Friday, May 8, 2015

What's Happening in the Garden - Early May


It has been an exceptionally busy start to the month.  I'm being pulled in half a dozen different directions with everything that needs to be done NOW in the garden, not the least of which is creating the new beds on the hill:

Partially completed beds moved to the hill
 
If you look closely you will see 5 regular sized beds (4 for me and 1 for the kids) plus 2 smaller beds for the asparagus & blueberries.

Normally, I build the entire bed in the garage (since it's much easier to do on a level surface) and then my husband and I move it to the garden.  I find the weight of wood to be deceiving - it often weighs much more than I think it will.  A complete bed is heavy enough when you are moving it on flat ground - I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of lugging it up a hill.  So I decided to assemble only the lower half in the garage including the supports, and them simply screw in the top section after we moved it in place.  What you see in the photo is not the final position of the beds - that was simply where we placed them as we moved them.

Now on to what is happening in the rest of the garden.

First up are the alliums.  The garlic is up and growing very well.  It's always comforting to see all that green popping up, letting us know that everything is fine.

Garlic with Shallots at the far left
 
You'll notice that the bed is netted this year - a first for me.  Last year a good chunk of my onions and shallots were damaged by onion maggots, so I'm trying to prevent that from happening this year.

Last fall, I decided to see if the Camelot shallots that I grew from seed would overwinter & multiply in the same manner as regular shallots.  So far, we are looking VERY good on that front:

Overwintered Camelot Shallots
 
The question still remains, however, as to whether these will multiply or not and, if so, will the bulbs be anywhere near the size of their parent, which you can see near the bottom of this POST.  I actually have some of last years Camelot shallots hanging in my basement and they are still firm and fresh.  I've only had one sprout on me so far...not too shabby!

As a side note - see those little cucumber type seedlings in the photo above?  Well those are self-seeded borage.  I believe there was a question last year about whether or not the seeds would overwinter in our climate...now we have our answer.

The He-Shi-Ko perennial bunching onions that I grew last year are failing to impress me.

He-Shi-Ko Perennial Bunching Onions
 
Most survived the winter (about 1/3 of them died), but they are just not growing or dividing as quickly as I would have liked.  Sometimes, you have to try many, many varieties before you hit on the "one" that does best for you, so I'm ok with that.  I'm growing two new varieties this year (Evergreen Hardy & Evergreen Long White Nebuka) so we'll see if these are any better.

About half of the potato onions that I planted in the fall have come up so far, but even that is a success in my book as almost all of them had onion maggot damage.  I half expected them to simply rot in the soil.  Once again, I have no idea what to expect from these so we shall have to wait and see what they produce.

Potato Onions

The onions, shallots (from seed) & leek seedlings were transplanted on April 18th.  I really must try to remember how labour intensive planting out onion seedlings is.  Next year, I'll be breaking this task up over a couple of days instead of trying to get it done in one go.

Onion Bed Today
 
The onions look so small right now, but I recall that I had the exact same impression last year and they ended up doing just fine.  It takes them a couple of weeks to settle in before they start to bulk up.

Onion Seedlings Before Transplanting
 
Unfortunately, a few of the leeks are goners - out of the possible 8 that I had, only 4 remain.  They were just too tiny to brave the elements a couple of weeks ago when we had several days of sustained heavy winds.  The remaining ones are not looking that great either, but at least they are still alive...for now.

The only Jolant leek left & the healthiest of the bunch
Yup - pretty sad
 
And then I found a rogue onion in last years onion bed:

Rogue Onion
 
I'll just leave it be until I need to plant up the bed in another few weeks - hopefully it will be good eats once I pull it up.

I have been pre-germinating and sowing spinach seeds to replace those that were lost during the windy weather.  With our great weather last week, those seedlings that did survive are starting to put on A BIT of growth...emphasis here is on "a bit".

Renegade Spinach - 7 weeks
 
I'm hoping that this is simply their growth habit and that I don't have a repeat of last years tiny plants.  Since I've never grown a good batch of spinach, I really have no idea what they are supposed to look like at this stage.  It's been 7 weeks since I soaked & pre-germinated the seeds and it seems like an awfully long time for them to still be at the seedling stage.  According to the days to maturity on the seed packets, I should have fully grown plants by now - would the cold weather in the last few weeks make that much of a difference?

Many of the direct seeded spinach seeds are just starting to poke out of the soil & I'll be interested to see how well they do compared to the transplanted seedlings...I wonder if they will catch up, seeing as how the transplants are still so small.

And speaking of the brutal winds, they really did a number on my collard seedlings.  I planted out 4 plants and three of them looked so bad that I was certain they weren't going to make it, so I started new plants.  Now it looks as if they may, in fact, pull through, but I think I'll hold onto my transplants for the time being, just in case.

Collards on April 25th


Looking much better on May 6th

The kale also suffered but nowhere near as much - I was fairly certain that it would be ok.


Kale on April 25th


Kale on May 6th

My strawberry plants are just staring to flower...to be a bit more accurate, one of my plants has a couple of flowers on it:

Two lone flowers on the strawberries so far
 
I need to do a bit of work in this bed, including cleaning up the dead foliage, adding some straw, fertilizing, etc.  This will be the 2nd full year for this bed and I'm expecting big things from it.  These first blooms are a full 2 weeks earlier than last year, which is promising.  I took a photo in early June of last year, which is when blossoming really got going, so I'll have to compare to see if the bed is doing any better.

Sometimes not being on top of things works in your favour.  I had really given up hope on the sage but only this morning, I saw some signs of life amongst the dead foliage:

Purple Sage - Signs of Life
 
Daphne was joking around about her brown thumb because her Mojito mint died.  Well, I must have a black thumb because BOTH of my mints died.  That's right...both the chocolate & regular mint.  Dead.  I can't believe it either.

I obviously have to re-think my mint growing strategy - perhaps I should grow them in a larger container or bury the pot in the ground.  I'm still undecided.

My cherry tree is starting to flower.

Cherry Tree


Cherry Blossom
 
Last year I did have a few flowers but no cherries.  This time round, I *think* that there are many more blossoms on it, although not as many as 2 years ago when I did get a small crop of cherries.

Likewise, the plum tree flowered "a tiny bit" last year, according to my notes.

Plum Tree

This year, it's actually surprising me.  Contrary to my original thought a couple of weeks ago, it looks as if there will be plenty of flowers on it, at least from some of the varieties.  Hopefully this will translate into some plums.  I won't be greedy - if I can get a nice little basket of plums, I'll be more than happy.

First of The Plum Blossoms
 
The peas are also up and the favas are just starting to peak through the soil...I won't get into detail here since I'll be doing a post on them in a couple of days.

And lastly, I thought I would add some pics of what's blooming in my garden right now.  Most of the bulbs/perennials in my garden were planted long before we moved here.  I don't really know much about flowers (yet), so I have no idea what specific variety they are - it definitely doesn't keep me from enjoying them though!


Daffodils


Forget-Me-Not
 
Glory-of-the-Snow

Till next time...

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

27 comments:

  1. That is a nice addition you will have to the garden. And I'm still waiting for plums. I planted a tree in 2011 but it never thrived and it was always sick and filled with aphids, so it got pulled out. Last year I planted a weeping Santa Rosa. This year another variety. I really want plums as I use them as a tomato substitute in some things. I just hope the ones I have in now like the garden better than my first choice that hated it here.

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    1. I would really love a nice plum harvest as well - At this point, I'm not sure if the blooms on the tree will translate into an actual harvest. The last time I harvested plums, only a very tiny portion of the plums actually matured. Most of them dropped off while they were still the size of an olive. I hope you have better luck with your latest plum tree additions!

      I can't wait to get those beds finished - just heard it is going to rain on and off all weekend - hope it will be more off than on!

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  2. Glory-of-the-snow? I have those too but didn't know what they were called. Everything looks fantastic, especially those overwintered shallots. I was wondering whether the borage would survive our winters! Now that I've seen yours, I'll take a closer look at my garden to see if any of mine survived. Flowering strawberries already? Wow.

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    1. Well, only a couple of the strawberries are flowering so far - last year I think it was a week or two from the time I saw the first flower until most of the plants were in bloom. Hopefully the early start means we will be seeing strawberries a couple of weeks sooner than last year.

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  3. Love the beautiful blooms.
    I lost my mints this past winter also. I didn't think ANYTHING could kill a mint--but that just goes to show just how very harsh this winter was.

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    1. I can't believe that you lost your mint too - I'm beyond surprised! Every time I checked the mint pot, I half expected to see some green shoots coming up. Well, I guess that's just another excuse to go to the garden center - not that I need one or anything ;)

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  4. Your garlics are looking really good! I've had to cover mine over too, but to protect from the leek moth caterpillar. Hey,it's great how your brassicas recovered, I have zero brassicas at the moment and will have to re-sow but it's so windy at the moment the seeds will fly away!

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    1. Thanks Lou - What is with the wind this year? We often have a windy day here or there, but several days in a row is unusual and it sounds like you are in the same boat. Just another in a long series of recent weather quirks, I guess.

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  5. I've not heard of potato onions! There are onion pest problems south in us so I suppose it is inevitable that it will arrived at our doorstep soon.

    Our plums tend to crop really well ever other year so maybe this is your year to have a good harvest,

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    1. Potato onions (which have no relation to potatoes!) grow much in the same way as shallots - you plant them and they multiply into several bulbs & they are apparently very good in storage, some even lasting up to one year. They used to be grown in home gardens throughout north america but their popularity wained when common onions (that were easy to mechanically harvest & ship) became cheap & plentiful in grocery stores.

      I didn't realize that plums may crop biennially - l'll have to keep that in mind if I decide to add another tree.

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    2. Unfortunately all our plums and greengages have synchronised to produce a bumper crop in the same year,

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  6. The extreme weather is why I didn't set out my brassicas until last week. Did it early last year and they were damaged by just one overnight freeze. And my spinach and everything is just sitting there. Nothing seems to be growing. A weird year. UMass reports onion maggot flies are out around here. Covering them seems to be the best prevention but not if you grew onions in the same place last year. The flies overwinter in the soil.

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    1. Very smart - I really should be more mindful of the coming weeks weather when I'm transplanting out seedlings...I think I learned my lesson on that one (hopefully I remember it!).

      The perennial bunching onions are in last years bed, but all of the other onions are in new beds, so we are good on that front. Initially, I was going to transplant the bunching onions to a spot that I had set aside in one of the new onion beds, but now I'm thinking that I'll just harvest them as I really don't intend to keep them going another year. You are so fortunate to have such timely information on pests/diseases etc. We don't really have anything like that - our extension services were shut down many years ago when the government decided to no longer fund them.

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  7. Those new raised beds will give you a significant increase in your growing-space! Are you going to buy soil / compost to fill them, or will you just remove the turf and dig whatever soil is below it? I have been constructing one of my new super-deep beds today, and it makes me realise how much soil is needed in one of those!

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    1. The amount of soil needed to fill a bed is daunting, isn't it? I'll be filling mine with purchased triple mix (which is a mixture of topsoil, compost & peat moss). I purchased a literal truckload last year & used about 2/3 of it in the beds that I built last spring. The remainder was then moved to the hill as I knew that these additional beds were in the plan for this year. I also add about 1" of additional compost and a 3 cu. ft (85L) bale of peat moss to each bed to up the organic matter and hopefully help with the pH as the soil in Southern Ontario is quite alkaline. The peat is very compressed & once it is spread out adds quite a bit of bulk - probably a good 2-3" (5-8cm) to the soil level in my 8' x 4' (2.4 x 1.2 meter) bed.

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  8. I like to assemble my cold frames on the concrete driveway for the same reasons you do your beds in the garage. And they are too heavy for me to move by myself for sure. It's always a joy to watch the fruit trees blooming and then try and determine how much fruit they will make. My wife and I joke about how many cherries we will get, after one year I said we will 'maybe get enough for a small cobbler' and then they produced enough to make a big cobbler and freeze a couple of bags too!

    And FWIW, I lose one or two potted mints every winter. I put some in the greenhouse and those always make it and put on growth early, but the ones outside don't do as well. I try and make divisions every fall and then move them to the protection of the greenhouse. It's another use for the cold frame too!

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    1. The cherries we had that one year were SO good - can't wait to see how many cobblers I get this year ;)

      That's good to know about the mint - I have always had the impression that mint was practically impossible to kill. We have had some mixed in with a bunch of lamium in a large wooden planter that is on it's last legs (half of it is rotted out) & the mint seems to come back every year. The lamium, however, is much more aggressive than the mint (if you can believe that!) so I generally only get a few sprigs here and there & so decided to do a separate planting. The planter is huge though - about 5' x 1' x 2' deep. I have a feeling that is why it survives there but not in the relatively tiny 12" pot...and you have basically confirmed my suspicions on that, especially as your climate doesn't seem to be anywhere as extreme as ours.

      And I had to look up FWIW - I guess I'm not as up to speed with the lingo as I thought I was!

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    2. I think the bigger the container, the more likely mint is to survive. Sorry about the shorthand. I had to look up 'on fleek' the other day. I'm pretty sure it's something good!

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    3. Oh, no need to apologize - I think I'm a bit behind the times when it comes to these things, but gotta learn sometime, right? And now you had me looking up "on fleek" too ;)

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  9. Your new beds look great, you've done a good job with them. I've only grown onions from seed once but I've gone back to sets, they're much easier and less fiddly. Our daffodils are long gone now so it's nice to see yours on your blog. They're very pretty whatever variety they are.

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    1. I really love the creamy colour on the daffodils. They are just starting to fade now, but their show has lasted for quite some time.

      Onions are fiddly, but I really enjoyed the challenge last year and the harvest was fantastic. I've never tried sets, but I have heard that they don't keep as well, which is a big consideration for me - my onions from last year are still doing well with only a small handful sprouting.

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  10. Wow, shallots from last year that are still good, I didn't think they kept that long. I'm trying some shallots from seed for the first time this year, I'll be happy if they bulb up and taste good, much less keep for a while.

    When I plant my brassicas out I place them in the soil up to the cotyledon leaves, it helps to keep them from getting whipped around and they will root from the stem and at the leaf nodes so that they grow more strongly.

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    1. I'm surprised about the shallots too. I also still have onions (both Copra & Rossa di Milano) hanging in the basement. I really thought I would see more rotting or sprouting by now but so far, only 1 Camelot shallot & 9 of the onions have sprouted (I think I still have about 50 onions left).

      That is a great tip about burying the brassicas deeper. They definitely would have sustained less damage had I done that. I'll have to do that for my next round of transplants - thanks!

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  11. My mint did not survive either, blame it on the weather. Oh yes, planting aliums are very tedious and back breaking, I try to do the task over multiple days.My shallots failed to germinate, too late now.

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    1. That's too bad about the shallots - I also had a couple of tomato varieties that didn't germinate for me. Not sure what the story is as one of them did fine last year & the other was a new packet.

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  12. Your garden is looking great! Wow, I can't believe you killed mint... I thought that was impossible! And I've found borage to be quite invasive. It's pretty and attracts bees, but it spread like wildfire in my garden. Good luck on your spinach! I, too, have never had success growing spinach and gave it a valiant effort this year... unfortunately, I failed to cover my spinach and it was RAVAGED by leaf miners. So much so that the plants were not salvageable. Maybe I'll try for a fall crop.

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    1. Yup - the mint was quite a surprise. I had a bit of leaf miner damage on a few of my spinach leaves last year, but it seemed they were more interested in the Swiss chard, which I ended up covering...it's a pain but does the job. Only thing is with leaf miners, squash vine borers, onion maggots & cabbage white butterfly, pretty soon all of my beds will be netted!

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