gabriola garden

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Spring Bulbs, English Primrose, Italian Parsley

Hedgehog read about this island in Scotland where they were going to cull some hedgehogs to stop them from eating birds’ eggs. “What does cull mean?” she asked. “A fancy word for kill,” was my reply. Our daughter got very upset.

Then she read further and found out that the hedgehogs were saved by the intervention of animal welfare groups. Now, instead of being killed, the small animals are going to be taken to the mainland and released.

I started musing about the cyclical nature of Nature, how things die in the fall and winter, then are reborn in the spring. Even though it’s only February, Sara’s garden is coming alive with a bit of color.

The tiniest yellow and purple crocuses have opened in the chilly, afternoon sun today. The arrival of the crocus means that spring isn’t very far away. While much of Canada is still in a deep freeze, here on the West Coast we are enjoying our eager spring bulbs as they stick their heads out of the fertile ground.

As far as I can tell, we’re growing Crocus biflorus, which is characterized by early flowering (mid to late February). It grows wild in the Balkans, Italy, Turkey, and Iran.

Or it could be Crocus vernus, which is supposed to flower later and probably does in its native Holland, but not here in British Columbia. It comes in both yellow and purple, and when fully grown, the open flower is on the larger side.

Sara doesn’t remember if there was a name attached to the bulb at the garden shop, so I’ll guess we’ll never know for sure. The fact remains that these tiny flowers gladden our hearts and signal a well-deserved respite from chilly winter winds.

Sara has been busy collecting horse manure and large bags of soil and mixing in some of our homemade compost, then spreading the mixture on top of the garden. The result is a rich, dark humus.

I warned her about mixing in fresh horse manure, since some gardening books warn against its use for certain plants, especially roses. Sara defended herself by saying that with all the rain we’ve been getting the mixture will decompose very quickly and the manure will turn to compost.

Sara’s Daffodils (Latin name, Narcissus) are coming up like gangbusters. I believe they are Trumpet Narcissus, whose corona is longer than their perianth segments.

These are the ordinary, garden variety Daffodils, but their Latin name implies that they have something to do with the legend of Narcissus, who was a young man who fell in love with his own image.

Sara made sure that the bulbs were well fed during their winter hybernation by nurturing them with granules of Heavy Harvest Fall, a time-release fertilizer made by Advanced Nutrients.

Today, she fed all the surging bulbs and the rest of the garden with our base fertilizer, the 100% organic Iguana Juice Grow. I told her that she might as well give them a bit of Iguana Juice Bloom, as well, since the crocuses are already in bloom, but she declined.

“The daffodils are still in their vegetative stage,” said Sara, “so the Grow fertilizer is more appropriate at the moment.” I bowed to her greater wisdom. Especially since most everything else in the garden is definitely vegging at the moment, from the transplanted Poppies to the Italian Parsley to the newly planted Sweet William.

She went to the garden store yesterday and came back with some annuals, which she promptly planted among the spurting spring bulbs. She bought two kinds of English Primrose, a pink and a blue variety, as well as some very delicate Cyclamen.

“Are you going to strengthen their roots?” I asked, which was a mistake. “As soon as you mix up a batch of Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice, I will be more than glad to water them with the solution,” replied my crafty wife, who has ingenious ways of telling me to get to work and stop lazing about.

It’s a bit too early to plant any vegetables, so my part of the garden is dormant at the moment, but I’m inspired by Sara’s early start. “By the time you germinate some beans and are ready to plant them,” she continued, “the fresh horse manure on the bean garden will have turned into a rich humus, just aching to nurture our future bean plants.”

“You could get a whole bunch of bamboo poles and tie together another structure for the beans, if you have nothing to do.” Knowing full well that I am behind in my free-lance work commitments, she still enjoys needling me in different ways.

“What other spring bulbs did you plant?” I asked to change the subject. “Well, I have several different types of Tulips coming up slowly, and some really sweet smelling Hyacinths.”

Sara usually plants Grape Hyacinths, or Muscari, and she isn’t kidding about the sweet smell. Once I picked a bunch of them and put them beside our bed. I literally could not sleep, the scent was so overwhelming. I can only take it in small doses.

The most frequently cultivated Hyacinth is Muscari armeniacum, which is a native of Asia Minor. The most common color is cobalt blue, but it is also available in light or dark blue, as well as white and pink.

I better start mixing that batch of root colonizers in order to ensure that all of Sara’s flowers develop a strong, healthy root system. This in turn will guarantee quicker food absorption, resulting in faster growth and higher yields.

According to Sara’s best recollection, she bought generic tulip (Latin:Tulipa) bulbs in the fall and she thinks that most of them are red, but some might turn out to be yellow. Some names for these generic varieties are Rosy Wings, Smiling Queen, and Artist.

“Did you make sure that we have everything we need from Advanced Nutrients?” asked Sara, and I had to go to our garden shed to make sure that we had ample amounts of Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and her Fulvic Acid, as well as the aforementioned root colonizers.

We use so much Iguana Juice, both Grow and Bloom, that I had to start a shopping list with those two items at the top. Then I discovered that we were low on Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract and Organic B. “We can’t grow our garden without feeding our plants vitamins,” I said to Sara, and put those two on the list.

Carbo Load Powder and Sensi Zym we had ample amounts of, as well as the root colonizers, which we have made an integral part of our gardening. “I can’t imagine growing a garden, especially in soil,” I told Sara, “and not use these beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbes. They are truly magic!”

“Have you heard from New Zealand,” I asked Sara. “No. They’ve had their harvest of corn and their other vegetables are due to be harvested soon. It’s the busiest time of year for them, so they probably don’t have time to send e-mails.”

I remembered my childhood, visiting my mother’s village in Hungary around harvest time, and realized that what Sara was saying was the truth. When it’s time to harvest your crops it has to be done quickly and efficiently. There is no time for anything else.

“We’ll probably hear all about the harvest soon,” said Sara and got back down on her hands and knees to plant a few more annuals, “in order to add some color to our garden.”

posted by Tim at 2:16 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Making Sweet Corn Even Sweeter

Hedgehog came in all excited yesterday and said that her mother’s spring bulbs grew another couple of inches in the rain. It’s been mild here on Canada’s Wet Coast, but there seems to be constant drizzle, which is great for the garden.

Sara took the kids horseback riding and picked up about ten containers of composted horse manure, which she proceeded to spread all over her part of the garden where the flowers are. “Hey, what about my vegetables?” I asked, so she allowed me two out of the eight buckets. “Gee, thanks,” I said.

I guess I’ll have to drive to the stables on my own and pick up some more. Our tomato plants rewarded us with so many prize-winning tomatoes last year, it’s the least I can do.

Composted manure is one of the top dressings that make for fertile soil. The question of how good soil supports healthy vegetable growing came up in Eloise’s most recent e-mail from New Zealand.

“As you know, Tim and Sara, John and I own about five acres of land. We were planning to plant corn on several acres, until the Advanced Nutrients tech guys told us that corn tends to suck the soil dry of nutrition, and such soil has to lie fallow for a number of years after corn has been grown on it.”

“Shows our ignorance, that we weren’t aware of this, so we only planted an acre of corn, an acre of assorted vegetables, and left three acres unplanted, waiting for the corn planting next year.”

“If each year we leave three acres lying fallow, that will give them a chance to recharge their batteries, or so we thought. However, the more time we spend on the phone with the Advanced Nutrients experts, the more we find out.”

“Tech Mike, as he refers to himself, told us that if we treat the soil with SensiZym and the three other root colonizers—Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice—in between plantings of corn, we could recharge the soil that much faster. So instead of having to leave three acres fallow, we could get away with leaving two, since we could plant corn in those plots every three years, instead of every four.”

“This makes sense to John and I and we plan to do exactly as we were advised. The over 80 different types of living enzymes in SensiZym munch on plant debris in the soil and turn it into easily absorbable nutrients. This miracle product has been found to be 300% more bioactive and potent than any of their competitors’ products.”

“The beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbes in Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice colonize the root system of the corn, and if the silage is left in and on the soil to decompose, these microorganisms will continue to perform their very valuable role. They in effect create an underground biosphere, so to speak, where future corn plants will develop healthy root systems and therefore healthy plants above ground, as well.”

“I will, of course, continue to apply composted horse manure, a la Sara, to every inch of soil where we grow crops. This will help create an incredibly fertile environment not just for our corn, but also all the other vegetables that we grow.”

“Our tomatoes are already huge and starting to ripen, while our cucumbers and chile peppers are well on their way to joining the tomatoes in becoming spicy salsa and other ethnic delicacies. “

“With regard to the corn, we are definitely into the middle of the bloom cycle. Last week we started to add Carbo Load Powder to our new, 500 Litre watering tank at the initial rate of 45 grams a week, then up to 55 grams this week and 65 grams next week. Then we’ll flush with pure water.”

“Carbo Load adds much needed sugar to the corn at its flowering stage, accounting for extra weight on the cobs and performance in terms of growth. Some of the sugars are derived from corn, so we are essentially feeding the plants' sugars back to itself.”

“Next week we will be adding Sweet Leaf, which contains four of the sweetest sugars known, that affect the production of essential oils in the plant. They enrich those oils with higher concentrations of phenolic and terpenoid compounds, which are responsible for the taste and bouquet of the fruit being formed.”

“Sweet Leaf and Carbo Load are definitely not redundant; instead the respective actions of these products complement each other. While Carbo Load boosts weight and performance, Sweet Leaf enhances taste and aroma. No competitions there.”

“Sweet Leaf also contains a whole range of B-Vitamins, including Thiamine, Cobalamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Panthothenic Acid, Pyridoxin, and Biotin, as well as Citric Acid, Corn Syrup, Cranberry Extract, Grape Extract, and High grade molasses.”

“In addition, Sweet Leaf contains a whole range of amino acids such as L-Tryptophan, L-Glutamine, and L-Lysine, organic acids, and esters. Raw Cane extract and Malt extract are also listed among the ingredients.”

“As you know, we’re growing a yellow corn variety called Maple Sweet, which is a SESE type sugary enhancer. It takes only 77 days from seed to harvest, so it was six weeks vegging and now it’s five weeks flowering.”

“Even though we’ve tasted this variety and it’s very sweet on its own, there is no harm in enhancing the sweetness and that sweet corn aroma, is there?”

“Harvest is not too far away. Have you made arrangements to join us in picking our great tasting corn fresh off the stalk and biting into it after a five minute boil?”

We’d love to go, but the tax department wants us to pay them what we owe from last year and my free-lance income has diminished in size. So, no matter how we stretch the budget, a trip to New Zealand for four people is out of the question at this time.

However, spring is not too far away, judging from the eager young shoots of Sara’s spring bulbs, so at least that’s one consolation!

posted by Tim at 10:40 PM | 0 comments