Friday, 25 April 2014

Asparagus and More In The New Potager

Slowly but surely the new potager is coming together... hubby was able to build five of the raised beds so far, to get me started on planting this spring.

These new beds are 4' wide and 40' long with 4' pathways to allow for wheelbarrows and such...

The new potager in it's early stages....
on a very wet and boggy spring day ; ) 

The first thing to go in are the perennials, as they will be here for 20 years or more ... things like the horseradish, asparagus, and, of course, rhubarb.

Horseradish, by the way, is a very happy grower/spreader and so gets it's very own 4' x4' bed ... to prevent it from taking over the rest of the gardens. There is not much to say about planting horseradish. Lay the root on it's side in the bed, three inches deep, and it will grow.

Rhubarb, too, is fairly straight forward. Plant it in a bed that has been amended well with manure or compost as it is a heavy feeder. Dig a hole and pop in your plant at the same depth as it was in the pot. Do not bury the top of the crown where the leaves are coming out. Water in and watch it grow. Each fall, top dress around the rhubarb with a few inches of manure.

Asparagus, is a family favourite veggie so it has always been a must in the garden.
My personal favourite is the Sweet Purple. It is touted to be sweeter and less stringy than the greens, but I like it simply for the colour. Love to have varying hues in the salad and at the table.
However, if I were planting up a green variety, I would go with Jersey Knight, as it has bigger and tastier spears than some of the other older varieties. 

  Here are the asparagus roots getting all re-hydrated and plumped up in a liquid seaweed water bath.
Soak your roots for 30 to 90 minutes to rehydrate them. 
Asparagus is a heavy feeder and will be in this same bed for many years to come,
so be sure to incorporate lots of compost or manure before planting.

Make a trench about 6 to 8 inches deep and wide.
Build a small mound down the centre of the trench, so that your trench is shaped like a 'w'.

Lay the asparagus roots over the mound with the crown on top of the centre mound
and the roots hanging down the sides like octopus legs.

Place them 12 to 18 inches apart. Spread the roots out evenly in the trench. 

In my 4' wide bed I  was able to make two rows, about 1.5 feet apart.  
Cover the roots so that the crown is about 2 inches below the soil.

As a general guide, 6 to 8 asparagus roots will give you a good crop of asparagus annually, for a family of 4 or 5 people. 

I decided to plant 12 for us. Although currently, we only have the two of us at home, we have adult children and hopefully someday, lots of grandbabies ; )

Saturday, 19 April 2014

WAIT! Don't Plant That Outside Yet!

Nitty Gritty Greenhouse

I grow hundreds of heirloom tomato starts each year...I tend to keep about 40 to 50 for myself and sell the rest.

Each year, I have folks highly anticipating the summer season, the delicious crop of tomatoes, and so asking me when I am going to finally start selling my tomato plants ... By the way, they ask this while wearing their heavy spring coats, as the warm spring weather is often slow in coming, especially this year, it seems.  

Yep, you guessed it, you are so right.
Is way too cold to plant tomatoes for a really long time yet here on Vancouver Island. And I do mean everywhere on Vancouver Island, even the southern most tip!

Tomatoes are heat lovers and should not be planted in the garden until night time air temps are consistently around the 10C mark.
The soil will be then also be warm and you will be fine to pop the tomatoes into the ground. This occurs anywhere from the May long week-end on till sometime during the first week of June.

However, what kind of friend would I be if I did not give you some options?

If you really want to plant your tomatoes out a few weeks earlier ...
Black plastic being used to warm the garden soil.

 First, you will want to warm your soil with some black plastic or landscape fabric for a few weeks. You can then make holes in the plastic and plant right into it.

Then, when you do plant, you will want to plant your tomato into either a tomato cage cloche, a hoop frame, or a Wall-O-Water.

Tomato cage cloches or greenhouses...
Picture from
 Make a little greenhouse for each tomato plant with a tomato cage and some clear plastic or clear plastic garbage bags.
A hoop house is a great idea to get an early start for your tomatoes...
This system also works at the end of the season as the cover keeps the fall rains off of your foliage,
preventing blight from ravaging  your tomatoes.
Picture from
The tires soak up the heat to keep the tomatoes happy.   
Wall-O-Waters have tube shaped pockets that you fill with water. The sun heats up the water all day long and the water then emits the heat all night long to keep the plant warm and toasty. These guys really work, my parents have been using them for years! They also protect the plant from cold winds and animal nibbling!
Or... You can also pop your tomato into a larger pot and leave it outside during the day and bring it in each evening.

Nitty Gritty Greenhouse
If you do none of these things and simply plant your lovely tomato transplant into the garden too early, this is what will happen...

You will start to get purple foliage, especially on the under sides of the leaves.

This purple is caused by a deficiency of phosphorous.
It is due to that fact that your plants roots system is stunted by the cold soil and it is thus unable to take up nutrients from the cold soil. Most importantly, it is unable to take up any phosphorous (the middle number of N-P-K).

Phosphorous deficiency in tomatoes, peppers, and/or eggplants
occurs when planted in too cool soil and too cool temps.

Plants that have had their roots stunted and are unable to take up nutrients properly, will sulk and pout, sometimes as long as for several months. Really!
You can try to add a high phosphorous fertiliser around the plant to help it recover faster.
In general, tomatoes that have been planted too early will produce less fruits and will take a long time to recover, grow, flower, and fruit.

Is well worth your while to wait that extra two or three weeks for lovely tomatoes on happy tomato plants!
By the way, this also applies to peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and squashes.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Garden Ramblings in April

Busy, busy month in the garden, is the month of April.

For many of us here in the PNW and on the island, this is the beginning of planting time.

Though we had a rainy and cooler than normal March, the month of April started off with sunshine and warmth. Hoping that bodes well for the rest of the month....

What to do in the garden this month?

- Plant peas.... if you already have, plant another row, if you haven't yet, plant now and again in two or three weeks.

- Plant potatoes. Mid month is when I generally plant mine. The beds are usually dry enough and warm enough to plant the chitted up seed potatoes and have them thrive. Do not plant in cool and wet soil. It is not good for your soil to work it when wet, and you risk your potatoes rotting in the ground.

- Plant spinach, mustard's, arugula, oriental greens, and all kinds of lettuce greens.... this is their time to thrive as they love the cooler temps. (succession plant)
- Kale from seed or transplants.
- Swiss Chard from seed or transplants
- Radishes (succession plant, meaning that every two or three weeks sow some more)
- Carrots (succession plant)
- Turnips, rutabagas
- Herbs such as chives, parsley, oregano, thyme, marjoram, etc... all except the cilantro and basil.

From transplants ...
- Brussels Sprouts
- Cabbage
- Cauliflower
- Broccoli
- All greens can be sown from seed or transplants...
- Most all herbs besides the cilantro and basil can go out this month

Sow indoors...
- If you have not yet done so, start your sweet peppers, tomatoes, eggplants now
- All herbs can be started from seed at this time.

Walla Walla Onions as transplants.
Sweet and yummy! 

Plant your leeks, shallots, and onions out this month from either seed, sets or transplants.

Plant asparagus roots now for your own fresh asparagus each spring for the next 20 plus years! See HERE for the how-to on planting and growing asparagus.

Growing great carrots!

Many times I have folks tell me that their carrots did not grow and did not even germinate... here are some tips for growing great carrots.

- Amend your garden with compost so that the soil is good, rich, loose and friable.
- Ensure that the soil is free of rocks and clay, for good strong, long carrots.
- Plant your seeds when the weather has stabilised and day time temps are reliably above 10 C.
- Water the bed before planting.
- Plant your seeds in trenches that are about 1/2 inch deep and sow seeds one to two inches apart. If you plant closer together, you will be doing a lot of thinning out.
- The seeds can be sown in rows, plant another row every three weeks, make the rows 6 to 8 inches apart. You can also plant them in thick bands where the seeds are sown in 3 inch wide strips. Blocks, such as in square foot plantings, also work really well for carrots (about 16 carrots per square block).
I generally sow my carrots in blocks that are 12 inches wide and 4 feet long (as in French Intensive growing), sowing 4 rows of carrots about 3 inches apart. 
- Cover the seed lightly and gently tamp down the soil with either the back of a rake or with your hands. Do not step on the rows or compact the soil.
- Water in well and keep the bed watered till germination in about 7 to 21 days. If they seeds start to germinate under ground and are allowed to dry out, you will never see a carrot as the seeds will all die in the bed. Germination will occur faster as soil warms up.
- Keep your bed weed free and deep water once or twice a week.
-If you have sown thickly you will need to thin out the seedlings when they are small, about an inch high. Thin to one inch apart. Then in several weeks time as they grow, thin to 3 or 4 inches apart.

I generally plant mine an inch or two apart. As the carrots grow and I want some for salads, I will begin to pick every second carrot on an as needed basis. That way, the every other carrot gets to size up nicely to full size plus I get to enjoy baby carrots throughout the growing season.
Remember that baby carrots are not going to have that same full, sweet flavour as the mature ones do, are going to be much milder in flavour.

- If you do not see any carrots after 14 to 21 days it is due to either the seed drying up in the bed or they were planted before the soil was warm enough, thus the seed died. No worries! There are thousands of carrot seeds in those packages. Sow a new patch, all will be well. 

Best tasting carrots ever, according to my family, dogs included ... Scarlet Nantes, Half Long Danvers and Chantenays.

That's what you call a tire biter! 

What to do in the yard...

Mow the lawn.

Feed the lawn and lime your lawn. Applying lime helps to keep the moss away.

Deadhead daffodils and tulips.

Clean up and rake the gardens, the perennials that have died back, etc..

Mulch roses and perennial beds with compost.

Top with fresh bark mulch.

Plant out Sweet Peas, either the seeds or transplants.

Put a birdbath or fountain out by your fruit trees or perennial gardens for the birds and the bees. Bees also need water to drink and will be very grateful for the full meal deal in your garden, 
Place a few flat stones in the birdbath to give them a safe landing pad so that they do not drown. 
If you are having a hard time getting your fruits trees fruiting even though they are full of blooms each spring, this trick may encourage the bees to come pollinate your trees for you.

Garlic is up about 6 to 8 inches in early April

Bits and bobs...

Last traditional frost date in our area is April 28th.
Please do not plant your warm weather crops outside until the end of May or early June.. this means cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, basil, cilantro.

Orange Parrot Tulips


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...