Thursday, March 31, 2011

Transplant Thursday

So most of the transplanting was done Tuesday, I admit but I'm going to be potting up my hot peppers in new containers today so it's T.T.Two. Being unable to find some of my containers since the move, I improvised and made these handy large pots with half a box lined with plastic bags - all recycled! Photobucket I couldn't resist including garden dino in the picture. She's been living inside this year until we find a suitable place for her outside. My dahlias (hortensis and pinata) are in their new digs, alpine strawberries all planted up with some place new to grow and hablitzias have more space to expand. Unfortunately, one of my cats thought that this was box was a perfect spot for their big derriere and sat in it - grumble, grumble - so two of my hablitizias are convalescing. I hope for a speedy recovery. Photobucket How not to start seedlings: overcrowded goji seedlings. I also discovered that a pot of very thickly sown mystery plants were goji berries that I didn't think would germinate hence the appearance that I was sprouting them for salad or something. I think I got 200% germination (you never know, maybe they all had double embryos - could happen). So I thinned viciously and now have a sane number of seedlings growing on. Photobucket Tomato seedlings sprouted. They go outside everyday with a clear cover on if its cold, as long as it's above 0-2C against a south facing wall which increases the temperature. They come in at night. My in/outdoor containers of sauce and keeper tomatoes are sprouting. The sauce tomatoes are Opalka that did fantastically one rainy blight filled year in the northeast, along with some South American Banana sauce tomatoes that I happened to have a pack of. To add to the cold season tomato supplies, there's Winter Keeper that you can store like an apple from Mapple Farms (sweet potato slip supplier and more), Principe Borghese for sun dried tomatoes and A Grappoli d'Inverno for yanking and hanging to dry inside. Photobucket The branches are to deter the cat's bottom. The big plants are cardoon and the tray is filled with anise hyssop and violas. The latter could really use transplanting. I'm hoping to hold off on the former so it can be transplanted in situ soonish. The kids helped with the transplanting. Who knew you could get dirt EVERYWHERE but on the roots? No, they did a pretty good job and learned a lot. My eldest 7.5 years old now, put dahlia seedlings in little trenches like a trooper. Trick for fast transplanting in trays or outside. I like to make a trench with my hands or space then place seedlings in it then backfill by pushing the dirt back in, instandly righting the plants. Easier than digging individual holes. I do the same thing for bulb transplant, just remember to stagger your transplants if you don't like the regimented appearance.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eggplants in Ottawa: On your mark...

Long, asian type eggplant on highly productive plant.

The first year I tried to grow eggplants, they were pathetic. I mean ragged eared, mangy, whining puppy pathetic. I got one fruit out of it but it was whizened, overripe, small and probably bitter though I didn't taste it. What I had done wrong was assume that it would grow with the usual level of neglect I dole upon my plants.

Eggplants in the north are prima donnas.

They need heat! They need sun! They need water! They need nutrients! Provided you choose a short season variety (80 days or under is probably best), start early like tomatoes, and give them what they want, you can get an excellent crop in Ottawa.

This year, I'm growing Applegreen, Slim Jim, something unlabelled which I'm going to name 'Surprise,' and Rima F3 seed produced by in the Toad's Garden blogger in Denmark.

Sun & Heat: If you don't have an area with near full sun then they will struggle but I'm all for experimenting. More sun of course means more heat.

Here is an eggplant seedling that produced beautifully planted in the ground with plastic mulch.

To warm the soil, think raised beds and sandier soil. You can also warm it up by incoporating partially finished compost or by using plastic mulch. Some people grow in pots which is good but make sure you choose a small variety, and use a water rententive 'soil' so they don't dry out easily. Another option, one commonly employed in cool, cloudy, often coastal climes is to grow things like eggplants and melons under glass or in a polytunnel. This will cut down on the amount of solar input but has the added benefit of warming up the air and cutting back on rain splashing foliar diseases. Ottawa normally gets a decent summer so they do well (for me at least) with their heads uncovered as long as the soil is warm. Other ways of increasing heat include planting against a south facing barrier like a wall and slanting the planting beds to the south.

Flowers on a the variety Little Fingers if memory serves

Water & Nutrients: Incorporating some unfinished compost near the planting bed can provide extra water and nutrients. You could bury a plastic jug* with a pinprick hole or use ollas (terra cotta pots)* next to the planting soil to provide a slow but steady supply of water. Every once in a while give them some compost tea instead. I can see this type of watering being of most benefit if you are planting in pots or in very dry conditions.

Okay, so I'll wait while you start your eggplants and we'll do part two in May.

* Pop bottle drip watering in a pot from The Fifth Street Palace Blog
** Ollas - unglazed ceramic pots for watering. The ones traditionally used are shaped like jugs but I've seen people glue two pots together, sealing the bottom drainage hole and using the top (upside down pot) to add water. These are especially useful for drought prone areas. A serious link here from someone whose done their experimentation about DIY ceramic pot watering system. Just one pot method.

Using terra cota pots in a self watering system for starts: seedlings, cuttings.

Other uses for milk jugs



Seed Offers

Need some eggplant seed? If you promise to tell me how they do, I have some more Rima F3 seeds produced by a European amateur plant breeder. I'll happily send some along with a few Applegreen while supplies last. Let me know how they do.

I also have some cabbage seed from a cross between San Michele (blush savoy) and Red Rock Mammoth. Both are long season and these are seeds from the Red Rock Mammoth pod parent. It was an uncontrolled breeding meaning that I didn't chaperone them so I don't know if you'll get a plant that is crossed or is just Red Rock Mammoth. Actually 'just' is unfair because, in my garden, it was disease and pest resistent, stored well, tasted great and shrugged off the cold.

For those of you waiting for my excess seeds, I'm nearly finished sorting these out so I"ll drop them off this week sometime. If you want me to add either of the above, let me know.


Last Snow Day?

I was starting to think that the two people who bravely guessed late March might be right but now I'm leaning toward early April. At least, I hope it's early April!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Plants and I had the Best Day!

Glorious spring sunshine


Some of my babies hanging outdoors. From top to bottom: Rosemary, Bay Laurel, big box of alliums and perennial herbs/edibles including Caucasian Spinach (Hablitzia)*

Sunshine and above zero temperatures made for a great day for the plants and I. Those that are half hardy which was everything, except some long season solanums that I had started, was left outside for a couple hours against the south wall of the house in a little melt hollow on some warm drainage stone. I put a thermometre there and despite the wind being a bit chill, it read over 25C! That location would make a sweet spot for a lean-to greenhouse/solarium... Anyone know of some cheap to build but sturdy building plans that worked for you?

My novice origami skills.

Reverse Engineering Seed Packages

I also got together some of my seed packages to send to those who offered their help in lightening my seed load. My desire to use less plastic and spend less money meant I decided to make some little envelopes with scrap paper. Some of my seed trading friends from Europe send me these cute little packages so I attempted some reverse engineering. After various attempts, I think I got the formula. I really like this design because it is quick, pretty easy to open and close, requires no taping and, most importantly, the seeds stay put.

This appears to be the same design if you would like to try. My only suggestion is to use rectangles to start, instead of squares, by dividing a standard piece of paper into thirds envelope style and then fold that in half so you end up with 6 seed saving pouch pieces.

Tomorrow I'm going to try newspaper seedling pots.

* I'd mentioned Hablitzia tamnoides briefly the other day but it deserves more attention. A perennial, woodland climber and spinach substitute, it is a useful addition to the food forest. Read more in Stephen Barstow's article in the Permaculture Magazine.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

No Snow Day - taking bets

Looking at the apocalyptic pattern of snow/rain/sleet/frogs/ice pellets/fire raining down on us for the next two weeks, it's hard to imagine No Snow Day. We need some sustained above zero/dry/sunny weather without follow up blizzards to melt the frozen land cover.

Normally, and by that I mean 6 out of 7 years, that I have lived in this area, I have had no snow in my garden by April. Really. I'm speaking about the city rather than the outlying areas but they follow shortly afterward. Last year was an anomolously early spring where it felt like Ottawa had been picked up and transported to Windsor but this year the reverse transplantation seems to be in the works. Compared to normal spring (see above for my assessment of normal*), my crystal (snow) ball is telling me that N.S.D. will be sometime in early April this year.

What exactly is No Snow Day? That's when, with the exception of giant parking lot mounds, there is no more snow on the ground. Often we'll get flurries later than that but they're quickly burnt off the ground by the long spring sun. So I'm taking bets.

If you are in the Ottawa area, leave a comment with the day you think that the snow will be gone and if you win, you will get the choice of either a hardcover copy of Rodale Organic Gardening Almanac & Pest-Control Primer, like new (bought second hand) or one of my two copies of Secrets of Plant Propagation, depending on your predilections. Remember, if only you play, you win :)

* I am sure that there was one or many or all springs previous to my moving to Ottawa that fall outside of what I consider normal. I am not disputing this only saying that I have photographic evidence of the last 5 years (on these blogs) and only one had significant snow on the ground in April. If you disagree, that's okay. IF you know better, you should enter the contest cause you'll most likely win! :-D

** Looking forward to more adventures in Rot? The next segment of The Story of Crumbs will be about crumbs (and dryer lint, and vacuum cleaner inards etc...)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ottawa Seedy Saturday
But can you have too many seeds?

I do it for the kids. Look how happy my youngest is with our plant loot.

After a hectic drive in slushy ice, I (just) made it but I was not there to get seeds. No, I was there to give seeds away. I had a bag full of them! Unfortunately, my busy week had prevented me from organizing them into neat baggies so once again they were hastily filled and labelled behind the trade table. Did I mention I was late?

Thankfully, I Wet My Plants came to the rescue and helped. She's my bestest plant sale buddy as I see her at all the horticultural hot spots. This year I hope to hit her tomato seedling sale in the spring. I did a trade with her of course. How could I resist sweet potato tubers - Georgia Jet - for slip production?

Trade Table contributor and Fellow Garden Blogger: I Wet My Plants

I also met fellow Ottawa gardener and blog reader Steve. Wave! Speaking of old and new faces. Lots of my favourites like Tourne-Sol and Cottage Gardener were there. Waves! New to me was Wildsome Gardens, Wild & Historic Plants & Seeds. She had a nice selection of vegetables along with some wild edibles like Highbush Cranberry and Poppy Mallow. In between all the 'hey how are yas?' and shoulder rubbing in the thick crowd, I did not buy seeds. Sure I looked. Oh yeah, I asked about some varieties. Just cause I'm not touching, doesn't mean I can't look right?

There were people, plants, seeds and soap. More people, chocolate, honey and talks. More and more people... it was well attended.

While I was carousing with plants and people, the NGS (non-gardening spouse)** was with the children in the craft room. As I was standing in the doorway watching their darling heads bent in furious colouring concentration, I looked to the left and then to the right. Before leaving this morning, I had, had a little talk with myself about how I did not need anymore seeds. As I parked, I felt good about lightening my seed load. I had resisted until now but... You know what happened.

Okay, so I did get some seeds, but most of them were from the trade table. Left: bought seeds from Heritage Seed and Produce and tubers from Tourne-Sol. Right: trade table bonanza. Blue ribbon winner for labelling is a tie between 'pole beans' and 'Rumex, perennial.' I can't wait to find out what exactly they are, especially the second one. I am so guilty of this sort of labelling. Also came home with a Canna lily, True Potato Seed (T.P.S.)*** from Russian Blue, and more. Thank you so much fellow gardeners!

P.S. I still have some extras. Take them from me. Take them! If you live in the area, send me your address (email on right) and I'll send you a surprise package of edible plant seeds. I'm not promising you don't have them or even want them but heck they'll be free! Please?

* Tourne-Sol Co-operative Ferme is a seed company, and CSA if you are nearby. They have developed a very neat seed selection called Winter Green which is "a mix of brassicas we've selected for quick regrowth in cold temperatures..." It is also a source for bulk cover crops, Jeruselam Artichokes, chuffa nuts, some modern OP crops such as Banana Legs sauce tomato bred by Tom Wagner and Rainbow Lacinato Kale from Frank Morton, among other interesting plants. I've got a good feeling about these guys.

** Non Gardening Spouse is drifting over to the green and growing side. He even manned a seed booth while the owner stepped out for a moment. I don't know, we might be an all-gardening couple soon.

*** For those curious about True Potato Seed, Extreme Gardener's TPS: Who's Yer Daddy? is an enlightening article.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Seedy Saturday - this Saturday!

Just a reminder to all of you that Seedy Saturday in Ottawa is this Saturday, March 5 2011 and in Perth on Sunday, March 6, 2011. Please look at Seeds of Diversity Page for all the details.

Last year's Seedy Saturday and shiny new Seedy Sunday.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Somebody doesn't like me

So this is the second time I have taken down a post. The first time was when someone got annoyed with me about writing about how much I liked lasagna beds as this saw this as a direct attack on something they had written. It's a long story but at the time, I didn't think it was worth it. Now, I have a whole series on it if you want to reach (on the sidebar - no dig gardening).

This is the second time. Someone called me a liar! I was a little aggravated because I had just spent all morning hunting down references to make sure I wasn't being a 'liar.' In order to get my facts right, I deleted several links, including the prediction by The Weather Network for near normal temps but wet weather this spring, thinking it redundant. Despite being told over and over by various sources that we are were headed for a possibly delayed spring, including longer than average periods of cold and wet, I think I was the victim of the Weather News Scare. Most of Ontario, apparently, does not include much of Eastern Ontario so for the time being, we may be spared the cold aspect. Of course the longterm forecast is a carefully calculated statistically educated 'guess.' I am using the word loosely so we will see.

What upset me was that someone chose (without leaving their name) to accuse me of intentionally misleading people. I am not infallible. I do make mistakes though I try hard not too. Not only that, but I was trying to make a cheery post about making the best of what you are given.

Ah well. I tried.

News Stories: Toronto Sun - Cold Spring Ahead for Canadians
CBC reports: Environment Canada Forecasts Colder than Normal Spring
Environment Canada image of 3 month forecast - colder than normal for much of Canada, including Ontario
differs from The Weather Network that predicts near normal for temperatures for much of Canada