Tag Archives: Gardening

Greenhouse update & slide show

Ahhhhh, a sunny Sunday! At first, I felt like a mole, squinting my eyes, because Sol has been a stranger the last couple of months. If you are a gardener, I hope your season has gone well, that you have plenty of sun, healthy plants and good compost. Here, everything’s gotten a late start but my heirloom tomatoes are starting to blossom. Now it’s time to transplant them into big, black growers’ pots, then stake them. Without our little greenhouse this year, they would have met a sad fate outside. While it is chilly in the unheated greenhouse at night, the plants inside are dry. Indeed, I am in my element and so very happy puttering around outside. Yesterday, I brought home rosemary, oregano, cilantro, thyme, and basil plants. I hope it will be sunny enough for the basil to become big and bushy. I can taste it as I write. A tool I’ve found indispensible are is a Weather Station with a thermostat and barometer. The monitor is inside our house and I can see the display any time to keep a handle on things. The other thing that’s served well is the magnifying glass. It’s already helped quash an aphid hatch by helping me ID them quickly. Today, I got annuals and perennials at big close-out sales. So, when I came home from the Canadian Tire garden centre, I got right to work. It was very balancing to have my hands in dirt for hours…so grounding…. Here’s a little slide show of greenhouse action, including a pic of me and Mark either behind or in front of the cat mint! Other plots in on the hill here are enjoying the sun, too. The raised bed is in the seedling stage. Germination was quite late. Also, something has been digging in it and I suspect Mr. Squirrel, though what he’s hiding this early, I don’t know. I put some netting over stakes, but the little dodger sneaks under it. Will lower it tomorrow. The good news: the potato patch is doing splendidly and we should have new, red fingerlings soon! Here’s hoping our tables will soon be graced with your kitchen garden cornucopia….

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Make a bumblebee nest from a flower pot

Bumblebee, Bombus pratorum. Source- Wikimedia Commons

Note: Folks, I heard from the author of two of the links below and he informed me that queen bumblebees nest in March and April (see the comments section below). I am glad I reposted this story but will have to wait till then to set my nest out. I can still work on it now to get it ready for next spring, though. — Jan

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My neighbor, Jean, likes bees and when I am around her, I like to hear of her ‘bee adventures.’ She is also my ‘go-to’ person whenever I have a question about bees. Last year, she told me how to make a bumblebee nest using a flower pot. Based on what she said, I immediately started saving dryer lint, which she uses as nesting material inside the upside down pot. Since I posted about toad homes yesterday, this is a natural for today. I saw my first bumblebee quite early in the year and I was surprised to see it, as we’re having the coldest spring here in 55 years. So, as I walked up my stairs to my house on the hill, I nearly ran into a very big bumblebee motoring along slowly over the landing by our mailbox. I nearly ran into it. Then I looked to the left and saw other bees dotted all over the dark pink of the blooming heather. I wrote to Jean right away, asking her when to put out my nest. She said, “Now!” Well, I became ill and wasn’t able to do it then, but can now. I decided to look into the idea a little more and have some lovely sites to direct you toward for particulars. I’ll be reading them, too, as I only know you use an upside down pot and lint for stuffing. What I’ve seen so far looks promising and I am sure there is a bumblebee out there somewhere who will move into the abode I’ve prepared for it. The bumblebee is an important pollinator and its slow sojourns take it over quite a territory. If you want to attract more bumblebees, grow plants they like. Click here to read a great article about gardening for bees that includes a chart telling you which plants attract bees. And what post about bumblebees would be complete without Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”? Below these links is a video of Croatian Maksim Mrvica’s thrilling version!

How to build a bumblebee nest – part 1 – a how-to about building the nest

How to build a bumblebee nest – part 2 – a how-to about nesting material and placing your nest

Plans for bumblebee nestboxes – how to plus diagrams

How to make a bumblebee nest – the BBC gardening site’s how-to

Join our nest box trial… – the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s how-to…includes several types

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A Ceramic Toad Home!

Jeepers! I posted this toad home story last December 30th! Was I ready for the new year and spring or what? So, given that this is the time of year we need this news, I’m reposting. Premature spring fever! Though I’d decided we had a perfect habitat for a toad, after studying all the angles, I searched in vain for one of the critters. I wanted to go catch one in the wild and then I tried to find one in town, but nada. I hope I have better luck in 2011, as they’re such a lovely addition to a garden. In any event, may you find a toad and welcome it into your garden with a little toad home you’ve made. Since I wrote this post, I have come up with another good site, the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Wild About Gardening, which has a great piece on the benefits of amphibians and reptiles. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for an extensive list of tips on how to attract them. I remember my Mom had a little tree frog that lived amongst the honeysuckle and woodpile….

A couple of years ago, I wanted to introduce a toad to our patch of dirt and make it feel at home. I learned what type of house it needed and where to put it. I was all set to go, but when it came to actually finding a toad to introduce, I felt hesitant. What if it didn’t like our hill? Would there be too many predators? Would it wander away and never come back? As it turns out, I never got a chance to answer any of those questions because I came up against a roadblock. I couldn’t find a toad! So, I thought…hmmm, what to do…. I got the idea from a lovely little book my mother gave me for Christmas in 1997, A Blessing of Toads: A Gardener’s Guide to Living with Nature. The author, Sharon Lovejoy, quotes a pamphlet from 1915 that states that a toad’s diet is made up of 62% harmful insects and if ants are added to the equation, the number rises to 81%. “Toads fill their stomachs to capacity up to four times in a single night, accounting for as many as fifty-five army worms, thirty-seven tent caterpillars, sixty-seven gypsy moth caterpillars, and seventy-seven thousand legged worms.” Repeating what a British newspaper from 1890 stated, Lovejoy says a toad has no bad habits, is inoffensive, and that gardeners should “treat them with utmost hospitality.” Therefore, this year, I intend to do a ‘feasibility study’ of our little patch to see if it would be a good toad habitat. If so, I’ll do my darndest to find one. With that in mind, I’ll make a ceramic home for my toad. Mine might be coil-built instead of thrown, but whatever it looks like, Kenneth Grahame would be proud of it and so would Mr. Toad. Here’s a video to help you on your way:

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A Touch of Spring: Ceramic Garden Markers

This post was written in the middle of winter when I was dreaming of this time of year. Spring and warmer weather have finally arrived and I am reposting it, as it has continued to be one of Jane Street Clayworks‘ most popular posts. I’ve updated links and changed prices. We finished the greenhouse and you can click here to see a photo of it. Enjoy!

It is winter and that makes me think of garden planning. About this time last year, my neighbor and I sat down, paged through a seed catalog and came up with a joint order. This year, my husband and I will be setting up a greenhouse, thanks to the generosity of my mother at Christmas. She wants to be able to pick a lemon off a lemon tree the next time she comes up to Canada! This is the greenhouse we’ll be putting up…the 4′ x6′ EasyStart, which is called a season extender. We can always add to it later if we want. It’s made by a German firm called Hoklartherm and is sold in N. America through Exaco. I actually am still considering a Danish Juliana, but if the shipping isn’t too onerous, I’ll go with Exaco. (If any of you have any experience with either, I’d love to hear about it!) It’s snowing now and this is all advanced planning. Gardening will be more complex this year, though, because I have to learn how to use a greenhouse, not just have one. In addition, I have to plan my raised bed vegetable garden and other plots. So, I do want to start working on garden markers now, so they will be ready when the time comes. Ceramic garden markers. Let’s peruse a couple of sites that sell markers and decide what we’d like to do, make or buy.

These Earthmarks Herb Garden Markers are nice and they sell for $3.50 each. The artisans who make them say they achieved what they wanted only “after several months of testing various clay bodies, underglazes, patinas, materials for the stakes.” In addition, their markers are “made of high-fired stoneware in an attractive terra cotta color, the names were impressed into the clay and after an initial firing in a kiln, the lettering was underglazed and a soft verdigris patina was applied, then they were fired again.” So, as you can see, it’s not as easy as it looks and there are a number of considerations if you’re going to make your own. Artisan Hands on etsy.com makes these Veggie Garden Stakes, which are great: they won’t mildew or stain. I rather like the type on these, too. They’re cheerful and have nice, unobtrusive colors. The artisan says they are “cut from slabs of stoneware, stamped, glazed and fired to cone 6 in oxidation.”  I’m rather partial to these garden markers below because the minimalist design appeals to me. Made by JustWork, they come in a set of six for $20 U.S. They ship from Canada, so you’ll have to factor in shipping over the border. The site says these are made by Pottery with a Purpose, “handmade by potters who will both benefit financially and creatively from your purchase, and who face barriers to work such as physical disabilities, mental illness, addiction and homelessness. JustPotters operates out of a basement studio off Commercial Drive.” I like the idea of getting something this nice while I’m helping support  people in need, which is something that is unusual in this market and a refreshing example of social action. The last ones I’m showing can be reused, which is a good thing. Made by Charlotte Hupfield, of the UK, she also has a number of other styles for sale. You could use an old-fashioned grease-marker on them, but other things would work just as well. With the pre-stamped styles, however, you’d have to buy enough markers to cover each type of vegetable you grow, which could become pricey, and might be another reason to think about making your own.

If you’ve decided to make a marker similar to the one shown by Earthmarks, at the top of the page, here’s a tip: if you place plastic wrap over the rolled out clay, then use a cookie cutter over the plastic, you’ll have a nice rounded edge on your disk after you’ve lifted the plastic up. A woman named Cathy who used to teach at the art centre gave me that tip and it’s a good one. As you may have surmised, there are quite a few variables to consider if you choose to make your own, as the Earthmarks site makes clear. You may simply want to buy instead of make. In any event, the tips of my heather show new growth, snowdrops, narcissus, and tulips are next and soon we’ll be able to use our new garden stakes!

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