Friday, 27 June 2014

Scented Geraniums In Your Potager

 Pop your scented geraniums in pots and planters throughout the garden...

Scented geraniums. I adore them! A true heirloom plant that has been around for hundreds of years!

 Prince of Orange

They are naturally scented wonders of the plant world. No one had to add anything to them to make them so fabulous and fragrant, they just simply are! 

There are so many choices available, from floral ones to fruity ones, spicy ones and oddly varied, really pungent ones.

Some that I have grown are Prince of Orange, Lemon Fizz, Apple, Citronella, Rober's Lemon Rose, Attar of Roses, Pink Champagne, Ginger, Coconut, Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Balsam and so many more. Love them and cannot get enough of them.

Here are some of the uses ... this is why I love them and why you will, too!

Dry the leaves to make a great potpourri or to tuck into sachets for the linen closet or lingerie drawer.

Add fresh leaves to the tub when running the water, or into a pail of warm water, to make for a lovely, scented bath or hair rinse. 

Make little posies or tussy-mussies out of them for your nightstand, or as welcoming room fresheners in the guest room.

Place a branch or two in your floral bouquet or completely on their own in a vase, to add a light, pleasant, fresh, scent to the room.

Make an easy flavoured, scented sugar for cookies, cakes and more...

Use in your baking, in cakes, cookies, sweet scones and biscuits. Place some leaves on the bottom of the cake pan or a flower in, on, or under each biscuit or cookie.

Add to your home made jams, jellies or syrups.

They make fabulous flavoured sugars, too.
Used by many for their medicinal properties and also for teas.

They are great companion plants that ward off Japanese beetles, cabbage worms, corn ear worms, spider mites and aphids in the garden.

 Apple scented geranium

Plant them by your doorway or the dogs bed to repel mosquito's, fleas and flies.

Shrubland Rose - gorgeous red flowers and fabulous scent. 
My favourite way to use them is potted up with a variety of other companion plants, different flowers or  herbs, and then scattered throughout the gardens, deck and pathways.

 And...  If the fact that they are smell great, are attractive, and have so many uses isn't enough, they are also deer and bunny proof because they don't tend to like the strong scent or fuzzy leaves!     

The fragrance is released whenever the foliage is touched or moved, so place them everywhere and anywhere, but most of all, somewhere that allows you to brush along them as you walk by ...  in the pathway, the garden, on the deck, by the doorway... 

Pink Champagne scented geranium is still putting on new blooms

Have a scent-sational summer!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Common Problems and Simple Solutions

I look back on other June blog posts and am amazed at how different it can be from one year to the next..

That said, however, some of the issues from year to year and month to month, are about the same...
Here are some common issues we see at this time of year and how to deal with them ...

Most common problem ... or problem # 1

I have had many people talk to me about this.. it can be your annual bedding plants, your veggie transplants, your roses or your one gallon fruiting shrubs... and ornamental ones, too.

The foliage is looking kind of limey green instead of a healthy dark green ... (tomato, cucumber, squash, pepper, flower, shrub, etc.. )

Caused by - Most often this is simply due to the fact that the plant has been living in a wee small pot and is no longer able to get enough nutrients from that wee amount of soil.
Annuals in 6-packs needing a home, tomatoes waiting a few weeks for warm weather before they get into the garden bed, root bound blueberries or grapes, or lilacs, etc... there is nothing wrong with these plants per se, they simply need more nutrients.

Remedy - They will begin to perk up almost immediately when you plant them into the ground or into a larger pot. You can try to fertilise the heck outta them, but is way better to re-pot them into a larger pot with fresh potting soil or plant them out.

Garden... If planting into the ground, make sure that you have amended your soil and have rich loam. If not, add some manure or compost to the planting hole. The foliage will slowly start to green up and you will soon not even remember that you were concerned about them.

Pots ... If planting into pots, add manure or compost to the potting mix. I use a  two to five ratio, adding 2 scoops of manure to every 5 scoops of soil-less potting mix.

Throw on a handful of Epsom salts on top of the soil whether planting into the garden or the pot. Epsom salts will help prevent blossom end rot on veggies, plus add magnesium and micro nutrients to your soil and help to green up your foliage. Highly recommended for roses, tomatoes, and peppers, but works for most all plants.

If you have any purple veining on your tomatoes, add a handful of bonemeal on top or mix a few handfuls in with the potting soil when potting it up. 

 In no time at all, your foliage will be lush and deep green again.

Problem #2

This is another common concern when you are picking up veggie transplants, annuals, perennials, etc..

The bottom leaves on your tomato (pepper, cuke, squash, etc...) are yellowing or browning off or spotty and ugly...

Caused by ...  The bottom foliage is the oldest foliage, those leaves have been on the plant for a very long time.. With the cucumber and squash plants it is usually the two 'first' leaves but may also be the first 'true' leaf that is yellowing in the pot, while on the tomato it may be the bottom two or three leaves. This is not a cause for alarm but is, in fact, commonplace.

Remedy - Pinch them off. Leaves get old, take them off.
Bedding plants, roses, veggies, everything will get old leaves or ugly leaves, to prevent issues and to make the plant look and feel better, simply pinch off the yellow leaves.The plant will stop putting energy into that old foliage and will benefit from it's removal.

Problem #3 

I don't have any great picture of tired looking garden beds, flower beds or baskets, at this time.. this is simply because I have brand new garden beds and no flower beds here at the new place this year! ; ) 

Potted roses or potted perennials looking kind of peaked and tired? Gardens and flower beds not quite performing the way they used to? 

Caused by .. Some of the nutrients in the soil are running a bit low and they are looking to you for a bit of a pick me up.

Remedy - Top dress around them with a few handfuls of manure ( I like chicken manure best, but use whatever you have! ). As you water, the nutrients will slowly be released to the roots system and your foliage will be greener, fuller and you will get more blooms. you can do this with everything and anything. Top dress between the rows of veggies in your garden beds, around the roses and flowers in your flower beds, and on top of large planters or pots that do not get re-potted and nourished annually. Yes, you can do this right on top of your bark nuggets, the manure will work it's way through.

Add a wee bit of bloodmeal, bonemeal, Epsom salts, or organic granular fertiliser in with the manure, if you feel that they need a bit more nutrients.
Organic gardeners may want to do this once a month to keep their planters and pots looking good and performing well.

Problem #4

Hanging baskets or annual planters are not flowering as much any more...or simply do not look as good as they used to.  

Caused by .. A few reasons for this are possible... These guys are heavy feeders and need constant feeding in order to keep blooming for you all summer long, and they need near daily watering in order to continue to perform. Plus, some may be a bit lanky and overgrown with faded blooms.  

Remedy ..  Sprinkle some slow release fertiliser on top of the soil for the times that you forget to feed or go away on holidays. Plus!... Feed with a water soluble fertiliser once a week ... or, add a pinch of food to the watering can each time you water.
If you feel that the basket has dried out and is not retaining water well, pop it into a bucket of water for a few hours to re-hydrate the soil and the plants. It will perk up noticeably. When you water, make sure that you water in centre and around all the sides till the water is running down from the bottom of the planter. If the water runs from the bottom almost right away, that is a sure sign that it has dried out and is not retaining any of the water that you are now giving it. This is the time to do the bucket plunge!
I always double water my pots, planters and baskets...I go over them all, watering well till the water drips out the bottom... then I go through with a second round of watering about 5 or 10 minutes later. This ensures that the first round of water has had time to penetrate any dry areas of the potting mix and it is now able to take on and soak up more water. 

Pinch, pinch, dead head and then pinch some more. Most all annuals will benefit from regular dead-heading and pinching to keep them bushy, lush and blooming. Remove any spent blooms and pinch back any lanky or not blooming stems to where you see some branching out. In no time at all, you will have a thick, lush and heavily blooming basket/planter.

Problem #5

Holy smokes, what a lot of bugs this year!

Bugs! Aphids on your roses, loopers on your cabbages, something eating your leaves...

Caused by... Well, hmmm ... Mother Nature. Life. 

Remedy... Vigilance. Do a walk through once a day, if you can, or every few days. Look at your foliage, smell your flowers and while you do, look for bugs, twisting leaves, holey foliage, etc..anything that does not look quite right.
Do a morning walk through before work, with your cup of coffee, or after work, while you harvest some herbs and veggies for dinner... or after dinner, with a glass of wine, as you unwind for the day...

Deal with any issues that you see right away. If you have aphid damage as in the picture above, hose off your plants with a strong jet of water and spray with an insecticidal soap once a week for 2 to 3 weeks in a row. However, if you see lady bugs already working on your aphid problem, help by squishing the aphids, but do not spray the plants or you will also kill off your lady bugs.

If you have caterpillars, pluck off and stomp or squish. 

... and finally, Problem #6

Fungal issues prevail as soon as soon as weather happens...

 Yikes! Fungal issues already! Black spot on roses and powdery mildew on currants...

Caused by....    The right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) weather conditions, overhead watering, heavy dew in mornings, and some plants are simply prone to these issues.

Prevention ...   Water in the morning, do not water in the evening so that plants go into the evening/night with wet foliage.
Water at ground level, try not get splash back on the foliage, and do not water the foliage, especially in the evenings.
Ensure that plants prone to issues have good air flow around them, do not crowd them in for that 'cottage garden' look. 

Remedy ... Pick off any leaves with black spot. The sprays that you hear about, whether home made or store bought, will not fix the foliage with black spot on it, though may help to prevent more from coming on. Remove the affected foliage and let the rose leaf out again. Increase the air flow around the plants with issues.
For powdery mildew, if it is just a few leaves, pull them off and discard. If it is a bit more, spray with a 10% skim milk solution (9 parts water to 1 part skim milk in a spray bottle) every 3 days or so, 3 or 4 times. If you still have an issue, pull of the worst leaves and spray the others again. Currant shrubs are very prone to powdery mildew, I have often de-nuded them completely and let them leaf out all over again. Ensure great air flow by removing any tall weeds or grass, flowers, and, if need be, move other shrubs that are too close for comfort. If your cukes and zukes get powdery mildew, you can try the milk spray but I find it is not so effective on the hairy foliage. Remove any really bad leaves and pray that the plant says healthy enough for long enough to harvest your veggies.
Good air flow is the key to keeping peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and everything in between, happy and healthy.

In summary, the best thing to do for happy and healthy plants is to water, feed and pinch! Pinch off anything that does not look good or right.     

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

June Ramblings

The month of May was pretty fabulous all in all this year.. lots of sun, some rain, gardens are thriving... and so here we are in the month of June, already!

Baby limes on the Bearrs lime!

June is the month of sunshine and strawberries, of peas and gardens planted, sitting back to water, pinch, and enjoy...

Honeoye June-bearing strawberries

What to plant this month...
This is it, this is the big month, the time to plant out all your warm weather crops.
However, please keep in mind that the weather can be pretty iffy so if we get some cool weather, wet weather, etc... please cover your warm weather crops!
Also, harden off your plants by gradually accustoming them to the outdoor conditions... if you were to simply buy them and plunk them out into the garden on a 24 C sunny day, you would likely find yourself with a real bad case of sunburn!  

From Seed
- cucumbers
- zucchini's 
- pumpkins
- beans
- squash
- cabbage
- basil!
From transplants
- tomatoes
- peppers
- cucumbers
- zucchini's and other squashes
- eggplants 
- cabbage
- basil!

You can also still sow another batch of ..
- beets, carrots,  shallots, onions, and more peas.

Start now for your fall/winter garden
- leeks
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli
- Onions

Cool weather crops like lettuce, spinach, radishes, Chinese greens, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.. will bolt (go to seed) in the heat of the summer. Wait till late summer with it's cooler, shorter days to sow the seeds for those.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden bed in a shady area that stays nice and cool, you can still get away with growing these guys throughout the summer, or create your own shady area by planting tall heat loving veggies out front.

In The Potager.... 

The potatoes are doing super well!
The seed potatoes were planted out in late April this year, into trenches about 6 to 8 inches deep and covered with 4 inches of soil.
They were just recently hilled up, meaning that I covered the green potato tops with about 6 inches of soil, leaving just the top 2 inches or so of greenery above the soil level.
This week , I will hill them up one more time as they are growing so fast and so well. That will be it for hilling and fussing this year. Then we simply water once a week throughout the summer, waiting for flowering and harvest ... though I will likely harvest some of the new baby potatoes to enjoy for the  mid-summers festivities on June 21st.
Onions and the rest of the allium family 

These Tropeana Tonda onion transplants/seedlings were sizing up nicely in the 6 packs! I had not had time during greenhouse season to plant them up, so these guys simply  had to wait..Seems that they were just fine with that ; ) They are now in the ground and will be harvested in late summer...

When planting onions from transplants... plant in a trench to the top of the bulb, water in, cut off the tops so that they are only about 1 inch tall. This is something I generally do in April!

 Garlic bed #2

The garlic beds have grown really well, with no assistance from me whatsoever since planting time last October. I have not watered, I have not fed, but I have put up a small fence to keep the dogs from dancing in the bed. Ruby Tuesday especially seemed to think that was great fun....
I wanted to see how well the soil performed on it's own, without any other amendments, as we built the beds last fall and filled them with a somewhat pricey premium garden blend. 
The beds will be amended with organic matter in late summer, however, before being planted up with garlic again this autumn. 

     Garlic scapes - so scrumptious1
Garlic scapes, the curly tops, will begin to form this month. Cut them off when they are fresh, tender and new, as this helps the garlic bulbs to size/bulk up. Enjoy the trimmings in salads, stir-fries, sauteed with olive oil and sea salt, or add anywhere that you would use garlic, for they are scrumptious! Do not let them get too old and woody though.

Strawberries (in front of bed), carrots and shallots.

These are the June-bearing strawberries so they are covered in berries even though I just planted them a month or so ago. Each year, both the plants and the berries will get bigger and better.

Cover the berries with netting to keep birds from eating all the fruit before you do!

I have succession planted carrots, about 2 weeks apart, throughout the beds, so we will enjoy many assorted varieties...
This year I am growing Cosmic Purple, Atomic Red, Sunshine Mix (yellow and orange), Midas Touch (huge!), and Parisian Market (the wee round ones), as well as, the stand-byes that I plant annually and so adore... Half-long Danvers, Chantenay, and Scarlet Nantes.

What can I say about the shallots? They look great.... can be harvested now for greens and young immature, yummy, sweet shallots... or leave till later, cure and enjoy for months.

Wall-o-water tomato trial...

I have been testing the Wall-O-Water this year to see how the tomato fares and to decide whether I think that the device is worth the time and money investment.
This one has tripled in size, is lush and green, has flowers on it, and is now a few inches taller than the cloche.  Remember how puny it was a few weeks back? 
Therefore, I definitely think that the wall-o-water has helped to keep this tomato toasty and warm and is worth purchasing!  

Wall--o-water tomato at planting time.

I also planted another tomato beside this one for comparisons sake, to see how it would fare.. As we have had a lovely May this year, I think the difference would have been more drastic in a cooler year. However, this year, the other tomato is happy enough, has no yellowing or purple-ing foliage, which is a great sign and it is also flowering. It is not quite as tall or lush as the protected one, but is a happy enough tomato plant. In  a cooler year it would have been stunted, purple in colour and would have  pouted for several months before starting to produce.

The comparison plant... is doing well, though not as tall or bushy

 I have tomatoes in the greenhouse... on three of the cherry varieties...
Riesentraube, Acadian Cherry and Farthest North.
 Lettuce and Sweet Allysum

A great companion planting combination is lettuce with Sweet Allysum. The Allysum brings in the good bugs that eat the bad bugs and also works as a carpet that keeps weeds at bay between the rows.. The bonus is that it looks and smells super pretty, too.

My peas had to wait this year till the beds were built, so got them in a bit later than usual. However, they are coming along, have started to flower, and so there will soon be peas! Yay!

Here is a teaser photo of part of the back yard potager area...

We are still setting up the back area with irrigation for both the potager, the greenhouse, and the orchard-to-be. Therefore, I'm not really taking any photos of the potager in it's entirety yet, as it still much too ugly while this job is in progress ; )
All in good time, as they say... though I am very impatient to see it done!

Bits and Bobs

Plums are simply loaded this year! What a great year we are gong to have!

The alliums are blooming... my absolute favourite spring blooms...
Deer and bunny proof, gorgeous, hardy, come back year after year.
A. christophii and A. shubertii

Blue Girl Hybrid Tea at the greenhouse this year. 
Stunning, as always.

Roses... they will bloom their hearts out this month..
To help keep up their energies, scratch some bonemeal and some alfalfa or blood meal around each one.

Water your hanging baskets well each day, watering till the water drips through the bottom.
If they have dried out in between waterings, you will need to re-hydrate them in order to enable to take up water again. This means you should either take the basket down and plunge it into a bucket of water for an hours or so ... or alternatelywater with wand till dripping, come back 5 or 10 minutes later and do it again, wait 5 or 10 minutes and repeat!

Fertilise baskets with a water soluble feed every second week, even if you used a slow release granular feed at planting time. Regular watering, feeding, deadheading and pinching will keep your baskets and planters happy, lush and blooming all summer long.

Blueberries are my personal favourite berry and fruit.
These Chandler Blueberries have the largest flowers that I have ever seen! All the blueberries are flowering and fruiting already in their one gallon pots, sitting out in the nursery!

Blueberries are self-fertile but produce more fruit and thrive better if they have friends of another variety to keep them company.Therefore, if you are planting 2 or 3 blueberry bushes on the property, choose several different varieties instead of just one kind.

Planting blueberries ... you will need really acidic soil, a 4.5 to a 5.5 pH. To organically achieve this you will want to add lots of pine needles, composted bark, coffee grounds, compost and all kinds of organic material like leaf mould, shredded leaves, grass clippings... You can also start by adding a bale of peat moss, but keep in mind that peat moss, though organic and acidic, is not considered a renewable resource. If possible, prepare your soil up to a year in advance so that it has time to change the pH of the soil! 

Chandler - I have not yet tasted this one but from the size of the blossoms, I would say that the berries are going to be huge! Is a late fruiting variety that is very hardy and prolific.
Chippewa - This berry is a bit on the smaller side but is super sweet. Is my most favourite, must have blueberry variety. Most articles say it has a larger berry, so perhaps it depends on which berry one compares to? Is smaller than a Duke, but otherwise a good size. 
Duke - A large berried, great, reliable blueberry here on the island. A mid season fruiting berry, very large berries and a great producer.
Polaris - A shorter shrub, only about 4 feet tall, used to be the one often recommended for patio pots before the dwarf patio blueberries entered the scene. Tasty and super hardy.
Blue Crop - A really reliable and heavy producer, good and hardy, often the one grown by market growers.Very high yields and is fruiting already while sitting in the nursery in a one gallon pot!

The dwarf patio blueberries only grow from 1 to 2 feet tall and wide, making them perfect for pots and planters or smaller yardscapes. Peach Sorbet, Top Hat, and Jelly Bean.

The Fourth Of July - a stunning, colourful, delicious, climbing rose

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...