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Apr 13

Never enough compost

Every year I produce more compost. But there's never enough.

I have three large bins in which the kitchen waste from the past winter is breaking down – they won’t be ‘cooked’ until July - and two composted piles from last summer that will just need sieving when they unfreeze.

I also have four bins of leaves from the fall of 2011 which have turned into leaf mould, an excellent mulch and, if sieved, a useful element of potting mix. Another large wire bin, filled with leaves from 2012, won’t be ready to use until the spring of 2014.

I need still more material to meet the potting needs of a small nursery so I have to buy. Last year I explained why I don’t use peat and suggested mushroom compost as part of the mix.Read more
Mar 20

Growing under lights brings spring closer

Officially, it’s the first day of spring, but it’s chilly outside and it snowed last night, and will again tonight and tomorrow, so it’s lucky I have tiny Lupin seedlings to tell me winter hasn’t long to go.

They’re an inch or so tall, the first set of true palmate leaves appearing under the white glare of the growlights. Unlike other perennial seed I started at the beginning of February and plunged into a snow bank (they’re still out there but will be coming in to warm up under light next week), these Lupins are a warm germinator. They don’t need a cold treatment to break dormancy.

But I noticed on the website of Gardens North, where I got the seeds from, that they should be sandpapered before starting, which is something done to seeds with hard outer shells, so the germ inside can push out easily. I rubbed them between a couple of pieces of sandpaper and soaked them overnight for good measure, popped them into little pots filled with with a potting soil mix, covered with sheet of black plastic and placed the lot on top of the fridge – a nice warm place for germination. They sprouted within two days, on March 9, so I moved them to light and they’ve been growing slowly ever since. Perennials tend to be slow – with none of that explosion of life that an annual will give you. Read more
Mar 11

Spring: Bring it on? or Hold off, not so fast!

The mantle of snow is slipping and there’s a softness to the air. “I just want it to be over,” a visitor said, navigating the lake of snowmelt that impedes access to my driveway.

But this is sugar maple country. “We could use some frost,” a neighbouring producer told me yesterday, when I dropped by the sugar shack, alerted to the intense activity inside by the smoke and steam rising above the treeline.

The trees are running, have been going well for five days. It wasn’t the plus 14 daytime high that had him bothered as much as the failure of the thermometer to drop below zero the night before.

It’s a balanced temperature cycle that keeps the sap flowing. Ideally, a range of plus 4 Celsius in the day and minus 4 at night. But plus or minus 10 degrees here or there will work; the important thing is to get some freezing action in. Time was when producers could count on the trees running for most of March. Not any more.Read more