Odds and Sods

2 06 2017

Lilly Beetles

Blessings of fortitude on you who find these little pests on your (do I really need to say) lillies.  They are a red and black beetle; not spotted but a red “body” and black “head” and “legs”.  They are quite likely a noticeable presence if you have them; Random holes frequently with brown edging.  Not living at home, I couldn’t kill them quick enough and so last year they completely decimated my “London Heart” lilly.  Not a single flower and it never got taller than about 1/4 it’s height cause the leaves were just chomped lace

This year?  Well, I killed 8 last weekend.  Up until tonight, it has been a total of almost 20 on both plants (including 2 copulating pairs on the same night; not an orgy though, they were on different plants).  20 may sounds intense and it’s not a small number.  But boy oh boy do I relish it; protecting something that will pay off in gorgeous flowers.  Im not a huge fan of straight up squishing bugs of all types but for some reason, these lil buggers bring out my inner mercenary.  I wish more birds would be able to spot these sons o’ guns.  Actually, come to think it, there is very little in the way of birds eating bugs in my garden it seems.  Anyone have suggestions to increase this?

Lastly, while Lilly Beetles are notoriously difficult to get rid of.  One year I had luck with (and a friend of mine is doing it this year, and they have MANY lillies) Malathion.  I have been picking them so far but i just sprayed all my flowers yesterday so lets see if i can the killing can slow.

#Gardenhack.

Perhaps you know what “perlite” is.  Well, it’s the white fluffy stuff you see in soil mixes and that you can buy in bulk.  Now the one thing about this stuff that I find a bit annoying is that it slowly all “floats” through to the top of every pot; making all the tops of soil heavilty dotted with these white chunks.  I no likey.  So, instead of mixing it in the soil, I stuffed a sock with about 1.5 cups of the perlite and then buried it in the pots.  I currently have 2 tomatoes in identical pots, one with a sock and one without.  They’re right beside each other and will get water at the same time.  I’m curious to see if it’ll make a difference.  It truly seems that, though the tomato plants are all still small, the soil has maintained quite a heavily damp consistency.

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…It’s a bone.

 

From the “Well, I had to prune it anyways” file.:

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No, there was no point to the grate.  This branch was hanging way down in front of a pathway so it needed to go.  I just decided to wait until it was pretty much in bloom and then do it.  I think it kinda looks nice in the corner.  Our front entrance right now, by the way, smells like….just,…good things.

 

Frying in the greenhouse:

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I noticed there were singe marks on my tomatoes in the greenhouse.  Direct sunlight does a number on things to plants in the greenhouse; it can seem merciful at times.  We had extra bits of shade cloth, so why not hang it in the window?  So far, it seems to make the sun a bit more bearable to the plants in there.

 

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Took this a bit late but it gives a good sense of their size.  These particular plants are going like gangbusters.  To be fair, they were in the ground a FAIR long time before anything else.  I’m hoping they get to the roofof the greenhouse; you can see the wires they wil grow up.  They are at the work shelf and that’s a solid 1/3 of the way up…and it’s only June 1!

 

See you late Engelmen’s Ivy20170530_105046

We are painting the stucco on our house so we had to take down the Ivy and give it a HARD trim.  I look forward to re-attaching it in a more pleasing and spread out way.  Hopefully it won’t take too long to get going.  We are painting it a darker blue.  So I hope that these leaves look good against it.
 

 





Victoria!

22 05 2017

Sing it out for Victoria!!

What a weekend.  As a shift worker, it has been a rare, rare instance when my three days off happen to correspond with a long weekend.  What bliss!  Family around.  Sleepovers.  Brand new tents set up (and poxed) and slept in and marshmellows on a campfire.  Ahhh.  And a visit to Elk Island National Park in a tolerant but hot heat with many of my fellow citizens; accents and languages from all the corners of the globe.  Awesome!

But living in Edmonton,  May long weekend is frequently associated with gardening.  Now is the time to get you poop in a group and your plants…in…the ground.  Frost free days are almost 100% guaranteed so everything can hit the dirt.

After such a rotten year last year (house fire necessitating our move for the EXACT garden season) our garden needed an infusion of awesome.  And I think it got it.

Flowers transplanted: Dusty Miller, Citronella, Tobacco , Delphinium (divided the beauty and moved half to the front and half 2 ft over), Zinnea, Colleus (had to do this one twice because it was not taking the sun well), Sweet Potato .  Rudbeckia and Phlox seed spread out (T&T Seeds based in Manitoba offers a free seed packet with a certain order amount; the phlox will be red and white coloured apparently).  I don’t think I would have gotten phlox so it’s nice to test ’em.  I also removed about 20 errant tulip bulbs to be relocated to a better spot.

Vegetables seeded or transplanted: Peppers (6), Tomatoes (7 in pots), Cucumbers (5 on a teepee and 5 in pots, Beans (20ft), Potatoes (6), Sunflowers (6 on the north side of the vegetable garden), Squash (1), and Raspberries (10).  These required a 5 ft bed be flipped over and some composted manure was added to where the transplants went in.  I still had some very old Myke’s (a fungus that attaches to roots and encourages plant growth through increased nitrogen absorption (I think).

I will soon start some cabbage in pots as well as some cucumbers in compost pots (yes, pots made of compost).  Cucumbers are very sensitive to root disturbance so it is best to choose a pot that can be planted with the plant.  Cabbages do well as a later season crop so I hope to transplant it in mid to late July and then around frost time they should be good to go…I think.

I set out a new seating area in the front,   It should be nicely shaded and also with a good number of colourful plants and flower once things start to pick up a bit.  We had some extra carpet (from the reno) that I put right on the dirt and then covered it with wood mulch.  I have done this before and it worked really quite well.

All this is set out and looky loo at the weather coming up?  It is PERFECT!  We are about to get DRENCHED and then the weather will be a bit more mild.  PERFECT!  If you have anything to transplant, try to sneak it it before the rain hits.





Garden Infrastructure

11 05 2017

I don’t know if that’s a real word; I just kinda thought it made sense.  There’s a lot of things gardners can do to make things easier for the plants or for the gardener.  I’ll show you the stuff today.

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A list of all the things going on here:

  1. Teepee: I have used that garden teepee for peas in the past.  I have always found them to be great ways to grow vertically.  After you plant the cukes into the ground, put the stakes exactly where you want and then run a string along the outside, rising progressively.
  2. Pea fence: The three lengths of rebar are about 1.5ft in the ground and there is a plastic fence running along it.  Hopefully this works better this year.  Pea fences are good to help you keep all your peas where they are easy to see and you probably use about 25% of the garden space than if you were to let ’em spread along the ground.
  3. The “Hoops”.  Essentially, 2ft pieces of rebar are shoved in the ground at an angle (close to a ft deep).  Each pair has a 5ft length of tube slid onto each side.  Overtop of the hoops we’ll be placing that black hunk of “fabric” called “shade cloth”.  It keeps out bugs and deadens the effect of hot summer sun on plants that don’t necessarily like it scorching (think broccoli, cabbage, kale, some lettuce).
  4. The hat.  Not in place yet but the bale and scraps can be seen.  It will be our mulch this year.  Hopefully it’ll help keep weeds and other garbage at bay.
  5. …..

This deserves its own section in my mind: The watering system.

I found the rain barrel soaker hose online.  It promised the ability to water your garden from your rain barrel, with the barrel DIRECTLY on the ground.  Sounds really good to be true.  So, I purchased it to give it a whirl.

In the meantime, I was waiting for the right opportunity to get a nice gigantic rain tank (I prefer to call it); |Something about 1000 liters.  I found a very reasonably priced one online.  The unit itself was brand new (seal on the output still in tact).

After several sketches and plans to make a layout for the hose that would fit the garden, I lost them and, on game day (today), I just put it together to make it fit.  I thought 100 feet would be easily enough but I see now that is not really the case.  The loops are a bit wider than I would have liked.

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But, so it is.  It is together now and I’ve turned it on.  It was a special moment for me cause I’d been thinking (and HOPING) this set up would work.  I find watering the garden task I never really am set to stay on top of.  I thought a system would help me immensely.  And so when I turned it on and the water starting coming out at a good clip, I was very happy indeed.  I was imaging never fretting about water again.   I noted the time so I could get a sense of the flow rate, and I went inside to lunch up the little guy.

I came out two hours later.  The markings on the rain barrel seem to indicate I’ve only put out just over a 100 gallons.  But more important, the fantastic pace I originally saw coming out of it, was all for nought.  It had slowed down to a TINY trickle and the damp path snaking under the hose itself had not gotten very much wider than what you see in the picture.  Water pressure coming out of the barrel seems consistent.  So, it just may be too low to be very effectual.

With that said, if it just drops out 250 gallons over the course of the day, well, that’s about 2 rain barrels and that is a very decent garden soaking I suppose.

So all things considered, I’m a bit on the fence.

What kinds of interesting things have you used for garden infrastructure?  Old cars?  Refridgerators?  Tubs?  Watering cans?

 

 

Bonus: Watch the consumer made video advertising the product with the barrels at ground level.  The company is Mr. Drip.  I really want to point out how the man is clearly walking down a VERY significant slope to get to his garden from his rain barrels (you can see the slope away from the building in the video).

in the video).





Early planting results. And “no till” introduction

7 05 2017

I planted spinach and peas 29 days ago.  They took 23 days before many of them sprouted.  I like planting things early: REALLY pushing it, in an effort to get things earlier.  It feels good to take a risk, and knowing you still have a good half dozen seeds and numerous tomato seedlings in greenhouses, is a comfort.

The spinach plot is about 2ft x 4ft.  They all look about this size:20170507_203615

I really didn’t think any peas were going to make it.  I was quite skeptical but then, I saw a few pop up.  And then, in no time…..20170507_203752

It’s about 8 ft long, and yes, that is re-bar in the ground.  Last year’s bamboo poles were bent all the way to the ground they were so heavy laden.  I thought re-bar would at least give the trellis a fighting chance.  I also used “inoculant” on my pea seeds.  Inoculant is a little package of powder that you can buy that you coat pea or bean seeds with.  It’s basically, “a bunch of bacteria” (how scientific do you want me to be?) in the powder.  When the root grows, those bacteria live on the roots and help deal with nitrogen better and they grow AND yield like crazy.  I will assume this year’s will go as good as last year’s and say, get that inoculant; compared to some other seasons, I bet I got 2x production.

I tried onion seeds again this year but it seems AGAIN, I’m at a loss.  About 60% of the seedlings are keeled over and really don’t look so good.  I am going to have to wait a couple weeks to see what ends up happening.

I also threw two tomato plants in the ground.  Let’s see if they survive; One ain’t looking too grand, other seems just fine.  These ones are “Better Boy” (typical tomato type) but I have roma and a tumbler (for a bunch of pots).  This is FAR earlier than I’ve ever done it before ….20170507_203631

 

I tried something different this year.  I tried no til gardening.  I didn’t break up my soil bed at the end of the season.  I had a tendency before to flip all the dirt over.  Turns out (I hear) that actually brings old seeds to the surface again.  I assumed it was keeping the soil “light and fluffy”.  But I think I may be kidding myself a bit; It’s pretty solid.

What I DID do is put a mulch of about 3″ leaves and then 2″ compost in the fall.  I have a feeling that is going to lead to some really good weed inhibiting.  And then to get the plants in, dig as small a hole as is necessary!  When I made the mistake of using the big shovel for a potato hill, the strata was thick and certainly showed the weeds will be, at least slow to come.  Only a few grass blades in the whole bed.  Pretty rad.

 





Build a Simple Grow Light!

7 01 2017

I had hoped for one for Christmas; a real nice grow light that will get our plants a proper start.  Our front window got a good amount of lights when the time came but it was also quite warm.  This made our (and will make YOUR) plants that you grow from seed, become leggy (tall, gangly and weak).  Putting up a grow light in a cooler place has been described as the way to get healthier seedlings.  As I have started to enjoy buying seeds instead of transplants, I have been looking for a way to get them started off well and having a little station to do that, seemed like a great idea!

The cheapest 4ft light and stand was 102$ not including the bulbs..  That was more than the wife was willing to spend and more than I felt was necessary for what it is.

Turns out i did not get it for christmas.  So decided it was time to find and make something cheaper instead.  Thank you internet! It took no time to find a plan and 8 minutes to watch a video.  Shopping for the stuff was a breeze and building it took, literally 25 minutes.

The result?

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The 59$ grow light

What you need to buy to make what you see here:

1 10ft length of 1″ pvc pipe

2 1″ elbow joints

2 1″ t joints

1 shoplight (T12).  This is just the cheapest flourescent light fixture Lowes sold

To finish off this grow light properly, and if you would actually want to use it, you would have to buy 2 T12 flourescent light bulbs.  A timer is also a capital idea (more on that later)

A note on the lights:  Apparently you can buy flourscent bulbs (and fixtures) that are T5, T8, and T12.  As the number goes down the wattage increases and the light output of the lights you use will increase.  Most grow stands that are sold online and designed to grow plants use T5 lights exclusively.  I was tempted to go with a T8 fixture to boost the light output but I did this, first and foremost, for economics and the T8 fixture was almost $70.   A lot folks on the youtube said that T12 will totally do for a hobbyist who is not pumping out hundreds and hundreds of plants and so I went with the cheapest (T5 bulbs are, apparently, about 5x the cost of T12 bulbs).

Basic directions:

1. Cut the piping into lengths that are

14″ (2)

11″  (2)

9″  (2)

52″  (1)

 

2.  Put the elbow joints on the ends of the long piece (make sure they are oriented the same way).

3.  Starting with the shortest lengths (9″) as the vertical supports, put the other lengths of pipe into the T joint.

4. Put the elbow joints into the 9 inch vertical supports and voila!

The original design I used had the vertical legs at 14 inches and all other legs at 9.5 inches.  It made sense to me to have 3 different possible heights for the light (hence the pairs of different lengths).  Each pair of legs can be alternately used as the vertical support to easily raise or lower the light (ie. Start with the 9 inchers and change them out for the 11 inchers once the plants need the size.)

While a timer seems superfluous and one may think that turning it off and on is no big deal, to be able to control the exact amount of time a light is on without having to think of it is a pretty awesome.  And as for the time, well, it is important to note that plants mainly photosynthesize during the day and mainly respire at night (doing some of both at both times).  The darkness IS important for plants do that respiration.  Most reasonable sites I have spoken to recommend that once seedlings are up and going, 12-14 hours of light is the maximum.

If you are a veggie grower and have seeds, I cannot recommend this little project enough. It is crazy easy to put together and, assuming the lighting works as well as I hope, will be INVALUABLE asset in your young plants lives.





Fruit Fly Guarantee!

23 11 2015

Listen folks, I ain’t no snake oil salesman.  And do I have the remedy for you.

You’ve started plucking at your garden produce around your kitchen but maybe by this time, you’ve started to notice these pesky fliers buzzing around your kitchen.  We have an issue with bananas in our house; the bugs on nuts on ’em.  And a couple weeks ago, we let them get out of hand.

I recalled seeing this design on line.  The items you need are:

A jar/cup/vessel with about one inch of apple cider vinegar in it.  Into that vinegar slowly drop two drops of dish soap into it.  Then put a plastic wrap cover tightly on top.  You need to poke a few holes for the bugs to get in.  Initially I punctured them in with a toothpick.  These holes were TOO small.  I ended up using a pointed chopstick to make a couple holes a 2mm wide.

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Just put this contabulous fabtraption right next to your number #1 culprit and just wait.  The results I got were in a matter of a few days.  I didn’t honestly think we had THAT many fruit flies but I guess they came from all over.

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It’s hard to take a picture and capture exactly how many dead fruitflies there are.

 

Needless to say, this works!  USE IT!





She blinded me with Science: A guide for ripenning green tomatoes

30 09 2015

Yes,

How many of us are stuck with dozens of green tomatoes.  “Oh man!  What are some green tomato recipes, quick!”  Last year I made 11 jars of green tomato chutney and, while delicious, I still have 9 jars.

I want the goods!

And now I know how to get them.  Thank you science and me-remembering-stuff!

I had learned that the ripening of most fruits releases a gas called “ethylene”.  And, thank you positive feedback loop, ethylene ALSO initiates and starts ripening fruit as well.

Last week, I picked some tomatoes.  Night temperatures hovered around 0 and my plants were hit hard (though not full on dead).  I thought I’d collect a few tomatoes and try some things out.  Well, I’m happy I did that.

It requires patience and a blind eye but you CAN get those green tomatoes to ripen.  Here is what I did.

I got a paper bag from the Safeway bakery (the ones you put the bulk buns in).  I put, maybe 15-20 tomatoes in it that were mostly green and a few that had a tinge of yellow to them.  Next I put 2 very under ripe bananas in the bag and rolled it closed.  My thinking was that as the bananas released ethylene, it would begin to ripen the tomatoes (since they are a fruit after all).  I kept it rolled up and put it under my kitchen table (I don’t know for certain if light is important but I’m not convinced heat is a good idea so I kept it shaded and room temperature).  I didn’t touch it for about a week.

I opened the bag up today and what do I find?  About 4 tomatoes that are COMPLETELY ready to eat, all of them looking a slightly different colour and ripening and two bananas that are perfectly ripe!  When I put them in the bag, the ripest tomato looked like the green (with touches of red) tomato in the top left.

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I’m pretty jazzed about this because it means, not only that we will still get to enjoy many tomatoes over a longer period, but that I “discovered” something that will get a bunch of other people enjoying red tomatoes too!  I put discovered in quote marks because I don’t know for SURE if those tomatoes would have ripenned equally without the bananas in the bag.  It’s supposed to snow this saturday, so I’m going to try it again but this time, I’ll do a comparison with a few tomatoes around the house to figure out whether the bananas actually had an impact.  Needless to say, I AM happy that the tomatoes are going red, whether that’s from the banana in a bag, or just the inevitability of life and death.

And, just because it’s nice to appreciate the simple things; here’s a beautiful tomato:image