Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Doing it in the City: Growing Urban Agriculture

Hi Everyone!
We're happy to announce our  Farmers' Market on Feb 6th 4-7pm, and Local 301 @7pm.
at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association.

Local 301 presents
Doing it in the City: Growing Urban Agriculture

A roundtable discussion moderated by Kris Vester, President of Slow Food Calgary and local biodynamic farmer

Where: Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association, 1320 5th Avenue N.W. Calgary
When: February 6, 2013 @ 7p.m.
For more information, visit www.farmersmarket.hillhurstsunnyside.org

Does urban agriculture enhance access to healthy, sustainably grown food? What role does urban agriculture play in creating just and sustainable food systems?
What other benefits arise from backyard gardens, community gardens, & spin farming? What are the trade-offs of urban agriculture versus the current systems of production?
How can governments, communities and individual citizens support these initiatives?

These questions and more will be discussed by our panel:

Steph Gagnon: the City of Calgary Office of Sustainability and Calgary Food Committee
Dr. David Swann: MLA for Calgary Mountainview
Chad Kile: Calgary Urban Farmer and co-owner of Leaf and Lyre Urban Farm

Could gray water help to keep landscapes green?

With water resources becoming scarcer, Texas A&M AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist Dr. Raul Cabrera is working to determine the feasibility of using gray water to irrigate home landscapes. Gray water is the “soapy” water left after tap water has been run through a washing machine or used in a bathtub, bathroom sink or shower and does not contain serious contaminants. Cabrera said irrigating with gray water could reduce household landscape water use by up to 50 percent, depending on the size, type of landscape plants used and geographical location.
Irrigating with gray water has the potential to reduce
household landscape water use by up to 50 percent.

Prepare for spring gardening with a soil test

Testing soil every three years helps you accurately apply fertilizers to your lawn and garden and helps avoid over-use of nutrients. Michigan State University Extension says soil testing is an important diagnostic tool to evaluate nutrient imbalances and understand plant growth. Testing enables gardeners to adjust soil pH to the optimum range, allowing for nutrients to be more available for plant growth. Knowing the pH and the nutrients needed helps to avoid allowing contaminants to enter local surface and ground waters by over-application of phosphorous or nitrogen fertilizers. Identifying exactly which nutrients plants need for adequate growth are the basis of deciding how much lime and fertilizer are needed, which can help you save money.
Testing your soil every three years can help you
 accurately apply fertilizers to your lawn and garden.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Plants, products receive 2013 Green Thumb Awards

The Direct Gardening Association (formerly called the Mailorder Gardening Association) announced the 10 best new gardening items for 2013 presenting them with Green Thumb Awards. Five new plant varieties and five new gardening products won awards.

Plants, Bulbs and Seeds division
1. On Deck Sweet Corn from Burpee.
2. ‘Heaven Can Wait’ blackberry from Henry Field’s Seed & Nursery Co.
3. Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis) from Prairie Moon Nursery.
4. Caramel Cocktail and Sugar Daddy American persimmon from Henry Field’s Seed & Nursery Co.
5. PDQ (“Pretty Darn Quick”) Seed Mix from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Tools, Supplies and Accessories division
1. Digital 3-Way Soil Analyzer from Charley’s Greenhouse & Garden.
2. Hot Potato! from Territorial Seed Co.
3. Garlic Galore! from Territorial Seed Co.
4. Strawberry Pyramid Grow Tub from Gardens Alive!
5. Peel Away Pots from Gardener’s Supply.

Eragrostis spectabilis (Purple Love Grass) from Prairie Moon
 Nurserywon a 2013 Green Thumb Award from the Direct
Gardening Association.


Pinterest can help you plan your garden

Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board where members can "pin" ideas, by category (or board), that they want to save for a later date. One of National Garden Bureau's goals is to inspire more people to garden, so this online tool is a great place for this non-profit organization to do that. The organization jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon about a year ago and has created almost 60 different boards with over 3,000 pins, divided by gardening subject such as containers, herbs, etc.

Some of the National Garden Bureau's most popular boards are:
New Flowers, (new varieties provided by our members), with 128 pins
Cut Flowers, with 115 pins
Gardening Tips and How-To's, with 112 pins
Herbs, with 163 pins
Patio Pots and Containers, with 184 pins
Recipes from Your Garden, with 139 pins

National Garden Bureau is using Pinterest
to inspire more people to garden. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Plants prove they will perform in the garden

All-America Selections has announced a second batch of winners for the 2013 season. As a sign of the continuing trend in the home garden market, three of the four winners are from the vegetable category and the fourth is a flower. The winners are: 'Pinto Premium White to Rose' geranium, 'Jasper' cherry tomato, 'Melemon' melon and 'Harvest Moon' watermelon. 

Each of these winners was trialed next to two or three similar varieties currently on the market. AAS judges did a side-by-side analysis of characteristics including growth habit, taste and disease resistance to determine if the trial plants were truly better than those already available to home gardeners. Only entries with superior garden performance and taste are granted the honor of an AAS Award.
'Pinto Premium White to Rose' geranium,
a 2013 All-America Selections Winner
Photo courtesy of All-America Selections 

Avoid problems with impatiens downy mildew

If garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) did not perform particularly well last year in your landscape, hanging baskets or other containers, they may have been infected by a disease pathogen called impatiens downy mildew (Plasmopara obducens). Disease symptoms included leaf yellowing, followed by leaf curling and then leaf drop or a fuzzy white coating on the underside of leaves. This disease only infects garden impatiens. It does not infect New Guinea impatiens or SunPatiens.
This disease pathogen can overwinter in the soil. If garden impatiens are placed in the same location this coming spring where diseased plants were located in 2012, the new plants may get the same disease again. You may want to consider alternative shade plants to provide color and texture to landscape beds and/or containers.
Garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)
infected with impatiens downy mildew.
Photo by Margery Daughtrey, Cornell University.


Monday, January 14, 2013

In Fear of the Deep Freeze

Plumeria lose there leaves in winter
The last few nights, we have experienced bitterly cold temperatures, the mercury dipping low enough to create ice that has caked car windows and the tops of flat-roofed buildings. While the temperatures have been uncomfortably cold for us, Hubby and I declare a four cat night and toss a heating blanket on the bed and are none the worse for wear. The real danger is not to us, but to the tropical and some subtropical plants that call our garden (and many neighboring gardens) home. 

The last time we had such a cold snap was in early 2007; that cold nearly killed my beloved plumeria. The green wood of plumeria is very susceptible to cold; should the water in the green wood freeze, that stem will shrivel up and die. The rot will continue down the stem of the plant until a caretaker cuts off the dead portion. Many plumeria died in the 2007 cold snap, and mine were reduced from over six feet tall to little more than stumps. Luckily, the stumps survived and lived to produce new branches. Gardeners must take action to protect frost sensitive plants when temperatures dip to 39 F and below.

The solutions are simple, but are sometimes a gamble in terms of ensuring the survival of the plants. If tender tropical and sub-tropicals are in pots, move them into a garage or shed so that the frost cannot touch them. Papi Tomato employs this tactic, moving all his plumeria (cuttings from my plants!), orchids and cymbidiums into his garage/ studio. This is the best bet for saving your plants. However, If you are unable to move the plants (planted in the ground like my plumeria) or do not have space to bring them into the garage, cover plants with swaths of burlap before the sun sets. I like to cover the plumeria by four PM. The idea is to try to capture as much warmth as possible before the sun sets. Remove the burlap the following morning and check for damage. Amputate frost damaged stems and branches so the rot does not travel toward the heart of the plant. Repeat plant coverage until temperatures increase and frost is no longer in the forecast.

Temperatures should hopefully increase in the next day or two, hopefully before there is widespread damage to the California citrus crop.

*Frost can damage or kill plumeria, orchids, cymbidiums, bananas, citrus, warm weather vegetables, fuchsia and many others. Please do your research and protect your delicate plants!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thinking of growing fruit? Consider planting strawberries.

Strawberries are the most popular small fruit for backyard growers and are well adapted to most areas in the United States, according to Michigan State University Extension. While raspberries, grapes and blueberries require multiple years before producing much fruit, some strawberry varieties produce a good crop by mid-summer of the planting year. If managed well, a planting can last five to seven years before needing replacement.
 Some strawberry varieties produce a good
crop by mid-summer of the planting year.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Seed Catalogs for 2013

 Happy – Happy – Joy – Joy

After Christmas and through January, I begin receiving several seed catalogs. I count myself disappointed if I don’t get four or five catalogs a week.  I have purchased a lot of seeds over the years, and I am proud that I receive many, many seed catalogs.  In fact, this is the only time of the year that I get more catalogs than Sweet Tomato.  Sweet Tomato’s shopping prowess is legend, but that is another story.  This is a very exciting time as I get to peruse the new catalogs and make endless lists of seed packets to buy for this summer’s garden.  Yes, I know that being hunched over the kitchen table looking at seed catalogs, trying to decide whether to buy this plant or that plant is not most people’s idea of fun.  To be honest, if this was the high point of your new year, I would think you are either crazy, obsessed or both.  Sweet Tomato tends to overlook the crazy part, she knew that when she married me.  The obsessive part tends to wear on her.  When I come running to show her a new tomato variety, she rolls her eyes, shakes her head, listens politely and then continues with what she was doing.  I am sure she wishes for the weather to warm so I will be working in the garden and not bothering her with my endless dithering.  Here is a sample of some of the seed and garden catalogs I am currently pouring over. 

If the truth be known, I already have enough seeds to keep my garden going for several years without any new purchases, but I really am obsessed.  I can’t stop buying new seeds any more than I could stop breathing.  Someone has to keep those seed companies in business, and I want to make sure I do my part.  Besides, I just have to have to try that tomato plant on page 58 that is gold and red and new for this year.  Or was that the green and purple one on page 45, or the pink one on page 33?  Oh well, I guess I will just have to buy them all.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Damage can be done to landscapes even during winter

The most common animals that can damage your landscape during the winter are the ones that are active, including meadow voles, cottontail rabbits and whitetail deer. Michigan State University Extension advises that it is important to prevent damage. Repellants are ineffective in cold weather. If valuable landscaping material could get damaged this winter, consider putting up a fence as a barrier before plants can be damaged.
Rabbits can reach higher on trunks and
will stand upright on hard packed snow.
 Photo by Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Gardening resolutions for 2013

Many people make resolutions to improve their lives at the begining of a new year. The National Garden Bureau offers the following five resolutions to gardeners to help improve their gardening experiences during 2013.
1. I will not blame myself for gardening failures.
2. I will not be afraid to ask questions.
3. I will try something new.
4. I will share my passion.
5. I will embrace nature and garden for the birds, bees, butterflies and bats.


January is National Mail Order Gardening Month

Nothing helps to pass the time on a cold, snowy day like a good book--especially if that book is a catalog of gorgeous new flower varieties for your garden. Now is great time to start planning your garden for this coming spring. The Direct Gardening Association, formerly the Mailorder Gardening Association, is a member organization of gardening and garden magazine companies. Plant catalogs are a great way to purchase those new flower and vegetable varieties that may not be available at your local garden center.