Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Friday, July 18, 2014

More From The Trenches

  Yes, I am making a reference to being in the thick of it. Which I am. This is the first summer where I've - more than once - thought "hmmm, maybe there's too MUCH garden going on here. I might have to cut back next year."

I know. Can you believe I just said that?

Okay, let's move on, there are quite a number of photos today. I don't know how I ended up taking so many; all I'd gone out for was a shot of the Crown Princess Margarita rose, but the light was so good I ended up taking 67 shots.

No, no, I'm not going to make you sit through 67 photos of my garden. Relax. I've cut out 10.

Just kidding.

Trust me.

 I know it sounds nuts to say this, but fall planting begins now.

This six-pack contains Georgia Southern collards. I've never grown collards before. In fact I've never eaten collards before, at least, not knowingly.

These were given to me at by the lovely people at the Botanical Interests booth at last year's Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup. And no, they didn't give them to me so I could write about them; they were giving seeds away to ANYONE WHO WANTED THEM. It was like a dream come true for those few minutes I was collecting packets of seed.

 Some more trays of seeds, although these are mostly various types of lettuce. This is the first year I've managed to keep the kitchen regularly stocked with lettuce.

In case you skipped over that last sentence, let me blow my own horn a bit point out what an amazing feat this is. I've never fully appreciated what it takes to keep a regular variety of lettuces and greens in the kitchen at all times for five people: lunches, sandwiches, smoothies, dinners. Could be we just go through a lot of lettuce. Either way, it's been fun, even if it HAS tested my usual level of organization.

 If you don't eat kale you should. I know that sounds bossy but it's SUCH a good green and it is SO easy to eat. My kids refuse to eat it knowingly but genuinely love it in smoothies.
It also looks really cool:

 I was reading an article about garden furniture and garden art. Where do you stand on the topic?

I like having things besides plants in the garden - breaks up the view and add different colours.

It's also a good place to store things. One day I WILL use this broken wheel and that oddly shaped piece of tile, I just know it.
 This plant is commonly known as Goose Necked Loosestrife (no, not that loosestrife). Can you see why?

I've got it growing with some white Obedient Plant and a few hostas. The deer salivate over them every night at about 8pm. Fortunately I've also got a net around these puppies or they'd be toast.

Why yes, I do happen to be on the Stupid $#%*&@ Deer side of the fence. There are way too many of them in my neck of the city.

I had a better shot of this fabulous and weirdly coloured hydrangea, but it didn't include the charming Mr. T slinking by, so you're getting this one instead. His nickname is Lemur Tail. Not that he comes when you call him that, mind you.

There appear to be several permutations of purple going on here: the centres of some flower heads are different colours from others. Some are blue, some quite dramatically mauve, some even white. And you can see that heads themselves are all differing shades of purple.

You too can achieve this effect by mulching just half the plant with pine cones that fall off a nearby handy tree. You can even kick them under the tree when people come over and trip over them, thus saving yourself raking duties. At least, that's what I think happened here. It certainly gets no love from me the rest of the year. And yes, I do feel somewhat abashed admitting this. 

Look at the lovely green of these Holy basil plants. Apparently they are quite good as an insect repellant, but I've yet to try them. Right now we use catnip EO in a yarrow tincture - it's killer.

Holy basil is also known as an adaptogen, good in teas for stress. I'm not familiar with Holy basil but these seedlings are going in the herb garden, so we'll see what they do.

So far all I notice about it is that is has a faint lemonish aroma, is a gorgeous healthy green, and is much hairier than it's cousin Ocimum basilicum.

The Sad & Lonely Shelves of the Greenhouse

 Am I regretting not thinning the peach tree this year?

Perhaps a tad. There's a lot of medium-sized fruit on it this year.

As there is every year.

One day I'll thin. One day.
 Am I regretting not thinning the nectarine tree this year?

Perhaps a tad. There's a lot of medium-sized fruit on it this year.

As there is every year.

Hmm. I'm noticing a pattern here. I think I'm what they call a Chronic Non-Thinner.

 "Four Little Pepperonici Maids From School Are We!"

Squiggley, aren't they? These will get pickled soon.

I made asked Eldest Son to assist me in carrying this chunk of wood home from the beach the other day, because I plan on making some of the aforementioned  Garden Art with it. He'd been slogging along for about 10 minutes when he said "this is pretty junky - what are you going to do with it?" When I told him I was going to paint it so that it would eventually resemble something magnificent, he expressed rather obnoxious levels of incredulity and mirth. Evidently he could not see its striking resemblance to something alive (and swimming).

Can you?

Imagine me blue and spouting!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rambling About The Garden

 I was taking this photo yesterday, in what I thought were cloudy-ish conditions, but after looking at this shot on the computer I realized two things: first, the dry dry grass in the foreground detracts from what is otherwise a rather magnificent display of vegetable gardening (and one that I was hoping to boast about), and second, I need a more overcast day to take garden shots.

Oh heck, I'll boast anyway. In this shot are 13 types of edible plants or vegetables: tomatoes (Jaune Flamme, Juliet, Green Zebra, Tigerella, Black Krim, Sungold, Yellow Pear), beans (Flambo, Hutterite Soup, Blue Lake, Cranberry Bush, Scarlet Runner, Broad), beets (Touchstone Gold, Chioggo, Bulls Blood), radicchio (Palla Rosso), peas (Sugar Daddy), purple sprouting broccoli, onions (Kincho), lettuce (Valmaine, Tango, Tropicana, Red Sails), salsify, celeriac, artichokes, strawberries, and raspberries. Ignore that rude grass.

This shot was obtained by leaning precariously out my bathroom window, screen balanced carefully on my head, with a telephoto lens on the camera. My neighbour, who was exercising her dog in the back yard, looked a little uneasy when I shouted cheerily "Don't worry! just trying out the telephoto!"

Here is a perfectly amazing radicchio. Why did I take so long to discover them? Radicchio has it all: looks, taste, and style. Red Sails lettuce comes close, with its beautiful frilly, red green ruffles, but radicchio wins with those mesmerizing green swirls.

Little sweat bee on onion flower head.
 The box in that pot incurred some frost damage this winter, and is now sitting out the summer in a shady corner of the deck, trying to regrow.
 This bench is strategically placed to block the sprinkler from watering so much of the grass. I don't think it's aware of how useful it's being, but it's such a cantankerous bench that if it DID know, I feel sure it would crumble, just to annoy me. It flipped over in the spring - for no good reason - with a number of snapdragon starts on it, causing most of them to dangle perilously close to the fence, where they were eventually pillaged by marauding chickens. I was not pleased, so the bench was banished to the Really Horrible Dry Part of the backyard. Until now, of course.

Speaking of pillaging chickens, here are Prunella (roosting on the compost screen, hiding from Pip) and Pip (looking around for more seedlings to rip and shred). Pip and Prunella are sisters - they should get along, right? Last month Pip decided that she was sick of Prunella, no doubt because Prunella makes it a habit to shove everyone aside when they get their afternoon snack. She's a good size, too, so the shoving frequently gets out of hand. Sometimes it's accompanied by a peck or two (in the case of Fern).

Pip took to really tormenting Prunella, stalking her, pecking her, and attacking her in rather random ways. It put ole Prunella off her laying, which was when I had to get involved because if there is one thing Prunella is good at it's laying eggs. That hen lays every single bloody day, which is impressive given her very advanced years. So, just as Pip took to following Prunella around with malicious intent, I took to following Pip around, only instead of malicious intent  I had a bamboo pole.

(sensitive types may want to look away at this point) 

Whenever Pip attacked Prunella, I banged Pip across the back with the pole and squawked, trying to sound like I was saying "STOP THAT YOU STUPID BLOODY CHICKEN!" Eventually Pip decided that it wasn't worth having me shout and chase her around with a pole, and she stopped terrorizing Prunella, but not before Prunella decided she was really really really uneasy around Pip.

This shot shows Prunella lumbering up from her comfy roost and looking a little concerned. This is because she's noticed that Pip has noticed her, and she's no doubt starting to worry that it might be the Formerly Mean & Horrible Pip and not the Newly Chastened Bamboo Pole in Butt Pip.

Fortunately I was able to utilize my chicken language skills and tell them they are a pair of fools to put so much energy into fighting.
 Royal Wedding sweet peas. So far these take the top prize in the Best Smell In The Garden contest. They pipped the lemon verbena only because the verbena requires human intervention to release its scent, while the sweet peas can scent the entire top floor of the house in a matter of minutes.
 Toffee, who takes the prize for Most Fearful Cat On The Block, is sitting here, surveying his territory in a safe part of the yard (where he can dart in the cat door should anyone challenge him).

I hate to say this, but I think he thinks that concrete frog is looking out for him. Moments after I took this photo he licked Froggie, as if to say "you're a pal, thanks for looking out for me."

And I thought the chickens were weird.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Springing Out Of The Ground

The plants, I mean.

After years of growing radishes every March, then giving up when they either split or become entirely gnawed on by woodbugs, I think I might just be getting the hang of these things. Sow thinly in a cool place, pick when still relatively small, take a lot of photographs of them (glistening with water), then consume.

 Some might call this a trendy repurposing of old greenhouse shelves, but the truth is that these are the lengths I have to go to to keep the cat from repurposing my salad garden as a toilet. These shelves stay on until the seedlings are tall enough to discourage even the LAZIEST cat from scratching around in them. Worth their weight in gold, them shelves is.

Lettuce seedlings (Plato II, Valmaine, Esmeralda), bulb onions (grocery store cheapies), radishes (Cherry Belle), baby turnips (Mikado), beets (Golden), and kale (Dwarf Blue Curled).

Celeriac seedlings getting settled. I was listening to Local Garden Persona Carolyn Herriot this spring, at a Seedy Saturday lecture, when she showed a photo of celeriac plants. They were positively bulbous, so I asked her what she did to get them so big.

"Those overwintered," she said. "They take more than one year here."

Ah. So that's it. Why doesn't it say that on any of my seed packets then?

 It's almost strawberry time!
 It's definitely asparagus time.
 This, folks, is what I have to work with in my back yard. No flat open stretches for me. No, no, no. It's all one big slanting sloping Machu Pichu of a garden.

Finally, Snapping Dragons, reclining in the sun.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Walk The April Garden

 I took this photo to show you how comfortably nestled the Palla Rossa radicchio is, now that it's outside in the garden (as of yesterday), but all I can see is the horribly squished rocket to the left. I guess I didn't hear its indignant shrieks of displeasure as I lowered the wire cage over top. And yes, I do feel terrible about this.
Poor arugula. If it's any consolation you get to go first to the table.
 Our weather is warming up dramatically but we're still in the Silly Season (in that no one can guarantee what the weather will REALLY be like), so when I put out the Mizuna (a lettucey brassica) and Valmaine (a Romaine lettuce from Salt Spring Island Seeds) seedlings I made sure to build in some protection. This is a perfectly okay time to transplant cold weather starts (brassicas, hardy lettuce, peas, broad beans, carrot seedlings), but make sure you protect them against a few things: cold (ie: I use Reemay at night), slugs (I use ground up eggshells scattered LIBERALLY), and assorted digging animalia and rodentia (I use old wire racks til starts are about 6" tall).

 Not sure if you can see this very clearly, but here's a Sugar Daddy pea that got left behind - in the greenhouse - in early February, and looky there -  it's covered with pods. Pods of peas.

I'm the type who plants VERY densely, so it's a bit of a surprise to see one single pea grow so large and so bushy on its own.

Does this make me want to seed more sparsely?

Um. No. It makes me want to plant more peas.
 I'm doing an experiment with the radicchio. Some went out into the garden, protected with Reemay, and some is staying in the greenhouse, in modules. I want to see if there's any advantage in planting certain cold-hardy seedlings earlier. Every year I make a guess as to when they should all head out to the garden for good, which means that every year I ALSO worry about there being some sort of Once In A Lifetime Freak Late Spring Frost.
 This is why I water strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with fish fertilizer from January to March.

(For those of you wondering what I mean by this statement: that is one fine set of strawberry plants sitting right there in front of your eyeballs. One FINE set.)

 Besides being one of my favourite gadgets, this item shows the highs and lows of the glass greenhouse.

This is what you can use to determine whether you keep the heat on at night or not.

My rule of thumb is this: when it's still going below 1ºC I keep the heat on; once nighttime temps are regularly over 6ºC I turn it off.

The Salad Garden (thank heaven it's labelled or I'd forget what it's there for sometimes) has a lot of plastic action right now, because it's a bit too early for outdoor carrots, spinach, and lettuce. Kept under nighttime cover, though, and it's not too early at all.

I took this shot to show off the rampant growth in the tomato seedlings but all I can see is the INCREDIBLY dirty glass behind it. My greenhouse glass cleaner nice window-cleaning husband worked hard on Sunday, cleaning the fir tree pollen off the roof, but neither of us saw the state of the back of the greenhouse. Ah well, focus on those seedlings instead.

Wondering what's blooming in the garden right now? Look no further than these charming little blue forget-me-nots.

Forget-me-not's glamorous doppleganger: a Jack Frost brunnera.
Old fashioned primulas.
More old-fashioned primulas.
Finally, my favourite: pulmonaria.

Lungwort. Dependable, multi-hued, and always cerulean.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Little Seed

 Here's a post about seed starting.

Once upon a time, long long ago, my seed starting methods were kind of haphazard. I'd go around the yard and collect a bunch of nursery pots, the 4" kind, fill them with garden dirt, then empty my seed packets into each one. The more the merrier, was my adage.

I'd watch as the seedlings germinated - a tangled, leggy mess. Some would die from damp, most just lay there, struggling. Eventually I'd toss the lot in the compost and buy ready-grown starts 3 months later. It was mildly stressful, now that I stop to think about it.

As the years wore on I had more success, but I didn't much enjoy seed starting season. It always seemed such a high-maintenance process. So fraught with disaster. Then I happened upon the BBC Gardener's World magazine. All the gardeners used tidy, sectioned, black trays, special seed starting soil, and special heat mats. Their seedlings were strong and mesmerizingly green. Accordingly, because I am nothing if not highly impressionable, I bought some black trays, some seed starting mix, and a heat mat. All of a sudden I had organized trays of healthy seedlings. No damp anywhere. There was still the minor issue of emptying the entire packet in each module, but that was solved with some early but judicious thinning.

The spring I had 129 tomato seedlings jockeying for room in a small, plastic greenhouse AND on every available south-facing windowsill in the house, I had to admit that my More! More! More! seeding habit needed curbing. I live in a city lot - it's roomy but it's no farm. So I tried the One Seed/One Square method although if I 'm being perfectly honest I mostly did the Two Seeds/One Square method because it's hard to break old habits. It worked amazingly. So that's what I do now.

Sheila's Seed Starting Pictorial:

First, seed trays. Good for the city lot gardener. Cheap, durable if handled politely, and two can fit easily onto one large heat mat. Yes, you can use any old pot you have kicking around but these compact modules don't require a lot of soil, they won't tip over when you move the tray, AND they will hold one largish tomato/pepper until you transplant it out into the garden. Plus, they are easy to store.

Next, proper soil. I use a product called Sunshine Mix #4. Whatever you use should be well-draining or specially formulated for seed starting. Fill each module 3/4 full of soil and water well. Then add your SEED. Cover with a little soil. Water again, but only slightly.

Heat hats. I like these. Yes, they are an absolute pain to store the rest of the year but they add Instant Atmosphere to the process. They keep the soil moist, warm, and slightly humid. This is important if you are keeping your seeds in an otherwise unheated place, like this greenhouse. Yes, this IS the high-tech version of a plastic bag, but it holds its shape better than a plastic bag.
Heat Mats. I like these too. You can cut the germination time by at least 1/2, if not more, by using heat mats. They will also keep any tomato or pepper perfectly happy through the worst spring imaginable, until it's time to go out into the garden. Shop around: our local agricultural store charges 30% less than the local garden centre.
 Adequate storage. This photo isn't particularly brilliant but there are two double heat mats here, one under the bench and one in front of the bench. The trays under the bench stay until they're about 1/2" high, then get moved to a brighter, sunnier location. Lack of light will produce spindly, leggy seedlings.

Label. Label all your seedlings, even if you think your memory is stupendously amazing. My method is this: (plant name) Black Krim, (date) March 1st.

I always place the tags in the same place on each tray: middle centre. This way the tag won't catch the heat hat if you're like me and you like to constantly see how your little seedlings are doing.


Thin. Once the seedlings are about this high I thin them out and move them around a bit, so they aren't always on a heat mat. Tomatoes and peppers get most heat mat time. Some seeds, like annual flowers or quick sprouters like lettuce, don't get ANY heat mat time.

Rotate For Light. When the seedlings are up and growing, rotate the trays each day or two, so the light is evenly distributed. Switch sides on the heat mats, turn them around, and so on, so the seedlings have the opportunity to grow straight.

Growing up out of the nursery. If you're like me and you've got way too many seedlings, turf some of them out to the cold frame.