Look at What I am Growing and Why I Haven’t Been Writing

I started out this year by setting a goal for myself. I had been successful last year growing tomatoes and selling them to my friends. I received a lot of good feedback as well. I wondered this year just how many plants could my 8′x20′ greenhouse produce. My friend Mark had asked if I could grow 5000 plants but after doing the math I knew my greenhouse wasn’t capable of holding that many plants. My friends and acquaintances know I am passionate about seeds and seed saving so it was a given that I would order a few seeds and plant once again. It’s like an addiction but its good for my soul. To see each seed sprout and grow to full maturity makes me happy. I guess if that’s all I need to be happy its a good hobby.

heirloom tomatoes

So I started my tomato seeds in early March and this is how they look today. They are 3″-4″ high and looking very healthy. I must admit that after the 500th tomato seedling I had had enough. I placed the last few babies outside thinking they would perish on the potting table. No, tomatoes just will not die for me so any soil leftover has been dumped on the garden beds and I envision stray seedlings popping up everywhere.

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In the greenhouse I have been able to grow around sixty flats of plants. Most of the tomato plants are heirloom varieties which means they are seeds that came about before the 1950′s. Some of the tomatoes are being grown solely for seed to send to a seed bank. Some are for my personal use and the rest I hope to find homes for. So this year I am holding my plant sale on May 3 and hope everyone will come by. Even if you don’t buy something we can chat about plants and linger over coffee.
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There are also beans, cucumbers and zucchini in the greenhouse. I am trying to grow a few new types recommended for containers. You see here on the west coast of BC real estate is so expensive. That leaves many young families living in condos and townhouses with space for just a few containers.

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I had literally thousands of Red Russian Kale seeds so I have several flats of this soft leaved Kale. DSC05490

I also have flats of Lacinato Kale which is new to me this year. There is nothing better than a kale salad at summer barbeques.

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It always puzzles me why people don’t grow celery. It’s so easy to grow and is a cool season plant. Just don’t plant six plants at once or you will have so much celery at harvest that you will be making soup with it. A couple of plants at a time is more than enough. Celery is way larger than you see in the grocery stores. By the time it is trimmed up they celery plant has been stripped of half of its outer leaves and stalks. You really have to grow it to see the size it can get.

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So that’s why I am not writing lately. I am heading out to pot up over two hundred basil plants today and get some needed weeding done before the big Easter egg hunt in the garden. So if you live in my hood, my sale is on May 3 from 9-2 in Ladner. A poster will come out shortly. It just needs to rain before I get the advertising done. I can’t waste time inside on a sunny day.

 

Tulips and More Tulips To Come

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I just love seeing the Tulips with their petals wide open catching the suns rays. I bought a few spring bulbs last fall and I am finally seeing them bloom. Last week I showed you this one, Tulip turkestanica, which grows to about 10″ high with up to three flowers per stem. They looked so pretty in the garden but I was puzzled. I had purchased a mixed package of species Tulips and thought they had all bloomed at once. I was wrong. I just hadn’t waited long enough. One thing you need in the garden is patience.

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The White Emperor Tulips had just opened yesterday. They aren’t a true white but more of a cream with a hint of yellow. Still very lovely in full bloom.

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Had I looked a little closer yesterday I would have seen a different Tulip in bloom down near the edge of this container.

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Here is a closeup of Tulip tarda. It’s so tiny reaching just 4-6″ that I almost missed it. This is one Tulip I hoped to see grow from this mixed package.

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Once I walked the garden I found more Tulip tarda peeking through the crocus foliage.

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This container was placed on the cement drain as its such an eyesore in the garden. In the center are the White Emperor Tulips surrounded with both Tulip turkestanica and Tulip tarda. There are more surprises to come as I spied tiny Liatris shoots popping up as well. I am anxiously waiting for a new Tulip to open. Its buds are tightly closed as it waits for its cue.

 

The Amazing Egg Race & Learning About Plant Parts

Yesterday I had the grade three class come to the Ladner Community Garden for a garden lesson. We were going to do the usual things like planting seeds and potatoes but I wanted to see how well they knew the parts of a plant. How could I make this lesson more fun  than just labelling a diagram? As I lay in bed one night it hit me. I am a big fan of the Amazing Race reality show although anything those people do on the show is definitely not anything I would do. I don’t have the stamina for that much action but children certainly do. I went on the internet to look for a diagram of a plant. I found one and decided to just sketch it out on plain paper.

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The next step was to label each plant part and divide the diagram into sections, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.

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Since this is the last garden class before Easter I gathered the plastic eggs I had stored away for the holiday.

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I folded each plant part carefully and inserted them in the eggs. Now there is a trick to this. I made sure that each plant part had its own colour of egg. So all the flower sections went into pink eggs and leaves into green and so on. I got to the community garden early and hid thirty plastic eggs before the children arrived. I placed a cardboard tray like the one below for each team along the fence line so they all started at an equal distance from the garden. I went over the rules as to how they had to glue or tape their completed puzzle to the box.

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The children raced all over looking for eggs but only some checked inside to see which part of the plant they had. It wasn’t long before a little girl noticed that all the eggs had to be a different colour. if the children found they had two of the same pieces they had to go hide the egg again.
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Team 3 came in first and we discussed the plant parts after everyone was done. The teacher noticed the diagram wasn’t really in order of how a plant grows but that’s okay. The children not only had lots of fun but they learned how to work as a team.

 

Peas, Beans & Potatoes & Lets Plant Edibles in Containers!

This week  I had a wonderful time presenting at  a sustainable garden class run by the Corporation of Delta and at Moments for Moms at South Delta Baptist church this morning. For the new gardeners who need to remember some of what we talked about this week, here it is. I talked about growing peas,broad beans and potatoes in containers and in the ground. Peas and potatoes and broad beans can all be direct sown by seed this month.

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These are commonly known as English beans at farmers markets. They can be planted in late fall for an early spring crop or in March for harvest in June. So how deep do I plant a seed? Good question! Be sure to read each package for directions as the seed supplier always has great information. The norm is to plant seeds three times their depth. Broad bean seeds are large and can be planted two inches deep and 6-9” apart. Harvest when pods are full and branches begin to droop. Lets say we want to grow them in a container. You are not limited to how you grow vegetables. In a container I would only plant one seed in a five gallon pot. The plants themselves will be about three feet high and a foot wide so they need room to grow. You will harvest lots of beans from just one plant. 

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One of every gardeners all time favourites are peas. Peas love cool weather and they are one of the first vegetables you can plant. Before you get started its best to decide which type you will grow. I like to grow heirloom peas such as Little Marvel or Lincoln Homesteader. You may want to grow something different. Try to choose open pollinated varieties so you can collect seeds for the next season. You will need to plan how to grow your peas. They will need some kind of support. You can attach a trellis to one end of a raised bed or use some of the pea growing nets available. I like to place a four-foot 1” thick post at each end of the bed and tack up some kind of netting across the bed. Be sure to leave room in between so its easy enough to harvest your peas. Once the supports are in place its time to plant the seed. If you haven’t used innoculant before add it to the soil as you plant your peas. It will help them gather nitrogen from the atmosphere. This results in healthier plants. Plant peas about 1” deep and about 18’ apart in the ground. If you are growing peas in containers you can plant closer together. You can see by the container above that I planted three pea seedlings in the container spacing them equally apart. You can plant three pea seeds in the pot as well to have some succession planting going on. To add some colour to the container, I added three Viola plants. Both peas and Violas are cool season plants that will start to wind down about the same time. 

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Choose a good sized container such as a five gallon pot or larger. Fill it will some lightweight potting mix. I absolutely love the brand of soil above which can be found both at West Coast Seeds in Ladner or at Save On Foods. It is light and easy to use.

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I added a support system using three bamboo stakes and topped them with a rubber topper which holds all three stakes together. No more trying to tie them together. Add a line of good string around the stakes about halfway up and be sure to gently guide your pea plants up the supports. Peas have long tendrils that tend to cling but they need a bit of help sometimes.

Potatoes are easily grown but if you are growing in the ground work the soil so it is friable and easy to plant. Potatoes planted directly in the ground are planted using seed potatoes, available at most garden centers. The hardest part is deciding which variety to grow. You will see all sorts of gadgets such as grow boxes and cylinders that will tell you how to grow more potatoes. Ignore all that. Just plant them in the ground and hill them. I am a lazy gardener and with time so precious, do it the easy old-fashioned way. 

I like to plant my seeds about 12” deep in loose soil in raised beds. You can hill your potatoes as they grow but they will still produce even if you don’t. Never add lime or fresh manure to your soil when growing potatoes. They prefer our acidic soils best. Plant your potato seeds about 18” apart so they have room to grow. Most of the growth is underground. When the plants are about 12” high you can begin to mound soil around the plants. Potatoes only grow above the seeds so that’s why you hill them. As your plants mature they will flower. You can tell by the flower which potato it is. In July you will see the plants finish flowering and the foliage will start to look like ts dying. Cut back on watering now as your potatoes finish growing under the ground. I like to feel around below the ground in June for a few early potatoes. Potatoes are best harvested in July. 

So you want to grow your potatoes in a container. You can but make sure your container is large. You want to start by using one that is at least 7 gallon size or larger. I grew potatoes in a five gallon pot last summer and it only yielded eight potatoes so your harvest is lower when using a small container. To grow them in a container, place a small amount of soil in the bottom and place a potato seed in the middle. Make sure there are eyes on your seed potatoes. This is where the growth begins. Cover it with just a couple of inches of soil. You will watch the plant sprout and as it grows you will add more soil. You see, the potatoes only grow above the seed and by continuing to add soil as it grows it will increase your harvest. We are trying to mimick the hilling we would do when planting in the ground. 

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Today at Moments for Mom’s I planted a basket container. I love this container! I lined it with a hanging basket liner which allows the water to drain easily. Hopefully as the plants grow the edges will be covered. I used two herbs in the center but could have done just one. Today I planted Parsley and Chives in the basket after adding a few inches of soil to the basket. Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin A,C and E. It is classified as an annual herb meaning it grows for one season and dies. Fortunately, often parsley will drop its seeds and will reappear in the garden the following year. Sometimes it will survive the winter if it is mild. Few insects bother parsley but it is loved by beneficial insects, the good bugs. The word parsley comes from the greek word petros meaning rock. This may refer to the herbs ability to cure kidney stones. Chives have anti fungal properties and is a useful companion plant in the garden. They help to deter aphids and fungal diseases on plants such as mildew and black spot on roses.

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To make things easier, use a table or overturned plant pot to create your containers. This saves bending over to plant.

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Next I added both red romaine lettuce and green leaf lettuce alternating the plants around the sides of the basket. For me, it’s also about the foliage. I want the basket to look pretty as well as be functional. As you plant each plant, grab a handful of soil to add to the sides as you go. Its easier to add soil as you go to make sure your plant roots are covered.

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I squeezed in a couple of Violas for colour and the basket was done. Now its ready to be watered.

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Since it is so close to Easter I thought I would place some ceramic eggs into the basket. I actually found these pretty eggs at the thrift shop.

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I love adding a bit of extra whimsy to each container I make. Why not? Are you looking to learn more about vegetable gardening? Check out the Corporation of Delta’s Sustainable Garden classes here. I look forward to doing the classes and every one of them has been filled. Add yourself to the waitlist if need be. I am always willing to work a little longer to spread the passion for growing local food.

Someone asked me how many plants to place in a 12″ container. Here is a short list:

Broccoli-1

Butterhead Lettuce-4

Carrots-14

Cucumbers-1

Kale-1

Lettuce Mixes-14

Peppers-1

Radishes-13

Romaine Lettuce-4

Spinach-4

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Tomatoes-1

Zucchini-1

 

 

Tea Cup Arrangements for a Baby Shower

Its been a busy weekend getting ready for my daughter in laws baby shower. I was asked to make a few centerpieces for the tables. Now I am a gardener not a florist but I gave it my best. Its early spring and I have a few flowers out in the garden so I headed out with a basket to collect a bunch not knowing really which ones would work. You see, I was arranging them in a tiny tea cup. Large flowers would be out of scale in a tiny cup so they wouldn’t do. I collected Heather, greenery from Choisya, tiny Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ Muscari, Quince and  Magnolia stellata. I headed inside where my tea cups lay waiting to be done. I had remembered to soak some oasis while I went outside. I grabbed my tiny flower snips and I was ready to go.

spring tea cup arranging

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Cutting the oasis to fit is a bit tricky. Its easier to make it a bit larger and kind of squish it in so it’s a tight fit. Kind of like fitting a square into a round hole. Of course, the bright thing to do would be to use a round cookie cutter and cut it to fit. Like I said, a florist I am not. This worked for what I was doing. The oasis was about one inch thick.

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I played around by adding Muscari first. I love blue in the garden and have lots of them. DSC05391

 

Next I added some greenery as filler and poked in some Heather blooms. I like the purple and blue combination so far. Next I wanted to add the miniature Narcissus but the stems were so fragile that they were awkward to insert in the oasis without breaking them. You would have to make a tiny hole for a stem first using a skewer before adding the Narcissus. I also didn’t like the yellow. It was too harsh. I had to try something different. I tried the quince flowers but the stems looked too woody.

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That’s when I added the white Magnolia stellata blooms. White was the perfect colour to complete this arrangement.

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Two tea cups were arranged using the same flowers and I liked them. The pinks, whites and blues looked stunning!

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This was a fun project and one that I would try with other tiny flowers. Why not set a table for Easter or Mothers Day with them? I know I will be.

 

Over 1000 Plants and More to Come!

I have been a very busy gardener this last month. I think I planted the first tomatoes around the first of March.  To date I have over 450 heirloom tomato plants in the greenhouse and a total of just over 1000 plants. I can hardly move in the greenhouse. Every inch of space is taken. I had to get creative and find more room. If I didn’t I would end up tripping over plants and that won’t do.

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The tomatoes are finally all potted up into four-inch pots. There may be a few more stragglers but I am so done. That’s a lot of pot washing. Each week I say I am done potting up but more seeds germinate. There are always seeds that decide to take their sweet time.

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Last year I was asked if I grew herbs for sale. Well, last year my seeds just didn’t grow. I made a point of collecting fresh seed last fall and look at what I have now. The Sage grew quickly and will be nice for any herb container.

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Not only am I growing vegetables, I am also growing Sunflowers for the Great Sunflower Project which is what my school garden class will be participating in this year. The students will be thrilled to see their seeds have grown. They won’t be planted until late April so I am the babysitter of the Sunflowers for a bit.

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I will never figure out Basil. I grew lots last year, no germination, not one plant! This year I cannot keep up with it. I already have over three dozen plants just from this tiny four-inch pot. I have two more pots of Basil waiting to be potted up. Okay, it was a given I would grow Basil since it goes so well with tomatoes.

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All the cool season plants such as kale, cilantro, peas and lettuce are hardening off in this little free-standing greenhouse. The best part is I got this portable greenhouse for free. As you can see, things are spilling on to the sidewalks. Plants are everywhere.

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The strawberries are huge! It must have been all our rain. It looks like I am a bit short of my target of having 500 tomato plants but I am happy with what I have grown to date. I never dreamed I would be able to grow, let alone fit over 1000 plants in my greenhouse. Why did I grow so many you ask? I set a goal for myself and that was good. I will be hosting a plant sale on May 3 from 9-2 at my home in Delta. I will also have another plant specialist coming to be part of the sale. I am busy working on details like signage and set up. I want the sale to be an experience, a day of celebration that we can grow our own food. What ever I don’t sell at the plant sale will be grown in my garden and any excess will be donated to the local food bank. I keep thinking, what if no one buys the plants? What will I do with them all? I have a plan. Lets hope it works.

 

April Is Here!

April is here and so are the longer days. I noticed last night that its light out until almost 8 o’clock. Now is the time to get out in the garden and enjoy the longer days. It was the first lawn cut of the season yesterday and the yard has lost its ruffled unkempt look. There are lots of gardens to edge and plants to add. As I walked the garden this morning I am watching where the sun is shining.You see my front yard will soon be shade after the trees leaf out but I want to plant some leafy vegetables in amongst the flowers. You see I have so many seedlings I need to think about finding them a home. I will hazard a guess that in my over 50 flats in the greenhouse, there must be over 1000 plants! I am having a plant sale on May 3 but what if they don’t sell? Well, I have a plan. If I have any leftover plants I will fit them into our garden. That will mean mixing them in to the flower beds as I only have a small raised bed for vegetables. I am thinking that I need to convince hubby to build about eight more raised beds. The more he sees the flats and flats of plants in and around the greenhouse, he is slowly realizing what is there. He is even encouraging me to grow more.I figure if we have too many vegetables this year, I can always donate some to the less fortunate.

I would have taken photos of the greenhouse plants but my camera battery died as I walked the garden.

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The Camellia ‘Donation’ is now in full bloom.

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The Quince has just opened its stunning blooms and soon the bees will be all over this large shrub.

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Primula are everywhere and I love them. They are wonderful plants for the shade garden. I grow Primula under the canopy of deciduous trees.  Primula doesn’t mind the spring sunshine as it isn’t as intense and the shade provided by the trees in the summer  creates the ideal growing conditions for these moisture loving plants.

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Narcissus and Helleborus take the stage today. I think this Lenten Rose has moved with me several times and must be over ten years old.

Brunnera

I will finish the day with my favourite plant, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’. If you don’t have this plant, its a must for every garden. Its forget-me-not like flowers are in bloom now. Once the flowers finish be sure to cut the flowering stems back.

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This is what it looks like all summer. Its best in a shade to dappled shade location. Too much sun will burn its delicate leaves. Doesn’t it make an impact?

I am linking over at Creative Country Mom’s where we are celebrating spring with a Home Sweet Garden Party.