Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday at the Thunderdome of Seeds

There's snow in the forecast for today, but all the same, it is time to start thinking about gardening. Yes, it's time to order seeds and even to begin planting some indoors.

With that in mind, we headed so the oddly named "Seedy Saturday on a Sunday," hosted by the Toronto Community Garden Network. It's a wonderful show of seeds and food from smaller producers and community gardens. Probably a good thing I didn't bring much cash.

There's a misguided, pastoral image of organic gardeners as these zenlike beings that are completely in tune with nature. The packed event at the Wychwood Barns (themselves an interesting story) certainly buries that myth. Picture about one gardener per square foot all jockeying for position at the seed racks. I kept expecting Martha Stewart to come charging through, clearing a path with a giant scythe.

As crowded as the scene was, to be fair, it was a well-behaved horde of horticulturists. And the seed pickings were superb.

Because there were so many people, I didn't feel I could ask questions as much as I liked. Instead, I just picked up a few things I knew I wanted (purple beans, autumn glory sunflowers, nasturtiums, etc.) and decided to grab a couple things that I'll just take a chance on.

Below is a list of what I picked up for $1.50-2.50 a pack. Oh, and for useful information including a link to an interactive planting calendar, check out my post from about this time last year.

The new seeds

The last two are pouches from the Perth/Dupont Community Garden, and the contents came from various gardeners. What exactly they contain is a bit of a mystery. But that's part of what makes gardening fun!

Look for a community garden seed sale or seed swap in your area. They're a great way to get interesting seeds from people who know your area, whether you're renting a small farm or just have a window box.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A good day to dry clothes

It was -5 C outside yesterday, but a strong sun made it a perfect day for drying laundry.

The thermostat in my apartment was set at 18, but in the midday sun by the patio doors, it was above 37 C. That made for quick drying on my new rack, and I got through three loads of laundry.

What makes a good drying rack?
My old drying rack was not a good one. It was made of thick wooden dowels, with the bars one above the other. Clothes overlapped and not very many fit into the space it took up.

A good drying rack will spread out, with lots of bars for larger items, such as jeans or T-shirts, and have supports that are crossed with bars upon which to hang rows of smaller items, such as socks and underwear.

The one I bought recently was from Ikea and cost about $20. It's photographed above. It's a very common design that holds about two loads of laundry. However, some versions of this design are flimsy and won't support the weight of wet clothes very well. This one is just sturdy enough. The bars should be spaced just far enough apart to allow air circulation around every item of clothing.

What kind of rack is right for me?
Because of the space in front of my patio door, a floor model works well for me. It folds away quickly and is compact enough to stash under the bed, in a closet or behind a dresser.

Other designs hoist up to the ceiling (could be good on an apartment balcony), fold out from a wall, or are simple wires that will stretch across a laundry room or bathroom. There are lots of suppliers for these, and some are mentioned in my post on drying racks from last year.

Before buying one, consider where it will go and what you need. Is it a laundry room, where lots of rack is good, no matter what the look? Will it be in a visible space where aesthetics matter? Do you have a small space with high ceilings that will make a raisable rack desirable? Do you need one that folds down quickly for storage?

I was pleasantly suprised to find some great rack ideas on the last page of the Lee Valley hardware catalogue that arrived in the autumn. Let me know what works for you.

Where should the rack go?
Clothes dry fastes where there's warm, dry air circulating. In other words, a sunny backyard on a summer day is ideal. But reality is seldom ideal. Look for a location that combines these things:
  • lots of sun
  • heat source (radiator or forced-air register)
  • enough room
  • out of sight
In my apartment, there's a big, south-facing patio door in my bedroom. There's a register for the furnace right below it. So by day, the sun warms the laundry and dries it. At night, whenever the furnace kicks in, my rack is almost as fast as an electric dryer. And it helps keep the indoor air a little less dry (a problem in Toronto in the winter). This location is great for sun and heat source, and there is enough room. It's not ideal for being out of sight, but is adequate.

The old rack is now in the laundry room. There's plenty of space there, but it's in the basement of a 100+ year-old house. It's out of sight, in a location with enough space, but in the summer the humidity is too high. In winter, however, a heating duct makes it a good space. I mostly use it to dry my son's clothes, thus avoiding hauling them upstairs to dry, then back downstairs to put in his drawers.

What's your drying rack?
What electricity-free system do you use for drying your laundry? Any tips, particularly for those of us in colder climates? If you're in an apartment building, can you even have a rack out on your balcony? Use the comments section to fill us in, so that we can learn from one another.