gabriola garden

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Organic feeding, organic eating

Sara is down on her knees these days, planting tomatoes and peppers, turning the soil in preparation for planting peas and beans. Her kale is ready for eating, and the Brussels sprouts and broccoli are well on their way.

It’s Spring gardening season, and despite the unpredictable nature of our weather, some of her small strawberry plants are already showing red fruit, while her large raspberry bush is full of promising buds. In the flower department, poppies and peonies are trying to outdo each other in rich reds and oranges, while the purple blue shower of catmint flowers is only outdone by the long lasting blessing of the forget-me-not blue star field.

We went through the first signs of Spring—crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils, tulips—and now we’re in the clematis, early rose, bluebells, and lupens period. Sara has dug up large sections of her flower beds, moving things around and redesigning the stone walled enclosures. Yes, after years of having her raised beds enclosed by driftwood, Sara started converting the perimeters of the beds to stone, with a little help from a neighbor. My work and sore back prevented me from helping out.

We had kale—prepared with garlic and slivered almonds—last night, and Sara’s red and green lettuce has been ready for the nightly picking for quite a while. Her sorel has bolted, and ready for trimming. She promised to utilize the second growth to make sorel soup, hopefully sweetened with some honey.

Speaking of honey, we finally spotted some bumblebees among the catmint flowers this week, but still no honey bees. Facebook friends report a similar dearth of the helpful insects, without whom the work of pollination will be very difficult, indeed. Who is to blame? Corporate pesticides, cell phones, or an insidious virus? It’s very disturbing…

Advanced Nutrients, our favorite fertilizer maker, has undergone many changes since we started using their products back in 2006. We hear that their CEO is helping to feed thousands of poor families at Christmas and Easter in Bulgaria these days, and that they are coming out with a brand new line of products to be used with coco coir as a substrate. Since we hardly use hydroponics, we’re still betting on Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom, to keep our plants and flowers well fed each year! But Sara has switched to a coco fiber seedling pot, which is biodegradable.

She started the kale from seed, BTW, under a very primitive grow light, wick-action hydroponic system, but we had to cut the holes bigger on the bottoms of the coco pots, in order to aid the absorption of water from below. The taste of that wonderful vegetable still lingers on my tongue from last night. By producing some of our own food each year, we are not only saving a bit of money, but we’re taking part in a very exciting global revolution of growing our own—rather than depending on the corporate agri-businesses to supply shrink-wrapped, half-ripe produce for our table.

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posted by Tim at 5:07 PM | 0 comments

Friday, August 30, 2013

Our Garden Slowly Says Goodbye to Summer

The torrential rains today were most welcome in Sara’s flower and vegetable garden beds! We tried to irrigate them as best as we could with our system of soaker hoses that could be hooked up with a click of a plastic connector, but some parts of the garden had to be watered manually, including a series of Dahlia flowers that she is cultivating to enter into the Fall Fair competition.

Hedgehog is looking forward to adding wheels and decorating some huge zucchinis to enter into the races at the Fair. We added extra Iguana Juice and Voodoo Juice to the
zucchinis to help them grow big. Some of the beneficial nutrients and microbes spilled over to the pumpkins growing next to the cucumbers, and a huge pumpkin that still has a lot of time to grow before Halloween, is the result!

With our tomatoes, we seem to have hit the jackpot! We eat Greek salad almost every night, so we grew a lot of cherry tomatoes. The orange cherry tomatoes this year are very numerous and have a heavenly taste! The yellow ones are okay, too, but the orange ones are superb! We also have some red ones, but they take a very long time to turn red.

The long dry spell and warm sunshine worked their magic on the hot Hungarian peppers. If you haven’t tasted one of these straight off the vine, you haven’t really tasted any. The supermarket variety pales in comparison. It’s not that they’re the hottest I’ve ever had, it’s the freshness of the flesh of the vegetable that makes me go back for more, each time. Next year, we’ll plant a lot more of these.

The phlox are still trying their best, but we’ll have to start deadheading them soon. The black eyed Susans are still in their prime, as are some yellow flowers whose name escapes me at the moment. Sara has collected so many different kinds of plants over the years, that it’s really hard to keep up. Even she draws a blank sometimes, when asked.

This rain will be followed by summer sunshine and temperatures over the Labor Day weekend, but after that Sara will start slowly removing the yellowed, dried up stalks and deadheading the flowers. She redesigned her main flower beds and it’s still a work in progress. As a result, we had very few roses this year. I’m sure that will be corrected in the coming year, because we both love roses!

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posted by Tim at 12:02 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We Have a Lot to Discover About Plants!

20cm of snow in Saskatchewan! We’re luckier here on the West Coast, but despite the sunshine, the blustery winds feel like icicles when you leave your windbreaker open in front. Old Father Winter is not yet ready to recede into the background, and allow the Spring rejuvenation to proceed according to plan. And judging from the awe-inspiring cherry blossom, what a glorious Plan, it is!

We can’t complain too much, though, because Sara’s garden has a lot to be cheery about. Her tulips are magnificent, as usual, and the forget-me-nots have taken off like there’s no tomorrow. She’s got a bouquet of purple rhodos already in bloom, and some of our vegetables are braving the low, night-time temperatures rather nicely.

Indoors, under a number of semi-hydroponic grow light systems, multiple varieties of peppers and tomatoes are almost touching the fluorescent tubes. They cannot be moved outdoors, until the night temperature is above 10 Celsius consistently.

Sara and I entertain ourselves in the evenings reading some excellent gardening books. “The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food” is a 485-page tome that instructs expertly on how to grow 765 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts. It includes very helpful formulas and techniques that can be used to control over 200 pests and diseases organically. Written by Tanya L.K. Denckla, and published by Storey.

But the true learning comes from actually doing it. To see the whole process from the germination of the seed, to the struggling young seedlings, to nurturing them under grow lights until they’re ready to be planted outside in soil. We feed them half-strength Iguana Juice Grow at this point and they love this organic, fish-based food!

We can’t ever forget the basics. Plants, just like people, need food and water to strive. Wild plants get their nourishment from the air, rainwater, and soil. Their roots are able to absorb certain nutrients from these sources, the major elements being compounds of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, or NPK. Other important ones are Calcium and Magnesium.

Plants also need minimum daily intakes of micronutrients, and the process they use to manufacture their own nourishment from these elements is called photosynthesis. The energy for this process is supplied by sunlight (or grow lights indoors). The process results in carbohydrates or sugars that are then stored in the plant’s cells and help with growth and reproduction.

Plants also “breathe” regularly, they inhale carbon dioxide through their leaves, and exhale oxygen. This is the complete reverse of the human or animal breathing process. To complicate matters, they absorb not only water and nutrients through their roots, but also oxygen. Without these in place, plants will wither and die.

It’s fascinating to watch plants grow and thrive and much of the credit must go to Iguana Juice. We look upon it as the secret ingredient that results in many, many compliments that our visitors heap upon Sara’s well-kept garden beds and their contents.

posted by Tim at 5:31 PM | 1 comments

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring and Gardening for Kids

We’re still experiencing huge rain storms here on Canada’s Wet Coast, but occasionally the sun does make an appearance around this time of year. Along with the crocuses and other bulbs brave enough to emerge out of the soil, auguring Spring. Our bigger than ever "puppy," Cooper, can't wait for the rain to stop, so he can run around with his canine buddies in a nearby school yard.

This is definitely a special time of year, and it is also the time to start your seeds indoors. We have purchased at least four grow light setups, which work with a rudimentary capillary system of hydroponic watering. Placing our seed into starter cubes, then the cubes in coco coir seedling pots, we let the wet pad water them from below.

We usually get our kids involved in the seed starting process. Even though they’re now in their teenage years, they still get a kick out of germinating seeds sending their first sprouts into the world, full of promises for a healthy harvest in the Fall.

Sara is helping them to plant peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers of various kinds from seeds, as well as cucumbers and squash. Each of these vegetables should be started at different times, in order to take advantage of the most propitious time to take the seedlings out into the garden. Take the tomatoes or the peppers out too soon, for instance, and they’ll freeze.

A great book that Sara and I would recommend to get your kids involved with gardening is called Kids Gardening—30 Great Gardening Projects for Kids, by Susie Johns, published by Parragon.

Some hardy vegetables can go out right away, and of course the perennial flowers and bulbs are already coming up. If you’re not sticky about organics, you may want to use a time-release fertilizer by Advanced Nutrients, that has to be applied only 3 times a year--Heavy Harvest, Spring, Summer, and Fall.

If, however, you’re strictly an organic gardener, like Sara and I, we would recommend 100%Organic Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom. You can use it at a quarter or half strength for your seedlings.

Sara is in the middle of building a rock wall around our most important garden beds. The driftwood logs we have been using to contain the soil have rotted over the years, so she has decided that something more permanent is warranted. It’s hard work, but she seems to enjoy doing it. I’m usually too busy to lend a hand, but we have some wonderful neighbors who come over and help out, once in a while.

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posted by Tim at 9:10 AM | 2 comments