July 16, 2012
This spring I finally remembered to pick up some Agastache (Anise Hyssop) starts for the garden. They’re a known favorite to bees, and boy are they pretty! So far, even the giant variety is doing great in a medium size container, which I have strategically placed just outside the open greenhouse Dutch door. After gorging themselves at the Agastache feeding trough, meandering bumblebees, hoverflies, and tiny black bees drift into the greenhouse where they bounce from cucumber to cosmos to tomato before heading home again to drop off their forage.
I have yet to see many honeybees on the plants, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t hit it. There’s another giant variety planted just outside the front door of one of our hives. And, I put in a few tiny dwarf varieties near our front steps. Certainly, those honeybee ladies are going to discover one of these plants soon.
But, they better hurry up. I think I’ll try harvesting a few flowers to dehydrate for teas and sachets soon. If you have a great recipe for either, please let me know. I’m all ears!
This morning, I even spied our resident hummingbird sipping from this beautiful plant. I can’t be sure, but I think he may have flown into the greenhouse after. Both ends are open, which means he can fly straight through, and I know he would love to take a drink from the Scarlet runner beans traveling the rafters of the greenhouse. If not today, perhaps tomorrow.
April 04, 2012
Got questions about how to grow tomatoes successfully?
Here’s a timeline we put together to help you grow your way to a bumper-crop of these delicious nightshades. Time to get growing now!
(The following was originally posted 9/21/2010)
This afternoon I enjoyed lunch on my patio in the sun. I watched the honeybees visiting late bloomers as I gobbled up a sandwich and soaked up some much needed daylight. Then, of course, I had to take a stroll through my garden to see what’s what.
At this point most of my summer veggie crops are pretty much kaput. I am letting my runner beans fatten up for drying. A few chard continue to produce as do a couple of cucumbers, beets, yellow wax beans, zucchini and some sad corn. Really, it’s all about the tomato crop this year. And, honestly that’s kind of surprising given how cool and wet it’s been. Then again, with just a little extra care, several of the right kinds of plants and some luck against blight, its pretty apparent Seattlites really can enjoy a decent tomato harvest.
Here’s the rundown:
- March: Seeded tomatoes into sterile mix. Grew them on without supplemental light or heat in unheated greenhouse.
- April & May: Potted tomato seedlings into 4″ and 1 gallon containers, keeping them in the greenhouse and cold frame. Fertilize with slow release, natural organic.
- June: Transplanted tomatoes into parking strip / Hellstrip. Buried stems deeply in shallow trenches. Installed square cages. Covered cages with plastic to continue greenhouse effect, leaving a few inches at bottom of cages exposed to allow for airflow. Fertilize with slow release, natural organic.
- July: Removed plastic wrapping from tomatoes. Trimmed tomatoes multiple times. Encouraged volunteer borage to go crazy among tomatoes. Bees love it. Bees visit borage and then tomatoes — honeybees as well as bumblebees!
- August: Continue trimming out tomatoes. Water as needed. Fertilize for final time.
- September: Tip out plants. Thin out any late suckers. Cut out all new flowers, which have zero chance of forming viable fruit this year. With hold fertilizer. Replace plastic, using hoop houses now that plants are large. Don’t cover completely as airflow is critical to keep out blight and to allow water to reach roots with minimal splashing on plants. Check regularly for any fungal infections. Remove and dispose of any immediately. Harvest every few days & preserve & EAT!
Next year this strip won’t be used for tomatoes. Gotta think crop rotation, right? Last year it was corn, squash and beans. Next year I’m thinking a field of edamame may be in order!
Need help planning ahead for next year? Get in touch with Garden Mentors to set up your edible garden consultation now. Believe it or not, its never too soon to get started!
Tonight I look forward to another large harvest of mixed Peron, Saucy Paste, Oregon Springs, Sweetie and Late Keeper Tomatoes. Likely, after harvest, I’ll be preserving yet another large batch like this one. The question is: do I make soup, marinara or just chunk them up for any number of fantastic winter meals. Or maybe, we’ll just eat a huge salad of them instead!
If you had this mountain of tomatoes to ponder, what recipe would be first on your list? Although I have any number of ideas, I welcome your input and look forward to new recipes! Remember: we have a mix of slicers and paste tomatoes going this year, so be creative and inspire us!
April 02, 2012
This gnome is no traditional red-hatted mischief-maker. He’s truly one-of-a-kind!
My incredibly talented & generous step-mom spent months designing and making a garden gnome at her ceramics studio in Southern California. And, she hand-delivered him to me last Thanksgiving when she came to visit. At the time, I wasn’t feeling well, so I kept him indoors to enjoy. Mary swore he was built to last outdoors, so I’ve spent a lot of time deciding where he would go in the garden.
I didn’t want him to get lost among my other pieces of art. And I didn’t want to clutter things up by over-packing the garden with “elements of surprise”. And, ideally, I wanted to be able to see him from inside the house as well as when I’m out in the garden. Balancing this can be tough in a garden the size of ours.
One day while I was brushing Kula near Mr. Gnome, she began to growl and her hackles went up. At first, I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized she was staring the gnome in the eye. She wasn’t sure she trusted this little guy. So, he clearly wasn’t going into the part of the garden where she hangs out. The last thing I needed was to find Kula and the gnome wrestling in the shrubbery.
Then, yesterday, I saw the spot. I was gazing out the kitchen window while washing dishes and realized there was a small corner tucked behind the greenhouse near our composters and rain barrels. I could spy it from the window. So, I snatched Mr. Gnome up, and popped him into the spot — filling the center of a triangle bordered by an evergreen huckleberry, a Thuja ‘Whipcord’ and a decaying section of Hemlock in which a tiny Japanese Maple grows.
Now, Mr. Gnome (he really needs a better name) gazes toward the house as he guards the greenhouse, compost, back gate and rain barrels. Kula can see him, but a fence separates them, which should be enough to keep them from brawling much in the future. Here he can guard the garden and hopefully not get into too much trouble while he’s at it.
March 07, 2012
If you’re starting seeds in a greenhouse planting tray & lid, be sure you know when to keep the lid on and when to take it off. (I’ve provided a photographic timeline later in this post, so skip ahead if pictures are better for you than words.) Lids help keep in moisture and heat, which is a good thing for germinating seeds. Lids can also intensify light on the soil, which is also a good thing for helping warm the soil. But too much of a good thing can be bad.
Once the seeds germinate and send shoots above the soil, its time to begin opening the lid a bit to ventilate. This helps some of the accumulating moisture evaporate, so be sure to check the soil often in case it needs watering. And, getting that bit of ventilation going will also help keep down fungal disease; even the smallest bit of airflow can make all the difference.
Then, once the seedlings begin to get a little height, be sure to remove the lid completely. This will give the young plants room to grow upwards. Ventilation will also be increased. And, shortly, you’ll be potting the young plants into bigger containers or moving them out into the garden.
Following is a visual guide through the various steps I find work really well: (more…)
November 11, 2011
I drive past this scene several times of year when visiting one of my regular garden design and garden coaching clients.
No, this isn’t his garden. I don’t know whose garden it is.
Still, it is a lesson in what not to do in the garden.
First, if you’ve got a greenhouse you’re going to let go to waste, why not sell it or just give it away? This one has sat in the same place, basically untouched and definitely unused for as many years as I’ve driven by it.
Second, if you do have a greenhouse fading into oblivion, please don’t let it become an incubator for invasive weeds like the field bindweed (also known locally as morning glory), which is growing happily out the window-less window in this gunky old greenhouse.
Third, topping your trees like the one behind this greenhouse really isn’t pretty. And, it doesn’t do the trees any favors either. Butchering a tree like this only sets you up for a potential hazard, lots of on-going cutting of reaction growth, and a really ugly view. Either prune it properly, leave it alone or have it removed. Don’t just hack on it.
So one thing that looks decent here: the wood chip mulch. Sure, that happy bindweed will grow right through it, but if you’re not going to garden on your perfectly south-facing plot, go ahead and chip it with arborist chips. These will suppress (most) weeds, last a long time, and provide food to soil microbia.
And, yes, I probably should cut these folks some slack. I don’t know them. And, given the way their property looks, my guess is there’s an aging gardener living in that house. S/he probably wants to get out there and pull that bindweed. S/he might have loved using that greenhouse and swath of growing space in years past. S/he may no longer be able to manage the garden. So, in the interest of giving this homeowner the benefit of the doubt, I’ll just suggest this garden likely saw better days, and I’ll hope it will again someday soon.
August 29, 2011
I’ve got to take a moment to sing the praises of my new favorite container cucumber – Spacemaster 80. Kinda sounds like the spaceship of cucumbers, right?
When I saw that Irish Eyes Garden seeds had a new compact, organic offering — Spacemaster 80 — I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Purported to produce bitter-free, prolific fruits on determinant plants in 58 days even when planted in containers or in small spaces– I had to try it.
Because we have a cool, wet, short growing season, I decided to grow my cukes in our passive solar greenhouse, in containers this year. I seeded both SpaceMaster and Marketmore, which I’ve grown for several years with consistent results. Both germinated, and both took over the greenhouse, which is dripping with cukes right now.
But, I gotta say: SpaceMaster is sweeter than Marketmore, and the cukes are so pretty. They look like perfect little slightly striped dill pickles. If I had a larger crop, I’d probably try my hand at pickling a batch.
The pros on this crop: grows well in a container, crisp, fast-forming, sweet, thin-skinned, pretty snacking cukes. Best picked young before seeds begin to mature.
The cons: Powdery mildew hits them fast and hard. But, with vigilant cutting out of the infection; the plants will continue to produce for several weeks despite being determinants.
Next year I’ll definitely try these again. They taste better than Marketmore, which also grow well in containers in the greenhouse. And, yes, I’ll probably grow more Marketmores as well. They’re my old reliables, and it looks like their more disease-resistant, indeterminant vines are going to outlast the SpaceMasters, which are coming to the end of their life cycle.
Note to self: Next year try more succession plantings of SpaceMasters. And by that, I mean more successful succession plantings. This year, it took about 3 tries at seeding to get successful starts. Such was the problem with our especially dark, cold, wet growing year in 2011.