Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Moving Thyme

Sadly, the Nitty Gritty Potager blog is no more... but the good news is that I can now be found at my new blog called the Olde Thyme Food Garden. 

Hope to see you there, Tanja

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

What Veggies To Plant In The Middle Of Summer?

Wondering what to plant in that empty garlic bed or in those empty pockets where the broccoli bolted? Concerned that there may not be enough time to grow anything before the days grow short and the fall rains arrive?

Worry not, there are still many edibles with short maturity dates that we can sow and grow now to harvest this fall... or in winter, if you do not need that bed.

The garlic has been harvested and set out to cure, leaving an entire bed free for planting up a fall garden, a late season crop.  

This was the garlic bed till less than a week ago. 
Now it is in the process of housing all sorts of edibles for fall harvest. 

What to sow in the garlic bed... if it is going to be the garlic bed again in October

Check the back of the set package to find out how many days the seeds will take to hit maturity, aim for around 50 days, give or take a few.

*All of the seed varieties mentioned in this post are from my two favourite seed houses, or  or from our west coast seedy friends at

- Beans (go with bush as they mature faster than pole beans)
- Beets
- Broccoli, summer (Gypsy, Everest, Waltham 29, Green Magic)
- Carrots … *see foot note about carrots
- Cucumbers
- Herbs … basil, dill
- Kale
- Kohlrabi
- Peas
- Radishes (Daikon, Watermelon)
- Scallions (also known as spring onions or green onions)
- Summer squash (pattypan aka scallop, zucchini)
- Swiss Chard
- Turnips

 What to sow for a late fall/over-wintering garden

Sow these straight from seed into the garden if you are not going to use that bed in the fall for garlic. I generally sow these ones wherever I get pockets from bolting or harvesting spring crops from, like radishes, broccoli, lettuce, spinach....

- Beets … mulch in winter (Bullsblood, Lutz)
- Carrots.. *see foot note about carrots
- Kale
- Radishes (Black Spanish Round, China Rose- over-wintering)

Also sow anything you like from the first list above that you will harvest in late summer. 

What to sow into pots to transplant into the garden next month. 

Do not start these in the greenhouse, it is too for them in there. Put them in a semi-shady area where it is easy for you to care for them and they do not dry out super fast. I place a table on the east side, where they get direct sunlight only in during the morning. 

Choose over-wintering, frost tolerant varieties, I will add some names for you to try into brackets.

- Broccoli (All-Seasons, Batavia)
- Broccoli, sprouting (Purple sprouting broccoli) harvested next spring
- Brussel sprouts
- Cabbage (January King, Danish Ballhead, Pointed Sweetheart Conehead, Pixie)
- Cauliflower (Galleon)
- Onions (Walla Walla) harvested next spring
- Swiss Chard

If you do not have time to start your own, start looking for a grower at your local farmer's market or independent garden centre. They should start selling these fall and winter veggies in July or early August at the latest.

What to sow/plant next month, in August. 

- Your new (late fall and winter) transplants that you started in July. These will stay in the garden.

These guys below are good till November-ish, till the cool, wet weather really sets in. 
- Herbs … cilantro
- Greens like arugula, radicchio, endive, cress, mustard 
- Lettuce (Red and Green Deer Tongue, Reine des Glaces, Winter Density, Brun and Rouge D'hiver)
- Radishes, regular ones
- Spinach

1. Don’t forget to plan for a spot to plant the garlic, which goes in during the month of October.

2. Carrots. For best results, fall and winter carrots should be have been sown during the first few days of July. As we are now closing in on the middle of  the month, you want to choose carrots with a short growing season, a short maturity time and you need to plant very, very soon.

To sow now, at mid month, you are better off sowing carrots like Little Finger or Romeo (above) with a 60 day maturity time.

If you sow too late, your carrots will not have enough time to size up before the days get really short and our fall/winter rains return). They will not continue to grow in spring when the days warm up, will instead go to seed).

3. Try something new and fun! Never tired kohlrabi? Fall or winter radishes? Winter beets? This may be the time to do so!

These Watermelon radishes (above) are best planted in midsummer and harvested in fall. Black Spanish radishes keep in the garden bed all winter long. I always say to try something new as you never know when you will find a new favourite! 

That's it. Is a long post, I know. Hope that you were able to glean all kinds of interesting bits from it. 

*All of the seed varieties mentioned in this post are from my two favourite seed houses, or  or from our west coast seedy friends at

Happy Gardening

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

July Garden Rambllings

Welcoming the month of July, with high hopes for better weather than we have been having thus far … We seem to be off to a good start, with sunshine and temps in the low 20's this week.

So much to do in the garden this month, but we also begin to reap the rewards... tomatoes are growing and ripening, cucumbers and peas for ready for nibbling, and early spuds for the bbq. 

What to do this month... 

1. Weeding. Try to remember to run your hoe (I loved my Winged Weeders) through the pathways and in between the rows of veggies once a week to prevent weeds from taking hold.

If you have a really weedy bed, sucking up all your time, you need to smother those weeds.
Knock the weeds down first and lay down a couple of sheets of newsprint (worry not, they use vegetable based dyes so are completely safe to use). Weight down the paper with grass clippings, straw, manure, or other organic material. This is all great material that breaks down throughout the season, feeding the soil while keeping weeds at bay.

Alternately, you can omit the newsprint and just smother out the weeds with a good, thick layer of compost or manure, go at least 3 inches thick.  

2. Watering. For the healthiest plants and best tasting veggies, you want to water deeply but less often, using either soaker hoses or drip tube systems. Over head watering promotes fungal issues such as powdery mildew and does not build deep root systems, making plants more prone to pests and disease. 

Water once or twice a week, but water very thoroughly. Most crops (carrots, peas, spuds, etc...) only need a good soak every 5 to 7 days, while 'juicy' or 'watery' ones like tomatoes and cucumbers require water twice a week. A good deep soak every 3 days is much better for your plants than a shallow one daily, and your veggies taste better, too. Never bland or bitter.

3. Feeding. If you already have great soil that you feed annually, you will not require a whole lot of additional feeding. However, if things are looking a bit peaked or in need of a mid-season boost, feed with any or all of the following...
- Side dressing with manure, compost, or alfalfa, builds up your soil and feeds the plants.
- Spray tomatoes, roses, cucumbers (anything looking a bit tired/peaked) with a foliar feed of manure/compost tea or with liquid seaweed/kelp.
- Water plants with organic, water soluble vegetable food or manure tea.
- Scratch in organic, granular feed that breaks down slowly to feed the plants all summer.

For manure tea and other recipes, see HERE!

4. Pest control. The very best pest control that you can have is a wildlife friendly yard. Make your yard hospitable to all sorts of critters (snakes, frogs, hummingbirds...) with a natural and organic habitat.
Birds and beneficial insects will literally eat hundreds of bugs daily, talk about organic pest control! To entice these guys into the garden, you need to plant lots of flowers and herbs.
Any and all flowers are helpful but these 5 are the very best of the best... Marigolds, sweet alyssum, calendula, zinnias, and nasturtiums. I also regularly add lots of geraniums, snapdragons, and herbs of all kinds.

If you have a pest problem now, it is not too late to add flowers and herbs to your garden. In fact, you can probably even get them at sale prices! Add lots of variety for the best results.

That said, there are several other things that you can do..
Aphids. The easiest and most eco-friendly method of control is to blast them off with a strong jet of water. I use this method the most. However, if you have lots and the water is not working, blast with water, spray plant with Safer's Soap, leave on for 15 minutes, rinse off. I always recommend rinsing the soap off as it is better for the plant not to be covered with a  layer of soap, and it also prevents damage to any bees or beneficial insects that might land on them. I have seen bees die after landing on soap sprayed roses, well after the soap had already dried, and never ever want to be the cause of that again.
Caterpillars. Pick off and squish or drown. If you prefer a product, look into an organic product called BTK, sold at most all garden centres.
Stink bugs, squash bugs, etc... pick off and drown in soapy water. Nothing else works. Do a thorough garden clean up in fall, leaving nothing for them to lay eggs on to over-winter.
Slugs. Slug bait or beer traps.
Carrot rust flies or onions maggot flies. Cover with white garden blanket or bug netting. They both allow in water and sunlight, but the bug netting lets the heat out while the blanket tends to hold in the heat and 'cook' the plants. Bug netting is also fantastic for all the above pests. Best pest control you can use, super effective, works on every pest, easy to use, and all organic. Worth every penny.

5. Disease control. Water at ground level only, do not wet the foliage with over head or sprinkler watering.

Water early in the day so as not to have the ground go into the night time wet.

Remove any foliage that looks spotty, yellow, or 'off' to prevent the spread of any possible problems. Most times it is just the oldest leaves, the bottom ones, that are beginning to fade, but by removing anything that looks suspect, you may just be nipping a bigger problem in the bud.

Flower baskets ...

To keep hanging baskets looking good all summer long, water thoroughly every day or two. I am currently only watering every 2nd or 3rd day but that will change to daily as the summer heats up. Water so that it is flowing freely from the bottom. Repeat. 

Shower all flowers and foliage with a strong spray of water each time you water. This will rehydrate the foliage, blast off dead flower and leaf bits, dislodge any bugs that may be trying to settle in.

If you have a moss basket, soak through the centre of the basket till water is flowing through, then the soil on the edges of the basket, the moss on the outside, and then spray the entire basket with a strong shower for happy thriving flowers.  

If your basket does dry out, plunge it into a bucket or sink of water and let sit for several hours to rehydrate. Pinch off anything that did not bounce back. 

Deadhead spent blossoms and pinch lanky stems regularly! Feed every week or two with a bloom booster fertiliser, something with a bigger middle number, like 15-30-15. 

Container flowers and veggies... 

Water everything every day or two, except peppers, which only need water once a week. 

Feed flowering containers weekly with a bloom booster, as mentioned above for the baskets. this will keep your potted plants well fed and flowering all summer. 

Feed potted tomatoes and peppers with two tablespoons of Epsom salts once a month. Just toss on top of the soil and it will be dispersed to the roots as you water.

Feed all veggies in pots with manure/compost tea (recipe above in the post) or with an organic veggie/tomato fertiliser.


Leave garlic in the ground till half green/half brown, with only the top 5 leaves still green. Do not water during the last 2 to 3 weeks before harvest.

We have had some cool, grey weather and a bit of rain in the past few weeks, so ideally, our garlic needs more time to dry before we lift it. However, if yours is ready to go, has more brown leaves than green, you really have no choice.

I lifted one of my garlic varieties yesterday, to leave them any longer would likely have not been a good idea. The bulbs were very wet, full of moisture, and the soil was really sticking to them. This will make it harder for the them to cure properly.

To set out to cure.. brush the soil off of the bulbs with your hands. Take care not to bruise, nick, or damage the bulbs as rot will quickly settle into any physical damage. Do not wash with water!

My bulbs were so wet that the first layer of skin just slid off of the bulbs with the soil. This does not hurt the garlic as they still have several layers of skin left (each leaf on the stalk is one layer), but it was somewhat disconcerting.

Set your garlic out to cure in a place that has great air flow and out of direct sunlight. A carport works great for this, my friend hangs hers in the gazebo. You can also place them on a shady side of the house that gets no direct light. If you have no such spot and must cure them in the shed or garage, leave the door open and run a fan for better air flow.

You can either lay them out or hang them up to cure. I place mine on tables, making sure that the bulbs are all spread out and not bunched together. You can use a pallet for this, which has air flow from underneath, as well (save the pallet for curing your squash later).
If you prefer, you can also hang them up, either singly or in staggered bundles of 8 to 10 bulbs.

Leave be for 2 to 3 weeks before you begin to remove stalks, clean the bulbs, braid them, etc... If you want to braid your garlic, do so now, at this partially cured staged, while the tops are still semi-green and pliable. Then leave them to cure for another couple of weeks. I cure mine for 4 to 6 weeks.

For more information about harvesting, curing, cleaning, growing garlic, put garlic in the search bar and you will find many posts as I seem to have endlessly blogged about garlic ; )

Last, but not least, on this month's long list of to-do's.. What to plant now

Is there a garden after garlic? Yes, absolutely! 

If you want to use that garlic bed for more garlic again in fall, plant veggies that you can harvest by the end of summer. 

Check the back of the seed package for the number of days till harvest, sow varieties that take about 50 days to mature.  

Plant these now for a summer or fall harvest.
- Beets
- Bush Beans. Pole beans have a much longer maturity time, bush beans will be in 45 to 55 days
- Summer broccoli
- Scallions (Green onions)
- Turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga
- Peas
- Chard
- Summer squash, like zucchini and pattypans
- Spinach, lettuce, greens. (Sow these in a semi-shady bed, not in full sun) Succession sow for the best results.

As you finish harvesting your spring planted veggies, or your bolting lettuces and radishes, plan (and plant) your winter garden now.

Start or sow these guys now for winter/spring 2019 harvest

- Carrots! Last chance to plant. If you plant now they will still have time to size up by fall, if you plant too late, they will be too small and will not begin to grow again in spring, but will instead flower and get hairy. No one, but no one, likes hairy carrots! 
- Cabbage (winter)
- Purple sprouting broccoli (spring)
- Cauliflower (fall/winter)
- Kale
- Walla walla onions (spring)
- Brussels sprouts
- Leeks
- Chard
- Parsnips

  More information about fall, winter and spring 2019 planting coming very, very soon.

Happy Gardening!  


Saturday, 2 June 2018

June Garden Ramblings

We have had a very dry and hot month of May but there is hope on the horizon, rain seems to be forecast over the next few days. Fingers crossed for a day or two of really good ground soaking rain.

While I often do my planting in early June, I am late, late, late with some of my crops this year. If you are in the same boat, not to worry, we can still plant just about anything and everything, and we can still do it from seed, but we gotta do it now!

With the craziness of the busy season at the greenhouse, most seedling 6-packs sat for weeks waiting for me to get them into the ground. The Brussels sprouts bolted in their sad little plastic packs before I got to them, so for the first time in many years, I have planted them from seed straight into the garden.

The onion seedlings were just planted yesterday and look great already today, won't take long till they are rooted in and growing. I need to grow onions under bug netting as I tend to get maggots, ugh! Netting is the only thing that will keep that fly from laying it's eggs on my seedlings.

You can also use this netting over your carrots if you have issues with the carrot rust fly, or over your brassicas to keep them aphid free.

The hardest part about growing from seed when it is this hot and dry, so dry that that water just seems to float on top of the beds, is keeping the seeds moist till germination happens.

Some veggies can take an incredibly long time to germinate and be a bit fussy, like carrots and parsnips. Carrot seeds are not planted very deep, so tend to dry out quite quickly. I use burlap sacks to help keep them moist till I see them sprouting. If the seeds dry out during the germination process, they die and we are left with no carrots.

Plant your seeds, water well, cover with burlap sacks, and water well again. Lift the bag daily to see if germination has occurred, remove when you see carrot tops. Till then, water through the burlap daily.

Any crops that germinate quickly and are planted deeper, like cucumbers, squash, beans, etc.. water daily and they will be just fine.

Veggies, herbs, etc...

Most of you probably have the gardens in by now, for the most part. If not, we still have time to put in pretty much any crops at all from either seed or starter plant. Do not buy over-grown and root bound veggie starts as they often tend not to fare well, you are much better off going from seed instead. I will put a list of what you can plant from seed at the bottom of this post.

Herbs, on the other hand, will root out just fine usually, no matter how root bound. Pull off the bottom bit of roots and loosen up the root ball, plant and water in well.

Heat loving crops, like squash and corn, love this warm soil and will germinate quickly. They also do not transplant well as they dislike their roots being disturbed. Do not be afraid to start crops from seed, as many actually tend to grow much better and faster than starter plants do.

Remove any bolting vegetables to make room for more of the heat loving veggies. Things like radishes, lettuces, spinach, cilantro do not like the heat and will soon start to go to seed.
These cloudy grey skies may have bought us some more time though, so water well, harvest lots, and keep your fingers crossed.

Add lots of flowers and herbs to your kitchen garden to bring in the good bugs that eat the bad bugs and to feed birds and bees. The best companion flowers for your veggie patch are marigolds, calendula, sweet alyssum, nasturtiums, and zinnias, but anything you plant will attract someone good to your garden, so go ahead, add lots of colour!

Berries and fruits... 

When your fruiting bushes/trees are putting on flowers and fruits, they need more water, more often. This will give you plenty of big, juicy fruits and berries. My blueberries are pretty loaded this year, the raspberries are starting, and strawberries are ripening like crazy. Water well and often. This applies to all other berries and fruit trees, too.


Garlic scapes are forming, is time to harvest! Yay!

Removing the scapes them will make your bulbs bigger and also makes it easier to braid the hardneck varieties, should you want to do so. Plus, scapes taste great, too.

To remove, snap them off as close to the leaves as you can, or simply pull them out when they are growing straight up. Scapes can be made into a delish pesto or added to any dish that you would generally add chives or garlic to, like potatoes on the bbq, stir-fries, even add to anything you are pickling.

Scape time also means that we are only about 3 weeks from harvest time. Stop watering your garlic 2 to 3 weeks before harvest... in other words, right about now or very soon.

For more garlic information, when to harvest, how to know when to harvest, etc... please see that post HERE!

Nothing to say about tomatoes yet, really, hahaha, just that I love them! Can hardly wait for fresh home grown tomatoes.

For now, just deep water every third day with soaker hoses or drip system, interplant with lots of marigolds to keep them bug free, and basil to help them grow and taste better.

Please do not fear starting from seed, I always start most all of my veggies from seed. This bed has a couple of volunteer sunflowers growing, but everything else was just planted up this week, including the pollinator plants. This bed will soon be green and fantastic, though it does not look like much as of yet ; )   

What to plant from SEED now... so many more than you probably thought ; )
- Beans
- Beets
- Broccoli
- Cabbage
- Carrots
- Corn
- Cucumbers
- Lettuce, greens, spinach (unless you face due south like I do and have no shade beds - too hot). Head lettuce will tolerate the heat better than loose leaf.
- Parsnips
- Scallions
- Squash of all kinds... butternut, delicata, gourds, pattypans, pumpkins, spaghetti, zucchini...

You can still plant some flowers and herbs from seed, too...
- Cilantro
- Chives
- Dill
- Cosmos
- Nasturtiums
- Sunflowers
- Zinnias

Happy growing! 

Monday, 7 May 2018

May Garden Ramblings

Well, here we are, it is finally the month of May... the busiest planting month of the year. This is when everything happens!

We will all be planting like mad people ... the warm season veggies go into the ground, and we also begin to harvest the cool season veggies we planted back in March and April.

Remember that many of your cool season crops will bolt (go to seed) when the hot, dry summer weather hits, so eat and enjoy now, when stuff is ready, do not leave them to get bigger or better. Things like broccoli will not actually grow and produce all summer long.

Yard and Garden Chores...
Weeding... still weeding. So much weeding to do. The lawn is 'flowering', as are the pathways and perennial beds, too. We have been so diligent about weeding for the past three years that I figured we would get less and less each year, but nope, that just never seems to happen.

Mowing.. spring is the only time of year that the grass needs regular mowing here on the island, it will soon be golden brown as the rains stop for the summer. Yippee!

Planting... doing up all the containers, pots, planters and baskets, plus the veggies, of course. The fun stuff! Yay!

The weather has been pretty fine the past few days, so is time to start thinking about putting out the tomatoes. Tomatoes are heat lovers, they like warm soil, warm air, and lots of sunshine.

I always wait until the night time temps have been +10°C consistently for several nights in a row before I even consider (selling) putting out my tomato plants. This means that the soil temperature in the beds is warm enough for the tomatoes to thrive instead of struggle. There are years when I do not get around to planting out my tomatoes until early June, and then they take right off as they love that warmth.

If you plant out your tomatoes in the garden beds too early, they may go dormant from the cold. Should your leaves start to purple and the plant go into dormancy, it can take a great many weeks for it to recover. You will have lost production time rather than gaining. It is worth your while to wait.

Plants in pots or planters are fine to go out a bit earlier, if you want to push the timing, as the soil in the pots stays warmer than in gardens. Raised beds warm up a bit faster than in ground beds, as well.

Harden off your plants before putting them out. Plants are prone to sunburn if they go straight from the greenhouse to the beds. The leaves will turn white and they do not ever go green again. You just have to wait for them to drop off and the plant to make new foliage. Small plants may not ever recover, while larger ones will just be ugly for a while.  

To harden off your plants, place in a shady spot where they receive dappled light for 2 or 3 hours the first day. Each day, introduce your plant to a couple more hours of sunshine and plant out on the 4th day. I do not bring mine in at night as I do not harden them off until the night temps are +10°C. You can cover them with a frost cover for the night, if you are leery.

When planting... Plant your tomatoes nice and deep. Remove a few of the bottom leaves along the stem, new roots will grow from these spots, loosen your root ball, and bury the plant deep into the garden bed. Some will lie them on their sides to plant the stem under ground, but I prefer to go deep rather than wide so that I do not jab it with the tomato cage or try to plant companion plants on top of it ; )
Do not plant anything else in this manner, only tomatoes grow new roots along the buried stem.

Veggies you can grow from seed this month...

When planting from seed, you need to keep the soil moist until you see germination. If you were to let the seeds go dry as they are beginning to sprout, the seeds will die, no amount of watering will revive them.

Beans.. plant from seed straight into warm soil, anytime this month or next. Plant 5 seeds per pole for pole beans and thin out to 3 seeds if they all germinate. For bush beans, plant them about 3 inches apart in rows.

Carrots... Carrot seeds can take up to 3 weeks to germinate so you need to keep them moist for a really long time. Letting them dry out even one day may cause you to lose the entire crop. I cover mine with burlap sacks to help keep the seeds moist till they germinate.
Just water thoroughly through the bag. If you do not have burlap sacks, buy the burlap in a roll but double it up when you lay it on the beds as it is pretty thin. After 7 days, begin to lift the bag to check for germination, leave on until you see the little green tops coming up.

Corn... loves warm soil, so wait till the long weekend to plant. Corn started from seeds usually does better than from starter plants, as they do not like to have their roots disturbed.

Lettuce, spinach and other greens... Can be planted from both seed and starter plant. I do a bit of both as I know that I will only be able to harvest till about mid-June till the heat does them all in. In this pic you see both spinach starters starting to grow and the seeded spinach coming up nicely on the side. Extends my growing season just a bit before they all bolt in the heat.

If you have a less sunny yard than I do, or are able to provide them with shade, you can sow fresh lettuce seeds every two weeks all summer long for a continuous supply of lovely tasting greens. One package of seeds costs around $3 and will provide you with months and months of lettuce/greens. Totally worth your while instead of buying a head of lettuce for $3 to $5 at the grocers every week.

Potatoes ... pop in your seed potatoes some time this month, too. I like to grow mine the traditional way in my raised beds, so these spuds that have just begun to sprout will be hilled twice yet before I leave them to grow for the summer. The soil that you see beside the spuds will slowly be pushed on top of the potato greens as they get taller, until the hilled part is where the potatoes are.

Peas... you can still keep planting more peas till the end of the month so that you have a fresh batch coming up for a good part of the summer. If you only plant the once, when they are done, they are done.

What else to plant from seed this month?

Beets, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, parsnips (mmm, love parsnips!), radishes, turnips, all squash (zukes, pattypans, etc..) gourds and pumpkins.  

What to plant from starters?

Tomatoes, of course, but also peppers and eggplants, too. Grow them in pots for the best success.

You also still have time to grow broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuces, greens, onions, and more from starters.

What else to do?
- Check for bugs as tis the season for aphids! Wash off with a strong jet of water or with a soap spray.
- Mulch your roses and perennial beds for happier and healthier plants this year and to retain more moisture.
- Harvest asparagus. Leave at least one stalk per crown to get tall and ferny so that your plant gets bigger and better each year.

Water slow but deep for the best results and to conserve water. Weeping hoses are terrific for watering your veggies after they have germinated. Till they germinate though, you need to hand water daily. After that, the deep soak of a weeper hose helps them to make deep roots for the hardiest veggies.

Don't forget to plant lots of different annuals to draw in the pollinators, ladybugs, birds, hummingbirds, and other beneficial insects that eat your bad bugs. In the above picture you see two types of marigolds and both are fantastic for the veggie garden.. Orange Gem Tagetes and French marigolds (plus zinnias in the background).

Happy gardening and growing!  

Moving Thyme

Sadly, the Nitty Gritty Potager blog is no more... but the good news is that I can now be found at my new blog called the Olde Thyme F...