Friday, 27 December 2013

Garden Trends 2014

The 'Trends' post is one of my all time favourites to write up. I totally enjoy reviewing the past year's gardening themes and then scoping out which way the trends are bending towards in the year ahead!

So, here, in no particular order, are the garden trends for 2014, as I see them.

1. Growing Vegetables aka Growing Your Own Food

This one, of course, totally floats my boat! I am all about bringing back food growing in the yard, at home, especially rather than useless lawns ; )
People are growing their own groceries more than ever, esp with the threats from genetically modified foods, wondering how they will affect us, our children and our grandbabies in the long run.

Some grow veggies in pots and planters, some in raised beds in the back yard or mixed in with the flowers in the flower beds, and some on a larger scale, using up most all of the yard for food.
Whatever one does, it teaches children where food comes from, how to grow it, and how it really tastes fresh out of the garden. It is healthier, more nutritious, and you know what has gone into it and know exactly what is on your plate. Plus, it is so much fun to nurture ones own food from start to finish.

People have re-discovered real food. Home grown, organically grown, ethically grown food...  not only safer but tastes so much better.

It is is very important that you know that the seeds, seedlings, fruits and veggies that we small peeps can buy, sell and grow are not now and have not ever been genetically modified (GMO's). The only people that have access to GMO seeds are huge companies that pay big bucks and sign papers for the 'right' to grow them. Hybrids are not genetically modified.
That said, it is also very important that you buy seeds from companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge and seedlings and starts from reputable companies (like Nitty Gritty Greenhouse) who only use seeds that have taken this pledge. Though the seeds themselves have not been modified, some of the seed companies are actually owned by Monsanto and thus the sale of those seeds help to fund the works. Grr, dirty pool, eh?

Black Plum heirloom tomatoes from my own greenhouse and potager.
2. Super Foods/Edibles

With the trend to healthier lifestyles, more people than ever are getting active and eating more fruits, veggies, and super grains.
Juicing and blending is in, raw foods are in, veggies are hip, eating fresh, green, local, is very, very in. 

Super foods are fruits, veggies, berries, grains, etc... that have higher than average nutritional value. Foods that lower our risk of disease and improve our health.
Turns out that we are eating more and more of these extra nutritious foods now, especially if we can find them locally grown or grow them ourselves! Organic, home grown super foods! Fresher than fresh and thus even more nutritious!

Power packed super foods that we are growing ourselves ...  
Quinoa (a gluten free super grain, packed with protein, amino acids, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese )
Pumpkin seeds (for Omega 3's and 6's, tons of zinc and iron, plus most importantly, phytosterols for lowering cholesterol and for prostate health)
Blueberries, black currants, and rhubarb (are all sources of higher than average vitamins and anti-oxidants, plus, rhubarb is great for relieving hot flashes! :) 
Pretty much the entire allium family, but esp garlic and shallots (contain pre-biotics that promote the good bacterias that we need for good gut health, lower the risk of stomach cancer, help fight against atherosclerosis. Alzheimer's, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and blood clots that cause stroke or heart attack)
Veggies that are deep and rich with colours are known to have greater nutritional value than their pale counterparts... think dark green leafy veggies like kale and spinach, or deep oranges like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash, beets, broccoli, cabbage....

Grow your own quinoa!
Super easy to grow yourself and super nutritious!
 ... and pretty to boot!
3. Easy To Grow Fruits, Veggies & Berries That Thrive in Small Spaces

When asked, folks said they would grow even more foods in their own yards if only the plants were smaller and more manageable, super easy to grow, with less fussing and great results.
Dunh, dunh, dah... Bring on these guys...

These cuties all need less fussing, less space, less pruning, are easy to grow and thrive in pots, planters or garden beds.

Blueberries like the Top Hat Blueberry, or the new Brazelberries blueberries called Jelly Bean and Peach Sorbet, are the cutest little dwarf shrubs ever! They can be grown in a pot or in the garden, are self pollinating, easy to grow, and prolific fruiters. 

Brazelberries new Raspberry Shortcake is a thornless (yay!) raspberry that stays compact and pretty. Needs no staking or tying up, making it possible for the very first time to grow great raspberries in a pot or in the smallest of garden spaces!

Veggies like the Astia Zucchini provide loads of zukes with shorter, compact branches instead of long vines.
Bush Slicer Cucumber for tons of slicer cukes on short vines, perfect for pots.
The Morden Midget Eggplant is never bitter, always tasty, with pretty little purple fruits that grow on an 18" high bush.
The Stupice tomato is a bush type heirloom that stays nice and compact and fruits great, is especially perfect for short season summer area.

Fruit trees like figs, lemons, mandarins, limes, apples, pears ... all come in dwarf varieties and can easily be tended in pots or grown as a feature tree in the new postage stamp sized yards.

Brazelberries 'Raspberry Shortcake'
4. Planting for the bees
With the decline in the bee population, everyone is taking this one very seriously. Pesticides have been banned in most all provinces/states and folks are planting flowers and herbs that feed the bees while adding colour and interest to the garden.
Bees are drawn to flowers with big, flat heads like dill, cilantro or Queen Anne's Lace.
They also love the blue/purple hues... so herbs like anise hyssop, chives, borage, lavender, and catmint, and pretty blue flowers like liatris, larkspur, and bachelors buttons.
They simply adore single, flat flowers (doubles tend to be either sterile or have very little pollen and/or nectar). Think of the single dahlias like Bishop's Children (not the puffy ones or dinnerplates), sunflowers (again, the big ones that make seeds, not the ornamental), and they love nearly all the zinnias, esp the ones with the big, pollen filled yellow centres like the 'Cut and Come Again'.
Cut and Come Again Zinnias... photo from Harris Seeds.
5. Geometric Gardening  
No longer are you apt to find gardens with long, neat, straight rows of a single veggie. The trend now is going to growing more food, more colour, and more variety in beds of every geometric shape imaginable.

Gardens now might be spirals with veggies, flowers and herbs growing up and around like in a snail shell ...  or they may be in a circle, key hole, pyramid, pinwheel, or triangle shape for more interest, with plantings in a mix of colours, shapes, sizes and textures.

Geometric garden beds look spectacular! Flowers, fruits, herbs, veggies, and berries, all planted into an interesting bed design ....  Add fabulous colour, texture and a healthy mix of goodies to your yardscape.

 Photo from
6. No Till Gardening/Lasagna Bed Gardening

No more tilling, turning, lifting, hoeing...
The trend is turning more and more towards not turning your soil, just like Ruth Stout touted decades ago.
Gardening just does not get any easier than this..
We all know that when we turn our soil, we bring weed seeds to the surface. They then germinate and we have to pull or hoe them out. If we do not ever turn the soil, these weed seeds stay buried, never to germinate.

To keep weeds at bay from around your veggies, mulch with a thick layer of cardboard, newsprint, grass clippings, straw, etc.. to cover the soil and prevent any surface weed seeds from germinating. If any do germinate, pull them and add more of your cover material to prevent any others from germinating. As this mulch breaks down (composts), it improves soil friability and fertility for bigger, better and healthier crops.
Instead of turning and mixing in your nutrients and amendments, you layer the compost, manure, alfalfa, etc... right on top of the garden beds, allowing wind, rain, snow and the earth worms to do the work for us.

To start new beds, you do not need to dig down, remove sod, etc... just put down a thick layer of newsprint or cardboard, and then alternate layers of compostable greens and browns (leaf mould, compost, manure, grass clippings, alfalfa hay, kitchen scraps, straw, etc...) to a height of 2 feet. This composts and shrinks down quickly.          

   No till garden pic from Pinterest... layer with cover to prevent weeds and improve soil!
7. Investing in Outdoor Living

This trend keeps on growing in popularity. People are looking for ways to spend more time outdoors, to make the outdoor space more useful, making more of the home space livable and usable.

Outdoor rooms, outdoor kitchens, outdoor dining rooms and lounging areas, allow us to spend more time in the great out of doors, spending time with family and friends outdoors, rather than in.

I absolutely love the fabulous outdoor fireplaces that allow us to extend our season by adding warmth and ambiance. The addition of a pizza and/or bread oven makes me think of Mediterranean living, so very romantic and appealing.... plus super yummy!

Photo from

8. Eco-conscious living

Any and all earth-friendly living that lowers our footprint on the planet is living an Eco-conscious life. More and more people are choosing to live a conscious life style.

Whether you are growing your own food, growing communally, or supporting local growers at the farmers markets, you are lowering the community footprint on the planet and living Eco-friendly.
Or using your land to grow flowers and food rather than grass, drip irrigating to save water, or making your own compost.
If you are re-cycling, re-using or re-furbing, free-cycling and/or bartering goods and services.
Planting native plants, bird houses, bat houses, etc. to provide homes and natural habitats for wildlife.
Using cloth bags, re-using grocery bags, packing lunchboxes or bags instead of plastic or Styrofoam, making your own waxed cloth instead of buying cling wrap.
Taking the bus or car-pooling, disconnecting your downspouts to either fill water barrels or re-route the rainwater to your gardens, using timers, solar lighting, piling leaves for leaf mould, using clothes lines for drying your clothes, ...

Each of these small steps (plus so many more not mentioned here) makes a difference and adds up to a more earth friendly lifestyle and smaller footprint on our planet.

9. Men as gardeners

This is an interesting trend to me. It seems that more and more men are becoming the gardeners in the household.
When we moved to the new house, I began chatting with the neighbours, and found that even here in our wee rural community, the trend really is that more menfolk than ever before are growing the food.
The old guy next door grows veggies and flowers, the young guy down the street grows the hallowe'en pumpkins, my back neighbour is into small urban farming ... I also find men of all ages wandering into my greenhouse in spring, picking out seedlings and starts for their gardens.
My dad has always been into gardening, he is the berry guru. He is the one that does the planting, growing, pruning, tending, picking of all the strawberries, currants, grapes, raspberries, gooseberries, etc... My hubby and brother are the helping hands, they weed, plant, dig holes, build beds, pick, in general, do as they are told, lol. However, these are actually not the guys that I am talking about, gardeners though they are!

This trend is all about the younger gents (18 to 34) spending more money and more time doing the gardening than the gals in the family do.
They are growing their own herbs and veggies for barbecuing and cooking and teaching their kidlets how to grow fruits and veggies. They are the ones buying, seeding, planting, tending and growing. I love it! Go man go!

10. Colour of The Year 2014

Plus, as always, the colour of the year from Panetone! The colour for 2014 is Radiant Orchid. Wow!

 Amaranthus photo from Pinterest

Photo from


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Home-made Organic Cough and Cold 'Tea'

Found this fabulous 'Cough and Cold Tea' recipe on Pinterest and had to try it!

It is delish! Made four jars the first time and ran out in no time! Everyone loves it, both as a soothing remedy when sick, but also as a preventative measure to stay healthy and boost your immune system!

The Yummy How-To...
- 2 organic lemons ( I found that I needed more)
- 1 piece of ginger about the size of your thumb (the original recipe called for two pieces, but I am not a huge fan of ginger so used less). Use as much or as little as you like. Oh, I noticed that the zing of the ginger actually mellows and melds in the syrup.
- Honey, enough to fill the jar.

Scrub your lemons. Slice into small slices, wedges or chunks, whichever look you prefer. I like nice thin slices.
Peel and slice the knob of ginger into pieces, coins or slivers. I used half coins.
Wash and dry your canning jars and lids really well.
Place the ginger into each jar, add the lemon slices on top till jar is full.
Top up with honey, let it settle into all the crevices, and then add some more, so that it covers the lemons.

They say that if you let it sit for a month or two, the fruit will break down a bit and it will all gel into a lovely, soft, lumpy syrup. Mine never lasts that long ; )

If you use it fairly soon, the lemon juice will still be layered on top of the honey.
Give everything a good stir in the jar and add a spoonful to your cup.... or just dig into it, going through the layers, filling up your spoon and add the gooey goodness to your tea cup.

I got super lucky!
My potted up lemon tree was super loaded with lemons this year,
and they all ripened up in late fall!
 Perfect timing!
So I was able to use my own organic, homegrown lemons. Yum!

Also, I live a few blocks away from a fabulous local honey farm (Fredrich's!)
So was able to buy local and support a mom and pop business.
Love when it works out like that : )...  
Shop local, support mom and pop biz's, go organic, and when possible, grow your own!

Add to your favourite herbal tea or to a cup of hot water.
I am on a Black Currant Tea crazy lately, which is also good for colds, and add a good big spoonful of this 'syrup' to my cuppa.

Why it works...

Ginger helps to control and calm the symptoms that come with colds, flu's, upper respiratory tract infections, and bronchitis. It also helps to reduce muscle pain, and settle the tummy if one has nausea or vomiting.

Lemon aids in controlling fever and chills as well as adding that much needed boost of vitamin C to soothe your sore throat. It has anti-septic properties and also gives one a boost when feeling fatigued. If taken before you get sick, it helps to build up your defence system and prevent flues, colds and inflammation.

Honey has natural anti-septic and anti-bacterial properties so helps to boost immunity to fend off colds, coughs and flues, plus aides in the healing and soothing of symptoms if you do get sick. It is also a soothing cough suppressant.

Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.
An Irish Saying
~ ~ ~

Lemon tree, very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet....

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Birdseed Wreaths - For The Birds .... Reviewed

The three birdseed wreathes have been hanging on the large cedar for several weeks now, long enough to get an idea of which one is the most popular with the birds ...

For all three recipes and their how-to's, see HERE .

Wreath Number One... (the light coloured one on the right hand side)

The little birds are really enjoying this one, flocking around it and pecking away. It seems to appeal to the wee little birdies the most. Is also still looking solid and very pretty hung up on it's green ribbon.

 Wreath Number Two

This is the one that was made with both peanut butter and suet. Sadly, it broke in half about a week after it graced the tree.
The top half I left hanging on the tree while the bottom half, mostly still intact, was placed on a large tree stump in amongst the Salal ...
All kinds of birds really seem to enjoy this one, seem to like pecking around on the ground, in amongst the Salal, for all the tasty little seeds that scattered everywhere.

Next time I make this, I will add the same amount of peanut butter but will add about 1/2 cup more of the rendered suet, the 'glue' that holds it all together, to try to prevent it from cracking in half again.
However, it may also simply be that I did not mix the seeds and suet together long enough or well enough, as we can see that the extra suet settled in the bottom of the pan. Perhaps it just needed more stirring?

Turns out that Ruby Tuesday also liked the peanut butter and suet covered seed, which I noted as I scooped up all the bespeckled evidence from the yard.

Ruby Tuesday in front of the bird feeder cedar.
The low growing greenery around the cedar is called Salal.
Is what the florists use in floral arrangements and stays green year round.
The Salal grows provides the wee birds with a nice, safe place to feed.

Wreath Number Three...
This is the larger wreath, made with suet alone, from Martha Stewart's recipe. Shown here with the bird perched on it.
It is holding it's shape well, staying strong and solid. One side seems to be getting a wee bit more attention from the birds and so it needs to be given a bit of a turn keep it from getting too weak/thin that close to the ribbon.  
It seems to appeal more to the mid sized birds than the wee little ones ....

In summery...

I would say that all the wreaths are a hit. They are pretty to look at, fun to make, and all three appeal to the birds.

I do not know the names of the birds in my yard, but I can say that all three wreaths are getting their fair share of attention, though different kinds of birds seem to prefer different wreaths best.

In the end, I ended up choosing to make the two suet ones rather than the flour one, as it seems to me that suet and nuts are likely better for the birds than flour and syrup. A more organic, bird-friendly choice.

I make the peanut butter one the most, wreath number two. Yep, even though it fell apart. It seemed to be the one that most all of the birds went to the most. However, I think it wins with only the smallest of margins ....

Therefore, pick any one of these great recipes, make it ....  and they will come ; )

For a later update and to see how I overcame the breaking/cracking, please see HERE!  

I have since started to add a nice layer of roasted peanuts on top of wreath #3
which the sapsuckers and woodpeckers seem to really appreciate. 
(at the bottom of the bundt pan)

These gorgeous Arbutus berries are a huge hit with all the birds.

Monday, 2 December 2013

December Ramblings

Here we are in December already!

Gardening is probably not the first thought on most folks minds this month.... but if, like me, you love to putter in the garden and cannot be without playing in the dirt, here are some garden related things that you can be doing this month ...

Carrots in the December garden.
The only thing you really need to do to them over winter 
is make sure that the shoulders of your carrots are not exposed to frost.
Cover with soil or straw, compost or mulch.
(do this with your parsnips, too) 

What to do in the yard this month?

- Run a hoe over any new weed seedlings.

- Continue to harvest and enjoy carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and more goodies from your fall/winter garden.

- Pot up some calendula seeds for early pops of colour in spring. Place in a cool and sunny location.

- Still time to transplant and/or plant shrubs, roses and trees in garden zones 5 and above.

- Also, you can still pop your spring flowering bulbs like tulips, crocuses, muscari, etc...into the ground. Lily bulbs can be planted as long as you can chip a big enough hole into the ground, in any garden zone. I have planted lilies in late November in a garden zone 3. Cold, takes time to chip the holes, but do-able :)

- Prune your small fruiting shrubs, fruit trees, and raspberries.
- Rake up and clean up fallen foliage around fruit trees, roses, shrubs ...

- Spray fruit trees, raspberry canes, cotoneasters, shrubs, and roses with a dormant oil/sulphur mix to kill and prevent pest and fungal problems next year. Do this when your trees and shrubs have lost their foliage and when temps are above freezing. Always read and follow the instructions on the label.

I potted up two rhubarb root pieces for forcing.
Both pots are in this bin, left outdoors for now and will soon be going into the warmth of the greenhouse.
Forcing rhubarb is like forcing bulbs to flower... the bulb/rootstock may or may not recover.
Therefore, I recommend that you use a piece of your plant, not the entire plant...just in case.
Forced rhubarb is ready to eat about a month earlier than the garden grown, and is less tart, more delicate in flavour.

- Lift your rhubarb plant, pot it up and move it into a dark and warm location for spring forcing...
Forcing can also be done in the garden by covering the rhubarb with a dark cloche (a pot, a willow or terra cotta cloche, a bin or box, etc...) in January. If you do the outdoor method of forcing, is best if you have two plants and alternate the forcing, as the forced one needs a year's recovery period.
The herb bed.

- Clean up and cut back your perennial veggie and herb beds, top dressing with compost or chicken manure.

- Continue to top dress all your beds with compost or manure. Do not mix in, just layer on top. The earth worms and winter rains will do the work for you.

What To Do Indoors In Preparation for Spring

- Make your garden layout plan of what goes where ... use pencil if you are at all like me, as I change my mind right up to and including planting day.

- Grab a glass of wine and get lost in all the fabulous, lovely seed catalogues.

- Journal your thoughts, ideas, plans, seed orders, hopes and wishes for your 2014 gardens.

- Start saving all your big 4 litre milk jugs for winter sowing ( get more from neighbours, friends and family members) .

- Order some perennial and hardy annual seeds for your winter sowing next month. Here is a list of what you might want to consider sowing in January. More on this next month.

Mahonia wreath.
Wear gloves when making this as the teeth on the foliage can be very sharp! 
This year's Christmas planters.
Keeping things light and bright with cypress, flowering cabbage, a burlap bow, mossy sticks
.... and a bit of twisty stems, just because.
~ ~ ~
Merry Christmas!


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bird Seed Wreaths - They're For The Birds

I have always wanted to make some birdseed wreaths, but never had a great place to put them....

Here at the 'ugly new house' we have lots of mature cedars, great for the birds in all ways!

So, I looked for recipes... huh, there are quite a few, it turns out!

I knew that I did not want to do the peanut butter rolls, where you simply smear the peanut butter on a wreathe form and then roll it in seeds.

Version One!

1/2 cup of warm water
1 package of gelatin
3/4 cups of flour
3 Tbsp corn syrup
4 cups of birdseed

Mix and heat the water, syrup, and gelatin in a small sauce pan.
Add the flour to the pan and mix. Will be very thick.
This is the 'glue' that holds the seeds together.

Add your seeds and incorporate the 'glue' into all of the seed. Mix well as the flour will tend to goop up.

Push into the bundt pan and let set overnight.
(the instructions said to use an oil spray in the pan to help loosen it, but again, I am not sure how good this is for the birds, nor do I have any of this spray stuff at home, so I did not do anything to the pan first.)

To loosen the wreathe from the pan, I simply ran the bottom of the pan under warm water for a bit. Worked like a charm.

This one holds together the best of them all, but the ingredients leave me shaking my head. Seems like 'junk food' for the birds. 

Note: The flour and syrup are used to create the 'glue' that holds the seeds together. Everything I read seems to indicate that both items are completely safe for the birds, though not necessarily the most nutritious. I have deleted any items that I thought or read about that might possibly be toxic or dangerous in any way.   

Version Two

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup suet
1 cup peanut butter
4 cups birdseed

Slowly render the suet (heat it to melt it)
Add the peanut butter to melt it into the suet.
Add seeds and cornmeal, mix well.

Push into the bundt pan and let sit overnight.
Remove as above.

This one stays together nicely, is firm and looks prettiest colour wise. The peanut butter gives it a nice warm colour)

The suet seemed to settle into the bottom of the pan though and you see that on top of the wreathe when taken out of the form. I wonder if I should have mixed longer, or if it simply was extra and so settled at the bottom?

Version Three

For this one I used the Martha Stewart recipe on Pinterest.... and a larger bundt pan.

Suet (rendered) 
Dried and fresh cranberries
6 cups birdseed
1 cup nuts Note: please use roasted, unsalted peanuts, not raw, which may in fact be harmful to the birds. If you only have raw, roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.  

Melt the suet slowly.
Add nuts, birdseed and cranberries (if using) to the suet.

Mix well. Let harden in pan, overnight, in fridge or freezer.

I love the look of this one, is very natural looking with the seeds all shiny and glossy from the suet.

However, I find that the sides crumbled a bit as I added the ribbon and hang it up, so it is a big fragile to work with. Am not sure how well it will hold up to the birds and the weather...

The real test will be to see which one the birds like the best! Please stay tuned ....

~ ~ ~

Want to know how the three wreaths made out with the birds?
Please see the link Here

December 3, 2016 update. 
For and update on how to make your wreath sturdier,
less apt to crack in half, please see HERE!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Peppers Hot and Sweet

Surprisingly, my peppers were really great this year!

Not that I don't generally grow great peppers ...  cuz I really do, lol (much chest thumping going on ; )
Surprisingly, because I thought that I could only grow great peppers inside the greenhouse, on the south side, where they get tons of heat and light.

However, this is not so!
This year, the greenhouse had to come down in July, in preparation for the big move!

Therefore, all the peppers were grown outside. They responded marvellously to the elements, while I treated them like I usually do .... with carefree neglect ; )

All the peppers started out at the old location, on our lovely, south east facing deck, which only received about 6 hours of sunshine a day, from about 10 in the morning to 2 or 3 pm. That's it.

Still growing outside at the new 'ugly'house'
.. stayed outside till mid-November. 
You see that some have 'plastic garbage bag hoop houses' on them?
I can honestly say that peppers do not need them!
I removed the bags after a few weeks, as the ones without the plastic were performing better,
despite the cool and even frosty nights.

Then we moved to the new house, the 'ugly house' as I call it, and they still had to grow outside.
They were placed on the wee deck out back, which faces west, but due to the trees on that side of the house, still did not get more than 6 hours of sunshine a day.
At both locations, I placed them close to the house so that they could soak up extra heat from the siding.

They were left outdoors to grow, ripen, and thrive, till mid-November. Then I picked a huge basket of peppers and composted the plants.
We picked sweet peppers as we needed them, throughout the late summer. However, hot peppers we tend to pick all at once, usually when we are going to be canning or pickling.

Growing peppers...
Hot peppers are started in the greenhouse, very early in the year (12 to 16 weeks before last frost), while sweet peppers are started a month or so later.
I start them with bottom heat, sunlight or grow lights, use a good, loose, high porosity, soil-less potting mix, and give them a weekly foliar feed of Reindeer Liquid Seaweed. They also get a spray of insecticidal soap weekly, for aphid and white fly prevention/control.
Once they germinate, I transfer them to 3" square pots. They stay in these pots till they are sold, and until I plant my own into 3 gallon pots in June. 
They are not heavy feeders once they get out of those small 3 inch pots.

After they have been transplanted into their 3 gallon pots, they get a scoop of espom salts on the surface of the soil, maybe get watered with alfalfa tea a couple of times, and might get a foliar feed or two during the summer, if  I remember. Plant into a good mix of compost and soil-less potting mix.

Peppers simply like lots of heat, sunshine and to be kept a wee bit on the dry side ... See? Easy to grow as they thrive on neglect!

Chinese Five Colour Peppers

Friday, 1 November 2013

November Garden and Yard Ramblings

What to do in the month of November in the yard? In the garden? What to plant now? If you are in the colder regions of the world, with snow or hard frosts already, you likely are buttoned up already for the winter and eagerly awaiting spring.
However if you are on the PNW or more temperate areas, well, still lots of time to do lots of things.

Plant some peas, your doggies will thank you ; )

What to plant now...(Can you believe that I still have this head line in here? Amazing, eh?)

In the garden..
Peas - plant now for an early crop in spring. Sow heavier than you would normally as you will likely have a lower germination rate.
- Broad beans
- Garlic - yes, still time to get it in
- Asparagus - if you can find some crowns ) a friend is thinning out her bed, maybe?) now is a great time to plant them up. Read my asparagus planting and growing tips HERE.

Under cover... ( Stuff you may want to germinate under grow lights and then move out to your cold frame. They can handle to cooler temps, but germination will be lower and slower due to the lack of daylight.
- Lettuce mixes with arugula, mache, cress, mustard...

Interesting useful idea ...
Cold frames can easily be made into hot frames or hot beds by placing some 'hot' or 'raw' manure underneath the compost/soil or the potted plants. The raw manure heats up the frame as it rots down into composted manure.
Also, make sure to slant the windows of your cold frame or hotbed towards the south so that it takes up loads up light.

Want flowers in your potager come spring?
Plant them up now!

Flowers to plant from seed now ...
- Calendula
- Poppies
- Sweet peas
- Larkspur
- Delphiniums
- Can still try throwing down some cosmos and cleome, as well.
- Plant lilies as long as you can chip a hole into the ground!
- Spring flowering bulbs - tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths, crocuses, etc...

Ornamental cabbage and winter heather. 

In Flower beds or focal points...
- Plant ornamental kale or cabbages, bellis, pansies, heather, etc... to add fall and winter colour and interest. (pop some bulbs under the plants for spring interest)

What to do in the yard this month ....

- Rake up those leaves, shred them up by running a lawn mower over them, and then top dress your gardens with the leaves.
Alternately, pile them up, or bag them and leave them to break down into leaf mould, which is an amazingly fabulous top dressing and mulch for your veggies and flowers,

- If your tree form roses (standards) have lost their leaves, this is a good time to cut them back to prevent breakage during the winter rains and snows. Also cut back any other really tall roses to about 18" to prevent winter breakage.
You can also spray them ( plus fruit trees that have lost their foliage)  with a dormant oil and sulphur mix to prevent pests and fungal diseases next year.

- Top dress your garden beds with compost or manure, leaves, etc.. allowing it to break down and amend your soil all winter long.

- Mow lawns and trim the edges for the last time this year, add lime here on the island.

- Clean up any fallen fruits, leaves, branches, etc.. from under your fruit trees. This prevents pests and disease from over wintering. Put tree wraps on your young trees to protect them from the deer, rabbits and mice/voles this winter and early spring.

- Divide any overgrown perennials. Share the extras with friends.

- PNW- Move pots and planters under the carport, the eaves of the house, or cover with boards, pot saucers, etc.. to keep the pots from rotting in the winter rains. Or, add pot feet to the bottoms to raise them off the ground for better drainage.

-Lift dahlias, glads, cannas, callas, etc.... and store over the winter. See the last blog post for how-to's HERE!.

- Clean and sterilise your summer pots and planters with a 10% bleach solution before you put them away.

- If not in the PNW, deep water your trees and shrubs in preparation for the winter.

In The Potager ...
- lift the last of your onions, potatoes, squash, parsnips,  etc... leave carrots in the ground and pick them all winter long. Cure the spuds, squash, and onions so that they store well through the winter.

- Pick the last of the tomatoes and peppers, make into sauces, salsas, or slow oven roast the tomatoes and peppers for a fabulous treat all winter long.

- Harvest Brussels sprouts, cabbage and the last yummy bits of kale.

- Cover the spinach, greens and lettuce beds with a frost blanket or hoops for fresh greens well into the winter.Or close the cold frame window, opening it up on any sunny days!

- Plant new fruit trees, shrubs, and strawberry runners or plants.

- Sow your breadseed and/or pepperbox poppies now.

- Want blanched leeks? this is the time to hill them up with soil to blanch them.

- Use a board on top of the soil if you have to walk in your beds, to avoid compaction.

- Top dress your beds with fresh manure or compost. Do a simple inexpensive soil test now so that you know exactly what to add to your beds to break down over the winter... then you are ready to go first thing in spring!

For The Yuletide
- For the birds .. make birdseed wreathes and bells for the birds. Set out suet feeders.

- Plant up your amaryllis bulbs, paper whites, hyacinths ...

- Re-pot your front urns or planters to reflect the winter and yuletide season.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Over-Wintering Bulbs, Tubers, Corms, and Rhizomes

In temperate areas, one can leave the bulbs, corms, tubers, etc.. in the ground over winter and they will come up for many years.
Lift them every 3 or 4 years in order to clean them up and thin them out for the best blooms. 
Also, keep in mind that if you do not lift them and you have a colder year, wetter year, snowier year, you might indeed lose those tubers, bulbs, corms ... that you have grown for years.

This post details dahlia's and glads, but the same technique applies to all the various tender bulbs that you would lift in fall... Canna lilies, Calla lilies, Colocasia's, Crocosmia's, Anemone's, Begonia's, Freesia's, etc...
It also applies to hardy bulbs like tulips and daffodils, that you want to lift in order to move to another location or from pot to garden, garden to pot, etc... 

Dinnerplate Dahlia
 Leave the tubers in the ground until the first frost has blackened and killed back the foliage.
Cut the stem back to 6 inches tall.
Loosen the soil in a large circle around your dahlia, about 8 inches all around the crown.
Then lift the tuber carefully from the bed with a garden fork.
Shake off the excess soil.
How to dry your corms, bulbs, rhizomes, and tubers...
After carefully lifting them...
Remove any that are wounded, mouldy, soft, or have spots of rot, toss into the compost bin.   
Lay them out on newsprint in a dry, cool, airy area to dry for about two weeks.
I use a table in the carport or the greenhouse floor under a table.
A furnace room, garage or store room is a great place to spread them out to dry.
Do not expose them to moisture, rain, or direct sunshine.   
Do not place right on the cold concrete floor, always use newsprint or cardboard underneath.

These dry dahlia's are now ready to be cleaned up.
Trim back the dry messy roots and the tops to about an inch long,
Clean off any remaining soil and take off any bits that have been damaged, are soft or mouldy.
Sometimes the mother plant or tuber dies and dries up and sometimes it stays alive.
This mother tuber will be a darker colour and can be removed, as it will not bloom again.
Save the fresh new tubers.
If the clump is very large, you can cut it into 2 or more new tubers,
as long as there is an eye on each piece.
(Looks pretty much the same as a potato eye)
Let the cuts dry before storing.
Glads (gladioluses, gladioli, or gladiolas)
After  the first frost or once the blooms have completely finished,
cut back the stems to about 6 inches tall.

Carefully loosen the soil around the glads and lift from the ground.
Place in a cool, dry, airy place to dry.
See above for how to dry.
These glads are now ready to be cleaned up...
Removed the wee baby cormels that you see here in this picture.
Also,  remove the dried up brown corm that was this years flower.
A nice, new plump corm will have formed above that dried up one, that is next years new flower.
The bigger and fatter it is, the better it will bloom.  
The happiest, healthiest, biggest cormels can also be saved
and planted with the regular corms, and then lifted again in the fall.
They will size up in the garden bed, to bloom the following year.
Saving these and growing them on will provide you with great fresh stock
for great blooms each and every year.

 Cleaned up glad corms...
The cleaned up glads are placed into a cardboard box, an ice cream pail, paper bag,
mesh bag, some kind of storage container...
Add some peat moss, dry sand, or soil-less potting mix to the container, unless using mesh..
Store in a cool, dry, airy place.
I used to use my store room under the stairs, have also used the furnace room.
Now, I simply push my box under one of the greenhouse tables on the north side and forget about it till spring.
Every so often, pull out the box and make sure that they all are healthy.
Remove any mouldy, soft, dried out, or rotten corms.
To label your dahlias, you can simply write the name right onto the tuber with a sharpie.
This works fabulously if you have many different bulbs and want to store them all in a box together.
Or write it onto a plastic or wooden label and tuck that into the box or bag with the bulb.
I usually just write the name on the outside of the bag, box or ice cream pail.


When you check on them in late winter, early spring,
if you happen to see spindly white or pale green new growth starting,
you have no choice but to pot them up right away.
There is no way to stop the growth process once it has started. 
Pop them into pots till you can get them into the ground,
and you will have bigger, better, and stronger plants. 

 Happy Gardening!

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...