gabriola garden

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Sunshine, Plants Perking Up, Slugs Growing

Sara’s from New Zealand so she’s partial to a potpourri type English garden. She is expert at mixing and matching when it comes to buying plants. I thought she was buying annuals the other week, but she corrected me. She only buys perennials—so there!

Already growing in Sara’s flower garden are Monkshood, Clematis, Larkspur, Parsley, Italian Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Mint, Lady’s Mantle, Peony, Tree Peony, a Dwarf Lilac Bush, Echinacea, Campanula Latifolia, Campanula Ground Cover, Varieties of Lavender, Yarrow, Phlox, Cyclamen, Forget-me-not, Sweet William, Periwinkle, Black Eyed Susan, Shasta Daisy, Poppy (Papaver orientale), Campanula Bell Flower, Japanese Anemone, Catmint, and Foxglove.

If you’re wondering what the eggshells are doing next to her Bell Flower in the picture, they’re actually protecting a young Delphinium shoot from slugs. Yes, we have young slugs already in our garden, and they’re hard to get rid of. Seems they like Delphiniums the best, so Sara is making us save all our eggshells and putting them around all the Delphiniums, which are spread out over the entire garden.

The yogurt containers worked up to a point, but she’s convinced that eggshells are better when it comes to warding off slugs. Hey, once the eggshells decompose, they will provide a lot of Calcium to the soil, so I certainly don’t mind.

Delphinium, also known as Candle Delphinium or Candle Larkspur, Latin name Delphinium x elatum, is a late Spring, Summer flower, that has blue, purple, pink, white, or bicolour blooms, shaped like a thick candle. It grows 36 to 72 inches tall (last summer ours came up to my chest, and I’m almost six feet tall) and some of them will rebloom in the Fall, if deadheaded.

This flower requires full sun and a fertile, moist, and humus-rich soil, with excellent drainage. Sara has been working extra hard carting composted horse manure from the stables where Hedgehog takes horseback riding lessons, and we’ve been composting our kitchen parings all winter.

In addition, we add Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid in order to create that rich, black, humus-filled soil that Delphiniums love. These two Advanced Nutrients products are derived from a calcified, organic layer of material usually found above coal beds, deep within the earth. It is called leonardite and it has to be professionally mined.

Because of their height, Sara’s Delphiniums will probably need staking in the Summer, when they’re fully grown. She likes to put them in the back row of the garden, with smaller flowering plants in the front row.

I haven’t even begun to plan what vegetables to grow this season. The nights are still cold, even here in British Columbia, so I have a good few weeks before planting my vegetables outside. I will, however, start germinating my beans indoors in glass jars, so they’ll be ready for outdoor planting when the danger of frost is gone.

Sara’s lugging the ten Liter containers of Iguana Juice Grow and using the empty ones as mixing and watering cans. You have to check the label of this product, because the application rate was changed recently. The new Iguana Juice is more concentrated and calls for 3.5 mL per Liter, given standalone feeding. This ends up saving us money in the long run.

We do have a mixing tank that I use to blend all the Advanced Nutrients products we use to make sure that our garden is the envy of the neighborhood. It holds 50 Litres of solution and allows for overnight mixing of hard to dissolve products like Barricade. The Potassium Silicate in this great additive strengthens the cell walls of Sara’s flowers and my vegetables, enabling them to ward off many insects and pathogens.

It makes sense. Most insects that attack our garden are the sap sucking variety, that literally suck the life out of the leaves and stalks that they attack. If the cell walls become strong enough to resist this type of intrusion, the insects will go elsewhere for nourishment.

Sara was wondering if she should use some Iguana Juice Bloom as well, since many of her flowers are in full bloom. I’m going to have to consult with the Advanced Nutrients tech guys on that question. I know that certain of their synthetic fertilizers do mix in smaller amounts of Bloom on top of Grow during the vegetative stage, but when most plants in the garden are just starting to veg, while others less then a foot away are flowering, it’s a dilemma.

Primrose, or Primula spp. comes in red, orange, pink, purple, white, or yellow and grows to a height of 6 to 24 inches. It seems that all our plants grow taller and bushier than expected, given the fertilizer regimen that we feed them regularly. Some of the store-bought primroses are in flower right now; the ones from last year will flower later in the Spring.

Primroses prefer partial shade, so Sara planted them around the edge of the garden, where taller plants in the immediate proximity will provide convenient shadows. Primroses don’t mind if your soil is slightly acidic. I finally broke down and bought a soil pH testing kit and try to test not only my nutrient solution, but also the soil on a regular basis. 6.3 pH is a good acid-alkaline balance for the soil.

After all the rain we’ve been having, the sun smiled on our garden for the last two or three days and it’s a wonderful feeling. I hear that in Vancouver the famous cherry trees are in full blossom and here on Gabriola the sun actually has warmth in the middle of the afternoon. Oh yes, it’s officially Spring!

posted by Tim at 9:30 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Deluge, a Few Sunny Days, New Roses

Last weekend, we had over 200mm of rain in a three-day period. It was a veritable deluge and had people talking about the possibility of flooding. Rubber boots and rain gear for everybody, and Hedgehog wrote an essay about rain, and why it’s good for plants.

The first sunny day after all that moisture felt like a holiday, even though it was a Monday. The Crocuses and Daffodils opened their petals and embraced the sun. The Tulips and Hyacinths burst forth from the ground and announced their imminent arrival.

Sara, undaunted by the inclement weather, went shopping at the garden store. She bought two Roses in pots, A Floribunda called Intrigue, and a Hybrid Tea Rose called Purple Passion. These are specific strains grafted onto rootstocks and they came all the way from California.

Purple Passion is a patented rose, which means that you can grow it for your own pleasure, but not for selling (unless you’re willing to pay a royalty to the patent holder). Rose patents usually last 20 years, after which period the strain goes into the public domain.

Hybrid Tea Roses have been called the aristocrats of roses, since they embody the classic rose shape and the concept of what a rose is in our minds. Commercially, they are cultivated to be marketed as long-stemmed cut flowers, especially around Valentine’s Day.

The sales hype for this particular strain pegs it as “regal, deep purple, high centred blooms with an irresistibly tangy, lemon fragrance.” It must be a relatively new strain, because it doesn’t yet appear in two different rose guide books that we have.

Floribundas are usually chosen by gardeners to provide a large splash of color, perhaps among less vibrant flowers. Intrigue will give Sara’s flower garden clusters of deep red, almost burgundy flowers that are disease resistant and possess an intense, lemony fragrance.

Roses prefer six hours of direct sunlight per day (good luck getting that on our Wet Coast) and a well-drained soil. They do not like standing in water for any length of time. They also don’t like too much Nitrogen, so I’ll have to recalculate the NPK of our base fertilizer, in order to custom feed the roses.

Iguana Juice Grow (our 100% organic fish-based fertilizer) has an NPK of 3-1-3. If you use another Advanced Nutrients product called Colossal Bud Blast alongside the Iguana Juice, you have to add its NPK which is 0-3-6 to determine the overall NPK of using them together.

So you end up with an NPK of 3-4-9 which falls within the range of a desirable balance of macronutrients for Roses.

Using Iguana Juice Bloom (NPK = 4-3-6) in conjunction with Colossal Bud Blast will give Sara’s Roses an NPK of 4-6-12, which is also within the desirable range.

A common misconception about Colossal Bud Blast is that since it is a bloom enhancer it should only be used during the flowering stage. However, the Advancedpedia on the company’s website clearly states that it can be used during both the vegetative and floral growth phases.

Colossal Bud Blast is a complete blend of nutrients, with biostimulants, chelators and surfactants, all from natural sources. It was originally formulated for foliar application, but it’s equally effective when applied to the root zone of your plants.

It is a complex supplement designed to intensify the growth of plant tissues, whether stems and leaves or buds. It imparts vigor to all of our plants and we’ve been very pleased with it ever since we started using it.

Sara can’t wait to plant the two new roses in our garden and I’ll be sure to update you with pictures as soon as they start blooming.

posted by Tim at 9:33 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Raindrops Keep Falling, Crocuses Keep Growing, Harvest Down Under

The sun came out briefly this afternoon causing our Crocuses to smile. Then it clouded over again and the forecast is for three days of solid rain. Sara says she doesn’t mind—her flower garden is getting a good drenching. “Besides, it will quickly turn all that fresh horse manure into fertile compost.”

She started burying banana skins next to the rose bushes. She read somewhere that roses love the extra potassium. I told her to be careful, there is such a thing as potassium overload. She said that she knows what she’s doing.

She applied Iguana Juice Grow, which has an NPK of 3-1-3, to the entire garen. This means that it contains 3% of Nitrogen, 1% Phosphorus or Phosphates, and 3% of Potassium. In a 10-Liter watering can, I mix in only 10 mL of Iguana Juice, along with other ingredients, during the first week of vegetative growth. So I’m only adding .3 mL of Potassium to the soil.

A banana skin contains from 34-42% Potassium. But it is relatively light weight, so you’re talking about a fraction of a gram. Now even if you factor in the Potassium content of the horse manure that Sara spread over her garden, we are definitely not overdosing our roses with Potassium.

I couldn’t get any stats on horse manure, but 1 tonne (1,000 kg) of cattle dung contains .295% of Nitrogen, .159% of Phosphorus, and .295% of Potassium. Let’s say she applied 50 kg of manure to the entire garden. The amount of Potassium directly under each rose plant would be .295% of a tenth of a kilogram, or 3 grams.

As raw organic materials have to decompose first, before they become water soluble, it stands to reason that much of those 3 grams will leach into the soil before the roots of the rose bushes can absorb the extra macronutrient.

These figures also provide a good argument to those growers who claim that using manure and compost provide adequate nutrients for the garden. A 100% organic fertilizer such as Iguana Juice (the Rolls Royce of organic fertilizers) is absolutely essential to boost the NPK levels of the soil that you grow your precious plants in.

My watering mix also includes essential root colonizers and supplements, so that the parts per million of the nutrient solution goes from 498 during weeks 1 and 2 of vegetative growth, to 600 ppm during weeks 3 and 4, and 745 ppm during weeks 5, 6, 7, and 8.

I gave into Sara’s nudging, and mixed up our first week’s solution in an 80 Liter tank. I poured in 84 mL of Iguana Juice Grow, 60 mL each of Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid, 7.2 g of Carbo Load Powder, 197.6 mL of SensiZym, 7.2 grams each of Piranha and Tarantula, 108 mL of Voodoo Juice, 132 mL of Seaweed Extract, and another 132 mL of Organic B.

These amounts will gradually increase until week 8, at which point I’ll switch over to Iguana Juice Bloom. But the spring bulbs are blooming already, you say? We apply nutrients according to the majority of the perennials in the garden, not according to the spring bulbs. The latter have been adequately fertilized by the Heavy Harvest Fall that Sara added when she planted them in the fall, and by the compost, manure, and growth fertilizers being added now.

With regard to Sara adding fresh horse manure directly to the garden, some sources say that it is preferable to have the decomposition take place right on top of the plants, rather than in a compost pile, since during heavy rains (such as the ones we’re having now) many vital nutrients get leached into the soil underneath the compost pile.

Better to compost on top of your garden and have these important nutrients go where they are needed, feeding your plants that are starting to awaken for their spring growth.

It is fall in New Zealand and Eloise reports that John has stopped worrying about the crops and they’re both enjoying the fruits of their harvest. They’ve been too busy to write, since they had to pick and process of bumper crop of sweet corn and the other vegetables, and distribute the bounty to friends, family, neighbours, and retail outlets.

posted by Tim at 9:55 PM | 1 comments