Saturday, 29 October 2016

Over-Wintering Annuals

Sad to see the end of summer and therefore the end of  your favourite geraniums? Or lantana? Fuchsia, too? Why not keep them over till next year?

Pelargoniums (aka Geraniums) and Lantana are both super easy to over-winter

I adore pelargoniums (aka geraniums) and scented geraniums, too, so always keep a few of my favourites to over-winter in the greenhouse. Lantana is also becoming a new fave to keep from year to year, will be working on getting a collection of varieties.  

Many plants that we think of as annuals are actually pretty hardy, and also super easy to keep over. Try bringing in your prettiest coleus, lantanas, geraniums and fuchsias. 

There are several different methods you can choose from to over-winter yours ... I use them all ; )
  
1. Re-pot, clean up, and leave as they are. 
2. Cut back hard now and let flush out over the winter months. 
3. Take cuttings and throw away the 'mother' plants. 

Over-wintering plants in a winter greenhouse  

Regardless of which method you choose, keep these tips in mind.

They like to be kept cool and dry.
   
If you are going to keep them over inside the house, place on a bright window sill in a room that does not get overly warm, like in a basement or spare room, maybe? Ideally, start with a east or north facing window in fall and then move to a sunnier window in late winter, however this is not necessary for success.  

If you are over-wintering them in a heated greenhouse, set your thermostat at 5 - 7° C and open the door on occasion to let in some fresh air and prevent condensation.  

Condensation and high humidity bring on rot and fungal issues, so running a fan and opening doors/windows will keep the air moving and prevent moisture build up. See HERE for more information about winterizing your greenhouse. 

Water sparingly in winter, keep the soil moist but not wet. Do not mist or wet foliage! They want dry air but moist soil. 
   
So, here are the three methods....


1. Leave them as they are and keep them over

This method is the easiest of them all, if you have the space. I always use this one for lantana, and sometimes for geraniums if they are all abloom and not too leggy.    

- Remove spent blooms, plus yellow or brown leaves. 

- Wash entire plant with a strong jet of water to blow off bugs and eggs, then spray thoroughly all over with Safer's Insecticidal Soap. 

- After 15 minutes, rinse the soap off with yet another strong jet of water. This will not only remove the soapy film from the leaves, but also cleans off any dead bugs, eggs, or remaining pests.       

- Re-pot into fresh, clean potting mix with a bit of manure added for nutrients. Do not give additional feed until February. Lantana prefers to be slightly pot bound, so I usually leave it till late winter. Feed  with a weak liquid seaweed solution every week or two, as you water.   

- Continue to remove spent blossoms and yellowing foliage throughout the winter, and check for bugs. 



2. Cut back and clean up  (Semi-dormant) 

I use this method the most. Use when over-wintering lanky, big or bushy geraniums (ivy, zonal or scented), and always on fuchsias.    

- Remove all blossoms, old, big leaves, and cut back long, lanky stems. This will promote nice and bushy plants next year. With really over-grown plants like scented geraniums, trim the stems down to just a few inches high, does not matter if there are any leaves left on the plant at this time.   

- Clean them up with the water and soap spray, as above, to prevent bugs from invading your greenhouse or home. 

- I always pot them up into a nice, clean pot with fresh potting soil and a bit of manure at this time, however, you can leave them till spring, if you prefer. In that case, feed with a wee bit of liquid seaweed each time you water to keep them going till you re-pot.   

Cut back big, bushy scented geraniums like this 'Prince of Orange' 
before bringing into the greenhouse.  
Take down to just a few inches high and it will grow back big and bushy again next year. 

Take cuttings now 

3. Taking cuttings. 

The third method is to take cuttings and toss out the mother plant. With this one you get lots of fresh, new plants for next year. I use this method mostly for scented geraniums, and herbs like rosemary, and lavender.  

- Take several 3 to 4 inch long cuttings from new growth. Make sure that they are soft and pliable as hard and woody stems will not 'take' easily.    

- Pick out a wide, shallow pot, 4 inches deep, ideally not terracotta as it dries out so fast. Fill with gritty, well draining potting mix.  


- Swish cuttings in soapy water to remove any bugs. 

- Trim off all foliage along the stem except the topmost two or three leaves. Dip cutting into rooting powder and then insert deep into the pot. Push them down as far as you can, so that the bottom leaf is just above soil level. Pop in as many cuttings as you want per pot, as long as they are not touching each other. 

- Water, keep soil moist, not wet. 

- After a month or so, you can gently tug on the cutting to check for rooting. Be careful to not pull the cutting right out. If you meet with no resistance, leave in for a few more weeks. Slight resistance means it is not quite ready, but is well on it's way. Resistance means that it has a good root system and ready for it's own pot. Do not just yank it out or you will tear the new roots, use a small spoon or pencil to loosen the soil around the new roots, and gently lift out. Pop into it's own pot.      

What to do in late winter? 

In early spring, they will start to put on lots of new buds and blooms

- Start feeding once a week in February. I generally start with a higher nitrogen feed at first, like the 'Alfalfa Tea' that I make for my seedlings. However, liquid seaweed works great, too, especially as a foliar feed.   


- Switching to a higher phosphorous feed in spring and summer will promote more blooming.  



Happy gardening! 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Winterizing The Greenhouse


Here we are in late October, with winter right around the corner. I pull my jacket in just a wee bit tighter as the girls and I walk about the gardens.  


Whether you have a heated or unheated greenhouse, here are some steps you should take to transition from summer to winter.


Start with a really thorough clean up, both inside and outside.

Wash off all the summertime dust, dirt, pollen, and algae build-up from the roof and walls of your greenhouse, to allow in more of that weak winter sunshine.

Our west coast winters are very, very grey, so all extra light you can provide will be appreciated by your over-wintering plants.


Empty out all plants and accessories from inside the greenhouse, pack away any items not going back in, and then do a really good sweep up.

Clean out corners and crevices really well. 

Use a soapy 10% bleach solution to kill all algae, bacteria and mould spores, followed by a good rinse. I make sure to get the corners, vents, and tracks that the 'windows' sit in, as these seem to be the areas where debris and water accumulate.

We then use a power washer to wash down the walls and floors, removing any bugs, eggs, and built up filmy dust and dirt.

http://www.gbcgroup.co.uk/greenhouses/peak-winchester-greenhouse.htm

Insulate with bubble wrap or an extra sheet of poly to retain more heat over the cold winter months and save money on heating, too.

This extra layer adds an extra 2 degrees of warmth, so is well worth your while to do, especially with unheated greenhouses.

Leave vents clear as good air flow is essential year round. You will want to open doors and windows, plus run fans for circulation, too. Humidity and condensation will kill/rot your plants faster than anything else.

Run a power cord over to your greenhouse now if you do not have permanent power. You will then be able to plug in a portable heat source during cold snaps, keeping tender plants above freezing, plus run your fan/s to circulate the air and keep down humidity. There are many options for heat sources from small space heaters, to 60 or 100 watt light bulbs, or even strands of Christmas lights.    


Clean up any plant material going back into the greenhouse to over-winter. Cut back, spray all over with insecticidal soap, wash off after 15 minutes with strong jet of water, and re-pot, if needed.

I do not always re-pot now, but often times plants are pretty root bound by end summer, so just top dressing with manure will not keep them thriving through the winter months.


As you cut back your plants, is also the perfect time to take cuttings for new plants in spring.

Bay laurel cuttings take a long, long time to root in...


Wash potting benches, tables, pots and planters.


Set out a few yellow sticky strips to monitor pests. Check your strips often and deal with infestations right away. The last thing you want is to over winter bugs so they come out in full force when you have the greenhouse full of wee, tender, spring seedlings.


Bring your clean plants, tables, pots, bins and buckets back into the clean greenhouse.


Sit back and enjoy your greenhouse before things get crazy busy once again.

Happy greenhouse-ing! 


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Putting Your Kitchen Garden To Bed In 5 Easy Steps

Next year's fantastic, healthy, organic, kitchen garden begins right here, right now. What you do now to winterise your beds, makes the difference between a great garden year ahead and a frustrating one.


Here are five easy steps you need to know to put your kitchen garden to bed for winter. How organic gardeners maintain healthy, happy beds that are 'almost' weed, disease, and pest free.

Ruby Tuesday helps with garden clean up...  'Hey mom, I found some nasturtium seedlings' ; )  

1. Post Harvest Clean Up!

After you have harvested your summer veggies, canned and stored them to enjoy throughout the winter, it is garden clean up time. This is the most important step you can take for a pest free garden next year.

Remove everything from the surface of your beds... spent tomato, squash and cucumber vines, all stems, leaves, seedlings and other plant debris lying around on top of the bed. Try to get all the leaf material and debris that you can, as they provide winter hiding spots for bugs and their eggs. Cabbage moths, stink bugs, aphids, leaf hoppers, crickets, grasshoppers, and so many more, may all be trying to overwinter their off-spring in your garden. The better your clean up now, the less bad bugs you will have next year.

The only green material left standing should be your winter veggies and perennials like rhubarb, strawberries, asparagus. Clean them all up really well, removing any dead or yellowing bits.

Compost your garden waste, layering browns and greens for faster cooking compost. Bring all diseased and super buggy plant material to the dump, or burn, do not compost.

Knock down those weeds and seedlings ...

2. Weed control!

This is the time to get those weeds under control. When the fall rains start, weed seeds on the surface of the soil suddenly all sprout to life.

Remove them by hand, or knock them over with a hoe. I gently pull out all large and/or tap rooted weeds but prefer to knock the wee ones down and rake them up. I never leave them on top of the beds to die at this time of year ... they may quickly take root again or harbour insect eggs.

My favourite tool for this is the Winged Weeder. It slices the weeds down from all sides, push or pull, without digging into or disturbing the soil. As it just skims right under the surface, is perfect for us no-dig gardener types. Regular hoes disturb the soil surface which just brings up more weed seeds to deal with. (Nope, no kick backs for telling you about this tool, just sharing)

If you are a companion planter, as I am, you will have lots and lots of volunteers at this time of year. Calendula, nasturtiums, marigolds, borage, lemon balm, all kinds of wee little sprouts springing up everywhere. I remove them all. More seedlings will sprout up again in spring, so I then pick and choose which ones are in the right place, and how many to keep.

Chicken manure ...

3. Top dress!

Top dressing is literally food for your soil! Feed your garden beds with 1 to 3 inches of compost or manure annually.

Top dressing feeds your soil, suppresses weeds, makes for great water penetration and retention, and keeps beneficial micro-organisms thriving in your garden. You will never need to use fertilisers again.

Layer the manure on top of your soil, rake to smooth out, and walk away. Nutrients will be carried through your soil by the elements, the earthworms, and the beneficials that live in your soil. Do not dig in, do not turn your soil, and do not ever roto-till. Roto-tilling destroys soil structure, not to mention what it does to the earthworms, beneficial insects, microbes, and fungi threads.

Investing in your soil, feeding it to make it rich, fertile, and friable, is the single best investment you can make towards a fantastic, healthy, productive kitchen garden.

Growing great carrots this year! 
4. Test and amend!

Test your soil to check for deficiencies and amend accordingly. Do not dig in, just layer on with your manure and you are done. The amendments will be carried through your soil by the winter rains and earthworms, ready for you to plant up again in spring. Organic amendments may be wood ashes, lime, alfalfa, bone meal, blood meal...

Amending now means that the nutrients have time to break down over the winter months, and are therefore available for your seedlings to uptake in spring. Some nutrients will take 4 months or more to become accessible in the soil.

Organic gardening is all about feeding the soil to feed the plants. The more time and effort that you put into it now, the less work you will have next summer. You will not have to feed your plants in summer, at all, if you have invested in creating great soil.

Insect Hotels aka Bug Houses

5. Beneficial insects!

So ... Now that you have removed all the leaves and bits of debris from your veggie garden, you may be wondering where the beneficial insects, like ladybugs, are supposed to over winter?

Easy answer ... anywhere and everywhere, except in your food garden! You want to make your yard into a wildlife haven so that the good guys are there, all around, thriving and more than happy to eat up your bad guys ... before they find your kitchen garden and attack your veggies ; )  

Make the rest of your yard a paradise for birds, bees, frogs, snakes, spiders, bats, and all kinds of other beneficial insects and critters by creating a wildlife friendly habitat. Leave your ornamental grasses and perennial flowers standing to offer seeds for birds and refuge for critters and insects. Make brush piles, and wood piles, or raked leaf piles. Mulch around your trees, shrubs and perennials with wood chips, or bark, for them to live in. They (ladybugs) also love to live in your wood lot!

Make a bug house, they are both super cute and fun to make with your kids. Sure, the bad insects may over-winter in them, too, but if you have a healthy organic garden with great diversity, the good guys will soon get rid of them

You want your yard to be a year round home for all small critters and insects, so provide places for them to hide, live, reproduce and be. You will have a fantastic, happy, healthy yard, and a super happy kitchen garden!    
 

The garden before harvest and clean up begins... 


The garden after being put to bed for winter...


Ruby Tuesday says 'Grow organic'

Happy fall gardening! 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Garlic Planting How-To

Time for my annual garlic planting post! I get crazy excited about growing organic garlic in fall and heirloom tomatoes in spring, my two great passions. 


In our mild west coast climate, garlic is planted between mid September and late October. In colder areas, try to plant 5 weeks before your first frost. 

I have planted in September, October and early November, with no real discernible difference in size, quality, or harvest time. The ones planted in mid November last year, however, were harvested about 2 weeks later than the rest.   

Western Rose, the prettiest garlic that I have ever seen. 

This year, I planted in October, over a period of several warm and sunny days. Got them all in before the fall rains and big storms set in.

If you are still cleaning and prepping your beds, worry not, you still have several weeks to plant.

But... please note! Never muck about in wet garden beds as you will compact your soil, garlic prefers to grow in nice, loose soil and will not thrive in hard compacted mud. 

Amend your garlic bed soil

What to do before planting? 

Amend, amend, amend. Your soil needs to be both really friable (loose) and rich in nutrients. 

The garlic cloves are going to live in there for 9 months, yep 9 whole months!!! Therefore, they need lots of nutrients to go from clove to good sized bulb. 

What do I add? A few weeks ahead of time, I top dress the bed with an inch or two of manure, ideally chicken, but any manure or compost will do. This year I was running late and just got the beds amended about a week before planting. It works just fine either way. If you are using 'hot' manure, plant your bed first and then top dress. 

If the bed is very depleted of nutrients, add a sprinkle of bone meal and blood meal for nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen will make the tops grow tall and strong to take up nutrients, while phosphorous will make the bulbs size up well. 

Make sure your bed is well draining. If you do not have raised beds, build flat, wide, raised mounds to plant into. 

I plant my garlic  cloves 7 inches apart using this trusty hacker! 

Planting garlic

Crack open the bulbs to separate the cloves. Do this at planting time only, not ahead of time. 

Plant the cloves with the pointy end up, cap at the bottom. 

Plant each clove 6 to 8 inches apart. I plant mine 7 inches apart in a cross hatch pattern. You can plant them closer together, in pots for example, but the closer they are, the smaller the bulbs. Smaller, homegrown, organic garlic will always trump store bought, bleached bulbs though! Plant away!    


Push each clove into the nice, loose soil.

If your clove does not easily go in, gently aerate the bed with a garden fork. Do not turn the soil, just lift a bit to loosen.  

The tip of the garlic should be just one to two inches below soil level. 

Cover the cloves and leave till spring. That's it : )

Some say to mulch with straw or leaves, but I never do. Mulch may promote fungal issues like botrytis or rust if not removed on time, or if we have an unusually wet spring (like we had this year).

That is all you need to know about planting garlic. Really! Easy peasy. 


Start with great soil and great organic bulbs, for a great garlic harvest! 

Happy growing! 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

October Garden Ramblings

Well, here we are, well on our way into the month of October. So many garden chores this month! Busy, busy times!

Do a thorough garden clean up 

Hubby and I have been plugging away at garden clean up and winterising for several weeks. Greenhouse clean up, garden clean up, soil amending, emptying pots and baskets, weeding, raking ... 

Beds cleaned out, 

So, where to start? I always start with the food garden, of course ; )

In the potager... 

My main goal in the garden beds is pest control. A really thorough garden clean up helps to minimise the over-wintering bugs, and provides less hiding places for them to lay their eggs.

- Harvest the last of your peppers, squash, sunflowers, etc.. Remove all summer annuals to the compost bin.

- Fill your compost bin with layers of browns and greens for faster cooking compost. Take all diseased items and weeds to the dump. Some municipalities have free drop off bins for yard waste or even curb side pick-up, check to see what your city provides.

- Clean out your beds really well. Remove all yellow and fallen leaves from the beds, as they present sneaky hiding places.

- Yellowing leaves on your kale? Remove them. Beets leaves with leaf miner trails? Remove those, too. Leave the plants, just get rid of the 'bad' leaves.

- If your remaining veggies are supposed to fruit in fall, like Brussels sprouts or late broccoli, but nothing is happening, get rid of them now. They will not have time to make sprouts/heads before winter strikes, but will harbour aphids and other pests.

- Clean up really well around your strawberries and fruiting shrubs. This is where stink bugs like to leave their eggs. Remove all brown or yellow leaves, dry mummified berries, and dead bits, leaving only the healthy green foliage on your rhubarb and strawberries.

- When clean up is all done, top dress your beds with 1 to 3 inches of manure or compost, plus any amendments (bonemeal, bloodmeal, rock phosphates... ) that you may need. I always do this in fall so that I have no wait time in spring, can get right down to planting.

- Do not dig in, do not blend or mix. Just layer on top of the beds for the winter rains and the earthworms to disperse. The less you disturb your soil, the less weeds you will have in spring. Roto-tilling destroys soil texture, plus earthworms, beneficial nematodes, microbes, fungi, please never do it!


I clean out everything except my fall and winter veggies...
 (kale, leeks, broccoli, carrots, beets, celery, kohlrabi, and turnips). 
The cabbages, onions, and spuds are in the garage.


 The newly seeded fall and winter garden bed, the hoops will soon be covered with Reemay fabric

Sowing and Planting? 

What can you sow this month from seed successfully? Surprisingly, quite a few things will germinate and thrive, especially if you offer them cover from the winter frosts. 
Grow them in your greenhouse, heated or not, or cover the frames with plastic or white frost blanket. 

- Broad beans (Fava's)
- Greens of all kind! Lettuce, mesclun, mustard, arugula, Oriental greens, etc... 
- Onions/scallions/shallots
- Radishes
- Turnips
- Try some spinach and collards, too. Nothing to lose and much to gain ; )   

Western Rose, the prettiest garlic I have ever seen

What else to do this month? 

- Plant garlic. I will post the how-to's again this year, but if you cannot wait, check back to previous years for instructions.

- Weed! All your pathways, your gardens, everywhere. It takes time and perseverance! We weeded like mad all spring and summer to prepare for the wedding, everything looked amazing... as soon as the fall rains came, out popped a zillion more weeds. Keep weeding!

- Put away hoses and blow out your watering systems. I put away the weeping hoses each winter and haul them out again in spring.

- Cut back spent perennials. Leave the ones with seed heads, like coneflowers, for the birds.

- Do not prune your roses yet, is too early. Let them make hips and shut down for winter and trim them back later.


Clean out your greenhouse for the winter. Take everything out, power wash all the surfaces, nooks and crannies, to get rid of pests and fungal issues. The walls and roof will have accumulated dust and dirt during the summer, wash it down to allow in more sunlight this winter.

Put out new yellow sticky strips so that you can catch pest problems right away.

I prune most of my geraniums and tender tender plants in fall,
before bringing them into the greenhouse. 

Bring tender perennials and hardy annuals into the greenhouse/sunroom for the winter months. Make sure to clean up the plants so that you do not bring in pests that will thrive and multiply, making your spring seeding and growing a real disaster!


Collect leaves, shred and store in a pile, or in bags, to create leaf mould, the best garden gold for your garden!


Plant spring blooming bulbs. 


Rejuvenate your planters for fall!

Happy fall clean up! 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

One Last Veggie Planting For Winter

Is a bit later than I would usually sow from seed, but after reading an article that had some well known Zone 5 gardeners/growers sowing fall and winter veggie seeds in early October, I decided to give it a go, too.

The biggest difference between our Zone 7 and most Zone 5's is the amount of sunshine they get, that we do not. On the wet, west coast, our winters bring grey skies and rain, whereas the rest of the country is sunny and bright, though snowy and cold.


With any luck, we get a few weeks of fantastic sunshine after this fall storm blows over. A girl can hope.

Either way, radishes and turnips are sure to thrive, so decided to go ahead and plant an assortment of fall and winter veggie to see how they fare. 

This is what the beds looked like just a few short weeks ago...

First emptied out the faded summer blooms from the beds ... sigh, good-bye summer. 


Weeded and amended with manure, bloodmeal, and bonemeal. Raked it over the surface of the beds.  
  

Then seeded a few different cool weather crops, two rows of each.  


Covered the seeds, tamped them down, waited for the rain to come... and boy did it ever. First autumn storm of the year ; ) 

Moving over these low frame hoops... minus the dog ; )  

Hubby is going to cover my new seed bed with these hoops and some white Reemay fabric to make a covered low-frame. The fabric lets in the light and the rain, keeps off the snow load (should we have some), and adds two degrees of warmth.

Ready for the Reemay cloth cover

Here is  the list of seeds that I tossed in today... 
Cottage Gardener Seeds... 
- Broad beans aka Fava beans 'Broad Windsor' (will also plant a few rows in the potager)
- Collards 'Champion'
- Lettuce 'Tango' 
- Lettuce 'Rouge D'Hiver'
- Onion 'Evergreen Bunching'
- Radish 'Pink Beauty'     
- Spinach 'Long Standing Bloomsdale' 
- Turnip 'Purple Top'

Renee's Garden Seeds
- Broccoli 'All Season Blend' (let's see what happens)
- Broccoli Raab 'Super Rapini'