Saturday, March 30, 2019

Three Sisters

Companion or compatible planting is the first step towards understanding plant communities and how designing you garden as a functioning community of plants, that benefit from each others’ company, is a natural model that increases your garden’s vitality. Perhaps, one of the oldest plant communities that we know of is the Three Sisters, beans, corn and squash. It is a First Nations planting method that goes back for several centuries and is often associated with the Iroquois.
Now corn is not often a crop that a backyard gardener, unless the backyard is a good size will plant but it can be a great community garden crop and the sisters can make an excellent shared garden within a community garden.
However, if you have the space or simply want to experiment then the 3 sisters will increase your yield and reduce your labour.
The three plants work together to help one another grow and help the grower get a healthy crop. The beans grow up the corn stalks and provide the nitrogen that helps the corn grow and the squash is planted between the corn rows and acts as living mulch and thereby reduces the need to weed and water.
Growing Corn:
If you are planning to plant corn then you will need a minimum of three rows (ideally four) of about four feet in length. You will also need to leave a three-foot space between rows.
This minimum space allows adequate pollination for the corn. Corn is pollinated by pollen from its tassels (the tops of the corn plant). Corn usually only produces one or two ears per stalk.
Growing Beans:
There are basically two types of beans, pole beans and bush beans. Bush beans will stand on their own. Pole beans need support and thus are the beans one would plant with corn. Plant the bean seed at the base of the corn stalk. Beans grow faster than corn so the bean can be planted after the corn stalk has begun to grow.
Growing Squash:
A winter squash such as butternut is a good choice for the 3 Sisters garden. Squash need plenty of sun and good drainage, space plants at least 3 to 6 feet apart.
Plant Community
The main reason that I am introducing you to the three sisters is to expand upon the plant community concept and to help you understand that your garden will achieve its best results when it grows naturally or at least when the design you choose is modeled on nature and not on an artificial construct.
When it comes to gardening, work and Life itself, we will thrive if we let Nature be our guide and teacher and model our activities after the lessons that nature provides each and every day.
Take a walk in a forest and watch the interaction between the beings who are there; see how the plants work together and observe the birds, insects and other creatures going about their business all intent on their own task but each apart in the Grand Dance that is Nature.
Now take a few minutes and think about your garden, how can you design it so that the dance continues in your backyard with all the performers doing what they do best. A few minutes spent in observation and in recording your observations can enrich your garden and possibly your Life.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Seed Starting 1

Hi, getting my indoor seed starting station organized. I have all I need for this year's starts. Photos will follow in future posts.

Tomato seed starts 2016

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Growing On a Roof

One area that is often overlooked when planning a garden is the rooftop.

Now your house may not have a roof that suits a garden; it may be too slanted or does not have easy access for regular gardening chores.

It is important to make the distinction between a roof top garden and a green roof, while there are some similarities, they generally serve different purposes.

Green roofs are a roof that allows plants, trees and shrubs to grow in a specially designed light-weight growing medium.

The three main types of green roof systems are:
·        complete systems where all the different components including roof membrane are an integral part of the whole system
·        modular systems that are positioned above the existing roofing system
·        pre-cultivated vegetation blankets that consist of growing medium and plants that are rolled onto the existing roofing system with drainage mats and root barriers as required

The roof top garden is simply a garden, usually in containers, that is located on a roof top. The roof top may be a house, an office building, a garage, shed or any other structure that has a suitable surface and is strong enough to take the extra weight.
BE sure that the roof you choose can handle the extra weight, or you may get a major surprise. You may need to consult with a structural engineer before proceeding, remember that in addition to the garden, there will be at least one person adding to the overall weight.
If you are ready to proceed in the design of a roof top garden the process that you are beginning is similar to combining interior decorating with landscape design.

Step One:
What is the purpose of the space? If you are looking to grow a container or two of herbs and vegetables that is one thing; if you are planning a community garden that is another.
Or, are you designing an outdoor space for relaxation and entertaining that incorporates flowers, shrubs and trees into the design?

It is possible to set up an orchard on the roof as long as the containers you use are big enough.

Step Two:
You know the space’s purpose; now what do you want to grow?

Step Three:
How much time do you want to devote to gardening? If your time is limited you may want to keep the garden element of the design small, you can always add later, enough so that you can give the plants the attention they deserve.
Be sure to make notes as you go; you will want to refer to them as you proceed.
What you do next will depend upon the answers to the questions raised in the first three steps. If you are adding an outdoor room to your home then you need to think about furniture, for example; if you are growing food, then all that is left to do is decide what food you want to grow.
Some considerations, the weather conditions on a roof top, much like a balcony, will be different than those at ground level, there may be little to no shade so it will be hot and the winds will be stronger.
The combination of heat and strong winds means that the soil will dry faster than it will in the garden and therefore, the plants will need watering more frequently.
This brings us to another point, water overflow; containers can be designed to catch excess water so that it does not puddle on the roof, making for slippery conditions and added weight. I suggest you hand water your roof top garden so that you get sued to the plants’ needs and thus avoid excessive watering.

A roof top garden is an ideal place to grow native perennials. They will be able to handle the ecosystem and you will be helping maintain the native plant population. This will also encourage native butterflies and birds to drop by for a visit.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Online Seed School

I'm in week 3 of this online course and learning a lot.  

Seed School Online is a 7-class, online course that you can attend at your leisure. The classes are released one week apart to give you time to complete them individually.

Each week, a new page on the customer hub site will become available with your materials for that week. This includes the class video itself, a workbook to take notes and identify key points of information, recommended resources, and any assignments.

In the Seed School Online series of classes, you'll learn:
• Why Seed Saving is So Important
• How to grow and save seeds
• How to share your seeds and your understanding

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Today we celebrate worms. The red wiggler in particular. 
Red wigglers will eat your garbage, well your kitchen scraps, anyway. They are the worm of choice when it comes to worm composting.
Worm composting or vermiculture is an ideal way to dispose of kitchen vegetable matter. Matter that may otherwise end up in the garbage and headed to a landfill. Don’t throw it away give it to the worms. They will devour it and transform this ‘waste’ into garden gold.
There is no need to run outside to dump this material into the snow-covered compost bin where it will lie waiting for summer. Buy or build an indoor worm compost bin.
An indoor worm composting bin will turn your kitchen scraps into odour free nutrient-rich organic material that you can use in your garden or in small amounts added now and then to your houseplants.
You can buy a ready-made composter or build one. To build your own you will need, a worm box, redworms, bedding material and kitchen scraps.
Worm box:
You can use a wooden or plastic garbage can or storage box. Be sure to drill 3 holes (1/4”) in the bottom for drainage. As the worms eat your garbage, moisture is produced so you will need to place a container to catch this liquid, or one morning you will find an unpleasant puddle needing your attention.
This liquid is great for your houseplants so do not toss it away.
Cover the drainage holes with small rocks or gravel, about one inch of gravel at the bottom of the box will do the trick. Cover the gravel with a screen.
Moisten the bedding material. This can be shredded leaves, sawdust, newspapers or peat moss and fill the box about 2/3 full. You can add a ½ cup of finished compost to speed the process along at this point if you wish.
Now it is time to add the worms which you can order from a number of sources. Red worms are what you need not earthworms. There are a number of good online red worm suppliers out there, and if you do not want to build your own composter they can sell you worms and worm bins.
Cucumber peel, melon rinds, lettuce and coffee grounds are favourite foods.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to bury the scraps in the bedding in order to avoid attracting fruit flies.
Over time the bedding will disappear, and the box will become full of worm castings. The best way to harvest the castings is by placing fresh bedding and fresh scraps in just one spot. Then when the worms move in you can remove some of the castings. The castings may be used in small amounts on houseplants, or directly on the garden if the weather permits.
Be sure to keep the worm box 2/3 full and the worms and your plants will be very happy, until next week happy gardening.
The red wiggler is an earthworm and was last week’s featured garden friend.

Today, our focus will fall on three other types of earthworms. The earthworm simplifies the work, anyone who does not use synthetic substances, must do to maintain a thriving, highly-productive garden.

Earthworms inhabit can live in a wide variety of soil types but like, all beings, the healthier the soil, the healthier and more numerous the earthworms. Air and moisture are two elements all earthworms demand. Unlike people the earthworm does not lungs. They breathe through their skin. Like people earthworms take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

Moisture provides help with breathing but, if there is too much water and they will drown.

Besides, the red wiggler. There are three other common earthworms. They are:

Nightcrawlers: 8 to 10 inches long and the fisherman's favourite. 
Garden Worms: 5 to 7 inches long and found commonly in damp soils. 
Manure Worms: 4 to 5 inches long and found in manure rich soils. 

No earthworms in the garden? A garden without earthworms will not receive the wide number of benefits the worms bring. Earthworms move through the soil by tunnelling. This tunneling action allows air and moisture to pass easily through the soil, creating a healthy environment for plants. Tunnels retain water that the plants are able to ingest. The air passing through these tunnels enables the soil bacteria to break down organic matter within the soil. 

Like humans, sometime after consuming a meal, earthworms need to dispose of what they have consumed. The excrement the worm passes is small, say the size of a pinhead. Soil scientists and natural gardeners refer to the discarded product as castings. Castings make an excellent soil additive. Castings improve the soil’s ability to retain moisture. This aids plant growth. It also assists in the battle against pests and diseases that can ultimately harm the plant.
Allow fallen leaves to accumulate on the garden bed.
Add mulch to the garden bed Directly bury kitchens craps into the soil. I remember watching my father do this. The hole should be between 10 centimeters (3.9 in)-20 centimeter (7.9 in) in depth. Do this all over the garden, a different spot every time.

Follow these simple steps and the worms will come. A healthy garden is a worm-filled garden.
Mulch can also be applied on top of the garden’s surface. Mulching Tips:
1- Mulch is spread on top of the soil around the plants and along pathways. You can use, leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs, lawn clippings and sawdust as mulch around perennial plants.
2- For your vegetable garden use nitrogen-rich green materials, for example, lawn clippings and other green garden trimmings.
·        Do not put mulch too close to tree trunks Spread the mulch out to the drip line, which is the outer perimeter of the tree’s branches
·        Remove mulch or turn it under in the Spring as slugs and snails will see it as an ideal place to lay eggs.

The natural gardener knows a thriving garden requires garden friends, until next week, happy gardening.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Right Plant Right Place

Right Plant Right Place (RPRP)
The right plant right place rule or RPRP. When you place a plant where the conditions give it what it needs (water, soil, light) that plant will do well and reward you with fruit and flowers throughout the season.
For RPRP to work you need to know three things:
One: what are the conditions where you are planning to garden, for example how much sunlight and/or shade?
Two: Be sure the plant gets the water it needs. If you are in a dry area, use plants that can tolerate the dry conditions, if the site is wet, use plants that like it wet.
Three: will the plant grow in your garden’s hardiness zone.

Hardiness Zone:
Plant hardiness zones—also known as planting zones or growing zones—help gardeners understand which plants can survive their region’s climate. Find out which planting zone you’re located in and grow a great garden, one that thrives. There are a number of online sites that will enable you to find out which hardiness zone you occupy. One of my favourites is the Old Farmer’s Almanac 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What to Compost

What can you compost? The following information provides you with a list of items that can go into your compost pile.

From Your Garden:

Leaves (chopped - to speed their breakdown)

Grass (not wet)

Plants & Weeds (without ripe seeds)

Old potting soil

Soft plant stems
From Your Kitchen.
Coffee grounds and filters

Fruit scraps

Vegetable trimmings

Crushed egg shells

Tea bags

Shredded paper
The following items should not be placed into the compost:
Dairy products including cheese
Meat, fish (including sauces) and bones



Fats and oils

Pet waste

Remember that a successful gardener builds soil and compost enables you to do that work.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How Flowers Changed the World.

I bought this book at a remainder sale. So far I ae read it twice and can only say it is an insightful look through words and picture of how flowers contributed to the world we know today.

"Flowers changed the face of the world. Without them, the world we know-even man himself- would never have existed." This says it all. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Size Does Not Matter.

Gardening is an excellent investment, not only does the gardener get an opportunity to interact with nature and get away from the daily routine, but she or he also gets tomatoes.

When you garden, size does not matter, great gardens can be created in small spaces. When you garden, mistakes do not matter. Gardening is about observing and interacting, a learning as you go, activity.

When a plant does not thrive realize this is not a failure but an opportunity to explore new possibilities or to learn more about what the plant needs to grow.
Gardening is an ongoing activity.  This does not mean it takes a 24/7 level of attention, rather for those, who are eager to expand their knowledge and capabilities, there is always something to learn and try.

I have been growing plants for most of my life, starting in my parents’ backyard. There have been breaks over the years, for one reason or another, but my attention always returns to the garden.

I have made more than a few mistakes over those years. If I had given up after my first attempts I would have missed the many joys and hours of happiness, gardening has given me.  Also, the great fruit, healthy herbs and vibrant flowers I have grown and shared with others over the years.

To truly benefit from all garden-related activities, keep a journal. A few notes about what worked, what did not and any observations you find relevant accompanied by photos will make an excellent record of your gardening adventure.

Smartphones make it simple to create a garden diary, but a basic notebook and pencil will do the job. The choice is yours.

Risk taking is essential in order to discover what we can do. Risk taking can build inner strength and wisdom.

Gardening is a great way to take a risk. There are a few basic rules to follow: the amount of sun a plant needs, soil health and water. Once these have been worked out, then have some fun. 

Be sure to pay attention to the garden experiment you undertake. Keep a record in your garden notebook. This way there is something to review and reconsider over the cold months.

When the seed catalogues begin arriving. Take your time going through them. Select a new variety or two and incorporate them into the next season’s gardening plan.

Plan on moving plants that did not fare well to another spot or remove them altogether. Use the space, now available, for an experiment, perhaps a plant that you are not sure will work but want to try anyway.

There is a huge number of gardening books out there, do not get lost in the printed word but get out an get your hands dirty. Practical experience can be of more use than a book.

Your garden may be situated in a microclimate which differs from the usual conditions in the area. It may be possible to grow plants in that microclimate that will not grow elsewhere in the neighbourhood

Thursday, March 7, 2019

How to Start a School Garden

A school garden is a garden on the school property. It may be a flower garden or a vegetable garden or both. The choice is up to the people who plant and tend the garden; the students with guidance and advice from teachers and parents.
A school garden is an excellent way for the parents to become involved in the school that their child(ren) attends. The garden can be a container garden, raised bed or planted directly into the ground, once again the choice belongs to the gardeners taking into consideration the available resources, such as the amount of land available and the type of land as well as the amount of time that can be dedicated to gardening.
The school garden can complement the learning experience as there are many lessons that can be based upon the garden. For one thing, students can learn how to work together to plan, plant and care for the garden.
tomato starts
How to get started?
The impetus for the garden may come from a teacher, a parent or a student. For the garden to work all must be involved. Regardless of who initiates the project, the school principal must be involved and the principal’s permission is essential.
If a teacher starts the project and gets the principal on board then the next step is to rally other teachers and plan a public meeting.
The students’ parents are invited to that meeting in order to inform them about the project and get them interested. Have them bring their children as well so all the concerned parties are in the room.
You will need to give them information such as the size of the garden and where on the school grounds it will be located. Having a clear purpose for the garden may help; for example will it be an edible plant garden, that can provide fresh food for the cafeteria; or will it be a native plant garden designed to introduce native plants into the area and encourage birds and butterflies.
The meeting begins with a quick overview of the project which includes the benefits that the students will receive from being involved. Then a question and answer period follows.
Be sure to have a sign-up sheet handy for any parents who want to help with the garden, their assistance will be invaluable over the summer months.
If a student or group of students is eager to start a garden on the school grounds, the first step is to talk with a teacher and get his or her support; once that is done then the process becomes the same as the above for the teacher initiated garden.
If a parent or parents are interested in starting the garden, then the first step is to contact the school principal and any teachers you may know and arrange a meeting to discuss the project. A parent initiated garden may not need to hold a community meeting, as parents are already in the loop.
Once you have the principal’s permission and have students, teachers and parents o board, the final gardening decisions can be made. Decisions such as organic or not; what to plant can be worked out by the gardeners.
A school garden can provide an outdoor classroom, a source of healthy food or habitat for local wildlife or the best, all three. There are enough examples of successful school gardens around to know that it is a win-win situation for your child’s education.
Gardening can help build a child’s confidence, engage their imagination, make new friends and enhance the school property.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Regenerative Life

What do I mean by regenerative? I find this site very helpful in coming to terms with a regenerative life. 

Permaculture design is a methodology that can help individuals and communities create a regenerative environment. As I learn more I will share what I find.

Monday, March 4, 2019

From My Garden an ebook

From My Garden:
Gardening How-tos, Insights and Essays.

Bob Ewing, permaculture designer, garden writer.


This book is based upon my personal experiences as a gardener, garden writer, workshop facilitator, lecturer and permaculture designer. Most of the gardening I have done has been undertaken in urban environments. I have created small to medium gardens for myself and others on balconies, decks and backyards. I love growing plants in containers.

Container gardening is an excellent way to begin the gardening adventure. It is also a perfect way to maximise use of space. A garden does not need to be large to be rewarding and bountiful.

I do have experience in larger gardens, as well but if left to my own devices a raised bed in a community garden and a few plants on my balcony would be my bliss.

I enjoy community gardens, so much more happens there than simply growing food and herbs.

This book addresses our love of gardening, providing how-to information as well as essays to encourage the reader to step out of the box and create something that reflects who they are.

 Smart Gardening:

Smart gardening involves understanding that repeating the same activities year after year, in a changing environment, will lead to frustration and failure.
The smart gardener knows how to create a garden that is resilient, or, in other words, can withstand any drastic shifts that may take place, locally.
 Growing food, for many gardeners, is often repeating the same actions year after year, even if the previous year was a disaster due to too little or too much rainfall, cooler temperatures than expected, and so on.
The grower continues to plant the same annual plants. The exact location of the plants may be shifted. Tomatoes and potatoes are grown in a different spot than the previous year, but they are still grown.
The use of annual food plants means the beginning of the gardening season can be a busy one. Backyard gardeners are often rushed, trying to prepare the soil and get the plants in on time.
This book will help you design and plant a garden that matches your interests, time and needs.
The last chapter focuses on permaculture design what it is and how it applies to the backyard gardener.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Tomatoes: Three General Types

It is important that you are aware of the tomato’s three general types of growth; determinate, indeterminate and semi-determinate.

Determinate: varieties are often referred to as bush tomatoes. This is because the terminal (top and end) buds end in a flower cluster that produces fruit. The plant will stop growing when the terminal flowers develop. The fruit then develops and ripens over a short period of time, depending upon the weather.
Tomatoes like heat so in cooler summers this process will slow down. The determinate varieties usually mature early and will produce small plants with generally smaller fruit. The small size means they do not need to be pruned or staked and can be great for a balcony or patio, especially if space is limited.
Indeterminate: these varieties are very popular with home gardeners. The indeterminate varieties will they often produce high-quality, flavourful, desirable fruit. They do mature later in the season than the determinate varieties do.
 Indeterminate refers to the continual growth habit of the plant which will continue to grow and flower until a killing frost. These are tall plants and will require staking for best results. Pruning is also vital if you want to enhance quality. Both flowering and fruiting occur over a longer time period.
Semi-Indeterminate: the name says it all. They have characteristics that are intermediate between determinate and indeterminate. Basically, indeterminate in nature, they will need staking and pruning in order to improve quality, but this is not essential.
The indeterminate varieties are also very popular with home gardeners as they can provide a fairly early and good-quality yield.
A few words for local tomato growers. It is vital to pay close attention to the weather at the beginning and ending of the tomato season. Early and late frosts can kill the plants, even a mild chill can slow growth down.
Keep a row cover or even an old sheet handy and watch for frost or low temperature warning. If a serious drop in temperature is announced, then cover the plants. 

Podcast Coming soon

I am working on a podcast, working title "We Are Nature Working" I will talk about the many issues facing us from climate catastro...