Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I do apologize for not having posted in a very long time. Quite frankly, work has been busy and I haven't had time for many projects, much less photographing them and writing them up. Must get back to that.

In the meantime, here in Ontario we're having a provincial election. Just as in the U.S., elections mean attack ads. Ours used to be tamer, but they're really getting unpleasant. Unfortunately, as much as people say they're turned off by attack ads, the darn things do seem to work.

But what else can work? Can clever, innovative adds sway people's opinions? Whether it's the environment or provincial politics, I do think that clever can work. Not sure I've seen an ad yet this election that clearly hits the target, but here are two that I at least enjoyed watching.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Planting done, watching bees

Because I rent the main floor of a Victorian semi in Toronto, I'm lucky enough to be a renter with a garden. Today, I finished the spring planting with the melons, hot peppers and flowers including marigolds, gazanias, mums, lantanas and foxgloves.

Now I intend to sit back, have a beer and watch the bees at work. The foxgloves went in on the edge of a wild back corner, and will grow in that part shade to provide a visual break between the vegetable garden and the wild corner. The marigolds are scattered in the garden for a bit of colour and to keep something in flower all season. The lantana is right up near the patio to attract butterflies and bees for my amusement.

I've always been fond of bees, but after reading Keeping the Bees last month, I find myself wanting even more of them. Now they'll have more reasons to visit while my various other plants grow up to flowering size.

So far, there hasn't been a lot in bloom in the garden. The strawberries gave the bees some pleasure, and right now they're loving the chives, as well as the pansies I planted earlier. In a few days they'll also have the sage, which is about to bloom and this year is several feet in girth. Later they'll have various vegetable and fruit blossoms to keep their tummies full, as well as the flowers I just planted. And later in the summer the nasturtiums will begin cascading over the deck from the window boxes in which I planted them this year (very conveninet for salads.

What is in the garden this year?

Bed 1

(morning shade, afternoon sun)
Royal Purple Beans (which I plan to train up over the fence)
After this comes a big patch of mint, which I dry for tea.
Various lettuces

Bed 2

(centre, full sun)
Lantanas, chives and mums
Strawberries and chives
Buttercup squash
Honeydew melons
Canteloupe (we'll see if these take)
Down the middle is a row of corn, down the edges rows of carrots

Bed 3

(Morning sun, late afternoon shade)
Tomatoes (yellow pear, purple calabash, black cherry)
Red mountain spinach
Rainbow chard

Bed 4

(Deck, midday sun)
Nasturtiums (coming down from above)

I let the fifth bed, which was small and unproductive, go this year. The bit of lawn and the day lillies will soon take it over.

Garden costs

This spring I put edging around the beds and to isolate the mint (which is incredibly invasive). Cost about $50
Seeds. Mostly used leftovers from previous years, so about $15
Plants. Started most from seed. Spent less than $25
Fertilizers. Nothing. Top dressed with two wheelbarrows of my own compost.
Total: under $100

The first two years, when I was preparing the beds, were the most expensive, as I needed to improve the soil, buy hoses and lots of seeds, etc. Still, I doubt I spent more than $200 even in that first year. Here on in, the garden will probably cost me about $50 a year. It's about 400 square feet of planting area, and the lettuces alone will pay for the costs. Then there's everything else. And the real benefits are watching all the birds and insects that come, not to mention the incredible flavour of truly fresh veg in the city.

Next week the garden should provide my first salad. I can hardly wait!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring carrots

I thought I'd hit the jackpot. When the snow melted, the tops of carrot plants poked out through the soil. The last crop from last year that had been too small to pick in the fall had come up!

A grand new strategy! Plant in autumn, eat in spring!

Sadly, no. I chose some plants that were readying to bolt this week. The roots were generally small and those that weren't had pale, somewhat spongy interiors.

No spring carrots for me, after all. But a lesson learned, and now some room for flowers. I'll be choosing flowers that a) I like, b) are bee-friendly, and c) may help repel or distract pests.