Saturday 30 April 2016

End of April Update

This is an update of what's going on in the yard at the end of April.  The colour is all coming from flowers (like the crocus above - one of my spring favourites) as very few veggies are showing yet.

The daffodils are up ...

The rose bush is starting to bud ...

This is in bloom - but I can't remember what it is (but so pretty!).  It's not hyacinth is it? 

And I'm always pleased when I see some hollyhock's coming up (they are biennial but I planted them several years in a row so I usually get a few volunteers each year).

 And some annuals that I have started for this year include these nasturtiums just sprouting in the greenhouse.

And I have several flats of marigolds on the way as well in the greenhouse (plus basil and this one swiss chard):

And on to the veggies.  Here are the two boxes of garlic I planted in the fall.

I planted Music (shown here below), German White, Mennonite Porcelain, Majestic Porcelain and Red Russian.

And just a few sprigs of asparagus, with hopefully lots more on the way!

I dug up one rhubarb plant for a friend at work, but still have 4 or 5 coming up like this one:

I transplanted these brassicas late this afternoon - it is supposed to rain most of the next two days so seemed a good time to get them in the ground although they are a bit small (1 kohlrabi, 2 kale, 3 brussels sprouts, 2 broccoli, 2 cabbage and a couple of cauliflower).

In the greenhouse bed, I have some arugula and radish.

Lots of other crops have been seeded but are just barely poking up through the soil so they will have to wait for another update. I am very glad to have some rain for a day or two as it has been quite dry and I haven't been around much to water - I am worried the carrots or beets that I seeded about 2 weeks ago won't germinate as they have not been kept very moist.

Looking forward to some good eats this summer if all goes well!

Monday 18 April 2016

Garden Prep and More Seeds in the Ground - Beautiful Weekend Weather!

As usual, we've gone from piles of snow to lots of heat in just one week.  It's been quite hot the past two days and I've taken advantage of the nice weather to get some of the garden spaces ready for use.  I've moved the raised beds around a bit as some were getting a lot of grass growing in and around them.  The frames were moved onto an area with no grass and filled with fresh hay, compost and topsoil.  The space where the frames used to be will be turned over and just used as-is (so in-ground garden vs. raised bed).  This activity is also increasing the overall square footage I will have available.

The old hay bales were broken down and replaced with fresh bales.

This particular set up of bales below is new on the south end of my house.  I'll use this for most of the cucurbits.  I had a terrible bout of squash bugs and cucumber beetles last year and I've decided to start off this year in a new location.  I'm pretty sure it won't work, but I'm kind of hoping any bugs that overwintered don't find their way to the new space.

And I've managed to get some seeds sowed as well.  Here is what I planted this weekend:

I expect to sow more beets and carrots over the next month or so to keep them coming all season.  The daikon radish and mustard seeds were an impulse buy last week.  The seeds come from Tourne-Sol, a Quebec-based co-operative farm.  I bought them at an event sponsored by the Canadian Organic Growers association along with the Collards seeds (from The Cottage Gardener).

I have several weeks to go before the average last frost date has passed but everything I've planted so far should be able to handle some light frosts.  I won't be taking chances with the more delicate plants as I lost quite a few last year after getting excited by a bout of warm weather in May.

I'm linking up with Our Happy Acres as part of the Harvest Monday submissions.  Pop on over to see what other gardeners have on the go this week!

Saturday 16 April 2016

Flowers From Seed and Potting Soil - Make Your Own!

The great part of starting flowers from seed is the amazing variety!  I can go to my local grocer and pick up some petunias but there tends to be very little choice.  For the most part, I'm only growing flowers to help the vegetables I grow (distracting bad bugs or attracting good bugs for pollination).  And that generally means marigolds, nasturtiums and sunflowers.  And there are so many colours and size to choose from (well, maybe not all of those sunflowers, just a few of them!).

Here are my plans for this year:

I made a post this same time last year on this subject so won't get into detail about the flower seeds themselves.  But I thought I'd share how I make my potting soil.

I've already potted up tomato and pepper seedlings using a store-bought potting mix.  That's okay for a small amount of seedlings.  But around this time when I start many other vegetable seeds and flowers, it can get a bit pricey.  So I make my own mix.

It's a pretty loose "recipe" but I generally use 1/3 each of compost, vermiculite/perlite and peat moss.  The compost provides vital nutrients.  Vermiculite or perlite helps with aeration and drainage.  Peat helps with retention of both water and nutrients.

I need to rethink the use of peat moss simply because of its ecological impact here.  And when I say "here", I mean Canada as it is one of the world's largest (2nd?) producers of it.  Approximately 12% of Canada's land surface are covered with peat although most is in remote locations (reference here).  So maybe I'll switch to coir which is a byproduct of coconut.  But hey, I had a bag of peat moss left from last year so that's what I used!

I mix them up in an old wheelbarrow along with some water.  Flower seeds are started in styrofoam flats and left in the greenhouse until ready to be planted outside - many weeks from now!!

Monday 11 April 2016

Harvest Monday: April 11, 2016 - Tomato/Pepper Seedling Update

This is my submission to the Harvest Monday collection hosted by Our Happy Acres. As I have nothing to harvest this early in the season, I thought I'd share an update on my seedlings - which will hopefully lead to many successful harvests later on!

I've spent part of this weekend transplanting these from their peat pellets into 4" pots.  I rip a small tear in the bottom of the peat pellets then simply pop them into pots and fill them up with potting soil.

So far, I have transplanted the following seedlings.

8 Chocolate Cherry
7 Heirloom variety
9 San Marzano

8 Xanthia
1 Jalapeno
4 Gypsy
4 Super Red Pimiento
4 Feher Ozon
8 King of the North

The San Marzano seeds were several years old and I was not expecting so many to germinate.  I wasn't really planning to grow sauce tomatoes but felt I should use up the rest of the seeds rather than throw them out.  The Heirloom variety was a mixed seed packet including some of my favourites like Black Krim and Brandywine.

After commenting previously how hot peppers have always been so easy for me to grow, I was somewhat surprised that only one of the jalapenos has germinated well enough for transplanting, but the seeds are several years old.  There are a couple more jalapenos on their way but are just too small for now.  I also have just a few Hungarian Hot Wax (again, another surprise that I've struggled to get many seedlings) and only a couple of Ancho (disappointing for sure, but I seeded another set a couple of weeks after the first and still hoping to get some more).  I also have three more tomatoes seedlings and more Feher Ozon.  These will all need at least another week or two before being moved into the larger pots.

I also had many that have not germinated at all.  I will give them another week or two between the heat mat and the lights.  I certainly hope to get more Ancho and Hungarian Hot Wax as I have so few, but I also did not manage to germinate a single Cowhorn pepper - I tried these same ones last year as well and did not get a single seed to germinate.  I would like to blame the seeds but I really need to consider my germination methods.  I am definitely not going to make the effort to pre-germinate seeds as that is too much work for me but I have read quite often that peppers don't germinate well in peat so I may need to reconsider my approach next year.

In the meantime, I will keep my fingers crossed for the remaining seeds!  And maybe not a rush as it just snowed another few inches last night.  Ugh.  Should be gone within 24 hours with the warmer temperatures but getting very frustrated that winter won't go away.

Saturday 9 April 2016

Sweet Potatoes: Day 34

If you read my previous post on growing sweet potatoes, you will know that this was not my original plan.  Mostly because they seem very fussy to me.  But maybe not so much ... I've spent several hours earlier today transplanting tomatoes, peppers and such into pots (to be shared in another post) and for the second stage of these sweet potatoes, well, I kinda just popped the slips into another jar. 

Quite a bit less fussy than other plants now that I think about.  IF I've done this right, that is.  I'm relying on youtube videos, etc. to figure out what to do here as it is not very intuitive to me.

The roots of the sweet potatoes (or at least that middle one) were root-bound. 

Maybe I should have used larger jars but the sweet potatoes themselves were so small, I just went with the smaller ones (250 ml).  And they were constantly needing more water - it seems the roots were very thirsty! 

So even though the slips were not as large as some I've seen in the tutorials I've watched, I felt it was time to move to the next stage - which means the "slips" or sprouts are to be plucked from the potato and placed themselves into a jar of water (or wet soil) so they will themselves begin to grow roots.  It is these rooted slips that eventually get planted outside in the garden.  This is the part I was unsure of ... did I pick them at the right spot?  It seemed to me they were all attached to the potato from the same spot, so I really only ended up with one slip per potato - not sure that is the way it works?

Here they are after placing the slips into their own jars.  I have kept the sweet potatoes in water (most of them put into larger jars to accommodate the growing roots) in the hopes more slips will grow - but depending on how long it takes, I'm not sure there will be sufficient time to grow more large enough for planting in June.

These last ones have purple leaves while the first two are predominantly green.  I was told they were either Georgia Jet or some offshoot so I don't anticipate the potatoes themselves to be any different. 

It's a bit late to ask for advice on this stage, but if anyone has thoughts on something I might not be doing correctly, please let me know in the comments ... I've come this far, so I want to be sure I am doing it right!

The 6 jars of potatoes and slips back in their window spot

Friday 8 April 2016

The Disparity of April

Here is a typical spring picture of tomato and pepper seedlings sitting near a window with southern exposure.  There have been a number of sunny days lately which have supported this wonderful growth in the plants.

But the disparity of April weather ... do you see what's in the top right corner of the picture?  Let's get a close-up.  Ugh.  I had 4-5 inches of snow two days ago with more flurries today.  It's still really cold here ...

Monday 4 April 2016

Harvest Monday: April 4, 2016

This post is my submission Harvest Monday hosted weekly by Our Happy Acres.  And it is a real harvest this week, as little as it may be!

This is a lettuce blend but at this early stage it's hard to tell.  Doesn't matter, it was so nice to have my own fresh greens!  I gave the entire batch a haircut so I won't have anymore any time soon, but it was totally worth it for a small salad of baby greens.

Once the weather warms up a bit, I'll transplant it straight from this pot into the garden bed inside my greenhouse.  Hopefully next weekend as we are going through another cold snap here with a high temperature below zero on Sunday and most nights (and some days) this week similarly in the freezing range.

I'm looking forward to seeing how others are progressing with their seedlings and more advanced crops in other locations through the Harvest Monday links.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Seed Potatoes for 2016

Well, there is one thing that I seem to be consistent with - when I start to chit the seed potatoes.  It was almost this same weekend last year when I brought out the leftover potatoes from my cold room to start preparing them for planting (although many had started to sprout even in the dark, cold store room so not much prep required!).

This year I had to buy some as I had none left from my own harvest.  Plus ... I really wanted to try some of those Linzer potatoes that Margaret grew last year.  I had planned on ordering from the same supplier, but ran across several folks selling seed potatoes at a Seedy Saturday in Ottawa (the same one where I found the sweet potatoes) and saw some Linzer's available. 

I'm leaving the potatoes in their bags to keep them in order and they have already started to sprout a bit so no need to do anything else for now.  But so far, here's what I'll plant (some time in May most likely).

Two varieties are from Bear Root Gardens, including the Linzer fingerlings which are new to me this year.  I love fingerling style potatoes and these are considered an early maturing variety.

Irish Cobbler is a regular for me, another white skinned potato, also early maturing.

And this last variety is new to me this year as well - Pink Fir Apple.  It comes from Beaver Pond Estates, not far from where I used to live in Lanark County.  As you can see from the label, it is an heirloom potato, also fingerling style.  It is generally described as light-pink skinned and knobby - should be interesting!  From what I've read, it is common in the UK but just starting to become known in North America (although I'm betting most keen gardeners have known about them for a while and they just aren't mainstream yet).

And I might grab some more potatoes from the local store as I didn't manage to get any red skinned (so most likely Red Chieftain, a regular for me) and sometimes it's just nice to have some different colours on your plate!

Any new potatoes in your garden plans this year?