Thursday, 24 July 2014

Oh, How They Grow...

The summer is off to a great start with weeks of super hot and dry weather. Garden beds are all thriving, veggies and flowers growing like gang busters.

Has been hard to keep up with the watering with weeks upon weeks of heat, but thankfully Mother Nature came through for us again, with a great big downpour last night. 

Borage - has the best blue flowers ever. The flowers of this herb are great for salads, cakes, cookies or freezing in ice cubes for a lovely addition to your sparkling water. The small, young leaves taste like cucumber and are fab in salads, drinks and more.. the bees adore this biennial plant!

Nasturtiums - great additions to the organic garden. They add a gorgeous pop of colour and work as lure crops for aphids. Plant near any plant that tends to get lots of aphids, like cabbage or kale, so that they go to the nasturtium instead of the crop. Also, said to be one of the very best companion plants for attracting the good bugs that eat bad bugs.

Garlic - lift from the garden when the bottom three leaves are brown (first week of July here) ...  Lay out to cure in a shady, well ventilated area for about 3 weeks. Then, gently brush off any remaining soil, and rub off the loose outer skins. Trim off the roots, and cut down the stem.
I like to leave the stem a few inches long so that it is easy to take that stem and give it a crank to open up the bulb. Some leave it longer so that they can hang it up in the pantry, while others cut it right off. Is simply a matter of personal preference.

Eggplants - Have cute baby eggplants on the Morden Midget! This heirloom is a compact, sturdy little plant that produces loads of small purple eggplants that fit into the palm of your hand. They are tasty and never bitter!
This is my first time growing eggplants in the garden beds instead of pots. I am pretty sure that I would have had fruits earlier in the year had I grown them in pots, as they love heat, and those black pots really soak up the sunshine... however, we are having a lovely summer so far, with lots of heat, and so they are thriving. Eggplants thrive in hot and dry conditions.

Green Globe Artichokes - Yummers! This one is almost ready to pick!

Zucchini's - Three size of the blooms amazes me!  

Tomatoes - the heirlooms are ripening so quickly, am bringing in a basket daily! Here you see, going clockwise ... Sasha's Altia, Beaverlodge Slicer, Paul Robeson, a smattering of assorted cherries, and Plum Lemon in the centre.

The garden in mid July ...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

July Garden and Greenhouse Ramblings

So here we are in July already! Boy, seems like June just flew by with all the garden planting, care, pinching and more to do. We had unusually fabulous weather throughout, which helped everything root in, grow and thrive.

The greenhouse closed for the summer in early June as I have little to sell at that point and it gives me a chance to catch up on my own garden and yard chores... plus more, this year as we also did extensive renovations on the house.

So... What is actually going on in the greenhouse?... 

As always, the growing tables were moved outdoors and the greenhouse now holds my own personal plants. Tomatoes and melons grow up strings while pepper plants line the south wall, garnering as much heat and light as they can possibly get.

Black Hungarian Hot Peppers
I am already harvesting the Hungarian Black's to make spicy crock pickles. This is my all time favourite go to pepper. You all know that I personally do not do the hot peppers, but the family sure does. This one is a great producer, has great heat, goes into anything and everything.. salsa's, yep, pickling, yep, hot pickled peppers, yep, sauces, yep... you get the picture... best hot pepper. Oh, and the more you pick, the more they produce!

King of The North sweet pepper is coming along nicely, too! As is the Sweet Chocolate Pepper shown below. 

Looks like a cucumber, sort of, but is actually the start of the Sweet Chocolate Bell Pepper.

 Stupice heirloom tomato 

 Sasha's Altai heirloom tomato
Tomatoes are ripening by the day!
Have been picking and enjoying Riesentraube, Acadian Cherry, Gardener's Delight (aka Sugar Lump),  Beaverlodge Slicer, Sasha's Altai, Stupice and Golden Bison, too!

Out In The Potager...

Manure tea or compost tea...
1 part manure/compost to 9 parts or so of water. 
Let 'brew' for 3 days and then feed to any and all plants. 
Works for veggies and roses, plus other flowers, too.
You can either fill up with water again for a weaker solution, or dump the dregs into the compost bin to get that cooking, and 'brew' a new batch three days before you want to feed again. 
Making compost tea to feed to the potted plants mostly as the garden beds are growing like mad! Thinking not a whole lot of garden amendments need to be added to the garden this year, or at least not till fall ; )
In fact, things are growing so well that, at first, I was very afraid that I had purchased soil that was too high in nitrogen but maybe too low in phosphorous and/or potassium! But, all is well, this soil is amazing. I not only have lush top growth but I also have great spuds, great carrots, great tomatoes and more, which means that I am good in N, P and K!

These are all brand new garden beds, built in March/April of this year and filled with a garden blend from a local bulk supplier. When you buy soil from one of these suppliers, try to get word of mouth from others regarding the actual quality of the soil, for it will vary tremendously from one supplier to the next. Also, most importantly, invest in the very best garden blend that you can afford. Cheap soil will really cost you! Cheap soil will not give you great crops and will just make you feel bad, might make you think that you have a black thumb and cannot grow anything, when in reality, it is simply the poor soil. It will also mean that you will spend a bundle amending the soil for many years till you finally get great soil, and thus great crops.
Start with great soil, spend the money and feel pride in your skills as you harvest all kinds of thriving garden goodies.  

Peas, can you believe all the peas? Yowza!
Dill at the very back and then some tomato plants this side of the dill, so tall and bushy that you can only barely see the blue tomato cages! 

Growing the eggplants in the garden this year, too, instead of in pots ... So far, so good! They are thriving, flowering and I am hoping for a bumper crop of Morden Midgets ; )

Breadseed poppies... I only planted a few this year as I still have loads of poppy seeds from last year. However, they are the prettiest addition to the garden, first with the ethereal, wispy flowers and then  fabulous seed pods that are like art in the garden.

Kale, dwarf sweet peas, cukes and strawberries in the left side garden bed and my cutting garden on the right... nothing prettier than blooms in the edible garden. Brings in the bees, the birds, hummingbirds, and butterflies, plus all kinds of good bugs that eat bad bugs. 

Garlic has been pulled and laid out to cure... takes two to three weeks to cure properly. I always err on the side of caution and go on the later side as opposed to the early. You can, however, grab as many as want, whenever you want for immediate use, you do not have to wait for them to cure if you want to use them now. 
Lift garlic when the bottom three leaves have gone yellow/brown. Leave on roots and stems during the curing process, clean them off later when you go to store them. Cure in a shaded area with great air flow. Place out on tables, on floor (lay down cardboard or newsprint first) or hang in bundles of 4 to 6 bulbs to dry well. If you do not have great air flow, set up a fan to move the air. If the bulbs have poor ventilation during the curing process, they may not dry well and will begin to rot in storage.

I have posted many times about garlic harvesting over the past years, feel free to go back in time and scope them out ; ) 

 Garlic laid out to cure in the potting shed. Has a roof for cover from rain and great ventilation.

Other garden related stuff...

Roses are still blooming away, looking great...

Just Joey
Sorry about the dirty nails, again! It seems that I go out to the garden for 2 minutes of pinching, picking, and what not, and that is all it takes. 

 Blue Girl

This one is one of the most amazing roses I have ever seen.

So... on we go to the very best part of each month's blog post ... 

What to do in the July garden .... 

- What to Plant now. 
Fall and winter veggies... see HERE for what to plant now. 
Succession plant lettuce, spinach, even kale right now so that when it bolts in the heat, you have fresh and new. Plant more beans and beets. 

- Harvest! Lift a spud plant or two and have new potatoes for supper, add fresh peas to your salads or eat as a great snack food. Pick peppers, onions, shallots, beets, carrots, kale, lettuce and more... 
With many of the veggies, the more you pick the more they produce ... peas, cukes, zukes, tomatoes, peas, beans, mesclun, etc...  so you are doing yourself a favour when you enjoy the fruits of your labours. 

- Water and Feed. Water your beds every 3 to 7 days. Give them a good soak when you water, do not just spritz with a spray of water daily. Water in the morning and at ground level. Do not wet down the foliage, esp if you water later in the day, or you will get fungal issues and blight. Potted veggies will need water every day and a weekly feeding, too. As long as you started your garden beds with well amended, great soil, you should not need to feed your garden beds much of anything. If you have lagging plants, you can water with manure or compost tea, and/or add 2 Tbsp of Epsom salts around them, or even side dress around the plants with some compost or manure. Add blood meal, bone meal, or rock phosphates to the dressing, if you need more amendments.  

- Pinch and Pick. Carry a pail with you to toss in all foliage or plants that are yellow, brown or fading. Pinch off any leaves that look unsightly or questionable. Do not be afraid to pinch off lots of foliage. If they don't look good, they may be buggy or may be diseased. Getting rid of them keeps your plants happy, healthy, thriving and producing. 

- Weed and Mulch. Weeds are stealing water and nutrients from your veggies, pull them out and toss in that pail you are carrying around. Top up your mulch (whether it is compost, manure, bark or straw, etc...) if weeds are poking through. 

Aphids on roses
- Bug Patrol. Watch for beetles, caterpillars, slugs, snails, aphids, etc.. as you tend your gardens. Squash all the bugs that are squashable. Pick the ones that are pickable and toss in that pail. Lots of aphids? Spray the plant with a strong jet of water, and if needed, spray with Safer's Soap. Stay on top of the bug issue and you will not have a bug issue.
 Black Spot on roses
Other bits and bobs... 
- You have likely already lifted your garlic, if not, do so now! 
- Deep water fruit trees every 2nd week by placing the hose at a slow trickle at the drip point (where the branches stop and hang, plus drip when it rains) for 20 to 30 minutes per tree. 
- Deep water fruiting shrubs, also ... raspberries, currants, blueberries, etc ... esp if they are starting to form fruit.  
- Water your compost bin once a week to keep it cooking! 
- Clean up and cut back all spring bulbs (like alliums!). 
- Snip and prune as needed, remove all dead and fallen foliage from around the plants, pull off leaves with black spot or powdery mildew.
-  Pinch and dead head annuals and perennials regularly to promote bushiness. 

Hanging baskets/planters - water till the water flows through the bottom, then come back 10 minutes later and do it again! Feed once a week to keep them blooming! Replace any plants that have dried out and do not come back after you water in order to keep your basket looking awesome all summer. 

Mint garden in a wheel barrow.

Have a great summer with great harvests! Happy growing!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Fall and Winter Gardening ... in July

Yes, odd as it sounds and seems, this really is the time to think (fast!) about your fall and winter harvest.

Here are some ideas of what to plant now to get you started on growing more food! Great for pickling, freezing, fresh eating or simply leave in the garden and pull as needed. I plant more and more carrots each year to try to get through the entire winter with fresh carrots from our own garden. So far, the longest we have gone was to the end of February and then we ran out... we go through a lot of carrots as all the dogs love them, too. After fresh garden carrots, they refuse to eat the tasteless grocery store ones!   

What to plant NOW from seed in the garden now for fall and winter harvest

- carrots (harvest in fall, winter, and next spring)
- beets (fall)
- rutabaga's (fall and winter)
- kohlrabi (fall and winter)
- sprouting broccoli/broccolette/broccoli raab (winter and spring)
- broccoli (fall)
- winter cabbage (winter)
- parsnips (fall and winter)
- endive/radicchio (fall)
- Swiss chard (fall)
- cauliflower (fall and winter)

You will need to water well, daily or even twice daily in order for them to germinate and then stay alive. If the seed begins to germinate and dries out even once, it will die. You may want to use shade cloth, burlap, frost blankets etc.. to help keep the seedlings moist and allow for successful germination. Remove as soon as germination occurs.   

What to plant now into flats or pots or 6 packs

Planting into flats, 6 packs or pots allows you to keep a better eye on the wee plants as seeds and seedlings require more water, or at the very least a daily regular watering, while established veggies can go days without watering.

- sprouting broccoli/broccolette/broccoli raab (winter and next spring harvest)
- cabbage (winter)
- broccoli (fall)
- winter onions (next spring)
- kale (fall and winter)

Place these where you can easily tend to them, water, feed and babysit, so that they do not dry out and get lost amongst the lush growth in the gardens.

Mid to end month, you can plant the following...

- arugula (for fall harvest)
- lettuce (fall)
- kale (fall)
- spinach (fall)
- winter onions (next spring)
- radishes (fall)
- peas (fall)

Wanna take a chance on the fall weather and see what you get?
If so, plant a few of these now, too ... I am! 

- beans
- squash
- cukes
- basil

Happy fall planting!  

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Not So Scary After All Tomato Issues

 Here are few problems or issues that you may have come across this month or will soon come upon with regards to your tomato plants that are actually not a great cause for concern! Whew!

1. Wilting Leaves

Fear not, all is well
We have had some super hot days lately and the leaves of the tomato plant will droop and look awful. Heat causes the leaves to droop but they will quickly perk up again as soon as the air temps are cooler.
This does not hurt your tomato plant in any way, but you certainly can make life a wee cooler for it by spraying down the greenhouse floor, the patio, the ground, etc.. I spray down the greenhouse floor whenever I am in the general area.
In time, your plant will adjust to the heat and no longer droop quite as much.

Watering it copiously is not the answer either! Only water if it needs to be watered (test to make sure the soil is super dry by sticking your finger into the soil)...
If you over-water, that brings us to problem #2 ...  so read on Mc Duff!

2. Bland or watery tasting tomatoes with no flavour

Peche Jaune is not bland, but is in fact very delish!
Just needed a lush tomato pic and so this was it ; )

If you over-water or water too zealously, your tomato will certainly grow and flower and fruit, you will not notice any great issues ...until, that is, you taste the fruits! They will be super duper bland and soooo tasteless!

Make sure that your tomato actually needs water, daily watering may not be needed. I am currently watering mine (growing in 5 gallon pots) every 2nd or 3rd day as I really want to be able to taste the true flavour of each variety! 

3. BER (Blosson End Rot) 

Blossom End Rot (BER) is a brown rot on the bottom (aka blossom end) of the tomato. Your peppers and squash may also come down with this issue. 

Is most often seen on paste style tomatoes aka the Roma's and generally only affects the first tomatoes.

BER is not a cause for alarm either, though it is a heads up! 

BER may be caused by planting out the plant too early, a calcium and/or magnesium deficiency, or inconsistent watering habits.
It is a bit more apt to happen to potted plants than in ground ones as they are totally dependent on you for water, but either or both may get it.

What to do about it?
Remove the BER fruits and toss into compost (is totally a physiological issue and not 'spreading' or 'catching' in any way, so compost at free will)
Be more regular/consistent with your watering schedule.

Add a pinch of Epsom salts to your watering can once a week or scratch it in around the plant for uptake each time you water. I scratch in two tablespoons around each plant or in each pot once or twice a summer.   

For more info about BER and other common issues with tomatoes, please see here and  here.

The following issue was totally new to me, something that I had never ever come across in all my days ... and I have been growing tomatoes for a really, really long time ; ) 

4. New Growth Curling Downwards 

The new growth tips on the tomato plants are deep green and curling downwards. No outward signs of bugs or other evident issues.

I had several plants doing this in May this year. and I was very, very concerned! Also, as I was not doing anything different this year but following the same schedule and care as usual, I was very puzzled. Therefore, I did much research to find out the cause and cure. Let's face it, great heirloom tomatoes is not only my business but my very life and blood!

My thoughts ran two different ways...
First I thought that it might be a virus brought on by aphids or whitefly, which would be bad, like truly really bad.
Second, I thought that it might be a fertiliser issue, even though I only use organic feed, somehow I thought that it might possible be this anyways, as there was no sign of bug damage and everything looked so green and healthy.

Turns out that downward curling on new growth is actually not a problem, per se, is just too much of a good thing all at one time ...  and is also thankfully not irreversible either.

It usually means too much heat and too much water at the same time. We did have an unusually warm May and June, and thus I probably watered more often than usual. It did not happen to any plants growing outside the greenhouse (less heat), nor did it happen to the plants I had tucked aside for later planting into larger pots (and thus rarely watered ; )

It can also be caused by too much fertiliser, along with the too much heat and water. However, I was no longer worried about that for myself, as it is really hard to over feed with the 100% organic feeding that I do, whew! (Alfalfa tea with Epsom salts once a week and/or Liquid Seaweed)

Therefore, the key was to cool down the greenhouse a bit more, which I did by watering the floor several times a day on hot days, leaving the door open night and day earlier than usual, and turning the fan to a lower heat setting so that it now kicks in sooner.
As watering is crucial, I let the tomatoes go two and even three days without water, which also helps to prevent issue #2 ; )  However, it may cause more BER, argh!

Therefore ...if you have this ... put your tomatoes outside to grow and water less often. If you cannot put them out, try to have cooler temps in your cold frame or greenhouse and also try to cut back on your watering a bit, let it go dry more often. Also, regulate your feeding if you tend to give too much love. 

The problem usually irons itself out in no time. As the foliage ages, it straightens right out and as the temps and water are regulated, the new growth stops curling.

Please note... this only applies to downward facing new growth. If you have upward curling leaves, you have a problem, either a virus or a blight, so that is a concern.    

Early Orange Stripe


Moving Thyme

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