Posts filed under ‘Gardener’s Journal’

Weeds o’ Glorious Weeds! Gardeners Journal 7/11/11

I was away for a couple of weeks and even with the help of a super house/garden sitter – the weeds had taken a hold over some of the beds!  It took me all last week (and a lot of sweat) to get it under control, but now I’m back on schedule – I have started to implement the fall/winter vegetable plan.

I sowed some brassicae in the cold frame (and covered it with burlap for shade).  I need to dig up some potatoes to make room for the transplants in three weeks or so.  After doing the Weed Management part of the County Extension’s course in Organic Vegetable Production, I know that I should prepare the beds two weeks in advance, then slice off any pesky weeds that sprout just before I transplant or sow more seeds.

I emptied a small bed of strawberries since they didn’t produce very well and were infected with a fungal disease – I am going to use it for carrots.  My best carrot crop ever was from the cold frame this year, sown in February and picked in June – the rest of my attempts this season have proved fruitless (or carrotless), however I am determined to work out the best way to grow them in the main garden, and I want to try them after the frost – they are supposed to be really sweet then.  Here is my plan – I will build up the sides of this small square bed and fill it with composted leaves and bought compost.  Then sow the carrots and leave them under a board or burlap for a couple of weeks – then flame weed the bed just before the carrot seedlings come up… we’ll see!

On the harvesting front – we have enjoyed an abundance of blueberries – so juicy and nice, raspberries (don’t know if they are good, since I don’t eat them) and green beans have been particularly good – I read in the Victory Garden cookbook that after steaming, you should dry them out in a dry saucepan before adding butter or whatever else – it works!  They are delicious!

I’m a bit worried about the tomatoes – they look OK but they do have signs of some disease at the bottom – unfortunately due to a bad reaction to a wasp sting, I wasn’t able to attend the Disease Management part of the Organic Vegetable Production course, so I’m not sure what it is – I’m hoping it is not Early or Late Blight.  What I did learn from reading the literature though was that once a plant shows signs of disease, it is generally too late to do anything about it by spraying, so I have been removing infected leaves (in dry weather) and putting them under plastic to kill them (spores cannot live on dead plant tissue).  My Early Girl tomatoes are not living up to their “before July 4th” expectation – still green.. I guess you have to have a greenhouse to get them that early.  The trellising technique seems to keeping the growth of the tomatoes under control, the real test is when the plants are full of fruit and it rains like crazy – then we’ll see if they are still standing (unlike the cages that normally fall down).

I’m very happy with all my companion planting – the borage, marigolds, catnip, alyssum and many others are all attracting the good bugs – I haven’t seen that many “bad bugs” so far.  An interesting development, whilst I was away, the radishes I planted around the squash and the cucumber went to flower and the honey bees love them!  I have left them in place, they even have seed pods on them, so I might save the seed (have to check they are not hybrids first).

July 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm 1 comment

Strawberries Galore! Gardener’s Journal 6/6/11

Hurrah!  I have harvested 10lbs of delicious strawberries over the last week or so.  Some are sweeter than others but all are sooo much better than those Californian strawbs with all their associated air miles.

I made my first ever strawberry jam last night – I can’t believe how easy it was! 4 cups of mashed strawberries, 1oz of low sugar pectin and 2 cups of sugar – stir the pectin into the strawberries, heat it to boiling, stir in the sugar and boil for 1 min and voila –  2.5 pints of strawberry jam.  So much easier than pasta sauce – none of that stirring for 4 hours.  The jam even passed the Marcus test!(Never did get the homemade tomato ketchup passed by him).

What else is going on in Winifreds Little Acre – well, I sowed my beans today – I am trying red kidney beans and garbanzo beans (since those are the two beans we eat a lot) and there is no pressure to harvest them since you let them dry out before picking.

The peaches are in need of thinning and there are signs of oozing from bug penetration in some of them, but not a majority like last year – maybe my homemade fruit tree spray is working a little.. The apple tree has baby apples but is showing signs of cedar apple rust, so the fruit spray was ineffective on that disease.  The peas are coming but there aren’t enough of them to make a meal, so mainly they are for snacking in the garden.

I spotted (and squished) a couple of Colorado Potato beetles a week ago and haven’s seen any since, but my poor asparagus is suffering under the strain of asparagus beetle larvae – I sprayed it with Neem last week, but that didn’t have any effect.  I’ll try spinosad this week – there are too many to hand squish.

We’re in for some hot weather this week, so I have to get my watering system organized – I need more soaker hose and I think I’m going to get some drip irrigation for the new (straight) beds outside the deer fence.

June 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment

An Excellent Weekend for Transplanting! Gardener’s Journal 5/22/11

So the weather co-operated, at least for a couple of days, and I managed to get all my tomatoes, peppers and companion plants (that I started in the basement back in March) into their rightful places in the ground.  Hurrah! Now it is raining again, which is good in a way, since I spread some groundcover seed too – clover in the tomato beds and alyssum in the pepper/eggplant bed.  The rain will help their germination and for the seedlings to get settled in too.  However, I’m a bit concerned about the developing fruit which is susceptible to fungal diseases when they don’t get chance to dry out.

I was a bit sad at the start of the day since I had to remove a huge patch of comfrey from one of tomato beds (I had already transplanted some elsewhere) but the (native) bees really like the flowers on it and I was taking away their food.  Once it was dug out though I was glad I’d done it, so now all my veggie beds are free of perennials.  Don’t get me wrong though, I have plenty of perennial herbs and flowers around to attract the good bugs and feed the bees etc. – it just wasn’t very practical to have perennials in the annual beds.  The exception is my asparagus bed which is not in the “right” place since I missed the window of opportunity last year to move it to its planned permanent bed, but it is OK  where it is and it is producing..even my oldest son Torri likes it now!

That brings me to the bugs!  The battle has begun!!  I spotted (and squished) some asparagus beetles last week – this weekend the larvae was out, so I have been squishing them as I see them.  The flea beetles have left my radishes alone this year – which is highly unusual, but they have started to attack my seedlings and potatoes already.  Last bug moan – I spotted some kind of tiny caterpillar on the grape vine – I’m going to look that up and maybe spray it with Bt (when it stops raining).

May 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm 3 comments

Six Days of Rain So Far – Only Two More To Go! Gardener’s Journal 5/19/11

What a wet week!  I have been trying to protect my seedlings and the plants in the cold frame by covering them during the downpours, and quickly uncovering them when the it stops in a vain attempt to get them to dry out a bit.  Can’t do anything about plants in the ground though – actually, if nothing rots, the rain seems to have brought on the potatoes, onions and beans pretty well (same applies to the weeds of course!).

I did manage to get out into the garden yesterday morning – I fulfilled my personal mission of converting some of my sons’ old trampoline into a low tunnel to protect the sweet potatoes from unwanted invaders.  It looks a little strange, but that’s OK – it all adds to the uniqueness of Winifreds Little Acre!  I also edged around the raspberry fence that is hopefully going to protect the other crops outside the deer fence – I had a problem with escaping raspberries into my blueberries this year, so I decided to pre-empt the problem in this new raspberry patch. 

The bees haven’t had too much chance to fly due to the rain,  but hopefully they are still busy sorting out their new home.  I’m a little worried about the baby peaches with their soft fuzzy skin – all this rain might take a toll.  I’m planning to give them another holistic spray this weekend to help them out.

I have my curcubits – summer squash, cucumber (2nd sowing – first one failed) and melons in the basement germinating as I write hopefully.  They should be ready to go out in a couple of weeks – they normally grow pretty fast.  I’m looking into how to protect them from the cucumber beetle – they were all badly affected last year by bacterial wilt – so far my plan is to plant a ring of radish before I transplant them and then to cover them as soon as I put them out.

Looking forward to a great transplanting weekend – my babies are all ready to go out into the real world!

May 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

Here Comes the Rain (again)! Gardener’s Journal 5/15/11

Hi all, I’m getting back to writing my blog.  My parents have gone back to the UK after a great month-long visit.  My Dad was a star! @72yrs old he opened up ~ 200 ft2 of virgin clay ground covered in vegetation (mostly goldenrod – so not an easy task!).  It got drier and harder as the days went on, but he persevered and I even managed to plant my sweet potatoes (arrived in the mail last week)  in two of the beds before they left!  I didn’t have enough compost to mix in to make the soil really nice, but hopefully the sweet potatoes won’t mind too much (I sprinkled over some organic fertilizer before planting them). 

This morning, my sons & I transplanted some raspberry shoots in front of the beds to make a living fence to hopefully deter the deer from entering the new garden area – we’ll have to see how that works!  For now, I also cover the sweet potatoes with row cover for some insurance – they actually don’t look very tasty at the moment since they are pretty dead looking when they arrive.  (I planted them like that last year though and they grew pretty well).

It was actually a bit of a bonus gardening day today since it was supposed to rain all day but it actually only drizzled and then got quite nice by the afternoon.  I transplanted my first tomato plants – 3x Early Girls – they look pretty healthy, I’m pleased with the quality of seedlings.  I have been putting the whole lot of the seedlings from the basement out every day for about three weeks and a couple of days ago, I put them in the cold frame in the main garden and left it open at night – it is in the 50F’s now, so cold is not a problem.  I plan to transplant most of the other seedlings within the next couple of weeks into their respective spots.

Excitement on the fruit-growing front – we have baby peaches, apples, strawberries, gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries growing!  I sprayed the apple and peach with the holistic spray mixed with kaolin clay to hopefully prevent pests getting into the fruit.  So far so good on the cedar apple rust – no sign of it on the apple trees.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed and give it another spray when it stops raining next weekend!

May 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm Leave a comment

Getting Busy! Gardener’s Journal 4/27/11

It’s getting busy in the garden now!

My parents arrived from the UK last week and I been keeping them busy digging new beds and tidying up the perennial beds out front.  I have been busy repotting some of the seedlings – even though it has turned warm all of a sudden, I am not planning to put out the tomatoes, peppers etc. for another couple of weeks at least, so they needed a new temporary home.  I harvested the bottom box of the vermicompost (worm), mixed it with 1/3 part coir and 1/3 part vermiculite for the potting mixture – it seemed to be a little lacking in substance compared to the commercial mix I had been using but at least it was homemade (aka cheaper) and the seedlings will tell me if its good or not. They have been enjoying the warm weather in the last couple of days (and I have been saving electricity), by putting them outside in the daytime to see the real sun instead of pretend fluorescent lamps!

I sprayed the apple & cherry trees and the grape vine yesterday with the homemade spray – molasses, vinegar, fish and seaweed.  I couldn’t do the peach since it is in full bloom right now – how pretty it is!  I do have some blooms on the cherry tree, but not much coverage.  I did purchase some Neem oil to add to the mixture but it was solid, so I have to take it back.

On the harvesting front – we have been enjoying the asparagus – super tasty.  I read in the Victory Garden cookbook, that you can peel asparagus so that the lower less tender portion is more palatable – that worked great!  We had friends over for Easter lunch and we had plenty for a small appetizer.  We finished the first radish crop and have been taking the odd lettuce leaf from the cold frame for our lunches.  The lettuce seedlings I transplanted into the garden are much less happy than the ones in the cold frame, I think it got a bit too cold on a couple of nights and also the soil is much less rich – it was a bit of a shock to them – hopefully they will buck up and start growing soon..  I also transplanted six broccoli seedlings from the cold frame – I have them under fabric to protect them from the dreaded cabbage worm that ate them all last year.

May 5, 2011 at 12:31 am Leave a comment

Gardener’s Journal – 4/13/11

Hurray, the peas are coming up! Despite all this cold and rainy weather (and my impatience)!  The carrots also germinated under the board I had over them to stop the seeds getting washed away – but now I am worried about the effect the rain is having on them – they were a little spindly since they took me by surprise and germinated quicker than expected.  Time will tell if they make it – if they can get through today, they should be OK since we have a little break from the wet coming up tomorrow.

The seedlings in the basement are doing well – even my basil has germinated, usually I have difficulty with basil for some reason, but all the new seeds are coming up, the seed from last year is being a bit more temperamental – maybe basil seed doesn’t keep well – I’ll have to look that up.  I’m a bit afraid the lights aren’t bright enough, since there doesn’t seem to be a lot of growth from the plants once they get their first leaves.  Mike McGrath says you should change out the lamps every year, but I was trying to save the planet (and the dollars) by not doing that.  I heard on his show this week that the LED grow lights are pretty effective – I will look into those – good from an energy efficiency standpoint, probably not too easy on the pocket though.

I’m pleased with the transplanted lettuce and kale – all doing well in the garden, and the mache and other radish that I sowed last week is coming up too.  The garlic plants are going crazy – I sprayed them with some fish fertilizer a couple of weeks ago, I may do that again soon since I can’t quite be bothered put compost around each one of the plants.  Can’t wait to harvest the first asparagus – it is starting to shoot upwards now – I have to check my reference books to see what is the best way to harvest (first time for me) and how long to keep cutting, etc.

April 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm 2 comments

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