Wednesday, September 5, 2012


These belong to other people in the Community Garden. I'm just posting them because I thought they looked neat and so I took photos of their neatness. From the top: a sunflower, purple cauliflower going to seed, broccoli totally gone to seed, dill.

And look who finally showed up!

Eschcholzia californica, or "California poppy."

You may recall that last year, I planted several varieties of poppies: oriental (failed), "Pizzicato" (failed), "Falling in Love" (epic fail, of course), Icelandic poppy (limited success) and Flanders poppies (wild success, 4000 seeds producing massive amounts of flower that produced massive amounts of seeds).

This year, I decided to be reasonable and seed only one packet of poppies, and I picked these, Eschcholzia californica var. "Appleblossom".

Then I waited.

Then poppy flowerbuds appeared.

Then they opened... and every last one was a Flanders poppy. Well, not for nothing that it's actually a weed in Europe.

So, I spent the summer watching for Flanders poppies and uprooting them as soon as they showed their colours, and hopefully before they could shed seeds.

And then, finally, September 4, 11 days before the average first frost, I have a California poppy. And it's every bit as pretty as I had hoped... Now I just have to produce a hundred more, two months earlier, and everything will be copacetic. Hopefully they're like flax and they'll take care of themselves once they get going.

I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Finally, after four years of unremitting effort and aggravation, a dozen seed packets, and three attempts to propagate from wild specimens, I got a flax flower to bloom. Typically when something takes me that much trouble, I quit once I get what I was after, but since flax makes very long taproots, seeds itself readily, and is almost immortal once established, I'm guessing I won't have to worry about it much from now on. So that's one thing that worked out in my flower garden.

Well, technically, it's two: the J.P. Connell rose bloomed all season, never showed any sign of discomfort, and is about two feet tall not. If I can make it survive the winter, it has a bright future, I should think.


Brussels sprouts: another plant I don't think I'll be growing again. Like the cauliflowers, they take a lot of room and a lot of time to produce very little. I haven't harvested a single one yet, though I see someone stole a plant from me. Another reason not to grow them, by the way. Some depraved detritus of humanity steals from the Community Garden on a regular basis, which is annoying, but it only eats certain plants: beets, carrots, onions, cabbage and apparently, Brussels sprouts. No theft of peas, pumpkins or turnips have been reported, so mostly my food is safe. But I'm certainly not going to waste my time growing food so that some lazy jackass can steal it.


This is my "Orbit" cauliflower. Though it might be actually "Orbitz". I forget. And some suppliers sell it as "Veronica" which is just lame. In any case, it's a green cauliflower that looks like fractals.

It looks cute in the catalogue, it looks cute here, but it has two problems: one, it makes gigantic plants that take up half the garden, but produce a very small head in the end. And two, it's not that tasty. My peas were exponentially more delicious than store peas. My turnips were exponentially more delicious than store turnips. This cauliflower tastes more or less the same as store cauliflower. It just happens to be green, fractal, and organically grown. Considering that I would generally not buy cauliflower anyway, I'm not convinced I gained anything by growing my own.

Also, it takes forever. I've eaten one head so far. This one is the biggest of four that are currently developing. And one plant is just at the very beginning of forming a head. I think there is a finite chance that I'll try it next year, but right now I'm underwhelmed.

Still, it does look pretty darn cool.

The Great Pumpkin cometh!

See? I have FOUR pumpkins! Five, actually, but the other one is on a different vine at the other end of the garden. These ones, there are three on one vine and one on the other.

This is the Chief Pumpkin, the first and the largest one (in the background in the second photo above). Now it has two more pumpkins on its vine. One is a good size and might make it to orange colour if it doesn't freeze too soon. The other one is about 3" across and won't make it, and I really should remove it, but I think it's too cool to kill it. You can see it in the bottom left corner in the first picture.

What I should also do is harvest the Chief Pumpkin, as it's been fully orange for some time and is probably ready. The thing is, I have a friend who claims to make the world's best pumpkin soup and is indigent, and I've been meaning to give him this pumpkin, but I haven't seen him in weeks to check if he would like a pumpkin. Also I have to get the seeds back. This vine flowered way earlier and produced way more than the other vines from the same seed packet. I want to reseed it next year for sure.

For next year, I also have some Lumina and Neon seeds, and we're building a greenhouse at the Community Gardens. Although by "we" I don't mean me. I had planned to volunteer on it, but the people who have put themselves in charge of the project annoy the crap out of me (and their dog bit me), so I'll volunteer for something that doesn't involve annoyance. But anyway, where I was going with this is, starting pumpkin seeds early in my house didn't help much because I don't have enough light or room to keep pumpkins for more than two weeks, so they got leggy and then the wind broke them when I bedded them out too early. But for next year, I can start them in the greenhouse, and hopefully that will be more successful.

Monday, August 13, 2012


These are anemones, or windflowers. They're very pretty. They're also not nearly hardy enough for our winters. I can try to dig them out in the fall, but maybe I'll just leave them alone, buy more next spring, and plant them in a planter. That way I can bring them into the house in the fall.

Or not. Whatever I plan for my garden, I never actually do it.

Also, a cauliflower

Have I shown you my cauliflower before? It's called "Orbitz". I picked it because it looks like a fractal. It's awfully late in the season for cauliflower, considering that everyone else is almost done eating theirs, but oh well. At least it's coming. So far it's about big enough for one bite, but in a few more weeks it might be snack-sized.

If at first you don't succeed, there's always blackmail

This is my latest pumpkin. I have three Baby Pam vines, and this one kept producing female flowers and letting them die. So I said I'd just pull it out, since it was just wasting space. But when I went yesterday, finally it had one bud growing instead of shrinking. And if you think it's just a coincidence, you don't know plants. They know everything.

On the other hand, the one Lumina, which is a semi-bush type, hasn't even put out any female flowers yet. It looks like there is one female bud coming, but that's pretty pointless this late in the year. So that one is probably going to get pulled for real.

Meanwhile, this is my second pumpkin. It's two weeks old and bigger than my fist. That's not much for a pumpkin, but it's bigger than any pumpkin I grew up to now, except for:

My first pumpkin. It's turning orange! It's turning orange! It has four more weeks to put on some weight. I hope it gets big enough to feed a few people. My friend Brian claims to make the best pumpkin soup in the world, so I'm hoping he can cook this bad boy for us and we can have some friends together to eat it.

Next year we're supposed to have a greenhouse in the Community Garden, so hopefully I can start pumpkins way ahead of time.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quousque tandem?

That's Latin for "you're starting to piss me off."


The top one is one of my double oriental lilies that I paid a fortune for. They started to come out of the ground May 18, and they've had flower buds since at least July 20. That is, one staid four inches tall for ever, turned brown, and died back, so it won't flower this year, if ever. The second one has buds, but they're not getting bigger, and I don't think they'll flower. And the third one, which I was hoping was Lodewijk, is doing this. One of the petals has since separated from the rest and it seems to have some light pink on it, suggesting it's gonna be Soft Music instead of Lodewijk. But whatever it's doing, it's just not doing it.

And the bottom photo is from the other lily location, where I put my Stargazer from last year and the "black" Asiatic lilies. As you may recall, one bloomed but was orange. The other two got immensely tall, didn't flower, turned brown and died back. And then when I cleared the weeds away some days ago, I saw that three out of the four lilies are coming up again. I'm guessing the two big ones are the two that didn't flower before, and if I recall how they were in the planter before I put them outside, it seems to me that the small one right next to the pear tree (if you can tell what's a pear tree in this mess) is probably the Stargazer. But whatever the case may be, none of the three has a flower bud. Again.

I am not amused.

"They" were right!

What? How is that possible? "They" are never right. You know, "they". As in "they say". "They" never say the right thing. And in the Community Garden, "they" really say all kinds of nonsense. But in this case, "they" are not the people in the garden.

What I'm talking about is this: if you read anything about growing your own vegetables, you'll notice "they" say that vegetables from your own garden are far tastier than the ones from the supermarket. I assumed they were talking metaphorically, as in "you'll enjoy them so much more because of all your hard work" kind of thing.

I was wrong.

On Monday, I picked some peas from my garden. Then I didn't eat them right away, because I had to finish some other food that was in the fridge. Then on... Thursday, I think, I fixed some leftover ground beef with a tiny onion that I had pulled from my garden because it was being crushed by pumpkins. And pasta. And I was gonna cook the peas to go with it, though it seemed kinda weird, in a sense, "cooking" my peas. I mean, clearly, we cook vegetables all the time, but first they've been frozen, wrapped in plastic, and put in the store, and it seems normal to cook them. But somehow, putting my garden peas in hot water seemed weird.

In fact, when you think about it, that's not it at all. I have a mental block about eating food from my garden. Like when my spinach was ready to eat, I didn't feel at all comfortable eating it. I mean, it came out of the dirt. There is manure in there, you know. I put it there myself. And it's all been sitting outside in the dirt, where insects and dogs can pee on it. Ew. I don't want to eat stuff that's been out in the dirt.

That being said, the spinach was really quite tasty. Too bad there was so little of it. And when it comes to peas, if you think about it, they're safely stored in a pod, so they can't get dirty. Much. So I opened one pod and I thought I'd taste one pea to see if it was ok to eat.


Well, well, well.

Welly, welly, welly.

Wellitsy, wellitsy, wellitsy.

Seriously? That was the best pea I had ever eaten in my life - so far. It's not even "like the store peas except better". It's nothing at all like store peas. It's not nearly as sugary, for one thing. I don't have much of a sweet tooth. These peas, possibly from having grown so far north, are not sugary. They're the most wonderful peas in the world. So I shelled them all and then ate them like candy until they were all gone.

Then I went and picked more.

And more.

Today I just stood in the garden eating peas right off the plant. I did bring some home, too, of course, but only because there were so many, it would have taken all night to eat them. Now they're in a bowl on the table and I keep going over to eat more. Who knew peas were so addictive?

The sad thing is, we only get only two months or so of peas fresh off the plant. The rest of the year, I might have to go back to eating disgusting store peas. Or else never have peas out of season again.

Next year, I'm asking for two plots, and I think one is gonna be just straight peas. A huge forest of peas. Mmmmmm... peas...

Six more weeks...

Only six more weeks of summer left. Poop... However, I think my Brussels sprouts might need it.


I bet you don't see, so here is a detail:

Now you see? Tiny Brussels sprouts. Mmmmmm... Brussels sprouts... All my sources agree that they're tastier after a frost, so if they take six more weeks to get edible-sized, that's ok. So, I might still get some yet.

My cauliflowers, on the other hand, are distinctly unpromising. I found one that's got something like a head, possibly due to the fact that peas had grown over it and tied the leaves shut. It's a common practice to tie leaves over the heads of cauliflower; maybe I should have done that. So I did it after finding that minuscule head (too small to photograph). I guess, you know, six weeks...

And these are my tomatoes. I don't remember what kind of tomatoes they are. I found the plant by the shed, where someone had left a bunch of them in a wheelbarrow, presumably for lack of room to plant them. So I rescued this one, which seemed like the healthiest, and now it's got tomatoes on it. Mmmmmm... Tomatoes...

You know, this vegetable-growing thing is turning out after all.


20 July:

23 July:

27 July:

Wow. I hadn't taken a photo since this one because every time I looked I kept thinking "it hasn't grown at all". But when I opened this photo to look at it I thought "haha, look at the tiny pumpkin!" Clearly, it's time for another photo.

This is my lead pumpkin so far. There have been several other female flowers that I thought were pollinated, but then the fruit buds just shrivelled and fell off. But as of today, I have one other pumpkin that's clearly growing, and another that I'm fairly confident is growing.

Mmmmmmm... Pumpkin...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Meanwhile, in the vegetable garden

The vegetable garden, 3 June:

The vegetable garden, 8 July:

The vegetable garden, 20 July:

Well. That ain't not bad, actually. I never thought the d-ed thing would produce anything, but there's quite a bit of greenery coming up. I even got to eat the spinach that are in the foreground in the middle photo.

The cool thing is, for the longest time, my garden looked like crap compared to everyone else's, but now it's starting to be one of the better-looking ones. Partly, I think it's because I'm actually there every day, or every other day at the latest. Some people seem to garden in fits, a few days once in a blue moon.

Another issue is fertilizing. Many people have been listening to The Local Garden Expert and adding nitrogen to their plants. Then some of them put way too much nitrogen and burned their plants. But either way, nitrogen is not the answer in a vegetable garden. Nitrogen grows leaves and stems. If you're after lettuce, that's a good thing, but if you want your plants to bear fruit, they need... well, I forget whether they need P or K, but that's what they need, not nitrogen. So I've been feeding my garden with tomato fertilizer, once a week, as per the manufacturer's directions, and it does seem to be working. Consider the following:

A pumpkin! First of all, last year I didn't even have my first flower until July 20, the first female bud was August 2, and the first growing fruit was August 19. So I'm doing well for time. Second, this vine does not have a pumpkin, it has four. This is the most developed one, and the others will get eliminated later on to leave only the top contender, but clearly, pumpkins like it way better out there than on my balcony.

Plus, it's colonizing the rest of the garden. Booya!

Then, there is this:

A Brussels sprout or cauliflower (they looked identical back then) on June 17.

A cauliflower yesterday, July 20. They don't have heads yet, but considering how minuscule and fragile they were when I bedded them out, I'm pretty impressed that they turned into such monsters.


The peas have pods, and some of them (such as this one) are starting to fill out.

The red onions seem to be doing well, though it's hard to tell since the important part is underground. Most of them you can't see anything, I just hadn't mounded this one yet.

And most importantly:

It looks like a jungle. If you ask me, that's the main point of a garden. (Someone described it as "artistic". I think she was trying to be diplomatic.)

Who are you, and what are you doing in my garden?

A pansy. Yes, it's a very crappy photo of a pansy, but that's not even the biggest problem. I planted several varieties of pansies. Expensive ones, might I add. Which I selected carefully from among the immense variety of pansies in my catalogs, because of their beauty. This is not one of them.

I don't know where this thing comes from, but it is NOT any of the pansies that I was expecting. I'm most aggravated. Especially because the dog has been quite determined to destroy all the pansies, and there might not be too many besides this one.


At least the roses are well

The flower garden is not going at all according to plan, except this:

My J.P. Connell is in bloom, and doing very well, thank you. So that answers the first question: can roses get enough sun on my balcony?

The second and equally important question is: can roses survive the winter on my balcony? You see, the 4' x 4' x 15" flowerbeds with 2" ridig insulation on the bottom should theoretically provide a fair amount of insulation for my flowers, and therefore a fair chance of wintering, but in order to give the JP Connell the sunniest spot, I had to put it in the most exposed place, uncomfortably close to the windward corner of the flowerbed. Of course I'll add batt and mulch and anything else I can find, but I really have no idea whether it will live.

Baobab some day

Zadok is putting out some new leaves at the top. It's something baobabs do: first they shed all their leaves for the dry season, and then they leaf out before the first rains. Strange, eh? It rained on Monday after weeks of draught, and Zadok put leaves out ahead of that. And I was worried about its straggly appearance, until I looked at it from this angle and noticed it's got a bare trunk and a leafy crown, "just like a real baobab."


Abimelek is behind Zadok and you can't see much of it because there isn't much to see, but it's still alive. Baobabs are not actually trees, but succulents, so when they die they decay completely and quickly instead of drying out. So as long as Abimelek has a trunk and isn't falling apart, I figure it's still alive, unlike, say, a mayday tree, which could be dead as a door nail and you wouldn't really know it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's not all bad

Forgot to mention, my third double lily finally showed up on Wednesday, so now I don't have to buy more next year. Booya! At least one thing went right in the garden this week.

Mulch, schmulch

According to the organic people, you can kill weeds by covering them with cardboard and mulch. Therefore, all the paths at the Community Gardens are covered with cardboard and mulch.


Let me tell you, that stuff does NOT work! I spent an hour weeding around my plot this morning. So long that my dog got bored with running around digging for varmints and started whining to go home. The weeds are EVERYWHERE and they don't give a fig about the cardboard or the mulch. The cardboard gets wet and decomposed and looks untidy, and the cedar mulch makes it that much harder to find the weeds, but weeds there are. That stuff is bosh.

So other than weeding, I raked up some of the mulch, to make it easier to see the weeds in future. Down with mulch!

You know what else?

How come I had to weed both sides of my plot, all the way to the neighbours'? Shouldn't half of the weeding on each side be done by said neighbours?


Baobab Sunday

Bah. I should have shot Zadok a few weeks ago at its peak, when there were lots more leaves and they were much greener. But then, I put both baobabs out on the balcony during the day so they'd get some sun, and with the dry winds and the hot temperatures the first week, I think they figured it's dry season, because they started shedding their leaves. Baobabs normally have no leaves for nine months a year, so I guess this isn't exactly abnormal, but it still looks depressingly ratty. And Ahimelek has no leaves left at all, besides being rather short and squat.

I haven't measured Ahimelek lately, because it hasn't been getting any taller, but Zadok is 10 inches tall. Strange, because I could have sworn I measured it at 11" a while back.

Oh well. They're alive, at least. That's progress over this time last year.

Vegetables, schmegetables

Well, I've learned an important lesson about vegetable gardening. Namely, it sucks.

The alternating cold and hot dry winds killed the pumpkins. I've pulled out almost all the ones I planted; this is the healthiest one that remains. I do have some better ones at home, because there was no room for them and they were the least healthy on the day I planted out. I left the trays in the car for a week with no water, because I figured I could let them die, then I brought them back inside and watered them thinking I might have to replace the ones in the garden, and now I have four pumpkins at home that after all that, are healthier than the ones in the garden. I guess I can put them outside with a cloche and see what happens. Or I could get more seeds, but this late in the season, it's rather pointless. There are 90 days left till first frost, so counting the time spent in the mail and the time from seed to five leafs, I need approximately a 50-day pumpkin. And the fastest pumpkins are 65 days, I think, plus they're carving pumpkins, not eating pumpkins. The fastest eating pumpkins at Stokes are Trickster, which is 75 days. Well, at least I'll know for next year: plant Trickster, not Baby Pam.

Something is eating the cabbages. And yes, my camera failed to focus on the right thing yet again. Actually, I used macro in my garden and missed almost all the shots, then I used regular shooting in the other plot I'm looking after and all the shots were in focus. Darn you, Canon. Darn you to heck. Anyway, something is eating the cabbages, that is, the Brussels sprouts and cauliflowers. One of my clients at work, who is 84 years old and has spent most of her life in agricultural pursuits (besides attending the founding convention of the NDP - she's THAT cool), suspects it might be cabbage moths, although, she said, it's a bit early for them. But then, it's been a really warm spring, so they could well be early. And, she adds, "it's new ground, so there could be anything in it."

Zut alors. I really wanted to eat the Brussels sprouts myself. Still, I have some seedlings left at home, and some of the ones in the garden have put out true leaves despite the wind, the drought, the lack of sun, and the cabbage moths. Everybody else seeded their cabbages straight to the garden at the beginning of June and they have long, densely packed rows of huge baby leaves, but they'll have to thin them anyway, and mine are ahead of theirs developmentally. Neener neener.

And I'm pretty sure this is a weed. I haven't pulled out every last weed, because some of them could be zombies from whatever was growing there last year, but I'm pretty sure this is a weed.

Well, at least the peas are healthy. So far.

Also, there are some seeds on the shelf in the shed, which we're encouraged to apply to our gardens, though of course most of us have way too much stuff as it is. So I found some turnip seeds in there and sowed them, but as they're very small and the same colour as the dirt, I have no idea where they are now. Also there were some very pretty beans, so I made a row of those this morning.

Another problem with this vegetable-gardening schtick is, the soil is not good. There are big clumps of clay here and there, but mostly, it seems to be just black dust. It was bone-dry as far as my hands could reach when I weeded, and despite frequent watering, I don't find it much improved. It hasn't rained any significant amount in two months, the wind is dry, and on top of all that, it's been mostly cloudy for a week, which means the solar-powered water pump hasn't worked very much. I managed to get out there in moments of sun the last two days and water with the hose, but the rest of the time I've been using watering cans, which naturally dampens my ambition. But even when the pump is working, I water, and I think I've given it a good soaking, and then for all that it's still barely wet. I suppose I could just leave the hose lying there for an hour, but the other gardeners might object.


Vegetable gardening sucks.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Perennials, schmerennials

My perennial garden, a month after planting. Now that I can compare my perennials to everyone else's, it's becoming really evident how much sunlight my plants are missing out on. Some people's gardens are getting more than 20 hours of sunlight right now; mine gets barely eight in the sunniest spot, which is where I put my J.P. Connell. Of course the fact that all these perennials were just planted this spring also slows them down compared to established plants, but I blame mostly the sunlight.

More specifically, here is how everyone is doing.

  • J.P. Connell is putting out tons of leaves. Not a lot of height being gained, but certainly the leaves are doing great.

  • None of the tulips came up. That's too bad, but then again, it would be foolish to underestimate a plant. Maybe they're biding their time.

  • Only two of the three double oriental lilies came up, and I can't remember where the third one is, otherwise I'd dig and see what's happening. Now the thing is, there are three of them because they came as a set: Soft Music, which I really liked, Lodewijk, which I really really really really liked, and Magic Star, which I bought because it was included with the other two. So if the missing one is Soft Music or Magic Star, well, that's one thing. But if it's Lodewijk, I'll be very sad. On the other hand, now that my garden is essentially complete, I can afford to buy a few more Lodewijks next spring if I have to.

  • The Celebrity peony (the $40 one) is putting out canes. Not nearly as fast as everyone else's peonies that get three times as much sun, but it's alive and well. You can't be in a rush with peonies anyway, they live 20 years and don't like having their roots disturbed, so it's pretty fair that the first summer is a bit slow.

  • The Shirley Temple peony (the $12 one) has live roots, but so far no canes. I wonder if I should have buried the entire thing like I did with Celebrity. But, again, if it fails, there is a lot more room in the garden budget for next year, so I can replace it. In fact, I can replace it with something much fancier, from a peony specialist.

  • The Asiatic lilies are... still alive, I guess. They got horribly burned and beaten by the cold north wind since they've been out there, but the roots are alive. The orange one that wasn't what I ordered is even looking like there is new growth on it.

  • The Stargazer lily is out there somewhere... maybe. It hasn't come up. But since I paid $6 for it and it gave me some lovely flowers last year, maybe I've got my money's worth out of it.

  • The dicentra stopped blooming, but the leaves look very happy.

  • The toad lilies are all alive, though not growing quickly.

  • The anemones are growing. In fact, they may be the fastest-growing bulb I have.

  • The ranunculi which I bought from my work's fundraiser haven't come up, but it was more for a good cause than because I wanted ranunculi anyway.

  • Someone donated a foot-tall lilac. They grow everywhere in her yard because there used to be a big one that the landlord cut down. Anyway, it's wide awake. I put it in the shade, since they seem to be highly shade tolerant.

  • The flax finally seems to be prospering, though there isn't nearly as much as I should have got out of four packets of seeds. Hopefully this time it will establish itself and I won't have to do it again.

  • The pansies are sprouting, but since the dog picked that spot for her bed at first, I suspect most of the seeds stuck to her fur and are gone.

  • The hollyhocks are also sprouting.

  • The California poppies are also sprouting.

  • The pear trees are not moving much. They withstood the wind very well, but I suppose it must still be a drag.

  • The two mayday trees haven't leafed out yet and have no new growth whatsoever, even though they're alive and they were growing inside the winter hut. I might have to get more seeds in the fall.

That's pretty much the things I know about. I know I seeded some other things, but I don't know what I put where or what they look like as sprouts. There are certainly many shapes of sprouts coming up. I suspect some of them are from the bird seed mix, but clearly some are weeds. Luckily, I now know a black mustard sprout when I see it, so I've been able to pull them when they're less than an inch tall and still harmless.

Perhaps the greatest sign of progress is that I have not dumped thousands of seeds indiscriminately because "nothing is coming up." So it looks a little sparse right now, but when everything gets moving in July, it's gonna look pretty good, if I do say so myself. On the other hand, it certainly doesn't make for a lot of blogging.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

We can't both be right

Today, June 2, was the first work bee of the season at the Community Garden. Where I have a plot, so that hopefully I'll have actual pumpkins this year.

Some people have been planting already on account of the bizarrely warm weather (Yellowknife was the hot spot for Canada earlier this week - WTF?), but I was either too busy, too something else, or too demotivated even to go check it out. Nonetheless, since everyone was encouraged to attend the work bee, I had marked it on my calendar a long time ago. And when something is written on my calendar, I do it. If I say I will, I'm probably just lying to make you go away. If I write it on my calendar, I have to do it. For some reason, I have great difficulty disobeying written instructions. Anyway.

The work bee was scheduled for 9 AM, so I was right on time, partly because I like to be on time, and partly because there was a specific job I wanted: painting numbers on the raised beds. Seemed relaxing. And sure enough, right at 9 o'clock, no one had volunteered for that yet. And no one had brought the right tools, either, so I had to go home and get mine, including the right shape of brush, a sanding block, and 60-grit paper. Because the beds are made of pretty well weathered wood, and you can't just paint over that.

All right then. I set to work. There are 38 beds, therefore I have to sit down on the ground and get up again 38 times. One woman commented that she was glad she didn't have that job, because if she had to sit on the ground she'd never get up again. Another one thought it must be terribly tiring because of the sanding, which of course, requires a certain amount of energy to be successful. So albeit I just sat in the dirt painting numbers, everyone seemed to think I had drawn the toughest job there, and so one person kindly pulled the dandelions from my plot, which given my enduring good fortune, was of course the one with the most weeds in the entire garden.

Meanwhile, everyone else was supposed to be doing... work-like things, particularly weeding the paths and adding cedar mulch. But then the Local Gardening Expert arrived. Now let me say that I have no knowledge whatever of her gardening achievements, and she may well be some kind of gardening guru. But the thing is, you can't have two people who know everything in the same talking space, therefore I don't spend time with her. Also, I already know 97% of everything, and the remaining 3% I can find out faster and more in-depth from Google than from listening to a Local Expert. So I kept on painting numbers, and one guy kept on weeding, and pretty much everyone else went to listen to the Local Gardening Expert. Then they gardened, and when she left, so did they.

Hey, what the? What about the weeding and the mulching and everything? Come back here, you slackers!

Dang it. They didn't even weed half the weeds. And they didn't even start on the cedar mulch. Some people...

Anyway. Once I got done painting all the numbers (and my name on my own bed, of course), I started preparing my plot.



First, weed. Because the woman did kindly pull the dandelions, but she left the other weeds because she can't bend down easily. So, weed. I was hoping to use one of those awesome stirrup-shaped root-cutting tools that was lying around; unfortunately, it had gone home when its owner did. Boohoohoo... I personally own no weeding tools, because I've never needed them. Yet.

Oh well then. I'll dig by hand, like my Neolithic ancestors. Or so I thought. But then I remembered that my Neolithic ancestors used antlers for digging, so I'm about 12,000 years behind times in my gardening technology. How sad.

The good thing though, is that after a massive amount of snow through the winter, we've had a horribly dry spring. Which isn't exactly "good" but has the very magical effect that everything is turning green without any rain at all, thanks to the moisture still held in the ground. But ground that has no plant cover, such as a raised vegetable bed, is pretty much just dust right now. And that was handy in that even some pretty fat taproots simply pulled right up, as long as you put your hand in the ground and pull the root, not the leaves. So, weeding went really quite well, if I may say so myself. Though I started to wonder why people had been telling each other to "just cut them with a knife." What? I'm pretty sure that if you cut weeds at the surface with a knife, they just come right back. And I do know 97% of everything. But oh well.

Two, cultivate. There were bags of manure donated by one of the hardware stores, which was very nice of them, except we were allowed one per bed, and mine could have used six or eight. But I didn't have that kind of money, and I'm supposed you don't look a gift horse in the... wait, let's not go there. But I pride myself on playing by the rules, so, one bag. I dumped my one bag of manure, and then turned the soil over with a big fork, until it was all, hopefully, well aerated. Given how dry it is, that wasn't too hard.

Three, water. Water is donated by the town and there is a very long hose and a pump, though I haven't determined how it gets its energy. And since so many people were there (not the ones from the work bee, who were mostly gone by then, but the ones who showed up fashionably after the bee), there was some waiting for the hose. And I didn't like how they were watering, because first they had one of those fancy nozzles that breaks up the water into various patterns like "shower", "jet", "mist" etc. Very cute, but it's a big waste of water. The more you break it up, the more surface area it has; the more surface area it has, the more it evaporates; the more it evaporates, the more you have to use. So just water straight from the hose. And second, they were barely using any water. Now granted, when 40 people have to share trucked water on a hot weekend, it makes sense to use it sparingly, but it's not much good putting a tiny bit of water on dust-dry dirt. And besides, if you're trying to save water, take that nozzle thing off and water straight from the hose.

But what do I know, right? I mean, other than 97% of everything. So when it was my turn with the hose, I took off the nozzle and watered as much as I dared. Somebody else was waiting, so I couldn't just leave the hose there for the afternoon, but I was hoping to get water at least as deep as I was going to plant. Which, as it turns out, I failed.

Four, mulch. Someone had brought in a big bag of grass clippings, which I had immediately claimed. There are some disadvantages to grass mulch, which the Local Gardening Expert explained and I didn't listen, but there are some advantages in that it contains lots of water, and in a drought, I think that will help me retain moisture. Unfortunately, it had been sitting for some time, and the grass was fermenting and quite smelly, not to mention really hot. But as I didn't have any other, I used it anyway. I covered my entire bed with grass mulch until none of the soil was showing. It's at least an inch thick, two in some places. And did I mention, none of the soil was showing? I thought that was the point of mulch. That way it keeps heat and moisture in the ground and, hopefully, weeds too. But meanwhile, most people used no mulch at all, and those who did used some very dry hay that was available at the site, and laid it on so thinly that you could see everything that was underneath. Um... What? How is that going to control heat, moisture and weeds?

I was getting aggravated. All these people listened to the Local Gardening Expert and then cut their weeds at the surface, used hardly any water, and threw on a very thin sprinkling of hay. I, who know 97% of everything, cut my weeds way down the roots, watered heavily, and mulched heavily with fresh grass clippings. And we can't both be right. But if I'm wrong, then why does my flower garden look so good?

It's bugging me.

Anyway, once my plot was weeded, fertilised, cultivated, watered and mulched, I had to plant it. So I went home to fetch my seedlings, only to discover that the landlord had broken the second elevator. Whenever the landlord is in town, he breaks at least one elevator. This time, the first one had crapped out early in the week, if not last weekend. The second one had broken down once on Thursday, but been reset by the Fire Department. The landlord got in on Thursday or Friday, did nothing about the elevator, and got his army of badly paid, under-the-table, no insurance, no training, casual-labour goons running all over the building, as usual, and sure enough, today he broke the one remaining elevator. So now we have no elevators at all, and it's an emergency call-out for Blair the Elevator Mechanic, who has to come from Yellowknife. So he'll be here tomorrow at a considerably higher cost than had we scheduled him to come in on Friday, or better yet, not broken the elevators in the first place. And what's more annoying is, this isn't the first time. One time there was one elevator down for nearly three weeks, and the other one acted up for a week before it quit, and yet nothing was done until we were without elevators for the weekend and Blair the Elevator Mechanic had to come on an emergency call-out. And now the Fire Department is very unhappy because if they get a call while we have no elevators, they'll have to walk up and somehow try to get hypothetical victims down the stairs (where some of the lights are burnt out, I might add). And of course the RCMP aren't gonna be running up and down the building babysitting rowdies if they have to use the stairs. Though as to that, it's very quiet in here tonight, so maybe the rowdies decided to go party somewhere they don't have to walk up. But I digress.

My seedlings included pumpkins (Baby Pam - I slew the Atlantic Giant because it was taking up too much space), onions (Red Zeppelin - I had to buy them because of the name), cauliflower (Orbit, because it's too cool not to) and Brussels sprouts (Jade Cross). I hauled them back to the garden and dug holes through the mulch to plant them, and then firmed the ground and closed up the mulch around the plants again. They looked happy enough, though indeed the water didn't go more than four inches down in the best places, which is sad. Also, there wasn't room for all my seedlings. I planted almost all the pumpkins and all the Brussels sprouts, half of the onions, and less than half of the cauliflower, of which there weren't many to begin with. I hope I get one head of cauliflower, because I really want to taste this variety. If it's good, maybe I'll get two plots next year and grow more crazy cauliflowers.

Also, I had peas, but I hadn't started them because they're fast-growing. I just poked holes in the ground with a dowel, hopefully to a more or less suitable depth, dropped one or two peas in each, and closed them over. Now of course the mulch might prevent the peas from coming up, since it's supposed to prevent things emerging from the ground. That's among the 3% of things I don't know yet. Time will tell.

After that, I watered again, more than the first time. Because you always water in when you transplant, obviously, and because I hadn't watered enough the first time, also obviously. Also because there was hardly anyone left by then and the water tank looked about half full still, and because I wanted to cool and saturate my mulch. I'll go back tomorrow and give it another soaking.

Now my plot looks totally unlike anyone else's. In fact, it looks terribly messy, because it's covered in grass clippings. So I better be getting a kick-ass crop of everything, otherwise I'll look like I should have listened to the Local Gardening Expert, which is the last thing I want to do.

Still, it's hideously dry out, and it's also June 2, that is, 22 days before the average date of last frost. So anything that can keep my plot warm and wet has got to be a good thing. If we get a frost, with how dry and bare those other plots are, I think their plants are gonna be really sorry they're not mulched.

Inshallah, right?