Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Greenhouse and a Tree Farm visit

Heeman Greenhouses 
This gem is located in the east end of London and is by far one of the largest greenhouse operations I have ever seen.  I decided to like them on FB a few weeks ago and discovered that they offered courses.  For $5 I could go and get a class about basic gardening.  You might think, hey, don't you already know a lot about gardening?  You can never know enough about gardening!!!  I was certainly not disappointed when the topic of pruning came up.  I have been so accustomed to pruning my own shrubs, trees and plants that I hadn't really thought of specific techniques only experience with years of gardening.  Florence also spoke about the importance of using specific potting soil and of course plant food to keep those blooms coming.  I later chose to purchase granular fertilizer to mix with the potting soil before putting the plants in.  I will emphasize as she did - only use POTTING mix for planters.  For my vegetable gardens I have a tri mix - topsoil, sand and compost.  If you find that the earth dries too quickly, mix in some peat moss.  I also purchased tomatoe granular fertilizer, which I just put under the plastic mulch to feed the plants slowly.... caution:  too much fertilizer or too close to new roots can damage the plant.  A little goes a long way and keep it a few inches from the base of the plant.  

This greenhouse seemed endless with row upon row of plants.  I chose herbs, geraniums (my all time favorite annual which I overwinter in my garage and will plant the older ones in and around my garden), creeping petunias and wave petunias along with a number of other flowering plants.  It is so important when growing a veggie garden to also take into account the kinds of insects you want to draw into the garden and others you want to keep out of your garden.  I also picked up some pepper varieties and found some Canadian produced seed potatoes to put into our potato boxes.... that's right, bred to become seeds???  It helps to go to an established greenhouse for many varieties of plants you may not find at your local grocery parking lot.... although my favorite one is in the parking lot at our local Loblaw supermarket.

For as far as the eye could see.... there were plants hanging everywhere!!  Thousands of bedding plants.... this greenhouse actually pulled their impatiens out of the greenhouse due to a mildew that kills the plant and consequently infects the beds they are planted in.  They had a number of alternative relatives that are not bothered by this wind borne problem.

Overhead were trees!!!!  Held in place by clips and suspended into the ceiling of the Greenhouse.  Wow, this place is breathtaking!!!  Oh, about that $5... they offered me a $5 coupon off the purchases I knew I would be hauling out of there.  The prices were great and the staff - amazing!!!  I will be back.

The Covered Urban Garden
I contemplated how this was going to look and debated on how I should go about putting this together the best way I could without creating an eyesore.  The seeds I planted on the 27th of April had not yet popped through the ground.  I planted a few seedling marigolds to see if they would take to their new environment.  Wind whipped and cold... the marigolds did not survive.  These guys are a hardy plant so now I had to decide to put up the reemay cloth and see what response I would get after it was installed.  I purchased 5 dollar store green posts (see pic below) and sunk one in each corner and one in the middle of each raised bed.  With the tomatoes, I installed the black mesh deer fencing by looping the mesh through the top and pulling it tight to the next post until all 4 posts had fencing.  I then stapled the fence to the box using staples from a heavy duty staple gun.  I then installed the reemay cloth and pinned down using clothes pins.  

I did trim off the excess cloth which can be used to cover the pots after placing them next to a wall and out of the wind.  This front yard has no wind break to stop the cold winds from blowing constantly across the beds.  I have pegged each corner at least twice and to prevent the covers from being ripped off and slung into someone's tree... I have also weighted down each cloth with at least one paving stone.

The front view shows the tomato cages we purchased to tie up the beans and peas in order to keep them off the ground and make them easier to pick.... also, it allows us to maximize the box by planting other veggies in there such as carrots and cucumbers.  Always remember to note which plants are companions and which ones are not.

Thursday May 8th
This was indeed a very busy day that got started when my best friend came out to help with the garden.  There was a lot of work to be done and we got down to business!!  Today is incredibly warm and later I would find a nice farmer's burn on both arms.... I did wear a big rimmed hat but should have considered a cotton long sleeve.  Deer netting was put up to surround the beds.  The stakes that were put in were ideal for hooking the deer netting into them and then pulling them tight to the wood and stapled.  To create a more rigid fence, we simply weaved green garden cording along the top and pulled tight between the stakes.  This was back breaking work for sure and we took a number of breaks along the way.  Once the fencing was placed, it was time to plant the marigolds around the beds.  They are almost ready to bloom and so will provide the garden with colour while keeping at bay some of the less desireable garden visitors such as the hundreds of rabbits and squirrels running rampant in the neighborhood.  I also snuck in a couple of veggies that I had grown into their proper beds such as the Kale and Lettuce.  The weather indicates some really good weather over the next week.  When temperatures drop again, as they usually do in the spring, we will put the cloths back over the beds to keep them protected from the wind and the temperatures.  This cloth will also be used in the extreme heat of the summer when the plants will need some shade from the scorching weather.

Max is in the process of installing two identical trellises that will face each other and to which we will be planting our squash plants and pumpkins.  He will install a construction quality mesh to join the two on the top to allow the plants to climb across and create some interest to the garden.  We will also be planting the vertical herb garden over the next few weeks.  After all, there are only so many hours in a day.

The warm winds and high 20 Celsius temperatures have brought out the mating toads!!!  Their songs welcome the warm glow of the evening and we find ourselves pumping off the water from the cover of the pool.  The toads in previous years have laid their eggs in the pool thinking it is a pond....which is just mere feet away and just off the lower backyard deck.  The fish will feast well this year now that the only water source is in their environment.  We love watching the tadpoles grow.  There are plans to grow strawberries hydroponically above the fish pond and have the water diverted to the strawberries after the filter and back into the pond.  We have a UV/filter unit to keep algie and bacteria under control and it works amazingly well.  It was one of those word-of-mouth finds and it has been a real time saver.

Many neighbors have dropped by to chat over the past few weeks and ask about the garden.  Yes, it is unconventional.  Thank you, we really try hard to make it look as nice as possible.  Yes, I should have shares in the local nursuries.  Yes, this is to be used as a teaching tool as well as feed our family.  Yes, I  have been canning for years and yes, the tomatoes are already spoken for.  Yes, I weaved the fence and yes those are flowers and soon to be growing bulbs.  Yes, we do have a lot of wildlife in the neighborhood.  No, I don't think anyone will try to damage the garden or take what is not theirs.... but then, as I told a student last week when she asked the same question.... that is the risk we are willing to take but generally speaking - most neighbors have been watching the progress and have seen the amount of effort taken to create the garden in the first place.  We have an incredible amount of support from our friends and neighbors and most understand that my family's health depends on a productive and healthy garden.

The clematis trellis is looking amazing!!  It is growing well after splitting it from the main plant and ensuring the root base was shaded by the wattle weave around the base of the trellis.  Florence from Heeman's did mention that there are three different clematis genus which require very special attention when it comes to pruning these beautiful climbers.  Make sure you know which one you have or you will be learning through experimentation.  There are three classifications A, B and C or 1,2 and 3.

Friday May 9th
Today my friend Mary and I are doing a road trip!!!!  We will meet at Heeman's nurseries and greenhouses and then travel to meet Steve, the Tree Wrangler in Elmira, Ontario.  He heads up a tree farm and nursery and they have the dwarf fruit trees I am interested in and the berries we want to grow on our deck for fresh desserts and freezing.  It will be a full day with my friend and we are both looking forward to hitting the open road.  I will need to also pick up some organic apple tree spray - Max wants to eat the apples from our quad apple tree - this tree has 4 different apples that grow on it.  We will have to come up with a creative way to keep the squirrels out of it as they are notorious for taking sample bites out of as many apples as they can... so perhaps the remaining deer fencing will come in handy after all!!!

Mary and I arrived at 3 pm at Wiffletree Farm and nursery and were met by a young man who took care of us since Steve was unable to arrive in time from a road trip.  I was impressed with his knowledge and how he answered all of our questions.  I purchased an Asian Pear tree which he picked out of a walk in freezer.  The tree had exposed roots clean of earth and because it was asleep, it did not matter.  The young man offered to top the tree and handed over some tree training elastics after explaining to me how to use them and why they should be used.  I had never come across this way of training and with some practice and a few broken elastics.... and one snapped branch... I got the hang of it.  I have been advised to remove the blooms when they come for the exception of one... just to see what the fruit is like.  This way, the energy is diverted to growing and strengthening the tree in order to help it to support a harvest the following year.  This tree is 3 years old and I had to dig a hole that was 2 1/2 feet in order to bury it to the earth line.  We also picked up two raspberry canes... one that will produce a black raspberry with the advantage of not spreading out of control and of course a red raspberry cane.
Raspberry Canes

While I was on our road trip, Max and Mitchel created a new focal area in our front garden.  It really looks amazing.

Saturday May 10th
Picking up the water barrels from the local Optimist Club.  They get support from the community while passing on some significant savings on to us.  A barrel with a downspout adapter will cost us $65 and a second barrel to tie into the first one will cost us an additional $55.  Basically I am getting two for the price of one.  We will install these on the side of the house that is completely shaded on stands so that we can use gravity to feed the veggie gardens.  Eventually I hope to install a drip system on a timer connected to the rain barrels.  I am working on motion lighting and an old watering trick to disuade unwanted nightly visitors.  

These rainbarrels are large and came with a downspout adapter.  I was able to purchase them from a local fundraiser (South-West Optimist Club).  Later in the afternoon, I built a stone pad for each barrel on the side of the house with the interlocking blocks from our front walk which will be replaced with poured cement in the coming weeks.

Max installed two identical upright trellises in the boxes closest to the front of the house.  To make it stronger, he used metal tie down strapping and screwed them into the inside of the boxes.  The gap from the lower bar of the trellis was filled with a block of wood the exact dimensions of the gap.  This allows the trellises to support the weight of the growing squash vines.  Max will, over the next few weeks shape a construction grade mesh to fit the top of each trellis to connect each other to afford it more strength.

Sunday May 11th
Mother's Day!  I was served with a breakfast in bed and then an hour later.... the entire family started to clean up and prepare for our parents to arrive.  Many hands made light work and of course a lot of great conversation while we worked.  Our children love the garden for so many reasons and we love working together and spending time with each other.  

My Garden Flower beds and pots this week....
Helleborus - this beautiful early spring perennial grows exceptionally well just beneath our Japanese red maple.  It's flowers are long lasting and eventually as they age, will turn green and in late summer produce seed pods.  The older leaves are broad and look semi-tropical.  This has to be one of my all-time favourites!!!

Peony - This beauty grows fantastically fast in the warm sunshine.  It's rose-like fragrance is heavenly and well anticipated in June/July each year.

What to plant in pots??
Pots will always need to be blooming for the duration of the summer so find flowers to fill the pot that will such as geraniums, an ivy or other 'spillers' like wave petunias that flow out of the pot and a grass or other plant that gives height and interest.  Use a good potting soil and add some slow release fertilizer specific to flowering plants and add a teaspoon more in July.

How the garden is doing and what is planted together to encourage maximum growth.

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