Monday, February 28, 2011

Ahhh! I'm drowning in snow!

Is that even possible?  I feel like we have had the longest snowiest February ever!  We often have cold weather in Calgary, but we don't often get that much snow and as happy as I am that my garden has a bit of snow cover to protect it from these chilling temperatures, I would be happier if some of it started to melt.  I still have 3 feet in my backyard!  It is going to take a while for this to melt.  And today it is snowing again!  And it is minus 20-something and with the windchill it is minus 30-something!  Aaaahhhh (maniacal screaming)!

OK, thank you.  I fell better.  I just had to get that off my chest.

Even the birds knew it was coming.  We witnessed this really weird swarm of waxwings that came to our Mountain Ash and gorged themselves on the red berries.  It was really weird.  But I bet they knew this weather was coming and they were getting ready.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Some of the gardening in Mexico...

We just got back from a short family holiday in Mexico and every time I go somewhere hot like that I am astounded at how different the flora is from what I'm familiar with.  It really is amazing how the entire ecosystem is so different from anything we see here is Calgary.  Of course, there are the obvious palm trees and other exotics, but I don't even recognize most of the trees growing there.  I guess I take for granted how familiar and accustomed I am to the plants growing in Canada - which are poisonous, which make excellent tree forts.  My favorites were the the giant hibiscus and bougainvillea bushes that here only grow to be modest sized house plants. 

air plant (epiphytic bromeliad) growing in a tree near the Coba Mayan ruins
We were lucky enough to go on a quick tour of a Mayan village and it was very interesting to see the type of gardening that they did.  Even though they were poor and had even poorer soil quality, they still had ornamental flowers and it was neat to see them growing things like petunias and impatiens (of course these are local plants here).  And even though they didn't have fancy pots or watering cans they managed to bring a bit of colour into their lives.  They also had these fantastic raised garden beds for growing herbs and small vegetables like cilantro, mint, lettuce and of course tomatoes.  I'm going to try to use some of these ideas in my garden this summer.  Mexico has inspired me!

their garden nestled among mounds of limestone (which counts for soil around here) in simple pots and buckets


one of their raised gardens protected from chickens and other animals

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's that time of year!  Valentine's Day?  Oh, yes, that, but more importantly...time to start thinking about seeds!  I love this time of year.  Just when we've had enough of the snow, but we know that it'll last a couple months more (at least in wintry Calgary) we get to look forward to starting seeds!  Very exciting!  There is something so magical about taking a dried brown seed, adding a bit of water and warmth and having it sprout right before your eyes!  Plus I get to play with mud in the basement, which is definitely good for the soul.  And I got the best Valentine's Day present from Handyman this year.  My first grow light!  I've never had one before.  I've been starting seeds for the past few years now, but I've usually done the germination on top of the fridge and then the growing on the windowsill.  I have noticed that the plants that like shady conditions, like impatiens and lobelia, do just fine with this, but plants that appreciate a bit more sun, like tomatoes and marigolds, seem to suffer.  But this year I get to try it with a real grow light. 

It is a simple set up.  I bought the fixture and bulb at a local hardware store.  Then my handy man set it up for me in the basement.  I know some people's basements might be a bit cold, but this room has the laundry and the furnace so it is usually quite snugly in there.  I plan to use an old boot mat under my plant tray so that the water doesn't leak onto the old dresser that I am using.  It just has gardening supplies (those that I don't want to get frozen in the shed over winter), so it isn't a big deal if it gets a bit soggy, but I'd rather keep it dry.  Handyman also rigged up the chain so that I can raise and lower the light as the plants grow and of course the timer.  I am very excited to start my seeds!  It is still a bit early to start any seeds yet, but I plan to start some perennials in the next couple of weeks.  The average last frost date in Calgary is June 1, but I have a feeling that we might get lucky this year.  Maybe... ( I might be buying a greenhouse at the end of May when all of my plants are too big for the house, but it is still too cold outside!)  I'll keep you posted!

And Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  Sweets for the sweets!