Fall Clean-up: Mulch and Protect

Fall is arguably Edmonton’s most beautiful season. No mosquitoes, lovely warm afternoons and calm evenings with spectacular sunsets. The foliage changes to shades of red, yellow and orange, and the air is crisp and fresh.

It’s also the time of year when we have to put down our spades and pick up our rakes, cleaning up the garden beds and protecting them for the upcoming cold winter months.

It can get as cold as -40C in Edmonton during the most frigid nights of winter, so having a good protective mulch over the hibernating plants is a must.

I take a simple approach, first slaying the perennial foliage with my clippers, then pulling all the annuals that won’t survive the winter. Once I’ve done that, I collect the leaves and mess on the lawn and run it down with a mower. I’ll do the same with the leaves from my trees as soon as they’ve come down, and sometimes I’ll borrow from neighbors if I feel I need even more browns.

The resulting mulch is returned to the garden to cover the plants with a 10-12″ airy quilt which will provide that extra layer of warmth they’ll need to get through the coming months.

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Late Bloomer: Cathedral Bells

This is the first time I’ve planted this lovely annual vine. It can grow as much as 25 feet in full sun and well drained soil. I’ve got mine in a large pot adjacent to a trellis that it climbed with no assistance. I took these photos over a period of four days as the first blossom appeared.

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Perfect Roma Tomatoes. Every Time.

I have to give a shout out to T&T Seeds of Winnipeg for their amazing Roma tomato called Momma Mia. It’s been a staple in my garden for years, producing beautiful paste tomatoes that I love to make into sauce for those bland winter months. The quantity of fruit can’t be beaten, and I’ve never had any issues with the health and virility of the plants. Highly recommended.

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A Simple Way to Harvest and Preserve Garlic

I like to make my life easier, so I’m always looking for the simplest ways to preserve and consume my garden produce.

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Today I dug up half of my garlic. Garlic is ready when the bottom four leaves of the stalk have turned brown. For Zone 3, this is usually mid to late August.

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After separating the cloves I carefully washed and patted them dry with a towel.

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I then tossed the cloves into my tiny food processor and added enough vegetable oil to cover them.

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I used the pulse button to control the chopping until I had the consistency I wanted, just slightly larger than a mince.

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I put the resulting mixture in a jar, topped it up with a bit more veggie oil and that’s it. The mixture lasts for several weeks in the fridge and after I’ve used up all the garlic I have fabulous oil to use as well.

Note: Storing garlic in oil at room temperature can result in proliferation of botulism, and botulism poisoning is a potentially fatal condition. Always store the oil at less than 3 degrees C and use it only if cooking thoroughly. 

High Bush Cranberries Almost Ready to Pick

I was walking in the Edmonton river valley this morning and I saw that there seem to be plenty of high bush cranberries this year.

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The beauty of these berries is that they are free, easy to pick, and delicious in jellies, smoothies and ketchups.

I’m not going to tell you precisely where I saw lots on the trees, but the Edmonton river valley should be able to provide enough for all of us. The key is to pick them when they’re ripe (I estimate next week), but not to wait too long or someone else might steal your secret stash.

Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)

I believe I’ve been invaded by a wild cucumber plant. What do you think? I planted a number of squash and melons in my front garden and when this plant began to grow I thought it must be one of those. I left for a two week holiday and came back to THIS.

It has spiky green fruit, which if I have identified the plant correctly are inedible. It can become invasive if left to reproduce, so my plan is to rip it out and find the original tuber and dig that out as well.

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Clematis Jackmanii

Clematis Jackmanii is one of the most popular and widely grown clematis culitvars in Canada. Hardy to zone 4a, I’ve found it to be not only successful but prolific in my zone 3 garden.

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It prefers cool roots but flourishes in direct sun, blooming from mid summer into the fall. Mine is at its prime this week, already more than 8 feet tall and covered in luscious 5-6″ purple blossoms.

I trim my Jackmanii to 24″ above the soil in the late fall once it has finished flowering, but if I forget or don’t get it done before snow falls I can do the same in the spring before the new sprouts emerge.

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Clematis Jackmanii was originally developed by horticulturist George Jackman of Surrey England in 1862. It can be purchased at virtually any garden center in North America.