Friday, 24 April 2015

Spring Blooms!

Tulips and daffodils are only barely poking out of the ground, but there are other flowers already in bloom!  I visited Margaret's garden to see some of them in full colour. 

Little bulbs with big impact

Iris riticulata 'Harmony', a bulb iris, is a familiar (if scaled down) bloom on 10 cm stems.

Galanthus (Snowdrops), (with Stardust fame) come in various sizes.  This one is only 10 cm tall.

Iris riticulatus 'Harmony'
Galanthus (snowdrops)

Scilla siberica or Squill are dainty, delightful, and a true blue!  

Scilla siberica (Siberian Squill) in bud.
Scilla siberica (Siberian Squill) in bloom.

Margaret had two different colours of Glory of the Snow Chionodoxa
 Chinodoxa luciliae (Glory of the Snow)
Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)


Crocus also makes an early appearance (though unlike the rarer fall-flowering one, also has leaves).

Perennials and Native Bee-uties

Pulmonaria (Lungwort) and Hepatica (Liverleaf) are both perennials.  But only the later is native to North America. 

Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
Hepatica (Liverleaf)

The "Hungarian violet" and Viola Tricolor (Johnny-Jump-Up) are prolific seeders (and likely to survive our winters), so even though they're pretty, they're also weeds!

"Hungarian Violet"
Viola Tricolor (Johnny Jump Up)

My favourite of the day (and perhaps also for the bees -- look closely, there's one there!), is the Native Prairie Crocus (Pulsatilla).
Pulsatilla (Native Prairie Crocus)

What's blooming in your spring garden?

Monday, 20 April 2015

Plant More Flowers!

Plant more flowers for happy bees!

Which kinds?  Bees rely on a continuous supply of flowering plants for pollen and nectar.  Look at your garden and plan for continuous blooms -- this strategy makes your garden look great and benefits the bees!

Check out these sites for some plant ideas:
  • 30 Flowers in a Bee Friendly Garden - Plant list (garden flowers and fruit producing) with some photos, general growing instructions (sun/shade, water requirement), and other tips on how to make a garden bee-friendly.
  • Wikipedia's Pollen Source - Tables by season, for trees & shrubs, and flowers, herbs, and grasses with bloom time (month ranges for USDA zone 5) 
by amyisla

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Earth-Friendly: Multiple Events

With the 45th Annual Earth Day coming up soon (Wednesday, 22-Apr-2015), there are a whole host of events happening around the world aimed to educate and support sustainable, environmentally-friendly living. 

Here are a few coming up in Edmonton (click on the link for more information):
Edmonton Earth Day Festival

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Dustin Bajer: Permaculture Connections

As Dustin Bajer addressed the group gathered at Bellevue Hall Wednesday, it was obvious he loved to teach and he was teaching something he loved.  The audience was engaged with his enthusiasm and energy, and it became very apparent his "rock bed" childhood in Barrhead was a very fitting beginning for a permaculture designer (and teacher, and beekeeping hobbyist...), for a rock is not "just a rock"

"What is permaculture? A hundred permaculturists in a room will have a hundred definitions -- and none of them would be wrong..." 
He addressed the fact that permaculture is more widely heard of now, but most people do not know what it means.  He spoke of his definition, (which included mimicking patterns of nature in design, looking at relationships and connections), and related principles (including caring for the land and returning things back to the system).  

Pictures of complex systems filled the screen, and he spoke of their web-like nature (Muir's Web) and how interconnected an organism (or element) can be.  Ultimately illustrating an organism is "better off together in a community than on its own" because even if one connection is broken, there are others supporting it.

The hour quickly ended and bled into the next.  Dustin shared photos of transforming his yard into a sustainable and highly productive garden (along with putting the image of him as a "lettuce fairy" into our minds), while also answering a great number of questions ranging from bee keeping to the garden he's worked on with Jasper High School students in their courtyard.

It was certainly a fun and educational night.

For those who missed out on the talk, below are some notes I made of the night.  For those who attended, what did I miss?  What was your greatest take away?

Thank you again Dustin for coming to speak with us -- we look forward to seeing you again soon!

Dustin Bajer with Highlands Garden Club members.
Resources mentioned and recommendations made:
- for Fungi for Healthy Gardens - Used to treat roots of plants or growth medium (straw / compost)
- Mushrooms of Western Canada - Lone Pine Publishing - Mushroom identification
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster - Create water cycle, use water more effectively
- Sustainable Food Edmonton - many resources (previously Community Garden Network)

Permaculture boils down to connections and relationships: 
- Care for the land and return to the system
- Meaningful connections - symbiotic relationships:
   - e.g. "Red Cap" mushrooms and popular tree - mushroom is more efficient at gathering water and helps the popular tree, which in turn feeds the mushroom by providing leaves and sugar sap
   - The link between bees and mushrooms (Paul Stamets)

* Better off together in a community than on its own

1. Connections make things more stable
2. More diversity is more manageable
3. More connections, the more sustainable.

"Great leaders align strengths so their weakness don't matter." ~ Peter Drucker (management guru)
- Ecological systems do the same 
- Muir web: A rock does "nothing" - but actually: provides a place to live on, live under, is a thermal mass that absorbs heat during the day and releases it in the night, buffers temperatures creating a micro-climate around it, will eventually erode and breakdown into the soil --> A side walk, a house is like a giant rock

Cycles are created in these systems 
- A forest during a drought looks better than a regular urban garden because of the cycles that are contained in the system (e.g. water remains in the system)
- If everything is cycled (more reused) we have multiple times more resources
- Parallel in economics: Cities are places that maximize connections

- Vegetables from garden 
- Aquaponics to raise fish - which water is then used as garden fertilizer 
- Fish and vegetables used in culinary / home ec. courses

What about weeds?
- "You get the weeds your soil needs"
- Dandelions - if you wait long ehntough they'll actually imporve the sol so other things can grow there (tap roots goes through compacted soil, leaves organic matter)
Loose soil: chickweed

- Graph: Energy x Time
- Stored energy is high in a forest and low in a typical urban garden
- Energy to maintain is high in a typical urban garden and low in forest

Implementing a garden with permaculture principles in mind - (move closer to forest):
- Plant your water, before planting your garden
- Weeds are basically fast growing annuals - combat them by planting the same thing (e.g. lettuce) everywhere
- Weeping tile (with a stocking) to bring water directly from roofs into the garden
- No till gardening: a layer of leaves or straw, a layer of compost, then plant directly into compost
- Rhubarb under fruit trees - leaves and stems funnel water to the base of the tree

"City honey is the best honey...."
- Layers are a cross-section of the seasons (Mayday , lilacs, dandelion, apples...)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Fantastic Fungi - Kickstarter Film and A World of Potential

A moment of serendipity yesterday: Our permaculture speaker Dustin Bajer, and club member Jan  both talked about fungi's potential.  The former mentioned Paul Stamet's hypothesis regarding bees and fungi, the later about Louie Schwartzberg's Kickstater fundraiser.  The thing is -- they're connected! 

Fantastic Fungi is directed by Louie Schwartzberg, with Paul Stamet the authority.

With only 30 hours left to go, the original Kickstarter goal and stretch goals have been surpassed.  But each dollar continues to be matched by "angel investors" up to $ 1 million. 

Are you looking at mushrooms in a whole different way? 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Dirt on Soil: 2015 UN Year of the Soils

One needs good soil for growing -- that I know.  But the difference between dirt and soil - that I don't.

The thing we think of as "just dirt" we often take for granted has become big news again with the UN declaring 2015 the Year of the Soils.

While planning and making your garden soil better for this growing season, listen and learn about its nitty-gritty: The Dirt on Soil is a two part CBC Radio production available for streaming here.

For more on urban initiatives and about global soil health: