Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Garden Report #65

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

A closeup of dinathus
 • Writers write: I want to thank everyone for their support and readership. For many, you have been new found, gardening and writing friends, and I have enjoyed the exchanges. The readership now numbers around two thousand, which has surprised me as we started with only a hundred. The Garden Report takes me ten hours every week, to produce. I write, edit, arrange to use photos and mail it. Then come the questions, which I enjoy answering, though some weeks they number around thirty. The last few issues have taxed me. I am now quite tired and it is time for me to take a rest. There will be no Garden Report for a week or two, perhaps three. Then I will return. If it rains persistently for several days and I cannot be in the garden, mine or yours, then I will be back sooner.

A flower pot in my back garden

Thank you,

Rod McDonald

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Garden Report #64

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Dianthus and sweet potato vine in my garden
• Writers write: It is another sunny morning in the garden. There is no wind. Joggers trot by as I write this. Some are attached to dogs. There are a few white butterflies floating around as well as wasps. A group of wasps have taken up residency in my garden, building a nest inside my brick wall. So far they have not bitten either of us and interestingly, we have found several of their dead bodies floating inside the beer traps, meant for the slugs. Who knew that wasps liked beer? I wonder: If a wasp develops too much fondness for beer, are there AA meetings he can attend or does he go straight to rehab? And what does his wife say to him when she smells beer on his breath. “Out with the boys again? Leaving me here alone with the babies. You should be ashamed of yourself. It’s not as if I ask a lot from you. My sister’s husband is the head of their colony. I should have listened to my mother.” Time to stop.

• Readers write:

     • Daniel Redenbach appreciates the plug. He wrote “thanks for the mention Rod!”

     • June Blau is not reading the blog right away and here is her explanation. “I am postponing reading this week’s edition for a few days. We are in Inuvik for another 24 hours. Greetings to all from the Canadian Arctic!”

     • Roberta Nichol got a chuckle from the fashion police report. She writes: “I sure chuckled at your description of the 45 year old and up men with the long shorts, tall socks and walking shoes. I can visualize it easily and it is pretty funny, alright. I wonder why they do that? Are they shy to show their legs off? They should be shy, to go out looking like that.”

     • This is in from Jodi Sadowsky. “Always love the Garden Report. As well as the enjoyable walk and visit as we had the other night. Ending with the Saskatoon pie is always a plus!”

     • Gayle White gardens in Winnipeg and she sent this response to The Garden Report. “I took your advice and had my lawn aerated over a month ago. Then the scorching hot weather arrived here in Winnipeg. My lawn is still somewhat green, while my neighbors’ lawns are pretty brown. Did the aeration help with that?”The answer to Gayle’s questions is absolutely yes. The aeration helped her lawn even in the heat spell. The aeration allowed what water there was to percolate into the subsoil instead of running off into the street.

     • Sherrie Tutt suggests that bandage scissors, with their blunt ends, are best for gardening as they do not poke holes in your pockets.

     • Kate Berringer had this comment regarding eating mud off of my desk. “The dirt on the desk is from Murphy, perhaps? It was probably good for you, lots of minerals.”

     • Jean Freeman always sends out good karma. She wrote “Thanks as always for the lovely and enlightening messages!” Did anyone listen to Jean’s story on ‘Definitely Not The Opera’ this Saturday? It was hilarious.

Rosy O'Grady hardy clematis
• Farmers’ Market: There is a new vendor at the market selling goat cheese with chives. It is very tasty. Five bucks for a hundred grams. Sort of like a cream cheese with herbs. Sharon Wallace has some wonderful Saskatoon pies for sale. Wink Howland’s honey is always a good buy and there are some wonderful Walla Walla onions ready for the pan.

• Fashion police: One of our readers approached me at The Farmers’ Market and asked me to note that he was wearing very short socks with his walking shorts. Congratulations! Now we need to convince around five hundred bozos out there to follow suit.

• First call: Fall bulbs, especially tulips, will be arriving in two to three weeks time. September is an ideal time to plant bulbs. There is an adage that reads ‘fall bulbs for spring flowers’. I could write many words regarding the joys of tulips but being succinct I will write, they are worth the effort.

• Last call: This week should be the last week that any of us are fertilizing our lawns, perennials, trees and shrubs. Of course it is perfectly okay to fertilize your annuals until the middle of September as they are not being hardened off.

• Personal service: I stopped into see Tony at his India Food Center on Victoria Avenue. Lovely man. I asked for his advice on products that he felt were special and he recommended four items. All were very good choices for the freezer to toaster oven chef. I also made a chicken masala from scratch on Saturday that was divine, just so you know that I am not totally devoid of culinary skills.

• Tomato blight: There have been a few reports of tomato problems but nothing that has resembled the blight we had last August. Of course, that one blew in overnight claiming the red fruit throughout the province. If your tomatoes are going black on the bottom, that is not the blight. It is blossom end rot.

A closeup of  Rosy O'Grady hardy clematis
• Next year country: The title kind of shows that I am a prairie boy through and through, doesn’t it? Two things that I must remember for next year are: Plant more annual dahlias and celosia. Both of these flowers are considered old school and have been around for years. I had not planted either for many seasons, and this spring I had an opportunity to plant both at a ranch house south of town. They performed wonderfully! Unfortunately, I have to live through other peoples’ gardens with these two, because I have so little sunny spots in mine.

• On that note: I grew impatiens in my limited sun garden parts this year and they outperformed the impatiens that were in the deepest of shade. In fact, my deep shade impatiens were not impressive but my dappled light ones were very nice, as well as the sunny ones.

• I’m not finished: After years of growing petunias, I don’t care what other writers claim: petunias grown in full sun totally outperform identical pots growing in less sun.

Morden Blush
• A rose by any other name: Prairie Joy and Morden Belle are blooming very well this year. They are both into their second round of flowers and most bushes are loaded. They are releases from The Morden Research station and are hardy for our area.

• Gee…I’m not that smart: I have written here before how people would phone me up at the garden center and tell me that they had a plant that was about three feet tall and green in color, and would I please tell them the name of that plant. They were the same people who would also phone to tell me that a branch on their tree was not looking good and would I please diagnose that disease over the phone, as well. My favorite analogy was calling the doctor to inform him that you had a finger that wasn’t’ looking so good and did that mean you have cancer? Pretty damned hard to tell what anything is when you have so little information. On another note, when us hort people get together to gossip, we often remark on how certain call in show hosts always have the answer to every caller’s problem. Why we gossip about that sort of stuff is real hort people get stumped all of the time. None of the truly good ones always have the right answer, as we are always learning new things.

A mother duck is in here
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Garden Report #63

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Dancing under the prairie sky
• Writers write: I always enjoy a get together, a happening, a cultural event that brings together old and new friends. The Folk Festival, The Fringe Festival, The Cathedral Village Arts Festival, and The Regina Symphony in the park are some of my favorites. Saturday night was one of those magical times for me. We were guests at Hawgarama, hosted by Gary and Audrey Drummond. We attended, along with Heather and Brian Lowe and Brad and Sandy Crassweller. We had a good feed of barbecued pulled pork and there were hundreds of homemade pies to choose from for dessert. But even better than the wonderful food, was being able to dance under the prairie sky to Rory Allan and to The Bellamy Brothers. There is something very special about an old time dance under the sun and the stars and being surrounded by grain bins. There were little children filling up the dance floor, dancing in what only could be described as a primal but hilarious fashion. Two and three years olds are predisposed to anarchy, refusing to be restricted by societal concerns. The moon was shining in its full glory, so bright that it actually cast our shadows, as we walked along the gravel road at the end of the night. In between the dancing and the eating, there was conversation. I ran into perhaps fifty readers of The Garden Report and each person had their take, their say on what they enjoyed best (and least) from this weekly blog. There were school friends dating back to the 1950’s as well as people I was introduced to for the first time. I have often written that you have to live somewhere and wherever that place is, a sense of community ensures that life is worth living. In a way, The Garden Report if I had only one word to describe it, is about community.

• Readers write:

     • Roberta Nichol writes regarding a Garden Tip. “Interesting you should mention scissors in the garden. I think they're great. Clippers, I find, are too clunky for a finer job, such as a stem that's really thin.”

Murphy taking it easy after a hard day
     • Daniel Redenbach who is one of our younger readers, and a rising star in the film community, sent this information along. This is in regards to a short film that he produced. “Close To Here" will premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival on August the 20th! I'm still awaiting specifics (time/location), but it is part of the first short film program on that day.”

     • I do not enjoy harping over the importance of aeration but reader Greg Morley is now a convert to the process. He writes “The lawn out front is back to perfection. The aeration is the key. I actually had a lady from the neighborhood stop by as I was cutting the grass a week ago. She and her husband wanted to know how I grew such a beautiful lawn. I said “Rod explained the aeration component”, I gave her the fertilizer mixture numbers and Drew's phone number. So, thanks for the encouragement and absolutely spot on advice. I cannot believe that the soil would be that hard after one winter.”

     • Jean McNeil who gardens near Ottawa had this to say. “Have been enjoying your weekly Garden Report and like some others, it takes me till later in the week to get it read. Always enjoy, the humorous stories, the factual gardening tips, and the social notes. My heart came out of my chest back in the spring when you listed some addresses where forsythia in bloom could be viewed. I thought I was the only one who kept lists of places to glimpse magnificent gardens. I recall the first time I saw forsythia and didn't know what it was. It was practically blooming out of the snow and I was just about knocked off the road. Now I have one of my own where I can gaze at it from my prayer chair.”

     • Another happy camper in Bev Cardinal. She writes “The Garden Report – informative, educational, and highly, highly entertaining! Cheers!”

• Garden Tip: You should be fertilizing your lawn for the last time this week. My recommendation is to use a fertilizer from Crop Protection Services on McDonald Street North, close to Global Television. The numbers are 17-19-0-15 with the last number being sulfur. Apply five pounds to a thousand square feet and water well.

A container filled with dianthus and bacopa in our garden
• Garden Tip: I convinced a new gardener to clip off the spent blooms from his roses. He did so and now his roses are filled with new buds, some even have twenty ready to bloom shortly. Deadheading, the removal of spent blooms really does encourage new blooms to develop.

• I need glasses: I was working away on my computer and beside it, I had a wonderful piece of poppy seed loaf. I noticed I had dropped some of the poppy seed filling on the desk. I dabbed it with my finger and stuck the sweet confection in my mouth. It was mud. They were similar in color and appearance but not in flavor. Next time, I will put my glasses on before assuming everything on my desk is edible. The one question I have not been able to answer is: how did mud wind up on my office desk?

• Farmers’ Market: I have my favorite vendors at the market but I also enjoy trying products from new operators. The maple walnut fudge from the vendor in front of City Hall is to die for. It is the best fudge I have ever tasted. Very creamy and a very strong maple taste. The other new item that I tried from a vendor in the same locale, was a poppy seed loaf. It was a bit pricy at ten bucks, but it was also amongst the very best, especially after it was warmed up. For those who enjoy tart and sweet, give a taste to the prairie cherries now available. They are grown at Lumsden.

• Not so good: Readers Jodi Sadowsky, Roberta Nichol, Maureen Hawley and myself went for a neighborhood walk on Tuesday. It was one of those random occurrences with Saskatoon pie at the end. We all live in the area. While we love old Lakeview and the houses, we were appalled at the number of homeowners who have allowed Creeping Bellflower to proliferate in their yards. It is truly a scourge.

Mandevilla and petunia in the full sun
• Tasty: The New Haven peaches have arrived and they are very, very tasty.

• Extra tasty: The feta cheese made from sheep’s milk has the best flavor of all the feta. Carlos sells it at The Italian Star.

• Fashion alert: The fashion police have returned. Do someone you know a favor, please. If you know someone who is over forty-five, wears shorts to his knees, with walking shoes, and socks pulled up to almost touch his shorts, tell him to stop. Wives, do not let your husband out to go shopping if he is dressed in this apparel. This is not only a fashion faux pas but it is repulsive and perhaps a mortal sin, though the bishop has not gotten back to me just yet.

• Garden Tip: If any reader sees signs of tomato blight, please let me know. Last year, it blew in with a wind and overnight, our tomatoes were stricken. Apparently, if you harvest your tomatoes green and process them, you can beat the blight.

• Job opportunity: I need a student, someone young and tough, to work with me on two projects for a few weeks. The student must be exceptionally hard working, be able to follow directions, willing to learn landscaping skills, and he/she must have a driver’s license and a vehicle. Again I stress, the student must be hard working as anyone who has worked for me knows, I have very, high standards. Send me an email as the projects begin immediately.

Daylilies in our garden
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Garden Report #62

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Morden Belle Rose is blooming this week
 • Writers write: Last night we took in The Regina Folk Festival. This is a cultural highlight of the year, something I have attended since 1970. The Folk Festival has changed over the years. It is now an eclectic group of performers and long gone is the emphasis on traditional folk. The audience has grown in size, too. There was a time when there was lots of room to spread out a blanket and kick back in Victoria Park. Last night, it was a sold out show and we were all quite cuddly with our neighbors. What has remained consistent is the good vibe of the festival. It is a gathering place for old friends. It is a coming together of like minded people and the hassle factor is very low. The festival format has always appealed to me. For the price of admission, the ticket holder gets a wide range of performers. And if you don’t particularly care for one performer, you are bound to enjoy the next. In every community, there are certain events that assist in defining a community. The Regina Folk Festival is one of those markers and has been for over forty years. A celebration of life.

• Readers write:

     • Wanda Bellamy sent this along. “Good morning Rod: Kirk & I sure had a good laugh visualizing the Cat & Vole chase! Thank you for starting our Sunday morning off with laughter.”

     • Lyn Goldman empathizes with chasing the cat in your underwear. She writes: “Funny story about you chasing Murphy! It reminds me of the night I was searching for my Siamese cat, Sundance, when I lived on Angus Crescent. About 2 a.m., I heard a plaintive call from the ledge above the neighbor’s garage door. I had to get the ladder from my garage to get him down. I was wearing my short nightgown! I did think the police might be called, but cat safety comes first!”

     • Penney Pike who lives in Calgary shared this: “ ‘Morning Roddy. Just finished this week’s Garden Report - great read as usual. Your story about chasing Murphy down the street in your underwear reminded me of the night I had to run through the snow in my socks (not just my socks!) to capture my escape artist cat. The pizza delivery man assisted me in the round-up, so needless to say, I tipped him 20 bucks. Fatso took great delight in leading us on a merry chase.”

     • Roberta Nichol enjoyed the cat chase story. Here is her thoughts: “Oh, God, Rod, I'm still howling. I'm breathless with hysterical laughter after reading about your big chase down Regina Avenue. That's the kind of story I will think about later on and burst out laughing again. And again, and again, that's the best one yet. The ill-fated beets story now takes second place. And you know, I would have done the same thing, had it been my beloved pet.”

     • Georgia Hearn also loved the cat story. Here is what she wrote: “Rod: Loved this edition. I laughed so hard, as I could actually picture you chasing the cat that was chasing the vole. Those clematis are gorgeous.”

     • Marsha Kennedy had this comment. “I had a good laugh about the French ‘exhibitionist’.”

     • This from Sarah Wills near Toronto. “Really enjoyed your newsletter this week. I wish I was one of your neighbors (and not so I could see you running down the street in your t-shirt and shorts!)”

• Garden Tip: One of the most useful garden tools is a pair of scissors. Seldom are they mentioned, but I have found scissors to be of invaluable assistance. When carrying out my gardening tasks, I usually have a pair in my back pocket and I am always trimming something with them. I use them all of the time to tidy up my containers so that they are even, I prune my tomato plants and move back the strawberries as they encroach on the walk way.

• Garden Tip: My good woman looks after the beer filled slug traps. She tells me that they are working just fine this season. As mentioned here before, she inserts a Styrofoam coffee cup into the garden soil, fills it with beer and the slugs dive in. This leads me to believe that slugs have some Irish blood in them. Especially when you realize they never attempt to climb out of the trap.

• Garden Tip: Another seldom mentioned item that has a multitude of uses in the garden are bamboo stakes. I use them to mark my bulbs so I don’t dig them up, I use them to hold up my tomatoes, I use them to stake my mandevilla and I use them to mark my sprinklers so that I don’t run over them with the aerator. My advice is to keep a good supply of them in your garden shed.

• Too strange not to be true: I got a phone call from Revenue Canada in Ottawa. The caller was asking for my GST payment, which was indeed late. I told him it was on its way, which was true. He asked me if I was “the Rod McDonald from Prairie Gardens”. I told him I was. He told me that he and his wife watch the show all of the time, in Ottawa. I gather a station there is broadcasting it. He sounded as if he was a real fan of the show. Gee, I wonder if I get a discount on my next installment.

• Sad but true: Last Friday’s wind storm here reached close to a hundred kilometers an hour. Lots of branches from my fifteen American Elms to be picked up but the real casualty was my native ferns. Many were plain old flattened and are now starting to brown off. Not really a tragedy unless you are a gardener.

• Have you noticed: Gardeners as a group tend to be optimistic because why would a pessimist garden? After all, everything is probably going to die anyways, right? Gardeners tend to be good cooks and they do love their food. Gardeners tend to be readers more than television watchers. Gardeners tend to share with others as they have learned that there is always more than enough to go around. Gardeners tend to persevere, growing something year after year until they get the hang of it. Gardeners tend to be opinionated, insisting that their way is the best way. Gardeners tend to work in their gardens well into their eighties and nineties, or until God calls them home.

• Cute: I was pruning the spent blooms off of my daylilies. I know that sounds a bit compulsive but they really did look better after I was finished. As I moved into one batch, I looked down and I could see one orange paw, that’s all. I pulled the cover of the plants back and hiding in the jungle was Murphy, my Irish cat. Just hiding, waiting for a meal to come along, or in this case, Dad.

• Good idea: One of my better ideas was to have a security system installed in the house, many years ago. We have the control panel close to the door for easy access and I also have a master control in my bedroom. It gives me peace of mind to roll over during the night and glance at the panel, knowing everything is alright. Another reason to have the panel in my bedroom was when the boys were teenagers. They would come home, after I was asleep. Disarming the control panel would wake me up which is what I wanted, and I would check the clock. Sound like a dad thing? One day at supper, I turned to Number Three Son and I asked what time he had arrived home last night? He was seventeen at the time. He told me “a little before midnight,” knowing that his dad owning a greenhouse, was usually asleep before eleven p.m. I told him that our control panel had a special feature. That I could scroll back and find the last ten entries and exits and did he wish to change his answer. He did. He now said it might have been “a little after midnight”. So I scrolled. The exact time had been 2:47 a.m. which is more than a ‘little after midnight’ and definitely past his curfew. It was at this point that our son learned that technology is a double edged sword. It can be used for good and for evil.

• Old school: When I was a teenager, my parents did not have technology available to assist in parenting. But my dad did have a watch and he did stay up until you got home and yes, I did break curfew twice. Once in Grade Eight and once in Grade Ten. Hardly makes me a rebel without a cause does it? I was grounded for the Grade Eight infraction and I got leniency for the one in Grade Ten. Funny how you remember that stuff forty plus years later.

My ferns before the storm
 • Not again: I have lived on this corner for thirty-eight years and we only have power outages once or twice year. That was until the last couple of years and now we are getting outages five or six times a year. We have had two this past week. One for six hours and one for two and a half. SPC (the power company) doesn’t seem to have a solution. I can’t help but to wonder if the outages are tied to the rise in our squirrel population. Apparently they short out power boxes.

Mandevilla-loves the sunshine
 • Garden Tip: I have often recommended mandevilla plants for hot, sunny and windy exposures. One of our gardeners, Audrey Drummond, has sent us a photograph of her thriving mandevilla, loving the sunshine.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina