Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Adverse Growing Conditions

Looking back on 2010 we did nothing but battle adverse growing conditions.  The problem is battling these types of conditions can be rather difficult.  A dry growing condition can be compensated by extra watering, irrigation and shading but a too wet of a growing condition if difficult to battle.  Raised beds help somewhat but traditional row gardening is at the mercy of the extra moisture.  There really isn't much adjustment available for temperatures. 

Raised beds get a bit warmer quicker and stay warmer longer extending the growing season somewhat.  Shading can help protect against high heat while covering the garden beds or using mini greenhouse protection can help protect against frost.  For the most part though, in normal home gardening growing conditions adjusting for temperature is still rather hit and miss. 

When adverse growing conditions hit, the best you can do is hold on tight, do what damage control you can and hope for the best.  That's one of the things that makes home gardening so much fun!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Constructing a Garden Pond

All garden pools regardless of their size are constructed pretty much the same way.  You can use a rigid, pre-formed black pond liner or black pond liner however if you want to save a bit of money you can use a pre-formed kiddy pool.  Ideally the pond should be at least 3 feet deep at its deepest but if over wintering fish the pond should be deeper.  The pond excavation site should be leveled which is very important when using pre-formed liners.  Pond constructed with pond liner should be leveled then lined with old rug material or sand to cushion the bottom somewhat.  Once the liner is in place water is added, smoothing out the liner as the pond fills.  Filtration and water movement is added then the edge is naturalized with rocks and vegetation along with the pond planted.  Floater plants are added and finally the fish.  Our experience was it was better to add fish a good week or so after the water had time to age.  Here's a video outlining how to set up a garden pond.  Enjoy!




Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snails and Garden Ponds

Small ponds have become a common garden feature.  They create a lovely, natural accent that attracts birds and other garden visitors.  Ideally a garden pond is set up as a small eco-system with plants and fish.  When done properly the pond becomes sustainable in that the plants filter the water while removing nitrogen and providing shade to prevent algae problems.  The fish provide nitrogen for the plants while keeping beneficial algae under control. 

New pond owners often introduce fish too quickly to their garden ponds, before beneficial algae has a chance to form and the water age a bit.  The solution for many is to add a few snails to the pond because beneficial algae is mistaken as being needed to be controlled.  This is the wrong solution.  Beneficial algae should be control through water filtration and shading of the pond.  I refer to the beneficial algae as pond patina.  It's a light coating of algae on the pond sides that does not cause the pond water to turn green.  String algae is a bit more difficult to control.  It should be manually removed.  If the water turns green, knock down the algae by adding a bit of cornmeal or the contents of a package of grape koolaid mix.  The grape koolaid provides immediate shade that causes the algae to die back a bit.  The grape koolaid is also an effect way to control pest birds like grackles that frequent the pond creating another problem - snails!

Snails are going to happen in the pond which is one reason you should not introduce them.  Snails are generally introduced into ponds naturally on the feet of visiting birds.  Snails are beneficial BUT they multiply too fast blocking intake lines and filters.  Any snail die down will cause additional problems like bacterial build-up and water souring.  If (really when) you notice snails have been introduced to your pond, keep a close check on the snail population level.  As soon as you notice snails in your pond you need to start doing a bit of scooping and do no ever, ever, ever release the snails to the wild!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Snow

Snow is bombarding part of southern Ontario like you would not believe.   London had received 71 cm last report and it was still coming down.  The problem with snow is some of it has to be moved in order to carry on with daily living unless of course you are able to hibernate for the winter.  Snow has a lot of benefits though.  It is a great insulator and wind barrier.  Instead of piling snow from the driveway on each side consider piling it in your garden where it will protect from soil erosion, insulate the garden bed and provide extra moisture for the spring.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Artificial Verses Real Christmas Trees

Gardening seems so far away with winter setting in and the holiday season upon us.  That brings me to the never ending question of real verses artificial Christmas trees.  Hands down I am on the real Christmas tree even though we have used an artificial Christmas tree for the past 5 years.  Now here my reasoning.

When we moved to our last house we bought an eco-friendly fiber optic artificial tree that lit up using one halogen light.  At that time my allergies were running amuck and my asthma was far from being under control.  That is precisely the time to not introduce allergens from a real Christmas tree.  This year we are not putting up the artificial Christmas tree other than the ceramic one using a CFL but we do have plans for a real Christmas tree.

Real Christmas trees are grown on farms as a cash crop.   Until harvest the trees add oxygen to the air while filtering the air making it cleaner.  The trees can be used for home heating in a wood stove or wood fireplace by removing the branches while the branches can be composted.  Those are a few eco-friendly reasons to use a real Chrismas trees.  At the same time buying a real Christmas tree is supporting local growers making for a stronger community economically. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Gardening Wish List

Christmas is just around the corner so I thought I would do up a gardening wish list.  The nice thing about gardening is everyone knows you garden so it is  easier to buy gifts for those special occasions.  Here's a few things that are on my gardening wish list:

  • seeds - I'm especially fond of receiving seeds and it doesn't matter what.  I look forward in anticipation to see if I can get the seeds to germinate and what the plant will look like.
  • fancy pots - I am very much utilitarian  when it comes to planting which means most of my pots tend to be plastic or plain terra cotta.  I really love the looks of the glazed pots to set a plainer pot in while adding a bit of interest to the gardens.
  • a gazing ball - I would love to have a gazing ball!
  • gnomes - Trust me on this one, I could never, ever, ever have too many gnomes :)
  • copper tape - I use copper tape to snail proof my garden beds and containers so a roll of that is always very much appreciated.
  • a garden bench - I love garden benches, just to stop and sit a spell while out in the garden.
Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, November 22, 2010

Unseasonably Mild Temperatures

We are still experiencing unseasonably mild temperatures here, not that I'm complaining.  The lawns look almost the best they have all year with the extra bit of rain we've been having.  There have been a couple of squirrels skirting about the yards but still no sign of the wild rabbits.  I've been told that the rabbit population is cyclic but to not see any is rather discerning.  I suspect with the harder economic times the wild rabbits are ending up in the stew pot.  Duck season is in full swing to so we hear the occasional shot reminding us that the snow will be upon us shortly. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Bit of a Lull

There is very little going on outdoors this time of the year.  We still have another day's worth of leaf gathering to do and put the plastic up on the screen-in sunporch but there isn't any actual garden work to do.  I still have to wash the solar lights I want to keep if the house sells but other than that pretty much all of the garden work is complete.  It's now time to start dreaming of next year's garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winterizing the Lawnmower

Once the final lawn cut for the season has been done it is time to winterize the lawnmower.  This is not a difficult task but neglecting to do so may cause starting problems in the spring and premature rusting of the lawnmower bed.    Here's what we do:

  • remove any grass build-up under the bed
  • hose down the bed and under the bed well
  • allow to fully dry in a sunny location
  • rub a bit of oil onto the blade to prevent rusting 
  • pour gas stabilizer into the gas tank
  • place the lawnmower in corner of garage ready for the following season

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, November 15, 2010

Cleaned Out Garden Beds

cleaned garden beds
Cleaned Out Garden Beds
November 13, 2010

We cleaned out the two smaller and one larger garden bed on Saturday.  While a good portion of the leaves were mowed over with the mulching lawnmower to provide mulch for the lawn another good portion were vacuumed up.  Rather than waste the leaves collected by the leaf blower/vacuum my husband dumped them onto the two smaller beds and the garden paths where they will break down over the winter enriching the soil.  In the spring any remaining will be worked into the soil to continue providing nutrients as they break down.  We also ended up bagging some of the leaves.  Despite all leaf raking and gathering there is still a lot more to come as one of our maples still has a fair number of leaves to fall.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Bit of Leaf Mulching

mulching leaves with lawn mower
Mulching Leaves
November 13, 2010


Our lawn mower has mulching capabilities so it makes sense to take advantage of that to get rid of a few leaves.  We have way more than we can compost in the gardens and I don't like putting leaves out for municipal collection unless necessary.  One solution we came up with was running over the leaves during the last couple of lawn cuttings with the lawn mower set to mulch.  The mulch setting cuts the leaves finely leaving them behind in the grass where they can breakdown and add nutrients over the winter.  It saves bagging the leaves as well as helps to get rid of all those extra leaves you can't compost.  It is an eco-friendly approach too as the leaves feed the lawn reducing the need for any additional fertilizer.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mixed Feelings About My Gardens

My gosh, 2010 has been a year of many changes for us.  With the purchase of a vacation home in a considerably warmer zone than here there was the excitement of new gardening experiences but at the same time I was saddened at the prospect of selling this house.  We went ahead and added to the garden beds despite the house being up for sale.  Then the house came off the market while we spent a much needed break at the vacation house.  Upon returning home we relisted the house so it is with a lot of mixed feelings seeing the close of this year's gardens.  There is a very good chance we won't be here in the spring so while I am happy at what I've been able to accomplish I'm saddened at the prospect of not seeing the results of all our hard work.  But so it goes with gardening.  Part of the fun of gardening is the adventure and the challenge of starting over again when necessary. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, November 12, 2010

Winterizing the Gardens

Now that we've had our first hard frost followed by rather cool nights but pleasant days, my thoughts have turned to winterizing the garden.  Here's my to do list for winterizing the gardens this year keeping in mind the house is on the market so I may be setting up a new garden at new home next year.  As you can see there is still a bit more to do.

  • bring in plants
  • shut off water to the gardens
  • drain self-watering system
  • bring in hoses
  • bring in garden ornaments
  • final mulch cutting
  • final bed clean-out
  • gather an herbs that can still be harvested

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Grey Days of November

The grey days of November have arrived.  I dread these days because they are so dull and dreary lasting most of the month.  Quite often we wake to a blanket of fog that slowly dissipates throughout the day but never really fully goes away.  The sky turns a bleak, mono-toned grey broken occasionally only by ominous looking storm clouds.  Most days will see a bit of misty rain as well although some days are just a complete all day rain.  Even the garden beds take on a dreary, rather sad appearance when viewed from indoors.  Soon the beds will be covered with a blanket of snow but for now I have my memories and pictures of a rather productive gardening season.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Bit of Garden Clean-up

The weather has turned surprisingly mild so I managed to get a bit more painting done outdoors.  The main thing we did in the garden was drain the hoses and put them away for winter storage.  We also drained the water lines shutting off the valves as well so there is no water in the lines.  It does freeze here over winter so this is a necessary part of fall garden clean-up.  It was nice to do a bit of puttering in the garden even though it was pretty much cleaning out.  Tomorrow is predicted to be warm and mild as well so it will be another raking the leaves day!

Happy Gardening! Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, November 08, 2010

Nixing the Seed Catalogues

Every year about this time after the main gardening season is over, I take a bit of time to go my notes of what plants did well and new varieties that I would like to try the following year.  Then I set about ordering seed catalogues that usually arrive in the coldest part of the winter so they are a cheery sight!  I keep seed catalogues as garden reference material so they tend to add up a bit.  This year I decided not to place my annual seed catalogue orders.  All of these catalogues are available online with just as much information if not more and the catalogues are searchable.  I will miss the brightly coloured seed catalogues arriving in the midst of winter but I think using the online catalogues is the eco-friendly choice.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, November 06, 2010

It Snowed!

I was up at 3 AM this morning to see a beautiful blanket of twinkling snow.  Pleasant thoughts filled my head as I drifted back off into dreamland.  There was still snow on the ground when I got up for the day but by about 9 AM it was all melted.  The first snow of the season is always exciting.  Everything looks so clean and pristine! 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, November 05, 2010

The 2010 Growing Season Recap

Oh my gosh what a year 2010 has been!  Our house has been on the market for most of the year which cramped the intended garden expansion yet I did get two new smaller raised beds put in.  We also managed to get some grass reseeded to clean up a couple of problem areas for any house viewings.  The main battle this year was the weather.  Late winter was considerably drier which affected ground conditions.  Spring was cooler and wetter than predicted.  The raised beds were planted a bit later as we were on vacation in May.  The summer blessed with heat and more heat but not much in the way of moisture.  Then we were gone half of September and part of October so I did miss some of my harvest.  Despite all of this the gardens were rather productive!

  • lettuces - a small crop
  • radishes - a small crop
  • onions - few and far between
  • peppers - a bumper year, one of the best I've ever had especially for the sweets but the hots did amazing well too
  • tomatoes - best performer this year was Brandywine followed by a commercial variety and sweet millions; Tiny Tims did not perform well
  • cucumber - very impressive performance by Marketmore, very poor performance by pickling cucumbers
  • strawberries - poor performace but the plants are new
  • horseradish - lost one plant, other one still struggling along indoors
  • rhubarb - lost the plant
  • herbs - excellent performance except for pesto basil with both plants dying

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Now That We Have Had a Frost

It is time to clean out the garden.  Yesterday morning's frost has knocked down most of the plants which is always nice.  It rained last night so things are still wet and is threatening rain again today as well as rain predicted for the next couple of days.  Sunday is supposed to be dry and warmer so it will be a good clean-out the garden combined with rake the leaves day.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Morning Frost

morning frost
Morning Frost
November 3, 2010

I awoke to the most amazing sight this morning.  We had our first hard frost!  It had turned foggy overnight, something I could tell without even looking as the freighters were sounding their fog horns throughout the night.  The fog was heavy enough this morning that I could barely see the water!  The house was surrounded in the mystical mist.  The garden beds decked with their frosty cover with the foggy mist hover was a sight to behold.  It looked the perfect spot for gnomes, fairies, unicorns and other mythical beings!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Last of the Tomatoes

Last of the Tomatoes
October 29, 2010

With the milder weather I've been able to continue harvesting tomatoes that I left on the vines as long as possible.  Green tomatoes can be coaxed into ripening with a bit of time and patience.  The flavour will not be as pronounced as those tomatoes ripened on the vine but they are still quite delicious.  Green tomatoes with a small tinge of pink will ripen indoors.  Totally green tomatoes will never ripen but they can be used for fried green tomatoes, salsa verde and green tomato ketchup.  Tomatoes that have been hit by frost will never ripen. 

Many home gardeners ripen green tomatoes on windowsills but in many cases the tomatoes will spoil before ripening especially on sunny windowsills.  Tomatoes can be ripened indoors by putting them in a brown paper bag with a ripening banana.  The banana produces ethylene gas that speeds the ripening process in the tomatoes.  Larger quantities of green tomatoes can be ripened in a box with or without a banana.  My preferred method is to place the green tomatoes on a baking sheet then set where the tomatoes will not be exposed to direct sunlight.  An alternative method is to pull the entire plant, shaking as much dirt as possible from the root ball.  Then hang the entire plant upside down in a sheltered area (eg. garage, basement) where it is dark.  The tomatoes will ripen on the vines.  Any tomatoes that don't ripen can be used as previously mentioned.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, November 01, 2010

Still No Frost!

What an incredibly odd year with respect to weather!  Here it is November first and we still haven't had a frost.  The good news is now the house is on the market we've been able to get a few things done outside like painting.  The best news is I'm still picking peppers, the odd tomato and herbs from the garden. The bad news is even though the gardens are still producing, cleaning them out would take care of that late season scruffiness that happens towards the end of the gardening season.  Well, I will just mosey along getting whatever work done outside before a frost hits and thank my lucky stars that the garden is still producing this late in the season!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, October 29, 2010

Fallen Leaves

fallen leaves
Fallen Leaves
October 28, 2010

A sure sign of winter approaching is the falling leaves.  We get a lot of leaves because we have 3 large maple trees in our back yard and the neighbours on both sides of us each have a large maple tree.  Across the road in front of our house there are more trees that drop leaves, neighbouring properties with lots of trees and our huge, old willow tree.  Most of our neighbours rake the leaves up and burn them.  One of our neighbours is out almost daily raking or using a leaf blower then bagging the leaves for municipal collection.  They pick up leaves and other yard waste for the community compost centre.  With the large number of leaves we experience it is almost impossible for us to rely solely on composting though.

We tend to leave the leaves until after the first frost which is really late this year.  We still haven't had a frost but I'm not complaining.  My husband sets the lawn mower on mulch to take care of a large portion of the leaves.  He also uses a leaf vacuum to collect what can't be mulched.  We compost what we can and put the rest out for the municipal collection.


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bringing in Potted Plants

When frost threatens the garden, bringing in potted plants and tender plants is an ideal way to keep plants for the next spring.  There are a couple of problems with bring in plants with the main one introducing insects indoors.  I kid you not, I brought in an asparagus fern that hid a spider almost the size of a quarter!  Other common insects in potted plants are ants, earwings and pill bugs.  Outdoor potted plants can also introduce plant diseases that may spread throughout other houseplants.  There are a few ways to avoid these problems.

  • tap the pot several times before and after moving which will knock off some insects especially earwings and pill bugs
  • brush the pot well to make sure there are no spider nests
  • check the plant itself for any spiders, caterpillars or other insects
  • spray plants with Safer's soap or a homemade soap solution
  • isolate plants from other house plants to ensure insects and/or disease do not spread

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Food in Uncertain Times

I've been following a discussion about the 5 crops (foods) that should be grown for sustainable living in uncertain times.  They are: potatoes, corn, beans, squash and eggs.  My gosh I have to say I disagree with the potatoes and corn.  I will be discussing this in greater detail on my cooking blog but from a gardening perspective you really do need a fair amount of space to grow enough potatoes to make it worth your while even if growing in sacks or garbage cans.  For most home gardeners corn takes up too much space for the yield and does not lend itself well to growing on a balcony. 

Here is a list of fruits and vegetables that I would consider necessary for sustainable living space permitting of course:

  • tomatoes 
  • peppers
  • lettuces
  • chards
  • onions
  • carrots
  • squash
  • pole beans
  • peas
  • rutabaga
  • fruit bearing bushes 
  • fruit bearing trees
Some animals take up more room than others and depending on location may not be allowed by the municipality.  Consider too that animals are a 24/7 commitment so may not fit in with your lifestyle.  Here is a list of animals tthat would be nice to have for sustainable living in smaller spaces:
  • rabbits
  • chickens (laying hens only)
  • goat
  • fish (eg. trout)

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Palm Trees

palm tree
Palm Tree
October 7, 2010

Palm trees are very popular where our vacation home is.  They are rather problem free, tolerating the heat and humidity well.  Pictured is one of the palm trees near our vacation home.  Now palms actually come with one itsy, bitsy problem.  They attract palmetto bugs aka American cockroach.  I am not impressed with palmetto bugs at all even though I know they don't bite or do damage.  They are huge and they will come up sewage pipes.  We have had two come up through the toilet at the vacation home so I am definitely not impressed.  The last thing I need before having coffee in the morning is to have a visitor in my toilet, thank-you very much!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, October 25, 2010

Caladium

caladium
Caladium
October 6, 2010


I love doing a bit of garden surfing so to speak in our vacation home community. Our vacation home is is Zone 9B so considerably warmer than our home Zone 6 B.  That means I get to discover a lot of rather interesting tropical plants.  This is a showy bulbaceous bulb that does not do well at temperatures below 60ºF.  While I won't be able to grow this gorgeous plant outdoors at home I will be able to grow some at our vacation home.  Isn't is pretty?

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Corking in Jalapeno Peppers

corking in jalapeno peppers
Corking in Jalapeno Peppers
October 22, 2010

I picked a fair amount of various peppers over the last few days in anticipation of frost soon to come.  Pictured are some of the jalapeno peppers.  See the thin white striations on the lower three jalapeno peppers?  These striations are known as corking.  Some believe that corking is an indication of that jalapeno pepper being hotter than those without corking.  However, Cook's Illustrated tested this theory and found no correlation between corking and heat of the individual jalapeno pepper.  Rather corking is a genetic trait this this particular variety of chili pepper that has no bearing on the heat level of the pepper.  Corking is a desired trait for jalapeno peppers grown in Mexico.  Some hybrid varieties of jalapeno peppers are less prone to corking. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Pot of Onions

potted onions
Potted Onions
October 22, 2010


The milder weather has given me extra time to get plants indoors.  Yesterday I brought in a pot of onions.  I planted the onions in early June but by mid-July they were pretty much done.  I intended to dump the pot and replant but forgot.  When we returned home from our September vacation I was pleasantly greeted with some rather healthy looking growth.  It looks like I will have a few fresh onions for salads!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, October 22, 2010

Hail!

The sky was a gorgeous blue yesterday morning.  It had rained the night before so I was waiting for the gardens to dry a bit before raiding them again.  I figured I would get the last of any of the green tomatoes since if a frost hits them they won't ripen off the vine and gathering a few herbs.  I didn't get the chance.  By afternoon the skies turned ominous looking then let out a blast of hail!  That's right hail!  Talk about the weather turning. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Last Large Vegetable Harvest of 2010

last large vegetable harvest of 2010
Last Large Vegetable Harvest of 2010
October 20, 2010 

My gosh, by any stretch of the imagination home gardeners and commercial growers in our area have not had a good growing season.  Despite that the fall has been rather on the mild side meaning the garden has been producing longer than normal.   It is beyond our ADFF and we have yet to have a frost.  The weather is turning and based on the week's weather predictions I decided to pick whatever vegetables I could yesterday.  I was surprised at how much there really was left to pick!  By far the majority was peppers but still enough tomatoes to do something with.   Those two lone tomatoes are the last of the Brandywines so we are really going to enjoy a couple of toasted tomato sandwiches!    They will be the last decent toasted tomato sandwiches of the year but will keep our mouth watering for next year's crop.

I will be doing clean picks until a good frost which likely won't happen for a couple of days or more given that we are in a pocket where we enjoy a bit of warming effect from the water.  There will be smaller amounts of vegetable coming in and today if it is dry I will be harvesting herbs.  I'm still bringing in clippings as well.  There are a few busy harvest days ahead yet, if we are lucky  :)


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Weather is Turning

I spent the morning bringing in plants and doing a bit of picking in the garden.  The weather is still quite nice but it's easy to see it is turning.  The weather forecast for today is a low of 0ºC and a low of -3ºC tomorrow making the possibility of a frost all that much closer.  I decided it would be prudent to make a clean pick of the remaining vegetables.  That way if we get a frost they won't be lost.  We are in a slight pocket where the warming effects of the water is felt so it will likely still be a few more days before we get a frost.


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, October 18, 2010

Waiting on First Hard Frost

We still haven't had our first frost so things are still trickling in from the garden.  I don't clean out the garden beds until after first frost which kills off the plants making clean out a bit easier.  Leaving the plants also protects the soil a bit from erosion.  Many of the farmers here have gone to leaving the stubble in the fields rather than plow the field under for the same reason.  The stubble also helps reduce drifting snow.

I brought a couple more tomato clippings indoors.  I may dig up one of the California Wonder pepper plants to bring indoors as well.  I have a pot of onions that I will likely bring indoors too.  Our house is on the market again but I'm making garden plans here just in case as well as garden plans for our vacation home.  We have a house in mind that if we sell which is iffy because the market has softened we'd like to buy.  It has a good sized yard for gardening as well.  So once again gardening plans are up in the air but still going forward and the nice thing about plans is they can always be changed.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Leopard Frog Visits the Garden

leopard frog
Leopard Frog
(Rana pipiens)
October 16, 2010

Oldest and youngest grandchildren visited yesterday.  On their way to the car after our visit we stopped to check out the garden.  Imagine oldest grandchild's squeals of delight at spotting this beautiful leopard frog.  This is the first time I've seen a frog in the garden.  It sure was a pleasant surprise.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Bit of Nice Weather

My gosh!  Like many I've complained about the local growing conditions this year.  It was certainly by any stretch of the imagination brutal.  Autumn has arrived and guess what despite warnings of an early frost we haven't had one.  That means I'm still harvesting peppers, tomatoes, herbs and chard.  It really is nice after having such a nasty season that we are seeing an extended harvest.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Spider

The Spider
October 1, 2010

If you have been following this blog you will know that I now garden in two very different hardiness zones.  My home hardiness zone is Canadian Hardiness Zone 6A but our vacation home is in US Hardiness Zone 9B.  I am learning so much about gardening in a warmer climate!  We were out doing a little yard work and discovered this huge and I do mean huge spider.  We have large funnel spiders as home but that did not prepare me for this huge spider!  It had to be about 4 times the size of a large funnel spider.  To get an idea of the size of this spider each siding strip from straight edge on the bottom to cove edge on the top is 4 - inches. The spider stretched out would span most of that 4 - inches!  Needless to say we have a healthy new respect for gardening gloves!

I should mention that I was as far as we can tell bit by something shortly after arriving.  My hand swelled horribly with a very tender lump then it turned just about every shade of purple you could imagine with my knuckles a bright red.  It took a good week for the swelling to start going down.  After three weeks the bruising is almost gone but the tender lump remains.  As long as I'm seeing signs of healing I'm not concerned but in hindsight I likely should have had it checked because if bit again by the same critter the reaction will likely be a lot worse.  As a result I have been doing a fair amount of research in what to be on the look-out for in US Zone 9B.  There definitely are a couple of venomous snakes, brown recluse spiders and fire ants to watch out for.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Salamander

salamander
Salamander
September 15, 2010

A couple of weeks ago we went down to the clubhouse for dinner.  Surrounding the clubhouse are lovely raised garden beds as well as traditional style.  What is really nice is they have placards with the names of many of the plants to help other residents in the community identify the plants they may want to use in their own gardens.  A cute little salamander darted about then right on cue posed for his photoshoot.  As amphibians go, salamanders are a bit more of the cute size.  I love watching the geckos too and while I enjoy photographing the alligators I am sure to keep a safe distance from them!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, October 08, 2010

The Homeside Garden Report

We are back homeside after being away for a couple of weeks.  It wasn't the ideal time to go away with respect to the garden but it was a much needed break for us.  I can't believe what a difference a bit of time away from the gardens made.  Apparently we got a fair amount of rain because the lawns look lovely.  They are nice and green!  The herb bed is doing wonderful and I just picked oodles of hot peppers for canning.  The tomatoes didn't fare as well with too much rain that caused splitting.  Still there were a few stragglers to pick.  I did end up losing my potted grapevine and one horseradish but all of a sudden my onions are back.  So it's been an interesting return to my home garden after having a bit of fun at my vacation garde :)

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Plumbago auriculata

Plumbago auriculata
September 30, 2010

Plumbago auriculata is a very popular garden plant in Zone 9B where our vacation home is.  This is an evergreen bush with showy blue flowers that remind me of phlox.  I think it is quite pretty so will be planting a few bushes at our vacation home.  Propagation is by semiripe tip cuttings in the spring or by seed.  However, the nurseries in the area sell potted bushes for planting.  Isn't it a pretty bush?

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, October 04, 2010

Build an Inexpensive Self Watering Container

Now that our gardening season is starting to wind down with the ADFF quickly approaching, I am looking for a few winter gardening projects to test out.  This year was quite dry throughout the summer creating problems with the container plants that easily dried out just a couple of hours after watering.  I didn't use the watering globes outdoors but I did use the SoilMoistTM granules on some of the inedible planters.  Nothing seemed to help this year so I'm going to start experimenting with self watering containers.

I am going to try a couple of styles of homemade self watering containers.  The following video shows the first type I am going to try.  This is a very practical set-up that should cost about $5 using recycled materials.  It will cost more in potting soil than materials.  Potting soil will have a better wicking action than garden soil but I will likely experiment with a homemade soil mixture to use.  What I like about this design is the container is large enough for several vegetable varieties.  With a bit of modification the container can sit inside a wooden container so it will look nice as well.  I will likely use a piece of PVC pipe that we have left over from plumbing repairs rather than try to find plastic water bottles.




Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Seed Banks

There are many ways to get seeds for your garden with one of the most popular being through seed catalogues.  Another popular method is collecting seeds from plants growing in your garden.  If you join a local garden club they usually offer a seed an/or plant exchange.  You can also get seeds from family and friends who garden.  All of these methods are great ways to get seeds.  One method of getting seeds is through a seed bank.


A seed bank is usually run by one or two gardening enthusiasts but in some cases is run by a gardening group.  Seed banks have slightly different rules based on who is running them.  In general, you put in a request for the seeds you would like along with any seeds you have to offer.  Some seed banks request you donate seeds to help keep the seed bank well stocked.  Most ask that you send a SASE with your request as well.  In return they will send you 5 to 10 seeds of the requested variety if they have it.  The number of seeds will be based on both supply and demand.

There are a few things to be aware of if using a seed bank.  First most seed banks are run by volunteers or individual garden enthusiasts who are not paid.  They are simply doing this because they love gardening and want to help fellow gardeners.  As such they are always very appreciative if you can donate seeds to their seed bank.  It is also considered rude to request too many seed varieties so keep that in mind when making your request.  In general requesting 2 to 4 varieties is acceptable with a seed donation depending on the seed bank.  Don't expect more than 5 to 10 seeds of any one variety.  The may be a lower germination rate for seeds from a seed bank.  The reason for lower germination rate is seed banks accept seed donations that may be collected from gardeners ranging from very inexperienced to very experienced.  The seed bank has no way of knowing the gardener's experience or how the seeds were treated during and after collection.  As with an item being sent through the mail there may be delays and in some cases the envelop may get lost.  Another thing to consider is where the seed bank is located.  If it is outside of your country there may be some restrictions as to what you can order.  Check with Customs first before requesting seeds from seed banks in other countries.  I have not heard of any problems but then I've only dealt with seed banks in Canada.
Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Growing Heirlooms

When it comes to gardening, the choice of what to grow is reduced to heirloom varieties or hybrids.  By far I prefer heirloom varieties because I can save the seeds that breed true.  Seed can be saved from hybrids and I do but quite often they do not breed true.  There are also asexual propagation restrictions on some hybrid varieties.


One commentator asked me back in the spring if I could list the heirloom varieties that I grow.   Here is my list and it does change from year to year as I try other heirloom varieties.  Those marked with an asterisk (*) are heirloom varieties I am planning on growing in 2011 in addition to the others listed.  I've likely missed a lot of heirlooms on our property especially the non-edible varieties.  In addition to this list I would consider the majority of the herbs I grow as heirloom varieties.
  • Marketmore 76 cucumber
  • lemon cucumber
  • Brandywine tomatoes
  • black Kim tomatoes*
  • mortgage lifer tomatoes
  • tiny Tim tomatoes
  • California Wonder bell peppers
  • sweet banana peppers 
  • habanero peppers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • cayenne peppers
  • Detroit dark red beets
  • Mary Washington asparagus
  • Bloomsdale long spinach
  • King of Denmark spinach
  • Laxton's progress peas
  • homesteader peas
  • little mavel peas
  • nasturitums
  • heavenly blue morning glory
  • Kentucky wonder pole beans
  • blue lake pole beans
  • asparagus yard long beans*
  • Hutterite beans*
  • baby oakleaf lettuce
  • Boston red lettuce
  • cimmaron romain lettuce
  • mesclun mix
  • Canada red rhubarb
  • heavenly blue morning glory


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, October 01, 2010

Joining A Garden Club

There are many benefits to joining a local garden club.  Not only do you get to interact with other gardeners you can get a lot of growing tips as well a exchange clippings and seeds.  We have a local garden club where we live as well as a garden club where our vacation home is.  I think they are a great way to extend your gardening knowledge while meeting other gardeners! 
Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Balsam Apple (Momordic charantia)

Balsam Apple Seed Pod
(Momordic charantia)
September 22, 2010

I have taught my husband well!  He was out on the golf course with a couple of buddies and spotted a rather interesting plant so he brought me home a seed pod for identification.  Despite warnings he should not touch unknown plants just in case apparently this plant did not pose a warning for him.  I now have to get him used to taking pictures of the actual plants.  At any rate with just the seed pod I was able to quickly identify the plant as being Momordic charantia or commonly balsam apple, balsam pear or bitter melon.  The seed pod is bright orange and knobby ridged.  Inside the seed pod there are bright red seeds surrounded by  a gelatinous protective coating as pictured.  This plant is classified as an annual weed.  There is some indication that there are medicinal uses for reducing blood sugar but the fruit coat, ripe fruits and seeds are toxic when ingested in large quantities.  I will be looking to get pictures of the actual plant.  It should be easy to identify with this unique type of seed pod.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And The Rain Arrives

We had heavy rains the last few days.  It really has been a little too late though.  Now it will become an issue of too much rain for the local farmers to harvest before the crops rot in the fields.  The soybean harvest has been halted due to the rains and this definitely is not good for those trying to harvest tomatoes.  Our average day of first frost (ADFF) falls the end of the first week of October so if the tomatoes aren't harvested by then they will need to be plowed under.

The grass is loving all the extra rain.  The only downside is trying to cut the grass has been hindered so the yards are looking a little shaggy.  This has just been a bad year for gardening all the way around.  There's only so much you can do about the weather but you have a bit better chance being a home gardener than a commercial grower.  I'm keeping my fingers cross they can get their crops off!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Orange Tree

orange tree
Orange Tree
September 18, 2010

Apparently the oranges are so plentiful here that people put boxes of them to the road hoping someone will take them.  Pictured is one of our neighbour's orange tree.  They said to help ourselves when the fruit is ready for picking.  We rented in the park our first trip here that was meant to purchase a house in the park that we had seen online.  We decided against that house but looked at several others, got to know the park and basically enjoyed ourselves.  That trip we enjoyed a lot of fresh picked oranges and let me tell you they taste so much better than store bought!  Now that we bought here I want to plant an orange tree.

One neighbour told us that the orange trees can be problematic and they are higher maintenance trees.  Leaf drop seems to be an issue for some gardeners.  My husband thinks I should just take advantage of all the free fruit rather than try growing an orange tree but the challenge sounds fun.  I plan on visiting a few nurseries in the area of our vacation home where I look for a nice, healthy tree as well as get advice for growing it.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, September 20, 2010

Unidentified Moth

unidentified moth
Unidentified Moth
September 16, 2010

During one of out strops a few days ago I spotted this pretty moth fluttering around on the sidewalk.  His wing span was about 3 - inches so a rather impressive size.  He stopped just long enough for me to get this picture showing his gorgeous markings.  I'm not sure what kind of moth he is.  If you can help identify please leave a comment.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Butterfly Bush

butterfly bush
Butterfly Bush
September 16, 2010

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast a few days ago.  They had a lot of these gorgeous bushes bordering the parking lot.  As we enjoyed our breakfast I watched a large number of butterflies frequenting the bushes.  I aptly named them butterfly bushes but that likely is not their name.  What I found very interesting is the range of colours in the blooms.  Aren't they just gorgeous?  No wonder the butterflies enjoy them!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Across the Garden Fence

I've been emailing with a couple of neighbours at our vacation home.  Here we are experiencing one of the driest summers in ages and apparently the average rainfall where our vacation home is the average monthly rainfall was six inches.  I told them they could send a little our way!  We are experiencing another cold spell so the chances of the organic farmer having another harvest of pickling cucumbers is rather slim.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Sad Gardening Day in the Neighbourhood

The weather has turned cool here so the organic pickling cucumbers I was hoping for haven't materialized although there is still a slim chance.  I've been keeping a close eye on my garden.  It is a bit sheltered so can tolerate a bit more adverse weather conditions.  We are quickly approaching our ADFF but most gardens should still be going fairly strong and if fall crops were planted they should be coming up by now.  With all the weather problems late blight still hasn't hit the tomatoes so I took several cuttings for my indoor continuous garden.  They are nice and healthy looking so I have a fair amount of hope they will perform nicely.  As I tended the garden I could help but notice that our neighbours two and three doors down has stripped their gardens to the bare soil.  Everything is gone.  Then I took a basket of tomatoes over to another of our neighbours and noticed their garden which is a very impressive raised bed system was also completely cleaned out.  Mine is the only garden still going full tilt!  I told them to help themselves because I have more tomatoes than we can use.  These are the beautiful big slicing heirloom tomatoes, brandywine.  One slice fills a slice of toast for toasted tomato sandwiches.  What I couldn't give away I brought in along with any other tomato I could find then ran them through the food mill for a raw smooth sauce to be frozen until I have enough tomatoes to can the sauce up. 

So many home gardeners are calling it quits this year and perhaps a bit too early.  I'm of the gardening school that I will hang on no matter what until the first hard frost hits.  It seems a bit too early to be tilling the garden under.  Heck local farmers are just harvesting soy beans and tomatoes here.  That will continue through almost mid-October so there is still plenty of time left for home gardening.  It was sad to see three gardens reduced to soil today.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Weather Has Changed

My gosh!  I think 2010 is going to go down in history as the worst gardening season ever.  I'm not kidding and in some ways it is a bit frustrating but in other ways it just makes me dig in my heels a bit harder and fight back.  Despite the local predictions of a dry spring we had a wet, cool spring.  Then we were hit with high heat and humidity for July and August but very little rainfall.  To put things in perspective since we moved here in 2007 we have averaged using the AC five days each summer.  This summer it was on for a good fourteen days!  Our peaksaver® was triggered twice which is more than they predicted when we signed up for the program.  The downside to the high heat and humidity was rather violent weather all around us to the point there were many days we couldn't take the boat out due to active weather in the area even though we didn't a drop of rain.  Everyone was hoping the heatwave would lift while the farmers were begging for rain.  Overnight the temperatures plummeted to the point of needing a jacket while the winds picked up and the rains started. 

Many are saying the rain came a little too late.  While the abrupt weather change has been a tad rude it has made for nice canning weather.  The gardens are starting to wind down.  I am not putting in a fall garden this year but will be working on my continuous indoor harvest.  I'm in the process of taking tomato clippings to grow indoors.  So far blight has not hit the tomato plants and they still look fairly healthy but it is only a matter of time.  Our ADFF is quickly approaching.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, September 10, 2010

A Small Harvest

harvest Sep 7, 2010
A Small Harvest
September 7, 2010

This really has been a bad year for gardening here.  August has been so dry that it is more than affecting the local growers.  Irrigating has been the only way to save the crops but still that may not be enough.  I did a clean pick of the garden a couple of days ago.  The tomatoes are producing nicely and despite the weather the sweet peppers are really performing nicely!  Doesn't it look wonderful?

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Swiss Chard

swiss chard
Swiss Chard
September 7, 2010

I didn't plant  a lot of Swiss chard this year but the 2 square feet are producing nicely.  I've been cutting the outer leaves then letting the inner leaves mature which seems to be keeping the plants a bit more productive.   I picked enough for freezing a couple of nights ago.  It wasn't a lot but it was enough for about two cups of steamed greens for the freezer. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Finer Art of Pest Control

I have been discussing spider control on my homemaking blog.  In this particular infestation I have had to resort to using chemical insecticidal control because four identified species are venomous and there has been a burst in the funnel spider population so reducing their numbers is important to lessen the risk of a problematic spider bite.

Anytime I have to resort to chemical pest control it signifies to me that something is out of balance with my gardens and property in general.  The problem is resorting to chemical pest control while it may be necessary can further cause an off balance.  The reality is predators do not catch dead prey.  If the prey is not there because they were killed off via chemical means the predators will move on to where the prey are.  Our spring and summer weather has been so far off this year it is no wonder we are dealing with a few pest issues.  I hope this is not indicative of things to come!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, September 06, 2010

Pink Hibiscus

pink hibiscus
Pink Hibiscus
August 26, 2010

Daily walking has become my excuse for being a garden snoop.  This way I can check out what other great plants others are growing in their gardens and ones I may want to add to my gardens.  I spotted this pretty pink hibiscus on one of my walks.  Hibiscus is a member of the mallow family and while I haven't grown hibiscus I have grown okra and rose mallow, both members of the mallow family as well.  The mallow family have pretty, showy flowers.  I didn't have luck with okra other than the flowers but rose mallow grew well for me which reminds me to plan on growing it next year.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Grasshopper Incident

King of Denmark is a wonderful heirloom spinach that performs nicely.  One look at the mature plants and you will easily see why this variety is king just from the sheer size of it.  A few days ago I noted that the King of Denmark spinach was looking rather good.  Then I noticed that something had been helping itself to a taste test.  A couple of days later I found the critter responsible for the damage.

King of Denmark spinach
The damage on the King of Denmark spinach was indicative of a chewing insect.  There was evidence of insect frauss as well.   I kept an eye on the spinach to see what was eating it.  It took a couple of days but I finally caught the little critter, a grasshopper.

Grasshoppers have not been a huge problem in my gardens.  While I have had a small amount of damage due to grasshoppers for the most part it has been minimal.  They can do a fair amount of damage in a short period of time.  Grasshoppers tend to be more problematic during drier summers so I'm not surprised to see them leaving their mark in the garden this year.

grasshopper jail
Catching the grasshopper red handed was nice because I was easily able to identify the damaging causing insect.  I captured the offending critter and put him into time out in a grasshopper jail cell.  I thought it was a rather fitting punishment.  It was obvious he could not stay where he was!  Manual removal of any offending garden pest is always my first choice wherever possible. 

I've been checking the garden for more signs of grasshopper damage.  So far I haven't found any so this appears to be an isolated incident.  Since the problem is not widespread I will continue to use the manual removal method. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Unidentified Shrub

unidentified tree
Unknown
August 28, 2010

A few days ago I was on my daily walk when I spotted this gorgeous tree in bloom.  I would have stopped in to ask the owners what it was but the house is their summer cottage so they aren't there very often.  As it was they weren't there that day since the house was all closed up.  I love the whispy look of this shrub.  I would like to identify it so I know what to ask for at nursery.  I'd like to plant a couple here.  If you know what this shrub is could you please leave a comment?

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, August 30, 2010

Funnel Spiders

funnel spider
Funnel Spider
August 30, 2010


One of the first things we noticed when we moved here were the large funnel spiders (grass spiders).  As spiders go these are about the size of a quarter.  Their webs are a thin whispy sheet with a characteristic funnel shape that the spider hides in.  They were everywhere to the point that we resorted to spraying to knock down their numbers a bit.  The risk to humans of being bit by a funnel spider is low since they are non-agressive according to the spider identification chart however they are venomous requiring emergency first aid treatment for the bite and medical attention for anti-venom.  Given the design of our house and the proximity of vegetation to the lower patio there is a strong possibility of one of these spiders getting indoors. 

That year we were able to knock down their numbers by removing a lot of the evergreen overgrowth.  My husband also sprayed the house with SpiderBan.  If you have been following this blog you will know that the only time I will resort to chemical pesticides is as a last resort.  This is usually when a particular pest presents a danger to humans or damages building structure.  Even then if the pest can be manually removed safely that is always the first choice.  The last two years we haven't sprayed the house for spider control.  This year the funnel spiders are again out of control.  They are everywhere!  There are several webs on the grass and the globe cedars and boxwoods look like they have some type of disease due to the number of the webs.  This presents a huge problem with the grandbabies visiting especially since they love running barefoot outside. 

I tried controling by sweeping away their webs that just reappeared the following morning.  I've stomped on them and zapped them.  Manual removal is impossible given how fast they move into their funnel.  Once again we have no choice but to resort to chemical control to knock down their numbers again. 

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, August 27, 2010

Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica)

Japanese beetle on velvetleaf
Japanese Beetle
(Popillia japonica
Aaugust 26, 2010 

A couple of days ago I posted about velvetleaf that is considered a noxious weed in some locations.  I noticed that despite a bad reputation with reducing yields in cash crops that my peppers didn't seem to be adversely affected by the velvetleaf in the beds.  I have been pulling before the velvetleaf was able to flower.  Upon closer inspection it appeared that a couple of damaging insects were targetting the velvetleaf yet leaving the peppers alone.  Yesterday I spotted a Japanese beetle happily feeding away on the velvetleaf yet there was no damage to the peppers.

Japanese beetles are rather destructive garden pests.  I've dealt with them in the past where they mainly attacked my pole beans.  They eat the foliage of the leaf leaving the veins behind so the damage is quite noticeable.  If you see this type of damage on pole beans or other plants including ornaments this is one of the critters to look for.  

The female Japanes beetle burrows into the soil in garden beds and lawns where it lays its eggs.  The larval stage spends about 10 months underground.  Once the adult emerges from the pupate the damage begins in the garden.  Brown spots in the lawn during growing season can indicate the presence of the Japanese beetle larva so check the out edges of any brown spots in the grass and treat or destroy the larva.  In the larva stage Bacillius thuringiensis (Bt) is effective applied as an insecticide to the grass.  Japanese beetle traps may or may not be effective as there is some evidence that they actually attract these pests bringing more into the garden. 

My method of controlling Japanese beetles is to knock them off the leaves into a tub of soapy water in the early post dawn hours of the day when they are a bit sluggish.  Manual control is quick, easy, effective and low cost.   If the infestation is large plant chives, garlic, tansy or catnip as companion plants to those plants the Japenese beetle are damaging.  These plants naturally repel the Japanese beetle. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Noxious Weeds

Yesterday I wrote about my experience so far with velvetleaf.  This weed is classified as being noxious in British Columbia and several US states.  To be classified as a noxious weed the plant has to cause harm to human via toxicity or cause an agricultural loss however every municipality has their own definition of noxious weeds.  In some localities a weed (eg. water hyacinth) can be classified noxious because it blocks water intakes.  Here dandelions (edible), wild mustard (edible) and milk thistle (medicinal, attracts Monarch butterflies) are considered noxious so technically they are to be destroyed.  There doesn't seem to be any reasoning as to why the last mentioned are deemed noxious other than they are somewhat invasive.  The main reason seems to be that these particular weeds interfer with the pristine green carpets of chemically dependent lawns some municipalities are striving for.  With the onset of the Ontario lawn pesticide ban that has left some residents scrambling.  At the same time others are questioning the classification of some noxious weeds especially those that are edible or provide a companion benefit in the garden.  I honestly think people are going to start seeing dandelions in a whole different light now. 

If you are dealing with a noxious weed on your property the best course of action is to prevent it from spreading.  That means you can use all the benefits of the weed up to the point just before it goes to seed.  At that point if you want the seed bag the seed pod so seeds go into the bag and not into the wild or manually remove the weed to prevent it from going to seed.  If your municipality declares a weed noxious then manually remove it via pulling before it goes to seed but you can keep a couple for research purposes providing you don't allow the seed to get out into the wild.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti)

Velvetleaf 
(Abutilon theophrasti)
August 25, 2010

As a gardener my style is not to get too bent out of shape with respect to weeds.  Some weeds act as companion plants in a garden while others are edible.  I only get concerned if the weeds present the potential to choke out the fruits or vegetables.  My preferred way of dealing with weeds is pulling.

Earlier this year I noticed a suspected weed that I had not seen before.  The plants were mainly in the two new raised beds so chances I thought the seeds might have been in the soil used to fill the beds.  They were appearing in numbers quite suggestive of a weed so at first I was pulling them before the plant got a about 9 - inches tall.  Then it dawned on me that I should identify the plant to be sure it was a weed and not a wildflower that I may want to transfer to another area of the garden.  I decided to let one grow a bit for identification. 

The plant is Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) is a member of the mallow family.  It is classified by Ontario Weeds as a weed that is mainly a problem in corn, soybean, and other tilled crop fields.  This weed can reach a height of 1 to 2 metres.  The broad heart shaped leaves result in overshadowing other plants.  The leaves on the one pictured in one of the pepper beds measures 8 - inches at the broadest point.  In corn fields a density of velvetleaf of 1 plant/m2 the loss is 4%  while in soybean fields the same density will result in a 6% loss1.  Clearly with respect to the cash crop sector this is a problem weed.  The good news is that velvetleaf is not toxic and not known to be allergenic so pulling this weed will not be an issue.  Velvetleaf also attracts beneficial pollinators.  It is acting somewhat as a companion plant with the peppers though if you notice the damaged leaves.  Whatever insect is doing the damage is going for the velvetleaf and leaving my peppers alone so the peppers are nice and healthy looking.  The seeds of velvetleaf are edible and at one time fibers from the plant were used in China. 

I would like to let one grow big enough to harvest the seeds to use as a companion plant next year.  With proper management by pulling before the plant has a chance to flower I can reap the benefits of the pest control without reducing yield.  This plant is just now started to flower.  My main concern is the plant is just too big to keep where it is.  What I'm going to try is potting up one of the smaller velvetleaf or may even transplant a couple to harvest the seeds.  While the plant is not classified as a noxious weed in Ontario it is in British Columbian and several US states so I will be using careful management with this weed.  As soon as the seed pods appear I will be bagging one or two and remove the rest so the seeds don't get out into the wild where they can be a problem.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Herb Overflowing

herb bed
Herb Bed
August 22, 2010

The lack of rainfall certainly hasn't hurt the herb bed that is overflowing with beautiful herbs.  Even with using fresh and cutting for drying there is still an abundance!  The more I cut the more the herbs grow.  That is one of the secrets to growing herbs.  They love to be trimmed!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Monday, August 23, 2010

A Basket Full of Vegetables

vegetable basket
Vegetable Basket
August 22, 2010

We had a bit of rain overnight the night before so yesterday I went through the garden to do a clean pick.  My 14" diameter wicker basket is overflowing!  I am so very happy with the California Wonder green peppers.  This heirloom variety is really performing nicely.  Everything in the basket as well as the cucumber are heirloom varieties.  I will be saving a lot of seeds this year but then I save a lot of seeds every year. 

It rained a bit more overnight and is threatening rain today.  We've had a bit of drizzle but nothing much so far.  The radar is showing mainly cloud coverage with light rain in our area but there is another storm cell behind it so perhaps we will get more rain yet.  In the meantime I will be putting up those lovely green peppers to enjoy through the winter.  The plants are loaded so there are more to come and I don't want to waste any.  That might be the last cucumber though.  There are a couple of small cucumbers but I'm not sure if they will reach maturity as the vine isn't looking very good.  I'll keep an eye on it. 

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stella D'or

Honest to Betsy this has been one of the most frustrating growing seasons I've dealt with in the past few years.  We had a wet, cool spring despite predictions.  Then the weather turned hot and dry to the point the local farmers are begging for rain.  We sure could use a few days of just a nice, gentle down pour!  a couple of days ago I looked out to see a bit of yellow.  Well in the heat of the dryness I figured it was a weed so didn't hurry out to investigate but when I did look what I found!

stella d'or
Peeping up through the slope that we haven't ripped out yet were two gorgeous Stella D'or lilies.  I have not been watering this garden as it is slated for a rip-out so pretty much it is on its own.  Except now that I seen these gorgeous blooms I'm going to water if need be and mark where the plants are that I want to transplant. 

I've had Stella d'Or is two gardens now.  They really are good performers almost thriving on neglect and yet still putting on a good show.   Don't you think they are gorgeous?  What a nice surprise in the heat of a dry summer!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Raccoons and Corn

raccoons and corn
Raccoons and Corn
August 19, 2010

Our neighbours to the north put in the most amazing raised bed system I've seen.  It consists of 3 larger beds joined together forming a flattened Z shape.  They are not growing using the square foot method.  In one of the runs they planted corn and they even added a really neat support system that I will use if I decide to grow corn next year.  I haven't grown corn mainly because of space limitation.  It takes up a lot of room for what you get.  However, this neighbour has grown corn and the neighbours two and three houses down both grow corn so perhaps I will try it but I will definitely be making some modifications. 

I recently talked about our garden visitor.  He is being rather persistent but other than getting into our garbage once we don't have a real problem.  I make sure the master bedroom and kitchen windows as well as the kitchen patio doors are closed enough that he can't get in.  I also keep foods off the counter especially during the evening hours when this little guy is busy.  Well he got into our neighbour's with the raised beds corn!  I didn't realize that they were new gardeners because they had a smaller raised bed last year.  Anyway apparently they left it a bit too long so the corn it too tough then to add insult to injury as pictured the raccoon has been helping himeself.  What is rather interesting is he hauls the corn stalks from their garden ove into our yard to feast!

I've already decided that if I grow corn next year it is going to be protected by chicken wire to the point squirrels and raccoons can't get to it.  It's a shame to have a crop that is over ripe or pilfered by garden pests.  We are now exchanging a lot of gardening ideas :)

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Friday, August 20, 2010

California Wonder Peppers

California Wonder pepper
California Wonder Peppers
August 19, 2010

I am more than pleased with the performance of the California Wonder sweet peppers!  This is an heirloom variety of sweet peppers.  Most will be familiar with California Wonder sweet peppers as it is the most common variety sold in grocery stores.  So why am I excited?  In the past I have had major bad luck growing sweet peppers other than sweet banana peppers (another heirloom variety) and hot peppers.  I don't know what the problem has been but any sweet bell pepper I've grown has got about the size of a small orange and that's it.  The California Wonder sweet peppers are already larger than that so this is rather exciting!  I can't wait until they are ready to pick and you can be sure I will be saving seeds from this great performer!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Overgrown Garden Beds

overgrown garden bed
Overgrown Garden Bed
August 19, 2010

This morning I ended up watering the raised beds again.  Rain is predicted this evening but I'm not taking any chances.  We've had rain all around us but not actually hitting us for the past couple of weeks now.  Despite the cooler weather the last couple of days the heat and humidity have shot right back up there today so watering was a must.

As I puttered in the garden this morning it dawned on me what a mess the raised beds were.  The plants obviously have not read the square foot gardening book.  This is the time of year my raised beds look unruly to say the least!  I really need to get out there to do a bit of trimming and staking.  For the most part the plants are looking quite healthy though.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2010