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.

My veggie growing reviews 2016

This has been a very exciting year for me in the vegetable growing realm of things. A little history of my experiences: I grew in Dartmouth, in a rocky little patch. I grew a LOT of squash, and that is the majority of what I remembered. Then I moved to Kentville. I grew a few scuzzy little things that eked by due to the lack of sunshine, and probably also nutrients, despite having dumped probably almost a ton of compost in the gardens.

Then I moved here. Boy oh boy! All kinds of exciting things did well. I finally discovered the feeling of “I have too much to harvest/I will not eat all of this!” I feel ashamed to confess that some of my harvests went to waste, but it could not be helped. But I also made a lot of things. I managed to find time to make a batch of Jalapeno pepper jelly, Salsa, and a pasta sauce that was so damn delicious I would have eaten it like a soup.

So having all of that success, I will now share what I grew, and my account of how I felt about the flavor, appearance, and/or overall quality of the plant’s cultivar. Some of them have pictures!

Warning! All the opinions expressed below are my own! Just because I wouldn’t grow it again does not mean you should not try them yourself. Everyone has a different taste, I actually can be quite picky once I find something I like.

The Greens
Lettuce – Buttercrunch – life happened, did not harvest before bolting.
Lettuce – Red Salad Bowl – See above statement
Kale – Black Magic – I liked this variety earlier in the year. I used it to make kale chips, and later, as a kale Caesar salad.  Not bad! The leaf is narrow and quite puckered, and kind of reminds me of little brontosaurus heads peering out of the garden. I prefer a more open kale, but this guy really stood the test of the HOT greenhouse. But like all Kale, take caution to prevent cabbage butterfly if you’re going to take it outdoors. The ones outdoors succumbed to the pest.

Cauliflower
Minuteman – Well, it headed up nicely before something burrowed into it. I was so grossed out by the frass all over it I did not eat it. It looked beautiful, too, well, poopy beautiful. I did not get a shot of it, unfortunately! If I grow these next year, I’m going to protect them from bugs a little more…if there is a way to prevent earwigs from getting at them.

Turnip
Purple Prince – I don’t like turnips I guess. I like rutabagas. Before the frost, they are bland. After the frost: (Pending still, I will review these probably in November, as they are in my greenhouse) Would I grow it again? Nope. I don’t like turnips. But as a vegetable to grow, it did very well in the greenhouse.

Strawberry
Seascape – lovely tasting strawberry, and they were prolific, unfortunately they were mostly eaten by someone else. Or something…else… This a day neutral variety, so it started flowering in about late may and continued to flower and fruit (and still is!) well into October. I got to eat a few last week. Just like I say when I bite into that first local strawberry of the season, warmed by the sun, buttery in my mouth, “mmm, tastes like what I think Ambrosia would be!” I’ve planted some of the runners to fill the patch completely with strawberries, so I can hopefully harvest more (and I will be securing them more next year from hungry pests)

Radishes
French Breakfast – Very good in spring, but once they get too advanced they are very dry and woody, but as long as you grow them early and eat them quick they are good. A little spicy. I wouldn’t recommend these as a later sowing unless you can provide a bit of shade in the summer. They just didn’t seem to do anything once the heat hit. I would grow these again, and have already sown them in the cold frame.

Beans
Pole Pea Bean –  would not grow these again…similar to a scarlet runner pod. Might be a good dried bean. I ate very few of them.
Gold Rush – Very tasty, but not too sweet. I like a nice sweet yellow bean. They tasted fine, and I have enough left over that I will of course grow them again.
Carminat – This one was a pretty purple bean. It did well in the flower and vegetable show I attended this summer. I did not like these but husband did. They were good cooked, but eating raw (which I prefer) they did not have the taste I long for.. However, They are very pretty, even when they flower. I may sow a few for husband next year.
Soleil (Yellow french Filet) – Very prolific, space conscious variety, but not as sweet as their green counterpart. I will be growing a green (‘Maxibel’) variety next year. These beans grew so well I felt like any newbie gardener would feel a self esteem boost, and love the harvest to come, too.

Cucumbers
Sweeter Yet – I dunno, there is something about the cucumber family that does not jive with me. As a result, I got only a few cucumbers from my plants. This variety was actually quite good though. Would I grow it again? Yep, not bitter at all!

The Peppers
I was the most excited to harvest so many peppers, I have never had such excellent luck. I started my peppers on March 1st, and would even consider starting them earlier, for an earlier yield.

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Jalapeno Early

Jalapeno early – Definitely early, I enjoyed these. Size was kind of small, likely due to weather. Would try a jumbo type next year. They were prolific though. I would probably grow a couple of these, and regular or jumbo jalapenos in the greenhouse for later harvests.

 

Chinese Five Color – Spicy little mofos. This was a really pretty pepper to grow, and they are good to add to dishes  you want a little spice in. They change color as they ripen. They are very small. Would I grow them again? Nah.. It was just a fun novelty to try something new. But if you like a spicy punchy little thing, give it a go, just for the looks alone! These peppers are rated at 50,000 scovilles. It’d be a very pretty ornamental plant on the patio, as they do not get very big.

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Carmen

Carmen – I was very impressed with the size of these  peppers, they seemed to explode overnight. They were a nice, sweet pepper and I definitely would recommend growing them again! According to the package label, they are supposed to be the first to ripen to a beautiful red. They did, in fact, ripen before the yellow ‘Giallo Mama Mia’ I grew.

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Chesapeake – so sweet, the strawberries were jealous

Chesapeake – WARNING! a very slow variety (only recommended for greenhouses due to this). Mine were in a greenhouse. Some set fruit, others were very slow to.  I would assume any other blocky variety of pepper with a shorter season would be just as good. Tastes like any red pepper, and tasted just fine left green. Would I grow them again? These were too expensive to bother trying again. I’m talkin’ $15 for 6 seeds. So nah, I’ll be looking at something else for next year.

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Giallo Mama Mia

Giallo Yellow – Impressive horn shaped peppers. These were nice tasting, and very pretty. They were an afterthought, and as a result, planted later in the season. But I can confirm they will perform perfectly fine in a pot on your patio as well, as this is how my Dad grew his. Would I grow it again? Maybe, if I came across it again, but it was not as good as Carmen.

Sweet Apple – Cute medium to small sized red peppers. Nice and sweet, but I didn’t find they were big enough to get excited about. It may have been due to hot dry summer. Would I grow them again? Yeah, I guess I’d grow them if it were to bust the seed stash, but I won’t be buying them again.

Ghost Pepper – Aaaah! Look out! this guy’s a hottie. 1 Million scovilles. Last year, we cut one up and infused it into a vodka, labeling it as “Satan’s Piss”. The name seemed rather harsh and offensive, but after a good sampling of it, this is indeed an appropriate name for such a liquor. Why would I do this? Well, I can report that this bottle has been brought out into the light of day many times, as a novelty “show and tell” for guests to taste. It is not a full bottle anymore. It’s well liked, but geez louise, it is HOT. Do not eat these raw unless you are insane. This year, I got absolutely no peppers off the plant, but it does grow well when happy. Last year I brought it indoors and grew it in a pot. Handle with gloves. Would I grow it again? No, but manimal loves it for some reason so we get it every year.

Carolina Reaper – What was I saying? Nevermind, THIS one is the hottest. 2.2 million scovilles. Last year, we cut it up (with GLOVES, dear god wear gloves, don’t learn about the spicy touch), dried it, and then ground it into a powder, labeled the bottle as “death” and used it judiciously in dishes such as chili. I only use a PINCH. No, I have never eaten it raw, but brave people have, and have videotaped it. Don’t eat them raw, come on be reasonable. Would I grow it again? No, why the hell would anyone want something this hot?! I’ll probably never run out of my bottle of “death powder”.

And Finally… The TOMATOES!

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Indigo Rose

Indigo Rose – Beautiful looking tomato, sizes ranged from tiny to smallish-medium. I didn’t like the flavor of these very much I discovered, they got kind of mealy quickly. I would describe the flavor as a flowery/sweet flavor, low acid. Would I grow them again? This was another fairly expensive designer variety, the plant was beautiful among its brothers and sisters, but I probably won’t bother again.
Coyote – Prolific as hell, and was the one we snacked on the most this summer. Sweet with a hint of tang. I actually got quite sick of these. There were tomatoes everywhere. Through their cracked skin mouths, they all yipped and yelped, “eat me! Don’t forget me!”  I had to run away. Would I grow them again? They split if you blinked at them. That’s fine, if you’re going to eat them right away, but I LITERALLY had so many tomatoes on my plate, I simply could not eat them all before the fruit flies did. No, I would not grow them again myself, but they were unique and I would suggest those who want to try a cream colored tiny tomato, give it a go.

Chiapis Wild
– Not as prolific but a fun* tiny orange tomato. Susceptible to blight, fruit drops easily. They were pretty good, but not as sweet as a sweet 100/million. Would I grow this again? *By fun I mean these plants scattered and scurried EVERYWHERE. It needs room to grow. Nah, I probably would choose a better behaved tiny tomato.

Amish Paste – These were too small to do much with this year, would try another plum type next year maybe. I missed the boat on cooking with these due to life.

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Pineapple

Pineapple – I was so excited when I finally found a plant that produced the correct variety. This was a total let down. I was expecting sweet and fruity, but it was fairly bland, though there was very little gel, so if you wanted a cleaner tomato for a sandwich, I guess this was okay. It was a pretty color, almost rainbow. A nice artsy fartsy type, but I won’t be growing it again.

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Homestead

 Homestead – Ranged from small to very large tomatoes, good flavor, has a fair amount of gel but it wasn’t too bad in a salsa. I ate most of my sandwiches using this tomato, It was my salsa, and it was also the tomato I used in my tomato sauce. Would I use this one again? Yeah, why not? it was an all around nice guy.

Black Krim – the longest to mature in the garden. This one specimen was planted in my raised bed in the greenhouse, but unfortunately due to my improper staking, the fruit caused the plant to break and fall over. I only got about 2 fruits that did not rot. The flavor of black tomatoes is typically a very subtle smoky sweet flavor. My nan loves this variety. Would I grow it again? Yeah, I would probably, but with more care. Everyone should have a nice big “black” tomato in their garden.

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Sunshine Yellow

Sunshine Yellow –  Semi-grape shaped tomato, and literally as yellow as that sunshine yellow crayon. It was a slightly sweet tomato. But it has a thick skin, a little tough, and don’t really like the taste of the skin itself. I found it was very prolific though, which is a great plus. Would I grow again? No!

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Golden Cherry

Golden Cherry – Yummy, very sweet, a good compromise for skin that was crack resistant. Would grow again, if sunsugar was unavailable (but not as sweet as sunsugar) I loved this variety and would recommend it to any tomato grower! I’m growing it next year. I’m babying one along in the greenhouse right now, hoping to keep it going for as long as I can before the freeze-up. Oh gosh, I can’t stop thinking about how much it delights me to find them in my lunch box.

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Green Grape

Green Grape – This plant lacked a lot of vigor in the early parts of the growing season. It wilted and lamented and cried all the time. Once august rolled around, though, it got a lot tougher, and the fruit is actually really tasty. The first time eating this one is a little awkward, you don’t know if it’s ripe or not, because it is a green variety. Once you let them go a little longer, you notice they take on a yellower tinge with green shoulders. That’s when you know it’s ready. I liked this variety, but manimal did not. I’d grow it again, because it was a novelty, it had good balanced flavor of sweet and savory. Just be warned, a little extra attention might be needed at first.

In retrospect, here is what I’ve learned from veggie gardening in 2016:

  1. I grew waaaaaay too many tomatoes. I’m going to commit only 3-4 per bed next year, or LESS. I think 2 small cherry type, and 2-3 medium were acceptable for any purpose. I will be drawing up a personal waiver form stating that I will not exceed my set limits. *affirmative nod* Seriously, I grew tomatoes in flower beds and other places. There was no need for that.
  2. I will grow more peppers next year, likely, in the greenhouse. If you can grow peppers, why the heck would you WANT to pay that ghastly price? Nothing
  3. Harvesting every day is actually quite important. Walking the vegetable beds daily is very important. Checking for pest breaches is important. Wearing pants and shorts with larger pockets is important.
  4. When I get to this point next year, I will take more photos. Everyone prefers to see photos.

I’d like to talk more about the seed plantings I’ve done for the cold frame in hopes for late fall harvests, but I think that’s enough for today. Yeesh! Next time around, I’ll talk about a few little things.. like my wonderful (and huge) compost piles and overwintering experimentation in the mini crystal. I’m going to try and update weekly again for a while until after christmas. Wish me luck, and have a happy monday!

You can’t always garden in 4 seasons…

I had made plans to say different things on monday. I was going to share with you my vegetable reviews of 2016. But life has a way of unexpectedly throwing a gigantic rock into the machine. For various reasons, This has probably been the worst 365 days I’ve ever lived, if we begin counting at the end of October 2015. And I still have another 3 weeks to go before that clock has come back to the top again.

I only briefly hinted at a crappy time earlier this year, but I have just recently lost my dad to cancer. The ugly and gray, hateful C. I know that NOBODY likes cancer, but now that there is nobody in my family suffering, nobody in my friend circle fighting it, I have absolutely no interest in it. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to participate in fundraisers, walks, runs, relays, or awareness events. I want to turn my back away from it, and just completely deny its existence.  Some people are granted a little bit of time to live a little before the fight becomes exhausting.  My dad, on the other hand, had very little time, and our time with him was ripped from us quicker than we could even act on any plans to enjoy the last of our time together as a full family.

I wanted to make a nod toward my dad’s role in my passion in gardening.  Dad wasn’t REALLY a  huge gardener, but he had the knowledge that you should have. He grew veggies when we were all so young, and took it up again this summer because I gave him things to plant. It’s funny, after he saw the first raised bed in the greenhouse complete, he asked ,y husband, “why isn’t there more planted in here? why isn’t this full yet?” I actually did go back later and fill that bed with more tomato plants, and a pattypan squash. I was given a lot more harvest than I could handle! He was always one who considered maximizing everything. Should always consider reasonably maximizing your possibilities. Oh, how I plan to, as I dream big. But I do not recommend planting a pattypan in a small space. That thing was fierce, and I almost lost an eyeball trying to tame it..seriously!

Sometime after or during horticulture school, I gave him grape vines to plant along the fence. He was a winemaker, and he learned not too far along, that pouring the juice remnants of winemaking into the grape vines seemed to help them thrive. Our cannibal grape wines.  I took many cuttings this spring from his vines. I didn’t want to ever lose that part of him.  Again, as adventurous as he is, he bought a couple of haskaps, that I cautioned him would get pretty damn big for a city property. So I have haskaps on the property (the ones he decided to plant here instead) which he got to sample this spring. Dad also gave me a  second raised bed for my greenhouse. Originally, we had planned to all build it together, but as I mentioned, time, wellness, and plans all got dashed too quickly for us to do that together.

The last day we got to say goodbye, I went to the hospital’s garden with my sister and my husband. We sat together at a concrete table. It was far from the peak season in any garden, Whoever tends this garden has done quite a beautiful job. They hadn’t done any fall cleanup, so all the spent seedheads were still present in the garden. It felt appropriate for the day, as there is something promising and reminiscient of a seedhead in the fall. A memory of summer’s splendor, and the potential to sow a future generation of memories in the coming spring.

It was a good place to spend the time to grieve and reminisce for the three of us. It really reminds me and repeats again, as I said previously, that no matter how tough life is, you can turn to the garden or even the outdoors to help yourself heal emotionally. I don’t always think I can identify the reason why it makes me feel better to be outside when I’m hurt, but I don’t want to discover it either. I dragged myself outdoors the day after dad passed, just to be in the warm sunshine, to drag my feet through the rhodo forest, smell the sweet pine needles on the ground. Sit and look out to the fields behind me. It’s not too late to say I would like to ensure one day there is a very peaceful place to sit and heal here in every season. Many places here give me peace.  It reminds me that there is a sense of abandonment in winter though, and I will probably seek out some smaller evergreens in the spring.

He wouldn’t want me to mope too long, because like he always said, “don’t worry about it.” So like I said earlier, I have another 3 weeks before I can confirm, yup, worst 365 day cycle ever. But I’m going to use my healing time to grieve and channel a good amount of it into the garden. Clean up the remnants of summer, open the sights for fall and winter interest. Plant nearly a dozen grape vine cuttings from dad’s fence line.

This is a bittersweet season. I’ll always remember we lost dad at the most beautiful peak of fall.

I had to share, and will resume with my veggie review post in a few more days, with the intent to be back to a more organized pattern. I apologize for no photos this week. I’m still quite scatterbrained. All I’ve done is plant a dozen daylilies and clean dead tomato plants. Felt good to get something done though.

Big war, big weapons.. a very honest post about goutweed control

 

Way back when I moved here last year, I overlooked some things I would normally deem as a potential realty dealbreaker. We had goutweed! Everything else was an ideal thing that I let it go.

But I didn’t let it go, really. I didn’t want it to spread anymore. I didn’t want it at all! But anyone who has ever seen this “beautiful, fool proof ground cover” or had the PLEASURE of trying to eradicate it, will agree with me: It’s not an easy feat. And many just give up. Don’t give up.

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The majority of this bed as freshly emerged goutweed. I’m told it’s great for gout, or goats like it, and people eat it. But I’m not gonna eat it. It’s going to eat dirt.

I’m here to discuss goutweed this week and how I’ve managed to control it so far.

But first, I need to sit you down and have the talk. Yes, you know the talk, we all dread it. It’s the talk regarding Round-Up. No, I don’t mean my yearly round-up post. I mean, the toxic, disgusting glysophate spray people love to ask for, love to hate. I don’t like to use non-organic methods of clearing things out. I don’t like to use synthetic fertilizers in my gardens because I don’t like the steroid-type dependency it creates. I also don’t like using spray on weeds either. But you need to look at your situation and determine if this is one where such a drastic action is needed.
Round up is not advised to be used in lawns or near vegetable gardens, do not use near water sources or wildlife. I’ve read its warnings of being highly carcinogenic. I’ve also spoken with vendors who tout that it has a ground residual effect for two weeks.  It should not be applied with children or pets around. You should wear protective gloves, goggles, face respirator. It’s nasty. It also smells like a sickly pina colada.

The times in which I DO believe it is acceptable as a LAST RESORT are as follows: A noxious weed that cannot be removed manually, either due to an aggressive spreading habit or due to irritating toxins in the plant that can cause major discomfort. IE: Poison Oak/Sumac/Ivy, Japanese Knotweed, and GOUTWEED. If anyone has ever tried to remove goutweed, the initial… how shall we put it, carpet, is so densely rooted into the soil that it requires a good strong tool to lift it. But to snap any roots is to propagate the plant further. It loves it. It thrives on it. I remember hearing reassuring comments from friends and gardeners. Once you get into it, it’s not so bad. But there I stood, I declared, “oh the humanity!” who on earth ever thought it was a good thing to plant?

So I listened to so many points of advice. Working in a garden center, I hear a LOT of gardener tales. What people do, what they try.

Smother it. Go ahead. There will be a good chance it will pop up at the edge of the cover. Try carpet if you can bear its ugliness. I’ve heard this is the best weapon.

Dig it out. Yeah okay. Get the biggest excavator you can get and dig a meteor-sized hole around the whole patch. You may win. (I considered this, and I may still)

You can try a number of vinegar/dawn/water potions. I’ve heard these work, but then, the next gardener in line whispers, “no It doesn’t, she just doesn’t know it yet.”

I saw a gardener come in this summer looking for trays. She was removing all her perennials, cleaning their roots carefully of any bits of goutweed. They would then dig the entire site.  Yeah, maybe. That is incredibly meticulous for a gardener whose veggie garden is tapping its toes, waiting to be harvested, with a greenhouse to tend, and a family to care for. I had no emotional attachment to anything in this bed. So I did not care.

The thing I tried though, was Round-Up. I don’t like to use this word, and I don’t like to promote it. But when you compare the state it came up in this spring versus the state of the bed after July, you will see that it’s quite effective. The reason I chose it was due to its systemic approach. Those roots lie in wait and spring up when you aren’t looking. I had to get serious.

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After a week of festering with Roundup, the goutweed shows some stress, but still thumbing its nose.

But stop. The journey doesn’t end here. To this day, in September, there is still nothing new planted. After it lay there, like salted earth, all summer long, I decided to poke around.

And look what I found. You WISH this was a spaghetti garden. Nope, these are all still quite plump and fleshy roots from goutweed. I also found a few pieces sprouting up under the Privet shrub. It’s still alive.

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I continue to monitor and target any survivors.

Next year, there will be more popping up after a long and restful winter. I am counting on it. And I will be there, waiting. Spraying. Root-digging. I don’t expect to plant here for a few years.

So, now you know the truth, and why good people would go and do bad things. Sometimes, emergencies happen. Desperate people do desperate things.

I am not proud that I resorted to this product, but I also know it is a very challenging task, to destroy Goutweed. But I can tell you something else about this “magical potion” everyone thinks they desire. It isn’t fast acting! My advantage is likely to our very dry summer. And it isn’t a 100% sure thing the first time around. It’s a pain in the ass in terms of pet and child logistics, and papers even suggest telling your neighbors you intend to use the product. You will probably have to re-spray the keeners sprouting up. The war is not easily won.

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After the first rain in the middle of summer, the only things that were reborn were clovers and maybe the odd sprig of goutweed and other miscellaneous weeds. Nice!

In other news this week, I’ve been working on the rock garden to get it back in a state of tidiness.
You will likely see that this is going to become my primary focus next year as it is just about finished anyway. I’ve been giving my home business a lot of consideration and the main artery to this business for a customer is this walkway. I want it to look interesting, clean and polished. The upper parts are done. I’ve just got to wait for the perennials to fill in. The Sedums have done very well this summer, thanks to all that hot and dry weather. Further down, it gets a little bit more confused, but the edit to take place here is the bottom. The bottom is mostly daylilies, but I think I will probably fill most of this area (along the trellising) with Perovskia (Russian sage) and the bottom I am still considering. The Artemisia seemed very mighty, but it falls over and this isn’t really ideal for passerby.

 

As a final note this week, I confess, I’ve been a little late in my updates. Frankly, there is less to discuss as the season winds down, so I’ll be posting once every 2 weeks (with the exception of some exciting posts I can’t wait to share) from here until probably march. I’ll try my best to keep things interesting, maybe bringing some topics to the indoors, and product recommendations.

Have a fabulous week, and dance in that cold, delicious rain!

Forcing oneself to garden when stuff’s tough, when you’re tired, when summer’s over…

Well, there isn’t a lot on the ‘ol agenda from here on out. There’s a lot of me reminding myself, gosh it’s chilly in the mornings, maybe I should bring in my tropicals. So there will be some focus on the lows and bringing more things in here and there. I also see some very sad planters that need to be emptied out and either replaced with something more seasonal, or stored away. Those heliotropes are very sorry at this point. My herbs need to get used up or put into butter to freeze for fall/winter months. Everyone loves a good herb butter!

20160918_135020But my focus this week is the bed around the deck in the back yard. Look at it. Ugh. It’s just a jungle of sickly green. I took that picture on Tuesday. I then proceeded to walk the length of it to really take notes of the things I want to do to it. So the editing and extractions continue! The things that bothered me the most was that in all of that mess, I hated the motherwort.. it’s a self seeder. And the Euphorbia just looked like a collapsed mess. I already have a Euphorbia in another spot so this one took off. You can’t see them too well on the account of MESS. So they may we well go anyway.

The other thing I had to force myself to do (and I wish I had made this decision earlier in the year) was to plan out my gardening into week-long area projects. I ran around like crazy all summer from one spot to another every day.  When you’re dealing with such a large piece of property, and want to garden it as ambitiously as I do, I feel that a little order is needed so I don’t feel too overwhelmed with stuff to do. Next year, I’m going to break it down every week by zones, rather than doing everything I can and moving to the next when I finish. If I do that, I’ll never get out of an area. So if I limit each garden to one week, and then revisit it later down the road on another week, it feels like I have less to worry about. And like I said earlier, this week was the deck garden. Next week I’ll be tackling the rock garden again and doing a bunch of work in the greenhouse.

14339256_10154596978329306_1311749795_o.jpgI suppose now you want to see the end result of my week of the deck garden, eh? Well, there it is. There is no color here! But it’s a little cleaner after a good deadheading and extraction of the two mentioned perennials. And look! I have a late-blooming Buddleia, just by the window.

 

20160918_115045.jpg Ah, beautiful. This one is ‘Low & Behold Blue Chip.’ A smaller selection, ideal for a tight space.

So for now, I’m hosting a lot of daylilies here. But you know what I realize, we realize it together. Fall color is required here to continue a bit of interest. So once we remove that lilac. Yes, that naughty little lilac there, I will plant a nice Rose of Sharon that needs a home. I’ve been overwintering it for a while now, but it will do much better here. I might also consider other fall blooming perennials. I still have a few left to put in the ground. And those duchess blue ice asters are still looking gorgeous, albeit a little flopsy.

And that concludes my week. I definitely didn’t get to do as much as I hoped I would, but I’ve been rather tired and bummed out. I have a hack for that. You know how I feel about gardening as great therapy. Sometimes the medicine is hard to take. The easiest way to get a little ambition to work is to go outside. The hardest part is opening the door. Bring some snips with you. Don’t commit to anything but snipping little dead heads off or brown tips. You’ll want to do more, likely. I promise.

Now to relax with a little tea and let the rain showers do a little work for me. I’m going to enjoy the gazebo a little longer. It’s going to come down very soon!

Been walking through the rhodo forest

So you might remember my late winter post of the forest that needs a little bit of interest. Well since then, I’ve done a LOT of work. It has probably been focus #3 of the summer, after the rock garden and veggie garden. Since the last post and walk through, I’ve planted a lot of rhododendrons and azaleas and a few perennials too. I planted a few other shrubs. I’ve also lost a few things in here over the summer just because it was too tinder dry, as you know. You can only tote so many watering cans to the forest, and plant so many things to water in the heat of the summer. Especially when you have a full time job that is quite tiresome when you get home and just want to relax.

20160909_121349.jpgThe last thing I did last week in the forest was dig out some of the garbagey looking stuff at the entrance. I thought it was a positive way to end something: to draw people in to the beginning, visually. I peeled away all that old yucky grass that we never mowed anyway and made room for a Clethra alnifolia, an astilbe, a wood poppy (just as a filler) and a heather. The heather was an established shrub given to me by such a generous gardener who said it was just 2″ taller than its tag suggests, but it’s lovely enough for me. I’ve got space to fill!

 

20160909_114117.jpgThere was also some weeding to be done over the summer. Squirrels like to plant their little walnuts here because the soil is spongy and easy to dig. You would likely spot walnuts everywhere sprouting up. If they’re young, they’re easy to pluck out.  There are also suckers everywhere that are impossible to remove except by hacking them down.

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Pictured, you can see glimpses (from the beginning of the path) of Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ and Rhododendron catawbiense ‘Alba’ …but not really. I will promise a better walk in late spring. 

So as you can see, there is almost LESS beauty here at the moment compared to the last time we walked through together. It’s all due to the dryness, and the season is probably less interesting at the moment than it is in the spring.  I apologize for poor timing, this is also a lesson that the forest needs winter interest.

It also needs a structural feature. Two, actually. I want a large pagoda, and I want a concrete or stone/natural bench (not this broken 2×4 thing between two stumps). But If I discard the placeholders, I’ll forget the intent for these spots. So there, they stay.

 

20160909_114208.jpgNext spring, I will dig up some of the millions of sunflowers from the wild forest so they can colonize a bit in the back parts of the forest facing the field. Why would I do that? Because at dusk, when the sun has begun to set, your eyes will always gravitate to the vertical lines of the trees and shadows of the forest and the golden color that emanates from the west. Why wouldn’t I amplify the golden sunsets with some yellows? It will also give a bit of a softer visual break between the forest and the field.

In the heat of the summer and my inability to keep up (and this is a classic gardener’s story, it happens), I have lost 1 rhododendron (Impeditum) and one is stressing quite significantly (Hellikki). I never rip anything out until the following spring, because you never know what might come up.

It’s funny, to you, and to anyone who walks through, and maybe even to myself initially, it was just a nondescript mass planting of white pines. It took some time, some meandering and contemplation to find the path through it. You can see the rows, when standing at the right angle. They are all planted in rows. You begin to become familiar with each pine. Some are very sorry. Some are dead. Some are so much more beautiful, or fuller, than their brothers and sisters. And you come in, lay some sort of a flow, and it becomes something new.

So that is it. That is what my story is this week. You never need to resign to what’s there, you can cultivate your wild. So go out there, walk a wildness in your garden, and see if there’s another path through it, another corner that needs to be emphasized. Maybe it needs editing, maybe it needs additions.

That’s about all for this week.

I’ve got to cope with the immense work load of this place. I’m restructuring my task work load a bit. It does sound a bit over structured and anal but I thrive on such things. I’ll get into that later. I think this week I’m going to tackle the deck’s garden in the back yard. It’s been begging for some love.