Rubber Boots and Marigolds

Spring is trying to get here on the prairies without much success. I think we may have had summer because we had one day where it was 26 C. Then the snow came and it the weather is struggling to stay in the teens. I have been watching the overnight temperatures very closely and decided to risk it. I planted my garden.

There are people who won’t plant until the full moon after the last frost but honestly that is mid June and then stuff stops growing mid August. I don’t know about you, but I am not spending $$$ for two months worth of flowers. I typically plant Mother’s Day weekend, but held off this year. I am glad I did. The snow gave a deep soaking drink to my shrubs and trees. This weekend they came to life. I figured it was a good as time as any to get the show on the road.

I took Friday off and went to my favourite greenhouse – Wallish – and shopped INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE. This is big for me. I am starting to feel comfortable in public again. I masked up and in I went. Now don’t get me wrong, I would not have gone near the place if there was a line up to get in. There wasn’t and the place wasn’t very crowed with the busiest day of the year being Saturday. I came armed with my list and began the delightful pattern of shopping row by row.

I wanted Stocks in the worst way, and they were sold out. I wanted Calendula and they didn’t plant any this year. I wanted Teddy Bear Sunflowers and there were no sunflowers of any variety. Okay – plan B.

I saw Portulaca and thought why not? I will tell you why not, I got home and realized I no longer have a yard that supports full sun plants. So we will see how those poor devils do on my deck. I saw Dianthus and remembered planting in years ago in the best garden of all time behind the worst house of all time. I moved – I wish I could have brought my garden with me. I bought a few more perennials like Creeping Phlox and Carpathian Bells and then cruised the annual section for sweetpeas, petunias, violets and marigolds.

Marigolds have been a favourite of mine since I was a kid. My mom planted them along the south side of the house in full sun and there was a mass of marigolds. It was lovely. I have always had in them in my garden since. My son feels the same way.

When my son (25) was three, he had a pair of Tonka Truck boots that he loved more than anything. He wore them everywhere. When he finally outgrew them, he would not let me give them away so we kept them on a shelf under the stairs.

Often we would go to different greenhouses for ‘field trips’ and Hole’s Greenhouse in St. Albert was a destination one day. I was looking at planters feeling depressed about the cost – because we were poor. I mean struggling so I sometimes took after my great aunt Sister Dominica (yes she was a nun) and pinch bits off of plants to root them or pop a seed head off and take that home to propagate. This one particular day, Lois Hole (greenhouse owner and former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta) came over to me and started chatting about planters. I confessed my inability to purchase any and she smiled at me and said, ‘any container that can hold soil can be a planter.” I thought about what I might have at home that would work. Before we left, I let my kids each pick out a six pack for their garden at home. My son picked marigolds for his garden.

When we got home I was putting things away and I thought of my son’s rubber boots. I drilled holes for drainage, stuffed the toes with broken plant packs and had my son fill the boots with soil. Then we planted the marigolds. I showed him how to water the flowers and deadhead them so they would continue to bloom all summer then in the fall we let the flowers go to seed and carefully save the seeds for the spring.

This year as I was planning my garden, I asked my son what he wanted in his garden (the rubber boots) and did he want to try something new. “Marigolds, and don’t put anything else in there or you can’t use them.” Marigolds it is. We have moved from the first house with the amazing garden but the boots came with us. Every year for the past 22 years, they have stood on the step of my porch filled with marigolds. I imagine one day I will have a few more boots from future grandkids sitting there with marigolds too.

Stay healthy friends.

The Garden

When the pandemic began in the spring, I was inspired to plant a garden. I prepared containers, bought a yard of soil and several packets of seeds. My dad said I could have a couple of beds out in his garden. I immediately said yes. The advantage to dad’s yard is he will make sure everyone is watered.

My containers yielded enough peas for a week of snacking, 3 harvests of bush beans, soon I will have about 5lbs of carrots and a dozen plum tomatoes. The lettuce and celery in the container is bitter. But I hate lettuce so I don’t care much. Hopefully the cucumbers will grow longer than an inch. I am growing small pickling cucumbers and those little fellas are tiny so far. The lavender is in full bloom and that will be harvested soon. We have alpine strawberries that are devoured when we are out in the garden. We have had about 2 dozen off of that plant.

At my dad’s garden we harvested a squash, 10lbs of potatoes, 10lbs of carrots, and two dozen onions. Earlier in the season I thinned out the onions. At that point they were like green onions or scallions. I chopped them finely and froze them. I had about 4 litres of green onions. I have used them for everything from green onion pancakes to egg and rice dishes. It is so lovely having a bag of frozen green onions at the ready, when they are gone I will likely buy a bunch and do it again. My freezer is full of rhubarb, shredded zucchini, fresh yeast and carrot juice.

Apples are just about ready to harvest. We have a branch that hangs over the fence and that will be enough for a pie or two. I am drying my potatoes and onions and will pop them into a burlap bag and store under the stairs in the basement. A lot of this knowledge came from my former mother-in-law. She was the daughter of a farmer. The rest of it came from Lois Hole’s vegetable book and YouTube.

I didn’t think I would reap much but I have about two months worth of food. There is a rebel plum tree growing on my path in the side yard. We are going to transplant her. 90% of the trees and shrubs in my yard are self starters. I respect that. Its as if they know I have a plant sanctuary and they are safe in my yard. There is a patch of violets that grows in the gravel path, a dozen potentillas and they are a virtual alpine weed. I have moved them around my yard to encourage a hedge. I have a spruce, pines and an aspen that started off as seedlings and have given them a home in my yard. I may not get anywhere because of the pandemic but I have cultivated a lovely sanctuary in my yard. It is enough.

Next year I think I will plant more beans and onions and less peas. 100% less lettuce and 50% more carrots. I follow people who have plots in local community gardens to see what they are growing. I think there is a movement back to cultivating home grown food. I would like to purchase a few stand up gardens because its just easier as I age. I miss my grandpa. He would have whipped up a few for me if I asked.

That is what I have been up to this summer. Staycation and not going ANYWHERE including a store. Have you been gardening? Do you have a bread and butter pickle recipe that is delicious? Let me know and drop me a line. Hang in there friends, I think we will be dealing with the pandemic for a long time to come.