Tuesday, 13 February 2018

February Ramblings - Garden and Greenhouse

*This post was first published in February of 2016. 

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 catherinestudio.blogspot.com
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 the year... 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!

Monday, 12 February 2018

February Greenhouse Ramblings

While it is still a titch early to be doing much out in the yard, in the greenhouse everything is slowly starting to come alive. Days are longer, warmer, and brighter, encouraging plants to put on new growth.

The February to-do list is not yet very long, mainly preparation for the busy times ahead. Just enough to do to keep your green thumb from itching.

Clean up...
Never the most interesting nor exciting part of growing, a clean greenhouse is a necessity for a healthy start to the new growing season. Best to remove all pests and diseases before you fill the greenhouse with tender new seedlings.

If you did not do it in the fall, maybe you were too pooped out, or maybe you were stuffing it full of plants to over winter, this month is a great time to get everything spic and span. Wash the walls inside and out to allow in more sunshine, clean up tracks, corners, anywhere bugs may be hiding.

Start with clean, sterile plant pots and equipment. Wash with soapy water and rinse in a 10% bleach solution. Inventory your stash to make sure you have what you need when the seeds and plants start rolling in.

Wash tables, racks, and shelves, as well as, floors.

Check for bugs, aphids will begin to show up any time now. Yellow sticky strips are very helpful, they monitor pest levels and help you see exactly what pests you are dealing with; aphids, white flies, and fungus gnats are the most common greenhouse pests.

If you find evidence of pests, spray down all plants to a drip with Safer's Soap or Trounce. Be sure to get the under sides of leaves and stems, too. Spray once a week, for three weeks in a row, to catch them all as they mature from egg or larva to flying pest.

Geraniums have all been pinched back hard 

Plant Care... 
Remove all spent blossoms, yellowing leaves, and any plant debris on top of the soil or they will start to grow fuzzy with mould.

Pinch back/cut back your hardy annuals. Take the geraniums down really low now for bushy plants with lots of blooms in summer. Cut back begonias, fuchsias, geraniums, lantana, scented-geraniums, etc.. Give topiaries a good haircut now, too. Remove and dead branches from lantana, citrus trees, roses.... Cut back mini roses by a third.

If you did not re-pot in the fall, give them fresh new potting soil now. If they are in super large pots, like some roses, hibiscus standards, citrus trees, etc... they will not need to be repotted annually, just top dress with manure or compost. 

All of these plants are going to slowly come back to life this month, putting on new leaves and branches. Begin watering more often now, still keeping them on the dry side, but as the days get brighter and longer, the plants will gradually use more water.

More growth and foliage means it is time to start feeding them with a mild fertiliser solution. I use Reindeer Liquid Seaweed to both water in foliar feed, but you can use any fertiliser that you have on hand. Dilute chemical fertilisers to half strength and water in. Foliar feed only if using an organic product, like manure tea, seaweed, fish fert, or kelp. Spray all over the foliage every 2 weeks. 

Do not use a high nitrogen fertiliser at this time, or you will have too much soft growth before they go outside. All those soft new shoots bring on more pests and you will soon have a huge battle on your hands. Nitrogen is the first number on the fertiliser bottle, stick to an all purpose one (like a 10-10-10) at this time.

Seed Starting...
It is truly too early to be starting most anything until March or April. Our days are still so short, gloomy and grey, so starting plants now just makes for stretched-out, unhappy plants well before they can actually go outside. 

To know when to start your seeds, you first need to know when the last frost date is in your region. Here in the Nanaimo area is April 28th. Some of the newer sources will say April 10th, but I have found our past several springs to be really cold and always use the later date.

On the back of each seed package, they give you all sorts of seeding information ... how deep to sow, spacing, and when to sow. These peppers are to be started 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost, so count back from your last frost date to know when to get started. Going from our date of April 28th, we need to sow between mid February and early March.

What veggies to start indoors in February... the list is still quite small, most are started in March.
- Arugula, Mustards, Greens, Kale, Spinach, Lettuces
- Broad Beans
- Brassica family, towards end of the month
- Leeks, Onions, Chives
- Peas/Sweet Peas
- Peppers, mostly the hots. Sweets can easily be left for a few more weeks yet.

Flowers to start now... many can be started indoors now or the seeds simply tossed into the garden beds.
Listed  here are a few of the common ones to start now, the companion flowers for your organic veggie beds..  
- Ammi (looks like Queen Anne's Lace)
- Alyssum
- Calendula
- Cosmos
- Marigolds
- Snapdragons

Citrus fruits are in their prime at this time of year, flowering and fruiting like mad. 

Feed your lemons and other citrus fruit trees at this time. I use an organic granular kind that is scattered on top of the soil every 6 to 8 weeks, starting in February and finishing in October. 

Check for scale on the under side of the leaves, and check blossoms for aphids. 

 Baby olives on my Spanish Olive tree

Happy greenhouse-ing! 

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