Monday, 31 December 2012

Gardening Trends 2013

Another year has come and gone, am currently teetering right on the edge between 2012 and 2013....

Reflecting on the gardens and making plans for the year ahead ...

Here, in no particular order, are my predictions for gardeners and gardens in the year ahead.

1. Back to the basics ... growing your own groceries aka kitchen gardening.
This trend is really exciting! With all the worries about GMO's, pesticides and herbicides that cause allergies, asthma, and worse in our children, ourselves, and our pets. Growing your own food ... fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs whether in beds, fields or pots, organically and sustainably, getting back to knowing what you are eating and how it was raised. Many nurseries now carry fruits and veggies that can be grown in pots for smaller yards and balconies, dwarf fruit trees that stay manageable in the city lot, making it an easy option to grow a bit of everything to grow your own. 

My own potager, kitchen garden ...
A mix of herbs, fruits, veggies, and flowers.  

2. Putting it up. Canning and freezing your harvest is also taking off as families grow more and more of their own food. What to do with all the fabulous bounty that one grew and harvested? We are all 'putting it up' like our grandmothers did, of course. Nothing better than going to the pantry and making your Christmas dinner from veggies you grew yourself in summer!

Putting up food... to enjoy during the winter months.
Preparing these tomatoes to go into the oven
... for quick 'Sun dried tomatoes'

3. Urban farming.... reconnecting with people through food on a community level, providing food security, education, sustainability, and healthy organic options. This is about more than growing your own veggies, and all about the big picture. With urban sprawl taking up more and more of our land, is about reconnecting with the earth and each other. Community gardens are springing up everywhere, bringing people together, teaching the new generation how to grow and where food really comes from. Providing peace for the soul as one reconnects to the earth by growing on balcony gardens, in community gardens, in back yard gardens, and hopefully in front yards, too, banishing water wasting lawns for good! Is also about buying from your local farmer or farmer's market, touching and smelling the food, talking to the one who grew it. Yes, it's about growing fruits and veggies, but also, raising chickens, the chickens scratching in the garden for bugs and eating your bolting lettuce, raising turkeys for your yuletide dinner, composting to create your own fertiliser, cutting gardens to provide flowers for the table, a bee hive, a toad house, bat house, bird houses and feeders.... the possibilities are endless.

Community gardens, teaching our young to grow their own...
The link to this lovely pic is here

4. Heirlooms grown organically and sustainably ... These guys kind of all tie in together. Growing heirlooms so that when the Zombie Revolution arrives, we are able to take and save the seeds from our fruits and veggies to keep us going from year to year. (Hybrids do not come out true to form if you save the seeds) Back to great tasting vegetables grown organically, which leads to a smaller footprint on our planet and thus sustainability. Growing our own food, in soil that we have fed and improved naturally with composts, worms and worm castings, manures, etc.. rather than just feeding the plant with chemical fertilisers that leach into our water table and leave the soil without the nutrients to grow more the next time around.

Heirloom peppers... Alma Paprika peppers...
Aren't they pretty?
All these colours on the same shrub.... I love growing peppers!

5. Building great soil ... This is a fabulous trend, very exciting that folks now understand that it is actually good soil that feeds our plants, not chemical fertilisers. Making your soil friable, rich, and loamy, full of fabulous worms and beetles to amend the soil and eat the bad bugs. The more you enrich your garden with organics, the better and healthier your food and garden will be, meaning less bad bugs so less spraying, no additional feeding of the plants required, thus better rewards with less work.

6. Companion planting with beneficials .... Interplanting herbs and flowers amongst the fruits and veggies, to bring in the beneficial insects and keep out the bad. Choosing plants that are lovely as well as useful ... herbs that flower, adding beauty and spice to your life, and flowers that keep out bugs and can be also eaten, such as nasturtiums and marigolds. Herbs for both culinary and for medicinal purposes. Such as Chamomile... brings in good bugs, repels bad ones, brightens highlights in blonde hair so great for washing/rinsing your hair, makes a fabulous tea, and also provides a stunning ground cover alternative to a lawn. See more on companion planting here.

Marigolds are super companion plants, are edible, and lovely to look at, too. .  

7. Drought tolerant plantings to conserve water and time.... This trend is all about planting drought tolerant plants, native plants, and the right plants in the right locations to provide a lovely space that fits the location and so requires less time, money and energy to care for it. With water restrictions becoming more common during the hot, dry, summer months, gardening with plants that require less, little to no extra water, is a wise and wonderful thing. Plants such as echinacea, rudbeckia, succulents and ground covers instead of lawns. Save the water for growing your groceries, as veggies tend to require regular watering and most municipalities will allow you to water your food crops but not your ornamentals.

Lavender, and most other herbs like Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme,
are very drought tolerant, requiring no extra watering in the gardenscape.
8. Smarter water usage... rain gardens, rain barrels, drip watering. Drip watering your plants with a drip hose is a much more effective way to water than hose or sprinkler, getting the water to where it is needed the most with very little evaporation and water waste.
Collecting rain in a barrel for watering your gardens, or grey water from your washing is saving you money and saving our run off water for something very useful instead of just waste water.
Rain gardens are a great idea to capture the runoff from your driveways, pathways, and hardscaping, collecting and then filtering the water, cleaning it before it enters the groundwater system. This cuts down on erosion, on pollution, and thereby also benefits our lakes, rivers, ponds and oceans.

A how to on building a  rain garden here

9. Going vertical ... Growing upwards is becoming a huge trend. It adds colour and beauty as well as increasing ones available growing space. Growing up on trellises, walls, strings, and cages takes up less ground space, and increases the bounty. Think peas and beans on towers or teepee's, heirloom tomatoes growing on strings ( see here for more on stringing up tomatoes), squash, melons, and cukes are very effective when grown on a trellis, allowing for lettuces, carrots, etc... to be planted at the base. Here is a link on growing vertically on a huge scale, with skyfarms!

Early in the year, the tomatoes are all strung up in the greenhouse ....

10. And finally, the most important prediction of all, is not mine at all, but as always, the Panetone colour of the year. Panetone simply rules at picking 'colour of the year' ....
Therefore, 2013 is all about ...EMERALD GREEN!
Fabulous garden colour, in pots, in planters, gates, doors ... and even barns!

This pic is from Pintrest and This is THE COLOUR for 2013 .. and I love it!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Herbal Garden Companions

Companion plants are herbs, flowers or veggies that attract pollinators to your garden, ensuring a larger and happier crop.

They may also be plants that attract the good guys, the beneficial bugs, to your garden, which then either devour or kill the bad bugs.

There are also companion plants which repel or confuse bugs with their scent, thereby keeping them away from your goodies.

And still others are used as traps or host plants for the bad bugs, drawing the bad guys to gnaw on them instead of on your food crops.

Companion planting is also about planting the right veggies together so that they in some way benefit from each others proximity. Such as the Three Sisters Garden plants of corn, squash and beans. The squash covers the ground, keeping away weeds and preventing moisture loss, while the corn grows tall and sturdy, providing a trellis for the beans to clamber up. Beans beans fix the nitrogen in the soil to feed the roots and help to stabilise the shallow rooted corn.

However, that will be another days topic, while today's post focuses more on bugs, the good and bad and the ugly.

Here are some common herbs and flowers that will help you with your organic gardening and pest control ....

Marigolds ... Red Disco

These plants keep the bad bugs from your plants....

Marigolds (repel Asparagus Beetles and Nematodes)
Sage (repels Cabbage Moths and Carrot Rust Flies)
Scented Geraniums (repels Japanese Beetles ..these beetles love corn, crab apples, grapes, and roses)
Catmint (repels Aphids and Squash Bugs) 
Borage (repels Tomato Hornworms)
Parsley (repels beetles and aphids)
Feverfew (repels aphids)
Basil (repels mosquito's, tomato hornworm, mites, beetles and aphids)
Catnip (repels flea beetles)
Coriander/Cilantro (repels aphids)
Hyssop (repels cabbage moths)
Nasturtiums (repels aphids, white fly)
Oregano (repels cabbage moths)
Spearmint (deters ants)

Alliums - (Onions, garlic, chives, leeks and shallots) planted amongst your carrots helps to keep away the carrot rust fly, and they also repel slugs, aphids and cabbage worms when planted amongst the tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and cabbages. 


Pollinator attractors...

Bees like purple or blue, however, not red!
Butterflies and Hummingbirds like red, orange and yellow!

Cilantro/Coriander attracts bees.
Blue Hyssop attracts bees.
Dill attracts bees.

Bees love Hyssop!
These guys bring in the beneficial bugs... the ones that eat the bad bugs... These include the parasitic wasps, lacewings and lady bugs, beetles, hover flies and robber flies.

In general, the lacewing larvae and the lady bug larva actually eat much more aphids and bad bugs than does the mature adult. If you have never seen lady bug larvae, please note that it looks kinda like a little black armadillo and is actually about 3 times the size of the adult lady bug. Please make sure you know who and what you are spraying in your garden as it would be tragic to accidentally spray these super duper bug destroyers.   


Queen Anne's Lace

Zinnias attract the good bugs!

These guys act as traps or lures, are sacrificial crops that you plant in order to attract the bad bugs to them and therefore keep them away from your crops...

Nasturtiums - For luring aphids and caterpillars away from your peppers, kale and other goodies

Nettles - Attract the aphids early in the season, in perfect time for the lady bug larva to come along and clean them up.
Chervil - Try this herb if you have an issue with slugs.
Sorrel - Is also reputed to attract slugs, so plant it near your lettuce and spinach to lure them away.

Radishes - You will often notice the tiny holes of the flea beetle on your radish leaves, which makes it an easy trap crop to place near your cabbages to lure the flea beetles away.

Blue Hubbard Squash or a pumpkin is often planted amongst squashes to lure the squash vine borer away from the main crops.

Nasturtiums make great trap crops. 

The best defence against bad bugs and enticement for good bugs is diversity.
Plant a wonderful large variety of herbs, flowers, and vegetables to create all kinds of habitats.
Take note of your successes so that you can repeat them, and also the failures to prevent them.

All the more reason to plant a wonderful potager aka kitchen garden, a combination of this and that for a healthy thriving garden.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Garden Ramblings in December

We have had a very mild fall/early winter... Yes, I am touching wood! 
Though I suppose, officially, winter has not yet begun as of yet... not for a couple of days yet...
Therefore, perhaps we will be super blasted with a tough winter in January. Eep!

The lovely Green Globe Artichokes have very little winter die back, as of yet...
If I were the worrying kind, I would be mulching it up to prevent it from dying off this winter...
However, crazy as I am, I would rather see how it fares left to it's own devices.
Last years artichokes did not survive the winter, so perhaps I am a glutton for punishment?
I prefer to think this years plants are stronger ... so maybe?

Yes, I do realise that there is very little to see here ; )
However, am pretty excited about these guys...
If you remember from early fall, I planted three varieties of garlic....
Only one variety, the Music, has sprouted so far. Not just a wee bit, as you can see here, but they are actually up several inches already.... What does this mean? Does it bode ill for the other two types? No idea... time will tell, eh? I will keep you informed!

Pink Lemonade Blueberry bush is still in leaf ... the others lost their leaves long ago and are putting on new ones...

The 'Orange Peel Fungus' is back, a yearly occurrence when the weather turns chilly and the skies grey. It grows in the gravel of the driveway or pathways, apparently thriving on the wet hardpan and clay.
Gross, eh?

The newly weeded perennial bed... Lilah is checking out the quality of the work. Isn't it lovely? This bed is huge, though seems so small on the acreage. Is about 30 feet long and 10 to 14 feet wide.

Last fall, this bed was newly planted with hydrangeas, bulbs, perennials, roses, Japanese Maples, and  clematis vines.
I weeded and then heavily mulched the bed with a really thick layer of cardboard and newspapers first, and then about 4 inches of bark mulch. ...
Sadly, however, hubby did not knock down the thistles just on the other side of the fence, till it was much too late.

This spring, those thistle seeds germinated with a vengeance, in the lovely, loose, fresh mulch!
I pulled at them, my daughter pulled at them, the yard boy pulled at them, my parents pulled at them...
But before you knew it, the thistle had overrun the entire bed!

Finally, this fall, after the greenhouse closed for the season, I took task with this bed... and was able to deal with about 1/3 of the mess ...
Then, I hired a girl to pull the rest of them. Took her five hours to complete the weeding! Sigh, a  sad but true tale of woe.

The moral of this story, mulching is fabulous! ...
But ..make sure you knock down all the weeds around the beds, or your weed seeds will just blow in to that lovely fresh, loose mulch and germinate with glee!

Just a few days ago... Lilah and I were out in the potager, checking on the veggies and the strawberries...

Here you can see the Honeoye Strawberries. They are cascading over the ides of the raised bed and rooting into the mulched pathways...

I am letting them flow, for now, as it looks super charming ...  plus it will make it easier to pot up those runners/daughter plants in spring.

The far bed is working as a small perennial nursery this year and so houses a variety of  Aquilegia's, which will also be potted up in spring.

Oh boy, touching wood did not help, as you can see...
Today, just a few days and two snowfalls later, this is the scene ...
We seldom get snow on the island, but when it comes, it really comes.
Is heavy, wet and usually knocks out trees, branches... and thus, my power.
Thankfully, it rarely lasts longer than a day or two ... not touching wood this time, but crossing my fingers instead ;)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Greenhouse Ramblings in December

Jade plants aka Lucky Trees 

In eastern cultures, Jades are known as Lucky Trees, Friendship Trees, or Money Plants. You will often see them by the cash register and/or in the southwest corner of homes and businesses, as a symbol of good luck, wealth, prosperity, and great friendships.

In the western school of Feng Shui, that means the far left corner of the room.

I always have a Lucky Jade in the far left corner of my greenhouse and also in my living room ... I figure one can never have too much good luck or too many great friendships :)

The Begonias, started from seed in early October, are now almost thumbnail size :)

The spring bulbs are starting to pop up in the baskets already ...   likely due to the mild weather, so far.
I assume growth will slow down in January, once we begin to get real winter-y weather here on the coast.

Isn't this charming? The bell flowers in the hoop house, Blue Waterfall Campanula, are still blooming!

A little Bhut Jolokia aka The Ghost Pepper

I have been busily planting a great many fabulous varieties of sizzling Hot Peppers ...  plus updating the Nitty Gritty web page as I go along...

The Alma Paprika Pepper.. one of the prettiest peppers I have ever grown!
Great for drying and grinding into paprika powder...

To dream about hot sauces and pickled hot peppers, check out My Web Site for a list of all the new varieties I will be carrying in spring of 2013.
If you have any special requests, a special pepper that you would like me to grow, please contact me asap, as they need much time to germinate and then mature!

I grow hot peppers, lots of them, as the entire family, except me, loves pickled hot peppers!
Therefore, I grow all kinds of peppers, can them up, and the family trials them to see which one become the new family fave. So far, the Black Hungarian rules as a pickled pepper.

Though you all know that I cannot tolerate any heat! None at all! Am a total wimp ...I am still totally stoked to be offering these peppers ... So excited! :)

Check out this fabulous chart that explains how hot your peppers really are, and how they measure up in Scoville Units.
This heat chart can also be found on My Web Site under the heading 'My Blog'.

The mandarins are almost ready!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Delilah and I!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Cheap Soil Is Just Dirt!

One of the most asked questions that I get is... 'Where can I buy the cheapest dirt?'

My slightly witty, yet not very popular answer is ....

All dirt is cheap! Dirt is what your dog tracks in on your clean floors, or the kids on their hands, or you on your shoes....

Soil, on the other hand, is what you want!
Soil is what you need to grow fabulous flowers and veggies! Sweet carrots, crisp peas, tasty spuds, juicy beets, ... well, you get the picture.

Two piles, one is great garden soil, one is fish compost : )

Soil is the black gold that you grow your food and flowers in. So then, where can you buy cheap soil?
The short answer is ... 'It really doesn't matter as there is truly no such thing as cheap soil!'

The sad truth of the matter is that cheap soil is really gonna cost you...  big time! Remember grandma's old adage 'Only the rich can afford to buy cheap'? She was so right..isn't she always? You should listen to grandma!

If you buy the 'cheap' stuff, you are going to get your money's worth. Just Dirt! Your plants will not thrive, they either will not germinate, will be spindly and weak, or be riddled with pests and diseases.

You will spend so much money on amendments like compost, manure, fertiliser, etc to improve the quality of your 'cheap dirt'. Or you will lose hope, think that you have a black thumb, perhaps even give up on gardening altogether ... simply because you bought cheap!

It will end up costing you so much more then you thought, will break your heart, and literally take years to amend that cheap soil into the great garden that you wanted, into that lovely potager, bursting with healthy, nutrient rich, home grown veggies, no sprays or inorganic fertilisers needed.

Therefore, my true answer is, though not at all witty, but totally straight forward … 'Please, invest in the very best soil that you can afford!' Save in other areas, not on your soil. The soil is the most important part of your organic food or flower garden.

The back potager in summer.
Great soil gives great results immediately, no waiting, no feeding, just great, healthy plants.

You will save money by not having to fertilise the heck out of your plants, nor will you have to invest in sprays for all the pests or diseases that attack weak plants.

See some results in the pics below.

The nursery beds being built in early spring.

Newly planted beds, just a couple of weeks after planting. With no additives to the lovely soil we purchased, no composts, manures, or additives involved... simply great soil for amazing results!

Just two months later … You will not get these results if you buy cheap.  

I know it hurts while you are paying for it... trust me, I said 'Gulp' very, very loudly when we purchased this soil... but you will not be sorry. Ever! I certainly have not had one day of regret! 

Oh Joy! Happy Birthday!

Soooo. we are about to become parents again... okay, not literally, lol, but new puppy parents!

We currently have our darling Delilah...  aka Little 'Lilah.
She is 3 and the light of my life :)
Little 'Lilah is an American Mastiff, slightly goofy, and very, very sweet. She is eager to please, quick to learn, and loves to meet new people at the greenhouse, especially children.

Sleeping on the job ;) My baby girl does not like to be left behind, so goes where I go... in the greenhouse she sleeps on her old beds that are no longer acceptable for in the house, while I plant and seed.

The new baby is an English Mastiff, and we have not yet chosen a name, nor do we have any idea of her personality traits as of yet.
Cannot wait to meet her in the new year!
Open to great puppy names, if you have ideas.... she will be around 200 lbs at full grown and this light fawn in colour. Yes, a girl ; )

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...