Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Playing Garden Design

I was pleased to get the opportunity to try out a new format to visualize and play with garden design at the Permaculture Convergence. Simply, I laminated some grids and used packing tape and recycled seed catalogues along with some printed pictures from my garden to make faux laminated pieces that you could move around.

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Plant pieces plus two forms: from above and front on. 

You can put information on the back.

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Okay, so you are welcome to disagree with my spacing - I kind of do. It was a bit random as so much depends on context.

It was a useful exercise and we all thought of some neat ways to improve it. My favourite suggestion was to use transparencies of some sort to separate by season. Excellent idea Phil! There was also a desire to do the pieces by scale. I wanted to do this as well but then I couldn't properly fit the info on the back. That's still a work in progress.

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Not atypical pre-design yard.

Another useful amendment that occurred to me today was to make forms for north, shadow, sun and wet zone: black, yellow and purple respectively below. You can also use so-called plastic erasable markers to mark out topography and those other details. Another excellent suggestion was to give people particular projects. I think I'm going to make some pre-drawn situations.

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You may not be able to see but the trees and path are faux laminated with packing tape.

But it is fun to just go crazy!

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Well now that's a change.

You can use them to show specific design features such as contrasting foliage:

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Lay on the plant pieces as well, or use them alone, to think about colour

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I would have preferred to include california poppy here as a sporadic self seeder but I used coreopsis which also self seeds but I'm afraid would overwhelm the lavender. Just included it for the yellow splash of colour. My california poppy 'piece' was multicoloured instead of standard yellow-orange. Included in this design are seakale, lavender, sage and coreopsis which all do well in dry, sunny conditions. Three of the four are edibles.

This year I'm going to take photos of plants in my gardens and cut out their forms. I know there are various plan your garden programs out there but I quite liked this as a hands on demo.

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Very simple veggie patch I just tossed together. A useful tip when planning with rangy plants - like many annual veg - attractive is to lay them out in them with strong geometrical beds. Hence why raised beds can look quite good.

Here's something I wrote earlier: Eat my Yard

Monday, March 25, 2013

All of spring's promise...

... and none of summer's reality. It's that crazy wonderful time of year before the snow reveals all that you didn't get done in the fall, before you discovered that you need three times as many carrots and half the pumpkins and before various little tragedies befall your plants.

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Some not quite related pictures to pretty up the post: Pepper babies are up and growing

Ah yes, you may have been in a dream state during the depths of winter while combing through seed catalogues but now it's starting to feel real. The red winged blackbird calls, the maple sap is running and the snow is turning into that slushy, dirty cover called early spring. Soon bulbs and overwintered weeds* will appear in the mud.

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Albino tomatillo seedlings: not long for this world I suspect.

Or maybe you are like me and underneath the excitement is the recollection of last year's problems. Top of the list is Drought 2012 meaning I am keen to hasten the installation of ponds, trenches and other water direction/collection. Second is The Earwig Plague 2012. I hope that the various poultry I purchased last year have cleaned up most of them but just in case I'm going to let them scratch through the mud for a week or so this warm spring before tidying up the paths that the chickens put asunder. There is also the Ecological Chaos of March Summer 2012 when the mercury shot to plus 20 during sugaring. The snow vanished, the sap threatened to go green and the flea beetles emerged early to decimate all the brassicas babies. This was followed by Late Frost 2012 when plums, cherries and friends were wiped clean of fruit over much of the fruit growing regions of Ontario. Apple and pear growers even suffered losses. Heck, this year has the most notable plant death events that I have experienced yet. Much worse than Leek Moth Invasion 2008 or the Cucumber Curse (ongoing).

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Quite obvious IRL, these are my Red Rock Mammoth x San Michel seedlings. On the left are the RRM pod parent seedlings and on the right are the much bigger SM pod parent seedlings. The SM pod seedling show intermediate traits but the RRM show much stronger RRM traits so may not be crossed. Hence the SM babies may be showing hybrid vigour.

Yes, it was a year to remember.

So it is not without some trepidation that I look forward to the growing season. Will the trees on the rocky ledge be alive despite burning up to green crisps in August? Will I be able to eat mustard and kale this year? P.S. I'm building some brassica boxes which are pretty much like you imagine them:  boxes with insect netting to put over flea beetle susceptible plants. Will earwig armies come in the night to eat all the parsnips (etc)? Trapping will commence early this year. I used tuna can traps last year but in order to avoid attracting the darlings (which walk the line between beneficial and pest** by the way), I'll be going with rolled up cardboard.

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Prairie smoke and asters share a tray: natives for infilling the old orchard garden and adding a bit of their natural beauty to the demo gardens.

At the same time, I'm excited to begin a new growing year. I am starting a garden related business (anyone have a drawing program I can borrow for my logo that's better than paint?). My demo gardens are filling in with beautiful, useful plants and I have a huge pile of wood mulch, a hoard of fall leaves, bags of green manure seed and a stack of straw - hurray!

Besides this year is going to be awesome right? I will get soccer ball sized cauliflower, enough tomato sauce to feed the extended family and just enough rain.

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Two varieties of Taraxacum - red leafed and pink flowered - for the dandelion garden and some Mexican Shell flower.

*Ah weeds. Though you could argue that exotic invasives are troublesome enough to spit the curse weed at them, I try to feel wonder for prolific ground covers instead (before smothering, burning, cutting or yanking them out of course. I'm all for good stewardship).

**Pest is unfair too. Sure some bugs annoy me what with their inability to share but mostly I like earwigs. I think the hungry hoards removed every other insect pest from the garden temporarily (the flea beetles preceded them).


In other news, the Edible Ottawa Garden Group's next meeting Gardening small in the Urban Sprawl will be April 10 at 6:30 at the Hazeldean Public Library.

We'll also be holding a pre-meeting meeting at 5:30pm about trying to get the concept of a Seed Library off the ground or any other projects people want to put forward.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Seed Library!!

As mentioned in a previous post, I'm super psyched about the idea of a seed lending library in Ottawa. Not just me either but various folk are interested in this. No doubt all sorts of people I've never heard of are interested in this so I propose we get together and make this thing work.

My understanding is that there are various models including ones that link directly with the library and others that use nearby facilities. A seed bank may also work as a lending library too and there are possible proposals for this as well in the works in Ottawa.

So let me know so we can all grow.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scarification mini-Update

Update on my seed surgery last week (also known as scarification).

All hibiscus and related genus germinated well especially Hibiscus sabdariffa that popped their roots two days after being nicked and soaked. Still waiting on Canna edulis and Prunus (these are older seeds so I'm not sure if they are viable). One of the most interesting germination habits I've ever seen are from these Tinantia erecta:

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If I was formally trained, I'd probably have something more enlightening to say then cool. As it is, check out the multiple 'seed' roots.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Seedy Sunday (and Saturday)

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A whole lot of seedy stuff happening at Perth this Sunday.

Seedy weekend or as I'm calling it the seed enthusiasts annual reunion started in Ottawa. Lots of friends, lots of seeds, and little parking but I'd like to focus on Seedy Sunday in Perth. Though Ottawa had more vendors and tendors, Perth had a more charitable flavour. Local companies had respectable selections including Yuko's Open Pollianted Seed*, Mountain Grove Seed, Heritage Seeds and Produce and others with seed packages in the 2-3 dollar range rather than closer to 4 as it was in the 'big city.'

In fact, the zero dollar price tag really set apart two booths. Robert and Carol Mouck maintain a large selection of rare, heritage varieties. They had their table set up with bottles filled with beautiful seed to give away. All they asked for in return was the promise that you would keep the seed. As Carol explained to me heirloom seeds are "treasured," "a gift," and "have a right to be grown." They started on a farm 30 years ago with Dorset Horn sheep and crops. Wanting to create a more self sustaining system, they started to save their own seed and from this a passion to preserve rare varieties was born.

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The beautiful gift of seed from Robert and Carol Mouck.

Though now they focus on disseminating seed and knowledge to local backyard growers and farmers, the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary they founded lives on.

Also, bringing the love of sharing and seed to the community is the Perth & District Union Public Library with a seed lending library. Yes, they just managed to combine two of my favourite things in the world: seeds and libraries. I'd heard rumours of something like this happening in Toronto too. Simply borrow seeds, set some aside for yourself and return the surplus to the library. Are your eyes popping out of your head now? Are you dancing in the streets? Don't you love this idea as much as me??

I love it so much that if Ottawa isn't cooking this up, then my hand is bouncing up and down in the air to help set this up. If it is already underway on the hush-hush (or I just missed it), then let me know what I can do to help.


Seed Libraries
A list of Seed Libraries
* Yuko's Open Pollinated Seed's Annual Plant Sale will be on the weekends of May 11/12 and 18/19 between 8am and 2pm at 202 Arklan Road, Carleton Place.