Saturday, 18 February 2012

February Ramblings

The first few days of February were gorgeous, +10 degrees C and sunny. We are now into our typical late winter weather... lots of rain and around + 7 degrees. Is lovely either way.

I finally get to spend more of my time actually doing gardening related things at this time of year :)
In the potager (aka kitchen garden) out back, the raised beds are readied for spring planting
In the greenhouse, seeding and transplanting is underway in preparation for spring
In the perennial and fruit beds, the weeding and mulching has begun.
Everywhere else - weeding! As our property is not yet 3 years old, it seems that I am forever trying to stay one step ahead of the wild trees, shrubs, and brambles that sprout up by the thousands as the forest tries to reclaim it's land.

The backyard is separated from the woods by a 7.5' deer wire fence... it keeps out the deer, but not the forest. Here you can see the Salal and Mahonia at the fence line just chomping at the bit to get in...  ;)

The raspberry patch has been pruned and thinned out. It was topped with compost and organic fertiliser in fall, so all that's needed now is to cut out the old grey canes, trim out anything growing outside the 2-3 foot wide boundary, restring the wire, and ... (sigh) weed.

Fruit trees have been pruned. As they are only going on three years of age, they require very little at this point but removing the three D's - dead, damaged, diseased branches, as well as, any that are criss-crossing each other. They were fertilised and composted in fall.

This week I sprayed them with a dormant oil/lime-sulfer spray to prevent pest, fungal and disease problems. We are encouraged to spray three times a year here on the Pacific west coast, in November, February and shortly before bud break. I did not do this the first two years as am a bit opposed to any kind of sprays... However, due to the wet and temperate climes, have decided that I would rather spray than keep losing trees. We planted 21 fruit tree our first summer here and have lost 3 while another one is looking iffy.. so will see what spring brings.

Here I have started to turn the soil in my raised veggie beds with my handy garden fork... I swear, the garden fork is likely the best tool ever devised!

The perennial fruit and veggie beds await a couple more dry days so that I can get in there to tidy and feed them... This includes the 3 strawberry patches (Honeoye, Totem and Tri-Star), the asparagus bed, and the rhubarb. (Horseradish would also fall into this category, however, as of yet, I have none) ... but one should never mess around with wet soil :(

Also, tested the soil in the raised beds today, sigh, not very good news. The pH and K (potassium) are fine but the N (nitrogen) and P (phosphorus) are low, low, low. Cannot grow anything well if the nutrients are depleted so beds will be top dressed with some more organic goodies

Island soil, even the trucked in soil, tends to be very sandy and rocky, lacking in nutrients. I add 3 to 4 inches of organic matter to the beds each year, half in spring and half again in fall. I recommend this to everyone, whether they have sandy soil or heavy clay soil... the more organic matter you add, the healthier your soil, and thus your plants will be. Is the organic way to fertilize... feed your soil and in turn it feeds your garden plants.

I then dig in and turn the compost into the beds, as seeds will not germinate well in pure compost or manure. I do not ever roto-till as it compromises the soil structure. Nor do I turn the perennial beds, just top dress with compost and leave for the earth worms and elements to deal with. I truly believe in the credo that the less one messes with the soil, the less weeds seeds are brought up to the surface, and therefor, the less weeding one has to deal with.

Garlic is coming up nicely, I can hardly wait till June to enjoy those lovely garlic scape's, lightly roasted with olive oil and coarse salt, Yum!

Organic seed potatoes have been purchased and the early varieties set out to chit (sprout) in preparation for planting.
- This year I am growing two early types... Norkotah Russet ( great for baking, home and market gardens and a great keeper) and Sieglinde (a yellow potato, scab resistant and a good keeper)
- Two mid season types .... Kennebec (an heirloom type! great for fries and a good keeper) and the red Chieftain (scab and blight resistant, good for baking and boiling, also a good keeper)
-  And one late season variety, a must have at our house ... Russian Banana (an heirloom! a small waxy yellow potato, especially great for salads and scab resistant)
I have grown Norland potatoes every year for the past 5 or more years and this year am not... They are, in my not-so-humble opinion <grin> the best and sweetest potato ever! However, I have not yet tried some of the above varieties and I do so love to trial new things. Sadly, I only have so many raised beds... therefore, simply no room for the Norlands this year.

The bare root rose standards (tree form roses) arrive next week. Thankfully these huge fibre pots came in just in time :)
Now I have some big time soil mixing to do!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Geenhouse Ramblings in February

The weather this first week into February has been fabulous.. +10 C and sunny every day.

In the greenhouse, all goes well.

Looks kinda sad this time of year, but has been sunny and warm so all is coming along nicely....

The heater continues to work properly and the heating cables are working a charm.

These sunny days help save on energy as it limits the amount of heating and lighting required.
Water is free and abundant as we use only captured rain water (see Greenhouse Goes Up) and in the winter on the coast, we tend to get a lot more rain than sunshine. This year, a lovely balance of far, lol!

January's plantings (artichokes, geraniums, Bellis, Campanulas) are now sturdy little seedlings that have been transplanted into their permanent homes. They are being fed once a week with a weak solution of organic liquid seaweed fertiliser.

Green Globe Artichokes have been transplanted into some of my new biodegradable pots. 

February has brought on the planting of early vegetable seeds such as hot peppers, onions, leeks, celery and cabbage. Many herbs and perennials, plus a few annuals, are going to be planted over the next few weeks.

Fibre packs of Onions

Cuttings have been taken, misted, placed on heating cables
 and covered with clear plastic to hold in moisture.

These spring planters were planted last fall and then popped under the greenhouse tables.
Just about time for them to be pulled out of hiding.

You will continue to see a lot of Pelargoniums (aka Geraniums) on my blog throughout the year..
They are my babies and I totally adore them.

I try, whenever possible, to use only biodegradable pots or pots made from recycled materials. They are more difficult to source out and can be costly in comparison, but I believe that it is worth both the time and the money... I just hope my customers feel the same way!

Fibre pots hold up well to the rigours of greenhouse growing, watering, and humidity, condensation, etc... I use them for hanging strawberry baskets, perennials, shrubs,  and roses. I also use fibre flats instead of plastic 6 packs for things like onions, sweet peas...

Tomatoes thriving in 6" fibre pots (2011)

Peat pots were trialed on some herbs and cukes, promptly fell apart, not to ever be used again.

Coir Pots were also trialed, were soggy, messy, and most importantly, plants did not thrive in them, so therefor, they are also in my never-to-be-used-again file.

I have found some new pots this year which will be used for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. I am very excited about them...
They are biodegradable, said to hold up well in the greenhouse, and will decompose within 9 to 12 months.
They seem sturdy and I really love the look of them... However, they are a bit brittle, so hope they do not shatter.

My new biodegradable pots... aren't they lovely?

These bio pots are only available in a 4.7" size though, which is too large to be practical for everything in a greenhouse setting (too much shelf space used and also too costly for customers)
Pelargonium seedlings in 3" plastic pots.

Am still looking for the perfect 3 or 4" bio pots to hold my perennials and annuals so am not all the way there yet. Will still need to use some pots that are not biodegradable this year, but already much less than last year.  

Of course, I also use fun pots like terra-cotta, tin, galvanised, and ceramic, as well, on perennial herbs or finished planters  :)

This is my potting area, it sees a fair amount of action this time of year..

Seeds are planted here
Seedlings are transplanted here
Cuttings are taken for rooting here..
In the silver pan is perlite
The blue tub holds my soil mix which is a mixture comprised of potting mix, perlite, vermiculite, and organic compost.
The journal tells me what to plant and when, plus helps me track the dates of transplanting, quantities grown, etc..
The green tray holds my seeds, organised in order by their to-be-planted dates.

Soon, this corner will change again, set up instead for potting up larger plants like bare-root roses or perennials...

It is a practical area more than a pretty one...
I would love to have the greenhouse all pretty, all the time
But... it is simply not possible.
Not all things about growing can be 100% pretty, all the time, but to me...

This is heavenly.

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...