Saturday, 30 June 2012

Chore Log - First Week of July

Each week, I jot down a To Do list of garden chores on my blotter.... 
This week, I kind of thought maybe I would share these lists with you...
You never know, might be something helpful in there sometimes, something new or different for you to try... or might just make you decide that all this garden work is for the birds ;)

Front Deer-Resistant Garden -
- weed and finally cut back the rest of the daffs and alliums
- deadhead Rhodos, Azaleas, Roses, Lilacs, Bleeding Hearts and Brunnera
- add a few more perennials to this bed, plus Crocosmia and Choca Mocha Cosmos
- top dress around trees and shrubs with chicken manure and perhaps some Gaia Green
- mow lawn

The Potager
- strawberries are ripening... pick some every day!
- make strawberry jam & jelly, freeze the rest for pies
- harvest the last of the rhubarb, chop and freeze for pies and cold soups
- continue to harvest garlic scapes
- cut back the towering herbs! Parsley and Cilantro are growing wild with all this rain, give them a haircut!
- kill weeds in pathways with vinegar spray... if we get a dry and sunny day.
- prune bottom leaves off of tomatoes
- plant more carrots... somewhere, hahaha, good luck finding some space...
- Good time to sow some more Cilantro, carrots, basil, pansies, and Swiss Chard (ick!) for those who like it.
- plant a few more Romano Beans
- pull out all the volunteer potatoes from the 'Three Sisters' ( aka corn, beans and squash) bed
- stake or prune back the asparagus foliage
- remove suckers from strawberries to promote better fruiting
- cut back, remove, or goodness me, do something with the Dianthus thugs!
- rip out bolting spinach/lettuce

Lots of Dianthus...

Lavender and Cream Perennial Bed

Lavender and Cream Perennial Bed
- weed! Remove all those weeds that blew in and rooted into the new mulch! Thistles, grrr
- cut down tulips! 
- plant more Liatris and late spring blooming perennials
- finish building the rock border
- clean up the mulch left over from the huge pile that was by the gate

Fruit Berm - blueberries
Back Fruit Berm
- keep an eye out for weeds in the new mulch and spray immediatly
- prune out any straggler raspberry canes

Birch Bed
- on hold this week... even though it is in dire need of weeding and mulching

Long Perennial Bed
- remove Salal and Mahonia
- top dress lilies with manure and Gaia Green
- remove weeds by compost bin
- deadhead roses

Greenhouse and Nursery
- pull out the tall dead weeds (sprayed wtih vinegar last week) between fence and raised beds
- plant low growing perennials in front of greenhouse
- push small branches around the Dahlias to support upcoming blooms
- foliar feed tomatoes, cukes, roses, and baskets with Reindeer Liquid Seaweed. ( The best! I love it! and nope, no one pays me to say that ;)
- start winter veggies and herbs - onions, sprouting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, parsley, rutabagas
- take cuttings of Dianthus, Fuchsias, Geraniums

Take Geranium cuttings...
Just for fun...
Here is a recipe that I found this week and am trying out... what to do with all those sweet baby veggies in the garden

Perpetual-pickles- Partially fill a large jar or small crock with half water and half vinegar, a few peeled garlic cloves, a few sprigs of fresh dillweed, and pickling salt to taste. Toss in small cucumbers, peppers, tiny onions, baby carrots, cauliflower florets, green beans. Keep in a kitchen shelf and snack at will. Add new vegetables every day or two. Discard the old brine and make a fresh one every two or three weeks. (Use the discarded brine for household cleaning.)

This recipe is from

Monday, 25 June 2012

Despite It All!

This June has been very, very cool and very, very damp :(

Even towards the end of the month, the weather is wet and cool and iffy....

Despite it all, the veggies seem to be thriving....

Cherokee Purple is putting on lots of fruit
was one of the earliest to fruit this year.
Brandywine, Peche Jaune, Kellogg's Breakfast, and Harbinger also have baby tomatoes on them.

The Early Russian Cucumber
 can be grown as a pickler or as a slicing cuke!
Ya gotta love the versatility ;) 

This long English style cucumber, Longfellow, is completely covered in blooms and small cukes

This stunning pepper with it's dark stems and veining on crisp green foliage
is the Hungarian Black Hot Pepper.
Purple blooms turn into black fruit which matures to a deep red.
Can be eaten and enjoyed at either stage!
A mid heat pepper, great for  adding zip to salsa.....
and makes a super tasty pickled pepper.

Honeoye Strawberries are beginning to ripen after two days of sunshine!

Using bird netting to keep the birds from pecking at the fruit...
and hoping to keep out the slugs, too!

Timber kitty likes to be in the middle of all the action
even when napping....

Comte de Champagne English Rose... sigh, love :)

See you soon... have a great Canada Day!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Greenhouse Ramblings in June

In the greenhouse, we have now moved from 'Retail Phase' onto "Growing Phase'...

Thank you all for coming out this spring, in support of  organic, heirloom veggies!
Plus roses and perennials, of course ;)
Boy, I  can hardly wait to see you all again!
My mind is racing, planning for next year already!

Little 'Lilah thanks you all for bringing children, she is now so enamoured with all little peeps! 

So, in the greenhouse ...

It now houses 22 tomato plants, 5 cucumber plants
more than a dozen pepper plants, one melon, and an eggplant!
Everything, except the peppers, has been strung up from the rafters
as explained here!

The pepper plants are all lined up along the south wall of the greenhouse.
They do not need stringing or caging, will just get a simple stake later on if needed.
As they are all flowering and fruiting, I have great hopes for this years harvest!

The tomatoes are flowering...!

Lots of baby cukes on this one already :)

The rest of the tomatoes are in the hoop house
8 more varieties to trial.
hoping for a really great tomato year!
but will let you know how they fare!

Currently all looks pretty good, though I do have some spittle bugs
 in the nursery and in the potager out back!
I also believe that I have some white fly in the greenhouse
which I will continue to fight with organic methods!
Yellow sticky traps and Trounce to begin with...
I will keep you informed if the problem persists!

Happy summer growing... see you in a few weeks ;)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

June Ramblings

I love June!
Okay, it just so happens to be my birthday month, ha ha, but it is also the last month of school, the beginning of summer time, the month of promise, sunshine and warmth...

June this year has had more downs than ups, as far as weather goes...
A lot of rain, a bit of sun, cooler temps... and yet, the plants have just exploded in size!

Still, me, personally, would like a bit more sun, and a little less rain  ;)

Happenings In The Yard-Scape This Month...
- the lawn is growing fast and needing weekly mowing's (grr!)
- the weeds are growing twice as fast (double grr!)
- lilacs are blooming
- roses are just starting to bloom up here on the mountain, but I see that in town they are all abloom. ( we are 2 to 3 C degrees cooler than in town)
- the Hawthorn is covered in lovely red blooms... absolutely lovely!

The lavender row looks and smells divine

The perennial shade planter out back is starting to show off...
Loving the lime green Hosta's contrasted with the deep purple of the Heuchera!

My little Inca Men... they are sooo cute!

As our home is cedar trim on a deep muddy brown siding
I went with really bright contrast colours on the decks
to stand out against all those dark hues...
Golden Spirit Cotinus, Osteospermum, Schizanthus, Calibrachoa, and a bit of Bacopa

Sorry that this pic is too bright, taken on one of our brief sunny days :)
 The Red Hawthorn, on the left, is the feature in the front garden bed right now
 surrounded by tons and tons of Purple Sensation Alliums.
On the right is a Forest Pansy, Canadian Cercis... my favourite :)

I have always grown marigolds in and around my potager, especially around the tomatoes
I do companion plantings, I believe in them, and I enjoy adding flowers to the veggie patch!
Is colour, integrated gardening, plus pest control!
Wow, abit of everything... all in one little marigold!
I now only grow two types of marigolds, though I have grown them all over the years
However, I eventually decided on my two most favourite kinds
... one is the nice, short, compact Disco, preferably in red ;)
and the other is this heirloom marigold... Marvel Stripe.
It is a bit taller and fernier than the French varieties I usually grow..
so adds yet another texture to my veggie beds.  

The Johnny Jump-Ups are thriving and spreading throughout the potager
still enjoying these cooler temps...
but will soon die back as the rains stop and the sun shines.

This crazy herb bed is now full to the brim as everything has grown like mad!
Chives are blooming, edible Dianthus edges the bed, in bud but not yet in bloom...
In back you can see the huge leaves of the Red Mammoth Cabbage
Totem Strawberries on the left and garlic in the back beds 

Another shot of the herb bed from a different angle
The shelling peas have reached the top of the 5 foot trellis...eek!
and are also leaning towards the sun... away from the trellis!.. double eek!
In the centre, at the back, are the potato beds, which are also loving this weather!

Radishes have totally thrived in the cooler temps!

As has the Red Mammoth Cabbage!

The 'Minnesota Sweet' shelling peas are nearing harvest stage...
This is a favourite treat at our house
Everyone in the family loves snacking on fresh peas,
including the pups, 'Lilah and Snickers!

The potatoes have been hilled up..

I will soon be able to start peeking at the early variety
in search of new baby potatoes!

I have two rhubarb plants
One is in it's second year, the other in it's third
which means that I am finally harvesting some fruit this year.. Yay!
Lots of stewed rhubarb and maybe one strawberry rhubarb pie!

As...  the strawberries are not far behind!
These are Honeoye's, a June bearing variety
The Totem's, another June bearing variety, are almost as big and ready.
They will only fruit once a year, but fruit heavily over a two to three week period.  
They tend to ripen all at once, which makes them perfect for jams and jellies!  
The Tri-Stars (ever bearing) and Hecker's (day neutral) will produce somewhat smaller fruit,
but will fruit two to three times a year. 
I find them sweeter also, so they are great for fresh eating
and lots of strawberry shortcakes ;)  

Whew! The tomatoes have doubled in size!
Despite the cooler temps, which, I admit, had me a tad worried :(
However, they are looking awesome, and obviously thriving :)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Baby, It's...Cool, Outside!

So, ... here we are in June! and suddenly the weather got kinda cool!

Anything to worry about? Nah,not really.
Despite the fact that we our selves would prefer it to be warmer and sunnier, as would the plants, the temps are still fine for the tomatoes, peppers, cukes, and squashes.

However, here is some info for next year, or just in case your babies are not really thriving this year...

Do not plant your tomatoes out till the air temps are reliably +10 C at night.
Here on Vancouver Island, anywhere from mid-May to early June.

Some people say to wait till early June to buy and plant.
In theory, this is very wise advice.
However, you need to know that you run the risk of variety selection being very diminished.
If you purchase in June, you will likely miss out on all those fabulous new varieties that you really wanted to try and end up with plants/fruits you did not really want, but you had to settle.

I say... Buy them early! Get the plants you want!
If the weather does not co-operate, then plant them up into larger pots, as needed, till the weather improves.
Move them in and out daily (very important step!) till temps are good, and then plant them out.

News Flash! Tomatoes like heat!
Okay, so not really new... um news.... but
Tomatoes need the soil to be warm so that they can readily take up the nutrients in order to grow, flower, and fruit.

However, if you have already planted them outside and the weather turns cool for a while, you have a couple of options...

You can use  Walls-o-Water.... These tubes contain water, which soaks up the heat from the sun during the day and then slowly release the warmth during the night. This is a really good option...
Ideally, this step should be taken before you plant, allowing the Wall-O-Water to warm the soil before you plant your tomato!

This lovely picture of super healthy looking tomatoes is from Pintrest and

You can also make your own covers (cloches) out of almost anything ...

- Milk jugs make great cloches that can be removed each morning.

- tomato cages, with the bottom half covered in plastic, work really well at keeping the cool winds out and regulating temps, creating a bit of a heat pocket around the plant.

- or... simply cover with a large cardboard box, or plastic pot for the night, again, removing during the daytime hours.

Black landscape fabric, or plastic, placed on the soil, at the base of the tomato plant, will soak up the sun's rays during the day, and so will warm the soil around the tomato... keeping it warm, happy and healthy.

Plants that are in cold soil cannot take up nutrients from the soil, especially phosphorus, and so become deficient
causing them to turn purple and vein-y.

However, if the temps are pretty near the +10 C, both night and day, and the plant is just a wee bit vein-y, as in the picture above, then they will recover quickly once the sun returns. All will be well.

If, however, temps are consistently lower, and you have not taken steps to warm the soil and the plant, and the tomato begins to look a bit choloric ( yellow) and vein-y, you may be better off to pull the entire plant, replace with a new, happy, and healthy, non-chilled plant, once the weather improves.
You might not have that fab new variety you were wanting to trial... but you will get actual fruit...
which in the long run, really, is the thrill of growing your own tomatoes ;)  

Monday, 4 June 2012

What's The Deal With Heirlooms?

Heirloom Vegetable - (from Wikipedia )
One school of thought places an age or date point on the cultivars. For instance, one school says the cultivar must be over 100 years old, others 50 years, and others prefer the date of 1945 which marks the end of World War II and roughly the beginning of widespread hybrid use by growers and seed companies. Many gardeners consider 1951 to be the latest year a plant can have originated and still be called an heirloom, since that year marked the widespread introduction of the first hybrid varieties. It was in the 1970s that hybrid seeds began to proliferate in the commercial seed trade.

Another way of defining heirloom cultivars is to use the definition of the word "heirloom" in its truest sense. Under this interpretation, a true heirloom is a cultivar that has been nurtured, selected, and handed down from one family member to another for many generations.

Me, I like to grow pre 1951 heirloom veggies.
However, if it has a good story to tell, was discovered after 1945, is open pollinated and not a hybrid, then I will certainly grow it. That is what I then call a heritage vegetable. 

Organically grown heirloom tomatoes...

Heirloom Cukes in the greenhouse reach for the sky

Organically grown heirloom peppers...

You might wonder why I am so passionate about heirloom veggies? Passionate enough to base my greenhouse business and personal kitchen garden around growing them?

It's pretty simple actually...
I like to know that the veggies I grow are completely sustainable and will carry over year after year ( so I'll be ready when the zombies come!), plus taste fabulous and look great.

Most importantly though, I really, really like the story! To know that someone loved this tomato/pepper/cucumber/etc... so much, that they collected it's seeds each year, literally for decades, and then entrusted a family member to carry on the tradition, caring for this particular vegetable for generations! Wow! That is love and dedication!

Just look at this gorgeous tomato... So pretty to look at, you know it's going to taste great, and you absolutely know that it has a story to tell.... What is that story? Where does it come from? Who grew it? Who loved this variety enough to grow it year after year and to save it's seeds for generations to come? and .. Why?
(Psst, this particular tomato, in the picture, comes from Radiator Charlie)

Grocery store veggies may come from anywhere, even half way across the world, but they all taste the same and pretty much look the same... bland and boring. Even in the summer time, when you figure they should be local and fresh, they rarely are, and they still taste like.. nothing.

I urge you to come to the greenhouse, pick up a couple of strange, wacky, heirloom plants. Give 'em a go. I think that you, too, will be hooked. There is something awfully special about growing your own produce, especially when the flavour is unlike anything you have ever tried before! That they come in jewel tones and fabulous shapes, are gorgeous to look at, well heck.... that is just a bonus ;) 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Growing Tomatoes in Your Potager

Potager = Kitchen Garden, Kailyard, Victory Garden, Garden Plot....

I sell heirloom vegetables from my little greenhouse business, called.. what else, Nitty Gritty Greenhouse.

Tomato questions have come up lately and so I promised to do a little post on how I grow mine.

There are many great options out there, so many ways to grow them efficiently, so this may help, or may just add to the confusion ;)

There are two categories of tomatoes...
Indeterminate or vining types, which are grown on stakes, trellises, or tall round cages
Determinate or bush types, which grow nicely in tomato cages or the larger peony cages...

Determinate in cage...

Bush types (determinate) do just fine in tomato or peony cages. 

This is how I grow the vining types (indeterminate)

Place a length of string over your support beam, rafter, beam, post...
make it a long string with both ends hanging down to the top of the pot.

Tie one end of the string into a loose loop around the base of the tomato plant.
Make it loose and large, as the stem will thicken as it matures.

Gently twist the string around the length of the stem....

As the vine grows, just keep twisting...

Tie off the other end of the string half way or more up the length of the first string.
You want it out of the way as your tomato plant grows, but available for when you get another branch/stem on that plant.

I find that mine often fork out somewhere along the way and that second stem also needs support.
Or then I do not get the suckers off in time and so they become another whole stem ;)

Either way, I think :) it is good to have that second string per plant.

Here is one that has already forked out into two stems/branches...
Both are now supported as they grow, thicken, and begin to fruit.

As you can see, it also works well for cucumbers and offers really great support for the plants....

Holds a lot of tomatoes, fruits and stems ;)

I use the same system outdoors...
Hubby made these frames out of 2x2's, about 7 feet high
 that just screw into the sides of the raised beds.

Here is a sucker being removed...
They grow at the base of the tomato branches, in the crotch between the stem and the branch.
They are easily snapped off when they are small.
If they are longer than about 4", use pruners or scissors, in order to minimise the chance of tearing.

Regarding suckers...

Bush (determinate) types do not require sucker removal...
They grow at an even pace, stay more compact, and flower all over at the same time
Therefore, removing suckers to promote flowering, make more, or bigger, fruit, is not an issue. .

However, a good majority of heirlooms tend to be indeterminate (vining)
Those are the ones that you want to remove suckers from
I try to get most of my suckers off...
but am not too fussed about it.
If some get away from me, and begin to flower,
I am no longer able to bring myself to remove it,
as that means removing a whole lot of tomatoes!
Plus, leaving one or two suckers, means more fruit.
However, some feel that fruiting suckers make for smaller fruits..
You decide ;)

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...