Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bringing in Your Plants

Autumn is just around the corner! It's September now. The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler. It's time to bring the houseplants back inside.

Trays for the plants have always been a concern for me. I bring in a lot of geraniums and so forth from the garden and start many plants indoors early in the spring. This year I am going to use boot trays under the plants! It's an idea that just came to me while shopping at Home Depot today. I bought this one there. It's the only thing I could find that is big enough for this pot but it works perfectly. I can add other pots to the tray as well and use them in front of the patio doors too! I love the idea! It will solve a lt of problems for me.

I planted most of my plants directly into the garden in June this year, so will have those to dig up and plant into pots with fresh soil shortly. I will have to look carefully to make sure there are no earthworms, earwigs or other insects coming in with them.

I'm buying more boot trays today!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cannas from Seed

I have successfully grown canna lilies from seed for a few years now and am always on the lookout for more canna seed. I love cannas! They are so tropical looking and perfect for filling in holes anywhere! 

Dwarf Yellow
This past winter I started many different canna seeds that I received in a trade. The above pic is a few that I grew from those seed. Some turned out to be large flowering dwarf yellow ones, very nice! One tall peach, beautiful! Several tall with very small yellow flowers but large tropical leaves and, so far, one dwarf gold colour. I will put the ones with small flowers together in bare spots in the new large flowerbed at the front. The nicer ones will go into the courtyard, the pond and various pots. 

I have developed a technique that usually works well. Canna seeds have a coating that has to be opened to allow water to enter and germinate the seeds. This is not so easy to do. Many seeds need scarification (as this is called) but cannas are particularly difficult. The first year I tried several different methods but the only one that worked for me was using a rasp in the drill on high speed and holding the seed to it with a pair of needle nose pliers. This year I have a whet stone that I used with success. 

The seed only needs a very small and very shallow opening in the black coat to germinate. I don't want to harm the seed inside or it will not grow. After this step, I soak them overnight in warm water before planting. If done correctly, they will germinate in about 2-3 weeks in warm temps in potting soil indoors. Many that I have started in this manner in Jan-Feb have grown to bloom in the same season, even in Ontario, especially the dwarf varieties which don't need a long growing season. 

One Peach Canna
Growing cannas from seed is very rewarding! I like all the tender bulbs that go into cold storage for the winter. I can put them where I need them in the spring, filling in holes and covering dying daffodil leaves as they age. Dahlias are another favourite for the same reasons. 

This coming winter I want to grow more cannas. I would love to trade for canna seeds that are not yellow. I have only yellow cannas now. I would like some with red leaves and some with fancy striped leaves and some with large red flowers. If you have seeds from these varieties and would like to trade, please contact me. My seed list will be on my exchange page at Gardenweb, after I have had a chance to update it this fall.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pumpkins and Squash

These are the pumpkins we are growing this year! They are Halloween pumpkins but we are also growing some squash for eating.

These are our butternut squash plants, Growing fast and healthy with many blooms. Butternut squash makes great soup! We will revisit these squash when they are ready to eat in the fall with soup recipes.

These are our sweet dumpling squash plants. As the name implies, sweet dumpling squash is very sweet. They are tiny apple sized squash that are easy to fill and bake for one person. All of our squash plants are so green and healthy!

We are also growing some Hopi Black squash. It's an old rare heirloom once grown by the Hopi natives. It has a great sweet flavour and is darker with more beta carotene. It has a lovely flavour, a lot of meat and a smaller seed cavity, making it good for baking and making into pies.

We have one more type of squash growing in our garden. It's a cushaw or mixta variety, usually grown only in the deep south but we are trying it here. We only have the one plant but it's doing very well. It's large, green and healthy!

We will have all of these squash seeds for sale this winter! (Provided they produce fruit that matures and the seeds get saved properly, of course.)

We plan to sell the Halloween pumpkins in the fall and to roast the seeds. The squash seeds can also be roasted and eaten in the same manner.

We are growing these particular varieties because most of them do not cross with the others, being from different squash families (there are 4 families of squash). The seeds will be pure and we can use them to grow the same ones next year, except for the pumpkins and sweet dumpling squash. Both of these are of the c. pepo family and will be cross pollinating, so we won't be using those seeds for planting next year. We will just buy more seed next year for these varieties, if we wish to plant them again. 
You can also prevent them from crossing by using the tape method described here, "Preventing Cross Pollination".  It also describes simple hand pollinating which can be done to provide more squash. It's not necessary to use the tape if you are not concerned with keeping your own seed.

Squash can replace pumpkin in most recipes and many people like it better. We will post some great squash recipes when they are all ripe in the fall. 

In addition to the pumpkins and squash in our garden, we are also growing some heirloom tomatoes which you can see in some of the photos above. Unfortunately, these were planted a bit too close to the pumpkins...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Growing Grapes

I have learned a lot in the past year about grape culture. I read everything I could get my hands on about growing grapes as soon as we came here last summer and I have learned a lot more with experience this year.

The above is a picture of what our grapes look like now. It's about 500m of wine grapes growing on a fence in a straight line, more or less. Approximately 1/4 of them are dark purple, the rest are green. These are specifically for making wine and jelly, not for eating, as they have thick skins and seeds. The dark purple ones make fantastic grape jelly!

When we arrived here last summer the grapes were one big mess! 500m of a 10' x 10' ball, all the way down with many side shoots and lateral shoots from the ground and all over the trunks. It had been ignored all season and for who knows how long.

Grapes are pruned in the winter when they are completely dormant. This past February I cut them all back to just 2-3 large trunks each. That is all that a grape root can handle. You really only need one main trunk that divides into two horizontal pieces (called cordons) tied to a wire about waist high, but because single trunks sometimes die, it's safer to keep two or even three, growing if possible.

Early Spring Growth
The winter pruning also consist of leaving just two buds at each growth spot along the cordon. These will produce the next years long stems. The long stems are tied to the high wire as they reach it and trained to grow along it, above the grapes hanging from the waist high wire where the cordons are. Only the tendrils are tied to the wire. You can choke and damage that vine if you tie the main stem. I like to use tin ties for this because I can undo them and move them around as I check the grapes. 

It's important to plant your grapes on a fence going north and south. This way you can remove leaves to give them the morning sun fully but keep the west side shaded. 

The hot afternoon/evening sun will burn the grapes making them not as good for making wine and jelly. The grapes form near the buds on the cordon so they are shaded by the top vines and leaves growing on the above wire, (see pictures).

East Side of Grape Vines
Only two clusters of grapes are allowed to remain on each stem. More than that will make smaller grapes. I continually remove any others growing higher on the vine. Once the grapes form, I remove any leaves on the east side that grow to shade the grapes. 

All green growth below the waist high wire with the cordons growing on it will get rubbed off or cut off as the season progresses. Nothing should be growing below the grapes. In the spring and early summer this is almost a daily job.

Every morning in the spring, less in late summer, I walk along the grapes, removing low sprouts, removing leaves shading the grapes on the east, arranging the grape clusters to hang freely as they grow, pulling the few weeds too close to the grape trunks to be sprayed with weed killer. The new strong vinegar weed killer works very well! As the long clusters develop I will also remove the few grapes growing at the tip. This will encourage large grapes on the cluster and ensure that they all ripen at the same time. 

I love puttering along the grapes in the early morning. It's a quiet and stress relieving activity that I look forward to.