gabriola garden

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Scarlet Runner Beans, Bumblebees, and Super Dogs

Our Squash crop is coming along nicely. I also planted some Swiss Chard, and it’s not doing badly. We’re harvesting the Lettuce for our nightly salads, and our Tomatoes are going from green to red as we speak. Some of Sara’s Flowers are still gracing our garden with their lovely blooms.

I wonder if other gardeners in our part of the world have noticed a dearth of honeybees this summer? There seems to be an insidious mite going around that is keeping the bee population down. Where Sara and I notice it most is on our Scarlet Runner Beans.

Even though the Beans (Phaseoulus coccineus) are more abundant in growth and flowers than ever before, the number of beans seems to have gone down from last year. The scarlet blooms, which are so characteristic of this climber, are wanting for pollination from our buzzing friends.

During my early morning waterings, I have noticed much fewer bees this summer than in previous years. Usually they swarm around the lavender, and they also like the beans, as do hummingbirds. But with the exception of a few single bees, I haven’t seen them in groups for quite a while.

If you would like to grow these prolific beans (and hopefully bumblebees are more numerous where you are) all you have to do is to build a bamboo structure (we chose to build a cube, but you can do a circular structure with the poles sloping inwards and tying the tops, to create a teepee) and start them from seed each year, since they are an annual.

I like to have a spoonful of raspberry jam on my cereal each morning, so I save my glass jam jars all winter, wash them out and use them to germinate the bean seeds in the spring. It helps to put the seeds into wet paper towels. Using a glass jar means that you can see them as they sprout their first shoots.

Sara makes sure that the soil underneath the bamboo structure is fertile, by adding a bunch of organic matter (composted kitchen parings and rotting horse manure to be precise). As soon as the weather is consistently warm, we plant the seeds.

My wise partner likes to plant marigolds around the “bean house,” as we call it. These flowers ward off unwanted pests. Each year by the beginning of August the structure is overrun with the bean plants, which used to provide a convenient shaded spot for Sara and Hedgehog to cuddle underneath in the heat of summer, to read our daughter’s favorite storybooks. Nowadays Hedgehog is too big and busy with her electronic world to spend any time in the bean house, I’m afraid.

Be sure to use a 100% organic plant nutrient in order to make sure that the beans get enough nourishment. We prefer Advanced Nutrients products, Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, as well as Mother Earth Super Tea, Grow and Bloom. We also use Scorpion Juice to inoculate our plants against a whole array of pathogens.

Sara is taking the kids to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver tomorrow. Although we prefer our local, small-scale fair, there is something to be said for this huge exhibition with its hundreds of exciting attractions. Hedgehog and Jim like the Super Dogs Show the best. It is truly astounding how smart some of these canines are and how well trained they can become. Hedgehog then usually comes home and tries to get Max to perform some of the tricks, but to no avail.

Alas, dad has to stay home and work. Then it’s the last long weekend of the summer, and back to the grindstone for everybody.

posted by Tim at 7:09 AM | 1 comments

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gladioli, Yellowjackets, and Organic B

Forgot to post a picture of the Passion Flower, which was mentioned in last week’s posting. Our Tomatoes are ripening and our Pumpkins are flowering, if only for a brief period, before they start nourishing their ever-swelling fruit. We had our first taste of our Cucumbers a few days ago. There is nothing like a clean, crisp cucumber fresh off the vine!

Sara’s Gladioli are opening up in all their crimson glory and her Black Eyed Susans are multiplying, as are her Marigolds. A light purple Phlox has been opening up in the past week and even the lowly Potato plant shows promise of subterranean bounty.

The Windflowers are still gracing the top of the canopy and there are still a few white and purple Daisies left from the previous cycle of blooms. We’re having Beans with almost every meal. Sara prepares them with herbs and slivered almonds and butter. It’s out of this world! Throw a few new potatoes in to boil (store bought, I confess, I didn’t plant enough this time around) and you’ve got a complete meal.

Dessert? Sara and Hedgehog disappeared the other day. They found a patch of blackberries in a nearby clearing. We eat them with apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Freshly picked, delicious blackberries! I would lick my toes, if I could reach them after such a dessert.

Speaking of just desserts, Jim got a fright the other day when he tried to throw a smoke bomb into a yellowjacket nest, “just to see what would happen.” He missed and it landed under the hollow tree. He was lucky, only two stings, but Sara had to give him a shot of Benadryl in order to ward off an allergic reaction. Needless to say, he promised never to do it again and his allowance for the rest of the month is being sent to a wildlife fund, instead of his pocket.

One should never mess around with any form of wildlife for fun. Reminds me of when Hedgehog caught a frog and wanted to keep it in a jar. I had to convince her that the poor wild creature would die in captivity. She finally let it go, but her heart sank, and she wasn’t herself for a few days.

Thank goodness there are still bees coming around to pollinate our flowers. Not as many as in previous years, but enough to help fulfil nature’s plan. I read on the Internet that there is an insidious mite that has reduced the bee population in many countries. Australia alone would lose two billion dollars from its economy if honeybees disappeared.

I used Carbo Load Liquid on my vegetables during the flowering stage and waited for the bees to do their thing. Now that the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers and pumpkins are on their way I realize how beneficial Advanced Nutrients specialty products are in supplementing my 100% organic nutrient treatments.

I take a B-complex 50mg supplement daily, so I decided to give all our plants Organic B, which contains all the essential B vitamins and not only helps the plants, but also the beneficial fungi and bacteria supplied by Piranha and Tarantula for our root systems. All our plants, both flowers and veggies, are robust, bursting with health, and super productive.

The gladioli are especially lovely this year. I cooked a special vegetarian meal last night for Sara and the kids, in order to thank her for all the work she puts into the garden. She took the kids to see “Barnyard” and she was especially grateful when they got home, because they were all starving. Now that the humans and the animals of the family are well fed, I plan to get up early to water the garden for the next few days--it will take the pressure off Sara.

posted by Tim at 9:33 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Beauty, Raised Beds, and Cupid's Dart

Gardening is a great hobby! Not only is it therapeutic, but it helps create beauty, which (according to John Keats) is the ultimate truth. Just read his Ode on a Grecian Urn, if you don’t believe me! “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Now, if you’ve been enjoying all the wonderful close-ups of Sara’s flowers in this blog, don’t think that they happened accidentally. A lot of hard work led up to the planting, the nurturing of the seedlings, the feeding of the plants with just the right nutrients, and the frequent watering required to maintain a garden during these hot summers.

First of all, we do all our gardening in raised flower and vegetable beds. It’s easier to create a layer of super rich, compost enhanced layer of soil, than it is to dig down and expect the existing sand and rock mixture to yield outstanding plants. So we cart home huge bags of outdoor soil from the garden shop, and every time Sara takes Hedgehog horseback riding, she brings back eight or nine buckets of composted horse manure.

In order to save money, we went hunting for driftwood on the beach, and brought back just the right lengths to create low walls around our beds, to keep the soil mixture from washing away. If you live in the country, where tunnelling animals might be a problem, you could cover the bottom of the raised bed with wire mesh, and staple it to the wood all around. This is probably better if you buy 6 x 6 landscape timber from a lumber yard.

The only animals we have to worry about on Gabriola are deer. We actually have a deer fence around our property, but they still get in at a vulnerable point now and then. Our Golden Retriever enjoys chasing them around and we have to let them out the front gate. Sadly, the island’s tunnelling animals, including rabbits, are history.

We poked the bottom of our raised beds with a gardening fork to provide for better drainage and aeration. Then we put in the rich outdoor soil (we got tired of lugging heavy bags from the garden store, so I hired a man with a pickup truck to bring in a truckload of good soil) and we spread this, mixed with composted horse manure, up to the brim of the driftwood.

We mixed the proper amount of Advanced Nutrients Iguana Juice Grow into an eight-liter watering can, and hand-watered every bed. This was a lot of work, and we do the same every two or three weeks, of course now with Iguana Juice Bloom. On a larger scale of gardening, you can attach a container to your hose and mix the nutrients in with your watering, but we’re just small-scale gardeners.

The results are the prolific bunches of Tomatoes you see in the picture, along with the magnificent blooms of Sara’s hard work. Our Scarlet Runner Beans have created a shady hut, and the Passion Flower has finally opened, along with Cupid’s Dart, the Jackmanii Superba Clamatis, Black Eyed Susan, lovely pink Phlox, purple Daisies, and red Geraniums.

On another Gulf Island called Galiano they had a large fire recently and it was touch and go there for while to see if any homes would go up in flames. We thank the Creator for giving us each and every new day in safety and I think we’ll forego air travel for the time being.

posted by Tim at 6:43 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hedgehogs, Robust Plants, and the Big Picture

As you know, our daughter June has a funny nickname. We call her Hedgehog most of the time. It comes from her favorite bedtime story, when she was just a toddler. The story concerns a family of hedgehogs going to the beach and losing the smallest hedgehog. They spend the whole story looking for the little one, until at the end they find her under a beach blanket.

Came across a book review in a newspaper, about a book called “The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History,” by a writer/philosopher named Isaiah Berlin. He borrowed an idea from a Greek poet, to classify our great thinkers into two groups. “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” wrote Archilochus in the 7th century.

I shared these ideas with our daughter (who is ten). She sort of understood, but was especially proud of the fact that Plato, Dante, and Proust were classified as “hedgehogs” by Berlin. She delved into Greek thought before and knew about Plato’s image of us living in a cave looking at shadows of reality on the wall of the cave, while real life went on outside the cave’s entrance.

Homeschooling our children opens up brand new vistas every day. Hedgehog is enrolled in a Self-Design program, where the students are connected to a Learning Consultant electronically. She studies what she is really interested in, and skips the stuff that turns her off. This way she can follow her passions, and learn about things that capture her interest.

Sara is teaching her all about flowers. Sara’s garden is an open classroom for Hedgehog. She especially likes the Phlox paniculata which is opening its round cluster of hot pink flowers just about now. This striking flower originated in North America and was introduced to Europe in 1730. A Captain Symons-Jeune experimented with new cultivars in the 1950s, aiming for pure colors, scent, and disease resistance. Hedgehog is not too big on the details, but she is fascinated by history, and is learning to identify each flower type.

Another flower which Hedgehog finds exciting is the Anemone Hybride “Krienhilde,” otherwise known as Windflower. Its delicate blooms are rising way above the canopy of Sara’s English garden, although the average height listed on the ID tag from the garden store is only four feet. Since we started using Advanced Nutrients 100% organic nutrients for both our flowers and vegetables, the robust growth has been phenomenal.

Our vegetables are experiencing the same burst of energy. Huge clusters of tomatoes are ripening in the sun and the tomato plants are up to my armpits. They’re also much bushier than in previous years, so we had to trim some branches to allow the sun to reach the fruit clusters. The huge leaves of our pumpkin plants are spreading and our cucumbers are growing bigger and bigger on the vine.

Try using Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom if you want to get similar results in your garden. We also help protect our plants from pathogens with regular spraying of Scorpion Juice, and strengthen the roots of our plants with Piranha and Tarantula. Our roses have definitely appreciated this loving treatment, and are continuing to bless us with new blooms each and every day.

As I tell Hedgehog, it’s important to see the Big Picture, but it also helps to know some of the details. Otherwise, we might not have found out about Advanced Nutrients and the exact products to buy to make our garden the envy of the neighborhood.

posted by Tim at 1:24 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cucurbits, Organic Nutrients, and Renewal

I’ve always avoided apocalyptic movies and books. The thought of Mel Gibson dressed in futuristic biker garb battling Neanderthals leaves me cold. It’s been years since he made that movie, and now he’s arrested for drunk driving, muttering supposedly racist remarks.

But I digress. Once again, apocalyptic visions are making the rounds of the Internet. A lot of it refers back to an article by Geoffrey Lean in the Independent, a UK publication. “A disaster to take everyone’s breath away,” is a compelling look at how the Amazon rainforest is drying up (at a mile a minute, it seems) and that one more year of drought will cause irreversible damage to the so-called “Lungs of the World.”

I have a great deal of respect for David Suzuki and the other environmental scientists who are ringing the warning bell, but somehow their message seems muted on a cool summer morning, when I take my Golden Retriever for a walk and observe the miracle of nature all around me. If there is one lesson that nature can teach us, it’s that of renewal.

Nature has been trying to teach us this lesson since time immemorial. Some say that what today is the Sahara desert used to be a lush forest at one time. Others swear that where today deep water covers the Earth, there used to be a thriving civilization called Atlantis.

Each plant, each bush and tree, sprouts new shoots in the Spring, to underscore this message of renewal. All we have to have is eyes to see and hearts to feel how Gaia, the magic Earth Mother, renews herself each year. Yet we would rather spend our hours tuned into an electronic reality, rather than enjoying the “garden” all around us.

Speaking of gardens, my tomato plants have taken off like gangbusters, and clusters of fruit are maturing very fast. They’re getting bigger and bigger. I look forward to that first homegrown tomato salad! (Just slice several large tomatoes, using a sharp knife, then slice a white onion, sprinkle with oil and vinegar, and presto—tomato salad. Season to taste!)

Another favorite of mine is cucumber salad. My dear mother (God rest her soul) showed me the fine points of making a succulent Cucumber Salad with sour cream, Hungarian style. You must slice the cucumbers very thin and soak them in salted water, then press them between your fingers to squeeze the water out and of course, drain the water from the bowl. Add a sprinkle of vinegar and dollops of sour cream, salt and pepper to taste—or dust with Paprika, and voila, “salade de concombre avec de la crème aigre.”

All of my cucurbits are progressing nicely. As you know, I feed them with 100% organic plant food, by the name of Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom. Advanced Nutrients takes good care of my vegetables and Sara's flowers with 100% organic nutrients. My zucchinis are not quite prize-winning size yet, but they’re getting there. I also have a few squash (which Sara likes to roast, like potatoes, with lots of butter) and a pumpkin or two for the kids.

Although—how does the cliché go? The pumpkin is always sweeter (ha, ha)! Come Halloween, they prefer to go pumpkin hunting themselves on a big pumpkin farm. I can’t compete with that!

posted by Tim at 10:32 PM | 0 comments