The Joy of Gardening in Southern Ontario

I love gardening in my Zone 5 garden. To many it would not seem like an exciting place to garden. The ground is frozen from December to April and four large Maple Trees shade the West facing back garden all Summer. Dispite this, much magic and joy happens in this small space every year.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

From Freezing to Mild and Sunny

Aeonium (in the greenhouse) that I grew from seed last year.

Today is quite cold, over night it was -13 degrees Celsius.

Last year I grew some zone 7 grasses from seed (Cortaderia Argentea – Pampus Grass and Phyllostachys Heteroclada - Bamboo), I'm hoping that they survive as there is no snow cover to protect them. They are very well mulched and some of them are against a sheltering house wall. It will be interesting to see if they survive this winter. Although, as a backup, I have some in a coldframe that is well insulated with bubblewrap.

You might have noticed from the picture of the greenhouse that it is also covered in bubblewrap. I buy a large roll each year; it helps keep the heat in and lets through enough light for plants to tick over. This keeps the electricity bill down but mostly assuages my guilt re: Global Warming.

Most of my seeds are germinating. Banana seeds always cause me grief so this year I used sandpaper to chit them, hopefully that will encourage them to germinate.

When I garden I don’t feel that I fight Nature (zone 7 grasses in a zone 5 climate!) but I do feel that Nature plays a game with me. I laugh at the curve balls she throws.

Flowers in the House

I had a Desert Rose flowering in the greenhouse so I’ve bought it into the kitchen to enjoy its flowers, it goes with the Hibiscus that is flowering like mad. The Gardenia is budding so the greenhouse will soon be filled with its beautify fragrance.

Pest Control

I’m a reasonably peaceful person so my family think it hilarious and rather out of character when I rush around the garden on a summer evening squashing slugs beneath my boots with an eerie look of satisfaction on my face.

Most of the time the plants look after themselves, I don’t mind holes in leaves and I enjoy watching the rabbits and squirrels rummaging around the garden but I do stretch to beer jars for slugs and pesticide soap for bad aphid attacks. A spell in the greenhouse (cool nights and very humid) seems to get rid of red spider mite on the plants wintering in the house.

Today I removed an infestation of scale insects from my small grapefruit tree using a cotton bud and rubbing alcohol. This seems to be effective especially if it is followed by a soap spray.

I used to be a chemist at the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food in the UK, we dealt with very toxic pesticides on a frequent basis, I learned how they killed the worm population of the soil and could, if applied at the wrong time, wipe out bee and other pollinating insect populations – not a good thing.

Over Wintering

I over winter a lot of plants and tubers in the basement cold room, it doesn’t go below 5 degrees Celsius so it is ideal for Dahlia and Cana tubers. This year I’ve put the Brugmansia (Angel Trumpets), Banana, Mandeville and Pelargonium (tender Geranium) in there. I’ll take everything out in March to start it moving again.

Why do I Love Gardening

It helps me feel at one with the earth and it makes my heart sing. It satisfies a deep primal need in me that I cannot explain.

This has become a little long. Today, two days after I started this, we went for a walk. It was a beautifully sunny day and the tempurature was 10 degrees Celsius!

Minus 13 to plus 10!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

January and it's so warm

This is my opening posting, I started this because I wanted to express my love for gardening so here goes.

It's January in Southern Ontario, it's supposed to be well below zero celcius all the time and here we are finishing a weekend that has been mostly above zero. I'm even thinking that I should have left my greenhouse without 'bubblewrap' protection.

This small greenhouse enables me to keep all sorts of tender flowers, shrubs and herbs growing through the winter and enables me to give the large number of seeds that I grow a head start.

Our house has many plants in it, hibiscus, coffee, succulents, bamboo, orchids and orchid lillies. In fact we often have outbreaks of lady bugs (lady birds in UK) in January and February. These I dutifully capture and place carefully in the greenhouse where they control the pest population.

I've planted about twenty varieties of seed already, mostly grasses (and bamboo) to give them a good head start. I've also planted some Datura, Ginger (Hedychium) and Mandevilla Suaveolens (a fragrant version of the popular summer climber that I bought from Chiltern Seeds).

All of the above have germinated very quickly (10 days!) under the plant lights that I got, last year, from Canada Blooms and look to be doing well.

As we have such a short summer, this year, I would like to get a good crop of hot peppers. So I have sown some Thai Dragon, Scotch Bonnet and Tepin Atomic peppers which is a month earlier than I normally so them. They should germinate in a week or so and I'll move them to a sunny south facing window sill(until I take the bubble wrap off the greenhouse in early April).

This year I am trying to keep track of when and how I sow the approxiamately 50 varieties of seeds I ordered. This should make it easier to see what works and what does not.

I apologies for the look of the page, I'll try to workout how to make it look more pleasing.

Finally here is a picture of one of our Hibiscus that is happily flowering in the kitchen.