Saturday, 16 August 2014

How To Save Those Seeds

My garden abounds with critters of all kinds, bees a buzzing, snakes a slithering, frogs a hopping, spiders a webbing and lizards a ... creeping (?) ...All kinds of creatures big and small, that make for a really healthy and happy kitchen garden-scape. Annuals contribute to the health and happiness of my gardens by bringing in all these garden helpers, repelling bad bugs, and also adding colour and a cutting garden, thus bringing joy to my heart and hearth, as well.  

Here are four really easy annuals to collect seed from and start yourself next year.... Nasturtiums, Calendula, Marigolds, and Sweet Williams. 

Nasturtiums add a great pop of colour to the garden, are a real treat cascading over the sides of the raised beds or vining and clambering over and through the beds. 
They are a favourite flower of the hummingbirds, too, who just happen to eat lots of bugs, besides being wonderful to watch. 
They also work as a lure crop, plant them near your cabbages to keep the aphids on the nasturtiums and not on your heads! 

Best of all, the flowers of the nasturtium are delicious to eat ...  add them to salads for both the colourful pop and for their peppery taste.
To save Nasturtium seeds...

Look amongst the foliage for the twisty stems of the spent blooms for these round, lovely seeds.

They may be brown or green, either works just fine and they may be in clusters of two or three, like you see here in the picture, or they may be singles. The green ones will be clinging to the stems while the brown ones will have fallen onto the ground. Both will dry and store and grow equally well next year.

Pick the beautiful, ribbed, round seeds....
Always choose the biggest seeds for the best plants, and pick only from your healthiest, happiest, most thriving-est plants.

Lay them out to dry in a dry, sunny, warm and well-ventilated spot to dry.
Package them up after they have dried completely, in either an envelope or glass jar. Label and save till spring. If they are still damp, they will rot in the packaging. Give them lots of time to dry thoroughly.

Pot Marigold aka Calendula ...

These super bright and happy flowers are also edible and are great companion plants near tomatoes and cabbage plants.

Calendula's are great dried and made into salves, soaps, ointments, teas, and balms of all kinds. They  have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties that prevent infections.

Pick the dry seed heads off of the calendula plant. If they are not yet dry, harvest the entire branch and let the flowers dry on the branch before harvesting.

Rub your finger along the dry flower head to loosen the seeds from the flower cap and leave out to dry thoroughly. You can also pop the branches of blooms into a paper bag to dry and the seeds will simply fall into the bag when dry.
The seeds are 'C' shaped curly cuties, that kind of look like caterpillars if picked when green.

Red Disco Marigolds
Marigolds aka Tagetes ...

The best companion plant of them all... repels aphids, hornworms and so much more...  no kitchen garden is complete without marigolds.
My favourite is the Disco variety, that you see in the picture above.. love these single petaled red blooms most of all.

Snap the dried blooms off of the plant....

Remove the husk/cap from the spent blooms to reveal these lovely seeds ...

Lay them out, single layer, to dry. Make sure the drying area is warm, bright, dry and well ventilated to ensure that they dry properly. 

 Sweet William aka Dianthus barbatus

This sweet smelling addition is not actually an annual, but is a biennial that is stunning addition to the kitchen garden or perennial bed. A true heirloom flower that has been around since the 1500's! 

Attracts bees, birds and butterflies to the garden, ensuring great pollination for all your crops!

Smells terrific and so is a great addition to the cutting garden, as well. 

Pick the spent blooms and pop into a paper bag, the seeds will fall right into the bag as they dry.  There are many small black seeds in each papery husk of the spent flowers. 

Alternately, you can leave the spent blooms in the garden and they will scatter their seeds everywhere, for a blanket of this heavenly smelling, gorgeous biennial. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

A Tomato Issue

This post was originally posted in August two years ago (August 8th, 2012), but I decided to re-post today as the issues are very pertinent to this year's tomato crops, as well.

Yay, tomatoes are now starting to put on fruit. Finally! After a long, cool, wet spring here on the Pacific West Coast...

Here are some Common Issues you might encounter this year, due to this type of weather pattern...


Blossom End Rot = the bottom part of your tomato (or pepper) develops a dark spot at the end of the fruit..
This is a common problem and is even more common for tomatoes that are grown in pots. That's because in ground tomatoes can form deeper roots and go after their own water while potted ones are dependent on you to be consistent with your watering. Tomatoes need regular watering, if there are fluctuations where they go dry for a bit, you will likely get some blossom end rot. This is not a really big deal, however, just correct your watering, try to be more consistent, remove the blemished in-edible fruits, and it will quickly correct itself. Generally the first fruits will have this issue and then the plant adjusts and corrects itself and the following fruits will be just fine.
Cure- consistent watering.

Cracking Tomatoes = cracks appear in the sides of the fruit.
This is also a watering issue... inconsistent watering, that is. Too much heavy watering followed by lovely hot spells, can cause cracking of the fruit. The fruit loves the moisture and then the heat, perfect conditions for quick growth! However, the fruit grows quicker than the skin can accommodate, and thus it cracks. This is more common with in-ground grown tomatoes, and often occurs if there is a heavy rainy spell followed by a sunny period while the fruit is ripening. Not much you can do about that one! The fruit is still edible but it will not store long, so eat it right away.
Cure- try to prevent large fluctuations in the amount of water your plants are getting.

Lumpy green heirloom tomatoes with cat-facing

Cat Facing = miss-shapen fruits with scarring and indentations.
The misshapen fruits are caused by cool temps during fruit set. Meaning this, while your tomato is flowering (setting fruit), if the air temps are cool, less than 10 C, it may disrupt the pollination of the fruit. It is a pollination problem that occurs with the cooler temperatures and is more common in heirloom varieties than in hybrids. Which still does not make me want to ever grow a hybrid, lol. However, I think we should be prepared for some cat-facing this year :(
Cure - None, pray for better weather, any fruits that set in warmer temps will be fine. The fruits are still edible, just cut away any scarring.

These above issues are not biggies, not devastating, while the problems listed below are nasty!

Bigger Issues

Early Blight - Symptoms vary a lot, can show up as stem rot, leaf blight, cankers, and fruit rot. However, usually it begins with circular spots on the leaves, it will start on the bottom leaves of the plant and work it's way up to the top. The leaves will wither and fall off the plant.
The spores will live on in the soil, so do not plant your tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, etc... in that area next year or you will have the same issue. If it is a potted plant, discard the soil with the plant, do not compost! The spores will be passed to other plants by wind, rain and insects, so remove immediately when you notice an issue.
Cure- prevention! Water in morning so plant foliage is not left wet into the cool nights. Do not water the foliage, water at the soil level only. Feed your plant, keep it healthy, this is the best preventative for most problems. Do not grow your plant in shady and cooler areas of the garden. Avoid working in the garden on wet days. Remove bottom leaves as they yellow, wilt, or look 'off' and this may prevent the problem from spreading and save your plant. Burn or garbage that foliage, do not compost.

Late Blight - Brown or black lesions on the stem of the plant. Leaves become splotchy with dark areas usually closer to the margins. On dewy mornings or humid days, one can often see a mould on the under sides of the leaf lesions and on the stem lesions. Fruits will be greasy and darker looking in areas while green and then turn brown or black as the tomato ripens.... this is NOT just on the bottom like blossom end rot, but may be anywhere on the fruit. 
Again, this blight is spread to other plants through the spores being carried by birds, wind, rain, or insects. The soil will contain the blight spores and so will not be suitable for tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplants. This is a big problem on the Pacific West Coast. If you have infected plants, please remove immediately as it will spread through the neighbourhood quickly! Seal them in a plastic bag and bring to the landfill.
Cure - none! Prevention is key. Grow plants in sunny, warm, dry areas. Do not water the foliage, only at soil level and watering morning so foliage has time to dry before nightfall. Plastic or paper mulch and/or sandy soil helps to raise temps and prevent moisture problems and back splash. Grow plants under a cover of some sort to keep the foliage dry ... under the overhang of the house eave's, on a covered patio or deck, build a hoop house with sides that roll up but the roof stay in place, etc..   

More Tips for healthy plants...
Feed your plants regularly to prevent most problems. I alternate my feedings with a foliar liquid seaweed spray one week (Reindeer Liquid Seaweed) and an organic fertiliser (Gaia Green Tomato Food or compost tea) every other week.

Epsom Salts - sprinkle a tablespoon full on top of the soil, around the base of the plant. The watering's and rains will carry the nutrients to the root system. Can also be applied as a foliar spray. This can be used on pretty near any types of veggie and roses, also. I think this is especially helpful with potted veggies. I apply Epsom Salts two or three times/season!

As mentioned above.. try to be really consistent with your watering schedule. Water at soil level, never on the foliage of the plants. This means all plants, including, shrubs, roses, perennials, etc... It will help to prevent powdery mildew, black spot, and blights.

Also, always remove any spotty or yellow leaves immediately. They may not be a problem, might just be natural bottom leaf die off, etc... but if they are harbouring disease, you just removed it and it does not ever become an issue. Burn or garbage these leaves, do not compost. If they are diseased the spores will be carried on in your compost! This also apples to all plants, especially veggies and roses, though. It is just a really good preventative measure.

Tomatoes growing in the hoop house.

Happy tomato growing everyone! Hope you have a fabulous growing year, with no issues whatsoever!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Hot Weather Watering and Other Tips...

The weather is hot and dry, has been for weeks, with no rain in sight. Flower baskets are looking bedraggled, gardens wilted and limp ...  Many of you are having a hard time keeping things adequetly wet without breaking the bank with your water bill.

Here are some tips on what to water, when to water, how often to water, and how to water effectively. And what else can you do daily or weekly, as things start to look a little bit peaked from the heat.

My moss basket in the front doorway, on the hot south side..
I spray this basket (and the others) all over, from top to toe and side to side daily ...

What to do DAILY? 

Watering annual flowers.... 
- Water all flower baskets and planters, in the morning, if possible. If that is not possible, water later in the day, after the hottest part of the day is done... 
- Spray down the foliage and the flowers in the baskets and pots, from top to bottom, as you water. This helps to rehydrate the plants and to rid yourself of any aphids or other undesirable bugs... I do this daily. However, if you water in the evening, do not!! spray down your foliage or you will get powdery mildew real fast! In the evenings, water at soil level only, try to get in an early watering at least once a week so that you can hose down the entire basket/planter.
- If you have moss baskets, soak all sides of the moss daily, drench the top and sides of the basket over and over again, till it is sopping, dripping wet.
- Water all pots and baskets till you see water dripping out the bottom, water the rest of your pots, and then go give them all yet another round of water! That is how you ensure that the water is actually penetrating through the soil, and not just running down the sides.

To rehydrate a dried out basket, pot or planter ... If your pot, planter or basket has dried out, the water will not actually penetrate into the soil, but will instead run down the sides of the hard packed, dry soil, and out the bottom. If your water seems to run out the bottom real fast, the plants are looking wilty, the foliage has brown edges or plants are dying, your soil has compacted into a dry ball that regular watering will not penetrate. The easiest way to rehydrate and rejuvenate is to pop the entire basket/pot into a pail or bucket of water (add liquid seaweed!) and leave for several hours, even over night. If they are too big, like my moss basket in the picture above, or too heavy, then you will need to go over it time and time again... soak it, water other plants for 10 minutes, soak it again, water others for 10 more minutes, and then soak it yet again. You may need to do this many times, but it is possible to save that lovely basket or planter and have it looking fine again in just a week or two.  

Watering Veggies ...
- Water tomatoes in pots daily, only if needed! If you are growing them in super large pots and they are not drying out daily, then water every 2nd or 3rd day. If you over-water your tomatoes, you will have bland, tasteless tomatoes!
- Peppers in pots should only be watered about once a week. Keep them dry and lean or they will not thrive, plus your hot peppers will be sweet and have no heat! Do not feed the peppers more than maybe once a summer.   
- For all the other veggies in pots, water when soil is dry when you stick your finger in.
- Water any newly seeded garden areas daily, also ... new seeds cannot dry out while in the germination process, even for a day, or they will die!

- Hose everything off with a strong jet of water or a hard rinse as you water. Only do this if and when you water in the mornings! Evening watering promotes powdery mildew, fungal issues, and slugs, esp if you wet down the foliage! 
- Remove any flowers or leaves that look strange or twisted.

- Pinch off any foliage that begins to yellow, get spotty or otherwise does not look good.
- Ensure that your plants have good air flow, are not all stuffed in together, esp if you evening water.
- Do NOT water in the evening, and if you find that you have to, make sure that you water at ground level and do not wet the foliage. If your foliage goes into the cooler nights damp, you will get powdery mildew and other fungal issues!
- Deadhead all flowers to keep them blooming, thriving and happy.
- Remove any foliage right away that begins to yellow or brown or does not look good.

- Pick veggies daily to keep them producing!
- Bring in cut flowers for your vases as often as you can to keep them blooming in your garden. 

Harvest goodies daily to keep the plants producing!

What To Do TWICE a Week?

Watering ...
- Water your raised beds or garden beds twice a week, every 3rd day, or so...  Just the stuff that grow on top of the ground, like cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes, herbs, lettuce, etc... not the root veggies! Give them a really good soak, a deep soak to get them through the next three days till your next watering. 
- Your newly germinated fall and winter garden is likely fine now to water every few days rather than daily.  
- Water your roses, especially potted ones, as they like to stay moist in order to continue blooming and thriving. As they are very prone to both powdery mildew and black spot, make sure to water at ground level only. Blast with water, as needed, to get rid of bugs, but never in the evening. 

How To Water... 

Do NOT just do a light little sprinkly watering! You know what I mean .. with the nozzle set on shower, going back and forth over your foliage, watering the leaves, getting everything shiny and glistening, but getting very little water where it belongs, at the root level! Do NOT use a sprinker! This kind of watering does not water at root level and will give you sick plants, little production and lots of fungal issues.

DO do a deep watering, a heavy soak to promote healthy deep root systems that are able to withstand times of drought and heat! Water with the nozzle set on flood and go slowly along the soil, deep watering the roots of the plant, not the foliage. Or better yet, turn on your weeping hoses twice a week, the water will slowly burble in at root level and you will have no issues with mildew and rot.

Crystal Apple heirloom cukes and asst zucchini's.

What To Do WEEKLY?

- Water your pepper plants and eggplants, soak them well.
- Water the root veggies and anything that grows under ground rather than on top... carrots, beets, onions, potatoes..  Too much water will make these guys rot, or tasteless. One inch of water every week or two is plenty.


- If you are having persistent bug issues and do not have lots of lady bugs and good bugs in your garden helping you with the control, you may want to use a Safer's Soap type spray, made especially for plants once a week for three weeks in a row. (I do not advocate the make yourself as they are less effective and may actually burn your foliage!). First hose off the bugs with a strong jet of water as best you can, and then spray with the Safer's Soap. You may want to go along 15 minutes later and hose it down again. This is not necessary, but it does remove the soap from the plant, allowing it to take up sunshine, etc.. better, and washes off any dead bugs or lingerers.    


- Your flower baskets are now full of foliage and flowers so they need nutrients now, more than ever. Feed them weekly to keep them flowering and thriving. using a fertiliser with a higher middle number, like a 15-30-15.
- You may want to throw in another handful of slow release fertilser now , too (just once) to keep things happy for another month or two.

- Feed your tomatoes and garden beds with liquid seaweed, or manure tea, or compost tea, or an organic granular tomato/veggie fertiliser that you work into the soil.

What To Do Monthly...

- Mulch your beds, your tomatoes, your roses, etc.. with compost, manure, grass clippings,  leaves, etc... to help keep the moisture in.
- Top dress your pots and beds with compost, manure, bone meal or blood meal, etc.. to feed those veggies.
- Scratch 1 or 2 Tbsp of Epsom salts around your tomatoes, peppers, and roses. 

Harvest, enjoy, grow... 

Do not stress about things you cannot change.If something bolted or died, pull it out, gone and forgotten. Squash producing male flowers only, you can't change that, is a maturity thing, the females will come. Let nature take it's course.

Happy gardening! 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

August Garden Ramblings...

Wow! Is August already!

Summer has been hot and dry here on the island, and continues to be so... trying to be water smart yet keep the potager from becoming a dust bowl.What a challenge.

Mulch, mulch, mulch.... and water deeply every 3 or 4 days. No sprinkling of water daily! 

Red Malabar Spinach ... 
Yummy and beautiful.. loves the heat! Grow to 7 feet tall, or more!

Russian Blue and Sieglinde potatoes in the basket

We have picked some of our spuds already.
The tops all toppled and were lying around, sprawling into the paths
and over the sides of the raised garden beds.
That is not an attractive or acceptable look in my potager ; )  

Red Russian and Lacinato aka Dinosaur Kale
Kale is thriving like crazy! 
Sorry about the hose in the pic ... is one of those shrinking hoses... I love it so much! 

 Raspberry Lemonade Zinnias!  

The colourful pop in my garden this year is this fabulous mini zinnia!
It comes in all these great colours!

Tri-Star ever bearing strawberries.

Alpine strawberries
Both the alpine and the ever-bearing Tri-Star strawberries 
are currently producing more berries than I (almost) know what to do with! 
What a great problem to have ; ) 

The beets are ready to be picked, cooked, pickled, etc...
These guys are from the Speciality Beet Blend
A seed combo from Cottager Gardener Seeds. 
Bull's Blood, Chiogga, Cosby's Egyptian, and Cylindra. Yum. 
We all love beets at our house, any colour, any shape, so are really enjoying this combo! 
We also planted golden beets, to make sure we have them all!
Enjoying them raw, grated in salads, and in cooked pasta salads.... pickling all the rest. 

For the pasta/beet salad recipe that we have been enjoying, please see HERE!
Is so delicious! 
We use any colour and shape of beet that we happen to pull that day. 

What to plant this month..
- Greens. This means all greens ... spinach, lettuce, Oriental Greens, etc...
- Beets (hurry!)
- Carrots
- Broccoli & cauliflower (hurry!)
- Chives
- Radishes
- Scallions
- Peas! Yum!
- Kohlrabi & turnips
- Chard & Kale

Plant anything that says hurry right away, or then buy transplants instead.

All else should already have been started from seed last month in either the garden or in flats or 6 packs, etc ... so if you happened to miss the seeding time, look for transplants at the garden centres and farmers markets. 

The fall and winter garden bed has germinated nicely and is now ready to be thinned out.
Growing Walla Walla Onions, carrots of all colours and shapes, radishes, and peas
Greens of all kinds ...lettuce, spinach, Oriental greens.... 

I will be tossing some more lettuce and radish seeds in to fill up those empty spots... 
The original seeds did not seem to germinate in those areas ... 
either because they dried out at some point ...(gotta water new seeds daily!)
 or because Ruby danced in this bed just after I seeded it ; )

  Ruby Tuesday loves to help in the garden... here she is trying to decide which zinnia to eat first ; )


The tomatoes are loving this heat and doing so well... both in the garden and the greenhouse.
Here are a few that we have enjoyed during the month of July, just a teaser of what is yet to come... 

Sasha's Altai early heirloom tomatoes

Wow, this Ropreco is a really early paste style tomato!
They are small, about 2 inches long, and ripening steadily, with a few more ready to go daily. 
The determinate is so tidy, it grows nicely in a pot or planter.

Stupice. Very early, golf ball sized, yummy! 

Plum Lemon, a favourite.
One can see how it got it's name ; ) 

There will be so much more info about the tomatoes that I grew this year, when I do this years recap and top 10 tomatoes. That is usually in September. Stay tuned! Have some great new ones this year!

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...