Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sunflowers ~ They're For the Birds

Sunflowers are the loveliest, brightest, and sunniest of all the late summer bloomers.

Beacons of happiness and indicators of harvest. Their time signifies yet another garden season well done ... and cooler temperatures and back-to-school time fast approaching.
This year I grew only one variety, a new one from Renee's Garden Seeds, called 'The Birds & The Bees'.  This selection being a no-brainer for me, as an organic kitchen gardener who plants to entice both the birds, and the bees, to my happy, healthy yard and garden!

The bees part comes into play while the flowers are blooming, still open, full of pollen and makes for super happy bees all summer long!

The birds part is just about to start, comes into play real soon, as we harvest these babies for birdseed!  

So... What to do with the sunflowers when they look like this?

Here is how to go about saving them for the birds ....

How do you know when to pick them? When to harvest for all those lovely hidden gems?

First off, the pretty yellow petals will all have dried up, and maybe even fallen off, leaving you with what you see above... a sad and very bedraggled looking stalk of spent flowers.

Backs of the flower heads are yellow, no longer green.

Second, the backs of the sunflower heads will be yellow or brown-ish, no longer green.

Seeds have turned black!

Third, when you brush across the front of the flower, the seeds underneath will be black, not white.

Pick your sunflower heads. Leave on a bit of the stem, 6 inches or more, so that you have something to hang or tie them from later on!

Lay them out to cure in a well ventilated, dry, warm area till fall.

This time of year, at harvest time, the birds still have plenty to eat in our yards and gardens, but give it a month or two, in late fall and winter, and they will really appreciate these gorgeous, seedy flower heads.

Hang them from a fence post or nail them to a tree, string them on a wire ... these flowers really are for the birds!   

Happy harvest!

Monday, 24 August 2015

How To Sow Seeds in Summer

Time to seed your fall and winter veggies ... but how to keep those wee little seeds moist enough to germinate in all this heat? As the water simply beads on top of your super dry garden beds?

How to successfully seed in times of drought ... or in the dog days of summer..  

1. Soak your seeds for about 12 hours prior to planting. This one step will speed up the germination time by several days!

Some seeds are tougher than others, so can be left for longer, like these Walla Walla onions. Radishes and lettuce may need less time.

2. Find a spot where your new seeds can go.  Any small pockets of space will do.

This is the hardest part in summer time, as often your veggies are just hitting their stride and not ready to be harvested yet.

For mid-summer sowing (July), use the spots where you had your spinach, or lettuce, or radishes before they bolted in the heat. I had this large area full of volunteer potatoes that were ready to go, perfect for my fall and winter garden seeding.

For late summer sowing it is a bit easier to find space, as you are already harvesting many of your garden veggies. 

3. Level the bed, rake the soil smooth, remove any weeds, and smoosh any lumpy bits. I use my rake for all of this, even use the handle as a guide to make straight furrows.

 4. Make your seeding furrows. Spacing and depth of the rows will depend on what you are planting. These rows are for my radishes, so are 5 inches apart and less than an inch deep.

Soak the furrows well. Water them deeply two or three times. Wait several minutes between each watering to allow it to really percolate into the soil.

Tamp down to firm up the soil over the newly sown seeds.  

5. Plant your well soaked seeds in the wet furrows, cover with soil, and tamp down with the back of the rake.

6. Use a gentle spray to water in so as not to wash away the newly planted seeds ... be especially careful if your soil is powder dry and the water tends to bead on top of the soil.

Allow the water to soak into the soil between each watering. Repeat several times.  

If you do not have a water ban, you can use a sprinkler on a really low setting for an hour or two, which really allows the water to slowly soak into the soil.

Cover your newly sown seeds with burlap to help retain moisture.
Water through the burlap so that you do not wash away your seeds in the super dry soil.

7. Cover with burlap, mesh cloth, white or black landscape fabric to help retain moisture till germination occurs. A board or piece of plywood set up on bricks to provide shade, can also be used for the first few days, just long enough to keep the soil moist till the seeds germinate.  

8. Keep soil moist, watering daily, till you begin to see sprouts. Remove the burlap. Keep watering daily till the seedlings are well and truly up, then cut back on watering to every third or fourth day. 

The weeping hoses that you see in the picture were left from the spring and early summer growing. They do not help soak the soil during the seeding and germination process as the water soaks deep into the soil so does not water the surface sown seeds. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

August Garden Ramblings

August is always such a crazy busy and fun time in the garden. Harvest has begun, fall planting is in swing, and garden clean up is just ahead.

Sunflowers are thriving in all this heat ...  and so are the beans, corn, squash, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and herbs. 

What to do this month ...

- Deep water all veggies once or twice a week. Drip tubes or weeping hoses are best for this, as they water slowly but deeply, getting the water to the roots where it is most helpful. If you are hand watering, water the soil, not the plant, and water deeply at each plants base. 

- At mid to end month, snap the tops of the vining (indeterminate) tomato plants to force them into ripening the existing fruits, rather than putting energy into producing more flowers or fruits that may not have time to ripen.

- Wet down the floor of the greenhouse in the morning to keep it cooler during these dogs days of summer.

- Peppers may start to need more water now as the roots fill up the pots, water every second or third day. However, do not water too often or you will have bland peppers rather than hot and spicy ones! 

- Harvest, harvest, harvest! The more you pick, the more they produce. This applies to most everything!

- Keep an eye on your corn.. when the tassles start to go brown, they are ready to go! 

Spicy Pickled Beans
-  Freeze, can, ferment or pickle everything that you are not eating fresh!

- When some of your onions tops start to topple at the base, push the other tops over, too. Leave for a week or so and do not water! Then lift and lay out to cure.

Do this even if you wish they were bigger ... Once those tops start to bend, they are done growing. If left in the ground, they will just rot and go to waste.

* Not all onions are storage onions! If you are growing Walla Walla's, other sweet onions, or red onions, chances are they will not keep well. Use them daily, as needed for fresh eating. Do not wait for that one big harvest!   

- Harvest and dry herbs for winter

- Order garlic and spring flowering bulbs for fall planting! Yes, now!

It will be too late to get your tulips, daffodils, alliums, and other spring flowering bulbs in the spring when you see them flowering everywhere. If you order from mail order, do it now.  

- Clear out any veggies, herbs, plants that are burnt out, finished, bolting, etc... they just become bug attractors! 

 Just look at the size of this volunteer sunflower head! 

- As the petals die off your sunflowers, cut off the heads and set them out to cure.

I hang mine on the fence in fall and winter for the birds to enjoy!

What to plant from seed ... before mid month...

- Lettuce
- Radishes
- Spinach
- Chinese greens like Gai Lan, Bok Choy, etc.. 
- Arugula
- Peas
- Cilantro
- Onions (walla walla)
- Kale
- Kohlrabi
- Scallions

What to plant from transplants mid to end month...

- Kale
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage
- Sprouting Broccoli
- Spinach

Eggplant varieties this year!

Moving Thyme

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