I need you to stop what you’re doing right now and pay attention. If you’re prone to fainting, please sit comfortably in a chair. If you happen to have one of those foil blankets meant for emergencies, maybe grab that, too. What I’m about to say may shock you.

You’re gardening wrong and you probably always have been.

Are you there? Are you still with me? You know how every season you dig up your gardening beds and fluff them around? You spend hours bent over a gardening fork or shovel flipping, slicing and turning the soil because it’s easier for plants’ roots to maneuver through tilled soil? And you do it because it aerates the soil and allows water to run through it more smoothly?

When it’s cool outdoors, I love to walk through an old greenhouse and feel the warmth around me. Slatted wooden benches, a hard-packed dirt floor, rusty heating pipes and, of course, plants all add to the pleasure. Throw in an old chair and a cup of tea and I’m a child again— back in my uncle’s greenhouse watching his tomatoes grow. It’s the all-pervading earthiness, combined with nostalgia- inducing fragrances, that evoke these feelings. To me, a greenhouse is such a comfortable place to be.

Around this time of year, I begin to think, boy, it sure would be nice to have a greenhouse in my backyard. I do have a small one, but it’s just something I knock together every April to hold seedlings prior to planting, little more than a glorified cold frame. So, why don’t I have a real greenhouse in my back yard? I’m not sure. Just haven’t got around to it, no space available, not cost effective. These are the usual excuses, but they aren’t very strong ones.

Last year, my annual ritual to decorate a Christmas tree with ceramic bird ornaments took a different twist. I decided to recycle my tree outdoors and string it with homemade, edible decorations to provide healthy winter food for my feathered friends.

The idea of giving the Christmas tree back to Mother Nature just seemed to make sense as my back yard is always a hive of activity for birds and other wildlife. In winter, woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals and black-capped chickadees are constant visitors.

The urge to build and create things is profoundly human. There’s something irresistible about being creative with materials—either to build something functional and tangible or just being able to freely design something. It’s totally engaging and soul-satisfying.

It helps us to relax. We learn to value and appreciate the tools we use in the endeavour. And once our project is complete, we have something to show off for all that effort; something unique in all the world, because we made it with our own hands.

When Lee Valley began 40 years ago, it was a simple mail-order business selling just one item, a barrel stove kit, out of Leonard and Lorraine Lee’s small Saskatchewan log cabin home without any electricity or running water! It may seem to us today that a barrel stove is an unusual choice for a product line. But, back in the day, barrel stoves, unshielded, were the only source of heat for homes and schools during cold winters months.

Growing up on a farm, Lee and his brothers learned to be resourceful. Under the guidance of their father, a carpenter and farmer, they built everything from granaries to barns to chicken coops. “Even my primitive [farm] training was of substantial benefit to me later in life,” Lee said. “I was able to convert my hobby of woodworking into a business.” He always said he preferred job content over a salary because he was more creative and productive doing work that he liked. “When I do work I like, I’m a happier person,” he said. He applied some of the marketing research skills he had obtained while working in the Canadian Foreign Service to critically look at the Canadian woodworking market. With the help of his family, he decided to test that market by selling barrel stove kits in rural weeklies. It was tough. But it worked.

In North America, the most common methods of preserving a harvest are freezing and canning. However, there are numerous old-world alternatives.

Drying is probably one of the simplest ways of preserving foods. Many foods, including apples, tomatoes, grapes, plums, apricots, cherries, bananas and currants, dry well. Stringdried apples are great for snacks and for baking. Peel, core and slice crisp apples. Our apple peeler/corer (EV120) can perform all three operations in about 5 seconds per apple. Thread the apple slices on a string and hang to dry for several days, then store in containers for up to a year.

Mason jars are not just for preserving tomatoes and jams. These inexpensive and stylish containers have now found a place in home decor. I will admit, only half of the jars I’ve ever purchased have been for canning produce. I turned the other half into candle holders, vases, storage containers and more. Now that summer is here, the flats of Mason jars sitting in your pantry or garage can be quickly transformed into summer lighting! The Mason jars are a quick and lovely way to add lighting to an outdoor dining table; they also look great tucked into the garden

This is the time of year when barbecuing is still fun and exciting! The kids are just out of school, no one’s sick of hamburgers yet and so far, you haven’t had a propane tank run out. Most barbecue seasons go something like this: steak, hamburgers, chicken, sausage and repeat. For weeks on end, you repeat until the barbecue has lost all of its fun, but you keep using it because it’s summer and that’s what you’re supposed to do. So, before your love affair with your barbecue starts to get stale and you start flirting with your oven again, take a step back and remember all those little things that made you love your grill in the first place. You may just need to add a bit more excitement to your relationship to get it sizzling again.

As the gardening world welcomes a whole new batch of plant and vegetable enthusiasts, I am going to take a moment to set the record straight on what you really need in your space. So, what do you need to be successful in the garden? Here are some of the gardening terms, tools and practices that have caused a lot of confusion.