GARDENING 2021

DECEMBER

I  ordered some yellow sticky traps to put in my house plant pots to try to finish off the last of those pesky fruit flies.  I had mentioned it to my daughter who has started a gardening centre. She said add some garden sand (no salt) to the top of the pots, and then spray chemicals on the sink spouts everywhere, as that is where they hide overnight. In one day, the traps are catching them quickly. I also sprayed Raid over all the pots, as I have found it doesn’t damage anything. Be very aware that whatever these flies are, they will develop into  nasty little white grubs in huge numbers  in garbage pails in about three to four days if undisturbed. I sprayed and sprayed my garbage can with raid almost every day while waiting for the next garbage collection, which happens only every two weeks here in this rural city.  $2.50 a bag, recycling is free. Limit per household.

I have poor lighting overall, so bought a two light system from Amazon that is metal. The arms can swing in any direction. There is a turn on button for one or both lights, and a button for 4 or 6 or 12 hours lighting. An automatic memory system. I like it, much smaller than expected, but control box is very limited. Also,  there is a blue light remains on all night at the box, which I don’t like.  But should help bring on my plants that need full sun, but have been living in considerable shade.  Full spectrum lights screw-in type bulbs, that are rectangular and light can be dimmed or put on highest brightness.

I got a package of lettuce seed, a new type of head lettuce, says my girl. I will need to get busy in January ordering the seeds I want to start this coming spring. Made an initial list, but waiting to see my strength level by then.  Costs more to get them from a seed company but I find the ones in local stores will not always germinate. I had sent my daughter some dwarf Marigold seed and Goldstrum Rudbeckia seed as part of her Christmas box of presents. I used some empty, new, glass seasoning jars to hold the seeds safely, the seeds having been carefully dried.   I have had good success over the years keeping any seed I want to save in a sealed glass jar in the crisper of my fridge. Temp down there sitting at 4C, a bit warmer than I want, but all the pots of daffodils for spring seem to be okay, just developing roots and not sending up shoots…..have to watch for that. Pots are covered with aluminum foil to block out the light.

I noticed that the parsley and onion plants in my one long planter box out on the deck were still green, even though the soil was frozen, so brought it inside, and will enjoy having fresh  herbs for cooking.  I use a lot of Curled Parsley in cooking and for decorating.

This is Christmas week, but with family far away moving into a new home they just bought,  and my girl way  up North, so I will be alone. So am celebrating with a lovely sirloin roast and veggies on Christmas Eve. Have all my gifts already opened, and what fun that was last week.  I’ll start packing up the decorations and tree and nativity set as soon as Christmas Day is over.   One of the hardest years of my life, but it is ending well, and I am deeply grateful. Having plants on my deck to care for helped me sit out there and enjoy the world passing below.  One day at a time for all of us, sometimes one moment at a time. Life is good.

NOVEMBER

Winter snow has arrived here in Canada and with it freezing temperatures. Ice pellets mix with rain sometimes when the days hover between 1 to 3 C,  soon going lower. The last lingering coloured leaves of fall are being stripped from the tree branches and cover the ground. I missed seeing the special moon because of cloud cover. Christmas lights are coming on outside with several lovely garden displays in this area.

Inside the houseplants are fine. Killing off the last of fruit flies has taken great effort on my part, hopefully the  only experience with them ever. I think they arrived on produce from a grocery store, since I have seen them there, so I am very careful when shopping to watch for them. I dislike bugs of all types, including the occasional lady bug that flew inside when I went out to the deck earlier this month. I had to leave the  annuals outside to die over winter, but collected enough seed to ensure future loveliness. Am wondering if the little green onion shoots remaining have roots that will survive until spring in that narrow planting box. Not likely. I learned to buy  mature roots next time. The onion seeds I started never amounted to anything.

Making Christmas  flower displays has been enjoyable.  I changed the stems in the bathroom urn to match the holiday season. Mini lights are around the window in the door to the deck. The nativity set was unpacked and set up again, and the big six foot tree in the living room, with its golden and red sparkling accessories, dominates the room. I love Christmas.

I still plan to repot the one red geranium that I kept from my seed starting efforts in the spring. Some of its leaves are dying off slowly and are light green in colour, telling me it needs attention, mainly better quality soil with nitrogen. Looking for  a pot that matches the others. But it is difficult to give it more light that it needs since I only have one west and two north facing windows in this apartment.

Should I buy a little lamp with a grow light to put over that geranium as an encouragement?  Saw one advertised. Think I will add that to my Amazon Wish List, which my family checks for ideas for Christmas gifts. Most of my shopping is online now, especially as winter arrives. Packages ordered are sent to my home, or someone else’s I choose, via Canada Post courier, arriving swiftly usually within a day or two.  Will also pick up a calendar for 2022, probably a gardening one with its lovely photos and hints for a new growing season.

OCTOBER

Rain a lot this month. Temps now the last week are  dropping, as it has been 3 to 5 C in early mornings for several days now. Snow reported in some regions, but we have yet to have a hard frost. Most of the colourful leaves have dropped now as the rain strips the trees. There was a nice warm spell for quite awhile, but out came winter coats. I take my daily walk just to enjoy the sun and have enjoyed extending them into new areas nearby, as I continue to build my physical strength. Couldn’t see a planet beside the full moon this month, as advertised on the Internet.

Sadly, I haven’t seen much of the bird migration, which interests me a lot. Glad for explanations by a naturalist about why some flocks are heading north instead of south, or in other directions than expected. I have never seen that before.

Gas has leaped 10 cents this month for vehicles, currently $1.49 per litre, regular unleaded then settled back to $1. 47. Most flowering plants are setting seed and I have saved three types of dwarf Marigolds and Rudbeckia. My efforts to film local blooms are very limited now.

I think as winter approaches in our climate, spring may be arriving across the world in other continents.  My gardening supplies have all been put away now, and I ended my attempts to continue growth indoors,  except for a few houseplants. The Mexican Vine really took off when I transplanted it, and it has grown its main stem quite tall, possibly four feet from a foot high all summer,  with three strong branches also reaching outward. Impressive blooms that have faded then repeated at least twice.

With such a terrible crisis across the world with the Pandemic, I am grateful for a peaceful life, limited though it may be.  My African Violets had a lovely show of blooms this past month, for the second time since I bought them. The Spider Plant I transplanted and is doing very well, even continuing to send out shoots. I give all the houseplant pots a quarter turn every morning, as light is reduced now. Sun rises here in Western Ontario 7:50 am, and sets at 6:24 pm. Daylight Savings Change,  when we back up an hour,  will occur Sunday, November 7th.

In thinking about the changing seasons, I also think of how our life is like that.  I see this senior period of life  as representing full maturity, just as we see it in the vegetative growth around us. Life in its fullest dimension. Beauty in the garden is fading now. Weren’t those fall tree leaves gorgeous?  But the patterns of life will continue as the earth rotates. Each year we will lose some plants and animals in winter, as we do people,  who age and grow old, and pass on.  But not all.

For everything there is a season.…..Time becomes more precious when you know it is fading. Often it takes a crisis to wake us up in time to prepare for the end. It comes to us all.  Has life made you a better person this year? What season of life are you in?  Remember the Creator who oversees it all, gives us life,  and loves us so deeply.

SEPTEMBER, 2021

From my garden on my deck, I bought in the big tomato pot (which replaced the cucumbers I grew in it all summer ), and have the two plants still growing under florescent lights in my living room giving me produce. Also brought in the urns with the red geraniums, and they are blooming in full glory, even better than out of doors. Collecting seeds from my two kinds of dwarf marigolds, which are still blooming outside, and have left the onions with parsley out there and green beans. The frost can hit them any day now.  I am beginning to empty the planting boxes to store them away. I cannot kill the parsley, as I have cut it down completely many times this summer and it just leaps back up.

I took some of that soil and used it to plant daffodil bulbs in both pots and glass dishes for early blooms mid winter. The soil is still very moist, so the containers are still sitting in my dish drainer tray. I covered each container with aluminum foil for darkness to block light; then marked them on top. Wil cover them all in a large black garbage bag in the crisper this afternoon, as darkness is ultra important. Mold might be a problem so will check them once a month just for a brief touch of air, etc.

I have lowered the temp in the fridge a bit to ensure the coolness for these pots that the bulbs will need to allow root growth but not grow tops.  Having done this many times before, I know this is a tricky balance. I don’t want things to freeze, but have to hold these planted pots for about 3 months at around 4C or close to 40 F.  In Celcius, freezing occurs at 0 C, which is a lot easier than trying to remember it in F.

Using Dutch Master, which is one of my favourite daffodils. I was at Walmart this past week and picked up packages of Tulips (pink Angelica, which lasted the longest of all in my outdoor garden); Daffodils, Snowdrops and Crocus to ship them to my daughter with other things for a Thanksgiving gift. So got myself a package as well.

I love planting bulbs in the fall.  I tried planting them in the big urns last fall, but they died outside,  probably because of the alternating freeze/thaw that occurs all winter long, and not enough soil depth to give them some protection.

I carefully sprayed for insects as I brought the planters inside, because tiny flies have been a chronic problem all summer. Not sure if I got them on some vegetables at the grocery store (saw them there), or another way. Never had them before, but I have now started putting food scraps into smaller, recyclable plastic bags to seal before tossing into my kitchen garage can as part of my ongoing control. Also tried apple vinegar with touch of dish soap left out on counter, and that helped also.

No fall colours yet on the trees, except for a bit of yellow here in the city. Very late, but I expect it is just my location. I watch the birds overhead every evening as they arrive to rest in the tree across the house before landing on the shorelines to feed before continuing. Temps have dropped a lot, around 10 to 14C, so fall jackets are now needed. Busy planning for Thanksgiving Dinner on the 11th, which is always the 2nd Monday in October.

AUGUST

The heat wave has just arrived, and without air conditioning, the two fans in my apartment simply recycle that hot air most of the time. There is some relief at night.  I have family in BC who see the forest fires in hills near their home, and are ready for an evacuation order. Regular gas now at $137.7 today per litre.

Harvesting cucumbers, but mildew has appeared on the leaves on the vines. Needs daily watering in its big pots.  Mildew appears as a white fuzzy growth on leaves and I used a home made solution in a spray bottle.

Spinach and lettuce I no longer harvest, but got a few more green beans yesterday. Tomatoes coming on strongly and I love the little sweet ones that rarely make it to the kitchen for salads. The big slicers do. All redden quickly now. I stopped all upward growth some time ago so the plant would pour its energy into making fruit which is peaking now.

Green onion seed tapes were a waste of time because the tiny spikes from them remain too small to harvest. It is only the roots I planted from mature ones that has given me any onion leaves to harvest.

The main flowering plants in my neighbourhood are Rudbeckias, which I personally have found so dependable and colourful. Goldstrum is a  favourite perennial of this series.

Another late summer perennial that is so dependable is purple coneflower.

Sometimes I have grown Russian Sage another pale bluish/mauve perennial.

“All of us go through a dark place in life – sickness, a divorce, a loss, a child who breaks our heart–it is easy to get discouraged, give up on our dreams, and think this is the end. But God uses dark places. Think of a seed planted in the soil, in the dark place, so that the potential on the inside will come to life. In the same way there are seeds of greatness in us–dreams, goals, talents, potential–they will only come to life in the dark place – Blessed is the Darkness by Joel Osteen.  Enjoying this book a lot. The dark places are opportunities to grow. Choose to trust and be calm.

The March to July reports below were consecutive about a new growing experience on my deck off my apartment and from seed starts in late winter. These monthly reports will now continue complete in themselves, always with gardening hints.

July

The wettest July I have ever experienced, but terrible heat out west with dangerous forest fires and drought on the Prairies. With a whole town wiped out, people are suffering in many ways. Not much happening in my own area thankfully, as summer hits its peak. Gas has just gone up again, now $1.34 per litre. Temps have been quite nice so I can sit outside when I want to. Usually by now one has drawn the curtains to brock the sun’s rays, and keep fans or an air conditioner on most of the time. Yes, the fans are running during the day and one at night, but this is ideal weather to be enjoying our lives.

Flowers in bloom here in my neighbourhood include: roses, day lilies, monarda, hydrangea, especially Annabelle that I like, Solomon’s Seal for the shade garden; Sweet William, and Shasta Daisy in the photo below to name a few. I take photos on walks around my neighbourhood.

 

Day Lily

I am having fresh green beans, salads from either a  lettuce or spinach base, with lovely cucumbers and tomatoes from my own plants on the deck.  Everything is lush,  although the wave petunias have taken quite the beating from recent downpours.

Here below is the cucumber vine I had to cut off at the top to stop it reaching for the stars. Hidden is some kind of squash  or melon not yet  identified, that came unexpectedly with the seed package. Lovely long Marketmore cucumbers now ready for harvest, and more coming on all the times. The first blooms were mostly male ones, but the flowers increase every day.  Female blossoms can be identified with a tiny cucumber behind them. I use a small cosmetic brush to touch all the flowers daily to spread the pollen, as I have only seen one bee show up so high above the ground. See the pollinating video I provided in May,

Inside my apartment I have a couple of African violets on a windowsill; one is doing well, but the other has wilted leaves and struggles for some unknown reason. I have carefully drained its catch tray cause one can so easily drown houseplants if one does not. I even gave it a week inside a clear plastic bag to provide a more ideal environment. I took it out to check for any mold growth, then decided to return it to the clear plastic bag for awhile longer.(it worked and it has now recovered). Two exact plants, bought exactly the same day, no pests bothering it, and so like our lives. Success and failure. We all have both,  but spend far too much time on the latter instead of enjoying each day and giving ourselves time to rest and recover, as needed.

In the next photo are green beans on the left now being harvested, then there is a pot of red geraniums and dwarf marigolds below.  I have been disappointed twice in the taste of green beans that I have grown,  Beans are so good for us and put nitrogen in the soil, but are no longer a favourite vegetable  in my kitchen.

 

The pot bound spider plant is sending out shoots, exactly what I want it to do and why I am not transplanting it yet. Why did I splurge on the Bougainvillea vine  in the above photo I simply do not know, but it is about to have a flush of second bloom.  They are so gorgeous in Mexico climbing up the sides of homes. Mine will have to be brought inside for protection when winter storms return, but fortunately it has the summer to show off its beauty.

I gave all plants last month a healthy dose of blood meal mixed in the soil (providing 12% nitrogen) , but not yet this new tropical plant, whose pale green leaves indicate it needs fertilizing. July is the last month for adding fertilizer, because plants should not be pushed into tender, soft growth before fall  which arrives next month.

Plants respond to day and night lengths, which is beginning to trigger them  starting now to set seed to survive. Both the spinach and lettuce are bolting, despite having been cut down several times for food. The sun rises here today at 5:55 am and sun sets at 9:04pm, so that is 15 hours of daylight.  If you notice seeds developing on flowers, cut them off to extend blooming for awhile yet.

It’s June

Wow was it hot today.   I didn’t go out to the deck during mid day until almost dark. To my horror I discovered the top to my garbage can had a huge hole eaten in it, and squirrels had been feasting on sunflower seeds I keep inside  with the bird feeders, etc.  The lid is ruined,  so basically  is the garbage can. I removed it completely.

I then went around the perimeter of the deck sprinkling a good dose of garlic powder and black pepper power and also ended putting it everywhere around my many plants.  I will try to discourage the visit of black squirrels with scents they really hate.  There are five living on my avenue, as the female appears to have had two babies, which follow her everywhere. In my walks to other streets, I often see other black squirrels, so we are inundated with them in this location. I thought I had gotten rid of them when I put away all my bird feeders, letting neighbours have that pleasure.

In bloom are Iris, Allium, Bridlewreath Spirea (one of my favourite shrubs), and an Alberta Rose shrub with its heavenly scent. Yes, roses are starting to bloom. Normally the sea of blue that sweeps across my big flower beds would be fading now, but I see very little of it here because there are only people’s front yards with a few plants. Forget Me Nots are at the heart of that blue colour. The tulips are less dominant here but a few are still blooming. The peonies are heading out just starting  to burst into glory.

May

The news is reporting severe damage to fruit crops in Ontario because of cold weather we experienced recently. There was a light dusting of snow just south of here one morning. We had frost.  I have been bringing all my tender plants inside at night, but finally temps are warming up so I can hopefully leave them outside.

My Marketmore cucumbers are in full bloom, so I am pollinating them with a small cosmetic brush every day, brushing between the flowers to transfer the pollen.  I was to learn in studying U-tube videos that at first these were almost all male flowers hence I would have little crop. I was to learn by July there is a better flush of female blossoms to appear. I am so used to just planting the seed in a vegetable garden and letting them do their own thing, that I never had to be more specific in their care.

I am enjoying taking photos of flowering plants and shrubs on my early morning walks to record the season of beauty, All of my gardening efforts are now in place on my deck in long white planter boxes (lettuce, spinach, green onions, parsley, green beans). Cucumber, tomatoes and flowers are in pots.

I just put away my portable greenhouse, as it is no longer needed.  Temps have been lovely hovering in the 20C (70F) range down sometimes 5 degrees overnight. The leaves on the green beans were lightly touched by the cold, (turning them silver in colour) but newer growth is covering that over. I have little green pods stretching in growth on those plants. Most people are just putting seed in the ground. Lettuce I have clipped three times already, and reseeded the box while the older growth roots recover.

What a shock to see gas prices leap to $1.28/litre, and the taxi driver told me their prices just went up as well.  Cost of living is so evident in the grocery stores where packaging is considerably less in volume for the same price it was for larger content.

As a report from my earlier growing efforts, the Miracle Gro bags of potting soil were certainly more fertile than a cheaper brand I tried, as I can see the results in the growth of the plants. But one bag of M.G. I bought was only half full, disgusting me,  as it was not cheap ($7.99). Love those white planter boxes and wish I could have four more – all gone as the garden centres are well picked over now.

This flowering crab apple tree is immediately outside my deck, and was magnificent. The flowers have now faded and are dropping as I pen these lines today.

It is half way through the month and this is the week of tulips in full display. Our lawn was cut for the first time today, but others have already been trimmed. I found some recycling metal cans at the dollar store for $4.00 each and will use these for my tomatoes. Gas is currently $1.229 /litre at the pumps for unleaded. The garden centres looked picked over, but staff told me more supplies are arriving. I finally found a six-cell pack of “Bonanza” dwarf Marigolds, and  will save their seed this fall, DV. They will look lovely edging the red geraniums in the two urns on my deck. All plants are now leaping up in growth awaiting their turn in the sun.

The weather has remained unusually wet and very cool, but the three white planting trays go outside to the greenhouse on the deck to harden.  It is too cold for green beans in the 4th planting box to go outside.   I bring the others in overnight. Hoping for sunshine and warmth later this week.  There is only 10 days before all veggie gardens are seeded by Victoria Holiday weekend. I want all my plants outside on the deck by them in their permanent planters with a few other plants given away.  I don’t remember it being so cold this late in the spring.

APRIL

I have been looking for a Spider Plant in a hanging basket for my new apartment to help rid some of the pollutants in the air from carpeting, etc. Read an article from NASA whose study of this subject was very interesting. Don’t want many houseplants now, as I continue to downsize. Ouch. Almost $19 in stores. I waited,  and in late June found one for $2.99 CD.

The leaves on the trees are bursting into life, and almost full out in these last few days of April.

April 28th – just transplanted all but one of my LETTUCE plants into a long, lovely white plastic planting box I found at Walmart for $3.98 each. Got four of them,  as they are deep enough for veggies. They will fit nicely on deck. Just need two  deeper, larger pots for a single Beefsteak tomato (large, slicing type) and a Sweet 100 (small, lovely whole in salads).  I have many tomatoes growing in both the cells and red cups that I use for all transplants. Lots to sell,  or more likely give away.

Took me all morning to find my coffee filters, however, as I used them to cover the four holes in bottom of the planter box. The soil would have either washed away or plugged the holes fairly quickly during repeated watering in the future.  Got an inventory done of my gardening supplies in my apartment as I thought the filters might be in the big box. Suddenly, there they were in a kitchen cupboard shelf, half hidden by something else, and I had already looked there two times.

Big thunderstorm just rolled through by 8am,  and too cool for anything to go outside to the greenhouse this morning. Lettuce goes out every day otherwise as they love it cool    Geraniums went out yesterday with the lettuce plants, as it was really lovely weather after a long cold snap.  Except for three cups of Parsley slips, nothing else is big enough. All else needs transplanting from second seeding and they aren’t ready yet. So happy with my Marketmore Cucumbers that are growing well. I lost all my first cucumbers and green beans, discussed below.  New green beans growing okay.

Also need two strong cages to support the tomato stem growth, but only thin cheapy ones available just yet.  Not what I want. Not much in garden centres  here in Western Ontario, and sad to see cold  damage on some of the plants even under a high canopy. Discussed it with personnel to draw it to the woman’s attention,  cause at first I thought they were just wilting. She will probably have to throw them all out.

Elsewhere, I noticed that someone has a hanging basked of pansies exposed to the elements in their front yard, and the plants looked fine. I looked for pansies,  who are very cold tolerant and bloom a long time during the summer, but could find none,  but only shopped at that one store yesterday.

What a surprise in rechecking my zone here to find I am now living in Gardening Zone 6a. I have gardened in Zones, 3 and 4 but l have lived and gardened in  Zone 5 for the most experience. No wonder I thought that the flowers here were about two weeks ahead of ‘normal’.  I keep a record when flowers first bloom wherever I live. Here is a link to Ontario Garden Zones,  naming communities and the zone for each. This refers to plant hardiness,  because some plants will die out in colder zones.

I also noticed a huge Saucer Magnolia shrub (pink blooms) that is about to burst into loveliness in a few days. Haven’t seen any white ones, which I also love.  Its not ready for a photo yet.

April 24th: I just spent an hour walking around my neighbourhood taking photos of the blooming flowers here near Georgian Bay in the far distance. I will add my photos with the others further down on the page so you can get a visual picture of what might interest you for your own flower beds.

………………..

Gardening is now in full swing for many people, as the snow has melted, the grass is showing green. By now spring pruning is done on fruit trees and possibly a few shrubs that flower in the fall. Never prune spring flowering shrub branch tips this month because in doing so you will cut off all flowering buds.  But that doesn’t mean  you cannot cut out the mass of growth at the base of a shrub you want to tidy up or thin out, or even branches higher up.

A word about pruning. Make all cuts at 45 degree angle tight above a bud on a branch, pointing sheers outwards in the direction you want the branch to grow. Cut away all crossing branches. Open up the centre of the plant to let the sunshine in. But this is not the time to shave the plant all over for a neater look if it blooms in the spring. Okay for fall blooming shrubs, who make flowering buds later in the season.

Now is the time to rake the  lawn to clear it of fallen tree twigs or sticks blown about by winter winds. If you have a lot to do, save some work by using a tarp instead of a wheelbarrow, a fairly big tarp that  you spread out. Rake all the debris onto it, then haul it away to dump off in an area where over time the leaves will break down into compost. Smaller areas may not give you that option. The lawn mowers are out here and grass cutting has begun. Far earlier than I am used to by about two weeks. Not everyone is cutting yet, but two lawns nearby have been done.

SPRING FLOWERS

Wait to uncover your roses until the Forsythia is in bloom (its branches turn  yellow). That’s now here in Zone 5, (April 14) with lots of flowers in bloom, but a cold snap has suddenly arrived and now gone as we head into last week of April. We even had a dump of snow that covered my deck for a day. Doesn’t seem to have hurt any of these plants, photos take mainly April 24th except snowdrops.

Open the air holes of protective rose huts, however, or the heat will build up too much under styrofoam or other types of protective covers over roses. Watch the weather report, and on really warm days take the huts  off, but if there is a threat of heavy frost, recover.

INDOOR GARDENING

Whoops: This  cold snap dropped temps below freezing (-5 to 0 C) during the week of April 12 to 17, 2021 . I have just noticed that the big pot of cucumbers and green beans have suddenly shown serious damage, with leaves of the cucumbers beginning to die, just as little cucumbers are developing. Yes, I used a small cosmetic brush to pollinate the flowers by repeatedly brushing inside each flower back and forth between them,  daily,  as long as blooms appeared.

I have pulled the big pot further away from where I have it inside beside the door to the deck.   Having it there make it easy to slide the pot in and out on warm days as I want the plants to have full sun. But I didn’t realize that opening that door daily let a blast of cold hit that pot and the tender plants inside it.  Can happen in greenhouses too or even cold frames outside.

The cucumber leaves are dying. Green beans not as badly affected.  I’ll update on things in another week or so. My second seeding of a different variety for slicing cucumbers, Marketmore,  are growing well in red cups with a quality potting soil.

Green onions now coming up (no bulbs at garden centre) and so are both kinds of Tomatoes and Spinach seedlings. I gave in and decided to get seeds just before lockdown, not knowing when I could visit again when plants have arrived. I have “true” leaves on the Marigolds, meaning the second set that appears.   But all the second seeding are tiny plants yet, and some more parsley and  onions seeds have not yet germinated.

My first lettuce plants that I completely cut down to harvest the leaves for a salad about two week ago, are almost ready for a second harvest. The plants recovered quickly.  I have a second seeding germinating for later in the summer to keep my main salad plant available anytime I want a leaf,  or as many leaves as needed. I may just keep the first batch in cups as they are doing so well. But it is normal to want to put away my indoor equipment by the first of June.

Success:  Yeh, my geraniums are beautiful plants grown in those red drinking cups.  I’ll just wash the cups when emptied and store for another time. One geranium plant developed purple-colored veins in the leaves, which told me immediately that there was a  toxic level of one of the fertilizer components. So I flushed the soil with water quite a bit, then repotted the plant in new potting soil, and it has recovered  nicely with no sign of shock.  Part of that is that I planted these seeds in the biggest peat pots, so the basic root core is not disturbed. No problem with other geraniums, but I’ll watch for that warning sign.

I have been lightly spraying leaves with a very weak 20-20-20 solution about once a week, which I will now stop for awhile and watch the colour of the leaves instead. Leaf colour and vigor tells me a lot. Deep to medium green is healthy, but if they lighten to pale green or turn yellowish all over, or develop yellow veins in green leaves, or if the edges turn brown and curl, these are all signs of trouble. Some can be corrected but some cannot. There is a lovely shininess to the leaves of healthy plants I find.

OUTDOOR FLOWERS

Snowdrops have been in full bloom for several weeks now in this area, with their shiny  little white blossoms peaking above some snow. They are just fading. If you want to thin the crop and move to another area to build up more plants at a later date, use a marking stake right away to outline the area where they are blooming. The plants need time to die down and build strength in their bulbs for another season. Yes, you can go ahead and dig them up in small clumps to move a few anyway, even if in bloom, Better than pulling them all apart for single bulbs. Make sure  you leave lots of roots with soil on them for best results. They are so hardly.

Same holds true for blue Skilla, (next photo) which is a mass of beauty in the lawn here, as it has spread by seed far and wide. Gorgeous. Crocus are in bloom as well.

Muscari or Grape Hyacinth  

Primrose

Note: I saw a display of yellow primrose at Key Gardens, London, England in 2014 that was truly magnificent.

Trilliums – white

Note: This is Ontario’s provincial flower. It also comes in a deep wine shade.

Tulips – early flowering late April

Note: Many types and colours even bicolours, and come in early, mid or late season blooms. A glory mid May especially. However, difficult to keep blooming after two years as squirrels love to dig them up. I never got them to bloom in April in my former garden closer to Collingwood. They are just beginning here and many budded but not yet in bloom. 

Vinca Minor Groundcover – with odd tulip popping up

Vegetable Gardening

If you want a veggie patch this summer, now is the time to plan it first, to choose the right spot for it watching for shade patterns over your property. Vegetable gardens should have full sun all day long. Also you can grow a lot of food in a small space, so even a 8 x 10 patch will be ample. You choose the size you want, but plan to make your rows so that the sun does not cast shade on plants beside each other. I tend to plant north to south, but you check your own area.

You can put the tallest plants like tomatoes in an outer edge row and then next tallest, and so on extending outward to the shallowest rows as one example. The sun rises in the east here to settle in the west arching overhead from the southeast.   But also remember you can grow some plants upward, like beans and peas on a frame so put them with the taller plants.

If you plan to garden for more than one year, then divide your garden in two, so that you keep the root crops together in one area (i.e.carrots, parsnips, beets), and the  above ground crops (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard,  in the opposite side. Each spring alternate position in the garden, so that there is no disease build-up or depletion of nutrients  from overuse. Keep a main walkway through the middle along the top and bottom for weeding. . And if you need a water barrel, chose a corner for it.

For vine crops which take up a lot of room, separate your squash and cucumber plants so they do not cross-pollinate with different varieties of the same plant, if you can. Pickling cucumber with slicing types in particular.   Yes, various squash varieties will affect each other if grown close together. Fortunately most types hold true, but I have had a few wierd ones appear over the years until I learned to separate them. Bees and wind pollinate crops and some plants self pollinate.  It is a huge subject on its own.

If you have a tiny garden then plant just one variety of cucumber, which doesn’t spread far and you can grow in upward on a frame.  Don’t plant squash in that area, cause most squash stems will spread out of bounds. I love both butternut and acorn squash. A hint, just find another spot somewhere else, even the compost pile or a barrel and grow them there. You could simply dig a hole in the earth somewhere, fertilize the spot, water the hole and drop in three or four seeds. Cover and water again to settle the soil around the seed. Water again from time to time as you do with all gardening plants.

Potatoes I no longer grow as the bugs always get them and I hate sprays or dust powders. I leave them to the specialist in Prince Edward Island. I don’t eat many potatoes, so that affects things. We tend to grow what we like to eat.  Potato dust has DDT,  which killed a young girl on a farm one day when it blew into her face  for hours while sitting on a dusting machine behind a tractor.   Another gardening friend died from cancer from that poison she used on her plants.  So treat all chemicals with care. I am not a totally organic gardener because I know its use on a farm and some herbicides in particular can be useful. But small gardens are easier to care for than the large ones.

I am fairly certain that those cancer producing gardening dusts are gone, but one has to be careful and read labels. However, it is amazing what you might find in  old farm auction sales, when boxes of unknown items are sometimes sold for a dollar or two and might contain these products of years ago.  Organic growing is certainly safer.

You can grow pumpkin or squash in the corn rows. You will need a fairly large block of corn rows for pollination. I keep corn and potatoes and  big vine crops in another garden, not my main vegetable one, cause they take up too much room.  Don’t grow them at all if you have only a small patch.

I always enjoy planning my vegetable garden on paper long before it is time to dig the whole garden bed. Usually I do that digging work in the fall, but there is no rule here. If not then, then do it in the spring to loosen the soil and mix in a fertilizer, maybe sheep manure.  I am concerned about chemicals in animal feed and antibiotics with cow manure. Fresh manure is too hot and can damage plants, so buy the older bagged type, or compost your own for awhile.  Don’t forget to add soil ammendments or think it not important because all success in gardening is the quality of the soil and sufficient  moisture and sun.

After digging the whole area you want to plant, adding nutrients, removing sod, level the garden now with a rake, and get out stakes to mark rows.  Now you decide whether you will have several rows close together, like peas with a portable fence between for the vines to climb up.  I prefer the seed tapes for some vegetables so I don’t have to spend a lot of time thinning plants once they are up. Run a chord between top and bottom of a row to keep your efforts straight, and then lightly dig a tiny trench in which to plant and then cover over the seeds in the ground. The bigger seeds are easy to do that way,  but the tiny seeds can just be planted on top of the soil and then pressed in. Water well afterwards, and keep the rows slightly damp for germination.  I use a drip irrigation system in the biggest garden, or put a lawn sprinkler on a stand in the middle of the main garden bed, and letting it move back and forth spreading a light mist of water over the whole bed. After seeds have germinated, you can slow down the watering as the plants grow.  No hose?  Use a can and just water the rows from the barrel of water you have stored nearby

Finally, some serious gardeners build raised bed with wood and plant the whole area with one crop, maybe two. You can do single rows in them of course. Don’t invest in this until you really know gardening is for you.

You don’t have to have a big garden outside. I am using big pots on my deck this spring, which I discuss in the March blog. I’ve already had one big salad crop to enjoy from those few cups of lettuce plants.  More tips coming from a lifetime of trying all kinds of things. Lots of U-tube videos to help you, and I screen a lot of them before settling on one for each subject that I recommend here in these articles.

If you are a brand new veggie gardener don’t try broccoli or cabbage the first year as they will invariable have a lot of worms for you to deal with. Stick with the old faithfuls such as salad crops and carrots and other leafy greens. A tomato plant or two (cause there are the big beefsteak types and the smaller salad little ones so sweet to the taste). Onion, lots of them and different types, but most of us just plant the Spanish bulbs.

You will find planting  marigolds in the garden and using them with rows of onions around the perimeter will ward off a lot of nasty critters, like slugs and flies and bad bugs that want to feast on plants. My next blog in March will share what not to plant beside each other, to name a few. It is called companion gardening.

I want to mention water. City water has a lot of fluoride in it, not healthy for plants. If you put water in a big barrel or a jug on a window sill in your house, the fluoride is killed by sunlight within hours. I know fluoride is recommended to prevent tooth decay, but it can have a negative effect on your gardening efforts. I want less chemicals in my body and food, not more.

Starting Seeds & Indoor Gardening

Introduction

I’m an avid gardener, having enjoyed spring preparation for many years. I have had two greenhouses during my life, and offered gardening skill in landscape design. Now as a senior I have to make a lot of adjustments as my physical ability declines. The pleasure is still there, only on a much smaller scale. There is always something more to learn,  and gardening provides that.

The method is simple:  Buy a packet or so of seeds, learn if each seed has any special requirements to germinate (cold treatment; nicking; soaking, don’t cover) then find something to plant the seeds in. It is better to use a sterile starting mix inside rather than regular soil to prevent  problems with  insect and what have you in that soil.  Put  a strong light about 2 inches above the seed containers. Keep the area warm, and the soil damp. Wait, between 4 to 28 days for little shoots to appear.

My indoor garden at two weeks of age – March 12, 2021

Leaf Lettuce on left side, and one row of cucumbers in cups on the right. The front cucumber was wilting,  and only needed watering for it to brighten up. That is what the bottom cups are for, to catch the drips or water the plant. The  cups are reverse colour co-ordinated cause I am using a different soil mix,  and want to see if it makes a difference in growth. Seed starter is for beginning seeds. I use a soil potting mix when I transplant.

Note the little thermometer on the left side. 30C. so the room is warm. I cover these shop lights at night to ensure darkness from a street light outside. The timer for the lights is set for 16 hours on; 8 hours off.  I will drop that in another week or so once to about 14 hours lights on as soon as all plants are growing well.  Germinating is a period when a lot of bright light is needed by the seedlings.

Once there are about four leaves on the plant, I begin fertilizing.  I am watering now about twice a week,  and will use a very weak fertilizing solution. Use a dissolvable fertilizer powder in water for these tender plants. Since I haven’t any fertilizer at the moment with a high middle number for phosphorus to push root growth, I’ll just use what I have (20-20-20), but I will reduce this as soon as I can. The first number, Nitrogen will really push leaf growth.  Then I’ll strengthen that solution of a more suitable fertilizer as the plants mature and begin to use up the nuturients in the soil.  I’ve turned on a fan very low in the distance to keep the air circulating,  to prevent the development of mould from the dampness.  The fan’s hum  blends sounds for easier sleeping.

Remember to raise the lights as the plant grows, keeping the same 2 or 3 inch distance between plant top and lights. Transplant the seedlings into a bigger pots when the plant roots nearly fill the container.  By then it should be warm enough outside and time to move all plants to their permanent location. Water in well.

Considerations

I just remembered that half the world is experiencing a different season than here in Canada. Whenever you have winter that is too cold for plant growth outside, enjoy growing plants inside instead. You can do it any time of the year, but spring is perhaps the most enjoyable.

Not much happens in the dark days of November and December here in this country. January and February are the hardest winter months in Canada, but the light starts to get better slowly and spring seeding begins in greenhouses.  March is a very busy time for indoor gardeners. Snow disappears and people are outside raking lawns and digging beds by the middle of April, although cold and wet is common. The soil gradually warms up and dries out and planting begins. I like to get cool crops in the ground as soon as the ground can be worked in April, such as peas, spinach, early lettuce.   But a late frost will wipe out plants such as tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, which have to be protected a bit longer.

Before starting seeds inside, I usually get a calendar and mark back the weeks on it from the date in which warm vegetable crops usually go into the ground in my area and frost has ended, the third weekend in May here in Zone 5.

Some plants take a lot longer to grow to maturity than others, like my geraniums,  which need 14-16 weeks  so I am a bit late getting them going on Feb 28th. But dwarf Marigolds only need about six weeks to germinate, grow and flower, so I will wait until April to start them.

Each plant has a natural maturity date, and knowing that gives us an idea when to begin the seed inside. That maturity date is usually marked on the front of a seed packet. How much growth do I want on the seedling before planting it outside? If I have to transplant it more than once, that make a lot of work. Do I have enough space and lights inside to support bigger plants? So the timing of when to germinate a seed is helped by a chart  for reference .Most plants are  started inside in March in this area, but are not mature when they are moved outside and into the garden in late May.

I am not referring to  farmers, who have to get started as soon as the ground can be worked because they have so much land to plant.

When it gets physically harder to bend down, have someone raise the gardening beds or pots  up to your waist level.  Get a  chair to sit on as you plant or weed. Always wear gloves when handling soil to prevent pin worms. Use this time to sit in the sunshine pouring in a window to prevent depression. Our bodies need sunlight as much as plants do.

The advanced gardener can add a lot of detail to this introduction, but there are plenty of U-tube videos and books to explain all that. Remember a few things when buying seeds. They may be too old to germinate or have gone dormant in the room temperature of a store. Check the package date to get fresh seed. Secondly, do you really want to start 100 seeds in a package?  Why not choose a packet with fewer seeds, currently about 45, or 13 in a packet of geraniums I just got.

Put all the packages of seeds you have purchased into a glass jar with tight lid, cause you want to block out moisture. Put the filled jar into the crisper at the bottom of your fridge and store them there as you study or get busy seeding. I’d check the temp there,  but the chill won’t hurt the seeds and may be the fresh stimulus they need to grow.

At this stage of life I am no longer starting flowering perennials, like Delphiniums, which I would have put in the freezer to break dormancy. The lettuce seed I bought in a strip, and just planted  exposed on top of very damp mix in an aluminum pan, and sprayed daily to keep moist.  They did well, and I have just transplanted them a few days ago.

I enjoyed watching a U-tube video of growing lettuce slips in large plastic cups, and alternating harvesting the leaves between the pots of fresh leaves for a salad.  Shall give it a try. Miss my chickens,  who used to enjoy handfuls of greens from long rows of lettuce, spinach. and swiss chard during the summer.

Leaf Lettuce at two weeks of age – March 12, 2021

I like to test germination by putting a few seeds of a packet in damp paper towels, then roll them up and put in a labelled, plastic bag. Keep warm and keep checking after a few days to see the seed response. Most seeds I usually soak for 24 hours before planting, but it isn’t necessary. Simply lift  the white germinated seed carefully from the paper towel,  plant and water it.

Developments

I need a planter box for my deck in which to grow lettuce,  green onion sets  for fresh salads all summer long. Two big pots will handle the cucumbers and tomatoes and two urns will be flowers. I am not a fan of vinyl siding on anything, and pricing is over $200 in major local stores for a planter box. In the old days, I would probably have just made one, but I gave away my skill saw and most tools, and am dependant on the market. Vesey Seeds in PEI have a nice one in a wheelbarrow shape with wheels, but a bit small.  Wheels can be a real  help in moving things for anyone whose strength is failing.

Aging seniors  think about weight of everything when buying, and the distance you have to walk to get to and from the aisle of interest. I wish stores would put benches around their stores for us to rest on. We would shop longer,  if they did. I used an electric shopping cart in my recent trip to get more gardening supplies and glad it was fully charged.

I love parsley not only to clip all summer long for the kitchen, but because it makes such a lovely, neat, edging plant.  I prefer the curly version.

I’ll buy a mature tomato plant at the garden centre in May. I only need one plant now. It was started long before March.  It should already be well staked.

I did decide to start cucumber seeds and will need a tower for them to grow on. I just learned there are  all female flowering cucumbers  that climb upwards,  than other varieties that sprawl. I do not like Straight Eight cucumbers because they become bitter too easily. Since I don’t pickle,  or can (preserve) anything anymore,  I looked for  slicing-type cucumber seeds with the shortest maturity date on the package. Maturity means cucumbers ready to eat.

Supplies

I kept two, four-foot shop lights I can use for gardening. They each have their own power chord that I plugged into a new, outdoor timer in a power chord. The timer has two, three-prong slots. Really nice,  instead of using two timers.

The expensive Grow Lights died awhile back, so I have alternating blue and pink florescent tubes, that seem to work well. It may not be the best system, but was certainly far cheaper. On a pension I have to think about that now. I  lost my wooden blocks I had used with the lights, so I simply took some books or videos to put under the shop lights and the plant trays to raise or lower the distance between light and top of plants, as needed. Never hurts them.

Whatever works and is at hand,  cause I rarely go out to the stores now, and often order online to have things delivered to my door. I  thought I was done gardening.  First time I have ever gardened on top of my  fireplace mantel in front of a street-facing window,  but that ensures my plants get lots of light. A simple lamp might work over a plant, but be very careful of the type of bulb used, cause the heat could kill the plant,  or start a fire. You can buy a grow light for a single lamp.

You don’t have to have shop lights. There are better lights now available. But growing transplants on a window sill without supplemental lighting will tend to make plants spindly, as they stretch the stems to reach the limited light. You can still do this of course, as I have myself over the years but you will have greater success in plant growing if you provide a lot of extra light.  Get to know which plants prefer less light naturally, and you will have greater success in your gardening.

Also remember your directions. South windows are naturally brighter and plants here will do better than on north window sills which are darker. Similarly east windows get more morning sun than west ones do, who get the afternoon light that is fading. I’m watching the shade pattern on my new deck, to know where to put my table and chair and the plants. Will I need a canopy?  I prefer to sit in shade and there isn’t any in the evenings since my deck faces west.

Some plants are very finicky about being transplanted, so have some peat pots for them so you don’t disturb the roots when moving the plant to a bigger pot.

Even if you are lying in a bed helpless,   someone can bring in a pot of bulbs just emerging from the soil, and you can enjoy watching the plant grow and bloom. Do you know someone who would be encouraged if you did that?  It is a choice every day to enjoy life, or not. We only have this moment, so let’s enjoy it and quit worrying about dying. Life is to be lived and enjoyed. It is attitude and choice,  wherever you are, whatever age.  I had to give myself a hard talk like this, and one day I decided to garden again, and I am better for it.

Geranium seedlings at two weeks of age – March 12, 2021

I used the largest peat pots for the cucumbers who have been transplanted into big red, plastic cups one buys for picnics. How many years did I use white, styrofoam cups for many seedlings transplants. It is very important to punch holes in the bottom of these containers, so water  drains freely.  What haven’t I tried over the years. Got a little tray from the Dollar Store for these bigger peat pellets, which I have not used before.  I used the smaller size for the parsley seed.  I had two boxes of pellets and wanted to use them up.

So that’s it for this session.  I may blog again in a few days. Took photos of my seedlings and will do this from time to time to record the growth of the seedlings I am starting. I enjoy keeping a  record of things. I make charts to alert me when to expect certain things to happen or things I need to do. I record all stages of growth, and the flowering schedule all summer long.

The parsley seed still under the lights hasn’t germinated in 14 days,  while all the other plants are leaping up in good growth. I have three   geranium seeds  which also have not yet woken up. I had to lift the parsley seed tray high up on blocks to be close to the lights,  which I had  raised  above the lusher growth of lettuce and cucumber.

Flip this upside down and its a great seat. Glad I kept mine. If it is too hard, just put a pillow on top to soften it.

Was I happy this morning when I uncovered my urns on the deck and found  little daffodils tips in sight coming up through the soil. I had planted these pots last fall not sure if they could handle the thaw/freeze that might occur, but looks like some made it.  Spring. It’s coming!

SESSION TWO: 

Now that my indoor garden plants are doing well, I need to review how to raise these crops.

How To Grow Parsley

This is an easy plant to grow. Once mature, you can snip it any time, but leave the inner core and a few leaves, so it will spring back in a few weeks  so you can do it again. Have several of these plants for snipping in between times. The entire plant is edible. The seed of this plant is coriander. Once this plant does set seed, it begins to die. You can grow parsley all year round. Extend the life of a plant by cutting off  the seed stems when they start to grow.

I didn’t use boiling water over the seed when it was planted, nor a heat mat under the seed tray to speed germinate, so it wasn’t until the third week that the little plant appeared. Half are up now. 21 days germination normal.

Do not plant parsley near alliums,  onions especially, and also not near lettuce, because parsley may cause it to bolt early. I moved the lettuce and parsley plants apart on the growing shelf under lights to keep them separated, not that I noticed any negative reactions just yet.  So many things are invisible in the plant world.

How to Grow Geraniums

There are two types of geraniums, annual and perennial and most like to grow in full sun. I have loved perennial blue Cranesbill geranium in my flower beds for years. This year I am starting  annual  zonal geraniums,  Bottom heat  helped speed germination, and all but three of the plants are up and growing slowly within a week and a half.  They do need a long growing period to get big, which is why I started mine in February. Whatever am I going to do with 10 plants in my little apartment, when I only need two for my deck? Give some away of course.

Growing Cucumbers

I must confess I have only grown cucumbers in my vegetable gardens, where they could either sprawl as they wanted to, or climb up a portable fence depending on the year.  I did learn to keep picking cucumbers away from slicing types,  but this growing season I will see how well I can train the shoots to go upwards on some form of strong support.  The roots are shooting out the bottom of the red cups, so I am already wondering what to put the plants in before the final transplant into a big pot out on the deck. Or should I let the plants sprawl down the sides of the pot? I had thought of training them along the top railing on my deck. Maybe I will try both ways.

What is new?  I read I should plant the cucumber seed on its side for germination. Haven’t done that before. I did wonder why one plant had a deformed leaf in its first growth. From somewhere I learned it may have been caused by soil too dry as it sprouted. That is a surprise cause the peat pot had been watered thoroughly before planting and the other two seeds came up fine. All other leaves except that one have grown fine and fully formed. But I cannot see inside that peat pot, which may have dried out faster than the surface revealed. The cucumbers are leaping in growth and I need to transplant them. It is Day 22 since they were started. They will produce fruit within two months.

Will I get pollination by bees this year as I am up off the ground? Or will I have to  hand pollinate? Shall have to watch for that when flowers appear on the plant. I take a little paint brush and brush the inside of each flower,  passing back and forth to distribute the pollen.

How to Grow Lettuce

Lettuce is easy to grow, but I’ve tried germinating it in the vegetable garden covering the seed with a bit of soil with success, and uncovered indoor under lights, just keeping the seed damp. It responds best to exposure to light, in my opinion.  There are many varieties, either mainly loose leaves or tightly bound heads. Lettuce grows in both sun and light shade, and does well intercropped with other plants.

I am growing more and more concerned about pesticides, cause several times over the last two years, lettuce was one of the crops  here in Canada that was added to a danger list for Romaine types. It  somehow got sammonella and was withdrawn from grocery shelves. I even asked Walmart employee one time about the situation, when the store had lettuce for sale while still under warning. “It’s quite safe, ” I was told, but didn’t trust the response.

So growing my own crop helps me feel safer. But do I really understand how lettuce can be contaminated? No I don’t. I figure it must be the soil,  or the water used. But if you buy packaged soil, isn’t it okay?  Water in city taps is full of fluoride to prevent bacteria growth. But I don’t want to drink all that chemical or pour it on my plants. So I put out a jug of tap water on a sunny window sill and the sun will kill the fluoride in 24 hours, from what I have read. Most of us like our water cold to drink, so that jug can go in the fridge and I’ll have another one in its place.  Just trying something to do until I get a better set up with drinking water. Hauling home heavy jugs of water simply won’t work now.

Day 24, March 20, 2021

PLANTING GREEN BEANS

I just planted green bean seeds in the three peat pots that did not germinate geraniums.  Didn’t soak them, and the seed is a  year old, so I put two seeds in each unit. Beans are prolific, so I’ll see if I’m going to enjoy fresh beans all summer long on my deck this year.  Hadn’t planned to do this, but didn’t want to waste those lovely peat pots. The biggest ones. These are bush beans, not the vine type. Now, I know this is way too early to do this cause they don’t need that long to grow fairly big and need to be transplanted. It will all work out.

I have seven parsley plants growing slowly now. Only about half germinated so that probably means it must have either been  old or dead seed, because I had planted twice in those same peat pots. At least I have some.  Gave them some light fertilizer with a spray and did the geraniums as well. That nutrition will be absorbed rapidly through the leaves.

The leaf lettuce and cucumbers are leaping up and I keep raising the lights over them and watering about every third day.  Wish I could plant them out permanently, but need more potting soil for the big pot I plan for them. The garden centres will open by the end of the month so I can get some supplies.