gabriola garden

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Winterizing your Garden, Nourishing your Soil

No matter how you look at it, Fall is the time to wrap up your garden. Sara has removed most of her perennial flowers and the kids and I helped her pick the remaining vegetables and pulled the tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, squash, cucumber, pumpkin, and zucchini plants out of the ground.

Most of this organic matter found its way into the compost. Some was discarded and burned, since it had signs of mold, mildew, or other pathogens. No matter how many precautions we take, some nasty microbes make their way into our garden. In her mind’s eye, Sara looked at this summer’s arrangement of her flowers and decided to make some changes for next year.

Some perennials self-sow their seeds, so you have to be careful either to deadhead them before they can do that or to pick the seeds yourself and place them in desirable places, rather than letting them fall haphazardly into the ground. Impatients, Calendula, certain Petunias, Hedgehog’s Balloon Flower, Purple Coneflowers, Malva, and California Poppies are all self-sowing plants.

In order to get Sara’s rose bushes ready for frost, we pruned them back to the wood and sprayed them first with Scorpion Juice, in order to inoculate them against many pathogens, including Black Spot. A week later we applied a dormant oil and put four stakes around each bush and tied burlap to them, making sure that it touched the ground so that the cold winds could not freeze the sensitive thin rosewood.

Sara took Hedgehog and Jim to the pumpkin patch and came back with eight huge pumpkins. We’re looking forward to carving them. Our own pumpkins and squash were eaten as roast squash or pumpkin pie. In order to keep the pumpkins from getting molds and mildews, I spray them with Advanced Nutrients Protector. It certainly helps them last longer.

This is the time to make sure that your lawns make it through the winter without too much damage. The trick is to mow them high, leaving two or three inches to encourage root growth. The very same products for root growth that we use on our flowers and vegetables can be used on your lawn. When using Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice in conjunction with your regular fertilizer, you might want to use them at half-strength.

Fall is the time to reseed the thin spots on your lawn, as well as to aerate it with a special gardening tool, a rotating one for larger lawns or a hand held one for smaller ones. At this time it is a good idea to top-dress your lawn with a half inch thick layer of compost to build better roots.

If your Fall weather is dry in your part of the continent, keep your lawn well watered. Judging from the generous amounts of rainfall we usually get at this time of year on Canada’s Wet Coast, we’re spared this particular task.

If your self-sown perennial seedlings are popping up all over the place, this is the time to thin them to give them a proper spacing. You should dig up tender summer bulbs such as dahlias and store them away for the winter. Conversely, six weeks before you expect the ground to freeze, you should plant your spring bulbs.

We already planted some, but Sara couldn’t keep herself from going back to the garden store to buy some more hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips. Judging from her enthusiastic description of all the different varieties and colors that she bought, we’re going to have a magnificent spring garden in 2007.

I’m getting her to sprinkle some Heavy Harvest Fall fertilizer around the new bulbs, in order to make sure that they get enough nourishment during their dormancy. The heavy rains usually give them enough moisture, so we don’t have to worry about watering them.

As you know, Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom are our regular fertilizers, and if you look through our Summer’s worth of pictures in this blog you can see the results of using this first class plant nutrient. We also use additives, such as Emerald Shaman (fermented plant food according to Oriental custom) and Carbo Load Liquid, which provides energy boosting carbohydrates to our flowers and vegetables.

You can’t forget about your container plants at this time of year. The soil in the containers freezes much faster than ground soil, so you either have to move them to a very warm spot right next to a warm wall or alternately you have to build a cold frame to protect your container plants.

A three foot by six foot wooden box can be the foundation of your cold frame, covered with a makeshift, plastic coated frame. Place it in a sunny spot against the side of the house or a garage and make sure that your pots have a lot of compost worked into their soil.

Some plants can be brought indoors, but only in a semi-heated room. Full winter indoor heating will kill most outdoor plants. Tender perennials left in the ground, such as lavender, can be protected by mulching. Or transplant them into a pot and bring them indoors.

posted by Tim at 10:48 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When are root enhancers excessive?

Some gardeners recommend leaving your annuals, instead of pulling them up before winter sets in. If you allow the first frost to collapse them they will decompose and add to the rich, organic content of your soil. So the theory goes.

However, if there is any mold or disease on your plants, it’s much better to pull them out and burn them, than perpetuating the infection and having it rear its ugly head again in the spring. Around this time of year, with the onset of the wet season, mold and mildew can form overnight, so it’s wise to be careful. Especially if the cold has weakened your plants and made them more susceptible to all sorts of pathogens.

Sara and I never compost diseased leaves or plants, since the harmful microbes can overwinter in the compost bin and cause problems during the next growing season. This is why it’s so important to replenish the soil with the beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbes in Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice, respectively.

I spent some time on the phone with the Advanced Nutrients technical expert, who mentioned that if you’re using these three root enhancers-colonizers, it’s a good idea to use them half-strength in a hydroponic situation. Even though we're growing in soil and not hydro, it’s good for us to be aware of the pitfalls of trying to help plants too much, when they don’t need it.

It seems that if you use Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice full strength in a hydro grow, especially in conjunction with Carbo Load Liquid or Powder, the proliferation of the beneficial organisms is so great, that the roots become a mushy mess. They stop doing what they’re supposed to do, which is to suck up the nutrients to nourish the plants. If you use them at half the strength of the recommended dosage, you won’t have this problem.

Don’t get me wrong. These are very effective products and used in soil, full strength is fine. They are 100% organic and make for strong roots and healthy plants. But every time you use an additive or a supplement to your regular feeding regimen, you have to be doubly aware of what you’re doing and how the products that you are mixing work, or not work, together.

I also discussed my giving our plants Organic B and Vita Boost Pro. I mistakenly thought that Vita Boost Pro was a multi-vitamin, but it is essentially B, with some extra ingredients. It’s got B-1 (Thiamine Hydrocholoride), B-3 (Niacin), and B-6 (Pyridoxine), as well as Seaweed Extract, to provide your plants with an inexpensive source of vitamins, nutrients, natural hormones, antibiotics, enzymes, and root zone enhancers.

However, Organic-B is the world’s only 100% organic B-complex for plants, containing B-1, B-12 (Cobalamin), B-2 (Riboflavin), B-3, B-5 (Panthothenic Acid), B-6, B-7 (Biotin), and three unique yeast extract hydrolysates that contain the balanced B’s mentioned above, as well as proteins, peptides, free amino acids, and cytokinins, plus other ingredients.

When I told the Advanced Nutrients technical man that I thought that Vita Boost Pro was a multi-vitamin, he explained that plants differ from humans in that they don’t seem to need additional vitamins, other than B’s. I suspect they get Vitamin D from sunlight, but some leaves and many fruits contain vitamin C, which is made by the plants.

Organic B costs more, but it’s worth it, since it gives so much more to our flowers and vegetables. If you use B52, for instance, which is the synthetic equivalent of Organic B, then using Vita Boost Pro would be duplicating your efforts. If I had to choose, I’d go with Organic B and leave the Vita Boost Pro for those who can’t afford the more expensive product.

For enzymes, we use SensiZym. When used with its sister products Voodoo Juice, Tarantula, and Piranha, the 88 beneficial enzymes in SensiZym help our plants utilize water and water-borne elements to increase growth, yield, and drought resistance. The enzymes break down root zone components to increase absorption of carbohydrates, starches, and other elements necessary for our plants to thrive.

Sara has cut out yoghurt containers with zig-zag edges to keep the slugs in the spring from devouring her sprouting gladioli. Our tomato crop is ripening on all of our window ledges, some of our plants are still thriving such as the yarrow and the mystery plant on our back stairs, and we’re planting more bulbs for the spectacular daffodil-crocus-tulip canopy in the spring.

Our male cat Pinta is curling up on the blue tarp covering our trampoline, which is Hedgehog’s favorite form of exercise. Jim likes to lie in the middle of it in the summer and read comic books, but when it comes to jumping, his sister wins hands down. Or should I say feet down?

posted by Tim at 9:06 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Giving Thanks, Shucking Beans, Feeding Plants

Last Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada, so it was time to harvest the remaining vegetables and give thanks for the bounty of the Creator. Jim and Hedgehog dove into the collapsed Scarlet Runner Bean House and collected the remaining, mostly dry bean pods. Then we sat outside on stools to shuck the beans, dropping the seeds into a large, stainless steel bowl.

Some call it shucking, some call it shelling, it basically involves cracking the dry pods with the fingers, and taking the beans out one by one. Hedgehog took to this like a duck to water, but Jim found it too boring, so he helped his mother clear out the pumpkin and squash plants, with their gigantic leaves.

I suggested that we should all guess how many bean seeds we would end up with for next spring’s planting, and Sara’s guess was the closest to final count—485 large beans. This is too many for planting, so some of it will be made into soup by yours truly. I have a great recipe for Greek fasolada soup, which requires just this type of bean.

We also harvested 175 tomatoes, 20 squash and pumpkins, and 45 cucumbers, which proved to be outstanding in size and quality. We promptly made a cucumber-tomato salad for lunch and the outdoor air must have increased our appetites, because the serving plate was soon empty.

The quality of our vegetables attest to the wonderful feeding regimen, suggested by the Advanced Nutrients tech info line. In addition to our base organic fertilizer—Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom—we also add vitamins by way of Organic B and Vita Boost Pro, as well as root and growth enhancers, such as Voodoo Juice, Carbo Load Liquid, and Emerald Shaman.

Both Iguana Juice products have been thoroughly field tested and proven to give exceptional results during the vegetative and flowering stages. They worked miracles both with our vegetables and our flowers. The proliferation of buds on our bean and tomato plants (not to mention Sara’s asters, windflowers, clematis, and calendulas) were astounding this summer.

Organic B is great for hydroponic gardening, but it can also be used for soil-based horticulture. In addition to easily absorbed B vitamins, it contains amino acids and other organic enhancers that helps your plants resist stress and disease, both during the vegetative and bloom cycles.

Since I not only take a B vitamin every day, but also a multi-vitamin, I figured that our plants could use the same protection from pathogens and stress factors. So Sara and I give all our plants VitaBoost Pro, which is an excellent multi-vitamin formula designed to boost growth and yield. In addition to the vitamins, it also contains magnesium and calcium, and other components necessary for good plant health.

The beneficial microbes in Voodoo Juice not only create root mass for larger, healthier plants, but they also facilitate the absorption of vital macro and micro nutrients necessary for faster growth and higher yields. In last week’s blog, I mentioned how this miracle product saved the life of an ailing cucumber plant, turning it into a heavy producer.

A friend called me and said that he tried Voodoo Juice on a rhododendron bush that wasn’t doing too well back in May, and by the middle of June he was totally astounded by the huge purple blooms covering his previously unhealthy plant.

Mid-way through the bloom cycle, it is a great idea to administer Carbo Load Liquid to your plants. Around this time, many plants suffer from carbohydrate depletion. The natural sweetness of this product has saved a number of Sara’s flowers from becoming weak, with a low yield. My vegetables certainly benefit from the sugar-boost, which also improves their taste.

Emerald Shaman is a fermented plant food that is based on age-old techniques used in the Orient. We administer it as a foliar spray. We add two drops of this powerful liquid into a misting bottle containing a liter of warm, clean water. Then we cover both the top and the underside of the leaves. Rich with enzymes and bioactives, Emerald Shaman infuses your plants with new vigor.

We removed all our vegetable plants—squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, cucumbers—and added them to the compost bin. One pumpkin plant had a bit of mold on its leaves, so we discarded it. Never compost diseased plant material, it just perpetuates the problem.

Some of the tomatoes are still green, but they’ll turn red soon enough in the indoor warmth on our windowsills. It truly is a miracle that from tiny seeds grow the foods that nourish our bodies. We have a lot to be thankful for!

posted by Tim at 12:29 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Iris Asters, Fall Pruning, Happy Hibernation

Those of you who are seasoned gardeners probably had a chuckle when reading my last posting. What I referred to as “irises” were actually “asters.” I asked Sara on the run, as usual, what those prolific bluish-purplish flowers were, and of course she said asters, but I heard “irises.”

So I’m including another picture of the asters, just to set the record straight. They’ve multiplied even more from last week, so they certainly are a welcome addition to our fall garden.

Some people consider fall to be a sad time of year for a garden, but there are other ways of looking at it. Here on Canada’s West Coast this is still the end of summer (we’ve had a number of gorgeous, sunny days in a row), so we can enjoy our gardens a bit longer than the rest of North America.

But eventually, even on Gabriola, the time comes to put our garden to bed. As our perennials finish their blooming, it is time to cut them back. Make sure your pruning sheers are well cleaned (using Advanced Nutrients Wipe Out) and that you don’t pass any diseases from one plant to another.

Sara is determined to prune her Butterfly Bush drastically soon, so it doesn’t take over her entire flower bed. All dying stems and leaves should be removed. The healthy debris can be put into the compost, but if there is any sign of mold or disease, the leaves and branches should be burned.

Spraying with Piranha is a great idea. Previously I referred to this very versatile product as a soil additive for the colonization of roots with beneficial fungi. Well, it can also be used as a spray.

Here’s what it does, when used as a foliar spray. It protects the plants from a whole array of pathogens, including Sclerotinia, Rhizoctania, Fusarium, and Phythium, as well as gray mold and mildew. The fall rainy season is an ideal time to protect your garden from all of these.

The wave of the future seems to be to mix synthetic and organic plant foods. In addition to the regular organic diet of Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, I am starting to mix in Heavy Harvest Fall into my soil, in order to feed the roots through the dormant season, and make sure that our spring bulbs get enough nourishment through the winter.

Another great root strengthening product is Voodoo Juice. To give you a for instance, last summer I had a stringy, low-producing cucumber plant, that I was thinking of digging up and composting. But before I did something rash, I called the Advanced Nutrients tech line and talked to a very knowledgeable fellow. He suggested treating the roots of the plant with Voodoo Juice.

I did, and within a week the plant started getting bushier and bushier with a whole bunch of new buds on it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The tech guy told me that the secret lay in something called Gibberlins, which create natural growth enhancing hormones.

The cucumber roots were massive and my harvest was astounding. The beneficial microbes in Voodoo Juice certainly did their job. I’m been sold and I’ve been using it on all my vegetables ever since. I can’t use it fast enough before Sara steals my container to use on her flowers!

This is a good time of year to apply Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract to your garden, which is a 100% organic plant food that is easy to absorb and digest and results in better perennial wintering.

Of course, some plants either have to be brought indoors or the harsh cold will kill them. Once you’ve pruned your roses, you may want to wrap them in burlap before the winter cold sets in.

Sara wants to save her geraniums this year, since they are so beautiful. We’ll allow them to flower until we get the first below freezing forecast, then we’ll cut them back to three or four inches above the root line and put them into smaller pots. Not too small, since the Voodoo Juice that we mix with the soil, will make the geranium roots grow like crazy.

Before putting the pruned back geranium plants into our cool basement for winter dormancy, we spray them lightly with Protector to keep powdery mildew at bay. Then in the cool darkness of our basement we make sure that we don’t water them at all and let them sleep until spring.

Now that it gets darker earlier, Hedgehog is starting to go to bed by 9pm and she wishes that she could hibernate through the winter. She loves sleep and the cozy warmth of her bed. On hectic days like today, I’m beginning to see her point.

posted by Tim at 10:45 PM | 1 comments