November is for orchids.. and christmas shopping. Need ideas?

In November, things begin to happen. The days get really short (I’ve been catching myself feeling ornery because daylight is wasted) and temperatures get lower. But have a really good look at your plants. These two factors often affect things loitering in your window. Your Thanksgiving cactus in bloom right now is one sign of fall. But this is another magical time – For orchids!

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Crystal (yes I name my orchids) has been my longest resident, being a hand me down from mom. She is a very ambitious one, sending out two stalks at once.
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Beau has mittens!

If you have a look at those bizarre, alienlike protrusions jutting out of the pot, some of them have a whitish coating called velamen (this is the root) but you may also notice others that are glossier, and greener. They kind of look like a mitten.Those aren’t roots! If you see those, you will be soon rewarded with another flush of blooms. Take care to avoid damaging or bumping it. And just as an indication of how fast it happens, I water these orchids very deeply every week (in the sink where they drain freely) and 2 weeks ago, there was less flowering action back then, and even some didn’t have any! So don’t give up. Orchids will rebloom. They can rebloom at any time, but I see it happen the most for Phalaenopsis orchids in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If you look closely at your new growth you’ll be able to see the difference. I have two new growths here, a root (red) and a flower stalk. Once you figure it out, you’ll recognize it really quickly.

 

 

Moving right along… we can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer.

 

Christmas is around the corner.

 

 

So… you have a gardener on your shopping list. You need to get them a few small gifts.. maybe a stocking stuffer or two.. maybe a small gift to top off the pile.

I’ve got suggestions for your gardener stocking stuffers.

Jane’s Gloves – You can never go wrong with a pair of gloves, and especially if it’s a really nice pair. Gloves are often considered a consumable. Never buy a pair of gloves under the expectation they’ll last forever, cause they won’t, especially for someone who uses them all the time. Having acknowledged this, I’ve found the best gloves that work for me, and I’ll tell you why. These gloves are super thin, so if you enjoy being intimate with the sensations of the soil, plants and precise work of weeding small things, but don’t want to actually touch them (or get earwigs crawling on your hands), these are the gloves. They also have a coating on the palm that gives you great grip. Some grippy coating on some gloves lose their grippiness (almost getting a little slick). These ones will stay sticky till they break down. They also fit very well for ladies who wear a smaller sized glove. When I put these on, there is no clown hand phenomenon, and there is no air gap between my finger tip and the glove tip. I can’t find a link right now, but the gloves have been spotted fairly reliably at Halifax Seed and Blomidon Nurseries.

Mini Fiskars Snips – Stop. You think you’ve found the best deadheading scissors, pruners, nippers… if you came to this point, you’ve got ‘em. These are a great pair of snips. I’ve got at least 2 pairs rattling around any given garden tote. I use them at work and at home. The tips are small and very narrow, ideal for tight space trimming. Legal marijuana growers come in to Dayjob asking for these by name. As a gardener though, these are just in the middle for snip strength. They will deadhead roses, annuals, they’ll cut just about anything that isn’t woody (thinner than a pencil though, they’d probably cut it). The handle has a nice non-slip grip. The snips have a spring so they work just like a pair of pruners, and have a little lock to hold them closed, as well as a cap to protect the tips, because they are sharp! They seem to have a good life span and I haven’t needed to sharpen mine. However, they don’t disassemble to sharpen, which could be a con for some. I am a felco owner, so I enjoy taking my pruners apart to clean and sharpen the blade. With that being my only real drawback, I always recommend you put this in their stocking. They will use them!

Bottle cap waterers – I picked up a set of these from Lee Valley many years ago. It’s an inexpensive thing to throw at the top of the stocking. They’re really useful if you tend to have a million plants on a million different floors of the house, but don’t want a million watering cans everywhere. There are 4 different tips, and I’ve used them all for various purposes. I keep a 2L pop bottle of water with the finest rose with my seedlings. It’s gentle, as long as you don’t squeeze with a Yeti grip.

Battery Operated Mini Lights – Just a fun gift idea for those who have small to medium robust plants like fig trees, oversized jade plants, or cram a set into a wine bottle. They’re light enough to not weigh down a plant, and bright enough to give a little festive (or pretentious) touch to your living decor. Every year my fig gets subjected to the light up costume, and doesn’t put up too much fuss, as he gets to go out every summer. Don’t forget the batteries! You can find these at just about any christmas decoration department, you can get them onine as well.

Seeds! If you can find seeds right now, you can always pick up a few packages to put in the stocking. I would recommend any packets of herb and annual seeds, scarlet runner beans, microgreens etc. I would discourage the purchase of anything that could be labeled as “spreading” like forget me nots or snow in summer, and never buy orchid seeds from an untrustworthy seller, because chances are they are not, and seed propagation is impossible for most unless you are prepared to start up a laboratory.

Gift cards to their favorite local garden center – It doesn’t really excite people immediately, but don’t worry, gardeners are obviously not a stranger to waiting. If you are able to get your hands on a catalog for that garden center (if they have one) that’s an additional thing they can cherish and read with their gift in mind while waiting for spring.

Working Hands – This is a good gift for anyone actually. It’s a heavy duty hand cream that keeps your skin soft and protected. If you wash your hands a lot, or work outside in wet/dry/cold environments, your fingers are gonna split. It’s a less painful alternative to liquid bandage (and works a lot better!)

Rite in the Rain tactical Notebook – Some people like to take notes. Some people are forgetful. Sometimes, they leave their notebook outside for weeks, forgetting, only to discover it is a paper pulp mess, having lost their wayward thoughts while gardening. This is a nice thing they can keep in their pocket in case they need to jot an idea while out in the field. Or you know, leave it on a stump somewhere.

Other garden sundries – Blank plant tags, sharpie pens, colored pencils if they like to draw garden plans, sticky note page markers for when your gardener finds an inspiring page in a book.

And if someone in my family is reading this, I already have the above items listed (which is why I recommended them) but I am always looking for more Jane’s Gloves or seeds.

 

So that summarizes the ideas I’ve got for now for gardener stocking stuffers.

The Wind Down, 2016: All that I’ve planted this year

 

So I will apologize in advance, this post is more of a tool and reference for me, but also something for you to have a look at in terms of all the things I’ve planted this year, and roughly where it is.

I should emphasize a few things:
1. This was a shitty year for me. Look at all I’ve done despite that! The reason I did get everything I did done was because being outside feels so good, and when you can get yourself outside and accomplish something as simple as planting a few perennials, the accomplishment immediately takes about 10 pounds of hopelessness off your shoulders.
2. If it’s crossed out, it died or was accidentally met with its fate – The lawn mower, or the dry summer we’ve had.
3. I still have a load more to go in the greenhouse, but I’ve decided to plant those next summer. A great luxury of having a greenhouse is the luxury of time.

Trees Planted:

Ginkgo biloba (by shed)
Ginkgo biloba ‘Jade Butterflies’ (Lawn mown)
Sciadopitys verticillata (Drought)

 

Shrubs Planted:
Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’ Seedling (Rhodo forest)
Rhododendron impeditum (Rhodo Forest) Drought
Daphne (Rhodo forest)
Rhododendron ‘Wojnar’s Purple’ (Rhodo Forest)
Azalea ‘Flat White’ (Rhodo Forest)
Rhododendron ‘Edith Bosley’ (Rhodo Forest)
Rhododendron ‘Hellikki’ (Rhodo Forest)
Rhododendron catawbiense ‘Album’ (Rhodo Forest)
Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ (Rhodo Forest)
Azalea ‘Fireball’ (Rhodo Forest)

Perennials Planted:
3 Sedums (Rock Garden)
1 Sempervivum (rock Garden)
May Apples (Manimal’s wild forest)
Hellebore seedlings (Rhodo forest)
Astilbe ‘Color Flash’ (Rhodo Forest) (drought)
Astilbe ‘Burgundy Red’ (entrance of rhodo forest)
Clematis ‘Rhapsody’ (front of house)
Male Shield Fern (Rhodo Forest)
Sanguisorba obtusa (Rhodo Forest)
Hemerocallis ‘Ice Cream Emperor’ (Temp. in deck bed)
Hemerocallis ‘Purify My Heart’ (Temp. in deck bed)
Hemerocallis ‘Music of the Spheres’ (Temp. in deck bed)
Hemerocallis ‘Aqua Marine’ (Temp. in deck bed)
Hemerocallis ‘Ronnie’s Yellow Spider’ (Rock Garden)
Hemerocallis ‘Leebee’s Orange Crush’ (Rock Garden)
Hemerocallis ‘Black Arrowhead’
Hemerocallis ‘Velvet Butterfly’
Hemerocallis ‘Heron’
Hemerocallis ‘Lake Norman Spider’
Hemerocallis ‘Yazoo Elsie Hinston’
Hemerocallis ‘Tani’

Heuchera ‘Caramel’ (Rhodo Forest)
Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ (Rhodo Forest)
Salvia (Rock Garden)
Geranium ‘Midnight Ghost’ (Around the Deck)
Saxifragus sp. (Rock Garden)
Ligularia ‘Othello’ (butterfly Garden)
Dianthus (Rock Garden)
Wood Poppies (Rhodo Forest)
Cornus canadensis (Rhodo forest)
Hosta ‘Empress Wu (Rhodo Forest)
Hosta sieboldiana (Rhodo Forest)
Half a hedge of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Ellagance Purple’ (Bird City)
Echinacea purpurea (Butterfly Garden)
Echinacea purpurea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ Seedlings (Butterfly Garden)
Calluna vulgaris

Veggie Varieties grown:
(for a more comprehensive review of each vegetable, go back to the Veggie reviews)
Carrots: Napoli, Amsterdam
Tomato: Green Grape, Pineapple, Amish Paste, Sungold, Homestead, Indigo Rose, Golden Cherry, Sunshine Yellow, Chiapis Wild, Coyote
Peppers: Jalapeno Early, Ghost Pepper, Carmen, Chesapeake, Sweet Apple, Carolina Reaper
Beets: Merlin
Cucumber: Sweeter Yet, Cucamelon

Tropicals I’ve gotten this year:
Streptocarpus: Neil’s Jammin, Seren, Modry (Cape Primrose)
Bulbophyllum propinquum (Orchid)
Vanilla planifolia (Vanilla Orchid)
Renanthera ‘Amayami’ (Orchid)
Brassidium White Knight Golden Gamine (Orchid)

I always grow a full roster of all herbs, since that is what I grow and sell professionally.

Annuals I grew 
Marigolds (From collected seed of the past)
Cobaea ‘Cathedral Bells’
Nicotiana sylvestris
Tradescantia sp. (Annual type, blue flowers)
Petunia (purple pompom type)
Ginkgo of the Year:
Ginkgo biloba (species type)

General Notes for 2016:
I started herbs 2 weeks too late. The petunias could have been started earlier as well.
This was year 1 of goutweed eradication. Next year will be year 2, and I will begin planting in year 3 (assuming all signs of goutweed are gone)

 

It’s fall! Or fwinter! Dig out your books! Or try one of these…

 

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Get cozy and cuddle up to those plants!

Brr! The air sure has chilled off since the last time I posted an update. I made a previous mention of a cozy season I like to call “fwinter” that season between Halloween and Christmas. Time to pull out your warm fluffy blanket (the one that has magical powers to evoke a sense of happy sleepiness) and a few favorite gardening books to ease yourself back indoors.

So today, I’ll feature my go-to books that I enjoy reading over and over, are useful, and that I fully recommend to anyone, new, or experienced to gardening!

 


Book 1: The Canadian Gardener: A Guide to Gardening in Canada

I just flipped through this book one day while visiting a friend. Someone I know bought it from a used book sale. The writing in this book… I can only describe it as delicious. Marjorie Harris has a beautiful writing style, and it is both a pleasure to read as well as very informative. This is a great book for a beginner to pick up, as it has beautiful and inspirational photographs of gardens across Canada, including all zones, even us zone 5 dwellers(and colder!). I couldn’t get enough of it, and so I bought a copy for myself. I keep it handy, when I’m looking for inspiration or need to restore my longing for being outdoors. The book encompasses topics from tools you need (and don’t need), basics of natural, organic and sustainable gardening, how to plant, what to plant (and what not to plant!), and it breaks down the second part of the book into zones, featuring gardens that really make a person believe in their local climate. It could either be a great coffee table book or a good one to just read on a snowy day. I just love it, I know most of the information contained within, but it’s just a fantastic read. Since buying this book, I’ve purchased others, and have a great respect for the writing and gardening she has shared. /gush


Book 2: The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live

This is a perfect reference book for someone who wants to grow and harvest year round. It’s not just that though. It’s a goldmine of information, and it’s a really great book for someone who seems to have a lot of books about vegetables (trust me, I do, and I need to let them go). This book has a profile on just about every type of vegetable you’d want to grow, along with recommendations on favorite varieties, when to plant them, and when they’d be ready for harvest. I feel as though I’ve set up an entire command center on some days, planning seeding dates to ensure I had something good to pull out of the ground in the fall. There is also some instructable section with some basic plans for raised cold frames and garden designs. It’s a great book for the veggie gardener. The best part is this focuses on cold climate growing, so don’t think you can’t grow year round just because you have snow on the ground. I can’t say enough, and I know I am a voice in a crowd cheering this one on.

 


Book 3: All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space

This is another excellent reference book that I love next to the Year Round Garden. This one is for a more space-sensitive situation. If you have a limited area, this book will tell you exactly how to maximize your productivity and efficiency by planting things in increments of one square foot. I’ve played with this concept quite a bit, and I use it as a guideline for how close together I can plant things. I’ve got the original edition, so there are a few things that are probably lacking that newer editions may include today. You can branch out from here via pinterest or other garden websites who have determined the spacing of other plants too with the knowledge you’ve gained from this book. There is also cultural information on how to take care of these plants, such as sowing times, planting out times and so on. This would be a great gift idea for any young vegetable gardener with a garden plot, or anyone who doesn’t think they have room to grow vegetables. Did you know you can grow 4 heads of lettuce in just one square foot?

This concludes my book recs for this round. I’ll let you get to some reading and catch up! Next week I’ll do a complete wind-down post of EVERYTHING I planted in 2016 (not just the veggies). Happy reading!

White Knuckle Greenhousing

 

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Well, it happened. The killing frost. A thick, white sheet of microscopic ice shards cast across the valley. This is the longest I’ve gambled with the weather and my plants. Some are still outdoors. Some will actually suffer through it. That dracena, lonely amid its brown, wilted husks of Heliotrope. He’s a good segway from fall to winter greenery arrangements. It still looks a little classy when the mums have finished blooming. It reflects a fine starkness that seems to pair well with the bare branches.

I have a lot of tropical plants. I’m pretty sure that approximately the majority of anyone reading that just said, “ya think?!” I can look in just about any direction of any room, and there they are. Most of them are a manageable size and do fine scattered around the house on shelves. But I’ve got some really huge ones that just don’t fit in very well indoors. I’ve got a citrus tree that I didn’t really want to bring indoors, since it does much better as close to natural outdoor light as possible. I also have some passion flower vines that are really just a terrifying mess when I bring them in. They get spindly and leggy. This is the first year they’ve done really well, growing up the inner walls of the greenhouse. I also have a rosemary that I can’t imagine throwing in the compost heap, and I don’t want to bring it in.  So what do these brothers and sisters have in common? They are going to be part of my WHITE KNUCKLE WINTER EXPERIMENT!

I’ve described my greenhouse setup many times already, but today I’m going to tell you about the way we have decided to heat it. As you know, I have a small greenhouse inside the bubble tube I call the Mini Crystal. Since the Bubble tube’s walls are inflated, that provides a fair amount of insulation from the outdoors versus using a simple single-walled white plastic. Placing a smaller greenhouse inside of this greenhouse is hopefully going to increase the overnight lows to a tolerable level for these hardier tropicals. But I didn’t stop there.

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Clip your passion flowers back hard, and don’t be shy! I only give them about 6″ to 1′ of trunk. The citrus pictured is a variegated pink lemon, that has only ever bore me one small lemon.

The overnight lows can go down to about -15 to -18 degrees celcius in the greenhouse. In the mini-crystal, however, I’m hoping to heat it so that it will maintain a cool 7-8 degrees celcius. These four plants I’ve chosen can handle short periods of cold, but not freezing temperatures.

Thermo.jpgMy thermostat that we are using for the experiment has been altered so that it can be used in a situation like this one. I’ve hung it up on the side of the greenhouse, and it can be programmed to go as low as 5 degrees. My husband is capable of electrical sorcery, so I will not bore you with the details of how he wired it up. It is not wired to the  greenhouse. It is instead wired to an extension cord so it can be removed and stored away as needed.

The heater we have chosen for it to activate is this oil-filled radiator. We did some minor experimentation last spring, but it struggled to maintain the desired temperatures overnight. After talking to some plumbing and electrical folk, the reason for that was I was trying to force my heater to pull 1500w of energy from a thermostat that is only capable of doling out 1000w.  So I’m turning down the dial to medium, which shouldn’t exceed 1000w of energy. That’s the experiment for this year.

The second step we are going to take is to create a heat sink with this plastic barrel filled with water. I have a few already, but we discovered a little late that the barrels here are too big to fit in the door, so we’re watching for other options to present themselves. In the heat of the day, the greenhouse, in winter, can get quite warm, a balmy 22+ degrees! It’s warm enough to have a coffee and kick off your shoes in there. That’s why Umberto and Otis (my two plastic flamingos who keep the winter morale up) stay here in the winter. When the water absorbs the heat from the sun, it should hopefully radiate that back into the air overnight. This will hopefully reduce the need for the heat to come on as often.

Next we wait for the overnight lows to reach the temperature needed to turn the heater on. Last night was the first night I noted it was time to begin. -2 overnight in there. Brrr.

If this works, it can mean all sorts of opportunities for winter storage out here. I will post an update later. I suspect the rosemary will winter perfectly fine, as it was planted in the ground in the greenhouse over the winter and only suffered minor dieback. The citrus, on the other hand, we will see.

That’s not all there is to be done in the greenhouse. It was kind of a fragmented and chaotic summer for us. There were desperate things beginning to appear. I had some surprise visits from spider mite and aphids. I had weeds to pull, and pots to organize.

So this fall I channeled my energies into getting the greenhouse “closed” for the winter. Here’s what a greenhouser (amateur I will add) would be looking at doing this fall for “fwinter” chores:

First things first, the cleaning process
– Weeding *drags feet*
– Determine where your “overwinter” spot will be for your hardy garden perennials, trees, shrubs etc. Clean it, weed it too, and start putting them into tidy rows (I’ve worked in nurseries, and this is an insult to the great things I’ve learned. This was a rush job, and I have so many different sizes and cultivars). I pull all the brown stuff, and stuff them together pot tight.
– Clean the workspace. All those tools get put away. All the surfaces made as tidy and bare as possible. I might come out here occasionally to do projects on warm days.
– Composts and trimmings all pulled out and thrown in the compost heap.
– Pack up all the fertilizers, liquids, and temperature sensitive things (and tropicals too) and bring them indoors so they don’t crack or split.
– Organize the pots. I did this, this is not fun. This is a good time to take inventory of what you have, and what you need, and make solemn vows that it will stay organized next year, and you won’t be fumbling through piles of pots, trying to find a certain size.
A lot of things in my pictures show a LOT of dust. This is best prevented if the ground was not a soil ground. In time, I will cover this either with sunbelt material or patio stone and it will hopefully keep things less coated with that old dust crust.

Things I did in the raised beds
– Pull stuff I’m done growing. I harvested the peppers pictured. The tomatoes are showing signs of succumbing to the freeze. I’ll be pulling those too.
– Might finally be time to harvest those turnips I wish were rutabagas, now that they’ve had a little freeze.
– Plant seeds! You bet. I’m really pushing it a bit late, but I sowed some peas with a faster harvest time, and I’ve also planted lettuce, spinach, radishes, more carrots, etc for the cold frame bed, which will be covered with glass panes very soon. These seedlings should do just fine right now. In the winter though, they will benefit from the panes’ protection, and the heat will radiate back from the soil warmed in the day. I’m still experimenting with this process, so I’ll share updates as the season goes on.

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Ohh, that’s exciting! A beautiful row of radishes in November.

The last step? I’m not sure! I’ll probably bring my bistro set in here in a week or so with a few chairs. Last winter, we did some work out there on balmy february day. I think it got to about 22 degrees. If I can sit out in the sunshine this winter with a coffee, I will.

And that’s been a summary of my greenhousing. It’s a busy time for being a greenhouse owner. The rush will die down, and soon I’ll be retreating to the indoors and planning for next spring and dig out my favorite books. It’s going to be a little slow outside, so for a while, most of my posts will be houseplant, book, or product related until the spring.

Time to have a glass of wine. I did it. I survived garden season 2016.