In this Issue: Gardening Videos, Planting Chart, Contactless Consultations, Gardening with Kids, Seed Sources, Making Pollinator Homes, Community Garden Access
Dear <<First Name>>,
How are you holding up in these difficult times? Is physical distancing also dragging you down? Apart from concerns about the well-being of family and friends, the grim economic outlook and job uncertainties add to the worries. While most of my work with schools, and periodic library assistant gigs have dried up, I am counting my blessings – my partner still has income, and we have skills to take care of many of our needs (cutting hair is on the list). Our pantry is stocked and we still enjoy potatoes, squash, carrots, beets, root celery and many frozen greens from my community garden plot harvested in 2019.
I often reflect on the past year... We had a difficult time of family and pet loss, emotional and physical drain, plus a rainy summer and the most frustrating gardening season I can recall. 2020 was to be my year of self-care, increased social connections and travel, and gardening for pure pleasure. I even considered buying more food and growing less, especially as trees are increasingly impacting our yard.
How things have changed in the last month. The whirlwind of change has me wondering what direction to turn, but one thing is clear – many people are concerned about the food supply chain. Grocery store inventory is down while demand for seeds has skyrocketed. We are told that the supply chain is fairly secure at this point. Either way, spending time outside in nature and growing food and beautiful plants is sure to lift our spirits. While we can’t be together, we can each sow the seeds of connection through our shared passion.
Gardening Videos and Planting Chart
How can I support you in reaching your gardening goals? I would love to hear about your garden plans and aspirations.
With the need to stay separate, I have uploaded some short Gardening Videos, and my popular “When to Start Your Vegetables” chart to my website here.
Limited Discount for Contactless Consultation
I have also made some changes to my Yard Consultation service, and would like to “test drive” Contactless Consultations once the snow is gone. I am offering a greatly reduced fee for 3 randomly drawn requests received before May 1. The special price of $60 includes a virtual meeting to discuss your goals, followed by a walk through your yard while consulting with you at a distance or by phone. After my visit, I will email a brief summary of my recommendations, and I will ask you to provide feedback. Let’s give it whirl and see how you like it.
Gardening and Learning with Kids
Parents struggling with being full time educators may find that growing a garden with their children is a great way to teach science, math and language skills. Here is a little bit of help!
As many of you know, I coordinate Little Green Thumbs, an indoor gardening program for schools, on a part-time basis. Schools closed just after I visited 16 schools with amazing speakers that were keen to connect our kids with the greater world of food production. Check out my blog post featuring the speaker visits, and also a Resources for Parents page I created with a list of gardening related books, free to access with a library card, plus some fun and educational activities. Check out the Kitchen Scrap Gardening activity (see "scrap" lettuce and celery in Karen's photo). Feel free to share these resources.
Our national Little Green Thumbs site will be adding many gardening activities for kids over the next while. Another great organization is Alberta Council for Environmental Education, with great Resources for Parents. More neat activity ideas can also be found at TinkerGarten.
Where to Purchase Seeds
For a few years now I have linked some seed companies in the prairie provinces, where you can purchase heritage seeds online. Check out the websites and go back if they are overwhelmed due to demand. Seeds last anywhere from 1-5 years; plant more densely if your seeds are older.
For a more comprehensive Seed Supplier List across Canada, you can also check out Seeds of Diversity.
Making Pollinator Homes – before you clean up the garden!
Very soon, local species of our wild pollinators, approx. 300 solitary bee species living in Alberta, will be emerging. Get your pollinator homes set up so that the bees can scope out nesting options!
Solitary bees like to lay eggs inside narrow tunnels, including those created by burrowing insects in wood. Some also nest in hollowed out plant stalks, such as sunflowers, goldenrod, coneflower, Joe Pye, raspberry and hydrangea.
You can create bundles with dried plant stalks and place them inside a milk carton or wooden box. You never know what you might discover; in 2016, I had a chance to show children wild bees as they emerged – see blog post.
To create your own pollinator home with bundles, check out my video for a short tutorial. Then attach the bundles about 1 metre off the ground on the east or south facing side of a building, ideally under an overhang. Or you can place the bundles, along with drilled blocks of wood, inside a special “bee hotel”. For instructions to make your own wooden bee hotel, check out the site of this local conservation society, the Edmonton and Area Land Trust.
Community Garden Access during COVID19
While I hope that food supply chains remain robust, I do have concerns that community gardening may be “verboten” if physical distancing measures are not heeded as they should. So far, the province is not limiting community gardening, but municipalities are still evaluating the situation. Red Deer recently reinstated community gardens as an essential service, so that’s very encouraging news. To add your voice to a local petition,visit Change.org
Ward 4 Councillor Aaron Paquette wants community gardens to remain open, and to expand growing food on vacant lots and public lands. Check out this facebook discussion called “Food and Climate” he participated in on April 8.