Neshali's blog

Calgary is Trying to Go Pesticide Free! Support the Cause!

   header.jpg Hi Everyone,

Calgary is currently working to pass a bylaw that will phase out cosmetic use of pesticides!  Help support the cause! If you live in Calgary, please write or call the Alderman that will finalize this decision.  Check out the link below.  It's a great website that provides you with information pertaining to the bylaw and how to support the cause.

http://www.healthycalgary.ca/

Let's act now together!

Cheers,

Neshali

p.s. Comment and let me know what you think and if you live in Calgary, let me know if you wrote or contacted any (or all) the Alderman.

 

Neshali: Baking Goddess

Do you know what's great? Rhubarb. It's winter hardy (in fact, rhubarb needs at least two months of cold weather… and I know I can definitely provide that living in Alberta). It is also resistant to drought, making it a pretty carefree, low-maintenance plant to grow and eat. So capable of withstanding neglect, that we found one prospering in my boyfriend’s backyard without his knowledge (ie. no watering, fertilizing, etc.). Found Rhubarb!

This made for some great rhubarb-strawberry cobbler!

The Recipe

Ingredients:

Filling:
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
6 cups coarsely chopped fresh rhubarb
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Toppings:
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

Filling:
In a large bowl combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add rhubarb and strawberries and toss to coat.
Spread in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes.

Toppings:
In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas.
With a fork stir in the buttermilk to form a soft dough.
Drop dough by tablespoon over the hot filling. Make 12 mounds.
Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes until topping is golden brown and has risen.

Some Tips on Harvesting Rhubarb

- Wait until the leaves are fully developed or nearly so.
- Pull the stalks away from the base of the crown (like pulling a stalk of celery off the bunch), and then snap it off at the bottom. Avoid cutting stems with a knife, as rot can set in.
- If this is the plant's first season, harvest only the big stalks, leaving the thinner ones to continue growing and nourish the plant.
- Never take more than half the stems in one year.
- Remember: don't eat the leaves. They're poisonous.

Rounding Down Roundup

"You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder.
It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you"
 - Vandana Shiva

Rounding Down Roundup

No one is perfect.  As much as we all want to be David Suzuki, sometimes it just doesn’t happen.  We will throw away that cup that can be recycled or take the car to work, even though we know our bike is in the backyard.  We might even use pesticides in our gardens.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a full convert: it’s much more fun and satisfying to go pesticide free.  I’m in love with this summer with my dad, the flowers, the bumblebees and I think everyone should do it.  But I also know all of you reading are not going 100% pesticide free.  That’s okay.  Sometimes taking small steps is best and cheating a little doesn’t mean that you can’t kick the pesticide habit eventually. 

I have faith.

What really matters is that everyone is taking a few steps, even if they are small ones.  Because as Vandana Shiva, the very cool environmentalist and eco-feminist, once said, "you are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you."  

Though we can’t do it all, we must do something.  And after watching Food Inc. (check out the really informative website as well as the great movie), I know of one more thing we can do in our gardens: Don’t use Roundup and make sure everyone you know avoids this product too!

What Is Roundup And Why Shouldn’t We Use It?

Roundup is an herbicide, produced by Monsanto. If Monsanto sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was originally one of the largest chemical companies in the USA and brought the world Agent Orange and DDT.

These days, Monsanto is primary an agricultural company, and the jewel on Monsanto's gaudy crown is Roundup; the world’s best selling herbicide for the last 30 years.  It gained its popularity due to its boast that it is biodegradable and good for the environment.  However this is not the case at all, as the company was found guilty of false advertising… twice.   Studies found that only 2% of its product broke down after 28 days and that it is highly toxic, provoking cell division dysfunction and thus carcinogenic.[1]

So, whatever you do, spread the word and make sure you and everyone you know stops buying Roundup (and any other Monsanto product)!

Happy gardening!
Neshali

p.s. There is lots more I feel everyone should know about this company, so I really recommend that you watch Food Inc. Such an awesome, awesome movie (yes, so awesome that awesome had to be repeated)! If you do, please tell me what you think!



Bug Me

Who-oo really are those creepy crawlers in your garden?

http://hookahbowl.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/alice-wonderland-caterpillar1.jpg
Yes, some may be hairy, and others ugly, but we shouldn’t be so quick to fear and hate our garden bugs.  I mean, we have all woken up some mornings looking pretty scary and we aren’t such bad people.  Neither are the critters in our garden.  Yes, there are many that eat our flowers and hurt our veggies (ie. slugs, spider mites, and aphids), but instead of using nasty pesticides that really hurt our environment, there are tons of insects that you can recruit to help protect your turf.  So, instead of looking at all bugs as frightening pests, just look at them as your backyard-version of hairy, ugly, but lovable roommates; they may scare you at times, but at the end of the day they help you out and you are so glad to have them around!

Below is a list of some helpful bugs.  These bugs can be attracted to your garden by the plants you choose to grow (more about this in my next blog entry, but if you can’t wait, your local gardening store workers will be sure to know!).  They can also be purchased at many gardening stores and online.

Helpful Critters:
* Ladybugs/ Ladybird Beeltes (Coccinellidae): Each one of these wonderful beetles are said to eat as many as 5,000 aphids during their adult life!  They also feed on a ton of other soft-bodied insects and their eggs, such as chinch bugs, whiteflies, and mites. Then, the female adults will lay as many as 3-4 dozen eggs each day, which will hatch and consume around 50 aphids a day until they become adults in 21 days. You can't go wrong with that kind of math!
* Crypts (Cryptolaemus Montrouzieri): These beetles are a type of ladybug, that look like your common ladybug, only darker and will help if mealybugs are driving you crazy.  A great way to get immediate results is to place the eggs on the infested plant, so that the larvae can feed on the undesirable bugs as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, most places only sell them as adults, but they definetly munch on your pests too.
* Beneficial Nematodes: These are microscopic worms, which hunt many of the pests that live beneath the soil, like grubs, fleas, cutworms and webworms. There are several types of nematodes available and each target specific pests, so make sure to get the right species for the job.  How and when you release them into your garden is important, so make sure to check out Calvin's blog entry about it!
* Aphid Lions (Green Lacewings Larvae): Aphid lions are veracious feeders of aphids, spider mites, mealybug crawlers, immature whiteflies and caterpillar eggs. If you plan on purchasing them, make sure you are getting them in the egg or larvae stage because they are big bug eaters only in their immature stage.  Place them near the insect problem, but you have to be careful not to place too many in a limited area, because they are known to become cannibalistic. 

full_greenlacewings.jpg

* Predator mites: They are great at controlling spider mites, which can be commonly found indoors as well as in the garden. They are purchased as adults and will eat 1-3 adult mites or up to 6 mite eggs each day! There are many species, so you need to know which type of mites you have, so you know the right type of predator mites to purchase.
* Trichogramma wasps: Last but not least, these are tiny wasps which are parasites of the eggs of more than 200 types of moths and caterpillars. They lay their eggs directly inside the eggs of the pests in your garden, killing the eggs as they hatch. As soon as the wasps mature, they will fly off in search of new eggs to parasitize. An important thing to note about these guys is that there are many different species of Trichogramma wasps and some are more effective against certain pests, so purchase eggs appropriate for the pests. which have invaded your garden.

Everyone Guerilla Garden!

This planter in downtown Edmonton used to be empty with the exception of some cigarette butts

* This entry has a special place in my big, green heart.  I force all my friends to read my blog (thanks everyone! Did I ever mention how awesome you are?), however most of them don't own houses.  They live in urban centres, mostly in apartments, with little or no garden space.  Consequently, though they (are forced) to read my blog, a lot of the information does not apply to them.  So, I dedicate this entry to them and anyone else who is a non-garden gardener!

Even though Calgary has nowhere near the population, their geographical footprint is the same as that of New York. This is a ridiculous waste of space and the type of urban sprawl you can sadly see in cities across Canada.  We are growing out without filling in.  As a result, we are surrounded by empty spaces, trash-covered corners and land that looks like every other piece of land.

We have space, but no place.

Many people, myself included, hate the bland and monotonous feeling this type of land (mis)use creates, but we do nothing about it.  I'm here to say that there is something we can do! 

Let's keeping digging our gardens, but lets start digging our cities too.  Let's be guerilla gardeners!

What are guerilla gardeners, you ask?  Guerillas are non-violent, non-damaging gardeners that want to connect with their community, optimize the land around them and transform their neighbourhood in a positive way.  Because of these gardeners, passersby are able to appreciate nature, even in their downtowns.

So here is my challenge to you: Take some extra seeds and plant cuttings and put them to use in your downtown.  Once you have, celebrate your urban space victory by mentioning it on this blog.  Let us know how and where you have reclaimed land! 

Do a little, do a lot; just make sure you aren't just thinking about it - do it!

Below are 7 simple steps you can follow:

1. Find your orphaned piece of land

Whether it's a neglected flower bed full of litter, bare plots of mud that you pass by on your way to work...

Thumbnail image for Orphaned Land (http://www.guerrillagardening.org/ggtips.html)

2. Gather your comrades

Let people know what you are doing and have them join in.  It's just more fun that way.

3. Use local plants

This isn't about spending money and buying new things.  It's about utilizing what's already there and giving back, so don't spend your money!  Sometimes garden centres will have spare plants to donate to the cause.  Or, go to your garden (or befriend a gardener... we are very nice people) and get some seeds, plant cuttings, etc.

4. Choose battle-worthy plants

Likely, you will be working with a small space that, initially, won't be recognized as a garden or plot for farming.  Therefore, you need to use plants that are hardy and low-maintenance (e.g. plants that don't need a lot of water, cold resistant, etc.)  Also, make sure to get noticed! Use plants that are colourful.

5. Don't forget to water

As you pass your reclaimed land to get to work, feed your flowers with some water from your water bottle.

6. Compost

Just like private gardens need help, drop by your spot with compost, coffee grounds, and egg shells.

7. Spread the Word!

Let people know! Put a marker in the soil, tape a poster nearby.

 

* Some great websites for inspiration:

http://www.guerrillagardening.org/index.html

http://www.publicspace.ca/gardeners.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v+ssz8AvCrqoM

eggs + coffee.

 



Hey everyone,

Check out my latest video blog entry!  Make sure to write a comment -- I'd love to know what you think and whether you have any other (easy) tricks!

Hugs not Drugs,

Neshali

Gardening for Dummies?

Dad and I planting.JPG

I was thinking of naming my blog Gardening for Dummies.  Not to suggest that my readers have a simple mind, but to express the vast abyss of knowledge I have on gardening.  My thumb is not green, unless I paint it that way.

So, I'm going to start with some simple steps for the sake of my simple mind.  I'm going to start with... poop.

Meet DSF Green Thumb, Neshali!

Neshali Like most graduates, I sent my resume to every speakable and unspeakable place in hopes of finding a job. Doha, Qatar found me and that is where I spent a year teaching at a Canadian international school. Doha, Qatar: the desert. It was a beautiful experience of camels, heat, call to prayers, and the best falafel I have ever had. But there were also major frustrations as recycling is pretty much non-existent (a few months before I left I finally found a place that would recycle paper!) and major issues existed and were ignored when it came to the environment. This provided me with a greater appreciation for Canada and all its beautiful green (never will I take for granted the simple act of laying on the grass). Though we definitely have our own problems in Canada when it comes to the way we treat our environment, I really do feel that there is sense of admiration for our surroundings and a drive to create change. Now back in Alberta, I want to put this appreciation to the test and try, for the first time, to have a green thumb that not only works, but works to create an eco-friendly garden. Here goes!