Great Read


Guerilla Gardening

Guerilla Gardening

I haven’t had time for much reading lately, and what time I do find should probably be spent pulling weeds.  Anyway, I was at the library on Friday and picked up two books.  The first one that I’m about half way through now is Guerilla Gardening: A Manualfesto by David Tracey.  So far its really interesting. I know I have my own land to worry about making presentable at the moment, but yet I feel this urge to change the neighbourhood I live in, too.  

Guerilla gardening is the act of gardening on public or private space, with or without permission.  Its an idea that space belongs to everyone and we can all affect our world, instead of being stuck with the status quo.  We can bring beauty to and help create a healthy environment through little acts in our very own cities.  

Some topics covered include the history of guerilla gardening, why you should do it, and how to get started.  There are also chapters on where to get supplies, etc.  I really like the format of the book.  It includes little sidebars and snippets of gardening quotes from quite a few unlikely sources, stories from guerilla gardeners around the world and each little section has a ‘power plant’ which showcases a certain plant that is useful in the art of guerilla gardening.  It’s a very quick read and is a great motivator to get out into the garden, whether it be your own or that scraggly patch of ground down the street. 

I had heard about this phenomenon before through the website Guerilla Gardening, but while that website is based in London, UK, this book has a bit more of a North American slant.  A lot of the info is based on Vancouver, where the author resides, but there is some useful information for the prairies, too.  I guess its not so much a guide on which plants to use, but how to go about gardening in a philosophical way. 

Either way, check your library if they have a copy. Its a great book.


New Music That I Love

I’m a frequent listener of CBC radio 1 and 2 and noticed that I was hearing songs by Canadian artist Joel Plaskett quite often.  I also quite enjoyed them.  I stopped in at HMV the other day and picked up two of his discs “Three” and “LaDeDa”.  I love his sound and his wide variety of musical styles throughout both albums.  I also received a copy of “Ashtray Rock” which was recorded with his band The Emergency.  

With a little bit of research I learned that he’s been performing since the early 90’s and originated in Nova Scotia.  He seems like an interesting guy as well as fantastic artist.  If you’re looking for something new I recommend giving him a try.

And then there was [no] light

At the end of May we headed up to a buddy’s wedding in Alberta.  It was a nice get away and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of my university friends again.  While we were away we entrusted our house to a friend of ours to look after.  She is great with the cats and the house but apparently it was obvious that our house was being sitted and not lived in.  

Upon our return home I did my garden check up wherein I see what has come up in the beds and survey the progress of my plantings.  I noticed that something was missing.  Someone had stolen all four of our solar powered lights from along the side of my house.  See this post for a picture of them.  They’re nothing amazing but they did make the house look a little bit nicer.  It was also nice to have a bit of light to keep the side yard illuminated.  They’re also a very common sight in my neighbourhood. What made ours special enough to walk 15 feet into a private yard and yank them out is beyond me, especially when a few houses down there are probably 10 lining the sidewalk.  

To boil the story down, I’m a little disappointed.  I know that its not that big of a deal and they were just things but it feels a bit like an attack on my efforts of improving my lot.  Also, there’s a bit of a feeling of being violated thats hard to shake.  I know that it was probably just some punks who didn’t care about them and I need to not take it as a commentary on my sense of style of the yard.  I have another, less expensive set still in the shed, so I’ll put them out soon.  I’m not letting those little shits change my habits.  

Maybe this is why I felt the urge to steal that horseradish.

Horseradish… part II

Well, my overpriced, in-your-face christian local garden centre has ripped me off.  In April I bought two bags of asparagus Jersey Knight crowns as well as a bag of horseradish roots.  As of June 13 I am without any signs of life from these packages.  

I love horseradish.  I don’t eat it a lot but I do like the look of the plant and am hoping that growing my own will increase my consumption as well.  So you can imagine my dismay at paying around 5 bucks for a pack of two skinny little roots and having nothing come up.  This stuff is supposed to be a weed to most people!  I was patient with it but after 4 weeks I dug around where I planted them and found nothing but dried up little roots.  Today, however, my luck has changed. 

As I took the dog for a walk around the neighbourhood this morning I was weaving up and down back alleys — I hate letting my dog crap on peoples yards even if I do pick it up but a back alley offers a bit more privacy — and as the dog stops to sniff at a fence post I see a patch of elegant, long, strap-like green leaves.  After a few moments I realized that it was horseradish.  Tons of it.  The main patch was behind the chain link fence and out of reach, but there were a good 10 clumps outside the fence and butting up against the pavement of the alley.  I knew I had to have some.

At work today I devised a plan to walk the dog down said alley again, this time with trowel in pocket and bag in hand.  Unfortunately the walk happened later than planned due to an extended battle with my own weeds and thus we were left in the dark.  Retracing my steps and using my cellphone as a light I finally came across it.  It was closer to my house than I remembered, just a block away.  The leaves were tall and healthy looking. In went the trowel.  The first clump broke off in my hand like a pulled dandelion.  I went back for more and brought up two plants with a decent sized root on them.  I tasted it and it was spicy.  It was definitely horseradish. In total I grabbed about 5 plants and stole off into the night with my dog in tow.  

At home I stuck them in the ground where the dud roots had been planted and watered well.  There’s something different about gardening at 11:00pm in the dark, a little unsettling… but coupled with the high of making off with some herbs it was exhilarating.  I’m hoping the plants thrive.  If not, I guess I know where to get more.  

Now of course its crossed my mind that I stole from someone.  Does it bother me?  Why didn’t I just ask?  Whats wrong with you?

All great questions.  It was a huge patch and going into the back alley, so it was probably free for the taking, so I can justify it.  They probably won’t even miss it, or in the event it had been there for a long time (as suggested by the spread of the patch) it wasn’t being used and they probably had no idea what it was.  To answer the second question — I’m pretty shy and feel like a tool asking for plants.  Also, I like the thrill of doing something without permission… my inner teenager coming out.  Thirdly, sometimes I just don’t think about what the hell I’m doing till after I’ve done it.  

So there you have it, the story of my ill-gotten horseradish.  I hope that house belonged to those snooty garden centre owners.


I can’t believe this.  June 1 and an overnight frost.  It got down to -2.  I did an emergency potato hilling and mined the recycling bin for makeshift cloches for my tomatoes and my just planted zucchini. The corn is still taking its sweet time to germinate so I left them uncovered.  

Good practice, I guess, since frost is predicted for Saturday again.  Worst spring ever.

Apple Trees

One of my top priorities for this property was to plant some trees.  Since the removal of the giant, dead tree last year the front garden has looked pretty bare and exposed.  The house is also the only one on the block without city planted elms in the front yard.  To get the tree lined street look and also maintain my ‘edible-first’ mantra I wanted fruit trees.  Apples are fairly hardy in this province and after some research I decided I would need two in order to get any fruit off of them, since there are no apple trees in the neighbourhood to cross-pollinate. My local nursery isn’t open on Sundays due to ‘family values’, whatever that means so we went to a new place which was only a few blocks away.  I have to say, I might have a new ‘local nursery’.  

While there I found two varieties that I had read about online as being hardy for my area.  At 60 bucks a piece they were fairly inexpensive too compared to what I’ve seen around the city.  I settled on a Parkland and a Norland tree.  They are supposedly compatible and bloom at the same time, which is important for cross-pollination.  They are both fairly similar in fruit quality and timing and produce medium sized eating apples.  Apparently the Parkland has better storage qualities than the Norland, but I’m not sure I have room to store apples anyway, so I might have to learn to process them somehow.  

Planting was fairly straightforward.  I lined them up parallel to the elms next door and spaced them to frame the house.  I dug up sod and down roughly two and half feet through the nastiest clay I’ve yet come across.  Two wheelbarrows of nasty clay and some decent topsoil.  What to do with it?  I feel like throwing it in the dumpster, but I can’t see the city liking that too much.  Anyway, once that was taken out I mounded up a bit in the middle of the hole and detangled as best I could the rootballs of each tree.  I spread the roots out around the mound and backfilled with a mixture of well rotted sheep and cow manure, some peat based garden amendments left over from the blueberries and some good quality top soil.  I watered every few inches of backfill to moisten everything up while settling the soil and finally gave a good soaking once all was lightly firmed down.  I took care not to bury the grafts and pruned off all suckers.  Finally I covered up the moist planting holes with some cedar bark mulch I had kicking around.  


The house as it looked when we bought it

The house as it looked when we bought it


The house as of Sunday

The house as of Sunday




I haven’t staked them yet and not sure if I will.  It is fairly windy right now but I’m concerned about encouraging weak trunks and roots by staking.  If I do decide to I guess I’ll have to pick up some suitable wood and something to tie them with.  

Again, the hardest part will be to pull off blossoms, as it was with the blueberries.  These trees were just covered in blooms and surrounded by bees at the garden centre.  It makes me cringe to pick each flower off, but its for the best interests of the tree and for me as well, I guess.  I haven’t gotten them all off yet, as you can see in the picture, but I’ll go out and pluck a few more off today if the weather smartens up.  Then, the plan is to pick the majority off next year, about half the year after and a third the year after.  Removing blossoms helps direct growth to the roots and prevents the tree from going through boom-bust cycles of producing tons of fruit one year and little the next year.  On the plus side I should find something to do with apple blossoms, they smell fantastic.  I believe they’re related to roses?  Not sure on that but I thought I’d heard that somewhere.  

Anyway, has anyone grown these trees or have general tips on apple trees that I should know?  Leave me a comment!

Tulips and other flowers

This house didn’t come with much in the way of plants or garden beauty.  However some tulips and hollyhocks have come up this year.  I knew the hollyhocks were there but the tulips were a surprise.  Moving in in July tends to keep spring blooming bulbs a secret.  There is also an abundance of chives and some fuzzy leaved ground cover along the west side of the house.  I planted a few echinacea and a foxglove last year and am glad to see they are coming back.  


This part doesn’t strictly meet my edible requirement but I have no heart to rip them out.  Plus I do need a place to put in my favourites like bleeding heart and columbines so this perennial flower bed might just be the place.  It is quite bare since we weeded it on Saturday but I’ve added some more echinacea seeds, scattered some hollyhock seeds and put in some dill.  Hopefully this area will evolve and take shape over the next few summers.  

Also, notice the shiny new downspout.  Although its not the most convenient of downspouts it does reflect the new eaves we’ve had put on the house.  No longer will the rain run straight off the roof and wash away the soil in this bed… or damage my foundation.  This house is in good hands again.