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Circle of life

As predicted, my recently bloomed air plant is starting to make a pup!!!

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When old enough, the pup will bloom, produce pups of its own, and die. Circle of life.

I excited showed my discovery to my mom and sister, telling them that the mother plant would die after making pups. My sister said, “that’s so sad”; I said, bluntly, “that’s life.” And we were silent for a moment, as if sharing in some profound realization.

Maybe people are drawn to plants because they mirror our experience of life and death. Hopefully in life, much like these plants that bring us such joy, we blossom and bloom before our time is up.

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Growing date palms from seed

One of my colleagues, a beloved employee for near 30 years at our organization, retired last month. On his last day, he brought some dates to share.

We usually buy the pitted honey-coated dates at home. I find them too sweet to eat on their own, but I do enjoy them in healthy date balls. The dates my colleague brought had pits and no honey but they were quite tasty. And the bonus was I could plant the seeds!

I’ve been following this guide to start the seeds. I soaked 5 seeds for a week and now have them in a damp piece of paper towel in a zip-locked plastic bag on top of the fridge. It took about 3 to 4 weeks for the first seed to sprout a root.

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I love how chubby the roots are! I don’t think I’ve seen roots this thick coming out of a seed.

It is true that you should check them regularly for mold.

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Yuck! But don’t despair…

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I just rinse the remaining seeds and put them in a new damp piece of paper towel.

I plan to start them in one pot until they’re large enough to want their own space.

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Urban harvesting

I just love love love seeing homes in the city growing food! I often see veggies growing in people’s yards, but I rarely see fruit.

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Yep, those are grapes growing along this front porch! How cool is that?!

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Peach tree in someone’s front yard.

If private homes need help harvesting their fruits or have more than they can handle, they can contact groups such as Not far from the tree who put the fruits to good use, sharing the harvest between the homeowner, volunteers and organizations in need. It’s win-win!

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A manifesto for gardening

Really diggin’ this manifesto for gardening.

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Mid-season garden in all its glory!

 

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Much ado about mulching

This year I feel like a proper gardener because I’ve mulched my plots for the first time during the growing season. Last fall I began the trend: adding manure at the end of the season and mulching with fallen leaves lying around my plot.

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Looks much better than having it bare all winter. The leaves will break down and add organic mater to the soil.

I scored a bale of straw from my plot neighbour who was replacing her straw border. I’ve used about half the bale already, between my community garden and my friend’s allotment.

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Bare plot at the beginning of the season with garlic and thyme bush (that looks dead) at the back and calendula next to the straw bale.

I think my plot looks really professional with the straw. One of my plot neighbours mulches with leaves he collects during the season. I’ve read that you can also use weeds as mulch, but you have to ensure they don’t have any seed heads, or you’d just be adding to the problem.

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Just imagine how bare this space would look without the straw mulch

Mulching has many benefits, the best (in my opinion) being weed control. My friend’s allotment plot has a huge weed problem. My brother and I have been pulling weeds but they inevitably return, especially with all the rain we’ve been having.

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Nicely mulched herb garden at the allotment

I’ve been hauling straw down by hand to manage the herb garden and the zucchini bed. Not sure I have enough for the tomato and pepper bed. I’m thinking I should save the straw for the my plot rather than the allotment (I’m not sure we’ll have it next year). Perhaps I could try weeds; there’s no end of them down there.

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Endless weeds. This space was in pretty good shape a few weeks ago but didn’t mulch it. Now it’s back to square one.

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Trap crops

Did I mention that radish was a good trap crop for flea beetles? Apparently aphids love them too. This is a photo from last year.

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Aphids covering radish seed pods. I’m pretty sure the white cottony stuff is a sign of mealy bugs which did become a problem in the garden last year.

I really liked this article on trap crops to control pests. It raised some great points, such as timing — the crops have to be in place to capture your pests. I’ve been thinking the same thing about timing companion plants — having them in place in time to attract the predators that feast on the pests.

What’s tough about trap crops is that they are just as delicious as the other veggies you’re trying to protect. Sigh!

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How do you start seeds?

Last year I decided to try coir after reading that it was a more environmentally friendly option than sphagnum peat moss, which is the base for store bought seed starting or potting mixes. The previous year I used leaf mould that I purchased, but this was expensive and a hassle to carry home.

I bought a coir brick at Bustan (and later found it at Home Hardware for cheaper). I was going to use this recipe, but decided to go for just plain coir after reading that this could also be done.

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Millenniumsoils is the Home Hardware brand. I used the Cocogrove I got at Bustan.

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Instructions are on the pack. Soak the brick in water until it dissolves.

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Squeeze out the excess water. Easy peasy.

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Basil seedlings in coir seed starting mix

Using the coir was OK. I can’t remember whether it retained water well or if it dried out easily, but I didn’t want to go through the extra step of dissolving it in water this year so I tried Schultz seed starting mix at Canadian Tire, which was about $6. I’m quite satisfied with it. I think I tried Promix seed starting mix in the past and it grew mould. No problems with the Schultz mix at all. I plan to use it going forward.

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