Category Archives: Garden

The Gardener’s Book List

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The Gardener’s Book List

In Manitoba, it can be tough to feel cheerful in February early March. The short days, bone-chilling temperatures, and snow-clogged roads all remind us how long it will be before we’ll see any signs of life outside. But during this time of year, the best thing we can do is embrace it!

The days may be short, but perhaps that can motivate us to find creative ways of bringing light into our spirits. The roads may not always be clear, but maybe we can use the time indoors to start dreaming up our master plan for this year’s annuals and edibles. The mercury may be plunging, but perhaps that means it’s the perfect time to curl up and ‘plunge’ into a good book in front of the fireplace. And perhaps we can do all three of these things at once. Here are some fabulous gardening books to pick up this month.

Colour Your Garden: Exciting Mixtures of Bulbs and Perennials by Jacqueline van der Kloet

Fans of bulbs and perennials will love this guide for capturing and enhancing the colours and shapes of these magnificent plants. Author Jacqueline van der Kloet offers practical tips and guides for creating stunning combinations for gardens of all

oakridge winter porch pot

sizes – from airy landscapes to balcony-sized container gardens. This is a must-read for those of us who get a rush from watching our spring tulips bloom!

Escape to Reality: How the World is Changing Gardening, and Gardening is Changing the World by Mark Cullen

For those who crave the soul-nourishing pleasures of gardening, Canadian gardening guru Mark Cullen’s recent release is the gardener’s very own Chicken Soup for the Soul. With beautiful design, touching

winter porch pot in urn

narratives, and practical tips, Cullen’s collaborative work – co-written with his son, Ben – explores not just how we garden, but why.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Christopher Silas Neal and Kate Messner

You’d have to dig deep to find a better way to introduce young people to gardening than Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. For parents and grandparents who wish to spark a curiosity about gardening in young readers, this book is equally filled with adorable illustrations, bedtime-worthy lyricism, and teachable information about the garden ecosystem. It’s the perfect way to share our love of the garden with our little ones and get them itching to explore the outdoors in the springtime.

Vegetables, Chickens & Bees: An Honest Guide to Growing Your Own Food Anywhere by Carson Arthur

You might recognize Carson Arthur as the host and garden expert on shows like Better Homes and Gardens’ Home, First Home, Global’s Room to Grow, and HGTV’s Green

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

Force. If you’ve been a fan of his, you’ll be excited to hear of the upcoming release of his first book. In Vegetables, Chickens & Bees, Arthur imparts the wisdom he’s gained over his 20-year career with an unconventional gardening book – to be released on February 26, 2019 – that speaks to a younger crowd of homeowners.

Prairie Garden 2019 Growing Food by the Prairie Garden Committee

Guest-edited by urban farming and gardening expert Tiffany Grenkow, the latest edition of the Prairie Garden Committee’s Prairie Garden guide is set to be released on February 24, 2019! This issue will be

wooden sleigh with winter porch pots

focusing on the edible gardening trend, but will cover so much more. Look forward to over 50 articles produced by local gardening experts, all with invaluable advice for growing gardens of all kinds in our region. If you’ll be in the Winnipeg area on the 24th, you can even attend the book launch at the Grant Park location of McNally Robinson at 2:00 pm.

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

During these bleary days when the snow won’t let you into your garden, let your imagination take you there instead. We hope you find some inspiration in these titles, and maybe a new perspective to serve you well when the snow melts!

Seeding Indoors

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christmas decorated winter porch pot

Seeding Indoors

By Erna

While we can’t wish the deep freeze temperatures away, there are some things we can do as we wait for the weather to warm up. The time is near for beginning our indoor seeding – even if the cold weather outside doesn’t make it feel like garden season is around the corner. It’ll soon be the right moment to start giving our favourite annuals and edibles a “head start” into the season by seeding them in the warmth of our homes, giving us a longer window to enjoy them after their spring transplant.

Before You Plant Your Seeds

Gardening indoors during the winter can have a magical effect on your mood, as we’re able to get the joy of seeing fresh spring shoots before the real thing appears outside. Beyond the mental health benefits, however, seeding our flowers indoors has tangible benefits for our gardens, too!

Our growing season in Manitoba is unfortunately short, with most regions only

oakridge winter porch pot

seeing up to 125 frost-free days per year. While there are plenty of early-maturing flower and edible varieties out there, indoor seeding allows us to enjoy other varieties who wouldn’t have a chance to reach maturity if we waited to plant until after the last frost. Before you get started, though, you’ll want to prepare first:

Read your instructions carefully. The back of each seed packet has important information specific to that particular variety. Ensure you read the back of the packet before purchasing so you’re prepared to meet your seedlings’ special requirements – and that the end result is what you’re looking for.

Get familiar with your zone. The southern

winter porch pot in urn

half of Manitoba is predominantly zone 2a, 2b, and 3a. Review a plant hardiness zone map prior to purchasing seeds. While some that are from zones close to ours can be convinced to grow here, some seeds adapted to much warmer climates may start indoors just fine, but might not survive our climate after transplanting outside.

Start small and work your way up. If it’s your first year of seed starting and you hope to plant an entire edible garden, pause before you start seeding all your vegetables indoors! It’s better to start with one or two varieties and learn how to care for them well, rather than biting off more than you can chew with five to ten plants in the first year. It’s better to have one or two strong, healthy, high-yielding plants than several struggling ones. Besides, you can still always purchase starter seedlings in the spring if you still want to expand your edible garden.

Don’t start too early. While it may be tempting to start seeing something fresh and green as soon as physically possible, you find yourself a little underwhelmed by starting seeds too early. Most plants only need about six weeks of start time before they’re ready for transplant. Start too early and the conditions the plant needs to grow won’t be there for it yet, leaving you with a weak, lanky, or stunted seedling. Review a seeding calendar to plan your indoor seeding schedule first!

Planting & Germinating

      Once you’ve prepared properly, you’re ready to get growing! Here’s how to get your seeds started indoors:

    Use the right soil blend. Potting soil is great for houseplants, but plants that are being grown with the intent to transplant need different conditions. We recommend a

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

blend of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite, which should allow sufficient drainage and oxygen flow for your developing plant. Whatever your blend is, though, make sure it’s with new materials purchased at the garden centre and not pulled from your garden, because your vulnerable little seeds will need sterile conditions to get started. Then, follow the seed packet instructions for the correct planting depth.

Give seedlings a proper introduction to light. Before germinating, seeds haven’t developed a system for synthesizing light. So they should be kept covered to conserve moisture until the first leaf develops. Once you see the leaf emerge, place them by a sunny window. In our climate, your seedling likely won’t receive the necessary 12 hours

wooden sleigh with winter porch pots

of light it needs per day this early in the year, so supplement light during those dark hours with a grow light!

Be mindful of moisture levels. Seeds are already rich in the nutrients they need to grow, so they need no fertilizer, but they will need a consistently moist environment to germinate. Too much water can cause mould and too little can dry out the baby plant. Keep soil damp by misting as needed with a spray bottle.

Transplant thoughtfully. While those first few days of above-zero weather may make us feel like breaking out the shorts and t-shirts, it’s still a little early for your seedling to survive outside – especially in the chilly spring nights! After the risk of frost has passed, harden them off by giving them a few hours outdoors at a time, then move them back indoors. Repeat this daily for longer and longer stretches of time. Overcast days without wind or rain are particularly good starting points, as your plant is not accustomed to direct sunlight or rain. After a week or two, your seedling should be toughened up enough for transplanting.

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

Plants, like babies and puppies, are a lot more work than you’d expect from something so small – but at least they have the manners to stay in one spot while they grow! However, as they mature, all the dedication you put into them is worth it. Before long, you’ll be able to look on proudly as they sway in the summer breeze – and this winter will be a distant memory.

Winter Porch Pots

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christmas decorated winter porch pot

Winter Porch Pots

By Erna

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently?”

-Lewis Carroll

On the coldest days of winter here in Manitoba, all we can think about is wrapping ourselves in warm blankets and snuggling by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa. Those cozy evenings have a way of making us feel like all is right in the world, despite the howling winds and blowing snow outside! After a day of work or running errands, when all you can think about is getting back to your toasty nest, it’s a wonderful thing to see a little bit of that cheerful winter spirit waiting for you on the front porch. With the power to lift spirits of guests or passers-by, and to bring a smile to your face as you reach for your keys, winter porch pots add a few extra degrees of warmth to your home’s exterior.

Making a Winter Porch Pot

Winter porch pots are, in essence, container gardens brimming with winter greenery. Evergreens are the natural choice for creating a seasonal look that keeps its colour and beauty. Simply select cuttings from a variety of conifers and other winter plants, and arrange them artistically to suit your taste. The basic steps to building your porch pot are:

Choose a Container – Your container makes almost as much of a statement as the greenery inside! Set the tone with a reclaimed wood barrel for a farmhouse look, a sleek-looking concrete planter for a modern industrial vibe, or a stately urn for

oakridge winter porch pot

traditional appeal. Fill your chosen container with dense potting soil.

Select Your Evergreens – Porch pots look best with boughs from 3-4 different conifers with contrasting sizes and textures, like juniper, spruce, pine, and cedar. Gather several clippings of each before you begin.

Assemble the Porch Pot – Sturdier clippings, like the spruce, look great in the centre, while draping pine needles look elegant trailing over the side of the pot. Juniper makes a great cover to fill in gaps. Fan-like shapes, like cedar clippings, look beautiful as a backdrop to the arrangement. Get creative with your placement, but make sure to sink each clipping into the pot deep enough to withstand strong gusts of wind!

winter porch pot in urn

Decorate the Arrangement – Add flair to your winter porch pot by adding sprigs of real or artificial winter berries, curly willow, or oversized pine cones. Stouter shapes, like the pine cones, will look best as a central focal point, but tall shapes, like the curly willow, look better as accents on the sides and near the back of the arrangement.

Holiday Porch Pots – To give your porch pot a little Christmas spirit, add festive decorations, like red buffalo ribbons and bows, and add string lights to finish the look.

Front Porch Winter Decor Ideas

    If you love the look of the porch pots, you may be tempted to coordinate the rest of your front porch decor to match. Here are some fun decorations you can add to finish the look.

Wreaths – You’ve likely hung your wreath on

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

the door before you’ve even though to take on a porch pot project! However, if you haven’t yet, consider matching the greenery of your wreath to the ones in your winter porch pot.

Birch Poles – Birch accents are all the rage right now, and a pile of birch “firewood” or crafty displays made with birch poles will put your front door decor in line with the trend.

Vintage Sleighs and Skates – These adorable decorations add a little Canadiana to your front entry when rested against your home’s facade.

Outdoor Benches – Add a little extra coziness to a covered front porch with an outdoor bench, complete with a plush

wooden sleigh with winter porch pots

blanket in a synthetic material and outdoor-safe cushion. Choosing a storage bench makes for a clever storage solution for de-icing salts and winter boots!

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

Your winter porch pot and coordinating decor will make your whole home look more inviting while lightening the spirits of all who pass it – and we all know that during these short winter days, we could use all the light we can get!

Growing Herbs Indoors

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growing herbs indoors

Growing Herbs Indoors

By Erna

“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally.”

Yotam Ottolenghi

While the days of fresh vegetables from the garden have passed for the time being, the days of savoury stews and hearty dinners have only just begun. Of course, the secret to a truly memorable home-cooked meal is the addition of fresh herbs. Not only do they impart a beautiful flavour and aroma, they also add that great hit of colour that you simply can’t get with the dried varieties. Not to mention, it looks downright gorgeous when a dish is served with a garnish of thyme or rosemary sprigs!

Fresh Flavours Indoors

Here in Manitoba, the long and chilly months of winter can leave us longing for the warmer season. Luckily, we can still add some life to our homes, hearts, and plates by keeping an indoor herb garden! Rosemary, thyme, parsley, and basil can all thrive indoors with the right conditions and a little TLC.

growing plants indoors

Pests Off

If you’ve brought your herbs in from your outdoor garden, the first order of business should be to get them freshened up and ready for life indoors. Outdoor herbs can bring some unwanted guests inside with them, like spider mites or aphids, so they appreciate a gentle bath with a little warm water and dish soap just before settling into

aphids

their new homes.

If you notice more bugs than expected on your herbs, all is not lost! Insecticidal soap is safe to use on your edibles as you migrate them indoors. Wash them weekly with the insecticidal soap treatment until the pests are all gone. If you chose to use your herbs in the meantime, give your sprigs a good rinse before using to take care of any bitter residues.

Growing Herbs Indoors

Light is the most important gift you can give your indoor herb garden! Set them up close to a west- or south-facing window where they’ll be treated to full sun for as long as possible. Deep into winter, even a full day of sun isn’t all that much, so you may need to supplement with a grow light. A few

windowsill herbs

extra UV rays will make such a big difference in the height, health, and flavour of your herb plants.

Water: Herbs might experience a little culture shock travelling from their outdoor summer climate into an indoor winter escape. Just as the much as the dry winter air has most of us reaching for the lotion bottle, your herbs will be craving moisture when the humidity fades away.

fresh basil leaves

There are a few tricks for increasing humidity indoors – some of which might make your home more comfortable for you, too!

  • A humidifier is an excellent way to keep your herbs (and other indoor plants) happy and humid during the cold months. Plus, if you’re prone to coughs and colds, you may even find the humidifier also helps you breathe better!
  • Spritzing herbs with a misting bottle will help keep your plants looking vibrant, but during very dry weather it can be cumbersome to keep up with. If you don’t mind spritzing throughout the day, it’s hard to overdo it in the winter – so spray away!
  • Pebble trays cost very little and help a lot! Just place a layer of pebbles on a flat tray with a lip about ½” high. Add water until the pebbles are almost submerged, but not quite, then place the herb pots on the pebbles. The water from the tray will slowly evaporate into the air around the plants all day long. Just check the tray daily and top up with water to maintain.
growing herbs in pebble trays

When it comes down to it, it doesn’t take much work to grow your own herbs inside when the weather outside is frightful. That means you’ll have plenty of time for the real work – the cooking!

Houseplants to Clear the Air

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Outdoor Fern

Houseplants to Clear the Air

By Erna

“Fresh air impoverishes the doctor.”  – Danish Proverb

What do camera phones, LEDs, CAT scan technology, and handheld vacuum cleaners all have in common? All these technologies exist because of all the hard work that goes into space exploration. We also have the fine folks at NASA to thank for finding out which of our humble houseplants put in the most work to keep our homes clean. Luckily, it’s not rocket science, so feel free to take advantage of their discoveries to help clear the air at home.

NASA’s Air-Cleaning Plants

The problem that NASA was working on in 1984 was simple enough (well, simple compared to some of their other rocket-based problems): they were researching building bubbles with carbon and the latest lightweight plastics to live on other plants. Problem was, they found that all the synthetics they had to use made the air inside practically unliveable in a matter of

NASA's air-cleaning plants

days. All those chemicals give off toxins, like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene, which were making those that breathed that air severely ill. In addition to all the complex filtration technologies they worked on, NASA also turned to nature in attempts to clear the air. They found that very common plants that many of us enjoy as houseplants did an amazing job at cleaning the air, not only cleaning up toxins, but using them to actually boost their own growth!

Toxins at Home

We don’t have space-station amounts of plastics and synthetics at home here on Earth, but as every year passes they seem to make up a bigger part of our lives. Air-borne toxins aren’t just NASA’s problem – our homes are slowly filling with a cocktail of toxins, too.

Air-borne toxins

Household Plants and Household Toxins

The simple version of the science behind air-cleaning plants is that they breathe (or “transpire”, if you ask a scientist) kind of like we do. They take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, but they also take in tons of other chemicals as they breathe, too, pulling those toxins down to their roots to use as fertilizer. The same chemicals that

Household Plants and Household Toxins

can cause headaches, respiratory issues, or irritation for us can actually boost the growth of our plants. Even better, with indoor houseplants that don’t have to brave our Manitoba winters, our homes get a health boost all year.

Our Top Picks For Removing Airborne Toxins

Not every plant is equal when it comes to cleaning your air. Here are some of our favourite air-cleaning powerhouses:

Peace Lily: These plants are a blessing in every way. They thrive in low-light rooms that your other houseplants might not cut it in and are incredibly easy to care

Boston Fern: The oldest houseplant in the world

for. They also produce elegant, white flowers almost all year and are experts at eating toxins. These are an excellent choice for beside an entertainment unit where they can devour the acetone that come off the electronics.

Boston Ferns: This is the oldest houseplant in the world, and we can’t help but wonder if their ability to filter toxins and molds had a part in that. They are absolutely greedy for toxins in the air and will even treat you to a humidity boost around them.

Spider Plant: This plant is so easy to manage that it is often the unsung hero of houseplants. They’re practically impossible to kill, require very little light and care, and love cleaning up your air. It’s one of the few houseplants that will take on deadly carbon monoxide with enthusiasm, making it a great choice near fireplaces and kitchens.

Spider Plant - the unsung hero of houseplants

English Ivy: This vine is easy to grow (you’re more likely to be cutting it back than coaxing it to thrive) and is a gift for allergy sufferers. It gets rid of true nasties in the air, like mold or even airborne feces (yes, you read that right). You are what you eat, though, so this plant is toxic and should be kept out of reach of children and pets.

Bamboo Palm: Also known as “Reed Palm”, this plant is stately and compact enough to fit in any obscure corner of your home. It’s also a heavyweight champion when it comes to eating up benzene and trichloroethylene. This is a good choice to place near new furniture to make the most of its appetite.

Bamboo Palm is also known as Reed Palm

It wouldn’t be the first time that we “borrowed” space age research to make our lives here on Earth better. Thanks to some of the brightest scientific minds, we can breathe easy while enjoying a bright future of working with our favourite plants more and more as they work with us, too!

Coniferous Trees for the Holiday Home and Yard

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mosquitoes in Manitoba

Coniferous Trees

For the Holiday Home and Yard

By Erna

“The pine stays green in winter, wisdom in hardship.

  – Norman Douglas

As much as we’ll miss the lush gardens of summer and the colourful foliage of autumn, there really is something magical about winter in Manitoba. Sure, it’s chilly, but as soon as we get that first real snowfall – the kind that covers the streets and trees with a crisp blanket of white – we’re immediately transported into that holiday state of mind. Our pumpkin spice cravings are replaced with a longing for peppermint mochas, whipped shortbread, and of course, the smell of fresh evergreens.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs

Also called conifers, or coniferous trees, evergreens are one of the two main tree families, the other being deciduous trees. The difference really boiling down to just needles versus leaves. Deciduous trees grow fruit and flowers, and shed their leaves in the fall. Conifers, on the other hand, produce cones and grow needles, which stay “ever-green” all year long.

standing water

Naturally, we love to have something green in our lives all year round, but there’s more to love about evergreens than just their colour. For us, it simply isn’t Christmas without that fresh, alpine fragrance in our lives. Thankfully, with so many different species of evergreen trees and shrubs, there are tons of ways to incorporate the look and smell of fresh evergreens into your home – whether that may be a live tree or two growing in your yard, or a few boughs for your holiday decor. Here are our top evergreen picks for home, hearth, and horticulture.

ageratum

For the Yard

Live evergreens tend to take a backstage to your garden in the warmer months, but as soon as the snow hits the ground, they become a centrepiece in your landscaping. Live evergreens adorned with lights instantly transform a frozen yard into a winter wonderland. Here are the best choices for Manitoba homes.

Black Hills Spruce – This North American native doesn’t mind the clay soils here in Manitoba and offers striking dark green colour in a slightly smaller and denser package.

Crystal Blue Spruce – These disease-resistant trees have striking, intense blue-coloured needles and look stunning against modern home designs.

Colorado Spruce – A handsome, sturdy evergreen with that classic “Christmas tree” look.

Hetz Midget Cedar – A short and sweet variety that looks great as “mini” globes to line a walkway.

Little Giant Cedar – At 3-4 feet tall and wide, this little tree makes a great impact in the landscape with globed form and vibrant foliage.

Skybound Cedar – These dense cedars can make great privacy fencing or a wonderful statement in your landscape.

Calgary Carpet Juniper – We simply adore these multi-purpose shrubs, which add life to everything, from rock gardens to holiday vignettes.

 

For the Home

If you’re just looking for an evergreen to visit for the holidays, you’ve got options galore! Here are our favourites based on aesthetics and aroma.

Scotch Pine – A long-needled, sturdy and fragrant tree that keeps its needles long after cutting.

Marigold as a mosquito repellent

Balsam Fir – The needles of the Balsam have a lovely aroma and a rich, gorgeous green colour with slightly more flexible boughs than most. If you love a simple look, they’re perfect with just string lights and garland.

Fraser Fir – One of the most popular Christmas tree varieties for their great scent and strong boughs. It also holds its needles for an exceptionally long time!

Tips for Christmas Tree Success: Saw a few inches off the trunk before bringing inside and keep it well watered to slow needle loss. Check water levels daily for the first week to get a good sense of what it will need. To feed your tree and prevent rotting, consider grabbing some Tree Preservative to add to your water, as well, for lasting performance.

Marigold as a mosquito repellent
For the Mantel

From ornate wreaths to candle-lit centrepieces, every holiday decor scheme can benefit from a few evergreen boughs. Here are a few that are attractive and easy to work with.

Noble Fir – These also make great Christmas trees, but they’re even better for

Christmas crafting. Their short needles and sturdy branches make stately, traditional-looking holiday handicrafts.

Common Juniper – A Manitoba-native species, their silvery-blue berries and attractive green needles are great for wreaths and decorations with a more contemporary rustic look.

Silver Fir – Known for their marvelous matte green needles with bands of silvery color, these boughs offer a sensational subtle contrast that is perfect for a modern decorating aesthetic.

Western Cedar – These gentle giants offer fantastic scaled, flat needles with a soft appearance that is perfect for giving your decor a smooth finish.

White Pine – With long, slender, light green needles, a bough from this beauty is sure to offer the perfect softened touch to any evergreen mantel.

Robin Bird

We simply can’t imagine Christmas without that authentic, pine-fresh scent. Whenever we envision a truly ‘holiday’ moment, it always comes back to cozy blankets and steaming hot mugs by the light of a fresh-cut, ornately-decorated tree. Whether you live on a sprawling acreage or a studio apartment, we hope these ideas will help you incorporate some evergreen magic into your living space this season.

Growing Your Own Garlic

Oakridge Lifestyle Blog
Growing Your Own Garlic

Growing Your Own Garlic

By Erna

“Garlic is divine.”            – Anthony Bourdain

It’s hard to imagine a good, old-fashioned, home-cooked meal without a generous hit of garlic. From garlic bread to Caesar salad, garlic is the star ingredient in all the most popular dishes on the table, and it even boasts some serious health benefits that have made it a versatile healing aid for millennia. Thing is, growing garlic is a long process that starts in the fall and yields in the summer. However, if you love garlic as much as we do, we think you’ll agree that growing your own is well worth the wait!

Garlic for Your Well-Being

While it tastes sinful, there are actually many benefits to a garlic-rich diet. It’s almost as good at preventing seasonal colds and bouts of flu as it is at kicking up your pasta dishes! If our harsh Manitoba winters seem to be taking their toll on your sinuses, keep your meals rich in garlic for a beneficial boost of Vitamins C and B6.

Growing Your Own Garlic

The natural antibiotic properties in garlic also make it a wonderful home remedy for feminine infections, chest infections, and coughs. Garlic is also high in iodine content, which is great news for people living with hyperthyroid conditions, as well.

Additionally, a diet high in garlic has been shown to guard the body against more serious conditions. Garlic has been shown to gently removes plaque from the arteries, which helps to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown to slow the growth of tumours related to cancer in the stomach, prostate, breast, colon, and bladder.

More amazing yet, garlic doesn’t just help your body on the outside. Crushed garlic was even used as a topical ointment for open wounds during the First World War!

To get the maximum benefit from this amazing little plant, consume up to 3 cloves per day – and if you take the time to grow your own fresh, it only makes it that much more irresistible!

Growing Garlic at Home

Growing Garlic at Home

Fresh-grown garlic is a truly an experience to be relished. Not only is it beautifully fragrant, but the flavour of fresh garlic is much fuller and fresher than store-bought, which is often treated with preservatives for longer shelf-life. Speaking of store-bought garlic, growing your own garlic is not only better but far cheaper.

Garlic planting season is in early October, which is a fleeting moment in Manitoba. As we Manitobans know, the soil could be frozen solid by Halloween, so it’s best to seize the day! Just don’t seize it too eagerly – planting too early can cause garlic to grow too vigorously, which will backfire once the frost sets in.

Pick a sunny spot in your garden with good drainage, preferably on sandy soil. The perfect garlic garden is neat and weed-free. Garlic likes company about as much as we enjoy company with garlic breath!

When you’re ready to plant, source your garlic cloves from fresh heads of garlic free from blemishes, bruises, and fungus. Select the fattest, firmest cloves to get the plumpest possible garlic heads at harvest time and do not remove the husks from the cloves – that papery layer is the closest thing your young garlic will have to a wool sweater out there!

Plant your cloves in holes about 2” deep, 6”-8” apart. Top with a little bone meal before covering with 3”-4” of organic mulch, ideally made from cedar or straw. This will protect your baby garlic plants from the cold through the winter months. Make sure to mark each clove so you know exactly where to look when the snow melts.

A Summer Treat

Once summer arrives and the bottom leaves of your garlic plants have died, your home-grown garlic will be waiting for you. Simply dig them up and get to work enjoying it in every meal you make! To get the best flavour from your hard-won harvest, avoid using a garlic press. Instead, slice cloves thinly before adding to recipes.

Growing and planting garden fresh garlic
Growing Fresh Garlic

Remember, fresh garlic is much more perishable than the kind you buy at the grocery store. Once you’ve dug it up, store it in the refrigerator to prolong its crispness. If you’ve grown too much, fresh garlic makes a lovely token of neighbourly appreciation. It’s a magical feeling to share the special flavour of garden-fresh garlic with others who have only tried its supermarket counterparts. By offering some as a “thank you” gift to teachers, colleagues or in-laws, you’re not only be giving the gift of great flavour but also the gift of good health!

Taste of Autumn: Picking & Storing Apples

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apples ripe for picking

Taste of Autumn: Picking & Storing Apples

By Erna

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

 – Martin Luther

We can’t decide if our favourite part of Autumn is the impressive colour display or all the fantastic fall flavours that we get to enjoy. Whether it’s every delightful shade of yellow, orange, and red, or tasting seasonal favourites like pumpkin spice, harvest time is the perfect way for our growing season to finish with a bang.

Apples are an autumn classic that embrace all the colours

and tastes of fall, and they certainly become available in abundance at this time of year. Here are all the tips and tricks for you to make the most of apples at home – as you harvest and into the winter.

Fairest of Them All: The Perfect Pick

Apples sweeten as they ripen, so they’ll only get better the longer that they “hang out” on the branch. As long as you don’t wait for so long that they end up in the grass, they’ll be at their tastiest when they’re nearly ready to drop. Picking them at the perfect time is easy if you pay attention to a few small details:

bright red apples on a branch

Where to pick: The outside of your tree sees the most sunlight through the season, so this is where your fruit is going to ripen first. The best way to enjoy your fruit is to simply pick (and eat!) your way inwards on the tree. Check the South and West sides of your tree first for deliciously ripe apples, as these more sun-exposed sides will ripen even faster.

What to look for: Most fruits make it easy to pick perfection as they give away their ripeness with colour! Generally, apples are ready to go when the last shades of their immature green have faded into a glossy red or yellow. Of course, though, this changes depending on what variety you’re growing. Some types will keep an unripened tinge for weeks after they are ready to pick, so while checking colour is a good rule of thumb, getting to know your own tree is important, too.

Knowing by feel: The best ripe apples are ready to drop right off of the tree, so they should be easy to pick with a slight twist of the wrist. If you’re shaking your whole tree and pulling with both hands, that apple probably isn’t ready to go yet and will need some more time on the tree to ripen.

Storing and Eating Apples

When our apples are ripe, they certainly come off the tree by the bucket-full! Many of us love our fresh home-grown fruit but can be a little overwhelmed with what to do with all the surplus. The trick to making the most of your apples is variety, and we have all the tips for how to enjoy your bounty now and later!

picked apples in baskets

Eating apples, like Honeycrisps, are best enjoyed right away. They are sweet and delicious right off of the tree, but aren’t the best to store for later. Fortunately, they’re so darn tasty that many of them won’t even make it all the way inside once you pick them. These types of apples are great as a snack or uncooked in salads, but will taste their best when you eat them the same day they are picked.

Cooking apples are ideal for storing instead of grazing while you pick. Stored properly, they can keep for quite a while, but you’ll want to make sure that you’re only putting away healthy and undamaged apples – any with blemishes could spoil the whole batch. Do a quick visual check as you pick these apples. Those that are free of marks and dents can be kept for later, while any that are damaged should be cooked and eaten right away.

Different types of apples will ripen at different times. If you aren’t sure if your tree is an early, middle, or late-season riser, Google tells all. Everyone’s trees are different but you can usually expect your early-season trees to be eating apples for consumption right away, while mid-season apples can be stored for a week or two and late season apples store for even longer.

To make the most of storing apples, wash and dry them before storing in a cool and dark place – a pantry, closet, or cellar is perfect. Choose only unblemished apples to store, and consider wrapping them in newspaper to prevent them from touching to get the most from their days in storage. Keep their storage area well ventilated and away from potatoes so that the ethylene gas they give off doesn’t over-ripen them too quickly. Also, consider storing them away from onions and garlic to avoid weird-tasting apples.

Local Picks: Best Apples in Manitoba

The colder provinces in Canada don’t have nearly the same variety to choose from as the warm orchard country, but what grows here in Manitoba is enough to keep most of us happy and well-fed.

Goodland apples are Manitoba natives that are hardy, delicious, and ready to eat

honeycrisp apples on the branch

right off the tree, but just as tasty in an applesauce. They’re delightfully sweet and don’t compromise at all in our cold weather – making them perfect for growing in the backyard.

Another eating apple you won’t be able to resist is Prairie Magic. These large, rose-hued apples have a perfect, crispy bite to them, with a sweet flavor that is hard to beat. Enjoy them when snacking or chop them into a fresh salad.

For fans of Royal Gala apples, the Odyssey variety will be a big hit on your table. With an unbelievable sweetness that pairs perfectly with spices, this apple is a surefire win for all your cooking and baking needs.

box of picked apples

Fresh apples are an essential part of the autumn harvest season, and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into them as soon as the season hits. With these easy tips and tricks you will be well on your way to getting the most out of your apples right now and into late fall. Don’t wait; tasty treats and baked goods are waiting for you!

Planting Fall Bulbs

fall trees in the woods
trees changing colors for fall

Planting Fall Bulbs

When fall comes, we always end up asking how summer could have possibly passed by in such a blur. With cooler nights and the trees changing colours – not to mention back-to-school season already well underway – we can’t help but think about the long winter that we have ahead of us, nostalgically longing for when our gardens and yards were full of fresh, green life.

Fall Season, Spring Bulbs

Fall is full of opportunity for the gardener that wants to get ahead and promise themselves something exciting for the spring. Planting now, in the fall, before the ground gets too frozen will set the bulbs in the soil to be chilled over the winter season. Later, as the weather warms these bulbs will

planting bulbs in a row

spring into action and welcome you into the growing season once more! They’ll be your first blooms of the season and they’ll greet you with bright and cheery colour without any extra work.

Getting Your Own Bulbs

We all love spring bulbs and there’s good reason that flowers like tulips, daffodils, and crocus are so popular. With fall planting, it’s easy to bring these beauties home to your own garden to enjoy this year. Here’s how:

Your Best Picks

Like most flowers, not every bloom or bulb is created equal. Some love the harsh weather of our northern climate and are ready to thrill at the first sign of temperatures above zero, while others are more dainty and might not cut it in our occasional deep-freeze winters.

container full of bulbs

The best choices for here in Manitoba are Tulips, Alliums, Crocus, Fritillaria, Scilla, and Snowdrops. These tough, little flowers are ready to take on our winters without compromising their gorgeous displays in the spring. Some more tender varieties of Daffodils can manage, too, but will benefit from extra mulching for better winter protection.

Planting Fall Bulbs

The only hard part of planting bulbs actually couldn’t be easier! The only things that prevent people from taking advantage of planting in the fall is that it calls for thinking ahead and some people are too intimidated to ask. Don’t let procrastination and intimidation get the best of you, it’s actually

planting bulbs in the fall

one of the easiest garden habits you can practice.

Find a sunny spot to plant. You won’t even need to fear the shady cover of your trees, as these early risers will be blooming long before leaves start emerging. You’ll want to plant in small groups – a single tulip is underwhelming, whereas a group of them is an impressive spot of cheer in your garden.

For tender bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, you’ll want to plant them a little deeper to protect them from the cold. Press your trowel 6-8” into the soil and pull it towards you to create a space. Simply drop the bulb in (pointy side up!), cover, and repeat.

For more hardy bulbs, a shallow hole will do. Just use the trowel to plant them 2-3” deep instead.

No matter the type of bulb, they can benefit from some bulb food to give them the best start they can. Throw in some bone meal or Myke for bulbs into each hole before the bulb as you plant.

Don’t forget to water your bulbs well to give them the icy insulation they need in the winter.

watering garden after planting bulbs

Bulbs in the Spring

After the blooms are spent, the leaves that remain can be a little disappointing until the rest of your garden catches up blooming. However, if you want your bulbs to reappear next year, resist cutting back foliage for about 2 months after the bulbs are spent. The plant will pull nutrients back to the bulb

to prepare for beauty sleep over the winter, getting ready for their biggest show yet next spring.

Many gardeners find bulbs intimidating because they aren’t the type of plant that we are used to working with in our gardens, but they are actually incredibly easy to plant and enjoy! Planting bulbs in the fall is super easy and has tons of options to choose from to get the perfect look in your garden. A bit of thinking ahead to warmer weather today will give you a worthwhile treat in the spring when we’re hungry for a little colour in our lives again.

Your Guide to Fall Planting in Manitoba

fall trees
fall trees

Your Guide to Fall Planting in Manitoba

By Erna

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

-Albert Camus

After a long, hot summer, nothing is more welcome than the crisp, cool air of fall. The leaves decorate the landscape in beautiful, warm and fiery hues that seem almost to contradict the chill in the air, creating a sensory samba in our minds. While the trees are dropping their leaves and our garden beds are winding down, there’s still plenty of fall planting that can be done here in Manitoba.

Trees and Shrubs

Fall, along with spring, is one of the best times to plant your trees and shrubs. While many fear their newly planted arrivals won’t last through the colder weather, the truth is that they appreciate the calm temperatures that won’t stress them out.

planting a tree

For deciduous trees and shrubs, the best time to plant them is when they have gone dormant. In their state of hibernation, they are less prone to shock than if they are moved around at the peak of their growing season.

Evergreens may be stunning year-round, but the heat of the summer is best enjoyed for them if they are well-rooted and in place. Cool seasons, like fall, are a much more relaxed time for them and won’t stress them out like a Manitoba heat wave would.

To plant your tree or shrub, dig a hole that is twice as deep and as wide as the root ball. Carefully place your tree in the hole and backfill with rich, black soil with plenty of aeration. Water the roots well and mulch to protect them, being careful not to let the mulch touch the bark of the tree to prevent rot.

Spring Bulbs

It may seem odd to plan so far ahead, but planting your spring bulbs now will ensure they are ready to burst from the ground as soon as possible when the frost ebbs. No longer will you need to wait for the ground to thaw enough for you to work into it, because your bulbs will already be eagerly waiting to

planting spring bulbs in the fall

get to work as soon as they can.

To plant your spring bulbs – like daffodils, squills, tulips, and snowdrops – find a nice, sunny spot in your garden so they can make the most of the light in the spring. Dig a hole that is 2 – 3” deep for hardy bulbs, or 6 – 8” for less hardy ones (like daffodils), and drop your bulb in pointy side up. Fill in the hole and water well to ensure they freeze to last through the winter. Mulch is also a good idea to give them an extra layer of protection.

Cool Season Vegetables

Cool season vegetables are those that need the cold to help them germinate to produce early spring harvests of delicious, garden-fresh goodness. While you can plant them in late winter, when they will start germinating, pre-seeding them in winter will allow them to get to work as soon as the thaw starts

planting vegetable seeds

and the cold weather may even make them taste better!

The best cool-season vegetables to pre-seed in fall are your leafy greens – like lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale – as well as garlic and radish. Plant your seeds just after a nice, deep frost to ensure it’s too cold for them to germinate and mulch well to insulate them for the winter.

watering garden after planting

While our gardens may be fading and our time outside is quickly being replaced with warmer endeavours indoors, there’s still lots we can do in the garden to prepare for spring. By planting your trees, shrubs, bulbs, and early vegetables now, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in the coming growing season for the best year your garden has seen yet!