Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 Things About Snow

1. Lots of snow is good - seriously! Good snow cover is important for the winter survival of hardy perennials because it keeps the ground temperature stable. Uncovered ground is subject to rapid fluctuations, known as the freeze-thaw cycle. Freezing and thawing of the ground shifts the soil, which can heave plant roots up out of the ground. Unseasonably mild temperatures can fool a plant into budding; when the temperature turns seasonably freezing again, the tender parts get "nipped in the bud", which can affect the development of the plant or even kill it.

2. Every snowflake is symmetrical. When you examine individual flakes, some will be unsymmetrical, but this is because they have been damaged. Scientists are not certain why the crystals form symmetrically, though there are theories about surface tension and microcosmic fluctuations in temperature. (Huh?)

3. What to do with burlap. Covers and tents for evergreens in winter are not meant to keep them warm but to protect them from sun scald and the drying effects of the wind. The trees still need plenty of air circulation, so it is recommended that you not wrap your evergreens but build a frame around them to make a little tent that does not touch the branches.

4. Big snow. Snow takes up eight times as much space as liquid water. Try it for yourself: if you put eight inches of snow in a straight-sided glass and take it inside, you should have roughly one inch of water when it melts.

5. Plant 'em if you got 'em. Snow doesn't necessarily stop you from planting bulbs, if the ground isn't frozen. If you can dig a hole in the earth, you can put a plant in it, even with the snow flying around you. The same is true with bulbs. Planting season isn't over until the ground is frozen solid. (As a procrastinator, I know this from experience!)

6. Watermelon snow. Some snow is pink and smells like watermelon, but not around here. Watermelon snow is most commonly found in the high-altitude Sierra Nevada of California, where snow is present through the long days of summer. The colour comes from a kind of algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis. It's a cold-loving alga that contains bright red carotenoid pigment. The phenomenon of watermelon snow, which turns to deep blood red when compacted, was reported as far back as the writings of Aristotle.

7. Frost flowers are beautiful, ephemeral flowers made of ice. A gorgeous phenomenon in wetlands, frost flowers are the result of ribbons or hairs of ice extruded through plant stems. It happens when the sap in the stem of certain flowers freezes; high water content causes the sap to expand and squish out through thin cracks in the stem. They're very delicate, and they'll break if touched. To catch sight of them, you must find them at dawn before the sun melts them away.

8. Frost is not bad for every harvest. Some wine growers love frost and snow. Some of the finest, most world-renown wines in Canada are harvested well after the first frost; ice wines require grapes which have spent two nights at -8 degrees Celsius. And those super strong dessert wines go for well upwards of $40 per 375-millilitre bottle. On the other hand, if you're a vintner not into ice wine, a good freeze before harvest will be disastrous.

9. Where did the snow go? Even if temperatures remain stable, snow does not. If it only snowed once but the temperature remained below freezing, the snow would disappear over time owing to a process called sublimation. Sublimation, essentially, is the phenomenon where a solid (the snow) changes to a gas (water vapour) without passing through a liquid state. For deeper explanation than that, you'll have to consult a chemist!

10. Pukak snow. You may have heard that First Nations languages include a great number of words for snow. One of those words is pukak, and it describes the layer of deep snow next to the ground. This layer, though it starts as an even mass, breaks down as heat rises from the earth inducing the snow to form into ice crystals, forming air pockets. Small rodents break through the walls of these air pockets and create a system of tunnels they use to get around.

**Note - When shovelling your walkways it is a good to pile snow onto the base of trees or your shrubs and perennials, keeping the roots covered. If a salt or ice melter has been used, push the piles away from trees and shrubs' dripline area as this could poison them when it is spring and the thaw is on.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

10 Things About Dormancy

1. Why go to sleep? In dormancy, metabolism virtually comes to a standstill to conserve energy. Dormancy is triggered by environmental changes, such as decreasing temperatures, but living things are also affected by light. In plants, dormancy can also be triggered by drought and heat, such as when lawn grasses turn brown in midsummer.

2. Hibernation. Plants aren't the only living things to utilize dormancy. Animals hibernate, decreasing heart rates by as much as 95%. Hibernating animals prepare for this state by building up reserves of fat to provide them with the fuel needed to get through the winter. (Is that why many humans gain weight before Christmas?)

3 . Diapause. Certain animals, such as roe deer (native to Britain) and marsupials, and some insects enter a state called Diapause. For higher animals, this results in a delay in the attachment of the embryo to the uterine lining, ensuring offspring are born in spring. Insects that enter this state simply suspend their development and growth.

4. Aestivation is almost the same as hibernation, but has opposite causes. Aestivation results from exposure to very hot or very dry conditions. Garden slugs, snails and worms are subject to this type of dormancy.

5. Brumation is similar to hibernation but it happens with reptiles, which can go months without food. They can stay in brumation for as long as eight months. They will occasionally "awake" long enough to get a drink of water, but they do not eat in this state. Brumation can be triggered by cold and reduction of sunlight.

6. Viruses can also go dormant, remaining quiescent in the cells of the human body for long periods. An example of this would be the V aricella zoster virus which cause chickenpox, then sleeps for years until it awakens as shingles ( Herpes zoster). Bacteria can also go dormant.

7. How do they know? Some plants have a kind of biological clock to alert them about when to take a rest. Houseplants, for example, often stop growing when the days get shorter, even though the temperature never varies. You should stop watering as much now and avoid fertilizing.

8. Seeds can also go dormant. When a ripe seed is given all the right conditions but fails to germinate, it is considered dormant, not dead. A 1,300 year old lotus seed was germinated after recovery from a dry lakebed in Northern China. Do you still believe in the end of the world?

9. Deciduous trees and shrubs, as you know, also go dormant, losing their leaves and halting photosynthesis. But they do still need some water in the soil to survive, so be sure to water in late October or when the tree has lost all its leaves. These trees store food reserves of sugars n their roots. (Cold-hardy deciduous trees will not survive indoors in winter, so bonsai growers let them go dormant before storing them in a cool place for the season.)
10. Evergreen trees. Evergreens don't go completely dormant in winter by they slow right down, retaining some moisture in their needles which are protected from desiccation by a waxy coating. They continue to photosynthesise at a reduced rate (which is why their leaves look grey or black as the temperature drops). Help them out by keeping late winter sun glare from drying out their needles. Build a sunscreen (but don't let the burlap touch the needles because it acts like a wick, drawing water away from the tree). You can even simply rough up the snow in front of your evergreen on a south facing lot to deter the drying effects of the sun's reflection off the snow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Vegetable Colours

Ten Things about Vegetable Colours

1. Orange. The many varieties of orange-curd cauliflower on the market now are all descended from a sport-a chance mutation-that was found growing in a farmer's white cauliflower crop in the Holland Marsh, near Bradford, Ontario, in the 1970s. Seeds from the sport were taken to Cornell University, where stable, tasty orange hybrids were developed.

2. Red. Carrots have been popping up in many colours lately, including red, purple, yellow and white. Orange carrots, however, were not the norm until the 17th century when they became all the rage in the Netherlands. A popular myth is that orange carrots were developed by Dutch botanists to honour William I of Orange, but the story doesn't hold up under deeper digging. (If you don't believe me, check out http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history2.html for a good survey of evidence.)

3. Purple. 'Purple Royalty' and other varieties of purple pole beans get their colour from anthocyanin pigments, which are unstable. With certain balances of heat, oxygen and pH, they break down. When you boil your pretty purple beans, they turn green. The same can happen with carrots in the purple-red spectrum.

4. Blue. The colour of some of the dark blue and purple potatoes is not only skin deep-many have flesh ranging from pink to purple. Although this colouring comes from anthocyanins too, the colour doesn't break down when the potatoes are baked.

5. Green. Beautiful lime-green Romanesco cauliflower (sometimes called Romanesco broccoli or broccoflower) isn't a new variety at all. It's been in cultivation in Italy for centuries. The pointy spirals of the curd are entrancing and the texture of the vegetable when raw is superb, perfect for a crudités tray.

6. White. White asparagus is a delicacy in Germany. It is grown by hilling soil over the sprouts as they grow, denying them of sunlight. The spears grow quite fat and are fantastically delicate of taste and texture.

7. Fuschia. Swiss chard 'Bright Lights', an All Americas Selection for 1998, has stems with fantastic colour. It deserves full credit for reinvigorating chard in the modern mindset.

8. Pink. Pink peppercorns (okay, not really a vegetable, but a funny colour with an interesting fact) aren't properly pepper (genus Piper) at all. They come from a completely different tree, Schinus terebinthifolius , more closely related to cashews than pepper. And if you pay a fortune for them, you might be miffed to know that they are actually not hard to grow at all in hot desert climates; in fact, they're invasive.

9. Black. The chilli pepper Capsicum 'Black Pearl' is a real beauty. The leaves are a very deep purple-black, and the fruits are cherry-sized shiny black spheres that turn striking red when ripe. Generally grown as an ornamental, the peppers are extremely hot without being all that tasty.

10. Yellow. Tomatoes come in a vast variety of colours and sizes (including yellow), with a range of shapes and textures from smooth and even to slightly hairy and deeply ridged. These aren't genetically modified franken-tomatoes but tried and true heirloom varieties that fell out of favour because they didn't keep well for the commercial mass market. Many of the tomatoes have superb flavour, too.

All pictures and contect belong to Ontario Garderner/Pegasus Publications

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Skywatch Friday ~ Sunset

Sunset up against the storm clouds.  The clouds evenually won to a cold snow shower and a very windy evening, as you can see on the lake.

Skywatch Friday

A New Life is Beautiful

As most of you probably know I work on the family beef farm.  Right now is prime time for calving season, 350 + babies on the way.  We are up to 167 as of yesterday.  So yeah, its busy between the farm, the gardens and the endless dance practices for my daughter, I do not have much time for much.  Yesterday though I watched as one cow mom gave birth and for some reason I looked at her differently.  To me normally a cow calving is okay one more to write down in the book and one less to calve.  It truly is a beautiful thing, no matter human or non human and sometimes you just have to stop and sit back and enjoy. 

Okay now if any of you have a weak stomach I suggest maybe not looking at the pictures.  I did not take any of the process but right after she had her little one.

Mom was not so sure if I should get that close.  One can never tell with a mother sometimes, before birth you can pet them but right after they can give you a run.  Instinct kicking in.  She on the other hand was not cross.

Hey mom, watchya doing to me. 

Now that I have you in stand up position lets try getting up young one.

Baby had a different plan.  How about you clean the rest of me off and I'll try later when I'm dried off.  This little guy was a lazy one and never got up for another half hour.  Unfortnately as much as I would have liked to stay, I couldn't and had work to do. 

Seagull looking on, almost congratulating her.

I hope no one was to disgusted, but life is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Macro Monday - Tulips

Tulips.  The sure sign of spring.  There would be not spring without a tulip gracing your flower beds.  So this is why I chose this one for today. 

Happy Gardening!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Skywatch Friday #1

This was one of our last snowstorm of the season.  The skies parted and gave way to this glorious sight.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Buds and Blooms

Buds and blooms, a sure sign of spring and the future of a wonderful summer.  It was a great day to take pictures of buds and blooms on a overcast day.  They bring me so much hope as a new life is once again beginning.

One of my most favorite spring flowers is the Forsythia.  They are a ray of sunshine.

The Maple Tree.  Soft maple.

Lilac buds.  I can already smell their sweet aromatic fragrance.

Apple Tree bud.  Lets hope Jack Frost holds off till fall so we can have some apples this year.  Last year the trees blossomed and the frost came days after.

The tiger lilies took a little beating already.  We are having a early spring, but along with that can come the frost.  The tips are frost bitten but the growth is still good.

Sedum.  Love the look of the petit cabbages according to my daughter.

New growth on the junipter. 

Boxwood showing signs of life.

Crazy periwinkle growing like a weed once again!

Cannot forgot the grass.  What would spring summer be like without a fresh cut lawn. 

Our newest bud.  Meet Polar, our new Siberian Husky at 8 weeks old.  He is a my new baby and I just love him despite the fact that he likes to ripthe bottom of my pants. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

All about Bunnies

Ten Neat Things about Rabbits

1. Dumb bunnies. Anybody who thinks rabbits are dumb has not tried to out-smart one. As preyed-upon animals, they are extremely observant, with keen hearing and olfactory sense. They will explore any new environment cautiously and gradually and rarely enter an enclosed space with only one entrance and exit.

2. Rodents. Rabbits are not rodents, taxonomically speaking. A key differentiation is found in their teeth: rabbits have a set of peg teeth behind their upper incisors (the front teeth, the ones you can see on Bugs Bunny); this is not found on rodents. Don't go looking for it on any rabbit you get close to, though. The incisors are razor sharp and a rabbit is unlikely to take too kindly to your poking around in its mouth.

3. Rabbit relationships. While cottontails (native North American rabbits) are generally solitary animals, socializing only during mating seasons, European rabbits are highly gregarious and maintain complex social structures. Dominant males mate with multiple females, but lower-status males and females will often pair off in monogamous relationships.

4. Rabbit groups. Often called a herd now, the old-fashioned word for a group of rabbits is fluffle.

5. Anti-rabbit plants. Try a hedge of currants or a row of cotoneaster around your garden to discourage rabbits. Plant basil, oregano or tarragon amongst your flowers; mint works too, but it may just replace a rabbit problem with a mint problem since it multiplies just as rapidly!

6. Other rabbit solutions. Smells of predators may discourage rabbits. Try hair clippings, blood meal or coyote urine (which you can buy; harvesting your own is not recommended) sprinkled around your garden and refreshed after rain. Establish the area as rabbit unfriendly early in the spring. Use a multi-pronged approach.

7. Rabbit pets. Rabbits were first domesticated for food and companionship in ancient Rome. Today, rabbits are kept as pets by many people who have found that they can be trained to use a litter box and come when called. While they can be a rewarding companion, they are best suited to patient people with very high sensitivity to animals. I say this as a former and none-too-successful rabbit-owner.

8. Rabbits in Australia. In 1859, 24 rabbits were released on the estate of a fellow in Australia, where there are no native rabbits, who missed hunting in England. Within 10 years, those 24 had increased sufficiently for 2-million to be killed per year without leading to a noticeable decrease in the population. They are destructive to the environment and a key example of why it's dangerous to introduce exotic species into an ecosystem.

9. Year of the Rabbit. In the Chinese zodiac, 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, as were 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927 and 1915. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are regarded as conservative and wise, lucky with money, talented, ambitious, virtuous and gifted with excellent taste. They are inclined to gossip, but tend to be tactful about it.

10. Day of the rabbit. The Easter Bunny originated in the Alsace region of Germany and France and was originally a hare. Children would create nests in their bonnets or caps the night before Easter Sunday. If they had been good, the Easter Hare would lay coloured eggs in the nests. Not sure what the Hare would leave behind for bad children.

Happy Easter Friends!

Thank you Ontario Garderner for yet another wonderful read.
-Shauna Dobbie

Copyright © Pegasus Publications Inc.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dog Pee and Lawns

Ten Things about dog pee damage to lawns

I just love Ontario Garderner newsletters.  They are wonderful, so I once again have copied for all to read too.  Thank you OG for the great read.

1. Cause. The two components of dog pee that kill lawns are nitrogen and salts. It has nothing to do with pH.

2. Fixing early. If you see a dog peeing on your lawn, douse the area as soon as possible with water. Three times the amount (give it your best guess) within eight hours is recommended. If you see somebody allowing their dog to pee on your lawn, you might consider dousing them with water too!

3. Fixing later. If you don't know your lawn has been peed on until you see the damage, there is only so much you can do. Re-sodding the patch could be an immediate fix if the sod is a good match for your lawn. You can also seed over if there is a bare patch; you'll have to keep the seeded area continuously moist until it is established. Lime or gypsum, which balance out acidity, won't reverse the damage because the damage isn't caused by pH changes.

4. Gender. The urine of male dogs is as damaging to lawns as the urine of female dogs, but male dogs tend to mete out their pee in smaller amounts in order to mark more territory while females tend to squat and pee a bladderful in one spot. This is why owners of female dogs tend to suffer more turf damage than owners of male dogs.

5. Size. Obviously, small dogs produce less urine than big dogs. No correlation has been found between breed and damage other than that owing to size.

6. Supplements. Before you decide to give your dog any of the supplements advertised to prevent lawn burns, think about why your dog pees. Urine comes from the kidneys, which filter unusable materials from the blood. You want those unusable materials out of your dog's blood, right? Consult your vet before feeding your dear pet something that messes with biological processes.

7. Diet change. High nitrogen in pee can come from the dog's diet containing more protein than necessary. Many commercial dog foods have levels of protein meant for very young and active dogs. If you're dog isn't highly active, consider asking your vet what food would give an appropriate level of protein.

8. Drinking water. Dogs that drink more water will have more dilute urine. If you already give your dog all the fresh clean drinking water it likes, you might be able to increase water consumption by moistening dry food or switching to canned food. Adding salt to encourage more water intake could damage kidneys and will add more lawn-damaging salt to the urine anyway. You could try offering salt-free broth if you're desperate.

9. Repeated damage to the same spot. Dogs have their favourite spots. If your dog is the culprit, you should be able to train it to pee in an area that works for you if you're determined (and your dog is not so stubborn as my dachshund). If you don't know what dog it is, try sprinkling the area with dog kibble. Dogs tend not to go where they eat.

10. If all else fails.it may be time to put a scree garden in the affected area!

From top to bottom: (1) The pee patch.(2) Assuming this position is natural. Consult a vet before considering supplements for your pooch. (3) Great amounts of consumed water does any body good. (4) Just when you save your lawn and get the peeing under control, the darn thing digs!

-Shauna Dobbie
Copyright © Pegasus Publications Inc

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sweet Potato Update #3

Well since planting the sprouting potato back at the end of January, my little experiment sure is doing quite well.  I'm really not sure what I'm going to do with it, but if it can hold on till after the last frost I will then move it outside.   Not sure if it will produce any tubers but it is no loss since it was only an experiment.  So here it is 6 weeks later.

More updates in the future.