gardenchatter

Garden adventures and advice…


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Grow Up! (Veggies, that is)

We’ve been experiencing one of the hottest and driest summers in years. It’s what I call a “good old-fashioned summer”. The way summer is meant to be. And while I’m watering a tad more than I like to, the heat sure is keeping it’s end of the bargain and the veggies are growing better than ever.

One way to make use of small space, or to just provide more room to grow other plants is by “growing up”. I’ve made simple bamboo trellis’ for both cucumbers and squash to help keep the fruit off the ground and save the space for other veggies (like the sweet potatoes, which are growing like crazy!)

These trellis’ are made up of three or four, 6-foot bamboo poles, from the dollar store, wound with a strong string, or light twine. The twine allows for the gentle tendrils of the plants to grab on and reach for the top. I’ve had great success “growing up” both cucumbers and squash.

Or consider creating an A-Frame. This year, it’s doing exactly what I want it to. The squash are all growing up the side of the frame (plastic frame with bird netting), and the sunflowers can be seen over the top of the A-frame and are just about to pop. The tomatoes are growing like weeds at the other end of the bed.

As much as I don’t want this summer to end….I am looking forward to harvest time, it’s going to be the best ever!

 

 

squash

Spaghetti Squash starting to grow


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Morel Mushrooms

I was working in the garden the other day and was startled by what looked like a cluster of some strange type of alien creatures. I didn’t dare touch them for fear they would bite my hand off, or some equally insane incident, so I decided to leave them in peace while I did a little research.

Apparently they’re the best-tasting and safest to eat of all the wild mushrooms – Morel, is their name.

A spring-sprouting delicacy, morels can be found throughout regions of North America about the same time the trees start to bud and the trilliums start to bloom. Air and ground temperature along with rainfall amounts impact the growing cycle and crop bounty.

There are a number of varieties of morel – greys, yellows & creams (that’s what I’ve got), blacks and spikes and morel hunting seems to be a very common springtime adventure.

Lucky for me, I don’t have to venture any further than my back yard. And for now, I’m going to just leave them be and see what happens…just in case they really are alien Morels! But check out You Tube if you want to learn how to become a morel hunter. It’s quite interesting.

Oh…and they can sell for up to $60 per pound…wonder if I can increase my bounty?

 


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April Showers Bring…Purple Dead-Nettle?

If I could make money selling purple deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule) I could retire tomorrow. The wonderful April showers, that as we all know, will bring May flowers, have also brought a plethora of purple deadnettle. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen quite this much in one place.
 
Also known as henbit, dead-nettle is a member of the mint family and forms groundcover mats very early in the season. An annual weed, It sports fuzzy, spade-shaped leaves and delicate purple-pink flowers. Unlike most nettles, this one doesn’t sting – hence the name “dead”.
 
Each plant grows to 40cm / 15″ tall, has a very shallow root system and develops around 200 seeds (yes, each plant). So pull these early spring darlings out as soon as you can – or it might become a full-time job!


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The Language of Flowers

Primula polyantha

 primrose
 
 
– aka Primrose, are vibrant, early-spring bloomers, that grow 6 to 12 inches high and are hardy from zones 3b to 7b. One of the first spring plants to give us hope that our gardens will once again flouriish, Primula polyantha enjoys light shade and is available in a wide range of stunning colours.
Primrose signifies “young love”, which when you think about it, for us gardeners it makes sense – we’re falling in love with our gardens once again!


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How To Prevent Damping Off in Seedlings (now that garden season is in the air!)

 

Nothing is quite as frustrating for home gardeners as the joy of seeing newly planted seeds begin to sprout and flourish one day and then discovering them collapsed and wilted the following day.  Damping off is a fungal or fungal-like disease that makes seemingly healthy seedlings suddenly topple and die or, at times, never emerge at all. Although damping off is usually fatal, it is preventable. With a little attention to detail combined with good planting practices, your young seedlings will continue to grow into the healthy plants you want them to be.

The Cause

A number of pathogens live in soil, just waiting for the right conditions to occur before they step forward. The common pathogens that cause damping off are Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Fusarium and Phytophthora. They all develop and thrive in poor soil and less than ideal environmental conditions.

Soil Conditions

Use a good-quality, soilless potting mix to start your seeds. Fresh potting soils are typically free from harmful organisms, and the nature of the mixes provide good drainage, another important factor in reducing the risk of damping off. Soggy soil encourages fungal or fungal-like growth. Keep opened bags of soil away from floors and other unclean surfaces that could transfer contaminants into the clean planting medium. When planting, place seeds at the soil depth indicated on their seed packet. Planting seeds deeper than required in any soil may slow their germination process and ultimately damage the seeds.

Humidity

Good air circulation and room ventilation are other factors in reducing the humidity buildup that promotes pathogen growth; do not crowd pots or flats, or the seeds when placing them in those containers. As they begin to grow, thin seedlings — or remove some seedlings — according to the seed package directions to keep air adequately flowing around them, which reduces the amount of moisture on the plants. In order to thin seedlings, snip or gently pull out crowded seedlings, leaving the seed package direction’s required spacing between those that stay in the containers.

Temperature and Water

Cool soil temperatures before the seeds begin to germinate promotes the risk of damping off. Help ensure healthy seed germination by keeping the soil at a consistent temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the seeds’ entire early growth period. Keep the seeds and shoots evenly moist but not waterlogged until the risk of frost passes and weather conditions are favorable to move the growing seedlings into an outdoor garden.

Other Considerations

Many pathogens, including those that cause damping off, are transferred to new plantings via garden tools. Before working with plants and soil, or after contact with any disease, rinse your tools with a weak solution that is one part bleach to nine parts water. Leave the solution on the tools for at least 15 minutes, rinse it off and air-dry the tools. Planting seeds in new pots and flats as often as possible prevents contamination. If, however, using new pots and flats is not an option, sterilize the old containers along with your tools. Wear eye protection and gloves when cleaning pots and tools.


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Springtime Wisteria Poppers

Wisteria

 

As I was working away at fall cleanup late last year, I saw was I thought was leftover pole beans meandering through the wisteria. Upon closer inspection I realized that these “hanging beans” were actually growing right from the wisteria vines.

Wisteria is a flowering, climbing vine that develops unique and vibrant purple flowers each spring, and as the season moves along, 4-6 inch seedpods that are almost undetectable within all the foliage. The pods turn brown as they dry on the vine and once that drying process is complete, these pods become quite interesting.

Now, having any plant grow seeds or pods is certainly not a new concept, but how wisteria disperses its seed is quite unique. It’s explosive. Literally. The wisteria pod actually bursts open and “throws” its seed away from the existing plant.

Wisteria’s become very thick and full over time, so new seedlings need space to grow without being crowded by the parent plant, therefore, they fling themselves away to start a new vine of their own – and make quite a commotion while doing so. Think “popcorn”.

We’re still a few weeks away from spring – prime pod popping time, and as the snow starts to melt and temperatures rise, I’ll be out there waiting (from a distance, so I don’t get hit!) for the show to begin.

Here’s a YouTube link that very clearly (and loudly!) demonstrates how these seedpods pop (shown with authors permission). Who would have thought a graceful, flowing, flowering vine could be so entertaining!

 

 


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Lacy Hearts Chinese Hydrangea Vine

Lacy Hearts
Came across a very interesting, but apparently rare, new hydrangea vine – Lacy Hearts.

Lacy Hearts foliage is stunning – olive green, heart-shaped leaves that are edged in ivory. Small white flowers present a showy display in late summer.

Lacy Hearts needs plenty of water, particularly during hot spells and because of it’s shade tolerance would grow well in a woodland garden setting. It’s also suitable for creating a colorful privacy fence and would perform well if grown on a north or east-facing wall.

It’s fairly slow growing though but will ultimately sprout up to 15 feet.

A deciduous self-clinging vine (doesn’t need support or to be grown on a trellis), Lacy Hearts will survive in zones 6 to 9. There’s some discussion as to whether my area is 5, 5b or 6a, so if I can find this unique little hydrangea at any of the local garden centers, I might just give it a try in an area well protected from harsh winter winds. Most hydrangea vines grow just fine in zone 5+.

Other Chinese hydrangea vines with unique foliage include ‘Red Rhapsody’ – new foliage growth is red, ‘Rosea’ – bright pink sepals and ‘Moonlight’ – blue leaves with dark green veins.