I've been exploring more local gardens lately, namely the botanical and Japanese gardens at UBC. I hope to visit the rose gardens a bit later in the season as well, but for now I'd just like to post some photos of the gardens I did have a chance to check out this week.
These are from the Japanese gardens at UBC. This is a fairly small but immaculate garden done in the traditional Japanese style - lots of ponds, koi, and shrines.
Afterwards we checked out part of the botanical garden. This garden is huge and we had limited time so we only made it part way through but it was a beautiful space. These gardens are much more "natural" and showcase an amazing amount of west coast plant life.
Today I and a good friend of mine (and my adorable baby) visited the Bloedel Conservatory in South Vancouver. It was my first time and I was very impressed with the variety of the plants found in the tropical garden.
Relatively easy to find in Queen Elizabeth park, the conservatory is cheap to visit ($6.50 for adults) and the only irritating part of my visit was parking. It was expensive - $3 an hour - and the machine wouldn't accept my credit card. Once I had finally paid too much to park my car for a couple hours, however, the rest of the visit was fantastic.
In addition to enjoying the lush foliage and brightly plumed birds, we also checked out the Seasons in the Park restaurant. A little on the pricey side, but the food and service was impeccable. And the view was incredible!
Check out some pictures I took on this lovely day. If you want more information about the Bloedel Conservatory, check out their website: http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/bloedel-conservatory.aspx
It has been a beautiful week on the west coast! I have been thoroughly enjoying the sunshine. Trips to the aquarium, chinese gardens, snowshoeing and visits to various neighborhood parks have filled up my days. Today I decided to visit Port Royal Community Garden to see if I could catch my tulips in bloom and to check on the garlic I planted back in the fall. On both accounts I was pleasantly surprised!
I will not be growing a garden in my plot this season so this is the last of my contribution to the beautiful Port Royal Community Gardens. That means that there will be at least one plot available next season for those on the waiting list! My time here has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have met some incredible people and learned so much about gardening on the coast. Although I am looking forward to having a little garden plot of my very own, the PRCG will always have a very special place in my heart.
Spring has sprung here on the west coast! The crocus are out, and the daffodils and tulips will be following close behind. It is the season of spring rains, cherry blossoms, and the odd, unexpected day of sunshine that reminds you that summer is just around the corner.
For those of you planning on growing a garden this year, you are probably in the midst of clearing out your beds and starting your seedlings. I, too, am feeling the itch to start preparing for the season ahead but unfortunately this year my garden is probably not going to happen.
As everything around me grows and blossoms I will be waiting (impatiently!) to move into my new home. That probably won't be happening until the summer, though, so my garden this year will have to be very limited.
I will be giving up my community garden plot and focusing instead on the growing space I will know have outside my front (and back!) doors. I am sad that I will be saying good bye to the beautiful space and wonderful people that I have come to know over the past three seasons; however the things I have learned and the experiences I shared I will carry with me forever.
Bugs getting you down this summer and yet you want to avoid commercial bug sprays? Well, I found great instructions in my "Going Green" desk calendar today for making your own insect repellent!
(I haven't tried this, btw, so if you do please let me know if it works!)
You will need:
- Aloe Vera Gel (from your own organic aloe plant, if you happen to have one growing!)
- Citronella Essential Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
- Lavender Essential Oil
Stir all ingredients together. The mix becomes opaque and you can make it as strong as you like. Because it's made of mainly essential oils I would be careful how much you put on your skin; try a small area first to see if you have a reaction. Adding more aloe gel should minimize irritation.
That is all the instructions say, so my guess is that it's one part each ingredient and you can increase certain components depending on personal preferences.
It is the August already (!) and this summer so far has been filled with woes of the weather variety.
A wet, cool spring followed by a wet, cool summer means that pests and fungi are doing much better than many of my plants this year. My strawberries are blighted, my squash is overrun with aphids, my pansies are being annihalated by wood bugs, slugs are devouring my swiss chard and I'm constantly battling mites on my herbs.
Despite all that, however, I have found this growing season to be especially fulfilling. I have learned more from all the challenges than I did last season, when things were relatively easy. Every problem I have faced (even those that I may not have triumphed with) has taught me so much about organic gardening.
Also, even though things may not be ideal, I am still pretty pleased with the lushness of my patio and garden plot this year. I experimented with a few new plants (peppers, basil, cilantro, dill, nasturtiams to name just a few) and have had quite a few successes. Check out the pictures of where things are at, especially now that summer has FINALLY arrived on the west coast.
What problems have you faced this year? What techniques and strategies have you used to overcome these obstacles? Do you have any questions about issues you have had that you think I might be able to help with? I've love to hear them!
And finally, a quick synopsis of what I have done to fight my disease and pest problems this year:
Strawberries (blight) - a baking soda/vinegar/distilled water solution is being sprayed in an attempt to eliminate the fungus. In addition, I have been contantly removing all parts of the plants that appeared diseased.
Squash (aphids) - spraying with organic insecticide made with canola oil and washing aphids off of the leaves and flowers every time I water. This is ideally done in the mornings to prevent mildew from developing over night.
Pansies (wood bugs) - I sprayed the wood bugs with the same spray I use for the aphids. It seems to have helped for some of my flowers, but a couple plants I have just had to give up on. Someone has suggested egg shells around my plants to help eliminate all manner of crawly things, and I think I am going to try that ASAP.
Swiss Chard (slugs) - I'm going to try the egg shells. I haven't really done much, except pick them off when I see them. The chard is still edible, it just looks a little sad because of all the holes in the leaves.
Herbs (mites) - the organic spray again. I'm applying it about once a week, since it only kills the bugs it contacts directly (it doesn't stick around to affect eggs or bugs that weren't contacted with the spray). If you don't like the idea of using something labeled "insecticide" you can always create your own spray using dish soap and water. I should let you know, however, that this isn't as effective and is still technically an insecticide, as it still kills the bugs it comes in contact with.
This entry today is not about gardening.
It's not even about hockey, although the violent passion that sport conjures in many Canadians was in part responsible for what happened last night.
No, this is about the tragedy that occurred in my city on June 15, 2011, following the Canucks loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. My beautiful, unique, amazing city became the scene of senseless violence and looting. It was heartbreaking to watch. The plumes of smoke rising over the majestic cityscape of downtown made my stomach turn.
For those of you that may not have heard about the riot in downtown Vancouver last night, you can read all about it here.
I just want to let people know that the real Vancouver is not the small number of people causing destruction last night, but really the thousands of people that turned out this morning to clean up the mess that had been made by those hooligans! Many thousands more are banding together to find the people that committed these crimes to ensure that they will be brought to justice.
Check out these amazing photos by Maurice Li. THIS is the Vancouver that I am proud to call my home. THIS is why I chose to live in this city. I don't live here for the hockey team, the mild weather, or even the beautiful scenery. I live here because it is the most amazing place on earth in every sense imaginable. That includes the people.
The funny thing about Van is that it really isn't the most friendly city. The people are generally polite and less pretentious than a lot of other large cities (probably due to the fact that Vancouver really isn't very large at all) but they are slow to open their hearts to new comers. At first I thought that was because the people here were cold and indifferent. After four years in this city I see it is quite the opposite.
People in Vancouver love their city deeply. They are proud to call this their home, and they develop deep roots that remain unshaken through public spectacles (good or bad). They welcome visitors but are wary of transients. Vancouver, beautiful though it may be, is not the easiest place to live. Many people commute 2-3 hours a day to work, if they can find work at all. Pay is low and housing prices are high. Those that end up staying stay because it is their home, but many leave because the sacrifice is too great.
Those that got up this morning and headed down to the urine soaked downtown to sweep up the broken glass from last night's travesty represent the true spirit of Vancouver. As deeply shamed as I felt last night, I feel just as proud today. THIS is Vancouver and no one, no matter how much destruction they cause, can change that.
And check out this site - this is the way the citizens of Vancouver have responded to last week's events. It makes me even prouder to call this my home!
It's June but lately it's been feeling a little more like November.
Plants are growing, but slowly. Bugs are devouring plants, seedlings are stunted and covered with mildew, and seeds are refusing to come up at all.
It's a struggle this year but with every struggle come lessons learned and strength gained through perserverance.
What are the biggest challenges that come with a wet, cold spring? I would say there are two main issues that I have faced: leggy and weak plants and bugs and disease. The two are very interconnected, but are separate issues.
A lack of sunlight and soggy conditions can give you sad little seedlings that aren't able to develop into viable plants. Either they will collapse under the weight of their own leaves or they will just be permanently stunted.
A zucchini seedling affected by mildew. It didn't make it - I have since tried to grow from seed but I think my garden might be zucchini-less this year.
Weak plants are also prone to pestilence and disease. This year alone I have already dealt with aphids, mites, and mildew. Last year's wet spring also caused tomato blight to run rampant through the community garden and it's likely to happen again, although my fingers are crossed that my balcony remains free from this disasterous disease.
Obviously when you are direct seeding in the garden it can be challenging to get around the weather. Container gardening and indoor seedlings have the advantage of controlled growing conditions, so its much easier to grow strong and healthy seedlings. In the great outdoors, however, it's all up to mother nature. However, there are things you can do to help your seedlings along.
First, cover them. I've seen poly sheets, milk jugs, and more permanent structures like hoop houses used to protect plants during wet and cold springs in the Pacific Northwest. There is a great article here about different ways to use garden cover to protect your plants. They are trying to sell you things but you can always take their products and make them your own. If you are looking to buy similar things I actually reccomend Lee Valley as the place to go, or even just your local Home Depot. Lee Valley usually has a better selection and cooler gadgets, though, although they do tend to be pricey.
Second, supplement light if possible. If growing seedlings indoors, supplement with artificial light. Obviously you can't do this outdoors, but while hardening off seedlings you can alternate between outside and under a grow light, which should keep them from getting too leggy or weak. Outdoors you are kind of stuck with whatever sunlight you are provided with, but making sure your plants are in the best possible position to get any light available.
Third, keep a close eye on your plants to fend off any infestations as soon as they start. A weak plant will fall prey to bugs quickly, so the faster you can get rid of the little menaces the better.
In years like this though, sadly the only thing you can do is cross your fingers and hope that your plants make it. That is one of the most challenging aspects about gardening, especially when you hope to use your produce as a main source of fresh veggies over the summer. Some years you battle the elements and you win, and some you lose. The important thing is to learn the lessons that are available and hope that, next year, Mother Nature is a bit kinder.
Healthy sunflower seedlings in pots.
Healthy hollyhock seedlings direct seeded into a pot on my balcony.
Early May planting is yet another reason I love living in Vancouver. Of course, this year we haven't really seen much sun so I might have been a little preemptive, but I just couldn't wait any longer!
This past weekend the ladies and I got together and harvested the winter crop from the plot, then threw in seedlings and seeds for the first round of summer planting. We had a nice (albeit small) cabbage and tons of gorgeous kale to donate to the food bank.
The first round of summer planting consisted of my zucchini, squash, and cuke seedlings (fingers crossed that they make it!), some marigolds and nasturtium seedlings to attract the good bugs and deter the bad, and radishes, beets, arugula, and swiss chard from seed. I think that's everything! We are still waiting on the garlic to be ready to harvest, and we have left the broccoli sprouts and kale in the ground to flower so that we can save some seeds for next year.
After that I planted my personal plot. Peas, sweet peas, beans (all pre-soaked overnight to encourage faster germination), radishes, carrots, romaine lettuce, and swiss chard seeds all made it into my space. I also put in squash, zucchini, and cucumber seedlings, as well as nasturtium and marigolds. I still have tulips, garlic, and brocolli in my bed that over wintered (not to mention strawberries and pansies) so it's going to be a very full plot this year!
Pictures to come, I forgot my camera on Sunday.
After I got home it was time to tackle the balcony. My amazing husband finally took apart the BBQ and lined it with poly so I could throw in some dirt and turn it into a planter. I have put a nasturtium and some sweet pea seeds in, but will wait until after the plant sale this weekend to plant the rest.
I also planted another round of seedlings (mostly herbs and flowers) and I'm hoping to add them to the balcony garden by early July.
In the meantime, I have some sweet peas climbing on the railing and some night scented stalk peeking out of the dirt. This year I've completely changed the way I've done my balcony garden, so I'm excited to see how it turns out!
Speaking of which, more about balcony gardens next entry - how to deal with common problems and steps you can take to keep your plants healthy and out of harms way.
As the growing season is not quite upon us, I wanted to write an entry that really doesn't have a lot to do with gardening. Instead, this is more about enjoying the winter here in MetroVancouver, with it's hardy vegetation and rare - but amazing - sunny, crisp, and clear February days.
We were lucky to have just had an amazing weekend filled with sunshine and (barely) positive temperatures. I spent most of Saturday afternoon just wandering around New Westminster, enjoying the sites of the newly renovated River Market and strolling the bustling wooden boardwalk down by the quay.
It always strikes me on those walks how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. Not just the west coast (although it is a spectacularly gorgeous place) but this entire planet that we call Earth. The diversity of life found on this small, isolated planet is mind boggling. Even in the dead of winter I could find animals and plant life abounding in my temperate northern home.
As gardeners we are the tenders of the this planet. Through organic and sustainable growing techniques we both feed ourselves and the diverse ecosystem we cannot escape being a part of.
It is our duty to do what we can to keep our planet healthy - or to try to return it to health, as the case may be.
After my stroll through New West I made my way over to my garden, where I saw that my cabbage plant looked a lot bigger than it had on my previous visits. However, I noted a lot of dead spots (freezer burn, most likely) on a lot of the outer leaves. The inner cabbage itself looked quite healthy, however.
Above - my cabbage, will it make it??
Below - garlic and kale, the survivors of my winter planting.
After a beautiful day like Saturday I felt refreshed and eager to embark on a new season of learning about horticulture and earth-friendly gardening practices.
Of course, I probably still have another two months before I can actually plant anything outside...sigh....