Tag Archives: gardening

Inch by inch. Row by row. Gonna make this garden grow.


MUD. I’ve been playing in that stuff since I was a kid. Each year, during May long weekend (or shortly thereafter) the doors were wide open to have fun with mud! Out came the shovels, the garden beds were dug up, and on hands and knees my Mom would carve small paths in the newly broken soil. She’d pour small piles of seeds from seed packages into the palm of my hand. My job was to sprinkle them in the paths she’d created, giving space between each seed, and gently cover them with a blanket of mud. Then came the water.

In those early years I remember my young self worrying that the huge waterfall coming out of the garden hose would destroy those precious seeds, but within a week or so I saw little green shoots pop up from the ground. Seeing this I learned that seeds were incredibly strong and also that they were different from each other. I was in awe of the new shapes that formed in front of me. Some of the plants had wispy, soft leaves and others had prickly leaves. Some of their stalks stood tall and others swirled and wound their way around things. Several decades later, I’m still in awe.

Gardening can be a little intimidating. After you understand that the water from the garden hose isn’t going to kill the seeds (comes with age apparently), then you wonder: What’s a gardening zone? What type of soil do I have? How much sun is needed when a plant label says “part shade”? I won’t deny that these are important things to know, but I’ve never let my lack of knowledge get in the way. What I witnessed with my Mom was simple, tried, and true, and it’s what stuck with me: put a seed in mud, water it regularly, make sure it gets sun, and enjoy watching it grow. With that basic knowledge, you can garden with one container full of mud and one seed or you can dig up an entire lawn and create a food and flower paradise. Anything goes.

Whether you’re new to gardening or have been playing in the mud for years, here are some things to check out from us:

Gardening eMagazines

Manitoba Gardener 2

Eye candy. Tons of tips and visual inspiration are available in the gardening eMagazines that we offer through RBdigital and PressReader. If you have a mobile device and haven’t yet set it up to access these free goodies, check out our eMedia Guide for how to get set up or sign up for a 1-on-1 eMedia session and we’ll help you get set up. You don’t want to to miss out on this stuff!


Gardening Books

WE HAVE SO MANY GREAT GARDENING RESOURCES!!! I can’t even curb my excitement. Here are some that I’ve recently borrowed:

100 Plants that won’t die in your Garden by Geoff Tibballs

When new to gardening, sometimes the goal is to build confidence! With that in mind, this book will help you do that. Tibballs describes many perennials, shrubs, vines and more that you most likely won’t be able to kill. Yay!



The Urban Wildlife Gardener by Emma Hardy

I love the thought of having more birds, butterflies, and bees in our yard, so we plant things that’ll attract them. This book shares a variety of ways to attract them through plants, birdbaths, and bee houses. It lists plant varieties too – very useful!



One Magic Square Vegetable Gardening by Lolo Houbein

This book gives all the tips and tricks to creating and maintaining a small garden plot. What’s really neat about it is that it includes ideas for theme plots. Enjoy making stir-fries? Grow a Stir-Fry plot. Love pasta and pizza? Grow the Pasta/Pizza plot. Want to make hearty soups in the fall? Grow a Soup Plot and Essential Herb Plot. So many plots, so little time!


Pot it, Grow it, Eat it by Kathryn Hawkins

From aubergines to zucchinis, you might be amazed at how many vegetables and fruits can be grown in a pot. If you’re looking for easy, grow your veggies in a pot. Hawkins shares how to do it, including how to harvest, store and freeze what you grow.


No Dig Organic Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty

Who loves the back-breaking work of digging or has a back that can actually handle the back-breaking work of digging? Well if you do, I’m jealous and you’re lucky. We have a combination of in-ground and raised garden beds in our yard and the raised ones are very kind to me. This book gives the basics about raised beds, composting, and includes an important section on seed saving. You really get the full circle experience if you save seeds from the plants that you’ve grown and it’s surprisingly easy to do. Plus, you can save a lot of money!


Get Social (if you want)

Gardeners love to share: tips and tricks, seedlings, seeds, and in-progress pictures of their gardens of plenty. Gardening doesn’t need to be a solitary effort, although if you’re craving some “me” time it’s so awesome for that. If you want to get social there are some great Winnipeg groups to tap into on Facebook: Winnipeg Gardeners, Winnipeg Garden Trading, and Winnipeg Urban Container Gardening. The people on these groups are friendly and helpful. Check them out. Plus, keep an eye out for gardening programs in the At the Library Guide. As an example, we have a couple coming up on tree care on June 18th and June 21st.

And with that, I’ll end this off with how I started it: “Inch by inch. Row by row. Gonna make this garden grow.” A beautiful line from Garden Song, written by Dave Mallett, and sung by many, including Pete Seeger and one of my favourites, John Denver. (I admit to serenading my family as a child with one particular John Denver song.) Here’s John Denver singing it with The Muppets as his back-up singers. The Muppets. Come on. So cute.



May your garden bring you much happiness and mud under your fingernails.

~ Reegan (A kid from the 70s who still loves to play in the mud. Love you, Mom.)

The Wonder of Seeds

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”      ~ Henry David Thoreau ~

Seeds are truly amazing. After many years, I still find gardening to be very magical – you plant this little seed and in a few weeks a beautiful plant is growing! August is the most rewarding time of year for the gardener. All of the planning, planting, weeding and watering are finally paying off with fresh veggies. We’ve been enjoying arugula, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, bok choy and kale from our small garden and are looking forward to all of those tomatoes ripening on the vine. There’s nothing as satisfying as being able to walk into your own backyard and pick your dinner! And the magic doesn’t stop there – let some of those plants go to seed and you’ll have enough seeds for next year’s garden, as well as some to share.

Winnipeg Public Library has hosted several seed swaps in the last few years and now we will have a Seed Library at the Osborne branch, in partnership with The People Garden of Sustainable South Osborne. All you have to do is save your seeds from your healthiest plants and drop them off at Osborne Library in November. Not sure how to save seeds? Come to one of our Seed Saving programs at Osborne or Henderson Libraries and learn how: seedsaving. The seed Library will re-open in February and gardeners will be able to come and pick up packets of seeds.

These plants are great for beginner seed savers: peas, lettuce, eggplant, spinach, dill, beans and arugula:



arugula – notice the yellow seed pods

Winnipeg Public Library also has some great books on the subject:

The Manual of Seed Savingseed saving bk by Andrea Heistinger provides a good overview on the subject.


Seed Libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the Hands of the Peopleseed libraries by Cindy Conner is a wonderful resource for anyone thinking of starting a seed library and gives a lot of background on the importance of saving and sharing seeds.

Seed Sovereignty, Food Security  seed sovis an anthology compiled by environmental activist Vandana Shiva and focuses on the work of women from around the world who are trying “to preserve small-scale farming, seed sharing, and local indigenous knowledge.”

The Triumph of Seeds: triumph seedsHow Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson – The title says it all!



For more information on the Osborne Seed Library click the link below:

Seed Library – Instruction Sheet

Happy Gardening!



Signs of Spring

Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again. – Gustav Mahler

While Mahler is far better known as a composer than a writer, he has come up with a most eloquent statement about this time of year.  I do get out and about in the winter, but given even half a chance I’ll stay indoors. While the calendar optimistically declares that March 21st is the first day of spring that just doesn’t happen around here. Just as winter arrives a lot earlier than December 21st , spring arrives a lot later than March 21st.

The signs of spring are different for all of us, and  everyone has their own way of declaring that spring has arrived, from the sight of daffodils and tulips to taking the tarp off the boat. No matter what your sign of spring is or when it arrives, it all celebrates the same season.

bee friendly

You can’t “bee” unhappy in a garden.

If you’re a gardener, the season can commence as early as the day you start your seeds indoors. Thankfully spring eventually arrives for all of us not blessed with a green thumb.  Flowers or veggies, nothing says spring like doing some digging in the garden.

canadian gardening

This is what eating your veggies should be like.




A few hardy souls ride their bicycles all winter, although most people put away their two-wheeled transportation in the fall. And there are those who prefer four tires to two, but still retire their ride when the snow falls. If you need some guidance getting your summer cruising vehicle roadworthy, check out the Chilton’s Auto Repair database on the library website or some of our great books on bikes and motorcycles.

Personally, I prefer walking to riding, regardless of the number of wheels on the vehicle. Once the weather gets warmer and things start to get green, it’s time for me to dig out my hiking boots and take to the trails.

a swing

It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing.

Much as I enjoy a good walk, I find my enjoyment of it spoiled when I’m expected to chase a little white ball around a large open space with a long stick. But for the golfers among us, the best sign of spring is being able to dust off the clubs and take to the golf course.


curious george

This is the way I play golf!

I could go on – seeing and hearing the first robin, stepping outside with bare toes, putting away the snow shovel and taking out the lawn chairs, everyone has their own rituals to rejoice in at this time of year. How do you spring into spring?


Life in the fast lane

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

-Mahatma Ghandi

   There are many things in life that are better when they happen faster. Internet connections and pizza delivery are among the first things that come to mind. But not everything is best served by a need for speed.

As someone who’s started driving a car again after a long hiatus, I’ve become very conscious of speed. It’s certainly faster to take a car to a destination, but is it always the best way to go? Having spent a great deal of time on buses and on foot to get to where I want to go, I’m accustomed to puttering along at a relatively modest rate of speed. However, that rate of speed requires me to lose sleep and leave home a lot earlier to get places on time, and it’s absolutely no fun waiting for a bus in the pouring rain. Car travel is more convenient and efficient, and faster, no question. And yet there’s a good argument to make for doing things the slow way.

    When I entered the word ‘slow’ as a search term in the library catalogue I was rewarded with some great books outlining the joys of life in the slow lane:

Slow Food Nation’s Come to the Table: The Slow Food Way of Living

  While this book focuses on small farms in California, the ideas presented can be applied anywhere. Buying fruits, vegetables and meats that are not chemically treated, and taking the time to prepare and enjoy a meal, as opposed to grabbing fast food and eating on the run, is far better for your physical and emotional well-being.  And as the contributors to the book point out, making these kinds of choices on a local level can have far reaching economic and ecological impacts.

Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and Seasons

  Following up on the local food idea, you can’t get much more local than your own backyard or community garden plot. But gardening has its own need for speed – the race between your slowly ripening tomatoes and the weeds that threaten to overtake them. Author Felder Rushing shows even novice gardeners how to work with your garden, not race against time.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

  In Thinking, Fast and SlowNobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman shares his insights into how humans think, both fast and slow, and how using only the fast track to decision making can blind us to the opportunities a slower, more reasoned approach can reveal. Fast thinking and decision making has value, certainly, but it’s not the only way to go, as I found out after (slowly) reading this book.

Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth

  Eric Carle is one of my all-time favourite writers and illustrators, and he uses both of those talents to great effect in this book. The speech near the end, when the sloth uses a wonderful variety of words to describe himself and how he likes to do things, is one a way of living I’d like to adopt for myself.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

   In our modern age of haste and hurry, sometimes you just need to walk, not drive, to get to where you need to be. After losing almost everything precious in her life, Cheryl just needed to…walk. And walk she did, hiking alone through three states and over eleven hundred miles of wilderness trails. Sometimes the slow way is the only way.

   If you really want to get to know a city, taking a leisurely stroll is the best method. Walking tours can offer a view of buildings and places you just can’t truly appreciate from behind the wheel of a car or even while looking out a bus window. You could go on self guided tours at the Forks, or you could check out a guided tour of the Exchange District. Or how about a look at the amazing murals in the West End? You just can’t rush through experiences like that, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll see.

   Ripping off a bandage. Getting an income tax return. These things are better when they’re done quickly.  Keep in mind, though, that life in the fast lane will surely make you lose your mind.

Best Home and Garden Books: Part Two

community garden

“More things grow in the garden than the gardener sows.”  Spanish proverb

In my last article I highlighted a few of the top interior design books of 2011. With gardening season on the horizon, here are some of the standout titles and trends in gardening that appeared last year in BookNews.

Sustainable Gardening

Manitoba Hydro Place exemplifies the best practices of sustainable architecture.  Green roofs provide protection from solar gain in summer and insulate to reduce heat loss in winter. The interior vertical WinterGarden acts as the “lungs” of the building pretreating incoming air to provide 100% fresh air. For ideas on incorporating these commercial systems into a domestic setting see:

vertical garden Vertical vegetables and fruit

 Small green roofs: low tech options for greener living

Natural low maintenance greenscaping

perennial lawn

Lawns are unsustainable in terms of the hours spent mowing and watering and the negative effects of toxic chemicals on humans and wildlife. Native perennial grasses are slowly replacing Kentucky Bluegrass. Find instructions for transforming a conventional lawn into a low maintenance sanctuary in:

Eco-yards: simple steps to earth friendly landscapes

 Gardening naturally: a chemical free handbook for the prairies

Urban Farming

community garden

Growing your own food is a movement which Michelle Obama has championed. Community gardens are flourishing in Winnipeg and gardeners are cultivating fruits and vegetables along with chickens for eggs, bees for honey and grapes for wine. Learn more about guerilla gardening and supporting local farmers and food producers in Manitoba at the Growing Local conference Feb 23 -25, 2012. To find out how to  grow your own food in the city read:

I garden:urban style

 Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading

 Gardening in small spaces

plants in pots

With the trend to downsizing to apartment and condo living, gardens are shrinking to fit a patio, balcony or window box. Plants are used as privacy screens in high density dwellings and provide a calming space for relaxation. Ideas for creating a green refuge in small spaces are found in:

 Apartment Gardening

 Grow plants in pots

Get ready for the gardening season at Seedy Saturday and learn more about local biodiversity, find inspiration for your garden and take part in the community seed exchange on March 3, 2012. For more of the latest trends in gardening subscribe to Home and Garden Booknews to get a monthly list of our choice of the new and inspiring titles arriving in our collections.

 Get down and dirty this spring!


What does your garden grow?

My mother has been an avid gardener for most of her adult life, and her vegetable, flower, and herb beds were the envy of her neighbours. Luckily, Mum’s love of gardening passed itself down to me in recent years. With her help and guidance, I’ve been experimenting with vegetable gardening. A few years ago, I started out with a few containers of peas, cherry tomatoes, and chives, with surprisingly good results. I’ve expanded my repertoire since then, adding more containers and converting a quarter of my yard into a vegetable garden. I’ll never be the productive gardener my mother was, but I’m successful enough to keep my family happy.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had a few hiccups along the way, like the eggplant fiasco of 2010. Did you know that an eggplant plant will yield more than one eggplant? I didn’t. If I had, I wouldn’t have planted fifteen plants. I also have a large number of eggplant recipes, if anyone’s interested.

While I benefit greatly from my mother’s tutelage, I also hit the gardening section of the library. Our collection of gardening books and DVDs can tell me what vegetables grow well in containers, if our climate is too cold to grow yams (sadly, it is), what the heck to do with all the oregano and coriander I planted, or even how to get rid of slugs without using pesticides. So whether you’re looking for information about vertical gardensfresh vegetable cookbooks, or how to plant a small flower bed with your children, check out your local library. Can’t make it to the branch? Visit our OverDrive site for great gardening eBooks. You, and your gardens, will be happy you did!

— Barbara