garden.org.

The site posts how-to articles and videos. Lots of good information.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When harvesting Zucchini wear gloves!


Look at this mother of a zucchini!
Grown by moi. I feel like a proud mama. And it's 100% organic. I would have preferred to pick it at a smaller size, and it was the perfect size one day, but then when I finally picked it, two days later, it became mammoth.


Now, I've not grown zucchini, or as they're sometimes known, courgettes, before this season. Up to now, I've grown mostly flowers and only dabbled in growing vegetables. I've grown tomatoes, peppers and herbs, but that's about it.

As for the zucchini, I stuck my bare hand in the maze of zucchini leaves and pulled the zuke off the vine. It felt a bit prickly. Later I noticed what felt like a few slivers. I should have known better, as I just finished reading a very funny book called, "Merde Actually", by Stephen Clarke - it is a halarious book.

The main character, Paul, or "Pool" as the French say, is visiting his girlfriend's family. They have a farm on the French country side. He is recruited to pick courgettes by his girlfriend's mother and finds out that, "The courgettes were surprisingly prickly ...".

I see more zucchini coming along. This time I'll pick them as soon as I think they're the right size. In the meatime, I need to dig out some recipes. How many ways can you cook zucchini? When I have some time I'll post some recipes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

To be organic, or not to be?

Do you ever feel confused about buying, or not buying organic food?

One reason I am learning to grow food organically, is because I instinctively know it is better for my family. I also believe organic food is more nutritious. Then I read this article in The Globe and Mail titled "Organic isn't any more nutritious". Funded by the Food Standards Agency of Britain, the study claims that organically grown food is not more nutritious than their chemically enhanced equivalents.

Like many people, I am confused. Common sense tells me that we are what we eat, and if we are eating food laden with chemicals, then those chemicals are in our bodies. And it's not just about nutrition. More than this, organically grown food assists with creating healthy water, wildlife and soil.

On the other hand, when it comes to buying organic or not, I don't always go the organic route, for the simple reason that it's more expensive. My pocket book is winning over my common sense.

What's happened to the bees?
One thing I watched recently, that is convincing me to buy organic food the majority of the time, was a documentary called "Silence of the Bees". You can watch it below. The bee documentary claims evidence that bees have a virus, possibly caused by pesticides, and that they are disappearing. As gardeners we know we need bees to pollinate our plants. Are the bees the canary in the Cole mine?

Documentary exploring why bees are dying



What about you? Do you buy organic, or non organic food?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Look at these herb babies


I believe there is truth to the old adage that, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." As an avid cook, I have dreamed for many years of having my own indoor herb garden. I’m proud to report, that after several attempts over the years to plant herbs indoors from seed, and my second seed planting this year (see my first post), that my indoor herb garden is coming along extremely well. I feel like a proud mama! So what did I do differently?

Pay attention!
First of all, I think the peat pellets helped. I discovered that this seed medium retains water very well. In the past, I planted seeds in small containers. I am not sure what soil I used. They would sprout, but then die. I admit my guilt in not paying enough attention to the seedlings. I would forget to spritz them as they sprouted and they’d dry up. The peat pellets, on the other hand, took away the need to constantly add moisture. The pellets stayed damp for several weeks. In fact, it’s recommended not to spritz them, as mold may develop.

Next, I planted the herb seedlings in large containers before they outgrew the peat pellets. The planting involved ensuring the pots had holes for drainage, adding a layer of gravel and using proper potting soil. Finally, a sunny window and consistent watering helped them to survive. And voila! At last herbs to use in cooking whenever I need them. Now I just need to make them last during the winter months.

Hope this helps those of you who also want in indoor herb garden.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Controlling Ants in the Garden


The ants are marching all, around, the town … and in our lawn
Ants are amazing creatures. I caught this guy, in the photo, hauling something as big as he was, up and down the trellis on our deck. They are able to lift 10 times their weight, are great aerators of soil, keep wasps at bay and eat the larvae of other potentially harmful insects. They also bite, encourage unwanted insects like aphids and can destroy your plants.

We have an ant problem with our lawn, as you can see by the photo. I was content with leaving them be, but my “other half” was upset about it. Now that pesticides are illegal where I live (and I say good riddance to them) I had to find an organic way to control the ants.

I tried a 50:50 mix of sugar and Borax, which I sprinkled around the anthill. The picture you see is the “after” shot. I think the Borax/Sugar mixture did more harm to the grass than the ants – opps.

I probably should have put the Borax and sugar in some kind of container, with holes for the ants to get in and out of, rather than spreading the mixture over the grass. Have also read, unfortunately after using this treatment, that the mixture could be harmful to pets and wildlife, so a trap of some sort would work best.

The theory is that the ants, which love sugar, will take some sugar along with Borax back to the nest and feed it to the Queen. She dies and so do the ants that ingest the Borax. With no Queen Bee, the rest go elsewhere I suppose. You may have to do this several times.

I believe the Borax/sugar mixture worked, as upon examination, I see neither ants nor grass.

Other Organic Ant Control Methods
The Farmers Almanac recommends planting catnip, pennyroyal, peppermint, sage, and/or spearmint to deter them. You could make a tea of these herbs and pour into and around anthills. You could also pour boiling water, over a period of several days, down the anthills.

You could also try Diatomaceous Earth, which you should be able to get at your local garden nursery. As mentioned in a previous blog, Diatomaceous Earth is also useful for controlling those dreaded slugs.

Please share your tips on controlling ants!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

O Canada & The Maple Tree - Together Forever


For those of us living in Canada, we celebrated Canada Day on July 1. This is our Country's official birthday. We Canadians don't display our flag as much as Americans, but on this day, you can see many a flag adorned with the Maple Leaf. The flag was introduced in 1965. The Maple Tree has been our national arboreal emblem since 1996.

Did you know there are 150 known species of Maple Tree? 13 of these are native to North America and 10 types grow in Canada. In fact, in Ontario, it is hard escape the Maple Tree. It is quite an amazing site to see Maples turning colour in the fall. Those which grow most abundantly in Canada are Sugar Maples. You can see a Maple Tree almost everywhere, particulary in Ontario and Quebec.

A Love - Hate Relationship
Our neighbour has a huge tree. It must be 30' tall. I've read that they can grow to 100' high. At certain times of the year we see, what must be, 100s of maple keys floating down from the tree. The keys blow in the wind reminding you of helicoper propellers, which is why we sometimes call them "helicopters".

Quite a few of them take root and start to grow saplings, which are hard to control! This is something I'm not fond of when it comes to Maple Trees. I have a couple of Maples Tree saplings which I did not pull in time and now it is almost impossible to pull them out. It is almost impossible to not be able to grow a maple tree in Ontario. They have absolutely no problem with the frigid cold of our winters and require little if any tending.

How Sweet It Is
On the other hand, something I love about the Maple Tree is Canadian Maple Syrup. It's a wonderful taste experience. If you've never tried pancakes topped with Canadian maple syrup, you are missing a sweet treat.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A larger view of photos using Photobucket

I am experimenting with different ways to show photos on the blog. The photos are larger than in the original video, this time using Photobucket.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's Bloomin' June 2009

A Photo Journal of What's Bloomin' in My Garden the First Week of Summer 2009
This video offers you the listining pleasure of Jesse Cook's guitar, so please turn on your sound.
video

Monday, June 22, 2009

Attack of the Zucchini!



Here's my vegetable patch. You may be able to see some fennel fronds finally sprouting. Also planted some leek seeds, and I believe the spindly things may be the leeks. Have never planted either so it is a wonder to me as to what they look like as they grow. It's been very cold and wet, and I must say, I'm underwhelmed by the slow growth. Kind of a lunch bag let down so far. I wasn't sure if the slowness was due to my ineptitude as a vegetable gardener or the weather. The weather channel reported that farmers are a week behind, so maybe it's not just me.

What is shocking me is the size of the zucchini! I planted those seeds long after the fennel and leeks. I believe they are going to overtake my entire small plot. I read somewhere that one to two zucchini plants is more than enough for a small family. I've got three. Must look up several zucchini recipes soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Making progress on commenting to responses

Ureeka! Have managed to respond to a comment. The problem had to do with the browser and its settings. I usually use Firefox, so thought I'd try Internet Explorer. After adjusting javascript settings, I was able to respond. Still not working in Firefox though. Hope this is helpful to someone else experiencing the same problem. Now if I could just figure out how to insert pictures exactly where I want them!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Growing of Peonies


The Peonies are Bloomin'!
At last the peonies in my garden are in full bloom. I planted mine a few years ago. The plant has never failed to flower. The loveliness of its rose-like scented blossoms brings a sense of dreamy pleasure. The beauty of the flower's delicate layered petals is a sight I love to see. Yet, despite the graceful look of peonies, they are very hardy, drought tolerant and require little maintenance. What a gardener's dream!

They can take anywhere from one to three years to first bloom. But once they do flower, you'll be able to enjoy them, often for more than 50 years.

Peony - Not Just Another Pretty Flower
Some say the name is in memory of Greek physician Paeon, physician to the gods. Peonies were evidently first used for medicinal purposes in the far East and Europe. Traditional Chinese texts describe several medicinal preparations using the roots, seeds and flowers. Herbalists use peonies to treat nervous disorders, chorea, epilepsy, Rheumatism and dropsy. Modern medical researchers are finding that there may be truth to the peony's medical wonders and soon may be using this beauty to treat various diseases.

For my part, and I'm sure many of you, the sheer pleasure of gazing at this romantic looking flower and the scent of its dazzling fragrance is medicine enough.

Peony Growing Facts
  • Best planted in the early fall.
  • If separating plants be very careful with the roots
  • Peonies enjoy sunny locations, with well drained soil and lots of room
  • They prefer cooler climates
  • Plant herbaceous and intersectional peony roots so that the highest crown bud is not more than 5 cm (2") deep. Planting too deep may prevent the plant from blooming
  • Tree peonies, on the other hand, require deep planting
If you are planning to separate your peony plants, you may want to keep in mind, that according to "American Regional Folklore" by Terry Ann Mood, you should always dig a peony up at night as, "Anyone observed by woodpeckers while digging up peonies, it was believed, would become blind." I leave it to you to decide if this is true.

For more about planting peonies, view this video:



Online sources:
http://www.pacifier.com/~shm/Flowers2/peonies.html
http://www.rcgardens.ca/factsheets/factsheets/peony.html

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Keeping cats and squirrels out of your garden



Mystery of the Disappearing Fennel
Chapter 2

In the first installment of this vegetable growing mystery, I mentioned this evidence:
  • Fennel seeds not sprouting
  • Red pepper tops lopped off

Suspect #1
Torontogardens suggested this might be the work of a crazed “menopausal” squirrel, absconding with my Fennel seeds. Following this lead, I liberally sprinkled red pepper flakes in the garden plot, having heard that this was an effective thieving squirrel deterrent.

The Evidence Didn’t Add Up
What I neglected to mention is that the pepper tops were left, lying forlornly, beside their stems. Would not a squirrel, hormones running rampant, have carried the tops off, instead of leaving the withering leaves, to die a horrible wilting death? Or, like red pepper flakes, did they not like red pepper plants either? So many questions.

Suspect #2
I, therefore, turned my powers of deduction to another suspect. Mini the Mooch, my own cat, had been observed trying to enter said garden patch, on a previous occasion. As to her behaviour, though more than 14 years old, I observed on many occasions, that she still chased her own tail. What self-respecting, aging feline would do this? Perhaps she too was menopausal. Were raging hormones affecting her judgement, causing her to run amok?

Could this garden rampaging have been an inside job? I felt betrayed! Not wanting to believe the garden marauder was my own beloved feline, I hoped it was the bruiser cat that had just moved in next door.

As I pondered the evidence, while sipping my morning Java, I noticed Mini the Mooch making a b-line for the vegetable patch. I guess the thought of that, oh so pristine, lovely to dig and use as a potty earth, was too much of a temptation.

Justice in the Garden
But the Java hadn’t kicked in. I wasn’t quick enough! Before I knew it, she’d slinked through the cheap wire garden fencing (got it on sale at Canadian Tire).

“Stop!” I yelled. She stood there, frozen, caught red pawed in the act. Trembling with fear, her paw raised to dig out a fledgling zucchini, I felt a moment of remorse. She is, after all, my own cat.

The regret lasted only a moment. Justice had to be done. So I bolted to the garden plot, housecoat flying, waving my arms, screaming “Get outta’ there!” Her panic did not last for long. Realizing it was just me, with that look of distain only a cat can give, she nonchalantly exited the veggie patch, with nary a look back.

Nonetheless, I still suspect she has a squirrelly accomplice. To keep them both at bay I am now off to buy some chicken wire to place over my garden patch.

PS - I wanted to have the theme from Dragnet playing, but can't figure out how to embed on Blogger. If so inclined you can listen here: http://www.gotwavs.com/0085412111/WAVS/Movies/Dragnet/dum.wav

For more about keeping cats and squirrels out of your garden go here:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Growing Fennel - Part 2

I realize that I did not talk about how to actually grow Fennel in my last post, as I was preoccupied with the garden invader(s). You may know fennel as Anise.

So, here are some facts about growing fennel:

  • Fennel likes rich soil and full sun
  • Needs plenty of water, especially during dry periods
  • Plant seeds in early spring, 8” apart, then thin to 12” apart
  • Seeds can also be sown in early autumn – if in very cold climate (zone 6) cover with mulch
  • Cover base of fennel with soil when it grows to the size of a golf ball and keep covered until ready to harvest
  • Remove flower heads as they appear
  • After about 2 weeks, the bulb(s) will be large enough to eat

Source: “What Herb is That?” by John and Rosemary Hamphill
Buy this book at Indigo/Chapters by clicking on the link to the right


Below is a video about planting fennel.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Responding to comments

I don't know why, but for some reason my responses to all of you who've kindly left a comment are not appearing. I'm fairly computer literate and can usually figure these things out, but not this time. If you know how a blog author can respond to a comment using blogger, I'd appreciate instructions.

And to Helen, who just left a comment about the fennel ...

Hmmm … this could be the case. We do have many squirrels running around here, and some could be at that “time of life” LOL. They are cheeky little devils. Once I planted corn. The little brats ate it right in front of me, while I stood about a foot away! Thanks for the comment.

Growing Fennel


The Fennel Mystery

I have recently been using a lot of fennel in my cooking (see recipe below). I love the taste. I also read that it is good for PMS and menopause symptoms.

So I decided to plant some seeds. This was done about 3 weeks ago, along with some leek seeds. The leeks are sprouting, but not the fennel! Not sure if this is usual or not, having not grown fennel before.

I highly suspect there is a pest in my vegetable garden, as not only is the fennel not appearing, but the heads of two of my red pepper plants have been lopped off. We, in Ontario, Canada, have had unusually heavy rain for this time of year, so I'm not sure if the rain battered the pepper plants, or if some unknown pest has been at them.

Sauteed Fennel

1 Fennel bulb
1 - 2 tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Serves 2
  1. Slice end from fennel and remove outer leaves. Remove core.
  2. Slice length-wise 1/4" thick
  3. Heat olive oil in frying pan
  4. Sprinkle Fennel slices with salt and pepper
  5. Place fennel slices in pan, and brown on one side.
  6. Turn over and brown on the other
  7. Lower heat to minimum, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until soft

Bon appetite!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Perennial - Creeping Speedwell



Flower Fave of the Day

Last year I planted Creeping Speedwell (Veronica Repens). It was a very small plant that I bought for $1.49. It did nothing last year. This year, however, it is in beautiful bloom! It has low growing, mat-forming foliage with clusters of small flowers, in this case, white flowers. Blooms during the spring and summer and is great for rock gardens, edging, borders and ground cover.

This perennial likes sun or part shade and grows to about 3" high.

How to stop slugs and snails from eating your plants



Something's Been Eating My Sage!

Do the leaves on your plants look as if some beastie has been nibbling? You may have slugs or snails. I noticed that my Sage has become a meal for snails or slugs, which I know lurk during the day in my garden, then dig into my plants at night.

They also love my Hostas. A friend of mine gave me some beautiful Hostas from her garden, which are very precious to me. I notice that they too are being eaten, so I've researched some ways to organically control these pests. These methods are also good for veggie gardens where slugs and snails like to feast.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
DE is readily available from your local nursery. It's a very fine dust of diaton skeletons. These are made of silicon and very sharp to a slug or snail, and even ants. The snail or slug will get miniscule cuts as they slither their way through the dust. It may not kill them but it will deter them!

How to use: Sprinkle the dust around base of plants, and on leaves.

*DO NOT INHALE*

Egg Shells
Egg shells not only deter slugs and snails, they also act as a fertilizer. They are especially beneficial to fast growing plants like fennel, peppers, green beans and tomatoes. They deter slugs and snails in much the same way as DE.

How to use:
  • Rinse shells thoroughly and air dry
  • Place in bag and crush
  • Spread crushed shells around bases of plants

Make a Beer Trap
This method seems to be favoured by people I've talked to and in books I've read. The critters fall into the beer and drown - cruel, I know, but it's them or your plants.

How to use:
Bury a recycled pie plate, plastic container in soil so that the brim is level with the soil. Some people just place a saucer in their gardens. Fill with beer to near to top of container. Check trap daily to dispose of pests and refill with beer.

Copper Strips
Studies have shown that slugs and snails get an electric shock when in contact with copper. You could try Doff Copper Slug Tape - 4m - Protects Approx 12 x 5 inch pots.

How to use: You can purchase copper backed paper and staple it to 3" wide boards, placed as a border around your garden.

I'd love to hear about your methods to control slugs and snails - what did you do and did it work. Or if you have general feedback on the content of The Bloomin' Blog, feel free to leave a comment.

And if the are non of these work, you may find a solution in 29 Ways to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs in Your Garden

Sources
The Truth About Organic Gardening, by Jeff Gillman
The Organic Gardeners Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, by Barbara W. Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley
To buy these books, click on the Indigo Chapters.ca link to the right.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How to Make A Lasagna Garden: Control Weeds, Fertilize, and Recycle!




Save Your Back - You Don't Need To Dig!
Does the thought of digging out a new garden make your back ache? Or do you have an existing garden where the soil needs some help? Lasagna Gardening may be your answer.

I discovered this method a few years ago. We had a window replaced, and the workmen pounded the earth so much, that the garden underneath the window ended up like rock. We could barely turn the earth. Then I found out about Lasagna Gardening, sometimes called No-till or No-dig gardening.

Go Organic
I was amazed at how much the soil condition improved. This year I am using Lasagna Gardening in my vegetable garden. Experts say that the Lasagna Garden is more beneficial than tilling, for not only plant health, but also for the health of the microscopic and other little creatures, like worms, that make the earth healthy. It is an organic way to fertilize, control weeds and recycle newsprint.

There are many different "recipes" for a Lasgana Garden. Below is the method I've used.

Ingredients
  1. Newsprint - shredded or whole sheets. Use only black and white uncoated paper, not glossy coloured paper
  2. Organic material, like mulched leaves, grass clippings, or straw
  3. Compost
  4. Triple Mix
  5. Topsoil
  6. Mulch

Method
  1. Thoroughly soak newsprint. This not only aids decomposition of newspaper, but also stops the papers from flying around on windy days.
  2. Lay newspapers over garden bed
  3. Layer with remaining ingredients in order noted above
  4. Repeat layers as necessary

To replenish my existing garden, I found one layer to be adequate. However, if you are creating a new garden over top of grass, or even concrete, then you will need several layers, finishing off with the mulch.



To see more Lasagna Garden "recipes", you may want to view some videos I found on YouTube below. You might also want to view this web page for detailed instructions: http://www.gardenersgardening.com/lasagnagardening.html.




Friday, May 8, 2009

Finally figured out rudimentary template customization

It took a while, but I've now figured out how to make www.thebloominblog.blogspot.com look like mine, and not the same as 50 million other blogger templates. Still needs improvement, but it's a start!

Comments about look of new template welcome.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Seedling disaster!

I feel so bad. The seedlings were coming along so nicely. I had every intention of planting them in bigger pots, but then I got busy with other stuff. Though the peat pellets were great for maintaining moisture, in the end, they dried out before I planted them. :-(

Not to be deterred, I have bought more peat pellets and herb seeds and will attempt to grow from seed indoors once more. They say you need to do something at least 21 times before you become a master. Therefore, I may still need to do try starting plants indoors a few more times.

It's really not that hard to grow from seed, but as with every living thing that needs looking after, one has to pay attention!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Priming the garden canvas

Weather was great, here in Ontario, Canada, this past Sunday. At last a chance to start working on the gardens. Something I love about gardening, is that in the Spring, each year you have a blank canvas to work with! Once I have all the earth churned and topped up with compost and a nice clean layer of top soil, I imagine what I'll grow there and how beautiful it will look.

I am not one of the neatest gardeners. I usually leave ripping up spent annuals and other plant matter from the previous season until the Spring. I figure it's a way of composting. As you can imagine, it's a lot of work in Spring to prime my garden canvas.

Also great exercise. Did you know you can burn approximately 250 calories an hour gardening? 350 if you are hoeing, which is pretty much what I was doing on Sunday.

But I digress. I primed my small vegetable plot with a method called "Lasagna Gardening", sometimes called sheet or layer gardening.

It's a great way to accomplish good things like:
- Weed control
- Fertilizing the soil
- Recycling

Will post more on how to do that with my next blog.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Herb Recipes - Pesto Sauce & Grilled Peppers


Week three and I've put my herbs in a sunny window. They still look scrawny. I'm going to plant in bigger pots on the weekend. I've planted:

- Basil
- Parsley
- Tarragon
- Thyme

Thought it would be a good idea to post a recipe or two, in which you can use those wonderful herbs! One of my favourites is Pesto Sauce, using fresh basil and parsley.

Pesto Sauce
Serves 4

3 medium garlic cloves
1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet*
1/2 cup best quality olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Combine garlic, basil, parsley and pine nuts in bowl of food processor or blender. Process, adding oil in a slow, steady stream.

Stop the machine and add cheese, salt and pepper. Turn on machine and process a few seconds to combine. Taste for seasoning, then toss with hot pasta. Serve immediately.

Recommended pasta: 3/4 pound capellini, spaghetti or linguini

* Spread pine nuts in a single layer in an un-oiled heavy skillet. Place on moderate heat and stir occasionally until lightly browned.

Here's another recipe, using peppers and pesto sauce

Grilled Pesto Peppers

* 4 x red peppers
* 2 x large garlic cloves cut into thin slivers
* 4 tbsp olive oil (60ml)
* 3 tbsp pesto (45ml)
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* 8 x balls of Boccocini cheese, sliced

1. Cut peppers in half lengthways. Scrape out and discard the cores and seeds. Drizzle olive oil, season with salt and pepper and add a few slivers of garlic into the cavity of each pepper.
2. Preheat the grill to 375°F/200°C or medium high heat
3. Place the peppers on the grill, cavity side up, until charred (approximately 3 minutes)
4. Add a spoonful of pesto into each of the peppers and slices of Boccocini cheese.
5. Continue to cook peppers until cheese is melted (approximately 3 minutes).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Planting seeds indoors

Finally, Spring! After this terribly long Canadian winter, I am itching to be in my garden. But, alas, the ground is still frozen, hard as a rock.

Twice before I’ve tried to start plants from seed indoors. I used small pots filled with potting mix. And twice it has been a let down – the plants died soon after sprouting! Not sure if it’s because I overwatered or did not water enough, or if there was not enough sun. Nevertheless, as I am impatient to plant something, I’ve decided to try again.

This time I am using peat pellets. They are little hard disks of peat moss, wrapped in webbing, that when saturated, expand to about 1 – ½”. The brand I used instructed that one is to put water in the bottom tray, then place the pellet tray on top of the bottom tray, and add 3 seeds to each pellet.

Some of the seeds I used were so miniscule, that I had to put more than three seeds. The instructions also did not advise to separate the webbing on top. This did not seem right to me, so I did some investigating on YouTube and found the below video tutorial. Wish I’d seen it beforehand! Perhaps you'll find it usefull if you decide to start your seeds indoors.

What I do like about the peat pellets is that they stay moist, so you don't need to be constantly be spritzing them with water. I should mention I also read that when using peat pellets, you should not spritz them as it may create fungus (ewwww). I also did that when I first planted, but so far, they are fungus free.

The seeds have now sprouted, but I’m not sure if they are ready for the sun, yet.


Got any tips for growing seeds indoors? Post your comment to this blog.

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