Planning My Summer Containers

 

Planning My Summer containers

Last September I wrote about the city’s container plantings in the downtown core. I love great foliage in the garden so this really pulled at my heartstrings. I know the city worker responsible works hard to keep all the plantings looking great. It’s no small feat with so many to water and keep tidy. This year we were given a couple of large cement planters. Certainly not the size of the city planters but about three feet across and high. As we walked the garden I wondered what to plant in them this year. Hubby looked at me and said “You should grow plants like the city did last year.” Gulp! That would be big shoes to fill.  Was I ready for the challenge? Of course! Seriously, that meant I could go buy new plants. Woo hoo!

Planning My Summer Containers

Since late February I have been looking around for certain plants that may work for the containers. I knew I was looking for Canna or Colocasia as my thriller plant. The thriller plant is the one in the center of the container.

Planning my summer containers

I love the big leaves of plants like Colocasia so when I saw them on sale I grabbed a bag. I also found a bag of Canna tubers and some Caladium. After all was bought, I had 18 bulbs and tubers to plant and it worked out to less than a $1 each. I love a great deal on plants! Of course now I have to figure out what to do with all those plants. I fill about four containers per year so I should have some to share with friends.

Planning my summer containers

The Cannas were planted up in the greenhouse last week and look at them now. Like a teenager who has grown overnight they have grown four inches in two days. I was a bit worried about one of the tubers as it was mushy on one end. I took a sharp knife and cut the damaged part off. I planted the good part of the tuber and it grew.

Planning my summer containers

I scouted the local garden centers and saw lots of Ipomoea  or sweet potato vine. All I need is some colour and I think the garden centers have what I need. It won’t be hard to find some Begonias and Coleus to use as fillers. I won’t buy my annual container plants yet as it’s too cold to leave them outside and my greenhouse is beyond full.

Planning my summer containers

It may not be Petunias but Heliotrope will add the fragrance I so love in the garden. Heliotrope is an easy plant to grow from seed. This will give me the lovely fragrant purple flowers to go next to the Ipomoea with its chartreuse green foliage. Okay it was almost too easy from seed. I now have two flats of Heliotrope. Having too many plants is never a problem with a half-acre garden.

Planning my summer containers

Although I am a fan of perennials, the annuals really give us a show for the money. I loved this pairing of peach  and black Petunias but my thriller Cordyline and Geranium look lost.

Planning my summer containers

If the Sedum angelina had trailed over the side instead of just sitting there maybe this would have passed as okay.

Planning my summer containers

An easy container that I really enjoyed was using a mix of Nasturtiums. I love bright colours in containers. The only problem is once it gets hot out the Nasturtiums become prey to aphids and take a turn for the worse.

Planning my summer containers

So think about planning your summer containers. Use tall plants with impact in the center and add fillers and spillers. This photo was taken in September and the containers were so full by then it definitely had wow factor. So will I be able to create a fabulous container? I can try. As long as it has colour that’s all I need.

 

 

Spring Comes Early to the West Coast

Spring is here and I love seeing new flowers open everyday. Although we have had our share of sunshine and warmth its still very wet in the garden.
Spring comes early to the west coast

Its time for me to get out and weed under the rose arbor. This is where I meet my friend miss morning glory each week. There is something therapeutic about pulling her out by the roots. She never goes away completely. She has her roots planted just as firmly as I do in my garden. It’s like a struggle to see who will win. Right now the score is Morning glory 1- Kristin-0. Once she is weeded out this week I have all sorts of pollinating flowers to go in along the sides of this garden. I tend to use  annual plants here for colour. The last thing I need is weedy perennials.  It’s a good area to plant my Dahlia collection as well. I am trying to find a focal point for the back and hope to get the obelisk back to a center position.  It has to be something easy to move as mowing the lawn around garden objects drives hubby crazy. Should I paint the obelisk purple, yellow or blue?  Right now its a boring brown.

Spring comes early to the west coast

We live along a waterway and its fun to see whats in bloom in the back corner. It’s a bit of a wild area and that’s okay with me. The Kerria is in full bloom and loves it here. Its suckering habit should help hold the bank and slow erosion.

Spring comes early to the west coast

Salmonberry is native here and is opening up its flowers. I look forward to tasting the first berries. It grows naturally along our bank providing both food and shelter for the birds that frequent our garden.

Spring comes early to the west coast

Rosemary is in full bloom with its tiny blue flowers. Of all the herbs, this is the one I use most for cooking. I am trying to propagate new plants from this mother plant. Usually Rosemary succumbs to our wet winters and cold temperatures but the last two winters haven’t been too harsh. Rosemary can be gown from seed but germination rates are very low. Its best done from cuttings.

Spring comes early to the west coast

I used to think Rhododendrons were boring as they are planted everywhere in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t until I found out that they don’t grow as easily in other areas that I came to appreciate them more. Our garden is home to forty Rhododendrons and Azaleas. This one is a month early blooming. I love its colours but bought it mainly for its variegated leaves. Believe it or not, there wasn’t one variegated plant in this garden when we moved in. It was all green.

Spring comes early to the west coast

This has been the best spring yet for Camellia ‘Donation’. Can you believe the amount of flowers on this shrub? It started to bloom in late February and it’s still going strong.

Spring comes early to the west coast

Trees ands shrubs are starting to fill in along the back garden fence. With a walkway behind us, the shrubs provide the privacy we enjoy.

Spring comes early to the west coast

I have barely touched the garden outside except to pull back the mulch and pull a few weeds. I am busy this month in the greenhouse growing tomatoes. Yes, I am crazy for tomatoes and like to share them with others. I am at the point now that the greenhouse racks are so full that I have flats on the floor. I still have a long list of planting to do. With a plant sale to raise money for the food bank, I need to fit in a few more trays of seedlings. Lesson here is never buy a greenhouse that is too small. Mine is 8′ by 20′ and filled to the brim. I can’t wait to get all my flowers and veggies out into the garden. I am growing quite a few flowers that are new to my garden.

Spring comes early to the west coast

So have a wonderful Easter weekend. It’s the big Easter egg hunt here on Sunday. The joy of having a very large garden means there are many good hiding places.

We Have a Winner!

We have a winner!

Earlier in March I did my first giveaway on the blog. What a lot of fun reading everyone’s comments! Thanks to all for participating. I made a list and numbered all the participants.

We have a winner!

I threw all the numbers in a sand pail that I just bought for the grandchildren. The grandchildren haven’t seen their new beach pails yet so they will never know. I drew a number out of the pail randomly and matched it to the name on my list.

Congratulations Teddi! You are the winner of the garden journal. I hope it helps with all your garden planning. I know it has helped me. This was so much fun that I am going to do another giveaway very soon.

Happy gardening!

Potting Soil is Not Created Equal

I have been gardening for many years and what I have learned is not all soil is created equal. I am sure you feel the same way. There is nothing more disappointing than seeing plants sulk after you plant them in what you think is great soil. So when I started potting up perennials in January I had to get some soil. My usual sources did not have soil in yet. I mean, it was only January. Who would be asking for soil then? Of course, I was. This winter had been unusually mild and I needed to move some Irises. I finally bought a bag of top soil from the local garden center. I figured it would be okay for a temporary home for my plants. I set out to pot up the Irises with the top soil. I soon ran out of the bags of top soil and found my favourite soil, Dutch Treat, at West Coast Seeds. I planted the rest of the Irises in it.

Potting soil is not created equal

 

So the Iris on the right is the one I planted back in late January. The one on the left is the same Iris planted in February in Dutch Treat potting soil. Which one would you buy? I don’t really have to ask, do I?

 

Potting soil is not created equal

Not only does this Iris look sickly with its stunted growth, it has brown marks on the leaves. At first I thought it was the plant itself having issues. Then I noticed the Alstromeria I had planted in pots with the same top soil hadn’t thrived either.

Potting soil is not created equal

This Iris is looking great in the better quality soil. What will I do with the poor plants in the top soil? I will replant them using the Dutch Treat potting soil. Not only is it a better draining soil, it obviously has what my plants need. Lesson learned: Be patient and only use what is tested and proven to be great soil. It may cost you double the price but its worth it in the end.

Cheap top soil at our local garden center-$4.99

Dutch treat potting soil $7.99

I would rather pay the extra money for soil I know will work for my garden. Where will the top soil go? In the compost or on the garden beds. If it says top soil its best used to top dress your garden beds. Its too heavy for any container plants.

Green Gardening Tips

Green gardening tips

Keep it organic-One thing I leaned over the years is mother nature knows how to take care of her garden. She doesn’t add chemical fertilizers or use insecticides. She lets nature take care of pests and diseases naturally. So why are we not doing the same? Growing organically was something our grandparents did. Along came the 1950’s and chemicals were invented to make our lives easier but at what expense? Fast forward to this century and many of us are trending to organic growing. I have been growing organically for twenty years. So what does organic mean?

When you grow organically you are not using any pesticides at all. Pesticides cover everything from insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Here in Delta, we live in a pesticide free community.So what are the organic alternatives? I like to use fish fertilizer, Gaia brand fertilizers and home blends as well. Yes, you can make your own fertilizers. So does it work? It does. What you need to do is practice integrated pest management. Take a walk every day in the garden and look at whats going on around you. See a few aphids, get the hose and wash them off or squish them if you like. Nipping problems as soon as you see them makes for a healthier garden. When you stop using pesticides, the beneficial insects start to call your garden home.

Green gardening tips

One of my favourite ways of protecting my garden from insect damage is by using Reemay. It’s a floating row cover and it prevents insects from laying eggs on your vegetables but you can still water through it. It’s very light and you place it over top and leave a lot of slack so that as plants grow it can move with them. No more cabbage moth larva for this gardener!

You need to learn how to attract beneficial insects  and wildlife to the garden. Once you stop using chemicals in the garden they will return.

Green gardening tips

Here you can see a bee enjoying the pollen from a dandelion in my lawn. Did you know the dandelion is one of the first plants in spring for pollen? Its taken a few years but once you eliminate all drugs in the garden a natural balance will occur. So what are examples of good insects. About 90% of insects are good ones. The problem is we often don’t know enough about them.

Green gardening tips

Can anyone guess what this is?  The ladybug is smart and lays her eggs near plants that attract aphids. This is a broad bean plant in early spring, loaded with black aphids and their excrement. One ladybug can eat more than her body weight in aphids in a day. Think about it, if we didn’t have any bad bugs what would the good bugs eat? 

Green gardening tips

Beneficial insects like this parasitic wasp actually lay eggs on all sorts of caterpillars. They insert their eggs directly into the host caterpillar. The larva of the parasitic wasp literally eats the caterpillar alive. When the larva eat their way out, the caterpillar dies. When the larva are inside the caterpillar they use it as an incubator. I know, like a scene from aliens the movie, right? Spiders are good bugs although we tend to not like them. Spiders eat many other pests in the garden and we see house flies in their webs all the time. Place mason bees homes in your gardens so you have early pollinators. You will also find the birds are great pest control. They will fly right up to the roses by my window and nip off any aphids I have. I can actually say now that I don’t get aphids. Its taken a few years but once you eliminate all drugs in the garden a natural balance will occur.

Green gardening tips

Attracting beneficials with plants-Plant to attract them by using native plants as well as cultivars. Plants such as Mahonia or Oregon Grape are evergreen and it has flowers and fruit. The fruit is loved by birds and the plant is tough enduring dry conditions.

Green gardening tips

Plants such as Salmonberry are native here and produced lots of edible fruit. They tend to sucker so use them in areas where you need good coverage or as a privacy screen or background plant. This grows naturally along the water at the back of my garden. It doesn’t sucker any worse than raspberries.

Green gardening tips

Pieris japonica is commonly known as the Lily of the Valley shrub. Its one of the first plants that attracts mason bees so think about having at least one of these in your garden. They are slow-growing, evergreen to about six feet with flower colours ranging from white to pinks and purples. They also can have excellent spring and fall colour. The tubular flowers are attractive to many pollinating insects.The idea is to have something blooming in your gardens year round.

Green gardening tips

I took this photo in February and the bees were all over the Crocuses. Heather is also a good plant to attract insects. Depending on the variety, you can have plants that bloom in spring, summer and fall. Other cultivated plants that will attract beneficial insects are ones with what I call flat flowers. The flat heads of some of the flowers provide a helicopter landing pad of sorts for insects. Rudbeckia or black-eyed Susan is another good plant to have. Its long bloom time from July to late fall means it attracts pollinators all summer. Coreopsis is another perennial flower to attract insects. This only grows to about a 15 inches high and wide and flowers for a long period as well. If you are looking for annuals to do the trick try using Lemon Gem Marigolds. They  bloom their hearts out for months on end. Add some Asters for fall colour as they are a bee magnet.

Green gardening tips

I know Sedum is so over used but this plant attracts bees better than any other. Leave the seed heads on over winter for birds to enjoy. The planting of Sweet Alyssum in the garden is sure to bring pollinators to the garden. I like to add Alyssum to all my vegetable garden beds.

Design your garden in layers like you see in a forest. You want to add tall trees as they provide shade and that cools our homes in the summer and keeps them warm in the winter reducing your heating bill. Once you have your tall storey in add a lower storey of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and then your smaller herbaceous perennials at the foreground. Remember to use leaves from your trees as mulch over your gardens. They provide a warm blanket in our gardens as we rarely get enough snowfall to properly protect our plants from a hard winter frost. Trees and shrubs add nesting areas for both insects and birds. The birds will eat many insects if they are welcome in your garden.

Watering-With this mild winter we had very little snow and I worry that this summer will be another warm one. This will be year three of a hot summer. Now is a good time to think about where you will be planting. Choose plants that have high water needs and group them together so you can water them at the same time.

Green gardening tips

So what plants use the most water? Tropical plants are one. With their large leaves they consume more water. So do annual flowers as they have a shallow root system. Use more perennial flowers and less annuals to save water. Lawns also consume more water so consider reducing your lawn, cutting back on watering. Grass is a cool season plant that naturally goes dormant in summer and comes back when temperatures cool in the fall. Leave the grass to grow a bit longer, shading grass roots from the hot sun. If you have a mossy area why not convert it to a shady sitting area in the garden? We often plant our gardens and give all our plants the same amount of water. We tend to over water. You want the plant roots to go deep down into the soil to look for water. Water longer and wait a week between watering. An inch of water per week is enough. Place a tuna can outside under the sprinkler to see how much you are using. Can you hold back some as we go into summer? How about watering well and applying a mulch. I like using drip hoses which only drip water to plant roots. I don’t water my lawn in the summer at all, just the vegetable beds and some of the perennial flowers and containers.

Green gardening tips

Last year I used a bale of straw between the rows in my vegetable garden. The straw kept the soil moist. I checked the soil moisture by feeling it under the straw. I ended up watering every two weeks and that was it. Using mulch not only helps to retain moisture it can cut down on weeding. Wouldn’t it be fun to never have to pull a weed? You can also use bark mulch. Bark mulch can be placed on garden beds to keep the soil moist. In the fall I have lots of leaves and we place them on the garden all winter as a mulch. It not only protects tender plants but it increases the decomposers in the garden and they improve soil structure. In the spring I will pull back mulch if it isn’t decomposed so that spring flowers can be seen. Extra leaves can be composted.

So water with care, use soaker hoses instead of oscillating sprinklers. You want the water to get near the roots of your plants, not the leaves. Water in the early morning if you can as there is less chance of evaporation then. It’s best to make sure your plants go into the night dry. That way you prevent fungal diseases such a mildew. If you are using an irrigation system be sure to turn it off on rainy days and don’t let it water sidewalks and roads. Use a rain barrel to store rain water for your garden. Use this water on your trees , shrubs and flowers. They can be hooked up to your downspout as an effective way to save water.

Recycling in the garden is something I like to do all the time. Before you throw something out, try to think of a way you can reuse it. Even if it’s headed to the recycling bin, ask yourself if you can reuse it first. Yogurt and margarine containers can be made into plant tags or for starting seeds.  Newspaper can be made into pots for seeds, bakery containers used as miniature greenhouses, mini blinds cut to make plant labels, old hose can be used as tree supports, broken pots turned into miniature gardens, old headboards used as plant supports at the end of raised beds, twist ties can be used to tie in raspberry canes and plastic bags used for holding your harvested crops.

Try to grow your own food to save money. By growing food close to home or buying locally you are not having food travel thousands of miles to get here. Think about joining a community garden if you don’t have the space or right conditions for a vegetable garden. You can grow food in the ground and in containers. Even if you have a small space there is something you can grow. Think vertical and make use of trellises and arbors to grow up. I liked to think I was being sustainable until last year. We often grow crops that we like without thinking about their perishability. Why are we not growing more storage crops like onions, potatoes, turnip and cabbage? Instead we grow crops like lettuce that last a couple of weeks. Think about growing food that you can can or freeze so you have something to fall back on in the winter. We can’t do that with lettuce. Learn how to cure and store your vegetables over the winter months. It’s easy to learn.

The Tomato Potting Up Marathon Begins

The garden season is in full swing here and my greenhouse is packed full of seedlings. I am constantly moving plants outside to two mini greenhouses to harden them off. I think its time for a new greenhouse. They always say if you buy a greenhouse buy bigger than you will need as it gets filled quickly. Of course,  not everyone grows thousands of plants. Only the crazy seed people can’t stop themselves. The thing is seeds are so much fun. Once you have success you can’t stop.

The tomato potting up marathon begins

Take a look at how I plant my tomato seeds. I plant them in large quantities in a four-inch pot with good seed starter mix. I moisten the starter mix before planting the seeds so they don’t wash away when I water. A light cover of mix over the seeds and they are placed on heat mats until they germinate. In just eight days I had tomato babies. So picture about 25 four-inch pots with this many seedlings and you will understand what the next step is and why I do it. I know very well that you are supposed to wait until the plant has its second set of leaves. What I have noticed over the years is the roots on these tiny seedlings are longer than the plant itself. The plant may only be an inch high but the roots can be at least an inch and a half when potting them up. With so many seeds in one pot they need more room to grow. Yes, I use my widger and nudge them gently apart and plant them into their final container before they are sold.

The tomato potting up marathon begins

Whats a widger you ask? Its my most favourite greenhouse tool next to the heat mats. This little stainless widger allows me to lift the tiniest of seedlings with ease.

 

The tomato potting up marathon begins

There was a time when I would transplant to two-inch pots and then to four-inch. I soon realized how fast tomatoes grew and now skip that step. Its right to a four-inch container for each of the hundreds of tomatoes. Usually by the time I finish potting up some of the plants are starting to get their second set of leaves. Have I lost any plants moving them this early? Not a one. I hold them gently by the leaf. Never grab the stem. If it gets damaged, your plant will die. If the plant loses a leaf, it will grow another. I make an impression in the center of the pot with the widger and stir up the organic fertilizer at the same time. I now have a planting hole for the tomato seedling.

The tomato potting up marathon begins

I like to plant them a bit deeper to encourage root formation along the stems. A light watering with a small watering can is next being ever so careful to just wet the soil. No big watering cans are used when the tomato plants are this small. I have a tiny watering can with a long thin spout that only allows a small amount of water to spill out.

The tomato potting up marathon begins

So what does my greenhouse look like today? Imagine 22 flats of tomatoes all potted up. But don’t think that is all I have growing. Every inch of space is being used to grow flowers and vegetables for the garden. Every plant is labelled so I don’t get any of them mixed up. It’s hard to believe looking at all the tomato plants that they will be going to final homes in early May. Are you looking for heirloom tomato plants? Watch for my sale coming up on May 2.

Its a Giveaway on the Blog!

Its a Giveaway on the blog!

Since spring is just around the corner, I thought this would be a good week to do a giveaway. I haven’t done one before so its my first. Be patient as I learn the ropes as a newbie. Spring arrived early here and I am sharing blooms from the garden. This week its a yellow theme going on with all the Narcissus in bloom along with Forsythia, Doronicum and Kerria. There is something about yellow that says spring.

Its a giveaway on the blog

What I love is how much variety we can have in our gardens, even in March. Lets show you what I have to give away this month. I attend lots of different garden events and sponsors are generous to hand out books, tools, seeds and other garden related items. On my last trip, I met up with Cool Springs Press and they had given each of the bloggers a garden journal kit in a cool swag bag.

Its a giveaway on the blog!

So are you ready to win? Are you someone who could use a garden journal? They are great for making notes of what you have planted. It provides a record to look back on from year to year. It shows you what worked and what didn’t. We all need that kind of help.

So here is how you can enter. Just leave a comment below saying how you would use a garden journal and like my Face book page over at That Bloomin’ Garden. Thats it. You must be 18 years or older to enter and be a resident of Canada. Contest closes on March 31.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid to promote this product.