Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Hungry Snow Angel

I spotted this snow angel today as I rolled the trash bin out to the road. It clearly isn't human-sized, so I assume this was made by a bird. However, the whole imprint is quite large, being over two feet wide. I'd imagine a raven made this imprint, probably while it was checking out some potential food item on the ground. The only other birds I have seen recently are the cedar waxwings, who are partaking in the feast of berries still hanging on the mountain ash tree.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google Trends of Gardening

Yes, it's winter and I am feeling deprived of dirt and weeding and all things green and growing. In the absence of better things to do, I am getting curious about the statistics of "Garden Googling". Similar to the Google Flu-Watch program, whereby Google can track a flu outbreak by the location of people searching terms that describe flu symptoms, I decided to see who is searching for garden terms and when.

It can be fun to play with the online tools Google Trends or Google Insights for Search. They measure the popularity of particular Google searches, and Google insights for Search allows you to see search trends over time, including data for particular countries, regions, or cities.

I have been interested in the cyclical interest in gardening as I track the interest in my garden blog over the course of a year. Generally, spring is the time for garden excitement. While I should have been busy doing other useful things, I decided to study graphs of the searches for "gardening" around the globe and found some interesting results.

Canada +"gardening" --
Sharp peak consistently in May (higher than the US peak), with notable lows in December. Interpretation: Winter is harsh and the growing season is short. We all but forget gardening in midwinter, but then get instantly excited about gardening shortly after our igloos melt.

United States +"gardening" -- Rounded peak in April, with the December low not as deep as Canada's. Interpretation: American gardeners in the warm south keep up the interest year-round, while a more-prolonged period of increased interest in gardening searches occurs in spring.

Australia +"gardening" -- Gardening search popularity stays quite high year-round (at the same level as Canada's peak), with a bi-phasic pattern of small increases around April and September. Interpretation: I don't understand the southern hemisphere's garden season, but I wish I could visit these garden enthusiasts!

Interpreting "gardening" searches in countries where English is not the most common language is probably not too useful, explaining why there appears to be little garden interest in Japan and China.

The chart below shows that Australia and the United Kingdom are making the most searches for "gardening" as a proportion of all Google searches, averaged over time, for the period from 2004 to present. While those places certainly harbour many avid gardeners, I imagine their milder climates and year-round potential for gardening result in a greater number of searches over the course of a year.

So there you go. Information is power. I suppose these data explain why I can't find a decent selection of products in plant places at this time of year...

Friday, January 01, 2010

Cosy up to the Grow Lights!

Happy New Years! It was a crisp -37C day when we woke up this morning. I don't bother feeling guilty about not walking the dog at these temperatures. Someday we'll get out on the lake for a good walk, but just not yet.

What a day this is to be contemplating cacti! My mother tucked a package of these giant saguaro seeds (Carnegiea gigantea) into one of my Christmas gifts. I'm foregoing the winter escape to Arizona this year, but perhaps I can grow a little bit of Arizona up here in the land of northern lights (see forecast) and sled dogs. The saguaro flower is the state flower of Arizona and the enormous succulent is an iconic feature of its deserts. The instructions say to plant the seeds in 1/8 inch deep very moist sandy soil and they will germinate in 3 to 10 days. We'll see how they do under the grow lights of my basement!

The Kaffir lime plant is 3 months old and looking good. I hope to get some tasty leaves for cooking out of this plant:

This "Red Robin" cherry tomato produced about 8 fruit before I hacked it down because of damaged leaves and unshapely form. In the past 11 days, it produced this new growth, including a cluster of flower buds. The biggest problem I have with growing cherry tomatoes under lights is that the plants get too tall. Secondly, they require a fairly big pot, which reduces the room for the plant under the lights. I have my lights set as high as can be accommodated by my shelf. Ideally, I'd like to find an extremely low plant with a nearly creeping habit.