Monday, June 27, 2011

Rising Food Prices = More Gardening

In today's Globe and Mail...
"By now we've all heard the price of food in Canada is rising. Economists are predicting that Canadians will be paying between 5 and 7 per cent more for groceries on average by the end of year, due to bad crops around the world, oil prices topping $100 (U.S.) a barrel and a sluggish economic recovery. That 5-to-7 per cent rise means an extra $340 (Canadian) a year, for a family spending an average of $400 a month on groceries.... Rising food prices and an interest in knowing where their food is coming from has led some urban dwellers growing vegetables in their backyard."  

Looks like there are more reasons than ever to consider planting a few veggies here and there.

Thanks again to my trusted source, Kathryn, for the link.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More Butterflies!

You're not going to believe this!  After watching Wings lay her eggs, we went for a walk to the garden to get more dill plants.  While we were there, we thought we'd bring home some milkweed for the monarch butterfly enclosure Aidan has been working on all winter.  Aidan's interest in building a butterfly enclosure resulted from our experience last summer (see last year's story here).

On our way back, Melanie spotted an injured monarch.  This poor butterfly looked pretty beat up and was in even worse shape than Wings.  But once again, my kids insisted that we take it home and care for it.  Within minutes they had already decided to call it "Plum" (go figure).
poor Plum all tattered and torn
It took a while to transplant the milkweed and set up the frame for our outdoor monarch butterfly enclosure, but finally we settled Plum into her new home on one of the transplanted milkweeds.
Aidan built this frame out of old silk screen frames he found.
The front of the frame has extra floating row cover material to allow easy access & viewing.
We were happy to give poor Plum a nice, safe place to spend her last few moments. But, Plum had a surprise in store for us!  Soon after we placed her on the milkweed she started laying eggs.  Seriously, I am not making this up!
Plum laying eggs
I would have never believed it, had I not seen it myself.  Plum may not be the most beautiful of all monarchs, but she sure is one of the toughest!
Mama Plum
I'm going to stop predicting the fate of these poor butterflies and just wait and see.
our monarch home

If all goes well, the monarch eggs should hatch in 4-8 days just like the black swallowtail eggs.  They should look a lot like these little baby monarch caterpillars we found in our patch of milkweed in the garden.
We are in awe.

Wings lays eggs!

On Thursday, my daughter brought home an injured black swallowtail butterfly named Wings.  We built a screen enclosure for it outside.  After finding out the correct type of butterfly and realizing they prefer dill and parsley, we quickly added the proper plants to the enclosure.

This morning we watched as Wings laid her eggs on one of the baby dill plants.  Very cool!  I must admit, I wasn't holding out much hope for poor Wings.  Now, we're very excited to see what will happen to all those eggs.
black swallowtail butterfly eggs on baby dill 4-8 days 'til a caterpillar emerges
From what I've seen, it is not typical to lay such a huge cluster of eggs, but it was the only dill we had at the time and the parsley didn't seem to transplant very well.  We've since added some more dill plants. Hopefully, we'll see a few caterpillars around July 1.

Here are some links we've found on black swallowtail butterflies:

Our first pea pod!

Fresh, sweet, delicious peas and strawberries are definitely one way to get the kids excited about going to the garden again!
our first pea pod
mmm, that's so good

Thursday, June 23, 2011


What do you do when your youngest comes home with an injured butterfly?
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
We hummed and hahed about what to do with this mourning cloak  black swallowtail butterfly aptly named "Wings" by the classmate that found it and passed it on to my daughter (thanks for that!).  If you look closely you'll see it's right wing has a part missing leading to a very wobbly, short flight pattern.  All that rustling in the flowers is sure to attract attention from some would be predator.  Releasing it was not an option according to my kids.

Keeping it in a small plastic container with a couple of dead dandelion flowers didn't seem like a good option either.

It was time to Google "how to help an injured butterfly".  That search resulted in no less than 4.3 million results!  Wow!  (Make that 4,300,001 after this post!)

We learned:
  • hold a butterfly gently by its closed wings as close to the body as possible and as lightly as possible
  • butterflies need moisture/food, in the case of our mourning cloak decaying fruit or a "nectar" made of 3 parts water with 1 part sugar   in the case of our black swallow tail, dill, parsley or carrot family plants are preferred 
  • holding pens should be soft sided so wings aren't damaged further - no glass/plastic jars
  • thanks to one of our readers, we also learned that our butterfly is a black swallowtail not a mourning cloak - hence the crossed out typing above!
So, here's what we did:

We planted some flowering, butterfly friendly plants (transplanted from other areas of our yard) into a big container.  We put in several tall stakes and draped over some window screening that we had lying around.  We sealed the bottom around the container with duct tape.  There's an opening on one side that we can open and close with safety pins as needed.

Let's hope Wings enjoys the space - at least for a few days!
a new home for Wings
Our next butterfly adventure will involve the baby monarch caterpillars that we've discovered on our milkweed.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

After a Week Away

Going to the garden every day is rejuvenating for me.  It never fails to clear my mind and lift my spirits.  It's also a good way to stay on top of watering, weeding and bug patrol.

After being away for a week, I was curious and anxious to see what I would find in the garden.  To my delight, I found a handful of sweet, juicy strawberries!
Now, that's what a strawberry should be!
I also found many young weeds trying to invade while they had the chance.  Too bad for them, I was in the mood for weeding.

The rest of the garden includes:



red cabbage

While things look pretty good overall, I suspect we won't have as many carrots as we did last year.  Carrots love, love, love to have plenty of moisture while they're just getting started.  Unfortunately, they just didn't get enough this spring.

Now that we've grown to love beets, I was excited to plant a whole row of them.  Seems someone else likes beets too.  There are only two or three beets standing.  The rest look like this...

Nibbled beet
Annie, a long standing, well regarded gardener, suspects that cutworms are the culprits.  

You just never know what will happen in the garden.

Planning for a Freezer Full?

Freezing veggies is by far my favourite method of keeping our garden goodies over the winter.  Last summer, we even bought a new freezer to accommodate all of our fruits, veggies and Manitoba raised meat.

If you're thinking about replacing an old fridge or freezer, you might be interested to know Manitoba Hydro has just announced a new Refrigerator Retirement Program that offers $40 for every old fridge or freezer retired.
Here are some highlights from Hydro's press release.

Manitoba Hydro residential customers can now save energy and money by getting rid of their old, working second refrigerators. The Power Smart Refrigerator Retirement Program pays Manitoba Hydro customers $40 for a working refrigerator 15 years or older, including free in-home pick up.

Homeowners with fridges over 15 years old can call 1-8-555-FRIDGE (1-855-537-4343) or visit to book an appointment. A maximum of three appliances per residence will be picked up. The first appliance must be a fridge; the second and third appliances can be fridges and/or freezers. The program ensures that the fridge will be recycled in the most environmentally responsible way, resulting in less than 5% ending up at a landfill.

If you've been thinking about replacing that old fridge or freezer, now may be the perfect time!

Thanks to my friend Kathryn for the heads up.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pest Control

Are critters getting your veggies?

We've had a host of little visitors in our veggies.  The main culprits at the garden right now are cutworms, flea beetles and potato beetles.  Up at the house the bunnies are getting just about everything.  And, a friend has reported signs of cabbage moth caterpillars.

It's time to take protective measures.

For cutworms, protective collars made from coffee cans or plastic containers works very well - if you don't trap baby cutworms inside of the collar like I did with this ground cherry.

trapped cutworm got the ground cherry inside the protective collar
My gardening neighbour uses plastic edging to protect his row crops (onions, beans, beets)
For flea beetles (wee little shiny black beetles that jump when you get near), root maggot flies (gross, I know!) and cabbage moth caterpillars (green worms) a floating row cover (I got mine last year at Lee Valley) does a good job.  If you've had issues in previous years, anticipate that they'll be back and put the row cover on before you see signs of damage.
Floating row cover over cabbage/broccoli, kohlrabi 
We're still trying to figure out what to do about those bunnies.  We've put netting around some spots, but there's only so much netting I want in my yard.  We'll sacrifice a few plants and put some in planters.  Lettuce, beets, swiss chard, cabbage, parsley seem to be the favorite snack.  They don't seem very fond of Johnny Jump Ups, garlic, chives, rosemary, thyme, sage, broad beans and ground cherries.
plants that have survived the bunnies
Do you have critter issues?  What are you doing about them?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rhubarb is Ready

It's rhubarb season!
Beautiful rhubarb
Over at Fruit Share volunteers are bringing in batches of rhubarb from around the city. It's wonderful to see this often underrated fruit (actually, it's a vegetable but since we use it like a fruit, let's just call it a fruit) being enjoyed by so many people.

What are they doing with it?  Here are links to some of Fruit Share volunteers' favourite recipes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Planting is Done

We did it.  Everything we wanted to plant is now in the ground.  Yeah!
Melanie planting beans - with safety helmet, cause you never know:)
The kids and I put in our beans last night.  We put them in late to try to accommodate our holiday schedule.  We'd like to harvest them in August instead of July - we'll see if it works.  I've never actually been so methodical as to plant based on a preferred harvest date.  I've always just planted when the soil and temperature were ready.  It seems like I'm tempting fate by trying to plan the harvest.  I hope Mother Nature doesn't mind!

Now all we need to do is weed, water and wait - the three W's of gardening.  Although, Aidan was checking out the strawberries and he doesn't think we'll have to wait for long!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What's Up in the Garden

It's June 6th.  Temps have been a little cooler than normal.  We've had a week of on and off again rain and it looks like we're in for some more.

Today, I did some more planting.
Corn - see How We Plant Corn
Tomatoes - see How We Plant Tomatoes
Scarlet Runner Beans - placed seeds about 1/2 inch deep 2 inches apart around the teepee structure
Beets - placed seeds 1/2-1 inch deep in a row 3 inches apart covered with soil and watered

Compared to last year at about this time, things are just a little bit smaller - see What's Up in the Garden.  I haven't even planted the beans yet and they were at least 4 inches high last year at this time.  That will be on my To Do List on the next sunny day.

Reading through last's year blog reminds me that I should put up the floating row cover over the cabbage patch and the tomato cages around my tomatoes.

Here's what things look like:
peppers and tomatoes
strawberries! (new this year)
corn, staggered planting first batch 2 inches high next batch just seeded

Melanie's celery, radishes and flower patch - notice line of death between the kids' gardens
little green carrot sprouts
cabbage patch

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kids in the Garden

The on and off again rain showers have kept me out of the garden plot.  It's a good time to catch up on some gardening reading.

My friend Kathryn sent me this link about kids in the garden from Living the Country Life. Kids in the Garden

Our Melanie would probably love the idea of a pizza garden - but only if it were shaped like a pizza.

What do you do to get the kids interested?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sage Advice on Growing Tomatoes

I've had a chance to hear Dave Hansen of Sage Garden Herbs give several presentations.  He's very knowledgeable and very passionate about growing plants organically.  Let's just say I've become a little bit of a groupie!  If you don't want to hit the road and catch him on stage, you could just listen to his to him on his CBC Weekend Morning Show, every second Saturday at 8:40 am. Next show is Saturday, June 11th or read Sage Garden Herbs' newsletter.

The June edition just came out and has a great article with all sorts of helpful tips on tomatoes.  Check it out!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June Preserving Ideas from Well Preserved

I'm not sure if I've mentioned Well Preserved before, but it's a fabulous site about preserving food that goes far beyond jams and jellies.

If you want to be inspired and find some unique recipes and techniques for your garden veggies and backyard fruit, you've got to check them out.

I love this piece that they created for Edible Toronto.  The images are as fantastic as the recipes that go along with them. Also, check out their latest blog post on June Preserving ideas.