Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Best Jobs Pay With Joy Not Money

Over the last two years I have written many, many stories about my gardening experiences – failures and successes. I believe strongly that if a person has a desire to make this world a better place then they must ‘touch the Earth’ and what better way than digging and planting in your garden!

It’s been a great pleasure for me to create the flowerbeds and vegetable gardens in my new home. I’ve found that most of the work simply involves me thinking about the plants that already exist here and determining if they should stay where they are or if they should be moved to find happier homes in my yard. In 99% of the cases I’ve moved the plants into more suitable locations.

Here’s one small gardening adventure to share with you…

This is how this area of my garden looked when I first examined it this Spring. I may not know the name of the bush near the bottom of the photo, but I do know that I’m not its biggest fan. It grows a bit like a vine and I simply didn’t want it here – taking up space from other flowers I wanted to grow here. I dug it up and moved it to the side of my house where it can grow crazy and be happy. The patio stones simply cover the ground and waste this space. I removed them, placing them in storage until I can find a better use for them. The bush that flowers with yellows in the Spring is too close to the fence and it looks squishy here, so I removed it and found it a new home where it can spread out a bit more.

I’m not sure where the small cedar tree came from - my yard is surrounded by cedars so I decided that I just didn’t want it. I transplanted it (guerrilla gardening style – LOL!) to the outer edge of a nearby community tree lot.

So… now that this space is relatively empty now, what should I do?

On the other side of my yard, there’s a small flower garden. You can see the dead growth of three tall clumpings of some kind of flower.

I cut off the dead stalks and cut each clump into four separate chunks. Whenever I split plants I always split through the middle to make ‘pie’ shaped pieces. This allows each new chunk to still have a part of the main root in it.

I transplanted all 12 of these smaller flower chunks to create a wall of flowers along my side of this fence. I filled in a large area in front of this ‘wall’ with more Day Lilies that my friend at work let me dig out of his garden. The other three plants were added for variety and for me to learn more about them. I’m not sure what they’re called – I know a little about one of them – so I figured that this would be a great way to learn… by watching them grow!

After a couple of weeks, this garden is beginning to fill in and look great!

These are the reasons for my desire to plant a ‘wall of green’. My neighbour’s dogs are nice and friendly; they always come to say ‘hello’ whenever I go into my backyard, but sometimes they will sit and stare at me for long periods. I’m hoping that this ‘wall’ will cut down on their stares. I get rather embarrassed easily – ha ha!

Now… this wall of green will grow and later in the season it will flower, with the flowers being at the top of the plant, but I have an experiment that I want to try. Have you ever noticed that if you have dandelions or clover in your lawn that they will still flower even though the plant has been cut short many times? That’s the idea that I’m experimenting with. When these plants get to be about 18” high I’m going to prune them in a unique way. The part of the plant that is closest to the fence will be left alone. The next part of the plant will be trimmed four inches shorter. As the plant fills into my yard I will progressively prune more steps into it, about four inches for each step. I’m hoping that (like the clover) each part of the plant will still flower. Since the plant will be cut into a step-like fashion, I’m hoping that the entire plant – from bottom to top – will fill with flowers. My ‘wall of green’ could become a wall of flowers! We’ll have to wait and see how this works out!

This photo shows more of this entire area. The area near the bottom of the photo was sparsely filled with a few hostas, so I simply split them all and replanted them so that this entire area will now be filled with many more flowering hostas. Oh! Did you notice the flowering yellow bush in the background?

As I mentioned, this bush needed to have more space to grow, so I moved it to this area. This round space was like this when we moved in – with a dead tree in it – so I decided to make a few improvements.

I pruned the yellow flowering bush and then transplanted it. It’s important to remember to create a trough around the bush’s base so that when I water it, the water stays concentrated in one area and doesn’t flow away with the slope of the ground.

Then, I added a lot of other flowers. I won’t see too many flowers this year, because the roots, bulbs and tubers need to heal… but next year I will witness an explosion of colourful flowers. I’ve added orange and yellow Day Lilies, Daffodils, Tulip, a hosta and another plant that I’m curious about. They all flower at different times of the year so this area should always have a little colour on the grow!

This is what this area looked like two weeks ago. Next year, the bush will fill in with more flowers, too – this year it’s healing.

I always have a bit of fun with my camera on ‘macro’ settings… especially when the flowers are so small.

All the flowerbeds that I’ve been building and working with already existed – for the most part – before we moved in. My veggie garden will be a long process in creating, as I have to remove the lawn and so on before I can plant. I’m experimenting with blending my flowers with my vegetables. This is the beginning of my veggie patch. I thought that it would look nice having a decorative area at the one end – filled with flowers – with the rest of the area filling in with things for my belly!

As you can imagine, I have a lot of work ahead of me so that I can have this garden ready for planting – in a little less than a month’s time.

So, if you’ll please excuse me, I’ve got some more digging to do…


Monday, April 26, 2010

So What If I’m A Month Behind With My Stories!

As you can imagine, Springtime is a very busy time of year, especially if you’re a school bus driver, guerrilla gardener and mural artist like me!!! I love sharing stories about things that I’m learning about with regards to my home garden. Every time I work on a small project my camera is close by to take pictures that will go along with my stories. I’ve noticed that I’m getting a little behind with these efforts and because of that, this story is almost out of date already! HA!

A month ago, many people were enjoying the early warm weathers that took away the winter. For many it was the time to rake the lawn – to get rid of dead grass and bring the new grasses to life… kinda like giving the Earth a much needed back scratch! The ‘green’ debris that got piled under most rakes will end up at the curb for ‘yard waste’ garbage days, but as many of you know me, I try to avoid such wastefulness. Yes, this waste will be turned into compost to be sold back to citizens but if everyone knew that they could use these materials then we wouldn’t have to have huge trucks wasting fuel as they go from house to house.

Here’s what I did with my dead grass and leaves…

This is about as far as I was able to dig, last November, before the winter weathers came.

After I had finished raking my lawn, I continued expanding this front flowerbed. This photo was taken just after I finished removing and reusing the sod. I still need to dig down and loosen the soil before I can plant. That’s when I will use the dead grass and leaves.

First, I create a trench at one end on my garden.

Then, I fill in this trench with a large handful of the dead grass and leaves. The next line of soil is then dug up and placed onto this fill. Then more fill is added, more dirt on top of it and so on…

After my back has become a little sore from all of this bending, digging and lifting, I rake the flowerbed nice and smooth and that’s it! I’m now ready for planting. To get a sense of proportion – 2 ½ large bags of dead grass and leaves were added to this relatively small flower garden. That’s 2 ½ bags that don’t have to be picked up by city workers!

So… what to plant? Because I’m poor I rarely spend any money on plants. It’s easier to steal plants from friends and neighbours and it’s even easier to steal from yourself! I went to take a look at an existing flowerbed, in my backyard, to see what I would find. This bed is in need of a little cleaning before I’ll be able to see what’s underneath all these leaves.

I start by cutting off all the dead growth from last year. Again, none of this will be put to the curb – in a month or so I’ll have a small fire to burn this kind of debris, in my vegetable garden, to add nitrogen to the soil before planting. Everything has a use – you just have to use your imagination to see the other benefits that ‘garbage’ can bring to your garden!

Already, this year’s growth is beginning to show itself.

So… after a light raking – I don’t want to hurt any of the flowers that are growing underneath the dried leaves – I’m able to see what is growing in this garden so that I can determine what I’ll be stealing for my front flowerbed. Hmmmm… I see Daffodils! Lots and lots of Daffodils! Perfect! This is what I was hoping I’d find.

Soon, after some careful digging, I have quite a large supply of bulbs to plant in my front flowerbeds. You’ll notice a variety of sizes. When I replant them I’ll mix them up to get a healthier gathering. I’ll plant a large and mature bulb with a ‘teenager’ bulb and a ‘baby’ bulb, thus bringing several generations together! My gardening pursuits parallel my Earth saving ambitions as I’m always trying to bring generations of people together, as well, so that we can all work in unison to preserve and protect our planet for future generations!!!

With my gardening ambitions I try to follow the same ideologies that governed the North American Indigenous tribes, before technology blew them apart, by ‘Giving Back To The Earth’ a little of what I took. Now, I have many flowers to plant at the front of my house and I’ve kept and maintained the original area from which these flowers came.

Through my previous experiences of flower transplanting I’ve learned to be patient. I’m hopeful that I will see a few flowers, this season, but the true fruits of my labours won’t be seen until next year. This year, the bulbs are healing and adjusting to new soil conditions. Next year, they will come in stronger and fill this same area with four times as many flowers!!!!

This photo was taken about a week later. To the left of the Daffodils you can see a few small green specks. These are some of the Day Lilies that I stole from a friend while I was pursuing my guerrilla gardening ambitions ( At the bottom of the garden you can also see a few reddish specks. These are an interesting flower that I stole from a friend, last year. I’ll have to find out what this flower is named as I really like it and I can see myself using it in a number of different applications in the future.

You don’t have to know everything about the flowers and plants in your garden to be successful and to have fun. Just by working with them and learning from them you will gain knowledge and this pattern simply keeps me humbled to realize that the more I come to know the more I come to know that there’s so much more that I don’t know!

See… I told you I’d get a few Daffodils to flower. Next year I will have four times this many flowers and then I’ll really be smiling! The Day Lilies have grown considerably… and in another month they’ll have filled in their space completely. You can see that I’ve been very busy filling in the rest of this garden with a small bush, a Bleeding Heart plant, some Violets (that will fill in as ground cover – keeping weeds away), hostas, Lily of The Valley (another ground cover) and some other plants that I know nothing about. HA!

Well… I’m one story closer to being caught up! I hope that you’ve enjoyed watching my garden grow.

But, before I go… I have one quick news update. Several blogs ago, I told the story about how I had planted sticks from a Gooseberry bush into the ground (link) hoping that they would grow shoots and roots and eventually berries. Well, as you can see, my experiment is working. Each of the sticks has begun to sprout tiny leaves. I’m expecting to see the bush concentrate on growing for the next two years with the third year bringing the first small handfuls of berries to my table!

“Yeah!” to Mother Earth for the bounty and joy she will bring into our lives!!!

‘Nuf said!


Friday, April 23, 2010

The Lighter Side of Doomsday!!!!

A little while ago a friend introduced me to an interesting website with thousands of really cool images.

Every few days or so I will visit to have a look around and to steal some of these images.

This website is full of interesting photos and illustrations. My favourites are the images that have been tampered with using photoshop programs!

I thought that it would be funny to start a small collection of images that would illustrate the problems concerning our world’s environment.

The problems that are facing future generations are so great and so complex that it is easy to become overwhelmed by them.

By using humour as a tool to teach people about these problems I thought that I might be able to ‘turn on’ a few more peaceful activists.

Time will tell is this plan is successful or not.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gardening… All That’s Required Is Your Time

When it comes to gardening (and to saving the world) I’ve always lived by the philosophy that we have everything we need, already, to do the job… we just need to rearrange things a little to create healthier relationships.

Like this tree! This tree – I’m still not sure what kind it is – was not planted here. Its seed blew in on a wind and seeded itself about six years ago. It grew because it may have gone unnoticed by the previous residents of this home. I think this because if it had been planted then it would have been planted further away from the tall cedar. It would have been silly to plant this tree just one foot away, because in forty years it will be huge.

I decided to give it a new home where it will be happier!

Now, these bushes were planted here… I just don’t like them here. I want to paint a wall mural on the wall behind, this summer, and these bushes will just get in the way.

I decided to give them a new home where they will be happier!

I decided to plant the tree and three bushes close together near the front of my house, to add a little interest to that part of my yard. To do this I had to dig a small garden for them, away from my gas and water lines… good thing I had them marked out last year.
I like curvy things and my gardens are no exception, as you can see from this photo!

Whenever I do any kind of gardening I always try to use everything in useful ways – instead of filling bags to give to the garbage collectors. This photo shows how I used the top layer of grass sod that I dug up while creating my small garden. I turn the sod, roots side up, so that the roots will die and compost and I’m laying them beside the wall of my garage. This will raise the height of soil in this area and help to drain rainwater away from the building.

After I’ve taken the top layer of sod away from my small garden, I dig deeper and turn all the soil over. Obviously, this makes it easier to dig the holes that will soon be filled with tree and bush roots. This ground has remained untouched for at least fifty years and over this time it has packed down tight. When I turn the soil over, I’m loosening it and adding air and the result is that I have too much soil in this small garden. I simply fill up my wheelbarrow with this excess soil and use it in other areas of my garden. Like the photo above. This ‘tree ring’ garden has been created only with excess soils from a few different areas of my garden.

So… by planting one tree and three bushes in my front yard: 1) I’ve created better homes for these plants, 2) I’ve helped to protect my garage from water damage, 3) I’ve created another garden by using excess soil, 4) I’ve had a nice workout and 5) I’ve created absolutely no garbage!!!!

Now it’s time to plant my bushes. Uh-oh! I’ve miscalculated the size of this garden. I wanted to have the three bushes at the front with the one tree in the back but I’ll have to do a little rethinking…

There we go! I think that this will be better than my first plan. Over the years the tree will grow very tall. I planted the bushes close by, thinking that they will fill in the area from the ground to about three feet high – almost like giving the tree a pretty dressing at its base. The birds will love this!!!!

This is a very recent photo and you can see that everything is starting to wake up from winter. If you think like me then you’ll be thinking that the open soil area of this garden could soon be filled with weeds – and I hate weeding. So to finish this garden properly I’ve added a few violets.

Violets will spread out and multiply, eventually filling the open ground. Now, close your eyes and envision this garden in a few more years… the tree has grown taller, it’s surrounded by a thick billowing of bushes with a four inch high carpet of green with white and purple violets. Nice eh?!

I took this photo of my tree ring garden last week and you can see that I’ve done a little planting here, as well. I’ve added a few interesting flowers that like the shade and three different hosta species. These flowers will fill an area ten times larger than what you can see now. In a few more weeks I’ll be filling in a few of the areas that I’ve left open with some other plants and by midsummer this garden will be filled with a lot of life and colour!

I’ve planted lots of small patches of violets throughout a few other areas of my garden. In this space, where I originally moved the three bushes from, I’ve decided to grow a small reservoir of violets. As this patch thickens and grows I’ll be able to – over the years – steal from it to fill in other areas of my garden.

This is a photo of the huge maple tree that is in our backyard. I’ve been adding lots of excess soil to its base to create another flower garden.

Just a few days after filling this area with Day Lilies I’m amazed with how fast they are growing.

This is what it looks like now. By mid July this area will be filled with green leaves and flower stems that have grown to a height of about four feet, topped with bright orange flowers. These are the same flowers that I’ve been using in my guerrilla gardening projects.

Oh! That reminds me… I’ve got to go meet some friends, soon. We’ll be completing the third and final guerrilla gardening project for 2010! I can’t wait to tell you that story…