Chives, tarragon, mugwort (prairie sage) are ready to be harvested.

Lovage (tastes like celery and parsley). We are trying to remove all the enthusiastic lovage from the herb circle. If you uproot a plant you can take it but beware. It is a very vigourous grower with really thick and deep roots and zillions of seeds. If left to seed it will invade all your beds. We are keeping the healthy plant that is in the southeast food forest guild. Please clip generously. Leave ⅔ of the plant.

The walking onions are ready to be harvested. They are best in the spring and are like leeks. We want to leave ⅔ of the plants but ⅓ can be harvested. Please send a photo of the dish you made with it and maybe a recipe.

The new bedding plants won’t be ready for harvest for awhile.

Chives can be dried in a food dryer but the easiest way to process them is to cut them up into small pieces, wash them and freeze them in freezer bags. Flatten them. It would be great to have lots of the chives processed for either personal use or as a contribution to the annual Community Garden Harvest potluck. I haven’t personally processed lovage but I think it can be dried or frozen as well.

20180605_182812Tarragon is “one of the four fines herbes of French cooking, and is particularly suitable for chicken, fish, and egg dishes.” It can be cut up and frozen in small freezer bags filled with water. It still tastes fresh when thawed.

Sweet marjoram

Mugwort, prairie sage

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Rewilding

May 31, 2018


A micro project by a bricoleur: A diverse private sharing garden with many native plants that was subsumed into an emerging Community Garden in my neighbourhood. Native plants, like wild violet, strawberries, goldenrod, bergamot, and native berries like saskatoons, are naturalizers, so the gardens are sharing gardens – never-ending canvases which means lots of volunteer hours, with children and adults learning about native plants.

The public Community Garden had received a large grant to build a food forest in a day thanks to the work of a local visionary and the Community Association. When developers next door to my home, needed the lane way for their condos, their managerial team personally brought their wives and children with shovels, white hard hats and amendments to help move hundreds of plants from one section of my garden, my illegal outside-the-fence-lane-way garden, to the emerging neighbourhood Community Garden.

One catalyst for my interest in native plants was a visit to a permanent exhibition of local native plants, such as sweet grass, wolf willow, mugwort sage, and kinnikinnick/bearberry, and their traditional usage that was curated and displayed by a local museum in consultation with First Nations elders.

Another motivation was Calgary’s erratic weather: flash flooding, very hot summers, the possibility of drought in every season, early deep frosts, and snow in almost every month, including early, heavy snow that harms trees still laden with leaves.

Gardening against the local ecosystem is possible, but costly and frustrating. When I began gardening here, I tried to learn as much as could from the YYC municipality, wild flower suppliers, etc on native plants, soil science, Water Wise, and StreetSmart gardens. I began to use native plants in my home garden in the 2000s. It was a tiny experiment in low-cost sustainable gardening and unlike good garden design with clusters of one species, I wanted maximum diversity and a long season. The initial efforts were miniscule and growth was organic. Through time, I met and learned from the highly-engaged and experienced local urban farmers and growers, who helped bring our local Community Garden to new levels. They work with municipalities to get large grants for food forests, for example. They are the real social change agents.

I work on a very small scale with individual native plants (and hardy perennial-plants-of-the-year), transplanting, sharing, pruning, and maintaining, literally at the roots level. Because this is so work intensive, the Garden gets help from various communities – religious, ethnic, and neighbourhood as well as from casual visitors from the nearby hospital who come for lunch and end up weeding.

I have seen entire chunks of grass replaced with healthy naturalizers that begin blooming in early spring and continue through the late fall. I have seen dozens of bees buzzing around the plants as well as butterflies. But the best is the presence of the children, the garden conversations and the way that the love of plants bring people together.

In the larger picture of things, this is a humble, micro-project, similar to thousands in local communities. My hope for the future is that the families, especially the children, actively engaged in this, will continue to be passionate and curious and will re-imagine our relationship with the environment, including healthy soil and native plants and their crucial role in working with, not against nature.

Some references about native plants in Calgary gardens

May Garden Wake Up

May 11, 2018

Parkdale Community Garden and home garden:

Pruning

Weeding

Gladiolus

Sweet peas

Dividing Iris. Planting iris in north guild. Date?

Plant share May 26

City compost May

Herb circle: preparation for June planting. Remove excess lovage.

 

Best plants for Calgary

April 24, 2018

Avenue Calgary “asked members of the Calgary Horticultural Society and Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs for a list of the best plants to grow in Calgary whether you’re a beginner or gardening expert.” They suggested these perennials.

They included Veronica Whitleyi (Creeping Speedwell)Penstemon digitalis (Beardtongue),

Earth day 2018

April 23, 2018

In Parkdale, Calgary Earth Day 2018 was a perfect day for gardening. I wish I had made a video of perennials coming back to life like magic. For the evergreen perennial mounds of creepers I gently brushed off the winter debris and dust with my gloved hands, and almost magically the leaves were liberated and healthy green growth appeared. Under the mulched leaves, snow and winter dust, healthy green mounds of hardy naturalizers are already covered in fresh spring leaves. The most robust include Ajuga reptans (‘Chocolate Chip’ Bugleweed), with its bronze, chocolate-brown leaves, Cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-summer), the creeping sedums, thymes and phlox, and the Armeria maritima Sea Thrift Pink. The Armeria maritima is an incredibly hardy plant with foliage that seems to be one of the first mounds to appear in the spring and the last to sleep.  It blossoms early, in mid-June.

For some of the garden I used a regular leaf rake. For most of the perennials I use my mini rake (shrub rake) with a 36″ handle and six flexible, flat tines. I am keeping some leaves around roses and the more delicate plants but I added several wheelbarrow loads of dried birch leaves (that I had spread liberally in the fall) to the compost bin.

Plants like the Aurinia saxatilis ‘Compacta’ (Basket-of-Gold Alyssum), which are covered in heavy blossoms in early June already have new foliage.

The red crowns of rhubarb are visible and so are the yellow green hearts of the Primula denticulata (Drumstick Primula).

Once the dry twigs of last year’s growth and the layers of crispy birch leaves applied as mulch in the fall, were removed, fresh yellow green sprouts can be seen peeking through. This includes Anemone sylvestris, (Wind flower) and Nepeta (Catmint),

The Artemisia frigida Fringed Sagebrush, and the Lavandula angustifolia Lavender have about 6″ of new growth.

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Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’ Silver Mound Iris – Historic tall bearded Iris ‘Mrs. Andrist’ Sedum floriferum ‘Weihenstephaner Gold’

Limonium latifolium Sea Lavender

Limonium latifolium Sea lavender produces tiny blue flowers. In Zone 2 it blossoms from June to August but I think it blossoms later in Calgary’s Zone 3.

I planted this in 2008 or 2009 and it never ceases to bring pleasure. It blossoms later in the season and since the blossoms retain their colour when they die, either as cut flowers on or the plant, they bring a soft lavender haze into October and November in Calgary. The plant grows to a height of 30 inches. It is very hardy perennial for up to Zone 3 and produces numerous multi-branched flower heads with tiny blossoms. They like well-drained soil and a sunny location.

This plant reminds me of the native perennial Limonium carolinianum sea lavender on Prince Edward Island. Every cottage had a vase of the dried flowers.