I mentioned here a few times in the past couple of months about learning to garden in a different zone. Our permanent Canadian residence is in Zone 6A that should remain the same if we move although we would have less of the direct warming effects of the water. Our vacation home is located in US Hardiness Zone 9A so that will present quite a difference in what I can grow.
We have been enjoying the new to us vacation home complete with gardens. The gardens wrap around the house with a wider section to the front. This is the first time we have ever dealt with an HOA but in this case I really don't mind. Vacation homes are significantly different from your permanent home in that the vacation home may or may not be rented out or it may be empty for a good portion of the year so having someone keep an eye on the place for us is an asset.
We bought wood mulch to refreshen what was already there. I'm going a bit low keyed until I identify all the plants although they are fairly common landscaping plants here. There is an automated watering system that took us a few days to figure out. We water once a week according to the county schedule. I'm not sure yet what new beds we will be putting in. For now that will be left to our next trip here. This trip we focused on cleaning up the beds, revamping the mulch and enjoying the company of a couple of friendly little geckos.
My gosh, I was so excited when I got the news that the vacation home was finalized! In terms of gardening it meant I would be learning how to garden in a totally different zone from our permanent home of Zone 6A. When we arrived here to finally check out what we bought almost a month and a half after signing the final papers I was overwhelmed at the work involved. It wasn't the work as in the house needed major work but more the work of shopping to stock the house. Goodness, I hate shopping at the best of times so shopping to stock a house that was basically empty was just a bit too much for me. So I'm on to learning all about gardening here. We actually have a programmable watering system!
I know I won't be planting much in the way of fruits or vegetables although I do want an orange tree. The gardens are planted to surround the house along the perimeter by about 2 feet with low maintenance shrubs and a larger garden to the front. A couple of geckos flit in and about the garden with the smaller one getting into the lanai. We've been told that a gecko in the lanai is good luck and he [actually I think a she] is rather friendly so I don't mind. A couple of gnomes have arrived to expand the Gnome Empire here. I will be posting more about my new gardens along with pictures shortly.
Raspberries are one of my favourite fruits so I feel quite lucky to live quite close to a U-pick raspberry farm. Raspberries even at the U-pick are likely the most expensive local fruit at $2.25 per pint. The reason for this is raspberries deteriorate rapidly after picking with a refrigeration life of about 2 days. I usually buy the amount of raspberries I will use that day. I have never grown raspberries but have decided to put in a raspberry patch this year either here if we stay or at the new house if we move. Things are still up in the air so I'm moving forward as planned.
Raspberries are either spring or fall bearing from what I have found. Not only is the fruit delicious but the leaves can be dried for raspberry tea. According to the research I've done the canes should be planted a foot apart and the roots kept moist after transplanting. Here is a video I found that explains how to transplant raspberry canes.
Our ADLF has past so thought have turned to planting the garden beds. Ideally cold loving plants such as chards and lettuces are planted 2 weeks before ADLF but my beds will be planted a bit late this year but well within the time frame for a good harvest. I will be planting tomatoes on the May 24 weekend. According to gardening legend here gardens need to be planted by May 24 for corn to be knee high by July 1. So as long as my garden is planted by May 24 I'm a happy gardener.
In the meantime this is a good time to work compost and other soil amendments into the soil and prep the beds for planting. It is also a good time for me to prep the beds with the square foot grid. This year rather than using yarn I'm using gardening twine.
I plant a lot of tomatoes as well as grow tomatoes year round indoors. Since most of a tomato plant's root are in the top six inches of soil I like to plant in a trench at an angle rather than a deep hole. This keeps the roots growing near the surface warm and creates a stronger root system for the plant. I add 2 - 3 tbsp epsom salts to the trench when planting the tomatoes then sprinkle 1 tbsp per foot of height around the base of the tomato plants every two weeks. Epsoms salts provide magnesium and calcium for the plant resulting in better growth, fruit set, and less blossom end rot (BER).
I use the square foot gardening method in raised beds for planting tomatoes outdoors so one plant per square foot. I put the supports in when planting as they are easier to do when the plants are small. Since my tomatoes are trained to grow up the supports slugs are not a problem. I also protect my raised beds with a trim of copper tape around the perimeter of the beds to control slugs.
There is no such thing as too many herbs! The beauty of herbs is they can be grown indoors and outdoors without much effort. If growing indoors the main requirement is light followed by proper watering. Herbs tend to like to be on the dry side. Many will grow nicely on a window sill or on the balcony. A couple of our kids gifted me with two potted herbs for Mother's Day.
This spring has been rather an interesting one with above average temperature and below average rainfall followed by cooler temperatures, frost threatening and a fair amount of rain. I'm glad to see the rain after a rather dry winter but soon it will be interfering with local farmers' planting. In many ways it seems we are heading back to the old adage here to plant the corn by May 24 to have it knee high for July 1.
I admit to being a bit envious of my neighbours as I watch them plant their gardens but I know frost is still just waiting to pop up and zap those plants so I'm holding off aiming for the May 24 timing of old. I've planted as late as mid-June and still had a descent harvest so this year with the unpredictable weather waiting seems rather prudent. I have however bought a few plants and have been planting in containers indoors where I know my plants won't suffer a frost. Some of these plants will remain as part of my continuous harvest indoor garden where really the only things I have to worry about is lighting and spacing. Oh sure there are the occasional problems but for the most part most of the headaches of growing outdoors are eliminated.
A couple of days ago we did a major rip-out. Well actually it was started in the fall then the weather turned nasty so there were all the stumps, lava rock, a couple of shrubs, one tree and a bit of miscellaneous stuff to remove. We got smart and hired this job out. I will post more on this but I will say hiring it out was one of the best things we did. The rip-out looked amazing when they were finished about 2 hours later! We are still waiting on the 8 cubic yards of top soil to be delivered which likely won't happen until next week as they are calling for rain the rest of this week.
We are planning on putting in a couple of new raised beds depending on whether we are moving or not. That whole thing is still up in the air with us actually now considering taking our house off the market. In the meantime garden plans are moving forward. At this late date anything we plant as far as vegetables we will see some type of harvest if we move. I did buy another strawberry plant and a grape plant (more on that) and will be buying raspberry canes this year so they will remain in pots until we make a final decision on moving. The gnomes have had their biannual bath so the garden is in full swing, ready for the season!
Our average day of last frost (ADLF) is May 11 this year for our area. Saturday (May 8, 2010) I decided to treat myself to a bit of plant shopping. Like many gardeners I'm anxious to get out in the garden. There were a lot of hanging planter and potted plant selections in time for Mother's Day (May 9, 2010) but not much more. Despite the gorgeous weather we had been having the weather turned rather nasty on Thursday then proceeded to get nastier so by Saturday's shopping trip Environment Canada had issued high wind warnings for our area. The winds were bad enough but then there was the drizzle making it a lousy day for wandering through nurseries. I picked out 3 potted plants (more on that to come) then managed to get them into the car without being blown away. They salesgirl warned me the of a frost warning for that night so I put the plants indoors then checked the weather channel. Sure enough there was a frost warning for that night (May 8) and according to the weather report the threat of frost will remain until later in the week as late as May 15th.
At this point there is no choice but to play the waiting game on the weather while getting things ready for gardening behind the scenes indoors. I've been restocking gardening supplies, planting/caring for seedlings, purchasing plants and cleaning pots for replanting along with making plans for expanding this garden or the possible move. This year I will be expanding the container gardening portion of my garden just in case we do follow through with the move so that will be exciting. Here's hoping I can be out working in the garden and setting up containers shortly!
Garden Gnome ©2006-2010
We are very fortunate to live in a rural area with an abundance of wildlife. Our house backs onto the water so there is an amazing variety of waterfowl throughout the year. There are two pairs of Mallard ducks nesting on our property this year and Mute Swans visit daily. Although some of the wildlife we encounter such as mice are not quite welcomed for the most part the wildlife tends to be mainly an enjoyment mixed with a little pest behaviour at times.
Over the past three days I've posted various aspects of growing strawberries. In general strawberries can be planted in the ground, in raised beds, and in containers (eg. expandable tower, hanging, patio). They really are rather problem free for the most part. Simply plant and occasionally feed with an organic fertilizer along with a little epsom salts and forget them. Quite honestly 4 strawberry plants will be enough to give you plenty of strawberries in their second year. Here's a few things you need to know.
There are two types of strawberries, June bearers and ever bearing. June bearers fruit in June hence their name. Ever bearers bear fruit year round so are the better choice if you want to use them for an indoor continuous harvest. The second thing to keep in mind is your winter climate. In cold winter climates that dip below freezing potted strawberries should be brought indoors in the fall then returned outdoors after the danger of frost has past in the spring. The third think to consider is moisture. Keep your strawberry plants moist, not too wet but don't let them dry out.
There are at least 3 pests that are destructive to strawberries, mainly the fruit although in dry weather birds have been known to attack berries for their juice:
Strawberries can be grown year round indoors. If you live in a cold winter climate area simply bring in any potted strawberry plants then place them in a sunny location where you will be able to enjoy fresh strawberries throughout the winter. If your strawberries are in the ground either in traditional row gardening or raised beds, plant a few up in pots to grow on a sunny windowsill during the winter months. This short video shows the basics of planting strawberry plants for indoor use during the winter. Note that the soil should be kept moist when growing strawberries indoors. Do not let it dry out.
I grow strawberries in hanging and vertical containers as well as in raised beds. We also have a few rogue strawberries growing on our property. Planting strawberries is as easy as planting any other vegetable plant in your edible garden. Here is a short video showing the technique. Following the video are my comments on the video.
Strawberries are one of the easiest garden fruits to grow. They are relatively problem free plants although they can be a bit invasive due to the runners. Strawberries are ideal for growing in strawberry pots or towers taking advantage of vertical space. This makes them ideal patio and balcony plants. The next few posts will give strawberry growing ideas for small space and container gardening. The following short video shows how easy it is to plant strawberries in an expandable strawberry tower.
Recently a Vancouver, Canada homeowner, Ken Dyck has done a fair amount of complaining about his neighbour Sara St. Vincent's urban garden. He has filed complaints with the City of Vancouver because he feels Sara's garden is reducing his property value. However, Sara and her housemates view their gardens as a way to live ecologically ethical lives. The goal of their tiny bungalow named The Farmhouse is to feed their house of five and maybe others too if their crops are successful. The city did issue work orders but Sara and her housmates complied so the work orders have been withdrawn with the restriction the property be kept neat and tidy. The City of Vancouver is quite clear that it encourages these gardening initiatives and hopes the two neighbours work out their dispute
There are actually two problems going on with this urban garden but it pays to be aware of problems you can encounter with urban gardening and likely moreso if you turn your front yard into an edible garden. A front yard urban garden can look out of place in a neighbourhood with tidy, manicured lawns, many framed by a row of spring perennials. It is imparitive thaat front yard gardens be kept neat and tidy at all times to prevent neighbour complaints. This really only shows respect for your fellow neighbours something that goes a long way towards neighbour relations.
The second problem here is Mr. Dyke does not understand why urban gardening is so important or if he does he has an axe to grind with Sara and her housemates. Urban gardens are here to stay and their popularity is growing as more people struggle with finding a low cost way of provinding organic fruits and vegetables for their table. Neighbour disputes are never any fun and they can esculate so it's best to use prevention tactics first. If you are wanting to turn both your front and backyards into edible gardens here are a few tips for you: