Sunday, June 29, 2014

What's in bloom??

Its hard to believe how just a few short weeks ago you could see the earth between the plants.... now I am thinning out between plants to make room for the maturing and quick growing ones.  I have lots of interested visitors asking great questions about what I am growing and how I am growing my garden so well.  There are a number of people interested in creating their own gardens.  Do you need the kind of space I have to grow what you need?  The answer is no.  I have dedicated this blog entry for all those who grow in small spaces, whether they are in an apartment or have a small back yard.  But first.....

A small visitor is cleaning up!! (Elongated Ladybug)

This is a very active visitor and honestly, it took a number of tries before I could get this creature focused and photographed!!  I have never seen the elongated ladybug and this year that is the only variety I have seen other than the occassional chinese beetle.  It is happy flitting from one leaf to another and seems to be attracted to the leaf miner.  Last week's blog showed the leaf miner and the amount of damage this causes to the plant.... they bore throughout the plant's cellulose destroying the plant leaf.  I have been diligent in removing the spoiled leaves and tossing them in the garbage - do not compost these!!!!!!  If you do not remove the leaves and dispose of, they will lay their eggs in the soil and begin the process all over again.

What's flowering??
Lots of blooms around the garden including the tomatoes, peppers, squashes, pumpkins and potatoes.  The squash plants are growing well and all over the trellis.... some have pushed their way out of the beds and are running along the paths!!!!  All in all.... the heat and humidity this week have spawned many colorful blooms in both the perennial and the vegetable garden!!!  Welcome to summer.  The slow to start potato plants are growing in leaps and bounds this past week.  We have filled up the boxes and put on the next two layers of boards to encourage the vines to create the potato tubers to the top of the above ground box.  

Keeping the garden fed and watered.
A humid hot day will dry out a garden relatively quickly.  Keep pruning sucker leaves from the tomato plants and trim out leaves in the 'cooler' parts of the day - early morning or late afternoon.  I use the water from the rain barrels and water deeply 1-2 times per week.  Try to water during the cooler part of the day to avoid evaporation.  My neighbor freaks out when she sees me watering in the late afternoon but I have had no issues with doing this.... I just make sure that I water the soil and not the leaves of the plants. Make sure you have a granular plant food specific to the plants you are feeding.  These are time released nutrients perfect for the constant demands of the plants.

Be diligent in removing unnecessary plant leaves or leaves subjected to leaf miner or worms to allow the fruit of the plant to receive the nutrients instead of leaves you cannot eat.  Tomatoes and Brussel sprouts fall into this category.  Brussel sprouts need to have the leaves trimmed off and only allow the top leaves to remain in order to feed the plant.  I have many small buds forming in the joints where the leaves used to be.  These plants will be harvested in the fall after the first frost.

Physical pest control:  refers to the physical removal and disposal of pests. This is the best way to control a possible invasion.   Carry a can filled with vegetable oil if crushing them is not an option.  Simply place the can under the leaf with the pest or caterpillar and tap the leaf until the pest falls into the container.   If you are diligent, you will have a healthy pest free garden without using any pesticides.

I often hear the excuse of 'my place is too small' for a garden.  Vertical gardening is seeing an upswing in popularity and especially with those living in close confines such as apartment living and condominium.  I asked my friends to email me with their gardens to give you an idea of how beautiful and useful they really are.

Radika lives on the 3rd floor of an apartment complex with a tiny balcony.  This has not stopped her from growing the rich reward of herbs she cooks with and tomatoes she uses in her traditional recipes.  Of course flowers are also an important addition to her small container garden.  Her daughters are able to learn to live green and enjoy the summer colours from the vantage point above the parking lot.  Nice work Radika!!!  The advantage of balcony gardening means she doesn't have to worry about the invasive squirrels, bunnies and chipmunks that us ground dwellers have to consider!!!

Mary and Wendy live on the second story of a house and have a small deck overlooking a parking lot.  Their outdoor space is relatively windy and so they had a small wall constructed as a windbreak and a sunshade to keep the heat off the deck.  They have chosen to grow tomatoes, peppers and herbs to use for cooking.  The flowers add colour, privacy and life to a wonderful entertaining area under a shade cover.  The railing boxes with the trailing flowers add depth, interest and a wind break on the deck.  It looks great!!!

In my Urban Garden:    Creating a strong attractive trellis
I am reminded when i see the giant leaves of the unknown squash plants in the garden (not marked from the student's plantings and an accident with my greenhouse tipping over and all the containers and tags getting scattered) that we will need a strong vertical support system for the quick growing plants.  Today it is 40 degrees C with the humidity making it great for these growers but not so great to work in.  Max and his brother Paul have painted and attached the horozontal cross members at the top of the trellis to support the weight of the plants that are climbing quickly.

Growing out of the beds.... 
I have pulled the deer fence down that surrounds the individual beds and allowed the vines to grow along the path and along the fence itself.  We will have to secure the fence enough to take the weight of the squash and cucumbers.  Max and I will change the fencing structure for next year's garden by allowing a path around the entire perimeter of the garden.  What is really cool about the fencing is the marigolds growing right through them as if they were not there at all!!

Potato boxes are complete....
This incredibly fast growing potato vine has grown to the top of the box.  I will paint the sides when I get a chance.  The flowers are getting ready to bloom!!!  We started out with 5 seed potatoes in each box and only two sprouted in one box and one sprouted in the other box. 

Composting near the front beds....
A friend just dropped off two composters.  I am giving one to a good friend for her garden and I am keeping a smaller unit just beside the Wegiela up in the front garden bed and next to the rainbarrels.  How convenient!!!!  Now I don't have to go all the way around to the back of the backyard to dump the front garden green waste!!!

We will continue to update our observations as we continue to grow and harvest our crops.  I often wonder what would happen if our neighborhood decided to create their own urban garden.  We could feed the neighborhood and trade off produce.  I am growing tons of tomatoes but no zuccini...which I totally love.  I have some squash and other items to trade and it would be nice to trade with someone close by.  

In our bowl at dinner.....
Here is a great collection of greens and of course a beet.... I juice this in the morning and have a salad for dinner!!!  The peas are so sweet and tender that you can eat them in their pods!!  I use a pair of scissors to cut everything from the stalks in the garden and then into the salad bowl after washing in cold water and spin drying.  Kids can easily help out in the kitchen when they can use a pair of scissors to cut the leaves into bite sized pieces.  Beet tops can be cooked, juiced or simply added as additional greens into any salad.  A simple home made salad dressing et voila!!!

It should be just a few short weeks before we begin the process of picking our first tomatoes, peppers and possibly onions for preserving.  I have ordered some Le Parfait canning jars & replacement seals from the 'Crate and Barrel' in the United States and 4 Fido Canning jars from 'Solutions' store in Maisonville.  I normally use the Mason jars and have quite a number of them but using the old fashioned canning glass with the metal clip hold downs does not require hot bathing the preserves.  I will have recipes and a how to use each of the different types of canning jars and tools.  This summer I will be hosting a tutorial in my home on how to can garden goods with some of my dearest friends.  It is always better to can with a bunch of gals who can share the work and the finished product!!!

We recently purchased a 'FoodSaver' for packaging berries and other garden pickings to store in the freezer.  I will also be using it for the Apple Sauce I make.  A few years ago, I lost most of my canned apple sauce due to a number of lids that simply popped over time due likely to the contents not being acidic enough.....  I have decided to just vacuum seal the apple sauce and freeze it.  Vacuum sealing prevents frost buildup and of course oxidation of the produce.  This unit also came with a sealing system for bottles which is fantastic!!!  No air, no oxidation.... so I use this vaccuum on my opened wine bottles so they do not spoil.  I suppose I could just drink the whole bottle?

Next week in the garden....

Checking on the progress of the veggies and what's new to harvest....

A canning checklist to help you start your own canning.  I have learned to always be prepared in advance instead of running around last minute to find what you are looking for!!  This is an excellent time to call your mother or friends and ask them if they have any to donate.....yard sales and even thrift shops have been known to be good resources.

Happy Gardening.  You can contact me through my google account or leave me a comment/question.

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