Archive for July 2008

I'm Off. . .

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I'm off to the wild blue yonder...also known as "The North Coast" and "behind the redwood curtain." Where the daytime highs hover around 60 degrees F, and fresh BBQ oysters are the favorite summertime meal. Where the collegiate baseball team is called the Humboldt Crabs, and agates are free for the picking between the wild surf and the Big Lagoon. Where Humboldt fog is a daily reality and the name of a scrumptious local cheese.

Stay cool friends, and I'll be back in a couple of weeks!

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City Square Update

The big news of the week is the purchase of a toolshed and more tools for kids!

We also harvested our first batch of green beans -yum!

Our tomatoes, however, are not faring too well. One theory is irregular watering, an issue which we're working on.

a lovely tranquil spot for the kids to relax

although some tomatoes are not faring well, these were mighty tasty!

one lone calendula escapee from the garden. Giving unexpected brightness in an otherwise gray space.
We look forward to redesigning the garden over the coming months, stay tuned for changes!

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It’s Monoecious!

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One plant with two incomplete flowers: pistillate or “female” flowers and staminate or “male” flowers define a monoecious plant. (See this post about complete, or perfect, flowers.) I recently figured out that the reason that I wasn’t getting any fruit on my squash plant (Yes, singular---I have one plant growing in a large pot on my patio.) was that the flowers were typically only opening one at a time, lasting only a few hours, and that they were all female. Finally, on Monday, there were two flowers, one of each "sex", and lots of busy insects. Now I have one squash (heirloom scallop, Cucurbita pepo, from Botanical Interests, Inc). Whoo-hoo!

Although this sounds like pretty basic stuff (and me with a degree in horticulture, even!), it’s exactly the kind of thing you learn with experience or via a mentor. Nowhere on the otherwise informative seed packet did it say, “For best yields plant a minimum of three.” Or, “Single plants will have extremely low yields.” Or, “Not recommended for container gardening.” Corn is an example of a well known monoecious plant that always has planting instructions that include block or mass planting for improved pollentation.

Lesson learned? Plant more squash plants if you want a crop!

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ups and downs

Last week, we were able to harvest enough lettuce to share with both the Mount Pleasant and the Little Mountain Neighbourhood Houses!

Teomi and Kiana with Karen from LMNH

and then this week, bad news - the fava beans that we had planted last year and were growing so big and beautifully got infested with APHIDS and unfortunately didn't survive (sniff!). We did manage to salvage a bag full of beans, not insignificant, but definitely anticlimactic! I wish I had my camera that day, but the beans had big black spots on them and were starting to rot...

on the bright side, now we have a big new area to plant in! planting planting planting!

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Perfectly Pink

Pink in July? It sounds like too soft and delicate of a color for the searing heat and harsh sunlight of mid-summer, but most of the pinks in my garden are strong and vibrant. Those that are a bit lighter add an illusion of coolness that is most welcome.

Above: poppy mallow, Callirhoe involucrata
Below: purple prairie clover, Dalea purpureum

Below: purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Below: pink Maltese cross, Lychnis spp.
Below: culinary leek, Allium spp.

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We've had a relatively relaxing few weeks at City Square. Mostly everything is in the ground, and we've planted more lettuce, carrots, and spinach in the few spaces we had. We've harvested parsley and peas, as well as


to make yummy


And as always, weeding and watering

little boy, big (fava) beans

We're looking forward to doing some long-term planning for the garden, if you would like to contribute ideas or just come help in the garden, email

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The tomatoes are coming!

The vegetables and flowers are absolutely loving the sunshine and hot weather we have been having here in Vancouver. Sometimes a little too much so. The heat can get a bit extreme on the roof. That reminds me....we should get a thermometer to record what's going on.

Jennifer, Laura and I pruning, staking and securing the tomatoes. The wind blew over a whole bunch the night before.
Laura is our new summer intern. She will be working with SPEC's Food Safety and Security Committee on a number of projects. Welcome aboard Laura!

One of our many varieties of tomatoes.

Marigolds and other flowers have been placed between the rows of tomatoes to attract pollinating insects to the tomatoes.
Our nasturtiums grow like crazy. We had to do a massive trimming because they were growing so much that they were starting to block the solar panels.

I will forever think of my cabbage patch kid - Ken George when I see cabbage plants.

Jennifer and Laura are hanging out with the solar cooker.
The tomato growing upside down (to the left of Jennifer) in the topsy turvy is doing okay. It does not seem as large as the other ones but there are a few small tomatoes coming in.
Time will tell.

These are pictures from Karen's garden on Bowen Island. The pea trellis is made from bamboo that was invading the community garden site.

Hoop house over raised beds.

Container gardening for your boat!

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Meet. . . Verbascum!

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Two mulleins reside in my garden. Both plants have large, felt like leaves and yellow flowers that bloom along tall (up to 8 feet), candelabra type stalks. The common or flannel mullein (Verbascum thapsus), pictured above, is a common wildflower of the west. It blooms for a long time in mid-summer and provides sculptural interest in a naturalized garden. However, I much prefer its fancy “city cousin”, the giant silver mullein (Verbascum bombiciferum), pictured below. Something about the dense white “fur” that clothes the huge leaves and flower stalks is almost magical. Both of these plants are biennials; the first year produces the huge foliage rosette—often three to four feet in diameter---and the second year provides the flowers. Let these plants go to seed to keep their presence in the garden. Small seedlings can be easily transplanted or removed.
Verbascum bombiciferum

Total trivia: In the movie Pride and Prejudice (Focus Features/Universal, 2006), Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy have a brief conversation on the stone terrace of his estate, Pemberly. I’m not positive, but I think that the huge plant growing in the terrace floor is a giant silver mullein! (OK, OK, I’ll admit it. Yes, I own the movie and, yes, I’ve watched it more than once.)

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