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

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Tanja's Top Ten Tomatoes - 2014

Each year, I grow and sell anywhere from 40 to 50 varieties of tomatoes at the greenhouse .. and, of course, feel that I must personally trial each and every one of them ; )

However, this spring, I sold out of some varieties before pulling my own tomato plants aside, and was therefore only able to test run 36 of the varieties. Oops!
This is not a really bad thing though, as some of them were varieties that I have grown for several years already, so am more than familar with their traits.

This years winners are chosen only from those 36 varieties that I grew this year, though please note, the ones that have made my top ten list in the years past, will stay on the my favourites list forever.
These are all varieties that you can feel good about growing in the PNW.  The gardening zone here in Nanaimo, British Columbia is 7, with drought conditions in summer and long, wet, cool springs. 
For past years favourites, please see here.... 

Here, in no particular order are this years favourites...

The REDS....

1. Stupice -
Golf ball sized tomatoes that started producing in early summer... and kept on going and going to the very end of summer. What a great crops of tomatoes!
They are tangy and yet sweet, utterly delicious.
Highly recommended as a great salad tomato. 

2. Ropreco
This small paste tomato started flowering and fruiting very early in the year
 and is still going strong today (September 28th).
Is a tidy determinate tomato, grown outdoors, in a fibre pot, with a small tomato cage. 
Though the tomatoes are quite a bit smaller than any other Roma styles that I grow (1 to 2 inches long), they are very meaty, very yummy and very prolific, which more than makes up for the lack of size.

3.  Obeyeyie
This large heart-ish shaped tomato is dense, meaty yet juicy,
with the very best tomato flavour that I think I have ever had!
When I bought it, the write up said that it is a sprawling determinate that does not need staking. 
I have one in the greenhouse, no cage or stake, sprawling all over the place and one in the garden in one of those really large tomato cages... it is bursting all over the place. 
This is not a tidy small plant, lol. 
However, the fruits are these gorgeous pleated heart shaped tomatoes! Some are more squat and less heart shaped, but they are all stunning to look at! 
Love this one, will grow it again and again, however, will give it much room ; )

4. Sasha's Altai
 A nice early tomato that was voted one of the top ten tomatoes in the world by Organic Magazine! 
A bright red slicer tomato, slightly flattened in shape, very sweet, juicy and free of blemishes.
The tomatoes were quite large, great for sandwiches, and a decent producer of really early tomatoes.

5. Beaverlodge Slicer
Another tomato that started producing really early in the season and kept on producing all summer long. Tasty red tomatoes, good flavour and nice amount of flesh to pulp.
The tomatoes were pretty, red, round slicers, a wee bit bigger than a golf ball. Lots of fruit on the vine all the time. I would say this was one of the most reliable fruiters for me this year. 
Was also nice and early, a determinate (bush type) that required no staking or fussing, 
just a cage and it stayed nicely contained.   
6. Sweet Pea Currant
This tomato was a surprise. I did not expect to like it, at all.
In fact, I expected this plant to be much too fussy, with all those really small, wee tomatoes.
Actually, if you were to try to pick each one off the vine individually, it would likely feel like a huge chore!
However, if you pick a cluster at a time... well, is no hardship at all.
In fact, hubby and I would often grab a cluster as we worked in the garden,
munching as we worked.
 The flavour is hard to believe, is so good, like eating candy! 
Sweet and juicy, totally yummy.
Perfect for fresh eating, for salads, and for de-hydrating into 'traisins'.
One of my top three picks for this year, for sure.


Only one yellow made the list this year, and I must admit, it was phenomenal.

7. Fargo's Yellow Pear - 
This is the tomato that gave and gave and gave this year... 
Loaded with these perfect little yellow pears! 
Super productive, healthy plant, no BER, and tasty fruits. 
Is a determinate plant (bush type) so very manageable, too. 
The ideal plant for anyone who loves tomatoes for salads or fresh eating.
You only need one! 

The BLACKS....

8. Black Cherry
As usual, the Black Cherry made the top ten...
I tried to go with new ones, different from the norm, but there are a couple that stand out each year.
The Black Cherry tomato is by far one of the best tomatoes ever, definitely on of the best cherry type tomatoes of the world.
The flavour cannot be beat and it produces well each year.
Perfect for salads and fresh off the vine eating. 

 A comparison of the Black Cherry and the Brown Berry. 
The Brown Berries were much more orange than red in colour. 

9. Brown Berry
Large reddish brown cherry tomatoes that taste terrific!
Now you all know by now, that I am not a big fan of cherry tomatoes in general...
Yet here we are, three small tomatoes have made the top ten this year.
This brown little berry (more orange than brown, do not let the name fool you) is delicious,
with a true tomato taste.
There is nothing bland about this one, it is zingy yet sweet, with a deep, rich taste that all the dark tomatoes tend to have. 

10. Paul Robeson 
This one does not deserve to be at the bottom a it is in my top three favourites for this year,
 yet someone has to be number 10, so might as well be Paul Robeson.
I always prefer the dark aka 'black' tomatoes, so am not surprised that I loved this one.
The flavour is deep, robust, lively, and so tasty.
The perfect tomato.
If I had to pick one tomato to grow, based on this years results, this is the one that I would pick.
It produced early, did not suffer from BER, and kept on giving.
While it was not one of the biggest producers of tomatoes this year, it was the tastiest and very reliable for all of that.


A couple of other tomatoes deserve to be mentioned as they just barely missed making the list this year....

Black Plum was in the top ten last year and was spectacular this year, as well. Is just that the others did just a wee bit better! Had some BER but produced really well, yet again and, as always, tasted fabulous.

Black Prince aka Purple Prince was also fabulous again this year.
The only reason I did not list it in the top ten is because it has been there over and over again and I wanted to highlight some of the others...
It is decidedly the perfect tomato though and deserves to be noted.
A great producer always, little to no BER ever, and super tasty tomatoes.
The plant is huge and sprawling, takes up tons of space, but produces like mad, too, so is okay. 

Psst, by the way. BER stands for Blossom End Rot ...

The is BER
Blossom End Rot

Hope you had a terrific heirloom tomato year!
Am already looking forward to next year!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

October Garden Ramblings

What to do in the month of October? 

Perk things up with fall planters... 

Add fall colour! 
Plant up or purchase lovely fall planters to place on your stoop, in the driveway, any place you can, to welcome in visitors and add a pop of fresh colour for the cooler months.

 Plant bulbs for spring! 
Plant now for spring colour! 
Love to see the waves of tulips and masses of daffodils in spring? This is the time to plant for that spectacular sight! Plant in clumps of 3 or 5 or more for an eye catching look, do not plant in single rows or you will have the look of soldiers lined up for parade.

Have a deer issue? Plant narcissus, crocus, alliums, muscari and fritilaria for deer and bunny resistant plantings. Tulips are a deer favourite!

Plant bulbs in pots now for doorway brighteners in spring.
Layer with daffs planted down at 7 to 8 inches deep, tulips at 5 to 6 inches and crocus or muscari at 3 inches. For pot plantings, you should pick bulbs that will all bloom at the same time for the best effect!



Harvest your peppers! Either compost your plants afterwards or spray them down well with soapy water and over winter.
A word of caution! My friend was just yesterday telling me her woeful tale of dealing with hot peppers and a painful loo experience. Please, please note that you must wash really well to get all the oils off your skin before touching any sensitive areas on your body like eyes, nose, mouth or before going to the loo. 

Remember that carrots and parsnips can stay in the ground all winter and be harvested as needed.

Potato tops can be cut back now to about 6 inches tall, leave in the ground for another week or two so that they develop good skins for storage. Lift the spuds and store in dark, dry, cool place.

Tomatoes ... if not yet ripe, I do not recommend bringing green tomatoes indoors to ripen as I find that the flavour is just not there. Instead make a lovely Chow Chow or Piccalilli with the green tomatoes. You will become a real lover of the green tomatoes, praying for a reason to pick them green! See the recipe that I use HERE!
For less than perfect ripe tomatoes, or too many tomatoes, give them a slow roast and then freeze for use in winter. Half or quarter tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and salt, herbs if wanted. Roast for 3 to 4 hours in the oven at a low temp, at about 250 F. Easy peasy! Tomatoes get sweeter, caramelised, roasting really brings out the flavours. Yum! I freeze them and pull them out to use on sandwiches, burr into a paste, add mayo and spread. Or add to soups, pastas or stews for a lovely flavour boost. 

Compost summer baskets and planters... 

General garden clean up
Lift and compost spent veggie plants, rake and remove any debris so that beds are clean and free of any diseased loose foliage and wilted veggies or flowers.

Top dress your cleaned up beds with manure or compost now for earlier start in spring. If your beds are in desperate need of nutrients, add as much as you can afford this fall, and then add more in spring, too. This is also a good time to add other nutrients like bonemeal, bloodmeal, alfalfa pellets, seaweed, etc... to break down over the winter months so that you are ready to plant in spring. 

Sow fall cover crops.

Pick mushrooms or brush off of lawns, and more... be very careful if you, like me, have a pup that likes to taste everything! Some mushrooms are extremely toxic to pets. 

Rake up leaves, run them over with the lawn mower to shred them up, and then top dress around your tender herbs or flowers. Can also be used to add browns to your compost or add organic material to your gardens.

Dump out your summer hanging baskets, pots and planters... I dump the soil into the raised beds and start with new potting soil each spring.

Dahlia tuber pic from

Lift Dahlia tubers, gladiolus corms, Canna's and Calla lilies.
Cut stems back to about 6 inches and lift out of the garden.
Brush off the soil, may even be washed with the hose to remove all the soil.
Lay out in a dry, warm place to dry for a week or two. I use a table in the greenhouse, but a furnace room, basement, sunroom, etc.. works well. Do not place directly on concrete floors, place some newspaper or cardboard underneath the bulbs.
When dry, trim off the stems plus all extra hanging on bits (like the smaller tubers hanging on), label with a sharpie and place in a box or ice cream pail of slightly dampened peat moss for the winter. 

Empty and clean out ceramic pots, planters, pots, baskets for winter storage.

Plant roses now. They benefit from being planted in fall as they have time to root in well for spring in cooler weather, with less drying out between waterings.  

This is also a good time to plant or move shrubs and trees.

Trim off any broken branches, long branches, or diseased or damaged limbs on trees, shrub, roses, etc... Do not prune yet, wait till November to prune.

 Bring in your potted tender herbs and flowers into a cold frame, greenhouse or the house.

Bringing tender plants in for the winter...
Spray first with insecticidal soap to kill any bugs that may be lingering, rinse with hose after 15 minutes. At this time of year, I like to rinse off the soapy residue as I do not want to leave additional film on the foliage as we head into a low light season. Also, the rinsing removes both dead bugs or live ones that may have been missed earlier. 

Plant more peas!

What To Plant This Month...
- sweet peas
- peas, spinach, lettuce, and onions can be grown under cover.
- radishes and kale


Garlic is planted before end month here on the island... or 2 to 3 weeks before ground freeze up everywhere else.

Clean, scrub and sweep your greenhouse to over winter your tender herbs, flowers, and citrus trees. I power wash with soapy water and hose out all the gutters, tracks, etc.. that tend to hold water and debris.

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...