gabriola garden

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Too Much Rain, Scorching Sun, Fewer Blooms

While the British Isles are drowning, the rest of Europe is being baked and scorched. We’ve had our own share of torrential rains, followed by short bursts of hot sun. Climate change is having a direct effect on both Sara’s flower garden and my vegetable patch.

In one short word, the main effect is foilage. As opposed to the full array of colors at this time of year, Sara’s flowerbeds are covered in lush, green foilage. Ditto for my vegetables, which are showing a dearth of flowers.

The solution, as voiced by a garden guru on CBC radio, is to apply a low or no Nitrogen fertilizer, that is high in Phosphorus and Potassium. In our case, it’s an extra application of Iguana Juice Bloom, which has an NPK of 4-3-6, boosted by spraying our foliage with Colossal Bud Blast, which has an NPK of 0-3-6.

The combined NPK of these two products is 4-6-12, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Although primarily a foliar spray, Colossal Bud Blast can also be applied to the root zone with comparable results, all through the vegetative and bloom stages of our plants.

Actually, it’s mostly my Tomatoes that lack an adequate number of flowers. Our Scarlet Runner Beans are filling in the bamboo structure rather nicely and the large-leaved foliage is covered with their distinctively delicate red blooms.

Some of Sara’s Clematis is still flowering, and a few of our different varieties of Phlox have burst into bloom. Hedgehog is enthused by the Double Purple Cone Flower that has given us a few distinctive large blooms.

I wish I could say the same for our Roses. All the rain, followed by extremely hot sunshine, has had a negative effect on our Rose production this year. Some of the yellow blooms (Sun Flare) are still around, but most of the red and pink ones have had it, as did Blue Girl, which sports a still healthy and vigorous bush, but no buds.

We are behind schedule in our fertigation, because Sara was afraid that all the rain was going to wash away the fertilizer. But now that it is sunny again, we’re applying our nutrient mix with renewed enthusiasm. Let’s hope for the desired results.

I bought two 50-Liter tanks, one for the bloom garden, the other for my vegetables. Figuring that this is the fourth week of bloom for most of the plants, I have to mix in 198.35 mL of Iguana Juice Bloom, 120 mL each of Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid and 17 grams of Carbo Load Powder.

Consisting of Arabinose, Dextrose, Glucose, Meltose, and Xylose, Carbo Load comes in both Powder and Liquid form, but I use the former since it’s more economical. These simple and complex carbohydrates are designed to boost the flower forming building blocks of our plants.

In addition to building bud sites, Carbo Load plays a dual role in that it also feeds the beneficial microorganisms contained in Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice. We don’t have to apply these root colonizers during week 4, since we included them in the nutrient mixes for weeks 1 and 2.

The helpful fungi, bacteria, and microbes in these three products are bioactive and multiply in the root zone of our plants, enhancing root formation and aiding nutrient absorption. During week 6 of bloom we’ll again have to apply 21 grams each of Piranha and Tarantula, and 260 mL of Voodoo Juice.

While both Tarantula and Voodoo Juice contain Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR), Voodoo Juice is a liquid suspension of five selected strains, while Tarantula is a powder containing the spores of numerous different beneficial bacteria strains.

As we all know, not all bacteria are beneficial. Many are harmful, while some are symbiotic, meaning that they establish mutually beneficial relationships with their host (in this case, the root and stem cells of our flowers and vegetables). The microorganisms in these two Advanced Nutrients products are “super symbiotic,” meaning that they’re extra beneficial.

Not only do they fight off harmful bacteria, but they make their way inside the tissues of the plants’ roots and stems and help fix Nitrogen from the air and soil into an easily absorbable form.

The microbes in Voodoo Juice also secrete plant growth promoting hormones into the sap of our plants. So not only does the root mass increase, but the overall growth of the plant shows great improvement.

Voodoo Juice contains 50 million PGPR super-strains in each millilitre. That’s an awful lot of microscopic helpers to unleash on our plants, but with climate change, we need all the help we can get.

posted by Tim at 1:37 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Snow Peas and Sweet Peas, Beans and Renoir Lillies

A neighbor was kind enough to give Sara a Jasmine plant (Jasminum polyanthum) and it’s blooming. The sweetest, most pleasing fragrance wafts over the section of the courtyard where it resides in a container.

Sara’s Shasta Daisies are fully blooming, as is Hedgehog’s Black Magic Rose, just in time for the release of the final Harry Potter book. Some dark blue Petunias make one of Sara’s containers a truly decorative addition to her flower beds.

Asiatic type Lillies are in bloom right now, and Sara has several of them. One of them is called Renoir, and it seems to have triple blossoms. It likes a heavy soil with a good supply of humus (which is Sara’s specialty, given her penchant for composted horse manure and kitchen compost).

Another way my wife ensures a rich, black, fertile soil is by using Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid from Advanced Nutrients. These products are designed to enrich your soil with ingredients derived from “leonardite,” an calcified, organic substance that has to be mined from underneath the earth.

Renoir Lillies like sun to partial shade, and they don’t like extreme heat. So avoid planting them next to south facing walls. Their petals tend to be blown off by strong winds, so a certain amount of wind protection is also a good idea.

I heard on the radio that the raspberry crop in the Fraser Valley was damaged by the recent extreme temperatures—over fifty percent of the fruit had to be discarded. When the thermometer goes above forty Celsius, sensitive fruits and flowers suffer.

Sara’s Sweet Peas are flourishing despite the spell of heat. They are intertwined with the Scarlet Runner Beans which are once again filling our their bamboo house quite nicely.

Contrary to what their name implies, Sweet Peas are a flowering plant. They inadvertently make me thing of Snow Peas, and I must confess, I have known to confuse the two.

Sara and I spent several hours a few days ago tying our Snow Peas to a black plastic mesh that I nailed to the back fence. We allowed the plants to grow wildly on the ground, since we were both busy.

The plants appreciated the extra support. Snow Peas are climbers and they get all tangled up when they don’t have any place to climb. Their suckers search for something to latch on to, so they latch onto each other’s stems, and it took quite a while to untangle the mess.

I planted two varieties this year, China Snow and Oregon Sugar Pod. The latter grows best in cool weather (thank goodness our heatwave has broken and our temperatures have dropped) and you can eat the pods either fresh or cooked, and they can also be frozen.

It’s much the same with China Snow. As the name implies, this Snow Pea is great in stir-fries. Peas should be fertilized when they reach four inches (10 cm) in height. We use 100% organic Iguana Juice Grow for this purpose. When they start flowering, we switch to Iguana Juice Bloom.

Snow Peas grow very quickly. As soon as the plants had a secure place to climb, they took off like gangbusters. They vegged for maybe three or four weeks and now they have flowers all over them. Time to switch to our bloom fertilizer.

It’s a bit tricky, since we also have Lettuce in our vegetable garden. We don’t want this plant to bolt and go to flower and seed. So we water selectively, and apply the nutrients individually to the base of the vegetables.

Each week we mix up two different nutrient solutions in large, pre-mix tanks. Along with our base fert (one using Iguana Grow the other Iguana Bloom) we also mix in Humic and Fulvic, as well as Seaweed Extract and Organic B.

The latter is a B-complex Vitamin, which Seaweed Extract contains other Vitamins, as well as naturally occurring plant hormones for growth and natural antibiotics to help prevent diseases.

It doesn’t help against slugs, however. The other day Sara dug up two fresh and crunchy Lettuce plants for our evening salad and I proceeded to wash them at the kitchen sink. I started picking the leaves off and there, between two light green leaves, was a baby slug, ready to devour our salad.

I always wondered where slugs went in the daytime, so now I know. I’ll be cautious with picking Lettuce from now on. I might disturb the slumber of one of these slimy creatures. I guess all the slug bait we sprinkled around our vegetables in the spring didn’t quite get rid of all of them!

Slugs are about the only thing we have to worry about, since regular uae of Barricade and Scorpion Juice keeps most pests and pathogens at bay. Also, by using Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice as prescribed by the Nutrient Calculator, we don’t have the nematode problems that plague untreated gardens.

posted by Tim at 10:30 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My Veg Garden Soaks Up the Sun, Gets Thirsty

The North American heatwave is alive and well on Gabriola. Today’s temperatures inland almost reached 40 degrees Celsius (104° F). Because we’re closer to the ocean, our temps were a bit lower, but still well into the nineties Fahrenheit.

I know that Floridians and Californians are used to such extremes, but this is Canada, the land of igloos and snowshoes and minus forty degree winters. We prefer to cook on our barbecues and not roast ourselves on the beach.

My vegetable garden looked parched in the noonday sun. I had gotten up at six AM to use a soaker hose but by twelve the soil around my Tomatoes, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Beans, Peas and Peppers looked like drought had set in.

I spray with Scorpion Juice early in the day, to keep Rose diseases such as Black Spot at bay. Also to prevent a whole array of bacterial, fungal, and viral infestations that plague our garden on a regular basis.

Scorpion Juice imparts induced systemic resistance to the plants, enabling them to ward off these pathogens through efficient use of their own immune systems. This product tricks the plant into thinking that a parasitic invasion is taking place, causing the immune system to kick into high gear.

I listen to my favorite radio station while I’m working. Earlier today, a gardening expert was talking about the importance of efficient watering. He emphasized that it is better to water the roots of your plants, rather than the foliage, since water on the leaves can cause trouble.

If you get water droplets on your leaves during the day when the sun is hot, they can act as tiny prisms concentrating the heat of the sun in certain spots and causing sections of your leaves to go brown. Ditto for flowers.

Water on your foliage at night doesn’t give them enough time to dry off before the cooler temps set in, and the result could be fungal infestation. For this very reason it is much better to get up early and give your plants a chance to dry off during the day.

If you water your plants too liberally on a continuous basis, you are actually encouraging vegetative growth at the expense of flowering. Conversely, if you deny the plant adequate water for a short time, it tends to go into stress mode (“I’m going to die so I better go into my reproductive mode and make flowers and seeds”).

Also, it is a good idea to water conservatively, since for the last few summers we’ve had a water shortage. Islands seem to have on ongoing problem with lack of fresh water. Kind of ironic, when you consider that we’re surrounded by water.

Of course, Sara and I don’t just irrigate, we fertigate our garden. By mxing up a batch of nutrients, supplements, and root colonizers on a weekly basis, we ensure that our flowers and vegetables receive the proper nourishment that they require in order to produce outstanding blooms and fruits-vegetables.

I use the word “fruit” in the sense that a pepper is the fruit of the Pepper plant, a tomato is the fruit of the Tomato plant, and a cucumber is the fruit of the Cucumber plant. I still remember when I was a child people arguing whether the tomato was a fruit or a vegetable.

Our lettuce should never go to seed, so we don’t want our Lettuce plants to flower. By picking the leaves regularly, we are in fact keeping the plant in a permanent vegetative state. Our Mustard plants bolted; a long stem grew out of them, with tiny, yellow flowers at the tip.

When such plants bolt, their leaves become bitter and inedible. This year I’m experimenting with Sweet Leaf in order to enhance the taste of our lettuce. It is an Advanced Nutrients product that contains berry sugars and molasses. It is designed to boost the flavor and aroma of your plants.

Our vegetable garden is receiving Iguana Juice Grow, a 100% organic fish-based fertilizer that has been giving us excellent results ever since we started gardening. For Sara’s flower garden I use Iguana Juice Bloom as the basic fert, since most of her plants are already in flower.

In addition to the basic ferts, we also use Seaweed Extract, in order to supply multivitamins and natural growth hormones to our plants. These are beneficial, as opposed to the artificial growth hormones that farmers use to pump up their livestock and their crops.

Organic B is a Vitamin B-complex formula from natural sources. If you Google Vitamin B you get the full spectrum of the beneficial effects of Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, and the other members of the Vitamin B group.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), like its close cousins Thiamine (B1) and Niacin (B3), takes part in the manufacture of plant energy through aiding metabolism and processing amino acids, as well as well as being involved in plant growth and reproduction. Research indicates that Riboflavin plays a major role in the rhizosphere of all plants.

The B-complex group is also influential in the reduction of plant stresses of every kind, including drought stress. For this reason, more and more gardeners are applying it to their gardens during these long, hot summers, which are here to stay.

posted by Tim at 9:35 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Celebrating Independence By Gardening

In Canada, we celebrated three days ago. July 1st is Canada Day—this year the 140th anniversary of the founding of our country. However, the kids watch so many American channels, that they became fascinated with July 4th, so I had to tell them all about the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers of the U.S., who acted bravely in 1776.

Sara and I celebrated the Fourth of July by gardening. I thought it was an à propos thing to do, since if you grow enough of your own vegetables, you too can declare your independence from the giant food chains that seem to dominate our consumption in the 21st century.

Add to that growing your own flowers, instead of paying the outrageous prices the stores charge for them. Especially roses around the major holidays. And Sara’s roses this year look every bit as good, and smell every bit as good as those bought in the finest flower shops.

She grew the Hybrid Tea Rose Brandy last year as well, but this year it has really taken off from her repeated applications of Iguana Juice Bloom, along with the supplements, additives, and root enhancers that we mix into our weekly nutrient solution.

Brandy’s giant blooms are nearly six inches in diameter, which is truly a magnificent sight to behold. Many of our neighbors are asking for us to initiate them into our magic gardening club. When we clarify that all the products we use are made by the same Canadian company—Advanced Nutrients—they sort of wish that we had a magic wand or an incantation, instead.

Even Lovely Faerie, Hedgehog’s favorite rose at the moment, is starting to burst its buds into blooms. We’re in the grip of a string of very hot, sunny days, so all of Sara’s blooms are opening up to embrace the life-giving sunshine.

Repeated sprayings of Scorpion Juice and applications of Barricade have the Black Spot under control on the two Rose bushes that were bitten by the few really cold nights this past winter. However, periodically a few black spots return to remind us that fungal infections are not easy to get rid of. Despite the infestation, our generic Pink Rose bush has been putting out exquisite blooms with a lovely, sweet scent. It’s trying its best to beat the Black Spot, once and for all.

A neighbor asked Sara the other night if she favors the color blue. At the moment, many of her flowers are blue, lavender, or purple. But it’s a very subtle blend of various shades of each color, os it’s not bland or boring, by any means. Her Delphiniums are standing proud with their spires and thanking Sara for putting “yogurt crowns” around their infant growth to keep slugs from devouring them.

Many of the Nasturtium leaves have gone into our nightly salads, but the remaining ones have started to bloom, dainty orange and yellow flowers. Sara decided to treat all her flowering plants to a solution of Carbo Load Powder in order to fill them full of essential carbohydrates, which are the building blocks of future budding sites.

“In this way we’ll have blooms well into September and October,” explained Sara, who is now talking about building a Solarium to be able to grow flowers year round. The Delphinium Black Knight, for instance, with its dark purple, extra tall spires, blooms in the Spring and Summer, but may repeat in early Fall. Sara is counting on it!

Several different types of Lilies are starting to bloom as is the Foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis). The latter produces large spires to begin with, but on the Advanced Nutrients diet the towers of dangling bells grew huge this year. A word of caution—keep your pets away from this plant. It is toxic, if eaten.

Sara pointed to Phlox divaricata or “Sweet Lilac” Phlox as thriving on the Iguana diet. “Too bad I planted it in the middle of that flower bed,” she said, “if you could get your nose close to it you’d be able to smell its sweet fragrance.

Periodically, Sara’s flower garden does have lingering clouds of divine smells around various bushes. The Miss Kim Lilac, which unfortunately has finished blooming for the season, was my personal favorite. Its scent used to transport be to heaven.

We were lucky—the Tulip BreakingVirus did not infect any other plants. Sara reported seeing aphids on a few of her blooms, so I’m spraying every other week with a solution of horticultural oil and baking soda, in addition to the Scorpion Juice. I’m also thinking about using Piranha as a foliar spray in order to combat some of our stubborn fungi invaders.

The beneficial fungi in Piranha actually fight off and disable harmful fungi, keeping them from attacking our plants. I’m also going to have to buy more slug bait, since some of our close to the ground vegetables are being chewed by these slimy creatures.

In order to enhance the smell of some of Sara’s blooms, I’m adding some Sweet Leaf into our nutrient mix. The berry sugars and molasses in Sweet Leaf not only enhance the taste of blooms (some flowers are edible) but also boost the potency of their fragrance.

“I’ll have to check the Nutrient Calculator to see how I could fit this ingredient into the mix and still maintain our desired parts per million,” I said to Sara. She’s a great cook, but she doesn’t cook to recipe. She improvises—a pinch of this and a tad of that. She doesn’t understand that in horticulture exact pH and EC and PPM readings are required in order to maximize the yield of our plants.

“Why don’t you just call the AN technical guys, and let them do the figuring,” said Sara, making a lot of sense. Except if everybody did that, the AN support line would be tied up from morning ‘til night.

“Advanced Nutrients is helping us grow the finest flowers and most robust vegetables imaginable. The least I can do is to do the math myself, and not burden their tech guys with all the details. Then I can go to them when I really need help,” was my logic.

Looking forward to in Sara’s flower garden are the blooms of two of my favorites: Purple Cornflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) “Indian Summer.” The latter blooms midsummer to early fall, while the former should be blooming any day now. These beautiful ornamentals are truly pleasing to the eye!

Historians say that George Washington’s household made other use of flowers and herbs. Fruit tarts were flavored with rose, orange-flower, or mint water. Most substantial kitchens in the 18th century had a “still room,” where bushels of rose petals, along with other flowers and herbs, were distilled into small bottles of strong-flavored alcohol.

A totally appropriate drink for the Fourth of July!

posted by Tim at 4:46 PM | 0 comments