Things I don’t know

Sometime in the last several years, someone decided I was a fount of knowledge.

I’m not entirely sure how this happened, as I am usually pretty upfront about my lack of credentials (if the ‘umm’s don’t give me away first). I’m a self taught gardener, the only formal writing teachers I’ve had were in my public school years, and I learned to give presentations through a combination of theatre and church.

The latest organization to take a chance on me was the CFUW Alberta Council–which highlighted just another thing I didn’t know: what the heck the Canadian Federation of University Women was. Turns out they are a national (internationally affiliated) group focused on improving the status of women, with a focus particularly on education and social justice.

I had a truly wonderful day with a diverse group of quick-minded, compassionate, and  friendly personalities. They laughed at my witticisms. They asked me lots of questions I could answer… and they asked me some I couldn’t. It didn’t bother me the same way it did a few years ago though, when I was still in shock at being asked the questions in the first place, and thought I was expected to have every answer. Part of that was being with a group of people who were so obviously ready to learn, and also to share what they might have to teach.

Thank you, ladies. I wish I could have stayed longer, and I wish I’d written down some of your names. Thank you for teaching me who you are, and for giving more women, all over the world, the chance to say something more than “I don’t know.”


Things I didn’t know that I promised I’d find out about:

Dealing with bears in your garden: has some excellent guidelines for keeping you, the bear, and your landscape safe, both on the deterrent side and the prevention side.

Maples for the prairies: I found the Sensation Maple (Acer negundo ‘Sensation’) that we were talking about; it is a Manitoba maple (duh, April) and will give you a nice, upright habit if you talk nicely to it. It does give the brilliant red colour but does not have the obvious “maple leaf” shape to all its leaves–this is why these trees are sometimes called an ash-leaved maple. Another name is a box elder.

Wicking Beds: Here’s a starting point for those that were interested in the concept; it’s from Verge Permaculture, which is a Calgary-based venture that I hold in high regard.

Tomatoes for Alberta: Aurora is a nice midsize tomato that doesn’t mind cooler climes. Early Annie is another that I have had some success with. I have a neighbour who swears by Sweet Cluster, but I haven’t tried them personally. For cherry tomatoes, I always go back to the Sweet 100. The Mystery Keeper tomato that I mentioned and love is available from Mapple Farms. (This is also my source for hardy sweet potato slips if you’re up for a challenge: ask for Georgia Jet, and ask early!)

Watch the blog for more on tomatoes as I am preparing another presentation for early May, in which I will get into some of the techniques and tricks for getting more out of your tomatoes.


Reading List: There are lots of other serial publications out there, but this is the one I like best for its cooler region focus and its substance over flash sensibility. (Please comment if you have a favourite!)

Roses Love Garlic, Carrots Love Tomatoes. Both published by Storey Communications for McKenzie (the seed company). Classics in companion planting. Best place to look for these titles might be a used book store.

The Complete Herb Book, by Jekka McVicar. Firefly Books. The most user friendly and exhaustive on the topic I could find when I found it. It is British but in this case it doesn’t pose a problem; the scope is worldwide.

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, by Niki Jabbour, Storey Publishing. Excellent ideas for extending the season, from a Maritimer who gets it.

Weeds of the Prairies, published by Alberta Agriculture. Find it here, or at the Olds College book store.

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, by Jessica Walliser, Timber Press.

How to Make a Garden: The 7 Essential Steps for the Canadian Gardener, by Marjorie Harris, Random House.

Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens, by June Flanagan, Fifth House.

… I’m going to stop there. Down, library lady, down!


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