Monday, March 31, 2014

Pepper Pots

~ pretty pepper plants in a pot ~
On a cool & slushy kind of day in February (the 23rd to be exact) I seeded my peppers & put them on my heated bathroom floor to encourage sprouting. I was rewarded with an almost 100% germination rate!

They have been doing very well in the south facing, albeit cool, window underneath some reading lights.

I'll probably top up the pots with a bit more soil to help prop up the plants til its time to move them into the greenhouse for a few weeks before transplanting them into larger pots or straight into the greenhouse bed.

14 plants are a lot of plants, but my 'PLAN' was to build mini hothouses on the deck with some recycled windows I was given last fall. I'm not sure if that is going to happen in time this year, but it is on my 'to-do' list & would be a great way to grow peppers. They require so much more heat than my tomatoes do & I'd like to have 2 separate growing areas for them so that I can focus on each one instead of trying to make them share & get the best of both worlds.

Now if I could only grow basil like this....

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy First Day of Spring!

~ male mason bee emerging from house ~
The First Day of Spring (according to the calendar) started off frosty & cool, but the sun returned & allowed us to play outside. On the other side of Canada, that proved to be otherwise as I received reports from family that it was snowing once again...

I spent some time outside, communicating with the gardens, trying to get a feel for where they were going this year & happened to check on my mason bees. They started to hatch early this year, so I thought it was prudent to keep an eye on them to see what sort of population I might have around the yard.

This house I purchased last year, so the emerging bees are the first generation. Here is a little male emerging in the spring sunshine. Can't wait to see more hatching out!

~ new mason bee house ~
Here is one of my new houses I purchased this year - not attached to the post properly due to lack of hardware & early hatching of bees.

I hope to fix that in the next few days as you do not want to move the houses once the bees start to lay eggs. The females deposit a small pile of pollen & then lays the egg on top of it. As the larva hatches, it will eat the pollen & then spin itself into a cocoon to transform into a bee. If the house is moved or shaken, the egg will roll off that pollen pile & the emerging larva might starve...

~ female mason bee & cocoons ~
It's rather early in the season for many of our local & wild pollinators, but I do like finding them on those warm sunny days. The large bumblebees (another solitary bee species) have been droning around for a while & are easy to identify as they are so large & fuzzy. I hope that the spring weather warms up some more for the berry bushes to start producing flowers so our pollinating insects have something to eat!

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Weed is Not a Weed... When...

~ comfrey ~
 I enjoy a good discussion on the topic of 'What is a weed & how do I get rid of it'. Sometimes it is a matter of plant appearance or placement or misunderstanding.

I try to find ways to make certain weeds work for me & sometimes I will actually go out of my way to find them & bring them onto my property! Today's weed is: comfrey.

~ huge root ~
This is a pretty resilient plant - if you don't want it where it is growing, good luck removing it! The roots are huge & go deep into the ground. You get new plants by either cutting pieces of the root & planting them (what I did to get my initial first 4 plants) or you can divide the plants; which is what I did this year.

The piece I'm holding on the left shows how large that root has become & I was not gentle when digging this one out.

~ another large root ~
I use the leaves of the plant as mulch, either by cutting down leaves & laying them around other plants, or mowing over the whole plant with the lawnmower with the bag attached. I can probably do that about 3 times a year & the plant keeps coming back!

I've also made a compost tea from the leaves - cut several large handfuls of leaves & stalks, throw them into a 5 gallon bucket, fill with water, put a cover over it & then leave it for 7 to 10 days. The smell is awful, so watch you don't splash it on you. I dilute the liquid fertilizer & water in around my plants.

Another benefit to comfrey are the abundant flowers - the bees love them & apparently, so do ducks! I would feed our ducks last year some chopped up comfrey in their water dishes & when the plant was in flower, I'd share that with them too. I'm amazed that they didn't discover where the plants were growing & tromp all over them (I have to regrow all my thyme plants this year because of this bizarre behaviour of sitting on top of herb plants).

I initially started off with 4 plants & after my division this spring, I now have 12 with potentially 3 or 4 more from just small root cuttings... Potentially creating a monster by having so many, but I'm learning it is sometimes easier to 'grow your own soil' than bring it in...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Under a Bucket - Update & Renovate

That brilliant idea my neighbour shared with me about raising up the totes on bricks was certainly an easy one. I actually have a plethora of bricks on the property that I cycle around on a yearly basis - part exercise & part failed plan, but this one makes sense & can be easily expanded to allow for plant growth & maybe to contain some of the compost I put on in the winters...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mother Nature Waits for No One!!

~ mason bees emerging in the house ~
These are mason bees & they should NOT be in the house! I'm so glad I decided to do a little pre-planning for "March 17th - Plant your Peas Day" by going downstairs to locate my peas. I found a bee on my floor! They decided to start hatching before I put the houses & boxes of bee cocoons outside!

I purchased 2 houses with removable trays & 2 boxes of cocoons at the beginning of the month to install right in the middle of a couple of my berry patches to help with pollinating. I've got some hardware on order to make installation & removal easier, but have no idea when it will arrive. My first bee house that I got last year I had under cover beside the house & I checked it earlier in the week & thought I saw evidence that the bees were starting to emerge. Well - it's true!

The bee on the left is a female & the bee on the right (dead) is a male. Usually the males emerge first & hang around the house for when the females emerge. The males don't really do any pollinating - they are there to fertilize the females!

I quickly grabbed some bungee cords & have the houses & boxes attached to where I want them. I'll have to wait for the hubby to come home to help me attach & secure them better, in case there is another wind storm or more driving rains. The houses really shouldn't be disturbed once they are in place & as soon as I put them up, a bee came out of the box!

I hope to get some mesh installed across the front of the house as well, to aid in protecting the bees from birds intent on snacking.

(Mother Nature....please-please-please don't storm tomorrow! I need a bit of time to grab my gear to make things more secure for your little bees!!)

Beneath the Bucket - Update & Harvest!

~ first harvest of rhubarb ~
Yesterday I ran outside, in-between buckets of rain falling from the skies, & picked my first 2 stalks of rhubarb! They had outgrown the tote, so either I need to find a taller tote (or, as my brilliant neighbour pointed out, put the tote on a couple layers of bricks!) or I leave the plant uncovered for the rest of the spring. I think I'll find those bricks & cover the plant back up. There's nothing like the crisp, tart taste of the season's first rhubarb!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Green Truly is my Favourite Colour

 Yesterday I managed to play outside - it had been raining in the morning but by early afternoon, the skies cleared & I got busy!

The greenhouse has always been a 'work in progress' - usually with projects piled on the shelves that need finishing.

But I do try to always have the raised bed working for me. I seeded lettuce greens last fall & then covered the area with an extra layer of plastic to help insulate the little greens.

With some of this warmer weather we are finally receiving, the greens are growing & are very tasty!

The idea was for me to move them out into the other veggie beds to grow larger, but they are so nice & tender & ready for eating right now, I just might eat them & reseed immediately!

The nice thing about them being in the greenhouse is that the leaves are clean - no dirt splashing up on them from rains & no slugs hiding on the underside... mmmm.... just might have to go pick a bowl-full for breakfast!

Friday, March 14, 2014

What's Black & Sweet & full of Wiggles?

~ red wigglers inside the tumbler ~
 Early spring is a great time to empty your composter. I had stopped putting my kitchen compost into it around December (that's when I put it directly on my rhubarb plants for the rest of the winter).

I give my tumbler a few months to complete the composting process & allow the bugs & insects to get busy inside. I don't have a 'hot compost' - maybe if I covered the tumbler in the winter or paid more attention to the quantities of brown, green & other matter I toss in, it would do its thing more quickly.

~ wheelbarrow full of sweet smelling black gold ~

I now have a wheelbarrow full of yummy-goodness for the gardens. Then the skies opened back up & I had to cover up the wheelbarrow before it filled up with water & drowned all those wonderful red wigglers.

Hopefully the weather clears up soon, or else I'll have to transfer the compost to some totes to hold til later in the spring. I don't like applying the compost too early in the season - all those nutrients just wash away in the rain!

I now have an empty composter ready to be filled back up with kitchen & garden waste.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Plant in Recovery!

~ California Bay ~
Back in the middle of February when we returned from some time away, I had to do some drastic surgery on my California Bay (Holidays will kill your precious plants).

Today, as you can see, the bay is starting to make a fine recovery. Interesting that most of the new growth is from the lowest part of the plant. I'm tempted to cut back the tall bare stems that have little to not growth on them...

But I'll probably wait another month or so for warmer weather & more sunshine. We are under a dark rain cloud right now & I hesitate to do very much gardening for fear of being washed away!

I think I need to utilize more of the fresh bay leaves from this little plant - it has always done well after I cut a few leaves of to use in cooking.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring is Sparkling - Part 1

 I'd like to share some of my 'sparkling Spring' moments with you.

These crocus (Pickwick - check out Breck's Bulbs - crocus collection to see what other varieties there are) are one of my favourites.

Now that we don't have deer (not that the deer ate my crocus) I think I'm going to start planting more bulbs in certain sections of my lawn.

They are just so cheerful - especially when you haven't seen the sun for a few weeks!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wanna Check out my Buds??

~ blueberry buds ~
 This is the time of year when I start to feed my berry bushes, canes & trees. It's a good time to also clear out any weeds from around the base & 'fluff' up the mulch that might still be left - if the birds haven't done that already.

Today I got out between rain/snow fall & started inspecting things a bit closer. Are we ahead or behind or right on time? Hard to tell with the strange February weather we just passed through. So stop a moment & check out my bud action!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beneath the Bucket - an Update

During a break in the snow/rain that seems to keep falling this spring, I did a tour of the gardens & checked under my rhubarb buckets.

They've grown quite quickly, despite the cool temperatures. I've got my fingers crossed for harvest in another 2 weeks or so!!