Tuesday, 11 April 2017

April Garden Ramblings

The very cold and very damp spring has kind of dampened this ole gardener's spirit.

However, while I am less than impressed with Mother Nature, the cool weather veggies love these days of rain mixed with sunshine, so I keep slowly plugging along, prepping and planting!

Starting to think that we may have a super short spring and then go right into summer with a bang.... and cool weather crops do not like summer heat!

So plant them now, enjoy them fresh tasting, crisp and yummy, straight from the garden.          

Early spring veggies!

So, what to do in the garden this month? 

Pull out winter veggies going to seed. Harvest any leeks or winter broccoli that did not get eaten by the bunnies during the long, snowy winter.

Weed and top dress beds with manure or compost if this was not done in the fall. Add organic nutrients like blood meal, bone meal, kelp or seaweed, if needed, to feed your soil. Scratch these goodies lightly into the surface so that you are ready to plant right away.

Not sure what to add? Do a quick soil test to give you a basic idea of how your soil is for nutrients and pH.

Watch the garlic grow.... If it needs an extra boost of nutrients, side dress with a bit of manure or compost, plus blood meal for good strong tops and bone meal for bigger bulbs.

Plant a row or two of strawberries! June-bearing and Ever-bearing for berries from spring through fall.

This is a great time to plant new fruit trees of all sorts and berry shrubs as they require a whole lot less watering and tlc than if planted later in the season.

Use companion plants everywhere

With those beds all ready to go, what to plant in them now? All the yummy stuff that loves this cool, wet weather!

Plant in the garden now, from seed ....
Swiss chard

Plant now from transplants...
 Broccoli/broccolini/broccoli raab
Swiss Chard

Sow Zinnias from seed for a fabulous selection of colours!  

Companion plants... 
 Sweet alyssum
Nasturtiums from seed
Zinnias (toss in seeds closer to the end of the month... or from starter plants in May.)
Sweet Peas

The ones above are some of the very best companion plants for your veggie garden, but there are a great many flowers that can be planted or sown this month. The more diversity you have in the garden, the happier your plants and pollinators will be.

Herbs to plant now... 
Dill (seed or starter)
Cilantro (seed or starter)

Ama Rosa, Banana, and Purple Russian potatoes. So pretty! 

About potatoes. I usually plant during the first or second weekend of April. This year, with the gardens so wet and the soil still so cool, I am holding off for another week or two. They are currently sitting on the window sill chitting (sprouting). We can plant spuds anytime between now and mid-June, so no real hurry.

For how I plant potatoes in raised beds, see HERE! If you want to read even more about potatoes, I have blogged about them often over the years. Put the word 'potato' in the Search Bar and several great posts will pop up.

What starters NOT to buy yet?
Tomatoes! Plus peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, or squash. Is simply too early and too cold.... especially this year! These are all hot-weather (summer) crops.  

I see that some box stores and even some nurseries (for shame!) are selling tomato seedlings already. Please do not buy them! Tomatoes are heat lovers and cannot go out into the garden till the night air temps are +10°C (sometime in May or even June). 

Just waiting for a bit more sunshine so these tulips start to show off

What else to do? 

Transplant your tomato seedlings, and start  feeding all your starts every week or two with a weak organic tomato food or alfalfa tea. Find the tea recipes HERE!

Never fertilise on dry soil, water your plants first and then feed to prevent burning the roots.

No colour yet, but soon, very soon!  

Feed your over-wintered geraniums (pelargoniums), mini roses, and fuchsias bi-weekly.

Pot up your dahlias, canna lilies, calla lilies, and other bulbs for a head start. Transfer to the garden in a few weeks time.

This fabulous picture from Pinterest, no credits provided.

Plant some pots of pretty colour for spring and your Easter table.  

Happy Gardening! 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Carrots - All Shapes and Colours!

I grow literally hundreds of carrots annually, in every colour of the rainbow, all shapes and sizes. The entire family loves them! Fresh, steamed or roasted, I have never yet grown too many!

I tend to grow carrots in blocks rather than rows, so that I can grow more of them per square foot of garden space. However, occasionally do rows for the look, depending on what suits my mood for that bed... on that day ; )  

For fresh from the ground carrots throughout (most of) the year, seed a block or a row every few weeks from April through till early July. Add a new block or a few extra rows when you lift your cool weather crops in June, the radishes, broccoli and cilantro that bolt in the heat!

Carrots, and other root crops, store well in the garden here on the island, no need to lift till you need them. If we have a hard winter, just cover with several inches of straw or mulch to keep the tops from freezing.

Carrots come in so many colours, from white to yellow, orange, pink/red, and purple, too. The taste varies a bit with the colour, so grow a few of each and see which ones become your favourites!

There are four main types of carrots, classed by root shape ... 

Chantenay carrots

Chantenay - This heirloom type is my absolute personal fave. I simply love the shape and flavour. No need to peel, just pick, rinse, and eat!

Chantenays are short and stubby, very wide at the top, tapering to a rounded blunt end. They have great strong foliage (bunny food ;)

The Red Cored Chantenay is an heirloom from the early 1900's, great for fresh eating and juicing, and I love it best for roasting.

Danvers Half Long 

Danvers - This carrot is longer than the Chantenay but has a similar cone shape, with good wide shoulders that taper down to a pointy end.

Danvers are the best variety to grow if you have heavy, or less than ideal, soil. Fantastic for fresh eating, canning, freezing. Stores really well.

Danvers Half Long and Danvers 126 are both heirloom varieties from the 1870's.

Atomic Red Imperator Carrots

Imperator- This carrot has a regal sounding name, and looks so fab, too! Has good, strong foliage, with roots that are long and slender, tapering to a pointy tip. This carrot is the one you see most often in grocery store shelves as it ships well, is strong and sturdy, and stores well, too.

You need good, deep, friable, and somewhat sandy soil to grow these carrots, as they will happily grow 10 to 12 inches long in the right conditions.

I really enjoy growing these long straight carrots! Feel so accomplished when I lift these babies out of the ground ; )

The Red Atomic is my fave Imperator type, but the orange ones are equally fabulous. The most well known ones are Imperator and Tendersweet, and I have one called King Midas at the shop this year, also.

Nantes carrots! 
Pic from charlesdowding.co.uk

Nantes types - This is the most popular carrot for home gardeners. They are easy to grow, tolerant of poor soils, store well, and grow well. They tend to be about 6 or 7 inches long.

So many carrots fall into the Nantes category. Bolero, Scarlet, Napa, Yaya, Touchon, Purple Dragon, Cosmic Purple, and many of the colourful blends.  

There is also another type, the Round or Ball carrot. They are a very popular market variety in France.

Eat them fresh, no need to peel, or lightly steamed. Great for poor rocky soils, container gardens, or shallow garden beds.

Often called Parisienne, Paris Market, or French Round.

Ruby Tuesday loves her carrots

Lifting the last of the over-wintered carrots

Happy Growing! 

March Garden Ramblings

Welcoming the month of March! Bringing us spring flowers, longer days, and (with any luck) warmer, drier weather. February was a tough ...