Saturday, April 30, 2011

Amazing Seedlings - Zucchini Video

The junior gardener #1 remarked that "that plant grows really fast", after watching this time lapse video of a zucchini (courgette to those east of the Atlantic) seedling I have under lights, growing indoors.

Even without time lapse, any of the curcurbit vegetable family (cucumber, squash, etc.) seem to have phenomenal growth as seedlings, and start out quite large. This is why I chose it for the time lapse photos! Kids love this kind of stuff.

You may see a few frames that include a fungus gnat, which looks like a small fruit fly. They are not too big of a problem (nothing like aphids on your indoor plants), and are easily caught by yellow sticky-paper traps that you can purchase in the gardening section of your local hardware store. Alas, I have been negligent in putting out more traps...

Otherwise, I spread a bit more cow manure around the yard. It makes for a lovely weekend casual activity to be followed by tea and phone calls to family. For added challenge, do it while wearing your nice clothes and keep your fingernails clean, while waving to passing neighbours. Be sure to ask them how their spring manure-spreading is going.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Flowers and the Veggies Installed

My official first flowers of 2011 are those of Pulsatilla vulgaris, which is not the usual first flower, but welcome nonetheless. These flowers started showing colors on Easter weekend, but waited for today's calm sunny weather to really open up. They are traditionally known for being an Easter-blooming flower, and are very hardy. They get larger and and have more flowers every year, making a spectacular show as a mature plant.
Pulsatilla vulgaris in the sloped rock garden:

They also can be easily propagated. I make sure that several seed heads get spread around the flower bed in late summer, producing new plants all over this flower bed. I also have deep red and white versions of this same perennial flower, though they aren't blooming yet.

We got the vegetable garden seeded today, with the warm dry weather drawing us outside. It felt great to spread the crumbly composted cow manure as a top-dressing in the raised bed for the vegetables. Hopefully the vegetables reward this effort. This is probably the earliest we have planted the vegetable garden, but only cooler-weather veggies went in today, with the beans waiting till later (and tomatoes/pumpkins/zucchini growing indoors). The junior gardener #1 helped put in swiss chard and beets, then left to lounge in the shade and adjust her accessories while the lettuce, carrots, dill, pak choi, snow peas, and spinach were sown. The cute cartoon characters on a packet of giant sunflowers appealed to junior gardener, so a separate weedy patch was cleared for those. I can't wait till she sees those plants grow bigger than her! Go vegetables!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Perennials from Under the Ice

I'm still waiting for the emergence of my primulas from the lump of ice that sits in the shade under the mountain ash tree. I saw this one poking through this morning, looking generally unchanged from its appearance late last fall.
Primula auricula:

I bought a few more P. auricula from Wrightman Alpines last year, providing companions to the beautiful purple-flowering ones I got from a primula-loving gardener in town. These petite perennial flowers are incredibly hardy, and are highly recommended even for Alaskan gardeners. They appreciate partial shade and moderate amounts of moisture. I find growing them from seed to be frustrating, though not impossible. I am looking forward to their exquisite show of blooms in the next few months.
Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks):

Sempervivum also does very well over the winter. I had one type die last winter, but regular snowcover seems to be adequate for most species of these perennial plants. They tend to take on vivid colors --like this deep red-- in cool weather. Come summer, they will be bright green. They are great for rock gardens, where they spread as the loose "chicks" roll away and root themselves wherever they land.

If you are photographically-inclined, you may be able to guess what new equipment I just picked up, considering today's photos. My brother fairly easily convinced me that I was in need of a macro lens, essentially to get really nice close-up pictures of plants and flowers. I will now be out with my 100mm Tokina macro lens, stalking the plants on a much, much closer level...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Planting Veggies and Ignoring the Snow

There was a mini snowstorm here this afternoon, but the only lingering snow is in shaded heaps leftover from winter snow removal. We don't ever hope for a snow-free April here, but I do feel a little more justified in my disgust when it snows in May, or June...or July.
Does your police service include this kind of transportation?:

I was proud that I held back on planting my vegetables until this last week, hoping that they don't get too big before moving outside. Looking at my seed hoarde, I think that most of my indoor-start seeds are now in the soil (okay, technically, they are in a soil-less seed-starting mix). The remainder will be seeded directly outside. Come to think of it, now is the time to put out the poppy seeds.
Flower seedlings:

I start most seeds in little pots under the humidity dome on the right. That tray also has a heating mat underneath it, which helps some seeds germinate. Once they sprout, I transplant them into the other trays. I am not transplanting the tomatoes or pumpkins though, so those ones get their own pots from the start. I have three shelves, each with 4 fluorescent light tubes (half cool white and half aquarium/plant tubes). The top two shelves are partially heated by the lights hung underneath them, so the orchids on the top shelf are pretty happy.

I am growing a plum heirloom tomato and Tumbling tom cherry tomato this year. That should be nice for fresh-from-the-patio eating. I also have some Small Sugar pumpkin seeds sown and under the lights. They have a season of about 100-110 days, which is longer than our frost-free season, so they must be started indoors.
Tomatoes and other seeds awaiting germination:

Junction of land with the ice road on La Ronge lake (now includes puddles) and our dog:

Buds on a willow tree - sure sign of spring:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Northern Gardening: Pinehouse

Seeing gardening spread is an exciting thing, especially in the Canadian north. The medical clinic at the northern community of Pinehouse has decided to do another vegetable garden this year, despite rumors of minimal success last year. The community is located northwest of La Ronge, in a similar climate zone (1b) in the northern boreal forest. It has a small grocery store, but of course, access to fresh fruits and vegetables is quite limited, as is the case for most northern communities. Consequently, the residents can get quite accustomed to diets lacking in healthy foods.
Pinehouse medical clinic:

Aerial view of Pinehouse. The large building on the right is the new rink:

A plot of private land is also said to be planned for community gardens and Grade 4 students will be growing vegetables this year as well. Harnessing the enthusiasm of kids is a great way to garden, with the benefit of having the kids experience the taste of fresh-grown vegetables. I know that one of our junior gardeners loves to eat onions straight from the garden, but never would touch them otherwise.
Boats on the shore of the lake - fishing is a big activity here:

There are already some purchased tomato plants ready to go in the clinic garden, soaking in light from the windowsill. I hope these tomatoes make it until they are ready to plant out in June, as they may need re-potting before then. I find that peppers and tomatoes have very large root systems and need relatively large pots.
Supplies - notice the bag of Fritos behind the peat pots on the left:

They also have some seeds for carrots, cucumbers, beans, and lettuce, as well as some onion sets. Those seeds should be planted outside in May, though the cucumbers could be started indoors over the next few weeks in order to get cucumbers earlier in the season. I will be anxious to see how this garden grows and inspires the community to grow their own food. Perhaps we will find some new crunchy fresh green snacks as alternatives to chips and colas!
The weather was great today, so people were outside walking and biking:

Houses along the shore in Pinehouse:

Hopefully I get to see some northern commmunity vegetable gardening in action this summer!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Flowers Sprouting!

The little seeds are transforming from dull little shapes from paper packets into green sprouts of spring joy. I see the snow melting off the grass and soil, but tell myself not to get too excited. There WILL be more snow. Let's remember that our northern winter clings on with tenacity.

Indoors, however, the flower seeds are sprouting. I usually start each type of seeds in a single pot and then transplant each seedling to its own pot after germination. The lobelia seeds are very tiny, so clumps of those seedlings got transplanted to the new pots.
Lobelia seedlings:

The larger seeds could likely be easily started in their own pots without transplantation, provided that the germination rate is fairly high. I hate to plant a single seed in a whole bunch of pots only to have a handful actually sprout. I'm mostly growing annuals this year, reducing my need to go and buy them. I find them quite expensive, but growing my own from seed is really quite cheap and enhances my mental health anyhow. I'm even teaching the junior gardeners about talking to plants.

Outdoors, it is reassuring to see that the evergreen perennials are still green, and not mostly brown like they looked spring. Last winter was a wickedly cold one that killed many plants. Things look okay so far, with green creeping phlox, saxifraga, and a few other signs of life in the rock gardens.
Saxifraga in the rock garden (covered in snow until 3 days ago):

Bergenia cordifolia (evergreen perennial) under the ash tree: