Who would get excited about worms? Well, Emily does and by the end of our October Garden Club meeting, many members and guests were all talking about… you guessed it – worms. Not just any worms. Red Wigglers, that produce that gold for gardeners while using up our kitchen waste.
I found it difficult to remember to take pictures while Emily was enthusiastically describing the process she uses for general gardening composting and then moving on to her higher passion for the little wigglers.
She described composting as fun, good exercise, cheap and environmentally sound, a way to increase the organic content of the soil, invigorating the soils food web, providing nutrients, moisture and a habitat for a huge range of beneficial life forms.
Emily explained that in most soils you can achieve a fertile soil by adding 3” of compost annually by composting kitchen and yard waste (with a few exceptions like meat/fish, bones, milk)
Raised beds, a small greenhouse, a rotation of composting bins and a large pile of leaves can be seen waiting to be added where next needed.
A description of compost systems, principals and mixtures were reviewed.
It was easy to see the smile broaden across Emily’s face when she continued her presentation.
Vermicomposting holds a special place in her household. As with composting, the benefits are numerous. Emily explained that it is a great way to deal with some of our kitchen scraps and get rich soil conditioner for our plants. A vermicompost bin does not require a lot of space (ie: under the kitchen sink). Bedding is the medium the worms live in and also serves as part of their diet. It should be moist, but not soggy wet and light in texture. Shredded newspaper is a common choice. Emily added compost soil and a small amount of kitchen scraps. Feeding the worms one to three times a week is usually sufficient.
Outdoor vermicomposting is also possible. A well built large, lined bin serves this purpose producing three large wheelbarrow loads of “Gardener’s Gold” for use each spring.
Joan was thrilled to take home the bin that Emily used while explaining the “under the sink” set up and members were happy to accept a take-home brown-bag treat of compost for use on indoor plants.
Chester Garden Club has been one of the gems of community involvement for over 75 years. We are always welcoming new members, both women and men, to participate in a variety of interesting activities during the season, which runs from March to December. A review of most of last years monthly educational topics and activities are here on our blog.
In addition to this educational component, our club supports numerous community beautification projects in our area. These events are a time for all hands on deck and also a time for great camaraderie.
Joining our garden club is simple and inexpensive and membership opens the doors to explore a wide range of common interests with other gardeners; having access to educational programs, growing food and flowers for personal use and sharing, participating in service projects to help beautify our community, promoting environmental stewardship, practising artistic design in floral arranging and simply having fun.
A great reward at a modest price! Why not join us at a meeting in the spring. Remember, gardeners rest in the knowledge that all will awaken in time…
I have been distracted as I have been gardening this fall. Many of the familiar birds are heading to warmer places and stopping for nourishment along the way and the regular fall and winter residents are gathering in old familiar places.
As I ready the gardens for winter I am leaving the perennial seed heads standing, giving the birds the food they are searching for and me the pleasure of their company.
I am reminded that I can help our plants along by giving them a bit more of what they need to survive; water, nourished soil and the optimum placement .
Watering when it is dry, adding high nutrient compost when they are actively growing and pruning all but spring flowering shrubs during the winter when they are defoliated and dormant are good gardening practices.
Mulch, which can be spread at any time, is particularly timely for fall. The garden expects organic material, just like the forest expects fallen leaves. Leaves and debris settle as mulch during the fall rains and winter snowfalls, helping to retain moisture and inhibit weeds.
Our gardens can then do “What Comes Naturally”
Now, I just need to get back to fall gardening chores and stop being so distracted by the birds.
We all enjoy apples for attributes like great flavour, crunch and versatility. Have you ever wondered where apples come from?
Dr. David Maxwell had members and guests full attention as he described his passion to help ensure heritage varieties continue to grow and produce.
He guided us along explaining the botany and history, as well as the factors determining the ascendance and eclipse of particular cultivars using visual examples of treasured varieties, many that he grows.
Apples originated in Kazakhstan where they grow as small as grapes and as large as pumpkins. They need to be humanly grafted on suitable root stock to reproduce. There are more than 12000 named cultivars that have been selected for climate, purpose, season, keeping, disease resistance, resistance to shipping, taste and modern marketing. For example a recent cultivar, the Honey Crisps, were created by market demand for large size, sweetness, colourful appearance and, of course, crispness. We all have our personal preferences for eating and cooking and some were surprised to learn that Bramleys are the premier cooking apple of the world.
Click on any picturefor a slide show
After his informative presentation on the attributes of apples, Dr. Maxwell treated members to a variety of tastes of apples, apple crisp, apple sauce, apple jelly and apple cider. Members enthusiastically took up the challenge to discover which apple tastes they preferred, choosing from over 15 varieties.
Many gardeners take late winter or early spring vacations in countries where weather is warmer. Cuba is one of those recovering from last falls hurricane. Those who have committed both time and energy deserve congratulations. Resorts were devastated and are now operating as well as completing repairs or reconstruction.
Click on any picture for slide show:
Birds are returning to their usual habitats
The plant life is also showing how nature copes with unexpected changes and challenges.
Congratulations to all of the Caribbean communities who smile as they continue to pick up their lives.
Our garden plants are still dormant, waiting for spring. But there is life in and around our gardens right now.
Are Your Pruners as Sharp as mine ? Do you ask yourself:
When do I prune my plants ? How do I do it ? What result am I hoping to achieve ?
A general rule of thumb is to prune out dying, diseased, damaged or dead as you see it. The other times, pruning is usually done for training, restricting, balancing or creating a pattern of growth, controlling flower and fruit quality & maintaining plant health and are season and plant dependant. The times chosen are late winter when things are dormant, spring as buds emerge & pruning following spring bloom. There are many books & on line sites/blogs that describe methods for pruning trees and shrubs. Also, closer to home, many garden clubs have members who have horticultural backgrounds or life long experience who are willing to give a little coaching.
Grasses, Perrienels and shrubs with seeds that have been left for the birds can be cut back just before new growth .
In the meantime, while waiting, enjoy the warmth in the February sunshine and have a look at the critters who are reminding us that we can learn a lot from the plants and critters in our gardens. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have wierd names and all are different in color, shape and size, but they all live in and contribute to the beauty in the same community.
Our Garden Club members are encouraged “to help grow gardeners”.
Children are natural gardeners, are curious, like to learn by doing, and love to play in the dirt. Gardening gives children a chance to learn an important life skill, one that is overlooked in standard school curriculum.
A child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life firsthand. It usually sparks children to ask questions like: Why do the plants need sun? How does the plant “drink” water? Why are worms good for the plants? These questions challenge adult mentors to think about their gardening practices, helping children learn gardening principles & environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature. The concepts learned while gardening, like composting food scraps for fertilizer or using gathered rainwater, can show kids a deep respect and responsibility for taking care of our planet.
Children may be more interested in tasting and trying the foods they grow which will train their taste buds to enjoy the bounty of their garden. The self-esteem a child gets from eating a perfect tomato that he grew himself is priceless.
What to plant
Although there are many crops suitable for the young gardener, here are some suggestions which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.
A must for a child’s garden. Plant just a few, since they take a lot of room. Sunflowers will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2′ tall in a month. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. Be sure to grow ‘confectionery’ sunflowers, the type grown for food. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds, rich in protein and iron, can be roasted for snacks. Save a few for the birds and for next summers’ planting.
A quick and reliable crop to give the child fast results, and also a good way to interest kids in salads. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. You can grow ‘head’ (space 8″ apart) or ‘leaf’ (space 4″ apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.
Quick results for the young gardener. Radishes germinate in 3-10 days, and have a very short growing season of 20-30 days. They can be planted closely, 4-6″ apart. Plant in cool weather for a mild radish, or hot weather for a hotter radish.
A quick-growing early crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. Peas prefer cooler, partially shaded locations in the garden; they should be sown closely, about 1″ apart at most. Snow peas are popular because the pod is edible and if they are a dwarf plant they can be grown without a trellis.
Gotta have ’em! These may be the most fun crop for a child. Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a 2′ stake alongside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of compost. Water at ground level, trying to keep leaves dry. Growing season is 50-75 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in containers.
These flowers are easy to grow and yield results quickly, which encourages the young gardener. Nasturtiums bloom about 50 days after the seeds are planted, with orange, yellow and red flowers. They prefer sunny, dry locations and do well in poor soil. Choose the shorter varieties for garden beds. Nasturtiums are also pest resistant, which ensures a successful planting. The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add colour to a fresh garden salad.
Fast, easy, high yield and, because they do not grow tall, they are easy for kids to harvest. Bush beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days. It’s best to plant a small patch, then another in a few weeks. This will extend the harvest. When choosing seeds, select the “low bush” varieties because these will be easier for children to harvest. Plant closely spaced, about 4″ apart. Grow in direct sun; water the soil but try to keep the leaves dry. Bush beans don’t need poles or trellises to grow.
Scarlet Runner Beans
Fun, especially if they are grown on a T P support frame and the large colourful seeds need to be planted 2 to 3 inches apart to minimize overcrowding and should be planted in soil that is high in organic matter and in full sun. They will twine around the support and anything close by. The blossoms are especially attractive to pollinator bees and hummingbirds.
Seeds can be sown directly into soil; carrots prefer cooler temperatures. They can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Carrots will mature in about 60 days. The soil should be free of rocks and easy for the carrot to grow ‘down’. Keep well-watered and thin to every 3″ because crowding will produce foliage but no root. Small varieties are recommended for children, as they’re easier to grow and more fun to eat.
A ‘must’ for a child’s garden. Plant seeds in a small hill; poke three holes in the hill and put one seed in each hole. Seeds will sprout in about 1 week; after a few days, vine leaves begin to form and creep along the ground. Once there are 3 pumpkins on the vine, pick off any new blossoms. Pumpkins take 80 – 120 days to harvest: it’s ready when it feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped. Seeds can be dried to eat, or saved for for the birds, and the pumpkin for carving.
Tips for gardening with children
Give them their own garden beds. Whether you use raised beds, containers or ground plots, be sure to give each child his or her own separate plot. Keep it small, very small for young kids. Put their plots right in the middle of the action, with the best soil and light. Set them up for success.
Give them serious tools. Cheap plastic child’s gardening tools are worse than no tools at all; they break easily and frustrate the user. With some garden tools, like a hoe or spade, you can easily saw the handle shorter.
Engage them through the entire process, from seed to table. Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. They will learn that gardening can be fun, but far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.
Cheat a little. Depending on the age of the child, you may need to help out a little ‘behind the scene’. Not every garden task is pleasant, and the child may not be ready at all times for all chores. You may need to go out in the evening to pick a few slugs off the lettuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprinkler. They don’t have to know about every little help you offer – the child’s ‘ownership’ of the plot is the main thing.
Show off their work. When giving ‘garden tours’ to friends, be sure to point out the children’s garden beds. Take photos of them in their gardens and of their harvest. Teach gathering and arranging skills.
The attention given to their work is the best motivator for children to stay involved with a project.
So why encourage children to garden ? The rewards are:
An environmentally aware community member… A gardener for the future … A garden club member … and much more.
Gardeners everywhere are sometimes challenged and other times blessed by what nature and the environment delivers.
The South shore of Nova Scotia experienced an intense storm on January 4th that left not only coastal damage but also what many refer to as “ Gardeners Gold”. As we were in “Storm watch Mode”, I thought of all the seaweed that would be torn, tossed and piled on our shorelines.
In May 2017, Betsy and Bob from Bear Cove Resources explained the Storm-cast process and production of an excellent, odour free fertilizer/soil conditioner to use in our gardens and on our indoor plants.
The following are a few shots of the ocean and coastline the day following the storm. The piles of “Storm-Cast Seaweed Mix” along the coast was impressive as were the pounding seas that created the impressive views and results.
Gardens that receive a gift of seaweed compost will flourish this coming gardening season.
The world outside our doors are filled with things that buzz, squawk, flutter, scurry, build, burrow, chase and soar. The viewing is fun, free, available 24/7, and there’s always something new!
Many gardeners have been listening to the wild voices, watching their wild neighbours while they work, eat and play – birds gathering nesting material, feeding on berries, seed heads or insects, or enjoying a splash in a birdbath; butterflies and bees sipping nectar from flowers.
Touch a picture for a slide show.
What a thrill! We also have opportunities to feel nature first hand – to smell a flower, to capture silky milkweed seeds on the wind or a “whirlybird” maple seed twirling to the ground below and gather a few pine cones, oak nuts or leaves around us.
Some of our members have taken time to relax a little and get closer to nature in their gardens. They just stopped, occasionally, during the summer and early fall, sat quietly and watched what was going on around them; the butterflies, moths, bees, birds and other creatures. Some even created habitat to provide shelter, safe cover and winter hibernation sites.
Getting in tune with the living and breathing creatures that are in our gardens is a lot like meditation, a brilliant way to start, incorporate into lunch break or end the day.
Pictures shared : Sheila KMcR, Sheila C S, Sylvia, Jocelyn, Pam D and Brenda … thanks all
Whether our produce is a native plant, from our own gardens, a local farmers market, a farmer’s co-operative basket program (weekly baskets that include a mix of vegetables, fruits and herbs according to the season) whose objective is to grow fresh and delicious organic vegetables or from careful “Slow food” choices ( Slow Food – Nova Scotia was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the world around us), we have opportunities to eat and preserve local food that is fresh and picked at the peak of its season.
Jayne Campbell, our club president, a retired High School Administrator, who describes herself as a “Gentleman Farmer’s” wife and a food lover (especially home/locally grown), along with several club members treated Chester Garden Club Members to a “feast for the eyes and palate” presentation, Monday, September 18th .
The theme was ” Produce to Preserve – Enjoying the bounty of our gardens year round while growing and buying local”.
Traditional recipes, old cookbooks such as the “Dutch Oven”, “Out of old Nova Scotia Kitchen” and many others were on display.
We all have wonderful memories of the worn pages of the hand written recipes and the taste of family favorites that have been passed down through the generations with titles such as “Gram’s Pickles”, “Mom’s Pies”, “Aunt Millie’s Raisin Bread” .
Thanks to Jayne, Esther, Nancy, Myra, Dave, Sheila S. & Jane W., many went home to reminisce and search out some of their old “comfort food” recipes.