Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Garden Report #130

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

A yellow begonia with a blue pansy in front
• Readers write: None of us like government regulations. We chafe a the bit, sometimes, grumbling about our rights. The recent tax guide asked us to deduct Line 47 from Line 53 and then divide that number by 17% of last year’s net income. Okay, so I made that one up, but I wasn’t’ too far off with the complexities, was I?

Then there are the building codes that govern everything from the size of a shopping mall to the incline of a sidewalk. For the most part we tend not to pay attention to building codes, that is, until something goes wrong. Like when a shopping mall collapses. Building codes or the lack of them have been in the news this week, with the collapse of the factory building in Bangladesh. Four hundred people were killed because there is little enforcement of how things are built in that country.

Why I am on my high horse about this innocuous subject is for years, I built things. Where there was a code I followed it or exceeded it. Code is a minimum. You can always over build, increasing the strength and the safety of a building. That is perfectly legal. When it comes to buildings or homes, we need to maintain those rules. Code is there for a reason and should not be ignored.

This spring, if you are having a bit of work done, don’t be afraid to check out building codes and inspections. Good contractors are not afraid of code as they always meet it, regardless of who is or is not watching.

• Readers write:

• Loretta Barker lives in Calgary and she had this point to make, regarding how many people read The Garden Report. “Hi Rod. I think you may be underestimating your readership by a fair bit. My mother gets hers sent to her from a friend via forwarding email. She then sends it to me in Calgary and I in turn forward it to two others. I am guessing there are several hundred of us who receive your blog this way.”

• Roberta Nichol thinks I got it wrong, that John Newton wrote ‘Amazing Grace’ rather than Robbie Burns. Robbie Burns, wrote all the great hymns and ‘Inky Dinky Spider’ as well. Roberta needs to brush up on her Scottish history. Here is her take on the entire controversy (good sport that I am). “'Amazing Grace' is not a Robert Burns' song. The lyrics are by John Newton, and there's a bit of discussion as to where the melody came from. One story, my favorite, is that John Newton was once the owner of a slave ship. Oftentimes, one could hear the slaves singing and that this tune was one of them. I sang this gorgeous hymn ( wherever it came from) at Tommy Douglas' funeral.”

'John Cabot' is a hardy rose
 • Margaret Hryniuk sent this along: “Thank you for telling me that the geranium (in #129) was last year's; I gasped when I saw it, thinking of mine struggling in the window and, yes, several hours in the outdoor sun for the last two days. Also thank you for telling me about Doreen Fisher. My oldest son took art from her and had told me how much he enjoyed her and the class.”

• Reader and renowned author, Gail Bowen, was reading #129 a long way from home. She shares “Ted and I are here for The Ottawa International Writers Festival. I'm reading from ‘The Gifted’, the 14th Joanne Kilbourn. It will be published this summer, so I'm still apprehensive about reading from it. By Christmas, I'll be able to make up my grocery list while I'm reading, but not yet...not by a long chalk. Rayanna seems to have inherited Maureen's beauty. Not many young women can bring off a Mohawk, but Rayanna has élan.”

• Joanne Brown asked a good question. “The deep snow in my yard has started to disappear, more rapidly than I thought--thus revealing much dog do-do to clean up in the coming days. Tell me Rod, do remnants of dog poop help to fertilize a lawn?” Rod’s answer: Dog poop does not fertilize a lawn. In fact, it will burn a lawn. Best to dispose of it legally.

• Frank Flegel loves his coffee, as do many of our readers. “Hey Rod, took in The Naked Bean on Broad street for a cappuccino and cinnamon bun. The cappuccino was great the cinnamon bun, meh. The best can be had at Sweet, just up the street from Naked Bean. They're actually a biscuit and very good.”
Lamium is an excellent ground cover

• Garden Tip: What to do? Start by lightly raking your lawn. Remove all signs of snow mould. Rake out all of your shrub and flower beds. Remove all the leaves and rubbish. Cut last year’s plant material from your perennials. This will allow the new growth to emerge. If not done so last fall, add peat moss to your flower beds to improve the quality of the soil. How much peat moss? I like to apply an inch, incorporate it and then another inch, so two inches in total. Also, if there is something that needs transplanting to another location, now is a good time to do it.

• Garden Tip: Tulips and other bulbs are starting to emerge, especially in the sunny parts of the garden. They want to grow so let them. Fertilizer for fall bulbs should have been applied last September, not this May.

• Garden Tip: If you have underground sprinklers, it is a good idea to have someone or yourself, check out the system every spring. Often, there is a sprinkler head that is either broken or misting in the wrong position. Every year, I have to adjust my sprinklers to avoid spraying the sidewalks. I have preached this before: Sprinklers are one of the tools you use to care for your garden. Just because you have an automatic system does not mean everything is okay. Too many gardeners think they can set their system for the summer and then walk away, leaving everything in perfect shape. Sprinklers can over water, under water and misapply water if not supervised. Got it? Sprinklers are a tool, not a perfect solution.

• Leonard Cohen: Yes, I have heard from several of you how wonderful he is/was. He is definitely the poet laureate of Canada and perhaps ‘The Minister of Love’. I have this to say about his concert in Saskatoon, three years ago. It was the finest live performance I have ever attended. No doubt, he repeated his effort here in Regina.

• Paul McCartney: We got our tickets and are ready to sing “it’s been a hard, day’s night and...” This concert is on a Monday, right after The Folk Festival, so it will not be in conflict with that annual event. In 1964, had you told us that The Beatles or any one of the Fab Four would be in Regina, well, plug your ears cause here come the screams. By the way, our Grade Seven teacher assured us that no one would know who The Beatles were within a year. I should have taken that bet.

This is why we built dikes along the creek
• May Day: The first of May, ah that most special of times. I was up at six a.m. on Wednesday morning to begin the day. Alright, truth in writing: I was up because I had to pee. I looked out the window. We have many, many walkers and joggers in our neighbourhood, what with being adjacent to the lake. You see the early birds out as early as five a.m. A lady walks past the house in a brisk fashion. Nothing unusual about that, except, she is bundled up in a winter parka, toque, scarf and gloves. It is well below zero. Not the right time to smell the flowers if there were any.

• Jodi’s new show: Coming up soon, May 8th to the 12th, our own Jodi Sadowsky will be performing under the auspices of The Golden Apple, ‘Kafka’s Monkey’. I have no idea what the show is about, I will just show up and take it all in. The show is at our neighbourhood venue, The Artesian on 13th. Jodi always delivers a good performance. As an aside, I performed with Jodi in Winnipeg in 2004 and her singing wowed the audience.

• Still true today: Back in the seventies, self service gas stations were popping up. I asked Gerry Butler, who was the GM of The Saskatchewan Automobile Association in 1978, what his take was on the self serves. He told me something interesting. He said that the mechanics and the auto repair/replace trade loved them. Why? He explained that most of the students who worked at full serve gas stations had a keen interest in cars. They not only checked the oil, they also checked the tires, the fan belts and took a look at anything that leaked. They caught problems before they became a major repair bill. An oil top up saved many an engine rebuild when the local lads were working after school, pumping petro at the corner station.

• Neighbourhood news: According to one of our neighbours, the next block over, we have had one of our grand old homes turned into a rooming house that has now morphed into party central, with police cars helping to celebrate on Saturday nights. There will be a meeting at St. Martin’s Parish Hall, 4720 Castle Road, on Thursday, May 9th from seven p.m. until nine p.m. Officials from The City will be in attendance. I did not do the research myself but according to the same neighbour, you can have roomers but you have to live in the house. What has been happening is people are buying up large homes and renting out rooms. All it takes is one roomer to post on Twitter there is a party happening and hundreds will join the stampede. Thank God my kids didn’t have Twitter when they were teens. My plaster walls remain relatively intact.

• Ice dam fallout: I have heard of three people within our neighbourhood who are now living in hotels as their homes are under repair from this spring’s ice dam damage. One of our readers, from across the street, lost her roof due to the weight of this year’s record amount of snow. We had a bit of damage but nothing that approached the catastrophes that befell others. We have a carpenter changing over our south dormer from a flat roof to a pitched roof, this spring, to avoid any problems with snow, ice and rain in the future. Why anyone ever built any portion of a roof with no pitch in this province is beyond me. If I had a time machine, I would travel back to 1927, ask the architect what he was thinking and report right back to you.

• Just thought you might want to know: Leonard Cohen never slept with Susanne from his famous song of the same name. She was the girlfriend of his buddy, who was a sculptor. He found her fascinating and imagined what it would be like to be spend the night beside her. So much for our imaginations. Back to tea and oranges.

• Another home is needed: Reader Denise Cook is trying to find a home for a four year old cutie named ‘Cindy’. If you have an interest, let me know and I will connect the dots.
Cindy needs a new home

• Rainbow bridge is closed for a bit: The flood waters have begun in our neighbourhood. So far, so good. There is a real roar as the water races underneath The Albert Street Bridge. The City is much more prepared this year and have been aided by the slow melt. A slow melt gives the river system enough time to carry the excess water with less damage. The Rainbow Bridge at Cameron St. and Regina Avenue is closed, as a precaution, so walkers will have to use The Elphinstone Bridge or The Albert Street Bridge. I had predicted major flooding in some of our yards due to the high snow levels, but it has not proven true. In fact, my own back yard has had less water and mud than most years, in spite of the record snowfall. The pump I bought two years ago for the flood of 2011 remains, unused, in its box. I don’t’ regret purchasing it. Better to have it sitting on the bench, unused, than to have eight inches of water lapping up against the basement walls.

• Farmers’ Market: It is back downtown for the summer, along 12th and Scarth. A good turnout of customers for the first market of the outdoor season on Saturday.

• Season climax: The Symphony finished off the season on Saturday night with a rouser from Gustav Mahler. Added into the mix of the night, the orchestra blossomed to 126 musicians as the students from The Youth Orchestra were on stage for the opening piece. Love to see the kids up there.

'Little Princess' spirea is still one of my favourites
 • This is really cool: One of our neighbours is a good gardener. He knows how to prune trees and shrubs. He walks to work. There is this building he walks by each day and the landscaping is going to ruin from neglect. It drives him crazy. Friday night, I was out for a walk. There he was, pruning away, cleaning up the trees and removing the volunteer seedlings and suckers. If I wasn’t’ on my way to a meeting, I would have stopped and assisted. I guess the radicalism of the sixties is still showing up. “Seize the moment and prune the trees. The establishment is not looking after them. All we are saying is give pruning a chance!”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald who is still dry in Regina

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