Time for Another Seed Exchange (and mice suck!)

It’s the time of year, again, when a gardener’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of seed. Countless catalogs arrive daily with fruit, veggie and herb seeds aplenty, in every colour, shape, size and disposition imaginable. Wonder at the beets that looks like bulls-eyes inside, marvel at the bright purple carrots, and be amazed at sunflowers so large you wonder if they might whisper “Feed me, Seymour!” each night.

As always, leafing through these catalogs for the perfectly hearty, delicious, and ethical variety leaves me feeling breathless and lusty. Yes, friends, there’s seed porn in the house again, much to my wife’s chagrin. These are lofty and inspirational times, without a doubt. There’s plans to be drawn, seeds to be started in the next few weeks, and garden beds to be prepared. It’s all so exciting.

20120313-184227.jpgAlas, my collection of seeds from the last few years was discovered, a couple weeks ago, by a hoard of hungry mice. They ripped all the packets to shreds and ate the big seeds, while pooping and peeing all over the rest. The carnage was pretty nasty, and I had to dispose of the seeds that survived the feeding frenzy. It’s disheartening to be without seeds at the start of a garden season and with the recent addition to our family, there’s no way I could afford to replace all those wonderful seeds.

To address this, I’m going to be opening up my home (and yard) again this year for a seed swap in a couple weeks, inviting my friends and acquaintances (and their friends and acquaintances) to come over, bring their spare veggie seeds and share in a little coffee, tea and garden-nerd conversation. Even if you’ve never gardened before and don’t have your own seeds, come anyway and get inspired. I hope you’ll be willing to put your left-over 2012 seeds up for trading and that lots of others do the same.

This isn’t meant to be a particularly formal event, but I’d like to suggest a few guidelines in case you’ve not been part of a seed swap before:

  • Please provide your own baggies or envelopes to manage/track the seeds you receive.
  • If a particular kind of seed failed miserably for you, please be honest; don’t pawn off your seeds because they sucked… instead, share the awesomeness. (An extension to this guideline is: please don’t bring really old seeds; most seeds lose their viability after a couple of years. If you’re not sure if they’re still good, don’t bring them.)
  • Bring a notepad. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to learn from others insights. (Who *knew* that epsom salts can help make tomatoes AWESOME?)
  • If you’re a first-time veggie gardener and don’t have seeds to trade with, consider baking some cookies, or bring some of your canned goods or whatever else you have that might be of interest. I’m sure you’ll walk away with some seeds and some great advice on how to get started.

If you’re interesting in joining us, please RSVP on the Facebook Event so that I know how many people to plan for. For more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/513246398715696/

My Kids Are Going To Juggle Chainsaws

Offered without comment, except for the title of this post… (which likely betrays my opinion on the matter).

Do you feel we’re doing children a disservice by removing risk from their lives? Am I going to have to join the teeter-totter underground? Should I invest in bubblewrap?

What are your thoughts?

My New Pet Project: “Please, Stop By!”

A few weeks ago, I complained on Twitter that one of the things that really bugs be about Vancouver is that people don’t seem to drop by each others’ places nearly often enough. In any other part of the country that I’ve lived in or visited, people seem far more likely to make unannounced (but entirely welcome) visits to their friends and family.

I wish I understood what it was about our city’s culture that makes these brief, casual, and unannounced visits generally unwelcome. As I’ve started putting questions to others about this phenomenon, I’ve been surprised at how many people that are horrified at the idea of unexpected visitors. The more I think about it, the more I realize it’s one of the things I dislike about Vancouver; we’ve got a gorgeous and desirable city, but we’re not known for being particularly friendly–it’s almost like we have control issues with our interactions with others.

I’m under no illusions that I can single-handedly change the culture of this city, but I’d like to try a little experiment. To that end, I’m starting a little project for myself called “Please, stop by!“.

From now until the end of June, I intend on trying to drop in on Vancouver-area Twitter folk, if they’ll let me. My goal is thirty “stop by’s” by the end of the month, mostly during evenings and weekends.

I’m not talking about long onerous visits, just a pop-in for a quick cup of coffee, tea or water and a quick chat. If you’d care to show more hospitality than that, by all means, but it’s not at all necessary. Also, I promise not to show up empty-handed. Of course, I will call before I show up at your door so that I don’t show up at a bad time.

If you’d be willing to move past your (likely) reluctance and would be willing to help me out with this project, I need a few things from you:

  1. An open invitation to come over
  2. Some guidelines on when are better and worse times to come visit. (I want to respect your schedule, so need some guidance, but please don’t leave me with a single time slot–the whole point is not to make “appointments” ahead of time.)
  3. Your street address and phone number

If you’re willing to participate, please send me an email at plsstopby@cogno.ca with the above information.

I will likely write a little about the experience, but I promise not to violate your privacy or talk about your priceless spoon collection without your permission. I also promise to hold your address and contact information in the strictest of confidence.

So, who’s willing to ask me to “Please, stop by!”?

To keep my regular Twitter account uncluttered by this project, I’ve set up a new twitter handle: @plsstopby. I encourage you to follow it to keep track of my progress. and, yes, there will be opportunities to “stop by” on me… additional info on that part coming soon.

Garden Diary – March 15, 2012


Yeah, so I discovered this morning that I’d left the fan on my plants overnight, which had done a pretty spectacular job of drying them out. Fortunately, after a good watering, they sprang right back. I must be more careful to only leave the fan on for an hour here and there. Perhaps I should invest in another timer.

(Why a fan, you might ask? Plants that grow in unmoving air don’t tend to be nearly as sturdy as ones that have to deal with a little push from the wind every now and again. it also helps circulate the warm air, which pools at the top of my vertical “greenhouse”.)


The bigger task, yesterday, was getting started another batch of seeds in the “grow-op”, including all the following:

March 14, 2012
CabbageSuper Red 80
Eggplant(Unknown variety)*
LeeksMammoth Pot*
PeppersOrange Sun
TomatillosToma Verde
TomatillosAunt Molly’s Ground Cherry
TomatoesJumbo Jim Orange*
TomatoesTN Britches*
ChineseGai Lan*
ChinesePac Choi

All the unmarked items are from West Coast Seeds; the ones marked with stars are seeds that came to me from the fantastic Beth Breisnes in hand-folded seed packets made from newspaper. (Click here to learn how to make them yourself!) She received the seeds at a seed swap but unfortunately lost her photos of the original packets.


Today and tomorrow are busy days, so won’t have time to do anything but tend to the seeds I’ve started in the greenhouse. Hopefully I’ll have time this weekend to finish mixing the sand into my garden beds and then get to planting my peas and a couple other early outdoor crops.

Have you started any part of your garden yet? What are your plans this year?

Garden Diary – March 13, 2012

20120313-200130.jpgThis year, a new strategy for blogging my garden. I’ll post what I’m doing, when(ish) I’m doing it. The “why” I’ll get to if I’ve got the time and/or if you ask questions of me on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments.

When I started blogging about my garden last spring, my intention was to document my thought process on why I’d made all the little decisions I was making on a regular basis. Additionally, I wanted to add a little bit of explanation, in the hopes others might find it useful. Unfortunately, as the garden project got busier, I spent less and less time writing about it. So, time to turn over a new leaf…


To bring this up to date, so far I’ve:

1) Bought a wire rack from Costco, some fluorescent shop light fixtures (4 feet long), “daylight” fluorescent bulbs, a few feet of small-link chain and a roll of plastic. Used it all to build a little greenhouse in the basement. (Photos of the set-up coming soon! In the meantime, here are some newly germinated cauliflower:)


2) Bought “Jiffy” peat pellets and used them to start a bunch of seeds. All these varieties are from West Coast Seeds, except as noted. I’ve started the following so far:

February 23, 2012
BroccoliHybrid Broccoli Blend
CabbageEarly Jersey Wakefield
CauliflowerWhite Cauliflower Blend
CeleryTall Utah
LettuceSuper Gourmet Blend
LettuceLooseleaf Buttercrunch
OnionWalla Walla
February 28, 2012
PeppersJalapeno M
PeppersPurple Beauty
PeppersRed Habenaro
PeppersRed Cherry Hot
TomatoesGreen Zebra
TomatoesBlack Krim
TomatoesOregon Spring
TomatoesYellow Brandywine


3) Last week, my father came over and we pruned the bottom branches off the giant cedar tree in our backyard. Mostly, it was for safety, as the branches were growing between the power and other utility wires. The added benefit, though, is that it’ll give most of the garden an extra hour or two of daylight each day. We’re just using our Yard Waste bin (and those from the neighbours) to get rid of the cedar branches a bit at a time.

4) Picked up a pickup truck-load of construction sand from Mainland Sand and Gravel in Richmond. Brought it back and combined it with my fresh compost to add to my garden beds. My beds were almost 100% compost last year and were pretty soggy, since the compost sucks up the posture like a sponge. I hope the sand helps improve the drainage somewhat; and I’ll add extra wherever I plant my root veggies (carrots, parsnips, etc.) this year.

I think that pretty much brings us up to today. In the next few days, I’ll finish adding the compost/sand to my beds and lightly tilling it in. I’ve got to do a couple of soil tests to make sure the right nutrients are available. Then, it’ll be time to start planting peas, beans and a bunch of other wonderful things. Also, the grass needs some love; it needs some sand and maybe some lime, as well as reseeding in a few places.

So, that’s my garden; how’s yours coming along so far?