Friday, 27 December 2013

Garden Trends 2014

The 'Trends' post is one of my all time favourites to write up. I totally enjoy reviewing the past year's gardening themes and then scoping out which way the trends are bending towards in the year ahead!

So, here, in no particular order, are the garden trends for 2014, as I see them.

1. Growing Vegetables aka Growing Your Own Food

This one, of course, totally floats my boat! I am all about bringing back food growing in the yard, at home, especially rather than useless lawns ; )
People are growing their own groceries more than ever, esp with the threats from genetically modified foods, wondering how they will affect us, our children and our grandbabies in the long run.

Some grow veggies in pots and planters, some in raised beds in the back yard or mixed in with the flowers in the flower beds, and some on a larger scale, using up most all of the yard for food.
Whatever one does, it teaches children where food comes from, how to grow it, and how it really tastes fresh out of the garden. It is healthier, more nutritious, and you know what has gone into it and know exactly what is on your plate. Plus, it is so much fun to nurture ones own food from start to finish.

People have re-discovered real food. Home grown, organically grown, ethically grown food...  not only safer but tastes so much better.

Note:
It is is very important that you know that the seeds, seedlings, fruits and veggies that we small peeps can buy, sell and grow are not now and have not ever been genetically modified (GMO's). The only people that have access to GMO seeds are huge companies that pay big bucks and sign papers for the 'right' to grow them. Hybrids are not genetically modified.
That said, it is also very important that you buy seeds from companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge and seedlings and starts from reputable companies (like Nitty Gritty Greenhouse) who only use seeds that have taken this pledge. Though the seeds themselves have not been modified, some of the seed companies are actually owned by Monsanto and thus the sale of those seeds help to fund the works. Grr, dirty pool, eh?


Black Plum heirloom tomatoes from my own greenhouse and potager.
2. Super Foods/Edibles

With the trend to healthier lifestyles, more people than ever are getting active and eating more fruits, veggies, and super grains.
Juicing and blending is in, raw foods are in, veggies are hip, eating fresh, green, local, is very, very in. 

Super foods are fruits, veggies, berries, grains, etc... that have higher than average nutritional value. Foods that lower our risk of disease and improve our health.
Turns out that we are eating more and more of these extra nutritious foods now, especially if we can find them locally grown or grow them ourselves! Organic, home grown super foods! Fresher than fresh and thus even more nutritious!

Power packed super foods that we are growing ourselves ...  
Quinoa (a gluten free super grain, packed with protein, amino acids, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese )
Pumpkin seeds (for Omega 3's and 6's, tons of zinc and iron, plus most importantly, phytosterols for lowering cholesterol and for prostate health)
Blueberries, black currants, and rhubarb (are all sources of higher than average vitamins and anti-oxidants, plus, rhubarb is great for relieving hot flashes! :) 
Pretty much the entire allium family, but esp garlic and shallots (contain pre-biotics that promote the good bacterias that we need for good gut health, lower the risk of stomach cancer, help fight against atherosclerosis. Alzheimer's, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and blood clots that cause stroke or heart attack)
Veggies that are deep and rich with colours are known to have greater nutritional value than their pale counterparts... think dark green leafy veggies like kale and spinach, or deep oranges like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash, beets, broccoli, cabbage....

Grow your own quinoa!
Super easy to grow yourself and super nutritious!
 ... and pretty to boot!
 
3. Easy To Grow Fruits, Veggies & Berries That Thrive in Small Spaces

When asked, folks said they would grow even more foods in their own yards if only the plants were smaller and more manageable, super easy to grow, with less fussing and great results.
Dunh, dunh, dah... Bring on these guys...

These cuties all need less fussing, less space, less pruning, are easy to grow and thrive in pots, planters or garden beds.

Blueberries like the Top Hat Blueberry, or the new Brazelberries blueberries called Jelly Bean and Peach Sorbet, are the cutest little dwarf shrubs ever! They can be grown in a pot or in the garden, are self pollinating, easy to grow, and prolific fruiters. 

Brazelberries new Raspberry Shortcake is a thornless (yay!) raspberry that stays compact and pretty. Needs no staking or tying up, making it possible for the very first time to grow great raspberries in a pot or in the smallest of garden spaces!

Veggies like the Astia Zucchini provide loads of zukes with shorter, compact branches instead of long vines.
Bush Slicer Cucumber for tons of slicer cukes on short vines, perfect for pots.
The Morden Midget Eggplant is never bitter, always tasty, with pretty little purple fruits that grow on an 18" high bush.
The Stupice tomato is a bush type heirloom that stays nice and compact and fruits great, is especially perfect for short season summer area.

Fruit trees like figs, lemons, mandarins, limes, apples, pears ... all come in dwarf varieties and can easily be tended in pots or grown as a feature tree in the new postage stamp sized yards.

Brazelberries 'Raspberry Shortcake'
 
4. Planting for the bees
 
With the decline in the bee population, everyone is taking this one very seriously. Pesticides have been banned in most all provinces/states and folks are planting flowers and herbs that feed the bees while adding colour and interest to the garden.
Bees are drawn to flowers with big, flat heads like dill, cilantro or Queen Anne's Lace.
They also love the blue/purple hues... so herbs like anise hyssop, chives, borage, lavender, and catmint, and pretty blue flowers like liatris, larkspur, and bachelors buttons.
They simply adore single, flat flowers (doubles tend to be either sterile or have very little pollen and/or nectar). Think of the single dahlias like Bishop's Children (not the puffy ones or dinnerplates), sunflowers (again, the big ones that make seeds, not the ornamental), and they love nearly all the zinnias, esp the ones with the big, pollen filled yellow centres like the 'Cut and Come Again'.
 
Cut and Come Again Zinnias... photo from Harris Seeds.
 
5. Geometric Gardening  
 
No longer are you apt to find gardens with long, neat, straight rows of a single veggie. The trend now is going to growing more food, more colour, and more variety in beds of every geometric shape imaginable.

Gardens now might be spirals with veggies, flowers and herbs growing up and around like in a snail shell ...  or they may be in a circle, key hole, pyramid, pinwheel, or triangle shape for more interest, with plantings in a mix of colours, shapes, sizes and textures.

Geometric garden beds look spectacular! Flowers, fruits, herbs, veggies, and berries, all planted into an interesting bed design ....  Add fabulous colour, texture and a healthy mix of goodies to your yardscape.

 
 Photo from houzz.com
 
6. No Till Gardening/Lasagna Bed Gardening

No more tilling, turning, lifting, hoeing...
The trend is turning more and more towards not turning your soil, just like Ruth Stout touted decades ago.
Gardening just does not get any easier than this..
 
We all know that when we turn our soil, we bring weed seeds to the surface. They then germinate and we have to pull or hoe them out. If we do not ever turn the soil, these weed seeds stay buried, never to germinate.

To keep weeds at bay from around your veggies, mulch with a thick layer of cardboard, newsprint, grass clippings, straw, etc.. to cover the soil and prevent any surface weed seeds from germinating. If any do germinate, pull them and add more of your cover material to prevent any others from germinating. As this mulch breaks down (composts), it improves soil friability and fertility for bigger, better and healthier crops.
 
Instead of turning and mixing in your nutrients and amendments, you layer the compost, manure, alfalfa, etc... right on top of the garden beds, allowing wind, rain, snow and the earth worms to do the work for us.

To start new beds, you do not need to dig down, remove sod, etc... just put down a thick layer of newsprint or cardboard, and then alternate layers of compostable greens and browns (leaf mould, compost, manure, grass clippings, alfalfa hay, kitchen scraps, straw, etc...) to a height of 2 feet. This composts and shrinks down quickly.          

   No till garden pic from Pinterest... layer with cover to prevent weeds and improve soil!
 
7. Investing in Outdoor Living

This trend keeps on growing in popularity. People are looking for ways to spend more time outdoors, to make the outdoor space more useful, making more of the home space livable and usable.

Outdoor rooms, outdoor kitchens, outdoor dining rooms and lounging areas, allow us to spend more time in the great out of doors, spending time with family and friends outdoors, rather than in.

I absolutely love the fabulous outdoor fireplaces that allow us to extend our season by adding warmth and ambiance. The addition of a pizza and/or bread oven makes me think of Mediterranean living, so very romantic and appealing.... plus super yummy!

Photo from silverfoxhomes.com

8. Eco-conscious living

Any and all earth-friendly living that lowers our footprint on the planet is living an Eco-conscious life. More and more people are choosing to live a conscious life style.

Whether you are growing your own food, growing communally, or supporting local growers at the farmers markets, you are lowering the community footprint on the planet and living Eco-friendly.
Or using your land to grow flowers and food rather than grass, drip irrigating to save water, or making your own compost.
If you are re-cycling, re-using or re-furbing, free-cycling and/or bartering goods and services.
Planting native plants, bird houses, bat houses, etc. to provide homes and natural habitats for wildlife.
Using cloth bags, re-using grocery bags, packing lunchboxes or bags instead of plastic or Styrofoam, making your own waxed cloth instead of buying cling wrap.
Taking the bus or car-pooling, disconnecting your downspouts to either fill water barrels or re-route the rainwater to your gardens, using timers, solar lighting, piling leaves for leaf mould, using clothes lines for drying your clothes, ...

Each of these small steps (plus so many more not mentioned here) makes a difference and adds up to a more earth friendly lifestyle and smaller footprint on our planet.


9. Men as gardeners

This is an interesting trend to me. It seems that more and more men are becoming the gardeners in the household.
When we moved to the new house, I began chatting with the neighbours, and found that even here in our wee rural community, the trend really is that more menfolk than ever before are growing the food.
The old guy next door grows veggies and flowers, the young guy down the street grows the hallowe'en pumpkins, my back neighbour is into small urban farming ... I also find men of all ages wandering into my greenhouse in spring, picking out seedlings and starts for their gardens.
My dad has always been into gardening, he is the berry guru. He is the one that does the planting, growing, pruning, tending, picking of all the strawberries, currants, grapes, raspberries, gooseberries, etc... My hubby and brother are the helping hands, they weed, plant, dig holes, build beds, pick, in general, do as they are told, lol. However, these are actually not the guys that I am talking about, gardeners though they are!

This trend is all about the younger gents (18 to 34) spending more money and more time doing the gardening than the gals in the family do.
They are growing their own herbs and veggies for barbecuing and cooking and teaching their kidlets how to grow fruits and veggies. They are the ones buying, seeding, planting, tending and growing. I love it! Go man go!
 
realmensow.co.uk

10. Colour of The Year 2014

Plus, as always, the colour of the year from Panetone! The colour for 2014 is Radiant Orchid. Wow!

 Amaranthus photo from Pinterest

Photo from invitesweddings.com






 


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Home-made Organic Cough and Cold 'Tea'

Found this fabulous 'Cough and Cold Tea' recipe on Pinterest and had to try it!

It is delish! Made four jars the first time and ran out in no time! Everyone loves it, both as a soothing remedy when sick, but also as a preventative measure to stay healthy and boost your immune system!


The Yummy How-To...
- 2 organic lemons ( I found that I needed more)
- 1 piece of ginger about the size of your thumb (the original recipe called for two pieces, but I am not a huge fan of ginger so used less). Use as much or as little as you like. Oh, I noticed that the zing of the ginger actually mellows and melds in the syrup.
- Honey, enough to fill the jar.

Scrub your lemons. Slice into small slices, wedges or chunks, whichever look you prefer. I like nice thin slices.
Peel and slice the knob of ginger into pieces, coins or slivers. I used half coins.
Wash and dry your canning jars and lids really well.
Place the ginger into each jar, add the lemon slices on top till jar is full.
Top up with honey, let it settle into all the crevices, and then add some more, so that it covers the lemons.

Refrigerate.
They say that if you let it sit for a month or two, the fruit will break down a bit and it will all gel into a lovely, soft, lumpy syrup. Mine never lasts that long ; )

If you use it fairly soon, the lemon juice will still be layered on top of the honey.
Give everything a good stir in the jar and add a spoonful to your cup.... or just dig into it, going through the layers, filling up your spoon and add the gooey goodness to your tea cup.

I got super lucky!
My potted up lemon tree was super loaded with lemons this year,
and they all ripened up in late fall!
 Perfect timing!
So I was able to use my own organic, homegrown lemons. Yum!

Also, I live a few blocks away from a fabulous local honey farm (Fredrich's!)
So was able to buy local and support a mom and pop business.
Love when it works out like that : )...  
Shop local, support mom and pop biz's, go organic, and when possible, grow your own!



Add to your favourite herbal tea or to a cup of hot water.
I am on a Black Currant Tea crazy lately, which is also good for colds, and add a good big spoonful of this 'syrup' to my cuppa.


Why it works...

Ginger helps to control and calm the symptoms that come with colds, flu's, upper respiratory tract infections, and bronchitis. It also helps to reduce muscle pain, and settle the tummy if one has nausea or vomiting.

Lemon aids in controlling fever and chills as well as adding that much needed boost of vitamin C to soothe your sore throat. It has anti-septic properties and also gives one a boost when feeling fatigued. If taken before you get sick, it helps to build up your defence system and prevent flues, colds and inflammation.

Honey has natural anti-septic and anti-bacterial properties so helps to boost immunity to fend off colds, coughs and flues, plus aides in the healing and soothing of symptoms if you do get sick. It is also a soothing cough suppressant.

Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.
An Irish Saying
~ ~ ~

Lemon tree, very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet....


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Birdseed Wreaths - For The Birds .... Reviewed

The three birdseed wreathes have been hanging on the large cedar for several weeks now, long enough to get an idea of which one is the most popular with the birds ...

For all three recipes and their how-to's, see HERE .


Wreath Number One... (the light coloured one on the right hand side)

The little birds are really enjoying this one, flocking around it and pecking away. It seems to appeal to the wee little birdies the most. Is also still looking solid and very pretty hung up on it's green ribbon.


 Wreath Number Two

This is the one that was made with both peanut butter and suet. Sadly, it broke in half about a week after it graced the tree.
The top half I left hanging on the tree while the bottom half, mostly still intact, was placed on a large tree stump in amongst the Salal ...
All kinds of birds really seem to enjoy this one, seem to like pecking around on the ground, in amongst the Salal, for all the tasty little seeds that scattered everywhere.

Next time I make this, I will add the same amount of peanut butter but will add about 1/2 cup more of the rendered suet, the 'glue' that holds it all together, to try to prevent it from cracking in half again.
However, it may also simply be that I did not mix the seeds and suet together long enough or well enough, as we can see that the extra suet settled in the bottom of the pan. Perhaps it just needed more stirring?

Turns out that Ruby Tuesday also liked the peanut butter and suet covered seed, which I noted as I scooped up all the bespeckled evidence from the yard.

Ruby Tuesday in front of the bird feeder cedar.
The low growing greenery around the cedar is called Salal.
Is what the florists use in floral arrangements and stays green year round.
The Salal grows provides the wee birds with a nice, safe place to feed.

Wreath Number Three...
This is the larger wreath, made with suet alone, from Martha Stewart's recipe. Shown here with the bird perched on it.
It is holding it's shape well, staying strong and solid. One side seems to be getting a wee bit more attention from the birds and so it needs to be given a bit of a turn ....to keep it from getting too weak/thin that close to the ribbon.  
It seems to appeal more to the mid sized birds than the wee little ones ....



In summery...

I would say that all the wreaths are a hit. They are pretty to look at, fun to make, and all three appeal to the birds.

I do not know the names of the birds in my yard, but I can say that all three wreaths are getting their fair share of attention, though different kinds of birds seem to prefer different wreaths best.

In the end, I ended up choosing to make the two suet ones rather than the flour one, as it seems to me that suet and nuts are likely better for the birds than flour and syrup. A more organic, bird-friendly choice.

I make the peanut butter one the most, wreath number two. Yep, even though it fell apart. It seemed to be the one that most all of the birds went to the most. However, I think it wins with only the smallest of margins ....

Therefore, pick any one of these great recipes, make it ....  and they will come ; )

For a later update and to see how I overcame the breaking/cracking, please see HERE!  


I have since started to add a nice layer of roasted peanuts on top of wreath #3
(at the bottom of the bundt pan)

These gorgeous Arbutus berries are a huge hit with all the birds.

Monday, 2 December 2013

December Ramblings



Here we are in December already!

Gardening is probably not the first thought on most folks minds this month.... but if, like me, you love to putter in the garden and cannot be without playing in the dirt, here are some garden related things that you can be doing this month ...

Carrots in the December garden.
The only thing you really need to do to them over winter 
is make sure that the shoulders of your carrots are not exposed to frost.
Cover with soil or straw, compost or mulch.
(do this with your parsnips, too) 

What to do in the yard this month?

- Run a hoe over any new weed seedlings.

- Continue to harvest and enjoy carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and more goodies from your fall/winter garden.

- Pot up some calendula seeds for early pops of colour in spring. Place in a cool and sunny location.

- Still time to transplant and/or plant shrubs, roses and trees in garden zones 5 and above.

- Also, you can still pop your spring flowering bulbs like tulips, crocuses, muscari, etc...into the ground. Lily bulbs can be planted as long as you can chip a big enough hole into the ground, in any garden zone. I have planted lilies in late November in a garden zone 3. Cold, takes time to chip the holes, but do-able :)

- Prune your small fruiting shrubs, fruit trees, and raspberries.
  
- Rake up and clean up fallen foliage around fruit trees, roses, shrubs ...


- Spray fruit trees, raspberry canes, cotoneasters, shrubs, and roses with a dormant oil/sulphur mix to kill and prevent pest and fungal problems next year. Do this when your trees and shrubs have lost their foliage and when temps are above freezing. Always read and follow the instructions on the label.

I potted up two rhubarb root pieces for forcing.
Both pots are in this bin, left outdoors for now and will soon be going into the warmth of the greenhouse.
Forcing rhubarb is like forcing bulbs to flower... the bulb/rootstock may or may not recover.
Therefore, I recommend that you use a piece of your plant, not the entire plant...just in case.
Forced rhubarb is ready to eat about a month earlier than the garden grown, and is less tart, more delicate in flavour.

- Lift your rhubarb plant, pot it up and move it into a dark and warm location for spring forcing...
Forcing can also be done in the garden by covering the rhubarb with a dark cloche (a pot, a willow or terra cotta cloche, a bin or box, etc...) in January. If you do the outdoor method of forcing, is best if you have two plants and alternate the forcing, as the forced one needs a year's recovery period.
 
The herb bed.

- Clean up and cut back your perennial veggie and herb beds, top dressing with compost or chicken manure.

- Continue to top dress all your beds with compost or manure. Do not mix in, just layer on top. The earth worms and winter rains will do the work for you.

What To Do Indoors In Preparation for Spring

- Make your garden layout plan of what goes where ... use pencil if you are at all like me, as I change my mind right up to and including planting day.

- Grab a glass of wine and get lost in all the fabulous, lovely seed catalogues.

- Journal your thoughts, ideas, plans, seed orders, hopes and wishes for your 2014 gardens.

- Start saving all your big 4 litre milk jugs for winter sowing ( get more from neighbours, friends and family members) .

- Order some perennial and hardy annual seeds for your winter sowing next month. Here is a list of what you might want to consider sowing in January. More on this next month.

Mahonia wreath.
Wear gloves when making this as the teeth on the foliage can be very sharp! 
 
  
This year's Christmas planters.
Keeping things light and bright with cypress, flowering cabbage, a burlap bow, mossy sticks
.... and a bit of twisty stems, just because.
~ ~ ~
 
Merry Christmas!