Semiahmoo Library’s Green Wall

A couple of blocks from my home there’s a library that features North America’s largest and most diverse living wall. Designed by Green over Grey a Vancouver based company with projects across Canada and the USA, the wall was installed in 2010. With 2680 sqft of space and over 10,000 individual plants the “sky wall” is a living work of art.

From the Green over Grey website:   
 

The original design is difficult to discern now that it has grown in; I took a few pictures of it this week. It’s really something to behold, although I think our extremely hot and dry spring/summer to date has taken its toll on some of the plants. That being said I saw birds enjoying the wall, insects buzzing around the flowers, and even some ripe ready to pick blueberries too high to reach.

My photos this week:

 
  
    

 

Green over Grey has done projects at numerous airports including Edmonton International and Vancouver. They do both interior and exterior walls and have corporate and residential clients. Inspiring! 

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Gardening on a Smaller Scale

White rock balcony

White rock balcony

There is no way that you can compare gardening in a full size zone 3 yard and gardening on a balcony in zone 8. In Edmonton I had a 60 x 120 foot lot and I took advantage of most of the property for my hobby. By the time I sold my house I had seven composters, several raised beds for vegetables and I’d converted half the front lawn to garden. Much to my (late) mother’s chagrin I even grew corn in my front yard.
I had gogi berries, raspberries and haskap (honey berries). I ate Carmine Jewel cherries from my tree in the backyard while waiting for dozens of tomato plants to produce their yearly bounty of juicy plum tomatoes for canning. I’ve grown tomatillos for salsa verde, I’ve had a spaghetti squash plant produce so many squash that I had to take them to the food bank, and I’ve eaten carefully stored carrots and potatoes well in to January.

Those days are over but not forgotten.

A balcony can support all sorts of plants, including fruit and veggies. Breeding has produced a bounty of fauna that is satisfied with life in a container, although container living means much more attention to their care.

Container plants need a good quality soil that retains moisture. They need regular watering and fertilizing – everything they need will have to be provided at regular intervals. Two hot days in a row with a moderate wind and balcony plants can be baked in situ.

My balcony is east-facing so it gets a strong morning sun which abates at around 11 am and by 4 pm it becomes a cool place to sit and enjoy the sound of birds and a gentle breeze. So far all of my herbs and flowers are doing spectacularly and I’ve potted two tomatoes, a Hungarian pepper and a cucumber. I’ve got two different climbers – a black-eyed susan vine and a specially bred clematis which is going like crazy (I’ll blog about that another day).

So although I can’t garden on the same scale as I have in the past, I can still enjoy my hobby. And hopefully I can enjoy some fresh tomatoes in a couple of months.

Transplant Often, Transplant Deep

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Tomatoes love to be buried deep. If you want strong healthy tomato plants, plant them as deep as you can and transplant them more than once before they go into the garden.

I start my tomato seeds in March and by mid-April they are ready to “prick out“. I transfer my strongest seedlings, making sure they have at least one set of true leaves, to their first individual pot.

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The roots are transplanted right to the bottom of the pot. Ideally I want just the leaves to appear above the soil level. If their cotyledon leaves will be buried, I snip them off beforehand.

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Doing this assures the best chance for strong root formation and avoids the development of those long lanky plants with a weak stem. In a few weeks I’ll transplant them again into a deeper pot, repeating the process.

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Cheap and Easy Plant Markers

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I know there are all sorts of retail products you can purchase to identify your seedlings in pots or in the garden, but with the number of plants I grow from seed I don’t want to be spending my gardening budget on fancy markers. I’d rather spend my money on fancy plants 🙂

Using a permanent ink, I write the name of the plant on the plastic marker cut from a yogurt or similar container. They last all season, aren’t affected by rain or hot sun and I can often reuse the same markers the following year. What could be simpler?

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Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Five: Backyard Composting

Over the next two months I will be sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.

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Backyard composting is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint while benefiting from a nutritious end product. Compost is to your garden what food is to your family – a source of wholesome nourishment.

There are two basic rules to backyard composting: it should be easy and it should be fun.

In composting there are five things that we can control:

Materials – greens and browns
Aeration – getting oxygen to the organisms doing all the work
Hydration – how wet the compost is
Surface Area – smaller bits of compost have more surface exposure
Volume & Location – how large and where in the yard

Greens are fresh and full of nitrogen, while browns are dry and carbon-rich. The balance of greens to browns in the composter should be 1:1 by volume.image

Greens: fruit peels and cores, veg scraps, weeds, plants, coffe grounds, animal manure (herbivores only)
Browns: brown leaves, dead plants, hay and straw, peat moss, tissue and paper towels, dryer lint, wood chips, cones, sawdust, coffee filters
Minerals: egg shells, soil, perlite, vermiculite, wood ash
No: meat and animal products, fats and dairy products, pet litter, cat and dog feces, diapers, diseased plants, seeds, barbecue ashes and coal

Aeration reduces odors; use a pitchfork, compost aerator, a perforated pipe or add course materials.

Moisture speeds decomposition; compost must be kept moist and monitored weekly. Add moisture with a hose, a watering can, rain or aquarium water or by adding more greens. Hydrate slowly to avoid leaching the nutrients (particularly phosphorus) into the ground. Compost should be as wet as a wrung out sponge.

Surface area exposes more bacteria to the material; shredding or chopping material will help it decompose faster.

The ideal size for a compost pile is 1 cubic meter to 1.5 cubic meter. Locate it somewhere convenient where it will be well-drained, sunny and sheltered.

Thanks to:
Mark Stumpf-Allen, Composting Programs Coordinator City of Edmonton