Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Patio Gardening - Preventing Aphids

My garden has been in place for almost a month and so far so good.  I've been harvesting the salad greens on a regular basis and my flowering plants are coming along nicely.

There have been two (possibly three) casualties:  I wasn't feeling too confident in the condition of my italian flat leaf parsley so I pulled it up and added a kale plant instead.  The second plant death was one of my peppers.  I'm not sure what kind it is but there's one next to it that is likely the same type and it is also not happy.  I feel I may be overwatering - however, the other two pepper plants are thriving.  When I pulled up the saddest one of the crew I noticed some rot at the bottom and the base just snapped.  The leaves had been wilting with just the touch or shake of the stalk.  
I don't know what's going on with the little dude on the left.  I already lost one, today, because I noticed some rot on the base.  Gonna dry out the soil and see what happens.
I have been doing regular inspection for aphids and while they are present I've been able to catch them before they really set up shop and do some serious damage.  

I read in a couple of different forums and in the book "Mulch It!" that reflective mulch has been an effective deterrent for pests like aphids.  Melinda Meyers noted that aphids orient themselves to the sky and the reflection from the foil confuses them and they crash and die.  Perfect.  Reflective mulch has been related to boosting fruit sizes and yields, according to studies compiled by the writers from  Result in test plots impacted not only the size and the yield but also the fruit set up to 25%.

Here's what I decided to do:
I cut several strips of aluminum foil and folded it in half twice so it was sturdy.  While I didn't pull the plants through the aluminum cover I attached strips across the top and tucked the ends into the edge.  Attaching this way will also make it easier for me to remove it when the season is over or if this tactic isn't successful.  

One thing that has been cautioned is that if it gets really hot it may "cook" the plants.  I'll have to keep an eye open for this but luckily the aluminum covers are easy to remove.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How to make a Pallet Garden

This is the year that I'm going to get into this vertical gardening fad.  This tutorial is for planting seedlings and your plants rather than growing straight from the seed.

At first I was going to attach two square sized pallets together because I wanted to grow tomatoes and peppers at a higher elevation since they need more sun.  But one day while I was leaving the parkade at work and spotted the most beautiful thing:  a 7 foot pallet.

So I get it home and you know what????? It's 20 cm too wide for my patio!  NOOOOOOOO!!!!!  So out come the tools.  I had to trim the sides and nail it together again.
You have got to be kidding me!
I also had to add more slats to the back for reinforcement and an additional one at the top and the bottom to create a larger box for plants that have a more complicated root system.

First thing you want to ask yourself is "what kind of pallet garden will I be making?"
  1. With boxes between the slats that you have to create yourself with landscaping fabric
  2. Without the boxes and just fill the entire pallet with soil
    • With this method fill the pallet with soil and then plant your veggies and flowers.  You need  keep the pallet lying flat and wait at least 2 weeks for the roots to settle in before you push the pallet upright.  But I don't the patience or the room to maneuver this so I went with Option 1, which is what I will cover in this tutorial
Here's what you'll need to turn the pallet into a vertical garden box:
  1. Roll of landscaping fabric - it's super cheap, about $8.00 and you'll have enough to spare for your pots and plant boxes.  It's available at any home improvement and gardening store.
  2. Staple gun - I have the cordless Arrow CT50 staple gun.  
  3. Hammer - to reinforce some of those staples that didn't go all the way down.  
  4. 3.5 bags of 23 litres of soil (or about 2 bags for a regular sized pallet)
Creating your pallet garden box:
I wrapped some landscaping fabric on the bottom to close it up.  

Next I made little pockets with the landscaping fabric between each slat.  You'll be putting soil into these pockets so make sure you staple them in there nice and tight.  If your staples are not all the way in the wood it leaves space for the fabric to tear under the weight.  Grab that hammer and show that staple who's boss.

Once you've finished your pockets you need to turn it around and cover the back.  I also added a plant hook on the side because I wanted to try out a Topsy Turvy this year.  

Placing plants in the palette garden box:
It's really important to plan out where you're going to put things.  Here's a sketch I made a while ago but I re did it about 5 times afterwards until I was happy with the over all scheme:

Watering your plants in a pallet garden:
If you take the route that I did with the pockets you don't have to worry so much about uneven watering.  However, if you go with Option 2 and decide just to fill the pallet up with soil, you do risk the top drying out a lot faster than the other tiers because the water runs straight down to the bottom.  

How much and how often you will need to water will depend on how much sun or shade you have, what kind of plants you have, and how you've arranged them.  Make sure to follow the instructions on the plant cards and follow the advice from experienced gardeners.  

Some tips for planning your garden:
  1. Do your research
    • How much shade and sun does your space have?  Plants that require lots of sun (like tomatoes, peppers, basil, and most flowers) should go in the top tiers.  If they require lots of space, make sure you adjust your pockets.  The bottom tiers are best for plants that like shade (hostas, kale, salad greens, broccoli, and rosemary).
  2. For the first week, leave a matt at the bottom of the pallet.  The soil is still settling in and it might drip down when you water your plants and this will create a hot mess.  Trust me, I know.
  3. Leave at least 1 inch of space from the top of the pocket when you're adding soil or else the water will just run right off and down to the ground.
Good luck and happy gardening.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Patio Garden

After two years of moving around right in the middle of gardening season I'm ready to roll up my sleeves, dig into the soil, and grow stuff.

Here are some goals for the 2014 seasons:

  1. Keep it simple
    • Since it's been a while since I've gardened I stuck to plants that I've had success with.  No petunias or plants that turn into aphid farms
  2. Grow vertically
    • I've created a vertical garden with a pallet.  The pallet garden is a smart way (instructions coming up soon) to free up space for lounging
  3. Think organic
    • I created my own compost tea, organic insecticide, and organic fertilizer
  4. Space to relax
    • Adding a bistro set so I can enjoy the view and my garden
Here are some pics of what I've done so far and a break down of how and what I've down will come in the next couple of weeks:

Here's a close up of the pallet garden I created:

And check out my view.  Vancouver is a beautiful city.

Patio garden at night:

I'm looking forward to the plants growing and to create different shapes and lines.  Tons of DIY tutorials to share coming up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Redecorating Type A Styles

I moved back to Vancouver 8 - 9 months ago and have yet to share pics of the final results of the redecorating.  It took me two days to complete everything (no, I didn't sleep) and accomplish the following goals
  1. Cleaner colour pallette
  2. Texture on some of the walls
  3. Add some mid century pieces with a modern personal touch 
  4. More plants and less clutter

So without further adieu, heeeerrrreeee we go:

Living Room

Can you spot the changes?
Before and After

I took out some of the very girly elements and reduced the amount of sharp and bright colours from the scheme.  Here are a list of things that I changed (that I can remember):

  1. Re-upholstered the couch
  2. Made new pillow covers
  3. DIY Starburst and Antlers
  4. Put up new wallpaper
  5. Plants plants plants
  6. New art
  7. Got rid of the desk and iMac
  8. Made new coffee table 
DIY Starbursts and new wallpaper and DIY Antlers and Mount
I'll post up pics of the other spaces soon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Green Roof of the Vancouver Public Library

About 6 months ago I woke up and drew the blinds in my hotel room and marveled at the gorgeous view of the Central Library of the Vancouver Public Library and it’s Green Roof. I quickly snapped a picture and posted it on Instagram to freeze this moment in time and to share it with others.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Marya Gadison, Coordinator of Marketing and Communications of the Vancouver Public Library contacted me for permission to use that picture on the Vancouver Public Library site. She connected me to Shelagh Flaherty, Director, Library Experience. When I told her about my passion for gardening and interest in the Green Roof.  On a day full of press releases, public announcements and meetings, Shelagh was kind enough to give me a chunk of her time so I could learn more about their plans to find new ways to develop space where people can connect, learn, create, and contribute. 
Can you tell me a bit about the background about the Green Roof at the Central Library of the Vancouver Public Library?
The construction of the Central Library began in 1991.  DA Architects and Planners, then known as Downs/Archambault & Partners, was among the local firms that contributed to the design of the building.  While the model included a garden on the roof the city had not budgeted for this project. Those plans changed and we enlisted renowned and innovative landscaping architect, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander to design our green space.

Can you tell me a bit more about it’s purpose?
While the Library is a public place the roof top garden was not meant to be a place for people to walk around.  In fact, there isn’t even a fence around it or any walking paths.

There are several benefits to having a green roof:
  • Increase the total mass of living matter in a given unit area
  • Reduce air pollutants
  • Reduce cooling requirements for the Library roof
  • Stores and delay storm water run off

How much care goes into the Green Roof?
The Green Roof requires very little maintenance. The plants in the garden were chosen because they were self-sustaining. We have had the same plants since the Green Roof was created and they are flourishing.  (The majority of the BC native plans up on the green roof are blue and green fescue bunchgrass to represent the Fraser River and kinnikinnick, which represents the higher elevations of the land.) If you view the roof from above you’ll see that the design of the garden is made so it looks like the Fraser River.  

Arial view of the Green Roof at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library

Do you have plans to create green space at the Central Branch?
In 1991, to secure funding, we leased the top two floors the Provincial Government, which they use as offices.  This agreement ends in 2015 and our hope is to have those two floors converted into public green space.

We are lucky enough to have Cornelia back on board to design the new green space for the Central Library Library.  The residents and visitors of Vancouver can expect something that reflects Vancouver, which will be accessible and is self-sustainable.

What developments can we expect in the next coming years?
We recently released our strategic plan to expand community space. Our vision is to create a free place for everyone to discover.

The newest branch will be located on the 700 block of East Hastings.  Partnering with the YWCA, this LEEDS building will also have social housing for women and children. 

Scheduled for completion for the end of 2014, the Central Library will be unveiling a digital media space (3,000 square feet), which as been dubbed the “Inspiration Lab”.  Residence and visitors may have access to a digital recording studio, video editing software and workstations, an interactive music lab and more.

While the population in the Vancouver’s Downtown Core continues to increase the City of Vancouver actively consults with the public and planners to find ways provide public green space.  I encourage everyone to participate in the planning of these initiatives as it affects the residents and visitors of this terrific city.

Additional Notes:
Vancouver Public Library is one of the city’s longest institutions.  Established in 1887, it continues to serve the public and has nearly 350,000 active card holders across 22 locations and online at through ebooks, databases and other digital services. VPL recorded more than 6.5 million visits in 2012; patrons borrowed nearly 10 million items, including books, ebooks, CDs, DVDs and magazines.
VPL is supported by the City of Vancouver, and is dedicated to meeting the lifelong learning, reading and information needs of the residents of Vancouver.

To learn more about the Vancouver Public Library, including their development plans, please contact:


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