Urban Gardening Essentials: Bustan

Hey, my resident apartment jungle has been honoured with a plug on the Bustan Website — a hydroponics and indoor gardening supplies store here in Toronto.

Well, the admiration is mutual. Speaking as someone who has scoured the whole of the city and beyond to find supplies for my grow room, I can honestly say that I was thrilled the day I found this store. It not only had the grow lamp nobody else carried, it was conveniently located on Harbord near Spadina. I highly recommend the place. Everytime I go there I learn something new and interesting about indoor gardening — Nurit and Harley are friendly, extremely well-informed, and very generous with their time and knowledge.

Lost in the suburbs

On the weekend my 1000w bulb went out, leaving my grow room in the dark, and I spent a fairly miserable rainy afternoon on Sunday trying to track down a new one. When I first set out, I was confident that it would be just a quick trip out to the hydroponics store at Applewood Plaza off Dixie Road, and when I got there I was dismayed to find that they had changed their hours and were no longer open on Sundays. I drove around a bit, and finally found a phone booth at a nearby gas station. I stepped out into the pouring rain and into the booth, only to find myself ankle deep in water. Grimacing at the cold water soaking my through my socks, I quickly looked up “hydroponics” in the yellow pages, and picked up the phone to make a call. No place to put in a quarter. I could hardly believe it, a phone booth that didn’t take money! It accepted phone cards and credit cards, but no coins. Frustrated, I tore the page out of the phone book, and ran back to my car in shoes that were now squishing water.

The next hour and a half was spent driving around Mississauga, cursing bad roads and depressing suburbs, frustrated that every hydroponics store I stopped at was closed on Sundays. Most of them were tucked away in seedy industrial buildings with taped up windows, and looked disreputable. What’s with Mississauga and Sunday shopping? Am I to believe that every hydroponic marijuana grower is in church?

By 3:30PM I was extremely grumpy. I stopped at a grocery store to find a REAL phone booth. I struck out on my first call — Happy Girl Hydroponics in Kensington Market did not have the bulb I needed in stock. Pretty much fed up by now, I called 411 for the number of a store in Toronto that I recalled seeing during an internet search – my last try before giving up, and going home. Bingo! Bustan on Harbord Street, right beside Wonderworks and the Toronto Women’s Bookstore – just east of Spadina – had it in stock, and they were open until 5PM. I jumped in my car and drove all the way back to Toronto, braving bad visibility, slippery highways and kamikaze truck drivers, to land safely in front of their store.

I was well taken care of at the end of my miserable journey. I left there with the proper HID metal halide bulb, and a few other things as well, including a really neat 65watt full spectrum compact fluorescent bulb that fits into regular light fixtures. It works beautifully to light up the dark side of my grow room, so there’s no need to buy an expensive light mover now. I also left there with a ph pen and a hard-to-find bottle of Superthrive. The owners, Nurit & Harley, spent a lot of time with me explaining the different products, and when I described the semi-hydro method of growing orchids, they promised to look into perhaps stocking up on Prime Agra, which I have had no luck finding in Canada so far.

I finally got home at around 5:30, soaking wet but finally content. After an afternoon fruitlessly scouring the suburbs, my quest ended, close to home after all. Yes, there are good reasons to live right smack in the middle of a big city, and this is one of them. 🙂

Visit from Gayla Trail

I had a nice visit from Gayla tonight, she took a number of photographs of my deck and grow room as potential material for a book she’s writing on gardening called “You Grow Girl. (which is very flattering), and we had a great chat about all things gardening. Time just flew by.

After she left I brought my two monster plants in from the deck: the cyperus alternifolus (Umbrella Plant), which is about six feet high, and my hibiscus moscheutos, which, judging from the brown cast to the blooms, is feeling the chill of the autumn nights lately. The interesting thing about this plant is that the flowers of the first blooming were a pink blush with a deep red center. This second blooming has pure white flowers with a red center. Anyway, they sure do take up a lot of room — my 1000watt grow light doesn’t cover enough territory to keep them happy across the room all winter. I’ve arranged to buy a light mover from Happy Girl Hydroponics in Kensington Market, but I realize now it would have been much smarter to install it before I brought all the plants indoors. I’m going to have to pull everything apart to get at it, and I’m afraid my Queen of the Night buds will show their displeasure at the repeated disruptions by blasting all five buds. NOT looking forward to that job.

Speaking of my cyperus alternifolus, I saw a beautiful speciman of it’s close relative, cyperus papyrus (here’s an example), at the Montreal Botanical Garden yesterday. It was similar in size to the alternifolus, but it had a hairy head on it, kind of like one of the Beatles in the 60’s.

Green days

The entire weekend has been a green kind of weekend. In the midst of my labours today, I did find some time to read the paper at Alternative Grounds, browse through my favourite shop, Renaissant (especially the garden doodads!), and pick up a bouquet of daisies for the apartment. I bought two; I carried one and Jake carried the other. I’m trying to teach him to carry bags and small things for me when I do my shopping, because I’m usually pretty loaded down by the time I make it home. He did a pretty good job, carrying the plastic sack that the flowers were wrapped in. Once or twice he dropped it, and picked it up upside down, so the blooms were dragging on the sidewalk. With a little encouragement from passersby, and a lot from me, he managed to get his teeth on the middle of the bag so that the flowers were balanced nicely in his mouth. The sidewalks were crowded because of the Harvest Festival, so the sight of a border collie with a bouquet in his mouth caused quite a stir. Lots of smiles and pointing fingers and “awww, isn’t he cute”. That’s my dog!

Yesterday I went to visit a fellow parishioner of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields, an elderly lady whose husband is in the hospital. They’re both avid gardeners and have a fantastic yard just north of Harbord, but for obvious reasons the garden chores have gotten away from them a bit. I took my tools and my gloves and my dog, and put myself to work straightening borders and pruning and weeding and digging. I guess I must have seemed like a hero to my friend, but honestly it was so much fun for me I think I was getting the better end of the deal. After that, I stopped at Happy Girl Hydroponics in Kensington Market. I had a nice chat with the owner, and have arranged for him to order me some supplies, including a light mover for my 1000w grow light. Some of the locals hanging out in the store seemed mighty impressed that a straight-laced looking middle-aged lady like me was a “grower”. I had to smile, this combined with my morning labours was giving my image quite a big, though fraudulent, boost. I didn’t tell them that I only grow flowers — none of them much good for smoking. I have no problem with the stuff they had in mind, but it’s not my area of expertise  😉

After that I parcelled Jake in the car and headed to Metro Hound, a schwanky do-it-yourself dogwash in the Beach. Jake’s getting old, and old dogs get smelly. There were no openings for another hour, so I put my name on the list and headed to Cloud’s Orchids, since it was kinda in the neighbourhood. The woman running the store was a dog lover, a raccoon fan, and best of all a very knowledgeable (orchid) grower, and an hour passed quickly with a very lively chat. I somehow left there with a new orchid as well as a few supplies.

After I got Jake all scrubbed up, I drove home along Queen Street and had a bit of car trouble. Fancy that, the car stalled almost in front of Gardenscape. Heck, it must have been a sign!! So I popped in for a few minutes, chatted with my friend who works there, drooled over many things (especially the leaf patterned concrete stepping stones and bowls — I have a weakness for concrete things), and came out with a couple of new tools. The car started immediately….