Friday, 26 December 2014

Garden Trends 2015

Organically grown, heirloom zukes at the Nitty Gritty Potager
As always, this is my favourite post of the year. What's happening, what's new, and what's trending?

Here are my thoughts, reflections and ideas regarding what gardening looks like as we head into the new year of 2015.

1. Buying Local - This is my favourite trend of the year! Consumers are supporting their own peeps while spending less time and money at the big, box stores. Realising that the big box stores make a huge eco-foot print with the growing, shipping, spraying of plants, their use of neonics (a systemic pesticide hazardous to our bee population), buying local and organic really is the only way to go.
It seems that more than ever, we are buying from local growers, small biz, mom and pop businesses, farms and farmers markets, putting local people and small businesses first, keeping the money in our own communities!

Buying locally grown foods from local community members
2. A Safer, Better World - Buying and growing environmentally friendly and safe foods for our kids and grand kids. Planting fruit trees and shrubs and growing our own foods. Buying our seeds from Safe Seed Pledged companies, thus taking a stance against genetic engineering. Buying our plants, veggie starts, trees and shrubs from local suppliers that grow both organically, sustainably, and ethically.

Organically grown potatoes at the Nitty Gritty Greenhouse

3. The New Gardeners - The Millennials (those aged 18 to 35) are totally embracing gardening in a big way. This is very, very exciting news. Wanting the world to be a better place, they are contributing to making that happen. They connect with their kids through gardening, teaching them how to be good stewards of the planet. Growing food, enticing pollinators, attracting birds and beneficial bugs to the yard, restoring bio-diversity. The Millenials grow, weed, can/de-dydrate, bake, grow chickens, homestead on urban plots... They are making ethical choices to make the world a better place. Go Millenials go!    

Poster from
A millennials gardening poster for the 'Victory Gardens of Tomorrow.'  

4. Keeping It Simple - Easy to care for pots, planters and small beds containing just one or two plant varieties for huge visual impact. Staggered pots with the soft blue-grey hues of lavender, brilliantly hued calibrachoa's, or bright and happy African Daisies (Osteospermums). Colourful beds of cutting zinnias, bachelor's buttons, asters, or dahlias. 
Simple to care for pots, planters and beds that provide a big pop of colour and style!
Pots of Raspberry Lemonade Zinnias. 
Simple, easy, no-fuss plants, with big impact.  

5. Curves are in! - In a big way! Spiral gardens, keyhole gardens, wavy meandering pathways ... Geometric shapes of all kinds are really in, but most especially the circles and curves.  

Curves from

6. Fighting Back - Pushing back and fighting municipality rules for the right to grow our own organic foods, to house chickens, and keep bees on our own property. Rather than growing lush yet useless lawns and landscapes that community by-laws seem to demand and protect, we are fighting back for the right to feed our families from our own land.

Fighting back by growing food!
7. Portable Gardening -  This trend is big with everyone, but most especially with renters and non-home-owners. Growing perennial foods in all types of portable vessels, for gardens that move when you do!  The Brazelberries fruiting shrubs are great examples of this trend. They have made it so easy to grow both raspberries and blueberries in pots; portable, eco-friendly, super fruits on your front stoop! 

Brazelberries Raspberry Shortcake pic from
A raspberry that is compact, thrives in a pot, and is thornless.   

 Jelly Bean Blueberry from Brazelberries.
Pic from

8. The casual -unstyle... Gardens that work with the landscape to be casual, wild and natural looking.

 Un-style gardening... pic from

9. Colour of the year for 2015!
Of course, as always, the colour of the year. This post just wouldn't be the same without Pantone's colour pick for the year ahead ..

Introducing Marsala, a yummy, deep, chocolate-y red hue. Is earthy and warm, just like the wine it is named after... Yum.

 Marsala coloured blooms in bouquets from

Another Marsala colour pic from

Friday, 12 December 2014

Growing Great Peppers, Eggplants & Tomatoes

Always wanted to grow your own really nice, big, juicy peppers? Looking forward to heading out to your own potager to pick some Jalapenos for your famous, homemade fresh salsa? Or canning up a storm of tomato sauces, pasta sauces and jarred salsa, made with your homegrown ingredients?

 Chinese Five Colour Hot Peppers
Maybe you want to grow your own hottest peppers of the world, like the Bhut Jololia (Ghost Pepper) or the Carolina Reaper?The super hots can be kind of tricky to germinate, join us for some tips and tricks on how to have a successful crop and stun all your friends ; )

This workshop is for you!

1. Grow Really Great Sweet & Hot Peppers (Eggplants, too) Workshop!

Choose from a great selection of all kinds of pepper and eggplant seeds, sow them here and go home with the potential for 24 plants!

Enough plants to give extras as gifts to friends! Or grow them all yourself and sell the peppers at market, roast and store for winter, dehydrate, give as gifts, can and process, or chop and freeze till needed later. 
Both peppers and eggplants can be tricky to grow from seed and take a long time to go from seed to transplant. Learn how to go from seed to harvest successfully, with full instructions for how to grow them on when you take them home. Will cover soil selection, germination, seedling care, transplanting and how to best grow them in summer, till harvest.

Firecracker Chili Peppers

Sweet Crimson Peppers
Pepper/Eggplant Workshop

Two dates to choose from ...

Saturday, January 31st          OR              Sunday, February 1st
From 1pm till 4 pm                                 From 1pm till 4 pm 

Break time with snacks and bevvies is included.........       $25

* Optional - An additional Seed Growing Kit with everything you need to start and grow your own seeds at home for $40. Seeding (heat) mat, seedling humidity dome, fertiliser, etc.. 

Sign up now to secure your spot at 

Growing Great Tomatoes Workshop

Love to eat fresh tomatoes off the vine? Wondering where to start and what to do?

From seed to harvest, how to grow lots and lots of really, great, tasty heirloom tomatoes.
Sow the seeds here, choosing from a huge selection of heirloom varieties for the potential of 24 plants! Share them with friends, sun dry or roast them, make into fabulous sauces, ketchup even! or maybe sell at market. 
We go over the best medium to use, watering, lighting, etc..  You take the seed trays home and grow them on at home, with how-to info for successfully taking them from start to finish.

Date: Sat, Mar 14                    OR                    Sun, Mar 15
Time : 1pm - 4pm                                           From 1pm till 4 pm

*Snacks and bevvies included............................. $25

* Plus, optional Seed Growing Supply Kit with everything you need to start and grow your own seeds at home for $40.        

Sign up for this workshop now at          

No space or place to grow your own seedlings at home? No problem! Pick up your pepper, tomato and eggplant transplants from me and attend this following workshop instead...

 Tomato and Pepper Growing Mastered!

Now that you have picked up your tomato, pepper and eggplant plants and are ready to go, here is a workshop on how to master growing them all summer long, from transplant to harvest, for the best results each and every year.

How to grow great organic tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers ... how to prune, feed, water, stake, harvest, and prevent both diseases and pests

When : Sun, June 14th
Time : 1pm till 4pm

*includes snacks and bevvies ..... $20                   

To sign up, please contact me   

See HERE for more workshops coming up in 2015! 

Please note the cancellation policy which can be found at the bottom of THIS PAGE.

Friday, 5 December 2014

December Garden and Greenhouse Ramblings

In the garden this month... 

The month of December has started off frosty, yet sunny, here on the west cost.

The garden beds all have a good thick crusty frost layer ... which means no fresh garden veggies till the rains return to thaw it out.

Though, if one were to get really desperate for a carrot or maybe a parsnip, my trusty garden fork easily lifts and breaks up the frost layer.

What to do in the garden ...

- Prune tree form roses to prevent breakage should we get some snow. The heavy snow will make your standard stem bow with the weight, and may snap it in half.

The rose in the picture above is a Hybrid Tea Standard called Double Delight. I cut it back quite severely once or even twice a year to promote a flush of new growth in spring with lots of gorgeous blooms on nice, long, stems.

Weeping tree form roses need just a trim ..snip off any criss-crossing branches, inward facing branches, and the 3d's - dead, damaged, or diseased wood.  

- Prune your shrub roses, too, to about 12" high. Spray them with horticultural oil and lime sulpher mix (Dormant Spray) to kill overwintering pests and diseases. This will help to prevent black spot in summer, too. Mulch up around any roses tender and 'iffy' for our area.

  This Dormant Spray Kit can be purchased at any garden centre or hardware shop.
Is super important to use this on your fruit trees and roses, as well as many other shrubs, 
 free of insects, fungal issues, and disease.  

Pic from

- Prune fruit trees when they have lost all their leaves. Spray with horticultural oil and lime sulpher mix (Dormant Spray) to kill overwintering pests and diseases.

Bare root fruit tree pic from

- Plant new fruit trees and fruiting shrubs.
This is on our agenda this Christmas time at the Nitty Gritty, as I just got word that our bare root fruit trees are in! Here come the fruits!

Looks like hubby and I are getting each other trees, good soil ..and more work for Christmas ; )

Garlic is up!
- The garlic is sprouting ...  and so are the weeds! Run a hoe through any weeds sprouting in your garden beds now. 

- Use frost blankets, make cold frames., low tunnels or hoop houses to cover your less hardy winter crops, like lettuce, and spinach ... though even your leeks, parsnips, broccoli raab, etc.. will all thrive better in a covered bed.

Start a trench in your garden for your compostables. Plant your peas and.beans in this trench in spring.

Our wee Penelope puppy amongst some of the Brussels sprouts.

- This is a great, time of year to test and amend your garden soil. The amendments, even hot manure, will have time to break down so that your garden is ready to plant up in spring, no waiting required.

- Top dress your beds with manure or compost. Dig in lightly or let the worms do the work for you.   

 Dianthus (Sweet William) 

- Plant cold tolerant perennial seeds, esp those that tend to need cold stratification, like dianthus, lupines, columbines...

- Many seed companies have sales on at this time of year, plus combo gift packs which combine all kinds of seeds for really great deals. Order now to save.  

- Rake, chop, and collect your leaves for making leaf mould. Will make for a fabulous mulch to put around your veggies, flowers, and strawberries, too.

In the greenhouse...

- Hang yellow sticky traps in the greenhouse to monitor pests. Spray with insecticidal soap once a week for at least 3 weeks in a row, if you suspect any problems.

- Ventilate... Open doors and windows to air out the greenhouse and clear up any condensation.

- Dead head all spent flowers and dead foliage to prevent fungal issues or disease. I remove anything that looks yellow, curling, or somehow suspect immediately!

-Water only when things are dry to prevent mould, stem rot, and root rot. Plants are not actively growing right now so require just the most minimum of watering. 

- Start some paperwhites to bring indoors for blooms and fragrance over the holidays. 

- Paperwhites may be started in jars or vases with a bit of stones or marbles at the bottom.
Add water to just below the top of the stones, place bulb on top of the stones. They can also be potted up into an indoor potting mix but I love the look of the roots in clear vases.

The paperwhite bulb (or hyacinth, or amaryllis) will send roots down into the rocks to access the water.

Wishing you all a really great December!

See you soon with my yard and garden predictions for 2015!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

November Ramblings

What to do in the garden and greenhouse this month?

With any luck, you were able to finish your garden bed clean up? Top dressed the beds with compost or manure? Planted your spring flowering bulbs? ... and your garlic?

If not, these things can still be done, though is harder to get enough rain free days here on the coast.

What To Do This Month .... 

Garlic - if you can still find some to plant, do so today! Immediately, get it in the ground asap!

Citrus Trees-  Bring your potted up citrus fruits into the house, the greenhouse, or the cold frame.

Spray them down with insecticidal soap, let sit for 15 minutes and then rinse off really well with a strong jet of water, both tops and bottoms of the leaves.This gets rid of the soapy residue as well as any lingering bugs that may have escaped the soap. Give special attention the the undersides of the leaves as that is where scale will be. If you can get rid of scale while it is still soft, it will be much easier to eradicate than when it has made that hard shell.

If going indoors, place in a bright light area in front of a large window or slider door.  Preferably not in a room that you keep really warm. Likes to be around 10 to 12 C degrees.

If it is going into a cold frame or unheated greenhouse, wrap with a string of the old fashioned Christmas lights that put off heat (not the new LED). If we get a cold snap that will go lower than +1 C degrees, plug in the Christmas lights, and wrap the tree with burlap or remay cloth to keep the warmth in until the cold snap is over. Remove the remay cloth and unplug the lights till next time ; )
Or, if you have no string of lights, place a floor or table lamp into the greenhouse with enough wattage to keep the temps above zero during the cold snap.

If going into a heated greenhouse, keep temps between 5 and 10 C degrees. 
Spring flowering bulbs - Plant tulip bulbs now, in pots and in the garden, for great colour next spring.

Force some bulbs for indoors, too... paper whites and hyacinths for Christmas!

Garden clean up....

- Lift glads and dahlias after the frost blackens their foliage. For the how-to, see HERE!. 
They can also be left in the ground in a zone 5 and up, but mulch them up well to keep them warm.

- Clean your ceramic and clay pots, put them under cover of some kind..  the garage, shed or eaves, to keep them from breaking this winter.

- Clean up all the leaves and debris from your shrubs, roses, and perennials.

- Rake leaves into a pile and then run them over with the lawn mower to shred. Use this leaf mulch for your winter veggies, your perennial beds, to top dress your garden beds, to make a new lasagna bed, or add to your compost bin. 

 Double Delight
- Prune roses to about 12 inches high in order to prevent breakage should we get some snow.
Is especially important to prune back your limbs on the standard roses (aka tree form roses) so that any snow load does not weigh them down and either bow the stem, or snap it. 

In the Potager ... 
- Hill up the soil around your leeks to blanch them (helps make the white tender part longer!)
- Hill your celery, too! 
- Lift your beets

Plant the following now for all winter eating or earlier spring crops ..
- Broad beans
- Peas
- Shallots
- In coldframe, plant up some lettuce, spinach, greens, kale, radishes to enjoy all winter long...

- Sweet Peas
- Calendula

 For fun and decor...

Pot up some Yuletide planters and pots for your front stoop, to add colour and interest.
Keep it simple but be unique, think outside the box!No more drooping boughs stuck into pots with bits and bobs of Christmas decor, please!

Evergreens are super awesome for the winter or year round! Love this collection below...


Or this lovely chartreuse coloured long needled pine!


Or heather...


Happy November and happy Yuletide planning, shopping and decorating

Heather and pansies

Monday, 20 October 2014

How To Over-Winter Glads, Dahlias, Canna's and More....

Is just about time to lift all your tender summer blooming bulbs, corms and tubers for the winter... canna lilies, calla lilies, dahlias, begonias, eucomis (pineapple lily), and gladioli.

Here in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, garden zone 7, we can leave our dahlias, glads, and callas in the ground year round ...  but we do so knowing that a tough winter may cause us to lose some or all of them (some of the dinner plate dahlias can be quite tender).

Always lift your Canna lily bulbs, begonia tubers, and Pineapple lily bulbs. 

If you live in a cool garden zone, cooler than a zone 5, you will need to lift all those bulbs, corms, and tubers each fall in order to not lose them over winter.


I always lift my glads in fall as I grow them in the potager, amongst all the vegetables in the raised garden beds. They are moved around from year to year, planted wherever I feel the need for more height, colour, and/or pollinator attractors.

Glads just pulled and being hosed off from excess soil and grit.

How-to over-winter...

You want to wait about 6 weeks after the blooms finish to lift your glads. Ideally, the foliage will have started to yellow. If you can, have the time, and the patience, wait till the first frost hits them before lifting. 

If you have loose and friable soil, smoothly but gently pull them out of the ground by their foliage.

If you have heavy soil, or clay soil, is better to loosen the soil around the plants with a garden fork first and then gently lift them. Do not push the fork in too close so as to pierce the corms, damaged corms will rot and not cure properly.

Brush off the soil or wash down with the hose.

Cut back the tops to about 6 inches long.

Lay them out to cure in a warm, dry area with good airflow... if placed in a cold, humid area, they will not dry properly, this will lead to rot and mould.

I used to use my furnace room before I had the greenhouse. Lay them out on newsprint or cardboard, never on the bare concrete, and leave to cure for 2 to 3 weeks.

I now lay them out on wooden tables in the greenhouse, but a bright shed would do the same, or a warm garage. Always lay down some newsprint first, do not place directly on concrete or you may get rot. 

 Glad corm with wee cormlets
When fully cured (dry), remove the little cormlets, trim the roots, and trim the tops. If the old corm is still attached, remove and compost.

You can keep and plant the cormlets in spring, if you want. They will take 2 to 3 years till they size up enough to flower, so you may want to have a 'nursery' area in your garden where you can let them grow and be, lifting each fall and cleaning them up to plant again in spring.

Place the dry, cured corms in an ice cream pail, box, or paper bag with some barely moistened peat moss, potting mix, or pet cage shavings.



Basically, treat as you would the glads, see above.
After lifting the tubers, I hosed them down to remove all grit and soil.

I then trimmed off all the smaller tubers, the stringy long roots, and any damaged tubers. Remove the mother tuber as it will not flower again, larger tubers can be cut into two to make for more plants next year, as long as each piece has an eye or two (like potatoes). 

Placed them to cure on this wooden table, in the heated greenhouse, for 2 to 3 weeks.

When ready, they go into a box, with some lightly moistened potting soil, get pushed under one of the tables and forgotten about till late winter.

Check on them in late winter for any rot or shrivelling or new growth.
If you see rot or if they have died and dried up, toss them in the compost bin.
If you see sprouts, you need to deal with them right away. As soon as I see growth, I pot them up into 2 or 3 gallon pots, and leave in the greenhouse to grow on till the weather outside is lovely. When all risk of frost is over and the soil is warm, the dahlias go back into the garden beds.

If you lift in fall and pot up in spring, you will have blooms much earlier in the year than if you leave them in the ground.   


Treat as above for the glads...

May be left in the container if they are container grown...
Leave outside till frost has blackened the foliage and then cut back all growth to soil level. Bring the container in some place dry where the temp remains above freezing but not too warm. Ideally around 5 to 8 C.  


All summer blooming tubers, corms, and bulbs can be stored the same way. Clean, cure and pack away some place warm and dry.

Don't forget to label! You can either label by writing directly on the tuber itself with a Sharpie or label the box, bag,etc ... that you are storing them in.

Canna lilies bursting forth in spring

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...