Thursday, December 23, 2010

Green Things in the Greenhouse

Winter Solstice has come & gone in yet another rain storm. We missed the lunar eclipse due to the cloud cover, but I know there are many out here who are thankful that the precipitation falling is rain & not snow. We've be buried instead of just soggy!

But I managed to get out to the greenhouse to check on my plants & where through a fault of design or just sloppy building, the peak of the roof allows just enough rain to enter that I don't need to worry about watering the plants for the winter.  

My current experiment in the greenhouse is growing peas & beans as a green manure. A very nice gift from Mother Nature for the winter - I can get my 'green thumb therapy' fix any time just by heading out to the greenhouse & admiring the way these plants grow in minimal sunlight & at low temperatures (well, currently it's about 8 degrees out there, so not too cold at all).

 According to my gardening notes, I harvested the last of my tomatoes (more green ones than desired) & pulled out the plants on Halloween & after cleaning up the bed & adding more soil (I emptied the pots from on the deck into here as I like fresh soil in containers every year), I immediately planted the mung bean & left-over 5 year old pea seeds. I'm amazed that this many peas popped up!

 Their growth is much slower than it would be in the spring & I'm actually surprised the beans sprouted, as they are a warm weather plant & I know my beans didn' do so well this year because we received a sudden frost later in the spring that more than likely zapped the bean seedlings. 

The lettuce is still the same as when I made note of it in early November. I'm glad to see it's still there, but like I said in an earlier post, I really should have built a cover for this little section of bed to raise the temperature a bit & encourage some growth. Oh well, I'm just going to wait to see what happens & I know that in February we get some amazing sunshine & days where the temperature warms up enough to encourage early growth.

For now, I'm content to monitor the slow growth & allow the soil to recuperate & prepare for next season's tomatoes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Need of Some Green Therapy

I've just returned from a 2 week vacation & am in dire need of serious 'green therapy'. While away on a Caribbean Cruise, I did manage to snap a couple pictures of some colourful flowers to help me cope with being away from my plants & backyard.

Thought I'd share them with you - even if I don't know what they are, they did the trick for a few days...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter Reading - Part 2

My second seed catalogue is Veseys Seeds, based out of Charlottetown, PEI. I'm still one of those people who rather enjoys receiving the catalogue in the mail & then absolutely trashing it over the winter. I carry it around with me everywhere, circle everything that captures my imagination with highlighters & pens, eventually scratching out items when I realize that I can't really grow it here or when I figure out I don't have room to even try. I also love cutting out the pictures & taping them to the fridge to help me make some final decisions... All in all, by the time April comes, the catalogues are quite ready to be recycled & retired.

It's just not the same with on-line catalogues...

 "The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies." Gertrude Jekyll

 Ok - these are unusual looking & have intrigued me for a few years. Are they a cross between a pea & asparagus? Or is that just a fun play on words, based on taste... While it says that it's low growing & spreading, I wonder if it can be grown up netting. Add this one to my 'wish list'.

 I fell in love with roasted parsnips last winter but didn't have the room to try them in my gardens this year. I think I will make that room (as well as build 2 more raised beds) & make sure to include them in my Plan. (Which needs to be reviewed at a later time...)

 I was given some scarlet flax seeds (a very small amount, maybe 10 or 20) as a 'free gift' from Canadian Tire a few years ago & didn't recognize them when they flowered - but what a beautiful flower! Not very tall or lush - you definitely need to grow them in compact clusters to get the full effect. I thought they were supposed to be difficult to find (as one of my neighbours told me when she saw them), but now I know better. I like the Charmer Mix too, but knowing my luck, they'd all turn red after a while. I grew Golden Flax this year which has the blue flowers, but think I'd like to get the Scarlet Flax growing as a wild self-seeding annual on my hill side.

 I've been told I need to have sunflowers in my front bed - really tall ones! My colour preferences are red, yellow & white (but have noticed the main colour in the summer is pink...) so sunny sunflowers along the deck railing of my front bed would look pretty stunning. I'm drawn to the darker colours, such as this Velvet Queen, but they might not be tall enough... 5 feet? The really large ones can grow 10 to 12 & even 14 feet tall! I think I'll start off with smaller ones & see how they do. I know the deer has been known to wander through this bed (even though it's a steeply sloped bed) so would hate to have the deer topple the sunflowers.

 I don't know why I didn't invest in row covers this fall. With the wet & cold spring we had, my veggies were pretty much all failures & so I decided to try my hand at some winter gardening in the greenhouse. I could have used this material about 2 months ago to help the lettuce grow a bit. Even though this isn't on my Christmas Wish list (Felco pruners are #1 on my list this year) I'll see what I can do later on towards spring. This might help with growing carrots & early spring greens & also keep the deer out of the raised beds...

 I'm still new at container gardening & think that this product might help a bit with the hanging baskets that swing out in the breeze & dry out even more than containers located closer to the ground. This probably needs a bit more research but might just be another wise investment.

Ok - maybe it's time to graduate from 2 litre pop bottles with their bottoms cut off to this product. The problem with the pop bottles is that they are much smaller & tend to blow off the seedlings very easily. I like that these have that bottome edge that can be buried. They aren't as 'cool' as the French glass cloches, but I'm not really a 'cool' gardener - hey, I barely pass as a successful gardener these days - there's always road for improvement. That's why I do so much winter reading...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winter Reading - Part 1

Realizing that we are really only half way through Autumn & calling it 'winter' can be misleading, (I personally think that the seasons are changing & there should be a date change to reflect that - because for me, spring also comes early - usually mid-February - more on that later...) But anyway - Winter Reading is an important way for many of us to survive these dreary days.

One of my long anticipated reading materials has arrived: Stokes Seed Catalogue!!

Isn't that cover just delicious!! I would love to have a veggie garden that produced like that - of course, I'd be feeding half my community, but right now it just stirs my blood & makes me see potential in all my endeavours.

I've not yet had the time to delve very deep into it (I have another seed catalogue sitting beside it...) but the first thing that captures my attention are the lettuce varieties.

I had such a great year growing my own lettuces (just a random blend of 20 varieties) and I'm having such a difficult time getting back into store-bought romaine & mixed greens (never, never ice berg!) that I really can't wait to start some more lettuce in the garden.

Actually, I do have some started in the greenhouse that look like they have survived the snow & freezing temps of this week. Can't say the say for my geranium cuttings...

But I'm wondering if these little plants will actually grow or remain this size til things start to warm up in the spring. My greenhouse is not a hot & humid greenhouse (which allows me to grow tomatoes & basil very well) but also keeps things rather cold in the winter. Well, then again, this is the first winter I'm actually using it as a 'greenhouse' versus storage shed, so I should expect some renovations on the horizon. If I built a cover for the small section of lettuce where the plastic was only a foot or 2 above the plants, I wonder if that would keep them warm enough to grow...

The second group of plants that caught my eye immediately are the coleus... I have very little experience with annuals, other than most vegetables, but these have captured my imagination for yet another year.

Dare I try to grow some from seed?? Or should I start with just purchasing a few small plants at the plant sale & see how they do out here. Are they slug bait? Do deer come from miles around just to munch on them? Oh wait - would the Black Dragon (the one I really want!) actually fit into my garden design??

And this is just the first of the seed catalogues to arrive in my mail box.

Where's my highlighter?!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Snow Fall of 2010

A few nights ago, the east side of Vancouver Island recieved lots of snow. They typically have more & it hangs around longer than it does here right on the West Coast. Now, I've been following some weather predictions that say we will have a colder & snowier winter this year (than normal or back to normal?) I wasn't really expecting it this soon - even though I heard there was snow on the road heading out of town.

I quickly took a few photos to share with you - kind of laughable because for us gardeners on the West Coast of the Island, snow is, in general, an oddity...

Nice big, fluffy flakes...
Calendula still in bloom.
More calendula covered in snow.
My spanish lavender trying to remain upright.
Astilbe looks rather pretty all dressed up.
My huge Russian kale crop under some snow - wonder if this cold will kill the bugs that are still munching on it...
Poor petunias!
The veggie & herb beds barely getting covered.
Now, I've seen other garden blogs/sites that show what a good & proper snow fall is like - a wonderful insulating blanket for the gardens, full dormancy of plants & a hard freeze that removes most chances of outdoor gardening for the rest of the winter. Sometimes I wish that were the case out here, but this 'snow' - wimpy that it is, will melt in a short while, uncovering the plants & hopefully allowing me more opportunity through the rest of the winter to get outside & work away at some garden projects.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Even though it's Thursday, these were meant for you yesterday...
There are lots of photos today!!
Borage & Calendula
Chive blossoms
Crazy daisy
Foxglove seedlings
Pretty fushia
Gladiola making an appearance
Gladiola with scented geranium & other herbs
Alyssm with spider
My greenhouse ready for winter - would like to insulate it a bit more...
Hens & chicks with spider plants
Winter herbs on west side of deck (thyme, sage, parsley - rosemary down in gardens as is oregano)
Hollyhocks starting to get chewed up
Lace cap hydrangea rebloomed after being munched by deer
Another blooming of lavender
Lilacs have buds showing already!
Loganberry reblooming
Random poppy that might bloom
Primula - so pretty!!
The lobelia from my hanging baskets 2 years ago have self-seeded through the front flower bed.
Spanish lavender rebloomed after a heavy pruning this summer.
(not so) Dwarf 3-in-1 spirea in flower again after a heavy pruning.
Broad beans & peas sprouting in greenhouse. Am trying this as a green mulch/fertilizer to help soils recover from the tomato plants this summer. Will grow 'maters in here again!
Thyme down in gardens in flower
Winter lettuce in greenhouse - stunted - should build & install a plastic cover to help insulate them.