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Posts tagged ‘gardens’

My Garden Says Spring has Sprung!

Most garden centres and farmers’ markets have been closed for a while this spring, though the garden centres are opening now and farmers are making their seedlings and early veggies available via delivery or pickup orders.

Meanwhile, without access to others’ efforts, I’ve been enjoying gardening the old-fashioned way: planting my own seeds (including ones I’ve saved from past seasons’ crops) and spending more time working on my composting and other soil enrichment. We’ve had some nice warm days, in the high teens and even low-twenties Celsius, but a lot of frosty nights. However, last night the temperature only dropped to 7 C., so I moved my seedlings out of the house and into the mini-greenhouse (which I can bring inside on frosty nights) to harden off.

When I dug the finished compost out of the bottom of the composter the other day, I had to laugh at all the bits of eggshells. Hubby has been sneaking them into the composter, on the theory that they’re good for the soil. Well, they do add calcium, and I’m told they help prevent blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers, and squash, and discourage slugs and snails. So all good—except he’s been sticking them the composter without crushing them, and consequently my compost looks more like a shell midden than garden soil. Ah well, I remember how well the wild strawberries grew in the sandy beach soil on the shores of Haida Gwaii, soil which was richly mixed with aeons worth of seashells. So maybe this will be a good thing for my garden soil after all.

My mom would have loved to see my little garden, I’m sure. And both my grand-dads, too. I am grateful to have had family who taught me to garden—even if I wasn’t very fond of weeding and digging and canning and such when I was young! My mom passed away on April 23, 2008 (12 years and 2 days ago)–and on that day, in the early morning, the last snowflakes of that late spring floated down—bits of downy, angel-wing feathers, I like to think. And the beginning of an eternal gardening season for her, perhaps, as she joined family gardeners who had gone on before.

Spring has sprung!

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Spring or a Long April Fool’s Day?

Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day happened to land on the same date this year–and I’m thinking that momentous event totally messed up Spring! How else could it be that here in Penticton in the sunny South Okanagan, four days later, the weather forecast reads “rain showers or wet flurries.” Come on! It’s April! Easter has come and gone! This isn’t Alberta, after all 🙂 Check it out:


Well, at least the ice has melted off the oxbows … and the turtles have come out of hibernation and are hopefully trying to catch a few rays….

The urban deer are looking chipper, too — and I see they’re mighty pleased to be able to nibble at the fresh green tulips … and have even left a few buds behind to let us humans enjoy the flowers when they finally get around to blooming!

A few brave souls figure that if they get outside and pretend it’s Spring, the weatherman might take the hint and send some truly Spring-like weather along.

Oh! Check it out! Lots of flowers! It must be spring after all! Or is it?


But wait! Maybe spring is springing after all! Looks like Mother Nature isn’t going to let Mr. April Fool get away with his tricks altogether …

Yes! Spring has sprung!



Summerland Experimental Station Ornamental Gardens

When I was growing up, a favourite family activity — extended family including grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, and lots of friends — was to go to the Summerland Experimental Station (or “The Farm” as the older folks called it) for a big group picnic. The children would have a wonderful time running down the many paths, playing hide and seek among the bushes and under the huge weeping willow trees with branches hanging to the ground, and of course rolling over and over and over down the long, long sloping lawn. The young adults would meander among the gardens, while the oldest folks would sit under the shade of the beautiful trees and admire the gardens. Then we’d all gather together around the many picnic tables and have great picnic lunches.

As I was a “July baby” we also celebrated many of my birthdays at the Station, along with my cousin Kathy, whose birthday was one week before mine. And our family had a special connection to “The Farm” as my grandfather, John Mott, had worked as a gardener there, and helped develop some rose varieties that later became widely known.  Also, my mom often told us of how, when she was young, they would walk to the Station from Summerland, following the railway track, and walk across the railway trestle — a very long trek from their home down on Sully Road across from the old Summerland Hospital.

The Summerland Experimental Station was also a great place for groups of people to gather for events like Sunday School picnics, and for school classes to go for field trips.  I remember, in grade 7 (spring 1968) our adventurous young teacher, Mr. Seymour, taking us on our very first school field trip all the way from Rutland to the Summerland Experimental Station (now known as the Pacific Agri-Food Research Center) and then on to the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory south of Penticton. At the Station, we all got to eat apples grown there — new varieties not yet commercially available — and we got to see the “cow with a glass stomach.”  All very exciting!

Today, the beautiful garden and lawn sections of the Experimental Station are kept up by a group of enthusiastic volunteers, and are known as the Summerland Ornamental Gardens. They are open to the public most days, and are free to visit, though donations to their upkeep are of course welcomed — and most worth it.  My sister and I went up to the Station the other day and enjoyed the combination of xeriscape gardens and traditional gardens, and the many memories from our childhood which they brought back.  Please enjoy the following slide show, which features the gardens today, and snapshots from as far back as sixty or more years ago!

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Urban gardening

Four and a half years ago, we bought a small townhouse with a “postage stamp” backyard.  That backyard had a cement pad that we could place our gazebo on, and a bit more of a yard that had a brick path to the gate, and on each side barren strips of lava rock landscape.  It seemed so small that I figured there was no point in even trying to garden.  And so it sat like that for 2 years until a friend gifted me with some containers filled with soil.  I figured, “Well, at least I can grow some herbs.”  So I did.  But still, I couldn’t imagine how to turn that wee bit of space into a “real garden.”

But the following spring another friend encouraged me to join the Penticton Urban Agricultural Association (PUAA). I did like the fact that they were growing large amounts of vegetables and herbs on the C.URB site in downtown Penticton, that had generously been provided by the City of Penticton.  On this site, they not only grew fresh, organic food that was donated to the local Soup Kitchen, but they also provided wonderful lessons on how to garden with our particular climate and soil types. At these teaching garden lessons, community members were not only “taught” but also had the opportunity to dig right in and learn “hands on.” Furthermore, PUAA were encouraging local individuals, organizations, and companies who might have land available for urban gardening, to join in making that land available to raise healthy food within the city.

Now I had gardened in the past, pretty large scale, in coastal climates, but it was great to learn to garden in a way in which I could conserve water – a very important issue in our area – and could use local soils and improve them with locally available mulches and composting materials.  I also realized that, small as my little backyard might be, I could probably create a productive garden of my own.  And so I started to plant.  PUAA had wonderful “raised bed” garden boxes available for a small fee, donated by a generous local company. And so in the past year, my garden started to grow.

I was so excited for the 2014 year at C.URB, looking forward to more wonderful lessons, and to working at the site with master gardeners with many years of experience gardening with our local conditions, and great enthusiasm in developing in Penticton, as is happening in major cities and small towns all over our country and throughout the world, urban gardening for health and self-sufficiency and sharing with those in need.  It was a great shock, then, when the City fathers decided not to renew the lease on the land.  PUAA had to vacate the property, and sold off, for very low cost, soil, compost, garden boxes, tools, and more.  One of the good outcomes of this unfortunate situation is that a lot of people who were just “thinking about gardening” in the past came out and got the supplies that they needed to start!

And PUAA is NOT folding!  They are looking into how to develop and grow in new ways, and are working together with other local like-minded organizations, as the “Community Food and Resilience Coalition” in which each group focuses on its own projects, but all work together to educate the public and help each other out. The Coalition includes Penticton Fruit Tree Project (harvests unused fruit and redistributes it to local community organizations), Health Action Network Society (alternative medicine, alternative treatment,natural health, holistic health, natural remedies, and more), Shatford Centre, Okanagan School of the Arts (dedicated to creative well-being and is fundraising for a community learning kitchen), Penticton Urban Agriculture Association (increasing the awareness of the need for local food security and the availability and diversity of locally grown food in the community), Food Forester Society (promoting the propagation of beautiful edible landscapes on private and public lands using combinations of perennial and annual species of herbs, bushes, vines, shrubs and trees; ideal for our dry climate and for communities moving towards food security), Okanagan Master Gardeners (provide horticultural advice to the gardening public in the Southern Interior, from Osoyoos to Enderby), Incredible Edible Penticton, Transition Towns, Upcycle Resource Society, beekeepers, and more.

Anyway, thanks to PUAA and CURB, my “postage stamp backyard” is turning into a wonderful bit of urban garden, and I’m looking forward to being able to share my bounty with others!  Below is a little picture history! (click on the 1st picture, and you can see them all full size!)