Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hybrid Lilies

As I have mentioned before, I have a couple spots that are enclosed by concrete that I have planted some lilies. I started with a dark red (almost burgandy) border lilies and put in a couple of the oriental star gazer and dizzy lily bulbs. Over the last couple of years, they have hybridized themselves.

Original lilies in 2006

Red border lilies (oriental)

Stargazer and Dizzy Lilies

Here is what I had come up last year.

It is a bit hard to tell, but it is more of a brighter red.

Note the pure white ones on the left. The only bit of colour is the deep dark red stamen tips.
The yellow and red ones are quite striking.
Above is a pumpkin orange one.
Note the yellow one with interesting bit of green in the petals.
Above the yellow and green one is a deep dark burgandy one.
I wonder what other colours are going to show up?
I will be tagging and transplanting the different ones, and moving them to seperate areas of my flower beds and see if they come up true next summer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Adventures in Organic Gardening Part 7

Hello! I have finally caught up with this year, and it is now time to re-cap what things I do to be more of an organic (smart) gardener.

1) I use straw to help keep moisture in, and weeds down in my vegetable garden. This seems to help keep some bugs away too, as I have very few in my garden. The annoying ones anyway. I also till in the straw and plants from the previous year each spring, and this helps aerate my soil and provide much needed nutrients.

2) I use marigolds to help keep pests away and to give a little colour to the garden.

3) I lay down little tents of newspaper to attract slugs. Each morning I remove the slugs that liked their little tents, and if it has rained, I will throw the newspaper into the compost bin and lay down new ones in the evening. Little logs or pieces of wood will work for this too.

4) I add a little lime to my soil when it seems to be too acidic, to sweeten it.

5) I use my own compost made up of kitchen vegeatable scraps (no fats, or meat byproducts!), dryer lint, human and cat hair, shredded newspaper, lawn clippings, some leaves (not every year, too acidic) coffee grounds, egg shells etc, rather than commercial chemical fertilizers.

These squash are volunteers from my compost!

NOTE: never put weeds that have gone to seed, pine needles, or pine cones, or diseased plants into your compost. You will end up just creating a lovely environment for encouraging those problems to continue.

6) I use natural woodchips from my local township as a mulch for my flower beds.

7) I also do little things like adding an overipe banana to the soil at the base of my roses rather than a chemical fertilizer.

8) If I find I have pesky bugs on my plants I will use a solution of water and dishsoap and spray the plants. This does work to deter those pests!

9) I use a cold frame built using left over renovating supplies (wood and heavy plastic). If I get frost warnings, I also will use the plastic 2 litre pop bottles (if I have any as we are not pop drinkers) as little mini green houses or peg newspaper on the wire tomato cages over tender plants.

10) I will use newspaper or flat pieces of wood to protect plants from direct sunlight if it is during a drought season or if they are sensitive to too much sun.

11) I collect seeds from my various vegetables or flowers to save money. I will even move my bulbs if they end up creating hybrids so that I can save them and have them continue that particular colour. This has happened with my tulips and my lilies. I have some very interesting colours, such as a pumpkin orange or almost black in my lilies now.

12) I use retaining walls to help keep the top soil from eroding and keep the rain water directed to where I want it to go.

Here are some more pictures of my garden and flower beds this year.

First year my yucca plant decided to flower! All around the base is a lovely patch of catnip.

Purple Glomeratus. Hummingbirds and clearwing hummingbird moths love these.

Retaining wall for driveway.

Basement entryway and mudroom.
I do so hope you have all enjoyed my journey! I certainly did! It is by no mean over yet. I plan on continuing to learn, emplement and share things as the years go on.
I am also very close to having my self-seeding, low maintenance flower beds.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Adventures in Organic Gardening Part 6

Year 2008. The year of the Big Projects.

Since my husband had lost an entire 2 seasons of major projects the year before, he wanted to sit down with me early in the year and discuss just what it was we wanted to accomplish. So, to that effect, in February we got out the notepad, pencil, and ruler and got started.

First, I wanted to say that the year before, it was the first of June that he was injured, so all we managed to accomplish before things went horribly wrong, was putting in the big jacks to straighten the walls of our collapsing garage (it used to be a carriage house a long time ago) and rip out the rotten bottom boards. A friend of ours had helped put up really heavy plastic in late fall so that the wind, ice and snow could not get in over winter.

So... The plans for 2008 was as follows:

1. He wanted to extend the driveway from being just in front of the garage to continuing between the garage and the house and ending behind the garage. Now that would take away about half of my garden (which had been approximately 45 feet by 25 feet). He wanted to put up a retaining wall running from the back wall of the house, and curving around the end of the driveway. Kind of looking like a J with the bottom curve coming towards the back of the garage. This would serve a few purposes. Ice and snow would not have a chance to build up in front and between the garage and house, or collect in the garage. Spring melt would not allow the water to collect there, instead he wanted to have a gentle sloping grade leading towards the garden. The driveway would be built up with gravel.

2. Evesdroughs. Neither the house nor the garage had any. The downspouts would go into a plastic tube that would run underground and end in the garden. This would help keep the garden watered, and as there are always rain storms that are very heavy and quick, this would allow some of the rainwater to still be absorbed by the garden. In addition to this, the plan was to get at least 2 rain barrels for the front flower beds.

3. The garage. We needed to pour concrete footings, and finish fixing the walls. Also the garage needed to be insulated which would be accomplished by using the vermiculite we had removed from the house when the major house renovations had been done a couple years before. He planned on putting up a false ceiling in the garage to add some storage as well.

4. The old entry into the house needed to be removed, as the boards were rotting and there was a fair amount of rotting concrete there. It was a major source of heat loss in winter months, and we wanted to use it as a mudroom. The plan was to remove the old one, dig down deeper (level with basement floor) put in a concrete pad, and walls.

5. Remove the old concrete step by the kitchen door (which was directly in front of an old window with a leak) and put in a new concrete pad there.

6. Extend the narrow flowerbed that ran alongside the walk beside the house, and put up a retaining wall to help avoid loss of topsoil and land erosion. The flowerbed would end up being about 10 feet wide instead of one foot wide.

To make a long story short, all of the above was accomplished (for the most part). The garage was finished except the siding on the walls. The driveway was extended, and gravel added. Probably more would be needed in 2009. The retaining walls for the end of the driveway and for the side flower bed were poured. The evesdroughs were put up, but one more downspout was needed for the one back side (kitchen) and the two downspouts for the garage. The rain barrels were not purchased as of yet. The basement mudroom was poured and roofed. The garden was made into more of a square (pretty much the same size). The compost from the two wire compost bins were used to build up the side flower bed and the garden.

An interesting thing happened while removing the old concrete kitchen doorstep. We found that it was hollow, and cracked around the old basement window. And, there was a very deep cistern under it. So the concrete was broken up and used to fill that cistern and sand was added. We decided to let it settle over winter and spring to see how much more would be needed before building a new one.

Also a small well-like feature was found in the back yard. I am not certain just what it was, but it was lined with brick and there were a couple of really old bottles found in it. So that was also filled in with sand and gravel.

I know that not much of this has anything to do with organic gardening per se, but I do consider it "going green" and recycling of old building materials. Also finding ways to prevent further decay of house, garage and land erosion should count a bit. Plus, with the water being diverted to flower beds and garden helps keep the water use down in the summer months. I rarely had to water the gardens using the township water.

Removing old kitchen step.

Cistern under old step. Really deep!

Old well-like hole in back yard.

Big mess in the backyard.

Old basement entryway.

A Garden Toad!

Flowerbed retaining wall.

Driveway retaining wall.
Also, concrete walls for new basement entry way

Monday, June 22, 2009

Adventures in Organic Gardening Part 5

Honestly, 2007 was not a very good year for us. My husband was in a bad vehicle accident, so not much was done in the gardens. I just maintained what I had been doing and worked on the flower beds a little. Even my vegetable garden was mainly a basic one, with not much done differently than in previous years. Most of my time was spent with him, helping him recuperate and heal.

So, here is the season in pictures. I hope you enjoy them!

Indoor basement green house. Tomato plants are over a foot high!

Look closely at the phlox. There is a cute little hummingbird moth checking it out.

My gorgeous moonflowers! Smell so wonderful and huge!

Woodchip mulch on front flower beds. Even a week after a rain, if you dig down, the soil is still a little damp. Tons of worms too!

Pretty Gladiolus!

Our feathered friend. He comes back every summer.

Fall crocus. Leaves in summer, flowers only in fall.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

PCAGOE Team Charity Alphabet Tile Mosaic

Here is my tile I have made for the PCAGOE Team Charity Alphabet Tile Mosaic. It is made out of polymer clay, with little tiny green glass micro beads. I am very please with how it turned out.

To read more about our charity, why not check out the main team page at

One Lovely Blog Award

I have just received the One Lovely Blog Award from thecolourofdreams. Thank you! I hope you will take a moment to visit her blog. She is one of the best polymer clay cane artists I have ever seen. Her flowers look so real! I'm honored that she selected my blog as one to receive this award. Now it is my turn to pass on the award.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Adventures in Organic Gardening Part 4

My sister-in-law had given me a wonderful Christmas present, a subscription of Harrowsmith Country Life! I find that it is a wonderful source of information and inspiration in my gardening adventures. It is my favorite magazine, and I love reading it during the winter months as I plan out what I am going to do the next summer. One day, maybe, I might write in to them and let them know how much of an inspiration they have been to me and include some pictures of my gardens (when they are finally the way I want them).

That particular year, in January (2006), I began using a set of shelves with lights in the basement as my little greenhouse to start my plants. I decided to grow pansies, asters, marigolds, tomatoes, peppers, and a few other plants. We also had the cold frame outside set up against the garage so that allowed me to start a larger number of plants, not having to carry them in and out of the house for 5 days when the time came.

I still used the little plastic containers and mini greenhouses for my pansies and marigolds, as it allowed me to regulate the temperature easier. For the others I used the large tray bottoms you can get when you buy a flat of flowers from garden centers.

I fill the tray with a seedling starter soil, and spread out some plant seeds, then cover it with a thin plastic. After a week or so, I started seeing the little seedlings popping their heads up. I let them grow in their trays for about 4 weeks, or at least until the second set of true leaves appear before I do much thinning or repotting. Once those have appeared I choose the strongest of the seedlings for repotting. The starter soil and leftover weaker seedlings go into my compost bin.

Once the tomato plants are about 6 inches high, I transplant them again into recycled milk bags rolled down. I remove the first 3 sets of leaves, and cover the stems with the soil. As the weeks go by, I remove more leaves and add a bit more soil. By the time I can transplant them in my garden, I have a strong stem (about an inch diameter) and large root ball. I have only lost one plant using this method during the transition from house to garden, and that was due to our dog laying on it!

I use the same method for pepper plants, and it seems to help a bit. When I put those in my garden though, I try to remember to put something in front of them to help protect them from direct sunlight for the first month. They do not seem to do well otherwise for me. I am still trying to find a good way of keeping pests from those, though.

I usually end up with about 20 to 30 tomato plants ready for my garden by the time I am ready to plant my garden. I also get at least 12 or so pepper plants.

I always plant marigolds around my tomato and pepper plants. This seems to help deter pests and it just looks pretty! I also find that I have fewer mosquito bites while gardening. Marigolds do help keep those away too!

Here is a picture of my basement greenhouse.

Large Spanish Onions to the left, and my cold frame to the right.

Zucchini plants to the front, and tomato plants to the back. 3 different varieties of tomatoes, Romano, beefsteak and plum. All are wonderful frozen or canned for using in the winter months.

This spring, the new two front flower beds were dug up, sod removed and put into of of the big wire compost bins, and a heavy black plastic put on top to "cook" any remaining weed roots during the summer. In the fall I removed the plastic, forked in a good amount of compost and planted a few more bulbs (tulips mainly) and transplanted a couple peonies, a yucca plant, and a bunch of sea thrift that I had started in my basement greenhouse in them. I also transplanted my two tea roses into them and a larger rose bush. At the base of each rosebush I put in a nice over ripe banana (read Black!) for a quick fertilizer boost. I spread out more natural wood chips for the mulch and let it sit until the next year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Organic Gardening Part 3

My second summer here in sunny southern Ontario (2006), I went out into the garden first thing as the soil warmed and it was getting close to gardening time. I took soil samples around the flower beds and in my little garden plot to see how things were doing. My soil was still a bit acidic so I added a bit more lime and more compost.

I had a neighbour come over with his tiller to loosen and turn the soil. He ended up doing a much larger area than I anticipated which increased the size of my garden by about 10 times what it was the first summer. After a week or so of letting it settle a bit, it was time to start planting my vegetable garden. I planted pretty much the same as the year before: tomatoes, zuchinni, beans, onions and I had gotten some raspberry canes. Everything except the raspberries I had started in my kitchen. (I had been a bit anxious wanting to garden in the winter so had used those plastic trays you can get salads and sandwich in as my mini greenhouses.)

I got my husband to purchase some straw from a local farmer to put around the plants and in between the rows to help keep the moisture in and keep the weeds from sprouting too much. Oh, and guess what? I had found a few worms when I was doing all that transplanting! Mind you, it was only about 1 or 2 per couple shovels, but still Worms! Needless to say, I did manage to go fishing a couple times that summer.

Here is a long view of my garden. You can see to the left side of the page the raspberries, and lots of yellow marigolds. Towards the wood fence you can see the red of the ripening tomatoes. To the back of the garage, you can see sunflowers (behind it is the cold frame for next year) and in front is a lot of zuchinni plants.

This is also the year that my husband decided to build my cold frame as I had requested. A cold frame is a little enclosure that one can put in tendar new seedlings to help them harden before transplanting in the gardens. When you buy or grow your own little seedlings, they are used to a protected, warm and damp environment. If you plant them outside too soon you run the risk of frost (if planted too soon), or just the shock of the varying temperatures can kill them. The stems can also be quite weak and you do not want them to be blown flat by the wind. You need to allow your seedlings to slowly get used to being outside and the best way would be to use a cold frame. Carrying them in and out of the house is very time consuming! It takes a total of five days to harden them.

You start with putting them out into the cold frame on the morning when the sun is not directly shining on them, and have the top part of the cold frame partially open. In the evening when it starts to cool down, you close it. The second morning open the cold frame a bit more, closing it once again in the evening. The third morning open it all the way, and in the evening leave it open a tiny bit allowing some of the cool breeze to enter the frame. The fourth morning open it up all the way again, closing it only half-way that evening. The fifth morning open it all the way, and that evening do not close it at all. By the sixth morning you can start your transplanting.

For my cold frame he used the back side of the garage as the back part, used reclaimed wood as the frame and covered it with bits of heavy plastic that was left over from the renovating in the house. It was too late to use it as a cold frame this year but it was all ready for the next spring! Just be sure that if you decide to build your own cold frame, that you put it in a protected area. Somewhere where it will get some sun, but not direct and not all day! You can use various materials for your frame. I have seen some that use the heavy plastic, old windows, doors, anything that will allow sunlight in, and keep the major portion of wind out and away from the plants.

Here is a picture of some volunteer Pumpkins I had. They grew from some seads that were in the compost bin.

That fall I had a good crop of vegetables and decided that I would add more compost to the garden. This time, I was lucky and our 3 composters (two wire ones that had lots of rotting sod in it) provided a boost. I added a touch more lime to the vegetable garden, and left most of the plants to rot for next year. I also got a handful of winter rye to plant over winter. The next spring it would be tilled in to provide some green fertilizer. Since I do not use commercial chemicals in my gardens, I had to find ways of making my own.

In my flower beds I had planted a few more little flowers. Daisys, coral bells, sweet williams, marigolds (for the vegetable garden), pansies etc., that I had started in my kitchen in January. I also added more tulips, daffodils, lilies, and crocii to my flower beds. I was able to get some woodchips from the township when they cut down a local tree to use as mulch in my flower beds. This would help insulate the weaker plants and bulbs over winter, and provide a means of keeping the soil moist during the dry months of summer. Plus, it would help keep the weeds at bay. I choose to use these local woodchips rather than purchasing mulch from a store as one never knows what sprays or chemicals are "added" and I do not particularly care for the fake dyed ones they have. I go for a more natural look.

Since we had replaced the old wooden porch with a new concrete one, we took the opportunity to lay the groundwork for larger front flower beds, and two more closer to the road. We also put in a new front walk. It was all starting to come together!