Monday, 15 February 2016

Rainy Day Garden Planning

It's raining, it's pouring... hoo boy, the rain is coming down in sheets today!

Greenhouse is swept and clean, shop is ready and waiting, weekly seeding is all caught up ... so what is a bored gardener to do?

Just so happens that rain days are perfect for jotting down notes and plans in one's journal ... and catching up on laundry, too ; )

I start with a brand new, fresh journal book each fall. So, I shop around for months, looking at journals, notebooks, daytimers... till I find the look I want.

I love pretty covers and pretty pages, too. Coiled spines so the pages stay open with ease, and lines to keep me on the straight and narrow. 

My garden journals run from September through August annually. Why start in fall? Well, because I use mine as a planner for the upcoming summer rather than a record of this years happenings. Therefore, having notes about the current garden helps me plan for the year ahead.

If you want a record of the annual garden happening, starting in January is a great idea. Make your journal your own, make it special to suit your needs. With time, over the year(s), your journal will evolve into your very own masterpiece.      

This is what and how I tend to journal and capture my thoughts...

 In fall
- I jot down my thoughts about the current garden. What grew well, what I really liked, what worked out nicely, what to replicate.
- Any special heirlooms (tomatoes, cukes, peppers) that I must grow again, and why I liked them.
- Colour combo's that caught my eye, whether my own or something I saw during my nosey travels.
- Ideas that others mention to me, or plants and seeds that they want me to bring in the following year.
- I mostly jot down positive things, what to do, rather than what not to do... however, will occasionally note any especially big bug or disease issues. Generally, it will be followed with a remedy.
 In winter
I take notes on any new ideas, decor, potting soils, flower combo's, etc.. that I find in seed catalogues and gardening mags. I cut out pictures for inspiration and make simple drawings. Sadly, my drawings are not nearly as cute as the one you see above ; )

If you are really artistic, add your own paintings and drawings to your journal. Make your journal unique, a real piece of art, as well as a book of thoughts and plots. While I am not a painter, I can draw decently enough ... these lovely pictures inspire me to put more colour and love into my penned drawings. 

In Spring
As winter comes to a close, the journal is all about seeds and plants, and what goes where ... lists of all the varieties I ordered on-line or purchased at shops, plus garden plans. I usually have my colour combo for the pots and baskets already figured out by now, so will spend time figuring out which plants I want to use to achieve that colour. 

In Summer
What is growing where and how well it is doing there. Something not thriving? Amendments to that bed in fall. What do I really, really like? What to order for the nursery and greenhouse for the fall and winter garden season. Fall and winter garden thoughts. 

 My 'fancy' (hah!) drawing of the garden beds, as I plan and plot for the season ahead.

Today, on this grey and rainy day, I am plotting out my garden beds for spring and summer 2016. I have 14 really big garden beds to fill annually, so it helps to have a bit of a plan prior to starting.

 Eliot Coleman's 8 year Crop Rotation Chart

What to grow this year and where to put them? How do I decide? First of all, I make a list of all the things I want to grow ... tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, beans, peas, leeks, cabbage, etc...

Then I use two different tools. One is Eliot Coleman's crop rotation guide. While I do not follow it to a tee, I sure do like it, the reasoning makes sense to me.

For more information about this guide and why you might want to follow it, too, see HERE!

 Planting flowers in and around your veggies is not only attractive to look at,
but is also using healthy companion planting practises!

The other tool I use a lot, as in always ... is a companion planting guide. I use it so much that I have a laminated chart in the greenhouse that I take out to the garden with me while I plant.
If I decide to switch things up last minute (which happens a lot), I want to make sure my goodies are growing with friends, not foes. Sometimes when one goes ahead and plants willy nilly, the plant fits the spot but ends up being a terrible companion to it's neighbours.

For example, last year I saw an empty pocket of space beside the celery, and filled it ... with carrots! Turns out that both of them attract the carrot rust fly.. thus it could have been a very bad idea. Luckily, we did not get carrot rust flies, but had they been around, that bed would have been absolute nirvana for them! Yikes!

My favourite companion planting guide to use? The one that I have laminated? See HERE!

More pretty drawings... not mine ; ) 
This cute one from kim the Ink Cat on Flickr

Other than plotting out your beds and yard, what else can you put into your journal?

- How about seeding ideas for the upcoming year?
What you want to grow, what seeds you need to pick up, plus your current seed inventory.
Prepare for the garden season ahead, map out a plan, check out what seeds you need, make a list to take with you as you shop for seeds.

- Or maybe you want to keep track of the weather?
How much (or little!) rain we got each month, snow falls, cold snaps, last frosts, first frosts and heat waves...

- Track your crops...
When you started your seeds, when they germinated, when you transplanted them, plus how much you harvested. When they bolted! This will help you plan for next year. If you started something too early (or too late) for them to thrive, keep notes!

- Keep track of your favourite varieties so that you can order more seeds in winter.
I love Dukat Dill but have now also added Diana Dill to the must grow list, too, after trialing it for the first time last year! So both dills made it onto my must grow list this year. My tomato must-grow list is huge! So many favourites.

- Items you want to add, build, or make.
Building plans for a birdhouse, bat house, potting bench, bug palace/hotel, planting crate.... draw pictures, cut out clippings, and write out plans.  

- What to do with all that harvest.
How to store, can, process, or cook your harvested goodies. Recipes. 

- Importantly, keep track of what you planted where - in both spring and fall.
You think you're going to remember, but after all is said and done, you will forget. One spring, not too long ago, I weeded out lots of pesky new growth, that turned out to be Breadseed Poppies. In my defense, poppy foliage kinda looks dandelion-ish and weedy ; ) 

Some of my inspiration for the upcoming year... 

- Jot down ideas  and draw pictures, take photos, press flowers, cut out clippings... of anything that captures your eye.

A garden journal for each year...

Make your garden journal uniquely yours and save each one, from year to year. Is lovely to look back on your thoughts over the years and the progression of your garden. When I look back on mine, am amazed to see that some of my original jots that were just ideas/trials to start with, have become common practise for me over the years.

From kim the Ink Cat at

Look forward to spring, but enjoy your late winter journaling time. 
Journal, plan and enjoy our wet February.
... this rain is filling up the reservoirs ; )  

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

February Ramblings - Garden and Greenhouse

I am so excited! It's the month of February already and spring is oh so close!

However, the weather lately has been less than spectacular for us gardeners, with January being very, very wet! Hoping for drier days this month!  

So then, what all is going on for us gardeners in February? A wee bit more than last month, but still not a whole bunch. If you did nothing gardening related this month, I bet no one would even notice ; )

First of all... in the yard and garden beds. What to do out there? 

- Prune your fruit trees and spray with dormant oil/lime sulpher to kill any over-wintering pests or fungal issues. Only spray if you had pests or fungal probs like scab, etc.. last year. Be sure to prune on a warm and sunny day (no wet weather) to avoid spreading or starting fungal/disease problems.

- While you are it, prune and spray your roses, too. This will help to reduce black spot in summer!

- Deadhead your pansies and violas, pinching them back if they are leggy. Spring bulbs are just beginning to poke their heads through the ground, so pinching back your pansies now will have them blooming at the same time as those bulbs.

- Want to get an early start on the season? Cover any garden beds that you want to plant up with plastic or landscape fabric to warm the soil. Building new raised beds or starting a lasagna bed? This is the time to do it! Get ready now so that when spring rolls around, you are good to go! 

- Did you sow peas or sweet peas in fall last year? If so, when they start to come up, cover with frost blankets or tree branches, etc.. to protect the tender, fresh, new, green growth from the birds and rabbits. They really, really enjoy the taste of those tasty new seedlings, trust me ;)

Hairy Bittercress seedlings popping up everywhere in my garlic bed. 

Jumping Jesus aka Hairy Bittercress. Ugh!

- Weed your pathways and beds now before the weeds get out of hand, especially that awful seed snapping one, the Hairy Bittercress! This stuff is dreadful and once you have it, you gotta stay on top of it or it soon takes over everything. How? It has exploding seeds! The plant looks harmless enough, small little rounded leaves, a slender stalk of teeny tiny little white flowers... and then POP! The seeds literally snap off the plant, scattering hundreds of weed seeds everywhere.

- Tuck a few lovely sprouting spring bulbs into your winter planters. I usually plant pot and all in to the planter, so is easy to switch them out as often as I like.

What to do indoors...  

- Seed inventory. Check out what seeds you have, make a list of what you need and want. Take that list with you when you shop! Is very easy to get carried away at the Seedy Saturdays ; )

- Put in any of your seed and bulb orders on line. Time to think dahlias, lilies, gladioli, canna and calla lilies, pineapples lilies, and more...

 Journal entry by
How I wish that I could paint! 

- While out running errands last week, I saw the most gorgeous journals! Absolutely stunning and very inspirational. So nice that I really, really wanted to pick one up... despite that fact that I already have a journal on the go for 2016... nearly half full ; )

- I personally have been keeping a garden journal for many years, a brand new book each year, with my thoughts and plans for both gardens and greenhouse. My drawings, however, are not nearly as pretty as the painting above... though this does inspire me to add more drawings, more colour and even some texture... it also makes me wish that I were artsier! 

- Now is a terrific time to pick up a new journal for the gardening season ahead. Jot down all your great ideas, recipes, favourite tomatoes to check out this year, new veggies to trial ... More thoughts on journaling in the next blog post.  

The big, funny looking plant in front is an over-wintered artichoke! 

What to do in the greenhouse...

Clean up the greenhouse
- Dump last year's flower pots into the compost, spray surfaces with a 10% bleach solution to kill bacteria and fungal spores, wash and sterilise pots and seed trays to get ready for the season ahead, clean up your tools, oil or replace parts, as needed.

- Start fertilising your over-wintered plants in the greenhouse and indoor plants, as well.

To everything there is a season! Turn, turn, turn.
- Please, please do not start your seeds too early. Lanky and tall plants become bug magnets, they draw the pests like crazy. They will also not produce as well, and may well snap from the weight of the fruits. You want stocky, sturdy plants, dark green in colour.

- Even if you plan to grow them in the greenhouse all summer, rather than out in the garden, our days are simply not long enough or warm enough yet, so it will cost you extra in both lighting and heating to keep them from being lanky. Hardly worth it to spend that extra money for a few weeks lead time.
 Take cuttings ...
Remove all but the top couple of leaves and plant deep into the pot, right up to those top leaves. 
- Take cuttings of pelargoniums, fuchsias, rosemary, bay, etc..

Artichokes can be started from seed now
They often come back year after year, with no additional care required!

So ...  What seeds do you start indoors this month?

If you are not sure whether you should be starting your seeds yet, check the back of the package. If it says to start the seeds 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost date, go for it! Anything less, you need to wait a few more weeks yet.  If it says 8 weeks, wait till the end of the month to start.

- lettuce, greens, mustards
- Oriental greens like Boy Choi
- peas
- alliums - leeks and onions
- artichokes

- most all of the hardy, perennial ones ... oregano, parsley, mint, thyme, marjoram, sage.
- start rosemary and tarragon from cuttings
- sweet peas
- snapdragons
- pansies and violas
- petunias
- many, many more

In actuality, the flowers that you can start now, from seed, are much too numerous to mention. Check the back of your packages for start dates. If it says to start them 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost date, you are good to go.

In the garden
- broad/fava beans (need no cover, pop them in the ground now)
- radishes, spinach, winter lettuces, Oriental greens (start under cover, either low frames or row covers)

Happy Gardening!