Morning Glory

We are in transition, just removed an Arbor Vitae hedge, and planted Privet instead. The privets will be marvelous for the bees and other pollinators, and also serve as a privacy hedge. While the privets are small, I decided to grow Morning Glory and other climbing flowers behind the privets.
It worked out so nicely, I will miss this a lot when the privets grow up!

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Dill – Pollinator Heaven

Pollinators-on-Dill

Dill in bloom is heaven for pollinators

Pollinator Heaven.
Pollinators CHERISH dill, when in bloom.
The flowers are too small for European honey bees, but countless wild bees which tend to be quite small absolutely LOVE dill. You’ll see clouds of them around dill.
Beneficial wasps, and ladybugs, both of which prey on garden pests,also treasure dill. Since dill readily self-seeds, I just let it be wherever it crops up in the garden.

I read that dill, when young, is beneficial for tomatoes, but that when it grows up, it supposedly inhibits tomatoes. The dill have  cropped up in the midst of my tomato bed, and I am letting it be because the tomatoes have some aphids on them, and the dill seems to be the absolute perfect nursery for raising ladybugs, they are all over my dill this year. It would seem insane to remove the dill, and take away this perfect ladybug breeding ground!

 

Ladybugs-love-dill

Ladybug and Ladybug Larvae on Dill

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Potato fruits or potato berries?

This year was my first time to encounter potato plants that have formed small green fruits. I was quite surprised when I saw them, and called my husband over to ask him if he had ever seen such a thing (the answer was no, he had not).

After a little bit of research online I found that this actually is typical for certain varieties of potato. Some places call them fruit, other places call them berries.

This is what my little fruits look like:

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Potato Fruit (Berry)

Potato Fruit (Berry)

It is more common for the flowers to bloom, then dry up and fall to the ground, but sometimes they produce the true fruit of the potato plant, and this is what I found this year in my garden. In addition to some varieties of potato being more likely to bear fruit, it appears weather may also influence the plant. Cold nights may be one thing that triggers the bearing of fruit.

These little fruits are toxic, so don’t be tempted to taste them! They contain large amounts of the quite toxic alkaloid solanine.

If you want to save the seeds and try to grow potatoes from seed instead of the typical planting of tubers, you should be aware that the new potatoes will not have the same characteristics as the parent plant.

Each little fruit contains in the range of 300 – 500 seeds. When new potato varieties are developed, they are grown from seed, called true seed. Even if there is no cross pollination between different potato varieties, the potatoes grown from seed will produce potatoes with completely different features from the parent. This is a the reason the preferred propagation method for potatoes is cloning by replanting tubers.

When you grow from true seed you have absolutely no way of knowing what features your tubers will have, and wether they will resemble the parent plant or not.

I have not decided wether I will play around with this and try growing some experimental potatoes from true seed, but if I do, I have to start the seeds indoors because they take take such a long time to grow this way. It was recommended that in order to separate the seeds you should mash up the fruit and soak it in a glass of water., and then let it sit for up to a few days before straining the mix and gathering the seeds that will have gathered at the bottom. Once you have separated the seeds you can either plant them right away or dry them and save them for later planting.

I have not figured out yet how to determine the right time to pick the fruits if I want to save and plant seed.

potato-fruit

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Transforming a driveway

…into a lush and bountiful harvest paradise – with the use of Earthboxes.

A sterile concrete area turns into a garden patch. And the greatest thing is that this particular area is one of the sunniest spots on the property. So Earthboxes allow us to expand the garden and the harvest.

I love how the water melons go everywhere, though I do have to keep them in check as they otherwise wrap their tendrils around nearby plants and try to climb. This is not at all good for the peppers or eggplants, so I patrol all the time and disentangle them from each other.

From sterile driveway to lush garden paradise with 18 earthboxes.

From sterile driveway to lush garden paradise with 18 earthboxes.

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Bee Shortage? Or un-sprayed FLOWER shortage?

“Watching the huge plumes of wild bees of EVERY size and description, hundreds and hundreds, swarming with great industry over our cilantro bed [which is in full flower]
I can only conclude that if you plant it,
and then • let it bolt, and go to seed •
they will come…maybe there would be more bees if we all just set the table for them?
Maybe the REAL shortage lies in the bees not having enough of the right kind of organic flowers…and the smaller the bloom, the more popular they are:
dill, cilantro, oregano, catnip, celery, onion, mustard, bok choy, broccoli, let them go to flower!”
–George Stoddard

“Wild insects pollinate crops more effectively because an increase in their visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. A high abundance of managed honey bees supplemented — but doesn’t substitute [for] — pollination by wild insects.”
From:  http://grist.org/news/domesticated-and-wild-bees-are-both-in-trouble/

bee

Bee on catnip

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Strange Garlic with multiple scapes

I have been having some very early garlic harvesting this year. I dug the first batch up on May 31, after finding all the plants in one earthbox had suddenly “keeled over”.

keeledovergarlic

 

I have never seen this happen before, but I took that as a signal to go ahead and harvest.

garlic-harvest

 

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Some of my garlic has developed multiple scapes this year. The photos below are from Ontario Purple Trillium, but they were not the only plant affected by this. I harvested all the scapes and was amazed to come out and find more of them emerging, not just one extra, but several from each plant. I love scapes, so can’t complain, but I was a little concerned about what it might mean for the garlic developing below ground.

You can see a a couple of examples in the photos below (and keep in mind, when these photos were taken, I had already harvested scapes from every garlic in the box – so all of these are “extras”):

multiscapegarlic

 

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Another unusual thing the garlic did this year was putting up more leaves than usual, not the usual broad leaves, but thin little “extra” leaves.

So I went hunting on the internet to see what this might be, and found one website that mentions having the exact same phenomenon last year, (2012)  both with extra scapes and the additional smaller leaves. (though not the keeling over) They have a theory, that early warm weather in March, followed by multiple freezes in April, caused the garlic to perceive that it had gone through and extra year. We had some summer-like 70 degree weather very early in the season, I don’t recall the exact dates – and it was followed by cold and rain, if not a lot of freezing. So this may indeed be what has happened.

I have harvested 3 earthboxes already, and the garlic looks great. Varieties that have been harvested are Chinese Purple, Music and Ontario Purple Trillium.

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Tomatoes

Most of my tomatoes are now planted out. The first batch of 12 plants got planted on May 8th.

Yesterday I planted 8 more. + one in a container. The container plant is a variety I have never grown before, called Micro Tom. Supposed to only grow to 6 or 8″ in height, so it really deserves it’s name. It is already setting flowers.

I am trying a few new varieties of tomatoes, along with the usual long time favorites.

Some of the new ones, aside from the Micro Tom are: Paul Robeson, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Black Zebra, Chinese Purple & Kiwi. Was also going to try Indigo Rose, but my one seedling succumbed to damping off… it will have to wait until next year.

It’s been an unusual year in the sense that my seedlings are smaller than usual. I usually have tall seedlings, and plant them laying down, bending up just the top of the plant to leave it above ground. (as described elsewhere on this blog) This year the seedlings were so short that there was no point in the sideways planting method.

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Various spring planting activities

Since I have fallen down on my comitment of fully documenting this season’s gardening activities, I have some catching up to do.

Here are a few of the things that have been planted:

Cucumbers on May 4. I always seem to start cucumbers a little too early, hoping against hope that  I will get an earlier harvest that way. The weather is so unseasonably warm, that maybe – just maybe – I will actually get lucky this year and not lose my first babies!

Cucumber seedlings in Earthbox

Cucumber seedlings in Earthbox

Cucumber seedlings planted in ground

Cucumber seedlings planted in ground

While the cucumbers are getting started, the Dwarf Pak Choi is ready to harvest any day. This variety turned out to be smaller than I realized – they are actually harvested at just 2″ in height. I started a bunch of full size Pak Choi as well. Next year I think I’ll get a size between the two, small but not super miniature!

Pak Choi in Earthbox

Pak Choi in Earthbox

I planted 3 small boxes (not earthboxes) with onion seedlings, that I will harvest as green onions, so I figure they won’t need a full size box to grow in.

Onion Seedlings

Onion Seedlings

The day before yesterday I spent some time weeding and thinning seedlings or carrots and beets. With the beets I actually thin and re-plant the thinned out seedlings. I believe they will do well with that, since beets can be raised and transplanted.  The carrots had spotty germination, in places I had to thin them, but then there were spots of no germination so I reseeded those. Carrots do not take well to being transplanted, so it’s just thinning for them.

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First harvest of greens for the season

Today we had the first salad of the season from our earthboxes.

I harvested a little from each box. I think this is about the earliest harvest of young spring greens that I have had.

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Germination in 3 1/2 days!

It really is amazing how fast seeds sprout when using a bio-dome on top of a heat mat.

Really, I don’t make any money from promoting bio-domes, I just really love them for seed propagation.

Below is an example of a dome planted with seeds (Melon, Cucumer, Summer and Winter Squash) late on Friday night. This photo was taken Tuesday morning. 3 1/2 days to emerge.  Not bad! The heat mat of course is crucial for the speed of germination.

I had the heat set to 80°.

Bio Dome germination sucess

Fast sprouting seeds in bio-dome

Meanwhile, outdoors in the Earthboxes the greens are coming along nicely. These photos were also taken on Tuesday (April 9)

Micro Greens in Earthbox

Micro Greens from Territorial Seed in Earthbox

Salad mixes

Salad Mix in Earthbox

Pak Choi

Pak Choi (9 days after seeding)

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