Saturday, April 30, 2011

Greenhouse Renovation!

Easter Weekend the greenhouse got a bit of a make-over. Of course, I was working the entire weekend, so wasn't able to help hubby out, but once I explained where I'd love to have some work done, he got creative & inventive!

I really want to grow peppers this year & since I tend to keep the greenhouse on the cool side during July & August, I have this crazy idea of a greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse. These shelves will hold the peppers (just newly transplanted into their summer pots) & when I manage to get a day off, I will install plastice around it to increase the heat (& humidity).

One of my concerns with greenhouses is the potential for lack of pollination. I usually open the door when the plants are in bloom & I stabbed a few nasturtium seeds in with the peppers in the hopes of luring the pollinators in greater abundance.

I hope this works as I've never grown peppers before!

On the complete opposite corner, hubby built some more shelves & these will hold mainly basil. I've found that the basil loves the greenhouse, but prefers a shade cloth during the hot months. I'm going to play around with them a bit this year as they actually do not really attain great size (which is why I need to grow so much). I've got a few flats of flowers that I'm holding onto til the weather settles a bit more.

During my photo adventure this day, we were continually bombarded by hail & it was quite thunderous on the greenhouse roof while I was inside.

Opposite the pepper shelves are some more - not really designated for anything other than 'over flow' plants. We shall see how full these remain through the summer as I'm now moving seedlings from the house out to the greenhouse & starting more seeds indoors.

So, after I finished reorganizing the greenhouse (found out I ran out of 1 gallon pots already!!), I decided to plant 2 of my tomatoes. For some reason, I thought that the tomatoes in pots in the greenhouse would grow quicker than the ones in the house. Boy, was I wrong!! The ones in the house were almost twice as tall as the ones in the greenhouse. Now I have to wait for the radish & salad greens to be eaten before I can plant 2 more tomatoes in the greenhouse bed.

I've also got some peas that I'm starting to train up some twine. There are only 4 lines & I hope this works.

Yellow pear & Moneymaker tomatoes planted - I 'sacrificed' some freezer burnt salmon in the bottom of the holes. I did that with my rose rescue & it's popped out some leaves, so hopefully the fish will help the tomatoes too. So far - no smell!! I hope it stays that way or else I might have raccoons come investigate.

And this year, I will remember to stake the cages so that the tomato plants won't tip over later in the summer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Amidst all the hail & rain drops, the garden is perking up!

Basket of gold
Russian kale
Lady's Mantle
surprise tulip

Friday, April 22, 2011

Green Thumb versus Black Thumb

Being a gardener is not always nor only about success in growing things. I read somewhere: "If you're not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." JC Roulston. That brought a lot of comfort to me (& still does!) during times of failure. Sometimes I take foolish pride in seeing more death than life & I try to tell myself that I really must be a great gardener...

That brings us to Spring - where the killing fields are vast & the victims are random. Take my houseplants; I love greenery in the house & have a rather large family. They all have their own personalities & demands & most times I'm happy to oblige. But with all the seedlings bursting forth in brilliance, I find myself looking at the houseplants with a more critical eye.

This is one of my spider plants. Oh! The poor thing!! Yes, it's root bound, dried out & in too much sunshine (gasp - too much sunshine in the spring?!).

I have 2 other spider plants that are doing much better, but are also root bound & will receive therapy later on this year - more than likely in the fall when I will proceed to conduct strict surgery & remove half of the plant from each pot.

Houseplant love can become quite savage at times...

But this plant is currently hanging outside, getting nipped by frost in the mornings, baked by the sun in the afternoons & continues to dry out & die slowly. It's sad - I should put it & myself out of misery - if I only had time from playing in the dirt of the gardens...

Now my hoya is a different story. I've grown this character for about 7 years & this year, it is rewarding me with 10 blooms. Today, there are 8 that are open & in the evening while relaxing on the couch - directly underneath the plant - it is absolute torture! The stench that fills the house when the sun goes down is sort of like rotting flowers (I thought it was the compost the first few nights). I might actually have a slight allergy to it...

But I can't bear to cut the flowers off! Why would I do that?! They are so beautiful & abundant this year. We have come to an understanding - finally - as to where it likes to live & how to keep it watered. It's rather heavy to be lifting down from the hook it's on & it doesn't really fit into the bathtub anymore for a good long soak. I have one of those glass watering balls that I regularly fill & then jam into the pot. Seems to be working...

Maybe all hoya blossoms stink or maybe I've found a plant that I love so much that the torture of the rewards are something I will live with - as long as it doesn't bloom more than once a year.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fun with Rhubarb

I love rhubarb - love-love-love it! I started off with 2 plants & quickly realized that this would not be enough. I now have 6, but they are still young plants & are still recovering from the transplanting process. So, I thought I'd try a little experiment to see if I can boost my production potential for this year.

2 year old plants
newly transplanted rhubarb
This is what some of my plants look like. They are not so happy. I might have too much 'mulch' around them, but I didn't want to throw the large debris into the composter. I think I need to dump some compost around these 2 plants & let them be - again - for another year.

These are my oldest plants - still only about 3 years old & I actually thought I had lost them this winter. They were very slow to emerge (about 3 weeks behind the ones pictured above). They have received lots of fresh compost over the last couple of summers, so I think that's what the rest will need too.
black bucket action

What I did to encourage growth was to put a black planting pot over top of them. I had heard a while ago that putting a laundry basket on top will enourage growth, but I don't have one available for 'yard duty'. But I do have lots of pots...

April 13
This plant has had the bucket treatment for the longest & I've actually done a harvest of the stalks already. They were very firm, very red & didn't have much leaf growth.

April 21 - growth of a an inch or 2

I guess the purpose of the black bucket is to make the plant think it needs to grow taller stalks to get the leaf tips closer to sunlight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green Things in the Greenhouse - Part 2

Last week I did 'the deed' & transplanted my poor tomatoes into larger quarters. It's still too cold for me to actually plant them in the ground & according to my planting calendar from last year, I was planting the 'maters in the ground right about now. I think I will try some more patience, which is so hard when the sun is shining!

I have 14 tomato plants this year. A few too many, but who knows what will happen in the next month while waiting on the weather. I put half back up in the house & these in the greenhouse will become adjusted more quickly - at least that's the idea.

I'm using the raised bed in the greenhouse for salad greens right now. Half this group was planted on Halloween & is finally large enough to eat. The other half were started indoors the beginning of February & planted out the beginning of March. I'm munching on these too & they are a spicy Oriental blend. Should plant more!

This group of lettuce was direct seeded the beginning of March & looks like I should thin it out a bit. I'll have to see about putting some of them out into the other raised beds before I get the veggies put in.

The radish were planted a week after the lettuce above & are coming along fine. I should also thin them out & add the little seedlings to a nice spring salad. I'm craving fresh greens!!

Well, the sun is peaking from beneath the clouds & I should head out to check in on things. We've been getting frost in the mornings again - which is strange when you sit down & really think about it. We've not had frost for many weeks - the rain tends to keep things warm (as does the cloud cover), but with the return of the sunshine, the air temperature drops during the night & early morning hours & we get hit with frost. I'm glad I have some floating row covers on my raised beds - not that I've planted much in them yet...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Planning the Gardens - 2011, Part 2

Even though spring seems to be really slow in warming up & drying out, I've tried to take advantage of short bursts of sunshine & tackle a few projects in the gardens.

Number 1 priority this year: deer proof what I can. Here's what I've come up with so far (& it ain't always pretty)...

I had noticed quite early this spring (or rather late this winter...) that the deer had found all my new plantings in my front flower bed. The potentilla shrubs (twigs) had been munched on, the emerging daylilies where cropped, as well as other minor munching.

My solution: bang in some rebar & string some fishing line as an invisible fence. You can see the remnants of my attempt to tie flagging tape to the line so that I wouldn't injure myself when attempting to do anything as well as to introduce the deer to "flappy" things.

Well, the flagging tape didn't stay in place & didn't do its "flappy" thing like I had hoped (this is the biodegradable stuff that will fall off by the end of the summer).

This seems to be working as I've seen the recovery of the munched on plants, but getting into the bed myself to apply some manure (the soil is constantly washing down & will do so under the plants are larger & will hold the soil in place), is quite tricky. A few more bags of manure, some random handfuls of flower seeds & this bed will take care of itself for the summer. The rebar & fishing line fence is practically invisible & I think I'll keep it in place for a few more years til things become large enough to handle a few moments of deer munching.

My berry patches - I've now got 3 'official' ones in the yard - are of greater concern to me this year. The deer found the berries & once the berries were gone just started to eat down the plants. This is one of my raspberry patches (with gooseberries randomly planted out front). Again, I banged in some rebar & hung reclaimed fishing net around it. I'm not draping the fish net over top - it's not a pretty sight to see a bird caught in the nets & I honestly don't mind sharing with birds - it's one of my visual reminders that it's time for me to get out there myself.

This is my 2nd raspberry patch with 2 blueberry bushes & a black currant shrub. It's a much larger area to surround & I'll have to keep an eye on it as I think the deer may have jumped inside already to check things out.

Last year the deer chomped on the blueberry bushes quite hard & ruined my careful pruning so that they are now all growing in towards the center of the bush instead of outwards. I will have to let the bushes recover for another year before trying to fix this. I just hope they aren't damaged so much that they won't produce any fruit...I've waited a long time for these blueberry bushes to start producing!!

The raised beds weren't treated too badly last year - not that they produced anything (due to poor soil nutrients I find out), but I had also regularly sprayed PlantSkydds on the frames (made from pigs blood - very gross) so that might have kept the deer away. This year I can't afford the cost of the PlantSkydd spray & I've boosted the soil by adding lots of compost & manure, so hopefully they will produce lots for my kitchen.

I put the plastic on the beds back in the beginning of March to 1) warm the soil up, 2) protect the soil from the torrential rain fall and 3) protect the soil from the deer who like to walk through the raised beds. My husband built the frames from recycled plastic piping & we cut some fishing net to fit over top. Once the weather warms up &/or dries up a bit, I will remove the plastic, but keep the fishing net. I just hope the birds don't get caught up in it...

This is inside veggie bed #2. Soil Temperature has been consistent at 9 or 10 degrees Celsius for the last 3 weeks or so. I did some early planting, but not much is making an appearance.

This is veggie bed #1 - you can't really see them, but in front of the sorrel (the big green plants) are some radish seedlings that have made an appearance. I hope these grow!! The sorrel needs to be harvested - now that it's recovered from the mowing the deer gave it back in February - makes the most wonderful pesto! I usually get about 3 harvests of sorrel per year.

Well, this is a great start to the growing season. I just wish it would warm up a bit as the seedlings in the house really need to be transplanted to larger living quarters & moved out into the greenhouse.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Basket of Gold almost in bloom
Pulmonaria survived the rains - so far...
Pink lilac blooms - will I see them this year, or will the deer eat them again?
I'm keeping it short today as the sun unexpected came out & it's perfect weather to do a few things outside!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - not so wordless & a day late

The daffodils are now blooming outside & there is nothing nicer than bringing in a few blooms of sunshine to enjoy in the house when the skies open up with buckets of April showers.

My window sill's are full of herbs - these are: thyme, large leaf parsley, red Rubin basil & cilantro.

These herbs are: thyme, chervil, Siam basil and marjoram.

Snap peas & snow peas that need to be transplanted into the gardens.

Tomatoes that need to be transplanted into larger pots - again. It's still too cold to move them into the greenhouse (we had frost this morning). 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Green Thumb - Tales of a West Coast Gardener - Spring 2011

This article is now published in the Barkley Sound Community Journal - The West Island Quarterly
     The face of gardening has been changing all through Canada in recent years, with a more diverse group of people growing their own food & in more and more interesting ways.
      Here in Bamfield, many of us are using our own special techniques & dealing with problems in unique ways, but the most recent addition to our way of life as been the return of deer populations.
      We all have a soft spot in our hearts for deer (those found along the Pacific Coast are Black-Tailed Deer - either Columbian (ours) or the Sitka (northern)). But they are wreaking havoc on our attempts to grow vegetables & fruits.
      I have just finished reading an excellent book called Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden’ by Rhonda Massingham Hart. It is a broad scoping book, covering all of North America, but shares a lot of information that helps gardeners understand what the issue is & how to deal with it. Basically, though, there is no sure-fired way of deer-proofing our gardens other than buying a very large dog & installing 8 foot fencing all around our properties. I don’t think we’ll be doing that any time soon.
      There are easier ways to fool the deer & allow less stressful gardening sessions. Remember: even on your worst day, you are still smarter than the deer. I keep telling myself that in the hopes that one day I will believe it.
      The easiest way is to alter the plants we use in our landscaping. I want to introduce you to the concept of ‘Deer Resistant Plants’ - again - nothing is sure-fire deer proof, but finding alternatives to discourage or fool the deer is much simpler than the fencing method.

If it’s smelly, spiky, fuzzy or sappy, deer won’t like it as much as you do.
For example:
1) Pick plants that have texture: fuzzy lamb’s ear or rose Campion or mulleins. Ornamental grasses offer a texture that deer won’t like & the spiky flowers of coneflower, globe thistle & zinnias will cause them to move on.
2) Aromatic plants such as yarrow, rosemary, chives, sage, oregano, bee balm will confuse them with their strong scents, so lining a flower bed edge with them could allow you to grow your prize ‘tender’ plants behind.
3) Peonies, spurge (Euphorbia) and butterfly weed (Asclepius) produce a milky sap that will give the deer an upset tummy.
4) Other plants that don’t taste so good are: daffodils, snow drops, foxglove, monkshood & hellebore.
5) Shrubs (once they are large enough) that will not feel good in deer mouths include thorny barberry, boxwood, Daphne, smoke bush and spruce.

Basically, deer like a diet of bland, juicy plants: our vegetables & tender annuals.

Other things you might want to make use of to discourage deer browsing include:
1) Foul smells: soap on a rope, hair, plants, sprays, predator urine, blood meal
2) Bad tastes: hot pepper spray, rotten eggs, soap, chemicals
3) Startling sights: moving gizmos, white flapping flags, motion detector
4) Offensive sounds: rattling pie plates, boomers, radio, ultrasound, dog
5) Touch: monofilament (fish line), sprinklers (motion or timed).

The key to using strategies is: use several deterrent tactics, rotate them throughout the season, change tactics before the deer get used to them, take advantage of all the deer’s senses.

* note from author *
I am making use of fishing net around all my raised beds, berry bushes & small shrubs this year. I’m not keen on purchasing chemicals to apply as a deterrent but will use the homemade smelly remedies as they worked (sort of ) last year. Good luck & let me know what works for you!

I attended a Seedy Saturday this year at Qualicum Beach on February 5th. What a great way to start the spring season - even if February brought more snow than sunshine.

What is a Seedy Saturday?
A Seedy Saturday is a time to see food and flowering plants and seeds that will grow in your area and to get ideas from experts in all aspects of gardening.  
The SEED SWAP is where you can share your saved seeds with other local gardeners or buy seeds they have saved locally. 
NURSERIES from the region are well represented with lots of specimens for you to choose from or just to admire.  
Expert SPEAKERS discuss many aspects of gardening. 
 MASTER GARDENERS are on hand to help with your gardening problems.  SEED CATALOGUES are available. 
Local garden related VENDORS and ARTISANS have their goods for sale.

We sat in on Linda Gilkeson’s seminar to learn a few things about successful coastal gardening.
1) Don’t plant too early - here on the coast the ‘last frost date’ really doesn’t apply, it’s more about soil temperature. Also, vernalization (when small plants bolt) means that you’ve planted seeds or seedlings too early.
2) Soil Management - use lots of mulch, leaves and straw to protect your soil, stop digging deep & reduce hoeing - plant strategically & multi-layered, use cover crops to boost nutrients & add organic matter, test your pH as some veggies like acidic but most  prefer neutral.
3) Stock your Outdoor Refrigerator - learn year-round gardening & make use of protective covers.

July 1st - everyone should plant carrot seeds for winter eating!!

Maybe Bamfield gardeners can one day have a Seedy Saturday event...