johnny_automatic_melonI have a wee addiction to melons. I started 2 years ago doing a crop in one of our greenhouses. As a result I keep trying new varieties to find the best for me. A favourite was Earlisweet that Monsanto had the rights to. It was popular for years with northern gardeners. In all the melons I have trialled so far they are still the most productive and on the high end for sweetness. The last year the seeds were available was 2009, thank goodness I had some seeds left over that year. Since then I have been planting just a few flats a year so I will have some for me and a few for customers. Next year will be the last year for them and hopefully by then I will have a replacement figured out.

Take a look at our plant list to see all the varieties available. One I have never tried is a small Asian melon called Sun Jewel which has a white crisp flesh. If you swing by the greenhouse in August, odds are I will have different melons for sale for you to try out.

Fuchsia Hanging Baskets

Every year I choose a crop to worry about. Last year it was the big hanging baskets. I felt we didn't have enough soon enough. This year I look around with satisfaction at the range of baskets we have and how well they are sizing up. Oh and Fuchsias. They seemed to sell out in no time last year. All you Fuchsia lovers better come because this year I have lots.


This year I have had no sleepless nights because I believe we have a reasonable stock of all the essentials and then s

ome. Take a look at our revised plant list. You will see that we may even have gone a bit overboard. Nineteen types of Sedums…what was I thinking?

Still lots to do before we can set up a display, but with a winter storm 2 days ago to cope with, I hope we can be forgiven.


Seeding Over the Years

g3917We are into our 32nd season of growing. A lot has changed in the industry and for me personally when it comes to planting seeds.

The first 2 years I seeded into open flats just scattering the seeds by hand. This is quick and easy but it can be hard for the transplanters and the seedlings to be pulled apart and transferred to the next size container.

To reduce the shock to the plant’s system it was decided in the industry that it would be best to seed the seeds individually into trays with tiny cells called plug trays.

My first seeder to accomplish this job was a vacuum box attached to a vacuum cleaner that had little holes with the spacing of the plug tray. This was a fiddly and time consuming process but it mostly worked.

Next came someone’s used automatic seeder which mostly worked but I was known to have serious fits of frustration when something broke and it would be a week or 2 to get the parts. I have a tight timetable I follow for seeding and losing 2 weeks is serious business.

Finally I got my then brand new Niagara Seeder made right here in Ontario. I loved it when I first got it and I still love it now. It is fancy enough but not too fancy. I rarely have repair issues and they are always dealt with promptly. It’s ways of operating is simple enough that Brian or Alex can usually sort out what the problem is when something goes awry.

The latest development is that Brian and Alex have developed a separate seeder for seeding greens. The most wonderful thing about it so far is that Brian and Alex have seeded all the greens since they came up with it.    


Sea Buckthorn

The bright orange berries of this plant are among the most nutritious and vitamin rich fruits known. The shrub is attractive and tolerant of degraded soils. We have 2  female varieties and one male variety. It is usually recommended that  you plant one male for every 6 females.

Chipping Sparrow


We love our big population of birds at Burt's Greenhouses but Brian and I have decided that the Chipping Sparrow should be our mascot.

They eat seeds and insects so they help us out keeping pests down. They navigate the greenhouse area smoothly getting in and out with a minimum of fuss. Unlike the Robins, their nests don't cause problems by blocking irrigation troughs. We love the sound of their singing and the cute tapping of their feet as they are walking around under the foliage of our plants.

But best of all they sing for us! You can be in a greenhouse with the pouring rain pounding on the roof and dominating over the din is the joyful sound, clearly for our benefit of the 15 gram chipping sparrow. It is one of the wonders of the world that one of the tiniest creatures can have one of the biggest and most beautiful voices.

We move the plants we can, out to get hardened off to save you the trouble. When they first go out it can't be a windy day or too cold because they get damaged. Give them time to acclimatize and they can take just about anything. Many can take a frost. I wouldn't mind being able to do that, instead of having to run and get a coat all the time.

Watercolour workshop

Jane Brunton produced this at the workshop.

Credit is due to Carolyn once again. For a few hours each of the last 2 weekends a group of people led by Carolyn, have met in our gardens to learn a bit about painting with watercolours. It is a different group each time with a few regulars. We are quite a mixed bunch. Some really know a lot about painting, some are complete novices (me).  I was intrigued to see that the ones with experience were picking up ideas on technique that they hadn’t known. For us novices, Carolyn provided a non judgmental space in which to play around with colour. I would like to boast that the setting was perfect.  In under the trees with a light breeze blowing, staring at the gardens for inspiration. I think everyone left relaxed and happy for how they had spent their afternoon.

I found a benefit to this weather

Morels. They are growing near an elm stump. I harvested them and had a lovely omelet. The weather encouraged them to show up and gave me the time to go for a walk and find more. I also saw trilliums and violets and got my feet wet. It is a rare treat just to go for a quiet walk in the woods at this time of the year.

Rain again.

In the newsletter, when Brian extolled the virtues of enough rain and cool weather in the spring so that plants didn’t get a number of false starts he clearly wasn’t able to see into the future.  After a lovely reprieve from the cold and the wet, it is here again.  At least the early spring bloomers are lasting a long time.

I am as excited as everyone else.

Last year we did an experimental greenhouse crop of melons. In the process we became addicted to them. This year we will try 9 varieties with 2 being especially recommended for greenhouses. I can get a head start of those who put them outside and potted some up this morning. Throw in a little sunshine which we have been sadly lacking and I should have some at the end of June