Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Garden and Greenhouse Ramblings in April

This year has been a bit of a scramble, even now, still feeling like I am playing catch up....

Little Lilah became ill in January and much time was spent running to the vet, then caring for her, not sleeping, worrying, and thus, 2013 got off to a rough start.

This month, I have not spent much time in the back yard/potager as I get sad when I go back there and think about my darling Lilah. Puppy is not very garden friendly yet, so that also cuts back on the time I can spend in there, she romps thru raised beds, planted or not, pulls heads off of blooms, eats the sticks, labels, tags and stakes...

Therefore ... time heals all, but for this month I will just post a few pics.

Potatoes have sprouted.... when they are 6 to 8 inches tall, I will throw more soil over them, leaving just the tips above the soil level.

The garlic beds are truly thriving in the sun, rain, sun of spring...
I planted something in and around the garlic last fall and am not sure what it is...
Think it might be Breadseed Poppies, which would be lovely ; )
However, should probably take better notes and not rely on my 'memory' ; )

Carrots are ready to be thinned!

Mmm, loving the Kale!

The asparagus keeps on coming  : )
This is year three, so I harvest enough for myself and a guest or two, twice a week.
Have both the Sweet Purple and Jersey Knight.
The chives are near ready to bloom....

The two rhubarb plants are full of large, juicy stalks!

The herb bed and three beds of garlic....

This month ... you should plant ...
-more carrots
-more kale
-more peas
-lettuce, spinach, greens
-Brussels sprouts

The nursery is full of veggies, perennials, and roses!

Timber kitty and the spring planters, still going strong...

Easy Tomato Cage Hothouses

Brr, the last few night have certainly been chilly.
Super glad I have not yet been tempted to get my tomatoes outside and get an early start on things...

Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini and peppers want the night time temps to be +10C (50F) in order to thrive.

If you plant them too early or they get too cold, the veins will turn purple. This is a sign that the root system is unable to access the phosphorous in the soil. It will cause the plant to delay it's growth and fruiting by many weeks. Please wait till temps are averaging close to the 10 degree mark.

However, in case you are impatient and want to get a head start on things....
This tomato cage hothouse is an inexpensive idea that a customer and great gardener friend of mine passed on to me. She had fabulous tomatoes last year, despite the fact that June was very wet and cool.

Soooo, just in case we have one of those terribly cool and wet June's, once again, as we are known to do here on the island, or to get a jump start on the season ...
Here is how I interpreted what she told me and how I went about it...

Tomato cage hothouse

What you need ...
-landscape fabric, landscape paper, or black (preferred) plastic
-tomato cages
-stakes or trellis or fence if you grow vining (undetermined) tomatoes, as I do.
-large plastic garbage bags..preferably the clear leaf bags, but any colour will do.
-exacto knife or scissors

What to do ...
- Prepare your bed, amend your soil and rake it out nicely....

- Lay down your landscape fabric or plastic and pin it down with landscape pins or weigh down with rocks.

The black fabric/plastic will soak up the sun and warm the soil in your beds.
It also helps with the prevention of blight as it prevents the soil/bacteria, fungal issues, etc.. from splashing up onto your foliage when you water.

This is the only place that I ever use landscape fabric ... on top of the veggie bed.
Place on the soil to warm the soil and prevent splashing and disease in the garden.
For all other purposes, please use cardboard, newsprint, etc...
Landscape fabric is bad for plants health and welfare and does not actually prevent weeds.

- Figure out where your tomatoes are going to be, about 18 to 24 inches apart. is ideal This ensures great air flow which also helps to prevent blight.

- Cut out a circle or an X in the fabric where your tomatoes are going to go ... if you made an X fold the flaps under the fabric or cut them off.

- Place your garbage bag onto the ground, over the hole in the fabric

- Stick your tomato cage through the plastic bag (holds it in place) and into the hole in the fabric.

- If you are growing indeterminate varieties (vining), decide what your plants are going to grow up on.
Make sure you have a trellis, a stake, an obelisk, or frame that a string can be hung from, in order to support your vining tomato.
A cage will not be enough, especially those wee little flimsy ones ...  In order to support vining tomatoes you will need something sturdy that reaches about 6 to 8 feet high.

- I am using the tomato spirals...  I place my stake behind the cage and thru the top ring to offer better support.

- Lift the plastic bag up and over the top of the cage. I
Do this a week or two before you plant your tomatoes ...  the ground will have nicely warmed up under the fabric and inside the tomato cage 'greenhouse' by the time you plant.

After you plant your tomatoes ...

If you have used see-thru bags, the plastic can stay up top, completely covering the plant, creating a mini hot house. Leave up till night temps are consistently +10C (50F). Poke holes in the bag for circulation.

If you have used solid black or less translucent bags, you will want to pull the cover down during the day so that the plant receives sunshine, and pull it up for the nights.
On cool, wet, or windy days, pull it down half ways so that the plant is exposed to light but not to the cool winds.

As the weather warms up, fold down the top of the bag to the base of the cage...

In fall, you can again lift the plastic up to the top, if needed, to extend your fall season and save the fruits from frost.

For now, I am just going to leave the 'hothouses' up in order to warm up the bed in preparation for the tomatoes.

Depending on what happens with our weather, I will likely put the tomatoes into the hothouses around the May long week-end, so in about 2 to 3 weeks time.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Scented Geraniums

I am so stoked! Finally found some scented pelargoniums (aka geraniums) so that I am able to share this passion of mine with you all.

I am a huge fan of pelargoniums (annual geraniums) of all kinds ...  scented, ivy, zonal, seed ... I love them all..

The scented ones I have this year are ... Pink Champagne (my fave!), Shrubland Rose, Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Ginger, Nutmeg, Frensham Lemon, Lavender, Prince of Orange, and Coconut! Yummers!

I also have 'The Waspinator' and 'Citronella".

Reasons to grow scented pelargoniums....

Some are bug repellents....

Varieties that repel fleas ... Peppermint, Lavender, Lemon Frensham, and Citronella.

Varieties that repel mosquito's ... Citronella, Frensham Lemon, Lavender, and Peppermint as well as regular geraniums.

Varieties that repel wasps ... Waspinator

As they are highly scented, they are not liked by deer or rodents either.
For areas with a heavy deer population that trial everything, the strongest scented ones would be your best bet.
Peppermint has fuzzy leaves and is highly scented ( two things they really dislike!)
Shrubland Rose has a really great, strong scent, as does Coconut.

However, not just for repelling bugs or deer, they are great dried and used as potpourri, or steeped in the warm bath water for a delightful scented bath, or in the finger bowl on rib night.

Some folks use them in jams and jellies! I can see how that would add some real great scent and flavour. Should stock up on all the 'flavours' ; )

I like them mostly to just bundle into little tussy mussies. The wee mini bouquets add a lovely fragrance and deter bugs at the outdoor dining table, or in any room as a natural air freshener.
Are also great to place in and amongst your linens in the linen closet to keep things fresh scented and repel moths.  

A lovely wee 'tussy mussy'

Best of all though, they look and smell great in the garden, on the deck, or beside your Adirondack chair while you sip wine or coffee.

Prince of Orange  in bloom ... from geraniums.momcom.net

Saturday, 13 April 2013

This One Is a Tough One....

So, for those of you who have followed me over the past three years, more or less, you will all know that my sweet Mastiff, Delilah, aka Little 'Lilah, has been with me in the potager and greenhouse business, every step of the way.

Lilah, checking out the fall peas.... peas, strawberries and carrots were the favourites.

Sadly, Little Lilah became very ill in January.

After several weeks of tests, pokes, prodding, shaving, joint tapping, and all sorts of other nasty things, turns out she had come down with an auto-immune disease. Lilah being not quite 4 years of age, was at the prime age for this disease that  attacks her immune system, joints in particular.

After diagnosis, on drugs, but sadly, still losing weight...

Sadly, the disease got the best of my darling best friend, my support system and best buddy, greenhouse helper and love of my love.

Little Lilah passed away on April 6th. 2013 at not quite 4 years of age.

R.I.P. Delilah aka Little 'Lilah
May 16, 2009 - April 6, 2013

Potatoes I Planted This Year

Planted potatoes today, March 31st.

Is a bit (week or two) earlier than I usually do them, but our weather has been stunning so the beds are dry and ready to go....

This year I am carrying seed potatoes at the greenhouse and so decided to plant up one package of each variety I have.
Want to test them out, see if we find any new favourites...

The tried and true with us are the fingerling types as we always plant Bananas and red French Fingerling's.

Am most excited to try out the Carlita's and the new Orchestra potatoes.
They are both organically grown, but most importantly, are both said to be drought tolerant. We have drought here on the island each summer. Rains all winter and dry as dust all summer long.
If I can water these guys less, maybe much less, it means a lot less work for me ...  and saves on water, of course! ; )

Here are the varieties, once again, that I am carrying at the shop and growing in the garden this year ....

Early seed potato varieties - These spuds bulk up quickly which makes them great for early picking as baby potatoes. They can also be left in longer (as mid-season potatoes) to get a good skin on them so that they will store well, and are a medium-large size.
- Red Sangre's ... smooth red skin and very white flesh. Gorgeous. Is a great boiler and a baker.
- Carlita's are organically grown, with yellow skin and yummy yellow flesh. Drought resistant. Is also a yummy boiler and a baker.
- Gold Rush is a Yukon Gold type, organically grown seed potato. Is a russet with lovely very white flesh. Fabulous baked, boiled or fried.

Mid-Season seed potatoes
- Buttery flavoured German Butterball is extremely popular with golden flesh and skin and a buttery flavour so needs very little toppings. Great for hash browns, steamed or baked. Stores well, too.

- Plus all the Early spuds listed above also belong in this grouping ... unless you eat them all as early new babies.

Late season seed potatoes
- Banana's (the family fave!) are yummy, pale skinned fingerling's with light yellow flesh. They are delicious, waxy and hold together well, so are perfect for salads! We roast, grill or boil them... makes a great 'squished' spud ;)
- Red French Fingerling's, also waxy and one of the most popular fingerling varieties. Buttery flavour makes them amazing for roasting or grilling, hold together well so great for soups and stews.
- Orchestra is an organically grown seed potato with pale skin and light yellow flesh. It has a creamy buttery flavour, is waxy so makes a super potato salad. Is also drought tolerant and does well in adverse conditions.
- Super tasty Russian Blue's. These guys have dark blue skin and light blue flesh.. and taste like a normal potato! Is drought tolerant, great baked, mashed, steamed, boiled, or made into french fries or chips.

Russian Blue seed potato has been chitted up and is ready to go....
Love how the sprouts are a deep purple!
The potatoes have been chitted (were placed in egg cartons and got to hang out in my bedroom for 2 or 3 weeks in order to sprout new growth.)

They now have lovely little sprouts on them and are ready to go into the prepared garden beds. These guys could easily have stayed in my bedroom for another two weeks if they had to as it is not good to turn or mess around with wet soil.

I plant the traditional way, in trenches, hilling the spuds as they sprout and grow.

The seed potatoes are placed in the trench, 6 to 12 inches apart, and 4 inches deep. 
For new baby potatoes, they can be planted close together. When grown 6 to 8 inches apart you get smaller spuds, while further apart (12 inches) makes for larger potatoes.
As the potato plant grows and the tops get to be about 6 inches tall, cover them with another 4 inches of soil, leaving just the top few inches showing. You keep doing this until the trenches are where the hills are now and the hills are on top of the spuds.

See here for a detailed how-to for planting potatoes, with photos.

In The Spring Potager

Lovely warm weather brings on the chicks ...

Also, need a burst of colour  out back ... this little teal blue birdbath is one of the few pops of colour until the blooms come out... along with the peeling, more shabby than chic, table and chairs...

The birdbath also serves as Little 'Lilah's water bowl ; )

In October last year, I planted up three beds of garlic... Legacy, Red Russian, and Music.
The weather had been so hot and so dry for months that the soil was like planting in sand or dust.
I took the sprinkler and placed it on each bed for an hour, at a slow soak, to try to penetrate the super dry soil. a couple of weeks later the rains started, so I only had to super soak twice to get them off to a good start.
It must have worked as they are all up about 8 inches now and going strong.

In the back you see two of my three, sturdy, new pea/bean trellises! So excited!

I have tried some of the cute and rustic ideas for the shelling peas to scramble up, only to have them beaten to the ground each year with the vigorous vines!
Tried the cute twisty branches/twigs idea ... but the peas just bent them to the ground and into submission!
The following year,  I made a lovely, creative trellis by criss crossing bamboo stakes ... yep, again, bent down and beaten.
Last year I tried rebar posts with wire mesh. However, as my beds are only 12" deep and built on rocky hardpan, the rebar also only goes down 12 inches deep! Fared somewhat better, however, still leaning towards the sun, heavy with vines.

These new ones are securely screwed into the sides of the bed. They are on the far side of the garden (north side) so as to not shade any of the other beds or veggies.

The Sweet Purple asparagus is coming up!


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...