gabriola garden

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sara takes the kids to the fair, I become chief gardener

Sara and the kids are staying with some friends in Vancouver for a few days, largely to visit the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) that takes place for two weeks prior to the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day Weekend.

Hedgehog loves the Hellevator, and Jim is a Roller Coaster fanatic. The former lifts you up in an open seat and then drops you at breakneck speed, while the latter used to be my favorite ride when I was younger.

The kids also love the animal exhibits and usually return with digital photos of chicks hatching and huge pigs snoring. The dog show is a family favorite, with the super smart canines astounding the audience with their shenanigans.

Them being away, means that yours truly is in charge of not only the vegetable garden, but Sara’s flower garden, as well. I rise early each morning and spend a meditative half an hour communing with the canopy of Anemones and the still flourishing Clematis.

We’ve had several days of hot sunny ones in a row, so I can’t skip the watering regimen as I’m tempted to do on overcast and sprinkly days. The super tall Sunflowers are the first to feel the lack of water, and there is nothing worse looking in a garden than droopy Sunflowers.

The pastel shades of Phlox continue to thrive, while the occasional Gladiolus has made an unexpected reappearance. The Hybrid Tea Rose Black Magic has opened a magnificent bloom, after a long hiatus.

As if not to be outdone, the climbing Rose All Ablaze has offered a prolific series of blooms in clusters. The Stainless Steel Rose has also come out of its rain-induced hibernation, and is gracing us with its metallic, exquisitely formed petals.

The Black Eyed Susans and the occasional Yellow Daisy provide color contrast to the Pinks and Purples and Blues of the Phlox and Cone Flowers, some of which are Double Decker ones.

Sara is pleased with her Flower Garden, and I am doing my utmost to make sure that it is still thriving when they return. The Vegetable Garden looks different, what with the first harvest of Snow Peas and the removal of the plants, while we await the second growth, provided September proves to be warm enough for the new crop.

The numerous rainy days have postponed the Tomato harvest, although several clusters of large, Beefsteak Tomatoes are beginning to assume a distinctly pinkish hue.

We also planted some Cherry Tomatoes, some of which we already picked and had with our breakfast eggs. As we did with our Hungarian Banana Peppers, some of which are mild, while others are very hot.

I sprayed with Scorpion Juice last Sunday, in order to make sure that the induced systemic resistance is keeping those pests and pathogens at bay.

Aside from the occasional Black Spot on the generic Pink Rose plant, some of the Phlox vegetation has developed brown spots. Nothing to get concerned about, Phlox stems and leaves don’t like to be sprayed with water, and I’m just as guilty doing that, as is Sara.

This weekend I’m spraying with Colossal Bud Blast in order to maximize the size of our flowers, and fertilizing most of both gardens with Iguana Juice Bloom. I say most, because I have to make sure that some of our leafy vegetables get only Iguana Juice Grow, to keep them from bolting.

In addition to the Iguana Juice, I pre-mix a nutrient solution the night before, adding Barricade, Humic and Fulvic Acids, Organic B, Carbo Load Powder, Sensi Zym, and Granndma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract.

Sara dragged me to a Health Food Shop one day and made me drink some green concoction which is supposed to give you energy and at the same time, cleanse your system. Whenever I add Seaweed Extract to my organic nutrient solution, I always think of that green drink.

It didn’t taste bad, and it did pep me up for a few days. I imagine our plants getting this stuff as part of their regular diet and receiving the natural hormones, vitamins, and organic antibiotics that it contains.

I see on the Advanced Nutrients website that the company is introducing a new 100% organic product, called Nirvana. We could all use a bit of Nirvana, just about now!

All joking aside, I am going to order some and see if I can increase the proliferation of flowers through Sara’s garden, as well as the size of the individual blooms.

Nirvana can be administered either as a foliar spray, or straight into the root zone. It has eliminated the offensive smell of some of its competition, and it contains carbohydrates, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, humic acid, growth enhancers, guano and seaweed.

Some more of that healthy green stuff that I should be drinking every day. Don’t tell Sara I said that…

posted by Tim at 7:30 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pastel Colors and Fragrance of Phlox, First Bean Harvest
I made some fried eggs with homegrown garlic for Sara this morning, and she reciprocated with three green banana peppers and two red tomatoes, the first of many from my vegetable garden.

Why is Sara harvesting my vegetables, you ask? Well, I had to go to the eye doctor this week and he put some darn drops into both of my eyes and it thoroughly blurred my vision.

So it’s up to Sara this week to spot the odd ripe vegetable. She also harvested a stainless steel bowl full of two kinds of beans from our famous bean house.

We grow Scarlet Runner Beans, as we did last year, as well as Pole Beans, which are smoother and more suitable for stir-fries. Pole beans boast long pods, distinct flavor, high yield, and a multiple harvest.

Pole beans are usually harvested 5 times in a season, so Sara’s pickings constituted our first harvest. From seedling to harvest, pole beans require 60 to 70 days.

Adequate watering is required throughout its veg and bloom stages. Long spells of hot dry weather result in misshapen pods and a poor yield. The timing of the harvest is important. Left on the vine too long, the bean pods get tough and woody.

Bean beetles, root rot, rust, fruit worms, and red spiders are the pests that can destroy your Pole Bean crop. Peanut Stunt Virus is sometimes a serious problem. It is vectored by aphids and very hard to control.

The variety I planted, Kentucky Blue, grows six to seven inch, straight, round pods, and is resistant to rust. I planted the seeds two to four inches apart and one inch deep. The bamboo structure that we build every year for the Scarlet Runners became its trellis.

We fertilize our beans, as we do all our other plants, with Advanced Nutrients Iguana Juice Grow for veg, and Iguana Juice Bloom for flowering. We also use Organic B, a B-complex vitamin supplement, to reduce plant stress.

The beans responded immediately to the three beneficials (Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice) by starting speedy root formation during the first few weeks of veg.

One of our cats dug up a bean plant during the third week and Sara and I were pleasantly surprised at the massive size of the root ball. We gently replanted it and treated it with No Shock, in order to minimize the trauma.

As opposed to last year, the bumblebees were out in full force this time around, doing their little dance and spreading the pollen. The Scarlet Runner beans had their distinctive red flowers all over the bamboo structure, while the Pole Beans offered smaller, white flowers to the eager bees.

Nearby, a huge Sunflower looked on and a Purple Passion Rose once again proved that the Rose is the most graceful flower of them all. Every time I passed the Blue Girl bush, I took a whiff of the sweet perfume contained in the lavender-pink blooms.

Even the Stainless Steel Rose opened a few blooms this past week, ending its rain-enforced period of dormancy. The Double Purple Cone Flower looked majestically on, nodding slightly in the summer breeze.

Sara bought several pastel shades of Phlox, light purple pink, a darker blue, and some violet ones, as well. A few Oriental Lilies opened next to the Phlox, providing interesting contrast.

The Russian Sage became so prolific that Sara was thinking of dividing it, and the Catmint also filled a whole corner of one of the flowerbeds, hiding a Rose and a few smaller flowers in its abundance.

Sunday morning I’ll spray once again with Scorpion Juice and I continue to mix in Barricade the night before into the nutrient solution to make sure it dissolves. These two Advanced Nutrients products make sure that all our plants are able to ward of pests and diseases much better than without being treated with them.

Sara is talking about trimming the overhanging branches of the Japanese Styrax tree, since they shade one of her flowerbeds too much. She loves that tree, so this is a hard decision. One usually prunes trees in the Fall, after they’ve lost their leaves and have entered dormancy.

I don’t want to talk about the arrival of fall yet, even though Hedgehog is selecting books to read for her home schooling projects, while Jim is looking forward to being enrolled in grade 4. He decided that he would like to try real school for a while.

posted by Tim at 8:36 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Harvesting the Snow Peas, Oriental Lilly's Splash of Color

Sara’s Oriental Lily, “Stargazer,” put on quite the show this past week when the 16 to 20-inch spread of this super colorful bloom popped up in the middle of the main flowerbed.

It can bloom any time from June to September, amd does alright in full sun, as well as partial shade. It’s about three feet tall and fits in well with the Phlox, Black Eyed Susans, Daisies, and Anemone that inhabit its part of the patch.

It’s not only the look of this exotic flower, but also the fragrance that will capture your senses. Take a whiff of this beauty and you’ll be hopelessly in love with the Stargazer.

One word of warning, hovever. If you’re entertaining the idea of using Lilies as cut flowers (let’s say as a centre piece for a family dinner), make sure you clip the sepals before putting them on your best table cloth.

Lilies drop pollen on whatever they touch, and one of our lovely, green, Hungarian embroidered table cloths became a victim of their black, sticky dust, which leaves a stain that is impossible to remove.

Sara has been planting more Phlox in her flower garden. She chose delicate, pastel colored blooms (salmon pink, light purple, bluish purple), that serve as clever contrast to the bold, bright colored Lilies.

The bright yellow Pumpkin flowers have appeared en masse and we harvested our first batch of Snow Peas this week. We’ve already dropped them into salads—they’re tender and crunchy when young, and we’ve sautéed some with garlic for a special treat.

The Snow Peas took about 90 days to go from seed to harvest. I just poured the seeds into a pre-dug trench and they germinated in soil, around the second week of May. I recently planted some more Peas, hoping to harvest them before the cold spell hits in October-November.

As you know, we use Iguana Juice Grow for the veg stage of our plants, and Iguana Juice Bloom for the flowering stage. One thing we had to be careful of was planting Lettuce seeds too close to the Tomatoes and the Peas.

Tomatoes and Peas have to go into flower to produce fruit, while a wise gardener prevents Lettuce from flowering (or bolting). Lettuce on its way to producing seed tastes bitter.

So we had to continue fertilizing the Lettuce with Iguana Juice Grow, while a foot away we fed out Tomatoes and Snow Peas iguana Juice Bloom, to encourage flower formation. Some trick. Next year we’ll plant them further apart.

As if to belie my early obituary, our Rose bushes have come back in full force. The Purple Passion Rose featured a full bouquet of blooms this week, as did the Blue Girl Rose.

Given the history of Black Spot on some of our Roses (notably the generic Pink Rose) I spray them every week with Scorpion Juice, and the treatment seems to work very well. We also water with a nutrient mix featuring Barricade, and up until week 2 of bloom I sprayed with Protector, to keep Powdery Mildew away.

The Cecile Brunner Rose is producing a prolific quantity of small, delicate, cream-colored Rose buds, and even the Stainless Steel Hybrid Tea Rose has made a comeback after being slightly damaged by all the rain we had back in July.

Our bamboo bean house is fully covered with Scarlet Runner Beans and another variety. I keep meaning to ask Sara what the other bean is called that she planted, but I keep forgetting. I know that it’s smoother than the scarlet runner and is especially good in stir fries.

Some of the Gladiolas are flowering again, and the Anemone is blooming happily on top of the canopy. The soil is looking especially fertile, what with all the Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid we mix in to our watering solution.

We also use Organic B to relieve plant stress, as well as Seaweed Extract, which not only contains many kinds of vitamins, but also natural hormones and antibiotics. Kelp is also a good source of Iron, which helps keep our plants from getting anemic.

By finding the Nutrient Calculator on the upper, right hand corner of the AN website, fellow gardeners can set their own feeding regimen, after they choose between organic or synthetic.

The Calculator is flexible. Depending on the individual plants you grow, you can set the number of weeks you want it to veg, followed by the number of weeks in bloom. Just click on the Add Week or Remove Week buttons to do this.

There is another feature of the AN website which I find useful. You can locate the Advancedpedia on the home page, with technical details and product descriptions on the entire line of organic and synthetic ferts, additives, supplements, root colonizers, and bloom boosters made by Advanced Nutrients.

Sara’s flowers and my vegetables are proof that AN makes the best darn plant food in the universe, bar none.

posted by Tim at 8:31 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rewards of Growing Roses, Tomatoes in Flower

Our Japanese Snowbell tree (Styrax japonica), that grows next to Sara’s favorite flowerbed, has grown much larger this year. It bloomed in late Spring and the garden was covered with its delicate, white blossoms. It truly spoke of the wonders of creation and the magnificence of the Creator, as do all blossom trees in Spring.

This tree is casting quite a shadow on part of the flowerbed from noon to five, just when a blooming garden needs sunshine the most. So Sara noticed that her Hybrid Tea Rose “Intrigue” wasn’t doing too well. Roses need at least five hours of continuous sunhsine each day, and the Snowbell tree stopped the sunlight from reaching the Rose.

So she thought about moving this Rose plant, but first she sent me to the Internet to see if this was a good idea. Here’s what I found. The best time to transplant a Rose is when it’s dormant. This is usually early Spring or late Fall. Never dig up a Rose in winter. If it escapes the cold, the shock will kill it for sure.

“If you must transplant a Rose in summer,” and here is where Sara started to pay close attention, “you must take off all its leaves and send it into temporary dormancy. Then you can move it, but be very careful.”

The reason that transplanting Roses in full growth is not recommended is that the fragile feeder roots are usually damaged by careless handling and the plant dies. Also, transplanting any plant can send it into shock.

Sara took all the leaves off “Intrigue” and allowed it to go to sleep. That’s exactly what dormancy means, the plant goes to sleep. Then she dug it up ever so carefully and dipped the roots in a solution of No Shock, which is a great Advanced Nutrients product designed just for such a purpose.

She planted the Hybrid Tea in a new, much sunnier location, and now we can wait and pray that it will renew itself and start producing new leaves and blooms.

The Blue Girl Rose has outdone itself this week. I counted five blooms and four buds on this bush, which I thought has had it on account of all the rain. Even the generic Pink Rose bush still offers the odd richly fragrant bloom, just to belie my statements in the blog last week that our Roses were not producing.

Remember Sara’s Butterfly Bush that we butchered through ignorance? Sara asked me how much she should prune it last year (since it was dominating its corner of the garden) and I told her to be brutal, to cut it back drastically.

All this Spring, the plant struggled to come back to life. I asked Sara to give it extra special portions of our base nutrient, Iguana Juice Grow. Two tiny leaves appeared, but were destroyed by the first cold spell of the season. Nothing after that through May.

Then in late June, a small shoot started to come up between its woody, seemingly dead branches. Only one shoot, and Sara was sad that a once beautiful plant will be a shadow of its former self.

We applied Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice to strengthen it’s roots and ward off any possible fungal, bacterial, or microbial attacks. We watered it with our full nutrient mix, containing Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid. The soil in the container looked rich, black, and fertile. But still only one shoot.

Then in July, that one shoot took off like gangbusters. Sara switched to Iguana Juice Bloom as soon as the first buds appeared. Now it’s full of fragrant, purple clusters of tiny flowers that viewed together resemble a lilac bloom. “The Butterfly Bush is back, the Butterfly Bush is back” sang Hedgehog and Sara as they did an impromptu jig around its container.

My son, Jim and I, just looked on in amazement, but we were also glad that a staple of Sara’s flower garden has made a dramatic comeback.

Speaking of comebacks, a whole bunch of yellow flowers appeared this past week on the Tomato plants in the back. Sara carefully pruned the leaves and the branches without buds, in order to let air and sunshine to the already forming fruit. If you neglect to remove extraneous vegetation, your Tomatoes will never ripen.

“Give them an extra helping of Carbo Load Powder,” suggested Sara, indicating the sugar-rich supplement called for by the Nutrient Calculator as a regular addition to our basic fert, along with Organic B to relieve plant stress, and Sensi Zym to get rid of plant debris in our root zone.

This serves a double purpose. Getting rid of plant debris help minimize the chance of parasites of various kinds attacking our root system (pests and diseases often lodge themselves in plant debris) and also by turning this debris into easily absorbable nutrients, the rate of growth of our plants is increased.

I also reminded Sara that it was time to spray the whole garden with Colossal Bud Blast, the organic plant nutrient and bloom booster that is absorbed by the leaves. I make sure that I spray early in the morning, before the heat of the summer sun makes it dangerous to spray.

It seems that the sun dries the ingredients in the spray before the stomata of the leaves have a chance to absorb them, and they turn into toxic salts on the surface of the leaves. Wouldn’t want to poison our plants now, woould I?

posted by Tim at 10:10 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sunshine is the Norm, Roses Make a Comeback

Finally, the weather seems to have stabilized and the sun has decided to stick around, more often than not. In my vegetable garden, the Snow Peas are thriving and flowering as they climb the plastic mesh against the back fence, while we can’t seem to eat the heads of Lettuce fast enough before they bolt.

The Roses are slowly making a comeback. Even the generic Pink Rose plant, which had been troubled by Black Spot, is blooming forth again with the most fragrant, tender flowers. The Gentle Giant Hybrid Tea Rose is gracing us once again with large, crimson blooms with a very subtle yellow tinge.

The climbing Rose All Ablaze is once more opening its deep red buds and greeting the sun with its petals. The Sun Flare Rose is sporting a cluster of yellow flowers that appear almost white in the blazing sun. The Sweetheart Rose, Cecile Brunner, is gently opening its delicate buds, betraying its Chinese roots with its graceful demeanor.

Stainless Steel has yet to recover from all the rain, but Blue Girl has eight buds on it that I’ve just noticed, so we’re looking forward to its lavender beauty pretty soon. Purple Passion and Black Magic are taking a hiatus, but Sara is sure they’ll flower again before the season is over.

Here it is, August, and Sara is already making preparations for Heegehog’s birthday in early September. We’re going to surprise her with an inflatable water scooter, on the condition that she only use it on lakes and in friend’s pools. Our nerves couldn’t take her scooting in the ocean.

Of course, we’ll probably have to buy one for Jim, as well, even though his birthday is much later. It gets to be expensive, this gift giving, what with life jackets, extra battery packs, and new swimsuits, naturally.

We planted our lettuce too close to the Snow Peas and Tomatoes, so when we use Iguana Juice Bloom on the latter vegetables, we have to be careful to keep it as far away from the Lettuce as possible. Many heads have already bolted in the heat of the sun, we don’t need a bloom fertilizer to force them to go to seed, as well.

I’m spraying the Roses each week with Scorpion Juice, in order to boost their resistance to Black Spot and Rust, and alternately with a mixture of horticultural oil and baking soda, to keep insects at bay. Thank goodness the Leafminer infestation has been resolved, but with all the rain, we’re very much worried about Mold and Mildew.

Up to the second week of bloom, we sprayed each week with Protector, but now we just mix in the suggested amount of Barricade each week into our nutrient solution. This potassium silicate product thickens the walls of plant cells, enabling them to resist invasions by microorganisms, as well as insects.

Another weapon against Molds and Mildew is using Piranha as a foliar spray. The beneficial fungi in this product fight off harmful fungal infestations of leaves and flowers, such as those caused by Gray Mold (Botrytis cinerea), Pythium, Fusarium, Sclerotinia homoeccarpa, Rhizoctania solani, and Sclerotium rolfsii.

I read up on Piranha on the Advancedpedia, which is located on the Advanced Nutrients website. The mycorrhizal fungi in this great product excrete powerful natural chemicals that not only enhance root growth and help food absorption, but also act as a bio-fungicide when used as a foliar spray.

Tarantula and Voodoo Juice both have Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) in them, the difference being that Tarantula has many varieties as spores and is a powder, while Voodoo Juice has five select PGPR which are super effective in combating harmful bacteria and aiding nutrient absorption by the roots.

I mentioned last week that my Tomato plants don’t seem to have enough flowers on them, so I sprayed them with Colossal Bud Blast, which contains both amino acids and carbohydrates in order to nourish flower production. Its nutrients are absorbed through the leaves of my plants.

I’m also pruning some of the vegetation off the Tomatoes, which have grown to my height, and I’m nearly six feet tall. I’ve discovered some green fruit close to the main stem of the plants, so by taking off the surrounding leaves, I am allowing air and sun to get to the already forming Tomatoes.

I suspect my Tomato plants are indeterminate, which means that they grow taller and take a longer time to mature than determinate plants. The varieties that I planted this year are Supersteak and Beefmaster, which are both beefsteak Tomatoes, and take around 80 days to mature.

But judging from the succulent, giant fruit that these plants produced last year, Sara and I and the kids have something to look forward to, when our Tomatoes finally ripen on the vine and are ready to be sliced into a cucumber salad, for instance.

posted by Tim at 12:24 PM | 0 comments