The first year I started my own seeds indoors, I planted around ten flats of annual flowers and vegetables, growing them on top of my mother’s dining room table (sorry mom!). I was sixteen years old and a fairly novice gardener. When the April showers finally cleared and the bright spring sun came out, I had the brilliant idea of taking those plants – whose only light source had been a modest west-facing window – and moving them outdoors to give them a dose of early May sunshine. Oops! Within an hour, every single plant was fried and I had no idea what I had done wrong. I obviously needed a lesson in how to harden off seedlings.
It’s a common tale. A bed of carrots is seeded, they sprout and start to grow, and a harvest of crisp roots beckons in a few short months. Yet, when it comes time to dig the crop, it’s discovered that some of the carrots have forked, developing multiple roots. The multi-rooted carrots may look a little funny and are harder to clean, but forking doesn’t affect the flavour. So, what causes carrots to fork?
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The worth of pollinators is undeniable. Each year, more than $20 billion dollars of food crops come to fruition across North America because of creatures far smaller than the coin in your pocket. That’s a lot of weight on those tiny shoulders. And unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you know about the troubles facing European honeybee populations. So, with European honeybee numbers at risk and pollination rates dropping, attracting more bees and pollinators is more important than ever. But, what’s a gardener to do? Well, helping native bees is a good place to start.
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In 2014, I came across one of the most clever uses of a hashtag I’ve seen on social media: #GotMilkweed. The hashtag was part of a campaign launched by the David Suzuki Foundation that aimed to create a monarch butterfly corridor in Toronto. (For readers who live in the U.S. and abroad, David Suzuki is a prominent scientist and environmentalist here in Canada.)
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Each spring, there comes a point in the winter when I’ve had enough. I’m longing for longer days and warmer weather, so I’ll bring a little bit of spring inside until things warm up enough for spring bulbs and blooms outside. I’ll head out to the yard (usually sometime in March) and snip some forsythia branches, so I can force them to bloom in a vase indoors.
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One of the most important – and yet often overlooked – facets of gardening is its ability to increase backyard biodiversity. And not just within the plant kingdom. When a garden is composed of a wide range of plant material, the animal kingdom also benefits. Especially insects. Most gardeners know that having a diversity of good bugs in the garden means better pollination and fewer pests. While there are thousands of species of beneficial insects in North America, one of the best bugs for your garden is the ground beetle.
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