Poinsettia Seasonal Planters

Some inspiration from Creekside Greenhouses, in Jordan Station, ON.  These seasonal planters feature poinsettias, but they are not the focal point, just nestled among lively multicoloured green houseplants / evergreens with frosty white variegation that will still brighten the winter season, long after Christmas has passed.  Once the poinsettia loses its red bracts, the green leaves will continue to fill out the container.


Moo Poo Tea

I met @greensoil on #gardenchat a few months ago, and as I've been seeking advice for my heirloom tomato research project her product Moo Poo Tea has been mentioned again and again!  Her family has been using this manure tea on their historic Haven Seed Co farm since 1853 and selling it as an all-natural soil conditioner since 1924!  Authentic Haven Brand’s Moo Poo Tea was originally sold to mid-size agricultural farms, but when the area around their own farm started to develop into housing and neighbourhoods, they started packaging in the cute little reusable "teabags" you see below and have been helping gardeners, landscapers as well farmers (and now greenhouse growers) ever since!  Annie very kindly sent me a sample package which arrived today, it actually smelled pretty good -- like rich, earthy fields.  We've started brewing them in a @CompostTeaGSI system provided by the research greenhouse and we'll keep you all posted how it goes! :)


Native Plants for Your Garden

TRCA supports environmental stewards who care for the land and water resources through their positive environmental actions.  They believe that a healthy watershed is the result of the efforts of all the landowners within it. The Healthy Yards Program provides watershed residents with the inspiration, information and tools required to create naturally beautiful lawns and gardens.  Workshops, fact sheets and subsidized garden and lawn supplies ease the adoption of sustainable practices in private yards.  TRCA encourages a set of sustainable behaviours carried out in private yards including: gardening with native plants, removing invasive exotic plants, landscaping for energy conservation, creating wildlife habitat, composting, conserving water, reducing the use of polluting equipment, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

I've got a little flipbook version of the Native Plants for Your Garden publication on some kind of handy waterproof paper, but you could easily print your own or read it online!  Its got some lovely suggestions for the GTA and Southern Ontario.


(repost) farmers market roses

I wrote this post last year, when I was less busy with school but I'm reposting it this year because I still read Karen's blog: ArtOfDoingStuff and I still always try to have flowers about the house :)

Thanks to Karen (@artofdoingstuff) my half dozen roses look twice as full as they usually would in this heirloom mason jar. I totally agree:

The biggest mistake I used to make when arranging roses was NOT cutting the stems enough.  The same gene that makes us afraid to hammer nails into our walls,  has been scientifically proven to be the same gene that instils terror when we attempt to chop off a rose stem.  I think. 

Following Karen's instructions,
I lopped off a whole lot of the stem (under running water is a good idea!), bound the bunch together with floral tape and gently nestled it into the mouth of the jar. 


"Student Salad"

I found this awesome recipe via FoodGawker and it was just perfect, because it conveniently works with the very few random ingredients I have on hand! :)

1 crisp red apple 
3 stalks celery
1 tablespoon hulled unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt

Wash and dice the apple. Wash and slice the celery. (They can be a little wet. The water makes the vinaigrette go a little further.) In a medium bowl, whisk cider vinegar, oil, honey and salt. (Measure the honey after the oil so it comes off the tablespoon more easily.) Add the apple, celery and sunflower seeds to the bowl and toss in the dressing. Best if refrigerated for an hour so the flavors can come together. The vinegar keeps the apples from turning brown, so don’t worry.


Handmade Card

I made this graduation card for a friend with stickers from the dollarstore on a blank card
no how to needed, I think the picture says it all


Let There Be Light! (and energy efficiency)

If, like me, you've lived in any number of older apartments you're likely no stranger to drafty, rattling wrinkled glass windows.  While lovely, they're not energy efficient or very safe against break-ins -- all things you should consider as an apartment renter!

In cold conditions, an otherwise well insulated home loses heat through the windows as heat energy transfers from warmer to cooler areas.  Radiation through the glass, air leaking from cracks, conduction through the frames and sashes are all ways that old windows lose heat and jack up your energy bill!

In my case, I got lucky and have great landlords who are a few at a time replacing my windows with energy efficient, tilt-opening and locking windows.  I haven't always been so lucky, so here's some info I've found helpful in the past. ApartmentTherapy: 5 Ways to Insulate Your Windows for Winter and Office of Energy Efficiency tips for repairing or improving existing windows: start by assessing your situation.

I could have kept the charming old wrinkly glass windows.  However .. I have way too many projects on the go!!  My basement is full, my calendar is full, my brain is full so I said no!  But if I had kept the old windows, here's a few ideas I like:
Curbly -- Salvaged Window Greenhouse and a different version of the same idea  
Apartment Therapy -- Old Windows as Space Dividers 
Shelterness -- Coffee Table from Window & Two Wooden Crates


Mythos Wald

The cinematography in this two-part German TV documentary is incredible!!  Truly astounding macro angles, time lapses, slow & stop motion photography.  Well worth the watch in HD, on par with anything from the BBC


tying my summer garden into the winter holidays

REPOST from last year -- 
I'm super busy with school, and anyways this wreath still hangs in my house!

The morning glories that grew all over my billboard and stairs left twisted vines and little seed globes, wrapped and twined and dried into a lovely almost rope-like structure.  I tied the rope onto a wire circle as gently as possible so not to unwind the rope or dislodge the seeds.  In the spring I can plant the wreath and a perfect circle of the morning glories will grow!  The whole project should be done overtop of some kind of lid or plastic sheet so you can also save the seeds that fall off :)


nothing that a good cup of tea can't fix

After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world!  As I wrote a few months ago in the hectic lead up to school I find there's something very gratifying in drinking a cup of tea.  Now that I'm amidst the furor and overwhelming workload of research in a greenhouse, I rely on this immensely calming, soothing ritual.  Maybe its all the English heritage in my blood, but a good cup of tea (or three) is an absolutely essential part of my day.  
The entire British Empire was built on cups of tea ... and if you think I'm going to war without one, mate, you're mistaken." — Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
"If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you." ~ William Gladstone
On a daily basis I drink multiple cups of Orange Pekoe, with milk.  If I run out of milk then my next choice is Earl Grey .. no sugar in either!   When I get home and have a few minutes to think about it, my afternoon cup of tea is usually a loose tea -- blackcurrant black tea, orange ginger black tea, green tea or yerba mate <- these ones preferably from a market vendor I've known a long time.  Later in the evening, especially when I'm taking a bath I drink fruit .. infusions? (its been debated whether I can call it tea when it contains no "tea") guava "tea", blueberry-pomegranate or jasmine white tea, hibiscus rosehip tisane any of which are also very lovely when poured directly into the bathtub :)  Lastly -- as its that time of the year I have sachets of mulled apple cider spice and cinnamon sticks to stir with mmmMMmm
Even the Orwellians get tea: Tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country,George Orwell wrote, along with this very particular recipe for "A Nice Cup of Tea"



edit: this post was originally titled Two-Spirit / Genderfluid .. with some information from one of my commenters and after some reading I've changed it to Genderfluid as I'm not a First Nations person

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR) I'm only 24 and I've already lost one trans friend, personally, to bullying and physical violence.  S/he's not dead yet, but s/he's so far down the rabbit hole of drug&alcohol abuse, that s/he might as well be. From the stories I hear, that's not atypical.  I could talk about that, or other frightening, depressing, upsetting encounters I've had or read about.  But, instead I'm going to honour them and all my GLBTQ friends who struggle daily by sharing my own story of gender id and some fun boi photos :)  Personally I'd like to call it Transgender Day of Respect

I had a rough go of it, sure, who doesn't?  I was bullied excessively in my single-gender school.  But in my opinion - what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.  I had really supportive parents - my mum shopped for my brother and I in the same section.  For years and years, I wore his hand me downs.  I went to a refuge of a summer camp called Centauri where it wasn't a problem that I was a prince one day and a princess the next.

In the same way some people say they've always known that they are straight/bisexual/lesbian/gay ... male/female/trans ... I've always known that I am none of those things, but identify with some aspects of each them.  Some days I am a sexy woman, a girly girl, a butch, a tomboy, a metrosexual guy or most recently a leather boi.  Why am I writing this?  I think education / understanding is the key to ending genderphobia and gender-orientation based violence.  One thing I'd like to help people understand is that (maybe just for me) gender identity is a gradient, and not always directly tied to sexual orientation.



River Rock Bathroom Tile Fix

I don't know how many of you have experienced cracked bathroom tiles, but it sucks to stub a toe or slice your foot on them, plus dirt &dust, bobbypins&glitter and all such things get stuck in there.  I originally had a mat over the tile but it tends to slide around, and I've got people coming to visit so I wanted something a bit more elegant, at least for the weekend! --inspired by a dry streambed we saw in our horticulture class this week :)

  • Step 1 -- clean the tub&tile! Punkupine is my awesome cleaning buddy :)
    Step 2 -- awesome stickers from Dollarama! ($1.25)
    Step 3 -- find cracks in tile
    Step 4 -- cover cracks in tile with stickers!
    Step 5 -- cover ALLL the cracks with LOTSsss of stickers! :) :)
    BONUS -- I even got the cracks by the garbage can!


Groovy Gourmet

♥ @RedDryad cause she sends me links to awesomeness! 
Today: these scrumptious sounding, all-natural, gourmet lollipops: Orange Blossom Thyme? Seriously? Sounds delectable, as do all the other flavours featured on the creator's website: Watermelon Pink Peppercorn, Grapefruit Rosemary .. Absinthe?  Well .. I know what I want for Christmas .. a whole handful of Green Faerie Lollipops!! I absolutely adore candies that are both savoury & sweet :)


Spindle Tree

It sounds like something out of a fairytale, and looks just like it too!  European Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus) was one of the trees we passed on a garden tour / field-trip in Niagara-on-the-Lake today.  I've never taken much of a liking to Euonymus.  I've had to prune the hollow shrubby bushes time and time again, I'm not a fan of things that are yellow-green variegated and I've never met one without scale.  Until today I never knew they had a tree form, but this pink'n'orange effervescent little specimen certainly caught my attention :)  Its not the sort of thing I'd plant as a focal point on its own, but I do love how it blends in with this whimsical setting -- as though Sleeping Beauty herself might come along at any moment, prick her finger and fall asleep on this bench. I should point out that although I'm told this tree is not problematic here in Ontario it is invasive in other areas.  I do also want to commend my teacher Dena Sebastianelli-Gavin, as she maintains this landscape and was the one who brought us on the tour.  Thanks Dena!  As a bonus, I've included this antique botanical illustration (Flora von Deutschland, 1885) in a high enough resolution to print. If you are bored of your Botanical Print Clipboard, or didn't make one yet -- this print would be perfect! :)


ex-librīs free printables

I found these lovely black and white illustrations in this week's Dover Sampler. They're not a huge image size, but I think they'd make charming labels on mason jars and tupperware .. or maybe I'll print them as book plates!  I also changed my twitter background courtesy of another one of the samples :)  Want weekly samples sent straight to your email?  [click here to join] !


Heartnuts (Juglans ailantifolia var. cordiformis)

Heartnuts are a cultivar of Japanese Walnuts, they taste just like regular walnuts but they crack out heart shaped nuts from heart shaped shells .. how charming!  I was entertaining friends today and wanted to serve something interesting along with tea.  The nuts I got from last week's field trip to Grimo Nut Nursery were just the perfect idea.  Along with heartnuts I served a pine-nut-cone, native black walnuts, hickory nuts and ultra northern pecans.  They were a huge hit with the guests and of course both seasonal & local :)  Next thing I have to come up with some craft ideas for the lovely shells, I'm thinking Christmas decorations!


Heirloom Tomatoes: Stupice -- Transplanting Day

The Stupice tomatoes we're growing for our research project got their big guy homes today!  The ellepot system has really worked out well for us :)  The seedlings did indeed root faster in the paper wrapped ellepots, they have wonderful white fluffy roots just starting to grow out the bottom so we knew it was time to move!  They were super simple to transplant, with no garbage to throw away.  There's still 6 seedlings waiting to be transplanted too :)  We transplanted into large nursery pots with 3 variations of container mix.
(this is where the research comes in)
Pots 1&2: Berger BM6 with no amendments (control)
Pots 3&4: BM6 amended with 10% Forterra Vermicastings
Pots 5&6: BM6 mixed 50/50 with Forterra Vermicastings


Remembrance Day


Grimo Nut Nursery (Photos)

My nursery production class visited Grimo Nut Nursery in Niagara-on-the-Lake today.  It was a fun and interesting tour, nice to get out of the greenhouse for a bit and learn about something really different -- nut trees!  Here's a list of all the different nut trees that Grimo offers either as landscape trees or shelling nuts: Heartnut, Buartnut, Butternut, Persian Walnut, Black Walnut, Hazelnut, Chinese Chestnut, American Chestnut, Hickory, Ultra Northern Pecan, Ginko, Oaks, Mulberry, Persimmon, Pawpaw, Fig, Quince, Nut Pines.  Since I couldn't possibly photograph every single one and still pay attention to what was going on, the photos are only of the highlights during our visit :)  My absolute favourite was the heartnuts, I'm sure you'll see a second post on those at some point because their heart shaped shells just beg to be crafted with!  For anyone in the St. Catharines / NOTL area I'd highly suggest a visit, and anyone closer to the Lake Erie (Wainfleet) region: Tiffany Mayer just recently posted about her visit to Charles Rhora, our other local nut farmer, on her blogEatingNiagara!

UPDATE -- a post just about Heartnuts!


watering .. watering .. watering

But just because you're working hard doesn't mean you can't look stylish!  
I've got on a botanical-inspired waffle weave top, and my red suspenders / belt that co-incidentally match the poinsettias rather well LoL  All are thrift store finds that I've had for years :)



#gardenchat 11.7 -- SOIL

Tonight's #gardenchat, hosted by Courtney Tompkins was on the topic of soil health, and I'm so glad to see this topic covered, because as I've learned in class again and again and again: Soil is such a key part of growing!  We obviously can't cover every aspect of soil health, structure and importance in one crazy busy chat, but I think the best thing that happened this evening, was #gardenchat got everyone considering their soil and thinking outside the box (or inside the containers LoL)

We started with the basics: soil vs dirt.  As a horticulture and science student myself, I'm particular about calling it soil but not everyone agrees, and I can respect that :)

  • "Dirt" is what you scrape off your shoes, "Soil" is what you plant in -- @DSAldridge
  • A good gardener can make soil out of dirt -- @GreenSoil
  • I'm not above the dirt, I'm level with it. Soil, earth, dirt, it's all good :) -- @StarkBrosCares

After that, the tweets really do get flying!  Its far too much information to take in all at once, that's why I love The Gardenchat Transcript  One suggestion made by Courtney that I really agree with was that constant evaluation/feeding of your soil is [one of the] the best thing[s] you can do!  Then again, other growers that I truly respect, such as Linda Crago never have their soil tested, although she does amend with compost and green manure.  Really, what it comes down to as Annie Haven said: it's all about feeding the Soil!

Another question pertained to a subject I know plenty about: container growing.  "Can we use the soil from the garden in containers indoors?"  I've learned in my various horticulture practices and greenhouse classes that outdoor soil tends to be too heavy, it compacts and get waterlogged in containers.  I've also learned the hard way that moving soil from outdoors to indoors is likely to bring along contaminants such as pests, fungi and diseases.  In the research greenhouse, we use Berger BM6, and in one project: worm castings but at home I mix my own container soil -- primarily peat moss with perlite, vermiculite, sand, compost, or other amendments added as needed specifically by each plant.  Courtney agrees, "It's smart to test & tweak for each plant's needs!"

Then Bren of @bg_garden asked what was being grown indoors this time of year?  Bren and Linda are growing sprouts and pea shoots and me? as I'm sure you know by now I've got an Heirloom Tomato Crop, but I'm also doing a production crop of Mini Winter Cyclamen and my classmates in the research greenhouse have Basil and other herbs growing :)

Some last words of wisdom before I left #gardenchat for the evening:

  • Think about where your amendments are sourced from. Try to be low impact. That's why I love @GreenSoil! -- @ecokatLA
  • I just realized you could take a several tweets completely out of context and make a short novel out of #gardenchat -- @JanitC

Side note: we start #gardenchat each week, by introducing ourselves and which zone we grow in.
For those Canadians who don't know your zone, there is an interactive Plant Hardiness Zone Map:
 http://sis.agr.gc.ca/cansis/nsdb/climate/hardiness/intro.html (use the "new" map)
And of particular interest to this evening's topic is the interactive Soils of Canada Map:


Riding the Backroads


Aeroponic Cultivation of Medicinal Root Crops

Yesterday we had a really interesting discussion and workshop about Herbs, Useful and Medicinal Plants.  The presentation I found most interesting was about this research paper: Potential for Greenhouse Aeroponic Cultivation of Medicinal Root Crops.  Aeroponics uses air as the growing medium, the plants roots grow bare and the misted environment provides nutrients without the use of soil or soilless media.  This particular research project looked at growing medicinal root crops such as echinacea, ginseng, and burdock on/in really innovative a-frame aeroponics chambers built by the Controlled Environment Agriculture Centre (which in itself is a really interesting endeavour).  There are all sorts of benefits (and challenges) to growing this way, the most noticable was improved quality and much higher crop yields.  I could go on and on in great detail but I'll let you read the paper if you're that interested :)


Koppert Biological Systems

Remember my Beneficial Insect halloween costume?  Well there seems to be a bit of a trend this week LoL Today and tomorrow our class is having guest speakers from various biological pest control companies.  "What is Bio-Control" you ask?  Simply put: instead of using chemicals, establish a biological system that uses predatory or parasitic insects, mites and nematodes to control other pest insects in the greenhouse (or your home garden and lawn) by preying on them.  Today we're learning from the experts at Koppert!  While they may produce state-of-the-art biological systems that are used by professional growers, they recognize that the home gardener faces many of the same challenges and provide many of the same specialized bio-controls directly to homeowners who are looking for safe, chemical-free alternatives to the traditional pest controls.  In fact, many of my classmates can confirm that bios can be successfully used at home, cause we all took petri-dishes full of samples to spread around our houseplants and at-home-projects :)

my classmate Laura to her fiancee: "Honey, there may be a few more insects in the apartment than there were when you left this morning .. but trust me its a good thing!" she nods convincingly


Heirloom Tomatoes: Stupice -- Seedlings

As I mentioned a few weeks ago I'm currently undertaking a research project, growing Heirloom tomatoes as a food crop in my Vegetable Production class.  This project is very close to my heart and has two aims: #1 - to demonstrate that Heirloom tomatoes are a viable alternative greenhouse crop, equal to or even better than commercial hybrid tomatoes for a variety of reasons while busting some of the myths about growing Heirloom vegetables.  #2 - to experience growing a vegetable crop organically in a production setting, using peat moss / worm casting soil mixtures and compost tea fertilizers.

We chose to use TreeandTwig's Stupice seed because this lil round tomato is rumoured to be a real workhorse - a prolific producer with long and high yields of sweet, red and very uniform fruit.  The plant itself is vigorous, tolerant to cool temperatures and naturally resistant to a number of pests/diseases and ripening disorders.  Stupice is also consistently a favourite during taste tests.  All these criteria make it a great choice for our research project :)  If you want, you can read my entire Cultivar Selection proposal here

We sowed two rounds of seeds on October 15th and 25th into Ellepots: paper wrapped peat moss "pots" that are biodegradable, so you just transplant them straight into the final container!  The Ellepots are open on the bottom, which means great air circulation and encourages rooting :)  The earlier ones are just showing their first set of true leaves and the later ones have just germinated and are still emerging under a "mini-propagation dome" (upside down tupperware with a few holes drilled into it)  They look so great and healthy .. I'm super super super excited!  I find it almost magical watching hard work translate into something that's alive and growing :)

Heirloom Tomato Growers Resource Manual
I wanted to share some of the great resources I found while researching this project.  I printed these ones out into plastic sleeves, to make a growers manual we can reference and pass onto the next crops class.  I also have tons of links to more in-depth research papers, if anyone is interested feel free to contact me.



I've been busy with school, learning about Natural Insect Control and ran out of time to think up any new dress up ideas.  So this year was, appropriately .. Round II for the Beneficial Ladybug costume!  Now with ladybug stockings as well :)  Ladybugs are beneficial to gardeners and greenhouse growers because they are a natural predator of all sorts of icky pests we don't want: aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, and mites!



featuring Jere Gettle (@rareseeds) of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


Mossy Boneyard Terrarium

-----(Inspired by @LarkCrafts post TheGraveyardShift)-----