Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cold Outside, Vegetables Inside

The temperatures dropped this past week, with cold down to -27 degrees C one morning. With the windchill, it was -38 degrees C (-36.4 degrees F). Yeah, that's enough to make your nose hairs freeze, tinkle like icicles against each other, and then break off. At least that's how it makes me feel. Of course, all the vehicles now appear tethered by stiff, kinked extension cords to power outlets, with everyone plugging in their block heaters. Where I grew up in BC, I never know block heaters existed. Oh, the naive climate-innocence of the southern British Columbian!

So on the indoor front, my houseplant-vegetables are growing well. I've had to repot the peppers and tomatoes, because they were getting rootbound. The new pots are 5 inch square or 6 inch (diameter) round. I ran out of potting soil though, so I dug stuff out of the worm compost boxes to fill the bigger pots. There's a few worms living in the pots, but they've never caused damage so far.

The pepper and one tomato (Red Robin) are growing into the light fixtures. Tomatoes can be "height adjusted" though, which is fortunate. If you bury a tomato plant stem, that stem will just grow roots and be happy underground. My rootbound tomato had a few branches dying at the bottom anyways, so I just replanted it deep in its pot and now it's not crowding the light.
Micro Tom tomato:

Gerbera daisy I am attempting to grow from seed:

Tasty salad in a pot: I have decided that the "Baja MI" butterhead lettuce is the best performer of this winter's lettuce. It also has the nicest texture and flavour. I highly recommend it. Last winter, I also had success with a romaine called "Paris cos".

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dendrobium in Bloom

As I write this, I can see and hear snowmobiles zipping past the house. The lake is frozen as far out as you can see, though I flew over it three days ago and saw the sunrise glowing through rising steam coming off the lake just north of town.

The air feels dry, bringing back winter's itchy skin. I have fired up the humidifier for our room, and its feels great. RLM may not be impressed to come home today to find condensation running down the windows. He may prefer dry, but I'd like to live the life of mould in a warm (not hot) and humid place. The and orchids and me, we'd do well together.

This particular orchid blooms about three times a year. I bought it as an unlabeled Dendrobium, but I've seen a similar one in orchid books called "Thongchai Gold". Maybe that is what this one is. It is very easy to grow. It had two small canes when I bought it and now it has nearly outgrown this pot. I'll have to go pot shopping soon. I have another orchid making a flower spike (a phaelenopsis) which should bloom by Christmas. That should be beautiful!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How to Pollinate a Tomato

The miniature tomato plants are growing some tiny tomatoes. Success! Well, I hope that the plants continue to make more little tomatoes, as I have not made any efforts to pollinate the flowers, as I have for the peppers. It is clear that I need to pollinate the peppers with my little paintbrush, or the stems die and fall off.

Micro Tom Tomato (left), Red Robin tomato (right):

However, I did some reading about pollinating tomatoes, because I noticed that the structure of the flower does not lend itself to any paintbrush-related activities. Was I ever suprised to hear that vibration is needed to pollinate tomatoes!

Apparently, the price and effort involved in applying vibrators to the flowers and/or plants is a major element in increasing the price of greenhouse tomatoes (greenhouses that don't have bumblebees, anyways). Well honey, where's the vibrator? We need to do some pollination. Yeah, and resident lawnmower man thought that my paintbrush activities were lewd! So RLM, how much do you appreciate fresh vegetables in the middle of winter?

A Micro Tom tomato:

In the meantime, the basement bar fridge has become home to several perennial seeds (and some sparkling peach juice) enjoying a season of continuous 4 degree Celsius weather. I can't recall what's in there, but those seeds all require cold stratification to germinate. Yes, perennials are generally more work than annuals, but they are worth the effort (or so we tell ourselves if we are "perennial snobs").

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day Snow Warnings

We quickly got blanketed by snow this Remembrance day. It snowed from 3 am to 2 pm today. The weather forecasters (with bright red warning banners) predicted 10 to 15 cm of snow today. I haven't measured it, but it certainly is a substantial heap. The lake is still open, but temperatures have yet to drop.

I gave in and put up a few Christmas decorations today. There's no wreath on the door yet. Oh, and there are no Christmas lights in the windows either, so that the neighbours don't think we're looney. RLM is anti-Christmas decorations. No, this is not for any good reason other than he doesn't like "clutter" and cleaning stuff up after Christmas. No problems there, because I was the one who packed everything away last year!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shrubs Shouldn't Have to Wear Clothes

I believe that trees and shrubs that require burlap clothing to avoid browning and death in a prairie winter should just not be grown in the prairies. This is stupid. Trees and shrubs should be able to hold their own and I can, in turn, respect them for their hardiness. Then again, I also have a need to grow azaleas (Northern Lights series) in my yard. I found out that they need to be wrapped to prevent bud kill from late spring frosts. The azaleas are protected by the little brown burlap "mushrooms" to the right of the cedar (arborvitae):
Narcissus bulbs, newly planted in anticipation of fragrant blooms for Christmas:

Here's a new outlet for frustrated Canadian gardeners in the winter: aquarium plants! I haven't had a plant in my aquarium for years, mostly because the fish uprooted and ate them. This is some type of variegated Acorus:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland

Snow has a time-limited offer...until April 2008...
We started getting snow accumulation November 3, and it's supposed to snow most days for the next week, according to the weather people. Unlike other years where I've put it off, I'm getting anxious to decorate the house for Christmas! I'll have to wait a few more weeks at least, so that people don't think I'm strange or anything. I've even got the Christmas music on hand, ready to put into the CD player as audio inspiration.
Kona -- the furry companion -- is beginning to get a winter coat. She is also more discriminating with her choice to either stay or exit the doghouse. Here, she seeks to explore the garage and sniff our latest garbage.

Soon, the lake will freeze over and snowmobiles will be whizzing by on a regular basis. In this community, more people seem to own snowmobiles than cars. Cash often being limited, the local habit is to trade in your boat in the fall and buy a snowmobile, only to do the reverse trade in the spring.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

EBay and Gardening

Internet shopping is not just for the internet addicted. It is for those that live in remote communities, like myself. Well, okay so I can buy groceries and rent videos in my town but the nearest Walmart is 2 hours away (gasp!).

When I lived in Vancouver, I couldn't really get interested in catalogs, but now I see the point of ordering things in the mail.

EBay is a fantastic site for some of the weirdest items. I have bought bonsai mesh, bonsai wire, Japanese bonsai soil, bonsai paste, Plumeria cuttings, pansy and tomato seeds, many orchids, books...and the list goes on.

This is a gardening tome that I just received on eBay. It is John E. Bryan's book on bulbs, a comprehensive resource that every gardener needs, or at least should dream of. Yes, all six pounds of it! I have yet to read it of course, but I am really looking forward to spending some time with this massive volume. It cost $130 on Amazon, but I got it on eBay for $19.95! Ka-ching!