Friday, 18 September 2015

Adding Autumn Colour

'Tis time to add some terrific fall colour to your porch, your steps,
and all your pots, planters, baskets, and window boxes, too!

Here are some great flower ideas to get you started..  

The first flower that comes to mind in fall is, of course, the Garden Mum aka the Fall Mum aka the Chrysanthemum.

Mums come in all colours and kinds, so is easy to find one, or three, to suit your fancy! Pop them individually into pots or make a planted fall arrangement with the mum as the star attraction.

They are perennial here on the island so can be grown in your garden beds.
The look terrific grown with grasses and Black -Eyed Susans.
Or enjoy them in planters by your doorway first and then transfer to the garden when you change up your planters for Christmas.

Mums will not actually open their buds until cooler temperatures hit, so buying a mum just as the buds are beginning to crack colour is assurance that you will have many weeks of terrific colour!

The same goes for the ornamental cabbages and kale.. 
Their colour will not intensify until after cooler temps prevail... but when they do... 
Wow! What colour! 

Ornamental cabbages colour really intensifies in cool weather!
And, as you can see ... they handle frost just fine ; )

The second flower that comes to mind is The Pansy/Viola. Perfect little stuffer plants that fit into any little crevice to fill the space and offer colour and bloom all fall and most of the winter long.

Pansies/violas can take the cold, the frost and even some snow, 
blooming for months on end. 

Grasses, of all kinds, add height, texture, and movement to your planters. 
Terrific additions whether they are green, black, red or brown... 
Many grasses will turn from green to rust, gold or red as the temperature dips.

Asters ... come in blues, pinks or whites.
Terrific additions to your pots and planters, 
and just like mums, are perennial here on the island, so can be transferred to the garden afterwards.

Red Bor Kale is wonderful in planters as it has lovely reddish purple stems that pop even more as temperatures dip.

Crocosmia is also a lovely, unusual addition for some height and texture,
can be used in addition to grasses, or instead of. 

 Salvia's are also in full bloom now...
Use them on their own for that fab purple-blue hue,
 or instead of grasses in your pots and planters for height.   

Salvia looks spectacular... 
Mums still waiting for cooler temps to crack colour,
and the cabbage will really have crisp, deep colour in a week or two! 

Lavender also works instead of grasses to add that height to your pots..
It seems to deepen the purple foliage of the ornamental cabbage or kale, 
and thus harmonizes your planters! 

Dont' be afraid to step outside the box... 
Make fall hanging baskets and toss out those fading summer ones! 
Heathers and rudebeckias are fabulous fall flowers. 

and then... along comes October.. and anything goes!

Most all of our autumn planter flowers are perennial.
They transfer over really well and come up year, after year, after year!

Here you see last years' mum, grass, heuchera and heather are showing off their fine form in the garden, where they now get to grow large and free! 
I never let a good potted plant go to waste ; )

Thursday, 3 September 2015

September Ramblings

Wow, September already!

There is so much to do in the garden and yard this month that I barely know where to start!

Garden harvest is early this year.

We seem to be several weeks ahead of the game this year, due to the drought and tough watering restrictions. Here are some tips on how to get the rest of your vegetables to finish off in preparation  for garden clean up and winter.

-  Nip the tops off of your vining tomatoes so they stop growing/flowering and instead put their energy into ripening the remaining fruits.

- Cover tomato plants from fall rains to prevent catching Late Blight. Leave the sides and ends of  your cover open to prevent the build up of condensation, which will also spread the fungal spores.

- Vines may start to yellow now and perhaps even have powdery mildew. At this stage of the game, just finish off the last of the cucumbers and do not worry about trying to treat the mildew.

- As with the cukes, do not worry about the powdery mildew at this stage of the game. Allow your last fruits to fully ripen, which they will just do just fine despite the mildew, and then just discard the vines.

- Wait till 90% of tops have folded on their own and then push the rest over. Wait a week to pull them up and then cure for a few weeks before storing.

For more information about vegetable harvest and storage, please see HERE!

Rose hips
- Do not feed! Feeding will encourage new growth which may be fatal when the colder temps arrive.
- Stop deadheading. Allowing hips to form on your roses lets it know that it is time to shut down for the year.

 Plant Spring Bulbs
Looking forward to lots of tulips and daffodils in your gardens next year? Or pots of spring blooms on your doorstep? Lots of terrific Truffela Trees (The Lorax) in your landscape?

Now is the time to pick up spring flowering bulbs and plant them up!
Whether into pots or gardens, spring is much, much too late to find any bulbs, or to plant them up. Do it now, while you still have a great selection to choose from, and can pop into the garden and forget about them till spring.  

Lift summer Bulbs Now...
Lift, dry, cure and store your gladioli, dahlia, canna and calla lily bulbs this month.
For how-to cure and store bulbs over winter, see  HERE!

Sow these flower seeds this fall ...
What to sow in autumn?
- Sweet Peas
- Poppies
- Larkspur
- Nigella ( Love-in-a-mist)
- Snapdragons
- Calendula
- (Sweet) Alyssum
- Rudebeckia (Black Eyed Susan) 
- Bishop’s Lace
- Cornflowers 
- Forget me nots

Sow these veggies from seed now...
-Walla Walla onions (early to mid- month!)
- Collards!
- Spinach!
- Lettuce ( plant as a ground cover, too!)
- Beets  (short day, 55 days or less)
- Fava Beans
- Bush Beans ( 55 days or less)
- Peas. Fall peas are the best!
- Radishes (sow a row every week this month)
- Rutabaga
- Arugula
- Mustard
- Turnips 

What herbs to sow from seed...
- Dill
- Chives/Garlic chives
- Parsley
- Cilantro

What to plant from transplants...
- Kale
- Cauliflower
- Sprouting Broccoli
- Cabbage
- Lettuce
- Spinach
- Swiss Chard

Garlic can be planted after mid-September and till the end of October. More on that in a later post!

Once you get your garden all cleaned up and emptied out, you should do a quick soil test to see what you need for amendments and add those to break down over the winter.

More on garden clean up and amending in the next post. Till then ... Happy Harvest!

 Sweet Pea heirloom currant tomatoes...

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

How to Store Your Harvest

 Galeux d'Eyesines heirloom squash 

September is here and harvest is fast approaching ... but what to do with the all the extras? How best to preserve your summer harvest well into fall and winter?  

Beans ... 
- Pick when the vines have turned yellow and the pods are light brown in colour.
- Dry the pods in a dry, warm place till they are crispy. Shell and place beans in jars. Store in a cool, dry and dark place like a store room or pantry. Will keep for years.

Green, wax, or purple snap beans
- Pick when at their prime.
- Blanche and freeze
- May also be pickled or canned.   

- Harvest when most of the tops have folded over. If not all tops have yet toppled, give the rest a push of your hand. Best storage success happens if you wait till 80 to 90% of the tops have folded over on their own.
- Leave folded onions in the garden for another week for them to fully mature.
- Onions, like the Stuttgarter, that are spicy and hot and really make you cry, are going to be really good keepers, too.
-  Lay them out to cure in a well-ventilated, dry, shady area, a curing shed (carport is great) for two to three weeks. Do not remove tops yet.
- When they feel nice and dry, with no wet spots, rub off the roots and remove the tops. Onions with thick necks (bull necks) will not cure and so will not keep, use them up first.
- Store in a dry, dark, cool area or room. They can be tied in mesh bags, in nylons stockings, or braided and hung till needed. Can also be laid out in baskets or boxes, as long as they have good air flow.
- Sweet onions and most all red onions are not good keepers, so despite your curing process they will not store for longer than a few weeks time.
- For best success, harvest the sweets throughout the season, as needed. Do not leave them all in the ground till fall for a big harvest... unless you have plans to can or freeze or cook with them.
- Walla Walla's are terrific over-wintering onions... sow the seeds in late summer and begin harvesting in spring/early summer. 

Carrots in the winter garden... not fazed by the rains or snows... 

- Here on the west coast, the best place to store your carrots all winter is in the ground! Harvest as needed throughout the fall and winter. If the ground has a frozen crust, you can generally lift it with a pitch fork and harvest your carrots ... or simply wait a couple of hours/days for it to thaw. Carrots will be just fine.
- Some folks cover their in-ground veggies with straw or leaves, but I never have and have never lost a carrot yet. 

- Store in ground as you would with carrots.

- Leave in the garden, harvest as needed.

- Most beets are ready to harvest 50 to 60 days after sowing.  Lift when the shoulders are a bit above ground and the beets are of a good size. Bigger beets tend to be woody, stringy, or wrinkly, so are at their best if picked a bit on the smaller side.
-To store beets, cut off the tops to about 1inch long and brush off the soil. If you wash your beets, make sure that they are completely dry before storing.
-Place beets into a container of slightly damp sand, peat moss, or sawdust. Do not have them touching each other to prevent rot from starting and spreading. Place lid on container and store for months in a cool, dark place such as a garage or cold room.

- Harvest potatoes when vines have died back.
- Lift a spud or two and rub your thumb across the skin. If you can brush it off, it needs a few more days under ground to mature the skin. When lifting, be careful not to damage the spuds, as bruised or wounded ones will quickly rot in storage. 
- Place in a dark, dry, warm-ish (10 to 15 C), well ventilated area to cure for a couple of weeks. Place on wooden tables or newsprint, never on concrete. Brush the soil off, do not wash.
- Place in mesh, paper or burlap bags, or laundry bins or boxes with newspaper between the layers. Do not place in a tightly sealed bins, no lids, as potatoes need good air flow.
- Potatoes, here on the coast, can also be mulched with straw and left in the garden to be harvested as needed, in winter.
- Another great idea for storage (esp if you have rodent issues) is to bury or partially bury a garbage can or bin in the garden, place some straw into the bin and use this as cold weather storage for your spuds. Do not use a clear bin as that will allow in light and your spuds will go green. Green potatoes are toxic and should not be eaten.  

Spaghetti squash
Winter Squash
- Harvest when vines begin to wither and brown. Press your thumbnail into the skin.It is ready if you cannot easily puncture it.
- Leave some of the stem on the squash, two to three inches. Do not lift by the stem!
- Place in a warm, sunny place to cure for a couple of weeks. Lay out on a wooden surface, if possible, such as an untreated table top or a pallet will do nicely, too. If you need to lay it out on the floor, place down some newsprint first, do not place on bare concrete.
- Wipe clean, some use a 10% bleach solution to kill any mould spores. I just nicely buff mine.   
- After curing for several weeks, place in a cool, dry, dark place. Most will keep for 3 or even 5 months. Do not cure Acorns, eat them first as they only keep for 5 weeks ; )  

Making sauerkraut

- Harvest your cabbages when you have nice, firm heads. 
- Cut the stem, peel off any layers with damage, and check for bugs. Is very common to find earwigs or even wee snails hiding in between the layers.
- Store cool and moist. An extra fridge works well for storage, if you have one. May also be wrapped in wax paper and stored in a cool, garage or basement.
- If no such storage is available, or if the heads have split in the rain, chop or cut into wedges, blanch for 90 seconds, chill, dry and freeze.
- Chopped cabbage can also be dehydrated for adding to soups and stews all winter long.
- Another idea that makes sense (due to the smell), is to store the heads in a garden trench. Place upside down into a trench in the garden bed, cover loosely with soil, and dig up as needed. Dig small ditches beside your trench for water to run away from your veggies. 
- If all else fails, make sauerkraut!

Brussels Sprouts
- Remove bottom leaves to help form good sized sprouts. Top can also be cut off to speed up the process.
- Leave in the garden and harvest as needed. They benefit from a bit of frost to make them even tastier.

- To freeze, cut into cubes, blanch, chill, dry and freeze. Keeps for 10 months.
- If you wish to store the extras rather than freezing, do not wash them. Brush off any soil and bits, cut off tops, and place into a box or bin, single layer. Place in a dark, cool area, well-ventilated as they tend to have a strong smell. If you have more than one layer, add damp sawdust or sand between the layers.     
- May also be left in the garden if your beds do not freeze through. Mulch with straw and harvest as needed.
- The partially buried bin also works well for turnips, but instead of packing them in straw, use damp sawdust or sand.

- Lift your rutabagas any time after they are about 3" across or leave in till they are larger. Pulling may not work as they have a tap root, so gently lift with shovel or garden fork.
- Do not wash. Store in a cool and damp location for up to 4 months. May also be left in the ground, mulched with straw, and harvested as needed throughout the winter.

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...