Sunday, May 19, 2013


This is the May long weekend, a date that not only pays tribute to Queen Victoria's birthday, but marks the beginning of outdoor living in Canada. The warm, sunny season is traditionally ushered in on this holiday with patio barbecues, camping trips, cottage openings, bicycle rides, boating parties, fireworks and gardening.

It seems unfair, but Environment Canada has issued a frost warning for N.B. tonight, just as most people were planning to plant petunias and put some steaks on the grill.   It's been a long winter, and the day when we can shed thermal underwear and flannel sheets is a much-celebrated time.  As the cold weather lingers, we keep hoping that the daytime temperature will rise to match the unemployment figures in this province (think double digits.)

In the backyard today - sunny, but cold.

Cherry trees already in bloom will be frost-bitten tonight

 To offset my disappointment about delayed gardening, I'm working indoors, making seed tapes.  Knox gelatin and toilet paper are key ingredients in this do-it-yourself project.

1. Mix up a bowl of Knox unflavoured gelatin and let it set.

2. Separate the layers of 2-ply toilet paper.

3. Place a glob of gelatin on the tissue and add tiny seed. Space evenly.

4. Replace top layer of tissue and roll up. 

5.  When it's time to plant, create a trench, unroll the tape and cover with a layer of soil.

The use of seed tapes ensures that your rows will be straight, and that the seedlings won't be overcrowded. (Have a look at last year's carrots and you'll understand exactly what I'm trying to avoid.)  The gelatin glue in the tape adds a dose of nitrogen to the mix and the toilet paper disintegrates into the soil as compost.

Bundled up in my winter parka, I've planted several rows of the hardy seeds; peas, onions and beets.  These are the vegetables I really admire, the ones that like true Canadians, can stand a bit of frost without wilting.  The cold-sensitive plants -  lettuce, tomatoes, beans, squash and peppers - will just have to wait.

At the beach, May long weekend