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Organics events and a wildflower garden


Cornflower and bees from the community garden located at the base of Fred Hamilton Park.

Cornflower and bees from the community garden located at the base of Fred Hamilton Park.

The Compost Council of Canada recently held its “first Wednesday at noon-Manitoba time” (Central Time Zone) when folks in Manitoba, across Canada and quite honestly anywhere in the world, can dial-in to listen to one of our series of compost topics. The recent one focused on Organics Recycling Programs in Canada, the first of a two-part series that will extend also into the September session (September 4).

Sponsored by Green Manitoba, our Council and the goodwill of our speakers, these no-more-than-one-hour sessions are offered at no charge (you just have to register in advance via Danielle) and are a good way to take a monthly “moment” out for learning and perspective on various aspects of importance and interest to those involved in organics recycling.

Readers should be mindful as we prep for our national compost conference in September to take advantage of the early bird deadline for discounted conference rates.

(The Compost Council of Canada’s 23rd annual National Compost Conference will take place in Toronto from September 11 – 13 this year. To register and for more information about organics recycling and compost, please visit www.compost.org)

Other events to think about are the Annual Symposium of the Garden Writers Association (our partners for Plant a Row — Grow a Row), in Quebec City, and the North American Manure Expo, to be held at the University of Guelph’s Arkell Research Station on Wednesday August 21.

On another note I recently visited our community garden located at the base of Fred Hamilton Park, near where my parents live. The land for this wildflower garden was originally prepared in September 2007, thanks to support from the Toronto Parks & Tree Foundation and a great donation of compost from Miller Compost.

The garden — quietly known by us as Fred’s Wildflower Garden — is in full bloom right now and quite a buzzing place. If there is convention for bees in Toronto, this would be where many of the sessions are being held. It is incredibly inspirational to see them all there, busy doing what bees do. Seeing the ones in our garden gives a moment of comfort against all the terrible discussions right now about bee mortalities and pesticide linkages.

We had help from Miriam Goldberger of the Wildflower Farm when putting our garden together. She, with support from her partner, Paul, is in the midst of writing a book, Taming Wildflowers, a combination of the “how to’s” and beautiful, inspirational photos. To be launched early next year, Miriam’s written words reflect 25 years of experience as a full-time wildflower farmer. Combine her love of wildflowers and her love of soil and compost … and how could we not be wildly one of her fans?

We are looking forward to helping Miriam next year as she sets out along her “author” journey. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from some of her recent writings:

 

Composting Fish Guts at Wildflower Farm

The giant compost pile at Wildflower Farm is filled with greenhouse growing medium, recycled plants, weeds, grass clippings and household compostables. I’d been top dressing my vegetable gardens and annual cutting gardens with this decent quality compost for years.  The hardy perennial wildflower plants we grow at Wildflower Farm to produce the wildflower seed we sell do not need the help of any compost. Wildflowers are amazingly self-sufficient. Plant them in the right soil conditions, get them established and they require no watering or fertilizing. They chug along providing food and shelter for pollinators, support healthy eco-systems in countless ways and offer their stunning beauty to us all.

Last summer I decided that the best way to share my love and expertise for wildflowers was to write a book. I want to demonstrate how easy it is to incorporate wildflowers into whatever kind of gardening you do – vegetable, herb or traditional flower borders. Now we all know that veggies, herbs and hybridized flowers love rich soils. I decided I needed to ramp up my mediocre compost pile and give the non-native plants the highest octane rocket fuel compost I could produce!

Years ago when I was operating a pick your own flower farm featuring lots of fussy, non-native annuals and perennials, I trucked in mountains of duck poop. Since then Wildflower Farm has relocated and the duck farm was way too far away from our current location to truck it in.

You know you’re a plant geek when you Google “how to compost fish waste” and get excited reading about a flower farmer who exploded the productivity of her flower fields by adding fish guts to her compost!!! When I learned about this crazy idea, I knew I had to try it! I’d learned long ago of First Nations farmers burying fish in their gardens. The whole thing seemed feasible to me. I found a fish processing plant happy to donate boxes of fish guts. Other gardeners had made this unusual request in the past so they were not puzzled to learn of our project!

Susan Antler of the Compost Council of Canada happily attended the auspicious day when the fish guts were buried into our giant compost pile! Susan and I quickly dumped the disgusting smelly contents of the boxes and my partner, Paul quickly buried the fish guts with the tractor. Luckily the smell disappeared immediately! The pile simmered for five weeks until most of it was moved to form the natural looking raised bed where we planted wildflowers, annuals and herbs. Here’s the list of every single plant packed into this 10 X 10 garden.

Note: I’ve listed plants by category but there are many overlaps!! e.g. some perennial wildflowers are herbs or edibles or both!

 

Herbs

Creeping Thyme

Thai Basil

Genovese Basil

Purple Ruffle Basil

Variegated Sage

Dill

Wild Rose

Mountain Mint (Wild!)

Anise Hyssop (Wild!)

Bronze Fennel

Leonotis leonuris

 

Edible Flowers

Nasturtium

Lavender

Spiderwort

Marigold

Cardoon

Scarlet Runner Bean

Borage

Pansies

 

Fruits

Alpine strawberries

Wild Strawberries (Wild!)

 

Heirloom Flowers

Hollyhock

Zinnia

Black Eyed Susan Vine

Celosias

Verbascum

Hops

 

Veggies

Spinach

Purple Kale

 

Wildflowers

Pale Purple Coneflower

Wild Quinine

Rattlesnake Master

Mountain Mint

Monarda

Nodding Wild Onion

 


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