Saturday, 27 July 2013

Visiting A Sweet Potager!

Went to visit some dear friends in Errington, BC, a wee community outside of Parksville, on Vancouver Island.

Of course, fell in love with their potager and had to share with you all! Such a lovely little paradise!

I must apologise for the lighting, however.
As the visit was in mid-afternoon, during the brightest sunlight possible, the pics are a wee bit over-exposed!

Their growing area consists of a 10 x 20 greenhouse, a fruit tree orchard lane, and a fenced in potager with loads of charm and garden goodies! 

Dave and Janis have only been at their new home for about a year, and have already started to work on making the garden and yard self sufficient.
They have a gazillion children to feed, only a slight exaggeration, and so the more they grow themselves, the healthier and less costly it is!
Dave is a chef and makes the most amazing meals I have ever tasted, so creates some really fabulous meals with all the goodies that they grow!

The greenhouse is 10x20 with 3 windows on either side and doors on front and back of the structure for great ventilation in the summer heat.
Dave placed some wire fencing material in front of both doors
Thus preventing the incredibly large deer family of the area,
from partaking in all the goodies during their walk thru buffet strolls!
The wire is simply held in place by two pots on either side...
allowing for super easy entry (for people, not deer)!
 Inside the greenhouse!
Tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, melons, and peppers.
All thrive in fabulous, huge 20 gallon pots.
Though the larger pots cost more to begin with, please note  ...
The bigger the pot, the less drying out, and thus less BER (Blossom End Rot)...  and other issues...
 Plus, of course, they are re-usable year after year after year.
Trust me, you will be glad you invested after you start watering!
As I have been using 3 to 5 to 7 gallon pots, I often have to water twice a day!  
This is the most brilliant of ideas! A must share!
In the greenhouse, they added wire mesh to the side walls, for all the climbers to grow up!
Cucumbers, squashes, watermelons, and muskmelons ramble along the mesh, thriving in the heat of the greenhouse!
A tiny 'Sugar Baby watermelon forming on the vine!
So exciting!
Fuzzy, wee cantaloupe aka muskmelon babies ... So cute!
The tomatoes are all fruiting like mad inside the greenhouse.
These determinate varieties do well in the super large tomato cages!
They are harvesting 3 or more a day!

Onions curing in the garden shed
Squashes are thriving both inside and outside!

The garden fence and the outer perimeter fence for the fruit trees.
The outer fence is made out of antique rail posts! They are to-die-for lovely!
However, the deer are not even a tad fazed by this impressive fence and simply climb thru the boards.
 The plan is to add some mesh between the fence boards
 to stop the deer from regularly pruning the newly planted fruit trees.
The space between the interior and exterior fences is about 5 to 6 feet wide, so the deer will never attempt to jump into that space once the mesh goes up,
 as they need a clearance of about 5 feet before they feel safe enough to jump anything!
Janis says that they had an issue with BER (Blossom End Rot) on the early fruits (due to the wet and cool spring we had), however, all the new fruits that I saw are looking really awesome...
Many gardeners in our area have complained of this BER issue early on, but now as the heat has come on, the issue has worked itself out...
In general, plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and squashes will often have BER on the first fruits of the season, until they adjust to the watering or once the weather evens out...
Therefore, just prune out the early blemished fruit so that the plant will then put it's energy into new and happy, healthy fruit. 
Baby butternut squash.
Gold zucchini is almost ready for eating!
The gorgeous entrance to the potager...
I love this gate and the huge, happy rose bush that welcomes us into the potager.
On the right hand side is the enormous grape vine.

Lovely weathered gateway to the orchard!
Sigh, garden envy! ; )
Watering station #1 captures rain water from the house ....
Watering station #2 collects rain from the garden shed...
More garden envy ; ) 

 This fabulous grape covered arbour produces loads of red table grapes each year!
Just getting started....
The super happy 'marigolds' are really thriving!
Their young son brought home a marigold from school, one day in late spring.
Sadly, the marigold succumbed to the cool and wet weather we were having at the time...
At the shops, no marigolds were yet to be found, so these brilliant pansies were purchased as a replacement for the forlorn marigold.
Son is thrilled to watch the progress of his thriving 'marigold'!
Nurturing the next gardening generation ; ) 
 Love this!
Garden goodies from the fabulous potager of Dave and Janis.
Hope you enjoyed the visit!
Thank you for Janis and Dave, for the lovely visit!
Thank you for the garden snoop and photo op.
... and thank you for the, as always, simply superb dinner and visit with you all!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Great? ... Expectations...

Gardening has it's moments, lol ....

Red Rock Mammoth Cabbage in early summer... just starting to form heads.

Lately, I have heard from many frustrated gardener's about rotting squashes, powdery mildew, all kinds of worries of things going wrong in the garden ... a failure to thrive, rot, powdery mildew, and more.
Most of the gardeners I have heard from are new gardeners, new to this gig of growing things, especially growing food.

I totally get it! I do! You really want everything you plant to thrive and do really well, and if it does not, it feels like a personal failure! What went wrong and why? What happened, what did I do?

And then it becomes....
Grrr, I will never grow this grunblegrumble-swearword broccoli again, or cauliflower, or zucchini, or tomatoes, or cukes.... lol.

Kali baby eating heirloom purple podded snap peas. 

So here are some tips to help you prevent the most common problems in your vegetable garden this year and every year forward.

Basic Rules
1. Mother Nature rules, she will always throw a kink in your plans, so you gotta learn to roll with her crazy whims!

2. The 'Gardener's Motto ... Welp, there is always next year!

The purple snap peas, lettuce, etc.. earlier this year.....

Okay, now on to some more serious tips and hints for a really great gardening year....

1. Water in the morning only or early afternoon, so the plant does not go into the evening and night with wet foliage.
2. Never, ever water the foliage. Water at ground level, wetting the soil only, never the plant itself. Unless you are blowing off aphids with a strong jet of water.

3. Do not shallow water your garden each morning... go as many days between watering as you can without stressing out the plant, watering heavy and deep when you do water and then letting it do dry in between watering's... This causes the plant to develop a deeper root system which is then able to handle water shortages and odd/even watering days.

4. If you mulch your garden to cut back on watering, please make sure that you actually cut back on your watering. If you do not allow the garden to dry out between watering's, you will end up with rot, mould, or mildew ... or rotted out dead plants.

5. Feed your heavy feeders... the tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, corn, squashes, peppers, cucumbers... They will need more TLC than the other veggies.  Side dress with manure or compost, or feed with a spray of liquid seaweed, or water with manure/compost tea ... whatever you use, feed your heavy feeders on a regular basis.

6. Pick often to get more produce... the more you pick the more the plant produces ... tomatoes, peas, beans, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini's...

7. Water as consistently as possible, to prevent Blossom End Rot (BER). This means no great highs and lows, especially if growing in a pot. If growing veggies in pots, water daily or maybe even twice daily.

8. Leave good air flow between plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, etc... to prevent mildew. Is spring, do not plant them really close together, leave good space in between so that as the plant grows larger, it has room to do so. Plus, this ensures that during the early summer, when weather is iffy, there is great air flow between the plants.

9. Do NOT plant too early in the season. This is a hard one to follow as we all like to push our luck ... and gauranteed, we will push our luck again next year, though we swear not to! We get all excited about the new gardeing season, want to get the plants in a soon as possible to get earlier harvests and more veggies... However, it rarely pays off. Those two early tomatoes are not worth the risk of planting your tomato out too early and then losing it to frost, or having it sit stunted for a month and a half as it was planted in cold soil and suffered because it really loves the heat and thus did not thrive. This rule applies to seed also! Do not plant your beans, your corn, your zucchini's, your cukes, etc... before the night time air is 10 C at night! so that soil temps are warm and even.

10. Bits and bobs... Remove bottom foliage on tomatoes, esp anything that looks like it is not thriving. Do this with any plants with yellowing foliage. Spray a blast of strong water on any bugs you see (aphids, spider mites, white fly) each time you water to get rid of them organically. If in doubt, pull it out ... if it looks wrong, toss it, and move on, do not dwell on it... outta sight is outta mind. Spray your powdery mildew with a 10% skim milk solution, every 3 days, 3 times. If you still have a problem, pull out the plant, and move on.  

Lesson plan #11 ... Relax!
You did what you could, let it go... not all things will thrive! Remember Basic Rules 1 and 2?

You gotta let it go, cuz not all things are going to thrive. Each year there will be some things that do not thrive, regardless of whether you have gardened 1 year or 10 years. It happens.

The reason I do not get these frustrated emails, messages, and notes from seasoned gardeners?
Cuz all of us old, tried and trues know that something will fail to thrive and so follow the first two Basic Rules!
We know that sh#t will go wrong .... each year, no doubt at all!
Some of the things will be things we could have prevented if we caught them in time, however, most things will be out of our control!

I get that you want everything to do awesome, I really do...
I want that, too!
However, it rarely works out so that we have a year in which all things thrived and nothing failed.
Hopefully, you learn something from it, maybe not...
Otherwise you chalk it up to experience, and move on.

Therefore, please, enjoy yourself!
Rejoice in your successes!
Move on from the failures.... because ...

Welp, there is always next year!
 Legacy garlic... just harvested... needs to be brushed off and the roots trimmed off.
Will be left to cure for 2 weeks in the shady car port.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Mid-Summer Potager

Garden vegetables are growing in leaps and bounds at this time of the year.

Peas ...
Both sugar/snap and shelling peas are still producing. The more you pick, the more they produce! this also goes for the Sweet Peas : )
 These are purple podded, heirloom snap peas. They are as tasty as they are pretty!
I generally eat these as I work in the garden...
just making sure I have lots more peas coming on ; ) 
Artichokes are having a phenomenal year this year.
 These are ready to be harvested now
however, am considering letting the first one go to 'flower'.
The problem is, letting them flower also weakens the plant so that it might not overwinter.
Such is my dilemma. Love the 'flowers' but would hate to lose the plant, too.
Will see if my daughter wants to cook up these pretty babies...
You all probably know this by now....
I am all about the growing of the food... while hubby or daughter makes meals from the bounty!
Though I am not big on cooking, I love canning and preserving, so it all works out in the long run.
The Black Currants are ready to go!
I love that they all ripen at the same time, makes them so esy to process!
These will be reduced down with a bit of sugar and water
To make a delicious and healthy hot drink for fall/winter and flu bug season.
Black Currants are really high in vitamin C, iron, potassium, vitamin A,and even calcium.
It also has more anti-oxidants than even blueberries!
Makes for terrific health boost when made into a 'hot toddy' or as an addition to your cup of tea.
Take when you feel a flu or cold coming on and you will kick the bug outta your system in no time!
Blueberries are almost ready, though not quiet!
I eat mine fresh or freeze for later, as blueberry jam is not my favourite.
 Serrano peppers.
The first peppers to really start to produce.
The others are coming along but not as quickly as this Serrano.
These guys are ready to go, as Serrano's are generally used when green.
Gives a great kick to salsa and guacamole.
Hear that some people eat them fresh, just like this! Yikes! 
However, I think they would add the perfect heat to my favourite corn bread recipe.
The zukes are coming!
Clarimore zucchini is a lovely light green in colour.
Is very creamy and smooth in taste and texture, sweeter than the regular dark green zukes. 
This is another veggie that enjoy eating fresh from the vine, in the garden as I work, just like the peas and carrots..
Or bring it in and eat it with a wee bit of dip.
Pick them and eat them while they are small, no more than 5 or 6 inches.
That is when they are tastiest and folks will actually enjoy them if you decide to share.
No one wants those over grown, tasteless, humungo zukes!
JustLove watching the progress of these Mammoth Red Rock cabbages.
See how much they have grown and filled in since the last photo?
They will be huge, so am glad I left lots of space between them this year!

Potatoes are flowering!
Not all potatoes flower, though most do.
Water consistently during the flowering time as that is when the tubers are forming under the ground.
For baby spuds, you can begin picking a couple of weeks after flowering.
Or ... if you plan to store them, leave them in the ground until the stems begin to die down.
They will be larger and tougher, less apt to rot.  
If you are going to store them, do not wash them, just brush off the soil.
Handle them gently, place them in a cool (and humid, if possible) place to cure.
Leave them for two weeks to get a thicker, tougher skin.
Stupice tomatoes... the first to ripen this year.

This bed of garlic is just about ready to be lifted out to cure!
You want to pick them when the stems and top leaves are still green, but the bottom 3 or 4 leaves have gone brown.
Gardening in the potager is different for me this year...
 As the house has been sold and we are going to be moving at the end of next month.
This means the greenhouse is coming down and nothing is being grown in there this year :(
The fall/winter garden will not be going in this year either.... however, if it were, this is what I would be planting up right now or at least before the end of the month!
- Lettuce
- Kale-
- Radishes and daikons
- Spinach
- Onions!!!
- Broccoli raab/sprouting broccoli
- Chinese greens, mustards, arugula, etc...
- Carrots (hurry! - they gotta get in soon!)
- Beets (hurry!)
Kali baby is now 8 months old, 120 lbs and a lot of fun yet trouble, too ; )

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

July - The Early Summer Potager

Oh my goodness! Here is is, July already!

We have had rain and more rain for the past few weeks, however, nothing like the rains in Alberta!

Cannot complain about a bit of black spot on roses and stalled cucumbers when folks are flooded out of their homes.

And now that July has hit, the temperatures are really high. From one extreme to the next ;)
Mother Nature has a wicked sense of homour.

Quite surprisingly, the tomatoes are thriving in the rain.
Remember to remove any foliage, esp from the bottom of the plant, that looks yellow, wilty, etc...  immediately. This will help to prevent fungal issues like Early Blight taking over your tomatoes.  
Deep water at ground level every 3 days or so. Do not splash water on the fruits or foliage.
Feed your tomatoes with a foliar spray of liquid seaweed ( I like Reindeer), or compost tea, every couple of weeks.
The artichokes are going to be amazing this year!
Want a winter garden?
Psst, winter gardens actually mean, start them now, they grow for a while, they go dormant for a bit and then they start growing again in spring for early, early harvests!
Now is the time to plant these winter starters or seeds in the ground....
- Broccoli and sprouting broccoli (mmm, my fave!)
- Cauliflower
- Winter Cabbage
- Carrots
- Kale
- Kohlrabi and Rutabagas
- Leeks
Plant your fall crop of peas towards the end of the month.
I direct seed mine, but have heard that they have a better germination rate if pre-started in wet paper towel, news print, etc..  
The breadseed poppies/pepperbox poppies are looking phenomenal!  
The foliage and stems start to yellow and brown off, is a crucial part of the ripening process
... however, therefore, is not the nicest looking crop in the garden.
The dark green stems in back are garlic.
Have inter-planted the garlic and poppies together.
One of the three garlic beds...
This one is inter-planted with carrots.
The carrots seem to sizing up nicely. I start by pulling every second one, as that leaves the first ones to get nice and big by the time I get around to picking them!
That is pretty much the way that I do my thinning out ; ) Hate to waste good baby carrots!
Kali baby is helping to pick the Honeoye June-bearing strawberries.
She is very particular about the ones she eats, however we have not yet figured out her criteria for the best berry ;)

Summer gardening
This month plant these items for a late summer/fall crop ...
- beans
- beets ( I really need to plant more beets!)
- more cabbage and broccoli
- carrots
- kale
- corn (from starts)
- spinach and lettuce ( in the shade!)
- turnips
- chard
- peas
Sow more dill and cilantro!
This bed of onions was coming along pretty well...
...and then Kali puppy jumped into the bed and did some zoomies in it..
flattened some of the onions to the ground, so will see if they recoup.
As she is a 110lb, 7 month old English Mastiff pup she tends to do a bit of damage when she gets the zoomies!

Everbearing strawberries and purple alyssum.
Smells Divine!

Peas are trailing over the sides of the beds.
Good thing hubby made those lovely new trellises for them to climb up, eh?
- Pick your peas and beans as they ripen in order to get even more peas and beans!
- Harvest your zukes regularly, enjoy them when they are small (4 to 6 inches long), as they taste so much better than those horrible jumbo zukes! I eat them raw in the garden while I work, or bring them in and enjoy them with a bit of dip : )
Plus, if you have extra and pick them small, people will actually look forward to you sharing your zucchini's instead of running away when they see you coming!
- Harvest your cucumbers regularly for loads more cukes, as well.

These are Mammoth Red Rock Cabbages!
Remember them from last year?
LOL! That is why they are so well spaced out this year!  
These babies get huge! Like, humongous huge!
 One of the many herb planters I made at the greenhouse this year!
They are pretty, help bring in the bees and the good bugs,
full of great cooking herbs ... every deck should have one ; )
- Sow seeds for biennial flowers at the end of the month. Foxgloves, hollyhocks, agastache, etc...
 Happy summer 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...