Gumboot Adventures

gowing and growing green

Rose Petal Love August 15, 2011



Yesterday the kids spontaneously started collecting the fallen rose petals.  They were freshly fallen and pretty much perfect, so I suggested we bring them in for a rose bath. They added a few sprigs of lavender and had a spa treatment soak at home.  What fun! The whole bathroom was filled with intoxicating rose aromas and the kids relished the indulgence.

So often I think of our garden as a source of food production – I find beauty in its usefullness, in its ability to provide for us. As such, I view the flowers as a means to an end. They attract the bees and the butterflies.  Sometimes they ward off the pests. They dot the garden with bits of colour and some of them can be eaten.  But I have long neglected to enjoy the flowers to their fullest.

That’s changing. For whatever reason, this year I’m taking absolute joy in the delicious uselessness of beauty for the sake of beauty. I’ve begun cutting fresh flowers for a vase that now lives on our table. The kids and I have plans to dry flowers next week. And now this, a rose bath.  The change may be attributed in part to the housebound state I’m currently living in as a sort-of-stay-at-home-works-every-possible-opportunity-never-finds-time-to-relax mom or maybe it’s because after a year of renovations, I’m craving the beauty.

Thank you kids, for reminding me to enjoy the pretty petals.


Kid-Painted Herb Pots for Housewarming June 30, 2011

kid painted herb potters

kid painted herb potters

Friends recently bought a house and took possession – in late June.  It’s a great place with established flowers, but no vegetable garden, no herb garden and no time to plant annuals. So for a housewarming, we brought them two terra cotta planters full of herbs. 

A few of the herbs were transplants from our garden, others were purchased from a local nursery where “compact” versions of some of our favorites were available.

The kids painted the potters.  When they were dry we filled them with a layer of gravel, then potting soil and finally herbs and marigolds.


For more on natural family living, check out my series Growing Up Green at


Embrace Your (Garden’s) Shady Side June 22, 2009

Snap Peas - a good shade veggie

Snap Peas - a good shade veggie

With three to four hours of direct sunlight and not a lot of space, a friend emailed to ask what she could grow on her substantially shady apartment patio. The answer – plenty!

Traditional fruiting veggies like tomatoes and peppers are out the question, but the leafy greens & the brassica family thrive in the cooler weather a bit of shade provides.  These plants also have the advantage of smallish root systems – making them ideal container species.  The rule of thumb for most of the shade friendly plants is that they require 3.5-6 hours of sunlight.  A few greens (live Chevre) and herbs (lemon mint) will do well with less sunlight, but your options are really reduced after the 3 hour mark.

The following 10 vegetables are good shade choices:

  1. Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, and cress.
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Peas
  5. Beets
  6. Brussels Sprouts
  7. Radishes
  8. Swiss Chard
  9. Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
  10. Beans

There are further considerations to maximize your shady output.  In the bean and pea families, for example, the bush varieties generally do better in shady environments than their climbing cousins.  And across the board, you will want to look for varieties with quick maturity cycles.  The more shade you’ve got, the less time you have!

Swiss Chard Growing in a Shady Spot

Swiss Chard Growing in a Shady Spot

Moderatly shady garden patches can have distinct advantages when planting appropriate crops. In addition to holding the water better, and therefore requiring less regular watering, these patches have the potential of a longer growing season.  I, for example, planted a lovely and very complete bed of leafy greens in a sunny cold frame early on this season. We had leafy greens well before the masses, but despite opening the frame in May, my brocolli bolted as soon as the first hot spell hit.  The spinach wasn’t far behind.  And the lettuce brought up the back shortly after.  Now in late June, I’ve only a couple lettuces, swiss chard and kale left in that bed.  I’ve got second crops of some varieties planted in shady spots in the garden.  For example, swiss chard is popping up behind the potatoes.

I digress, this post is for shady gardeners looking to maximize their sun.  A little creativity will also help to liberate you from a “what you see is what you get” approach to the garden lot (or patio as the case may be).  In shady places, consider how best to utilize reflective surfaces in your garden space.  White walls help.  Mirrors or water can be utilized.  Some folks lay reflective plastic on the ground, which serves the dual purpose of maintaining ground temperature and reflecting light back to the plants.

Well nourished soil is also critical (and by critical, I mean helpful, but if you’re soil is poopers – plant anyway and stuff might grow).  This is especially true in patio plots where the same species are planted year after year in the same dirt.  Without a little forethought and a bit of soil maintenance, the nutrients in the soil will soon be depreciated. Compost and crop rotation are key.  And where true crop rotation isn’t possible –  like in container gardening or shady-spot gardening, where the soil will never get the benefit of deep rooted veggies pulling up hidden nutrients from the well that is the earth – compost becomes all the more important.

I can practically hear my friend – but I live in an apartment, how will I compost? You will vermi-compost! Here on the wet coast, worm composters are available from the City of Vancouver at a discounted rate of $25 (  And while this isn’t the post to go into details on the many benefits of composting, it really is the a to good gardening and a pillar for sustainable living.  I’ll do a post on this in the near future – in the meantime, check out  Vancouver gardening gurus City Farmer’s how to video


%d bloggers like this: