GARDENING TIPS

Whew! The heat is overwhelming sometimes. Think what our plants must be experiencing under a hot, hot sun. Of course, in some countries of the world it is quite normal in desert regions. But so few plants grow there for a reason. Sun can mean pleasure,  or a great danger. Just as we protect our skin from the sun’s rays to prevent burn or cancer, sometimes we have to readjust the way in which we garden as circumstances change.

Here in Ontario,  end of July 2022, rain arrived for a couple of days dropping the temps slightly below 20C (68F), but it will rise again.  It was 35 C the other day on my deck. Without air conditioning, that was a tough day inside fighting the heat with ice cubes, ice packs,  and wet cloths on fans, and windows covered to block the sun,  and several showers to cool the body.

As a senior I had to leave my lovely outdoor garden on a farm  and come into the city. I now find solace on my deck with gardening in planter boxes, urns and pots. It had been a new learning experience, but gives me a lot of pleasure and comfort. There is such beauty in nature, and I am creating that surrounded by plants and other things.  My theme colour this year is pink, white, deep purple and light blue and that colour blend is soothing and delightful.

5,752 Wooden Planter Box Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

The plants are signalling, by fading flowers, that they want to produce seed for another generation. Cut those dying pods off if you want to prolong the flowering season, as another flush of blooms may appear. Doesn’t fit every flower, but the main ones like Marigolds and Geraniums really help extend the season.

For vegetables, such as cucumbers, harvest a bit early consistently if you want more produce. If one cucumber makes fully developed seeds inside one cucumber, the plant will be satisfied and stop producing flowers to pollinate for more of the delicious produce.  I still get a nice size on the cucumbers before doing so, but a new discovery. Never even thought about this when  gardening outside.

My cucumbers are climbing up a trellis, but I did make a mistake of putting them this year in a planting box with marigolds, which has slowed their climb and overall vigor. So make sure to give them a deeper amount of soil so roots can expand downward, instead of sideways. A five gallon plastic pail  or 14 to 16 inch pot with rich soil,  is a suggestion. Last year I had cucumber vines all the way to the top of my bird feeder pole. I have this year’s crop now moving sideways along the top railing of the deck having reached it from the box below.

Quite all right, but comparing years, I can see a better way of doing things. I am wanting to close in the glass enclosure to have some privacy, and am using raised planter boxes to do it. Sitting them between urns of flowers in one area, and hidden by vines and a sign on the opposite side. Using taller, flowering plants in those higher placed boxes. Affective. I love my privacy but still have a  view of folk walking by if interested.

My planter boxes are mainly for vegetables, but I added some dwarf marigolds in two of them as a companion plant to protect against hurtful bugs. Great success doing that, only the marigolds don’t fit my colour scheme. Left over from last year’s red/white/gold colour scheme. Bolder, but this year I wanted more calming influence, not stimulation. Amazing how colour does that. I explain that in the posting about creating a Memory Garden.

Tomatoes are not so touchy I find. I am enjoying reddened fruit from the Early Girl variety and Sweet 100 tiny tomatoes. I have four varieties growing this summer on my deck garden but the others have green fruit.  Flowers on most of them means more fruit to come. The plants need shaking for pollen to drop, so I do that by hand if there is no wind.  I have to hand pollinate most things as I am so high up from the ground. A bee finally arrived this week, and loves the Marigolds the most, not visiting the other flowers for nectar just yet.

My hummingbird feeder hangs above the open bird feeder where I have a tray of water for the little birds. No one comes because I waited too long in the season to set it up. The birds have established habits. If I put out feed to attract their attention, I will be inundated by five black squirrels, which destroyed two big garbage cans last winter that held seed for the birds. So far they are ignoring my place, and I am very happy about that. I use distilled water in both the hummingbird feeder and little water dish, so it will not pollute very easily.

I miss feeding the birds, but my next door neighbours do so instead. Fun watching squirrels, a chipmunk, three rabbits and other birds scramble for that food that my neighbour puts out daily. Yes, the rabbits are free in the neighbourhood and live under the garden shed.  I meet them in other areas on my walks,  as they are quite bold in exploring. A fox comes by once in a while, and turkey vultures circle overhead sometimes. We even had a bear in the backyard this last month. In the city?  Yes, but this is a very quiet neighbourhood near the river with lots of trees.

Tomatoes also like deep, rich soil. I noticed both my cucumber and two tomato plants had leaves turning slightly yellowish, so I have increased nitrogen fertilizer, and had good success in watching the leaves return to a deeper green. I also am starting to add the coffee grounds after brewing to the top of the tomato pots. Apparently these grounds contain lots of nutrient good for the plants. First time doing this. I plan to work the coffee ground into the soil at end of harvest when I close down for the winter, and mix the soil all together and empty the pots and planting boxes. That won’t be until October, a long ways off yet. Our winters arrive in early November.

I had lovely lettuce earlier in the year, but the remaining shoots after harvest have now bolted and are producing seed. I should have planted two, maybe three planting boxes of lettuce to extend my harvest longer into the summer….spreading out seeding of course so they mature at different rates.

I continue to harvest green onions still doing well, and my best crop of all, green peppers.  Each of the seven plants in one long box produced two to four lovely green bell peppers on each plant, which I am now enjoying in the kitchen. I did have to hand pollinate the flowers, and if only two fruit on a stem probably means I missed a few. No more flowers,  and the peppers are getting larger, and eatable now. I slice them fresh into various dishes, but will freeze most of them at summer’s end.

I learned that I could have produced a lot more green peppers if I had cut off the main stem after its growth past about four leaves. New stems would have sprouted in those edges, and thus more flowers for fruit. Always something new to learn.

Suddenly I noticed a black area spreading on tops of some of the peppers with evidence of some black on a few stems. Horrors. Fungus causing this  I learned (having never had it before). I quickly cut off all the fruit and stems with any black on it, and tightly bound the infected leaves in a bag to put in the garbage. Then I took the blacked fruit to the kitchen to cut away any sign of it on and sliced the rest of the peppers to freeze.  I remembered to dip my cutting scissors also in a disinfectant, so as not to spread the fungus to other plants. Finally I made a fungicide out of baking soda and water and a touch of cooking oil to spray on the remained plants outside to help stop remaining spores. Have to wait for the temps to cool before spraying. Will repeat spraying for several days.  Don’t trust my dish soap to add to my fungicide because it may be too strong and damage the plants.

I used to can produce for years and had a root cellar, but don’t do that any more. Remember when the fruit truck would arrive in the fall at the fairs,  and we would buy bushels of fruit and more veggies to can to ensure a full pantry of food for our family. Eating for one makes a huge difference in shopping for groceries. But even this type of gardening on a 5 x 10 ft deck gives me a lot of produce in a small space. Had my first yellow beans for supper last night.

My best flower this summer is Purple Palace Lobelia. An annual, it flowered in blue, and is a mass of blooms. Absolutely gorgeous and the first time I have success with this plant, which always died early on me before.  More water I think has helped as I have to do so daily, sometimes twice a day in the heat.  I fill my 4L distilled water empty bottles with tap water and then sit them in the kitchen window for the sun to kill the Chlorine in the water. Wish it would kill Fluoride but apparently not. I have been fertilizing those bottles with  10-15-10 liquid fertilizer. It takes two bottles (8 L) every morning to maintain a nice moisture level in the soil….cucumbers and green pepper gobble the water and they are the ones that I have to watch for a later afternoon touch-up. Others not so.

How do I  know plants are happy and doing well?  By looking at the leaves. They are shiny and a nice even deep green. The stems are thick. There is no narrow stretching of stems but lots of branches and leaves. I have pruned a lot of branches from the bottom of tomatoes and peppers to prevent soil born diseases, which begin at the soil level and move upward. Have to watch for white fungus growth soon,  as it is so common. I also make a spray of baking soda to neutralize the areas occasionally.

I watch for those tiny bugs on the pots and spray immediately to kill them. They come into the house and create havoc in the garbage. I tried a spray of rubbing alcohol for those recently, as it was something I read. All my yellow fly traps have been replaced with new ones in the pots,  and I am glad to report that so far, they have not been needed to catch the various flying  insects that bother plants.

Keeping our garden clean of disease and insects takes diligence, as one tries to find the right balance in nature. Bagged potting soil is sterilized, so buying it is far better than digging earth somewhere to fill your containers. I used three different, bagged potting soil companies this year, and there is definitely a difference in fertilizer and compost content in that soil.

My few houseplants are also smiling and content. Three African Violets have filled their containers and are in full bloom again, second time this year. I transplanted the young spider plant into a large pot and new soil, and it is happily sending out those shoots that fall down over the sides and make the plant more interesting. I used to think the plant had to be pot bound to do that, so perhaps this young one has been very vigorous with its freedom to expand its roots in that secret, silent world under the soil.

I  noticed the plants are getting about 14  and a half hours of sunlight as July ends. Streetlights are coming on 9:04 to 9:08 pm, all within four minutes and then shut off in the morning between 6:20 to 6:24 am,  Eastern Daylight Time. Now these times will change as  the days pass, but  just another observation. Plants pay attention to the amount of light. It is a recent change in light that triggered the response to set seed. Amazing how in nature, things trigger response also in animals. A few  birds are feeling the urge to migrate soon,  while others will wait until fall.

It is also time to think about transplanting perennials, cause August is the best time of  year to do that. There will still be time for them to recover from the shock and send down roots to hold them in place and provide food. All plants are starting to slow down in growth, so  stop fertilizing them as one moves into  the month. Don’t push growth much longer because the time for top growth and normal root growth changes to a focus on developing seeds to survive.

Do correct soil deficiency as I had to with Nitrogen. I notice a slight purple colour on a few leaves, warning me that Phosphorus has been leached out with multiple watering, or use by the plants. I need to replace that vital mineral, which occurs as phosphate. Bone ash is a source of this element, and readily found in garden centres.

Some plants cannot transpire fast enough when the heat gets so hot, so not all wilting means lack of root moisture.  If you have your plants in large containers, or in the ground, wait a bit to see if they do recover on their own by day’s end. I suggest you think about shading them when this happens, either with some type of cover or moving the pot to somewhere darker. I am certainly doing that myself to escape the heat.

My little garden 2022

Gardening 2021

One thought on “GARDENING TIPS”

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