Some jobs you plan to do and some jobs are thrust upon you; usually not at the most convenient time. The pile of stones in the picture was once a low wall between two areas of my garden. I noticed it starting to lean last year and added its repair to my list of non-urgent jobs. It apparently took exception to my assigning it to the ‘non-urgent’ list and decided to reassign itself. This is where I try not to remind myself that I built it too quickly in the first place. I should have taken the time to dig out a small footing for it and fill it with compacted gravel. I was in a hurry when I did it and just levelled a bit of gravel under the bottom row of bricks. The pressure from the upper soil has managed to tilt the unsecured bricks forward and now I, of course, have a much bigger job removing the tilting wall and rebuilding it properly. Who was it who said,”Any job worth doing is worth doing well!” and why didn’t I listen to them?
Those of you who have been with me for a while will understand my increasing joy these days as my tall bearded Iris start blooming. Not that I’m obsessive about them! Each morning as I take my wander around the garden I discover another variety in bloom and as I bend to enjoy the scent I decide again that this one is my new favourite. I have a few new varieties, surprise, surprise, and they are going to bloom for the first time this year; creating much excitement in this Iris lovers heart. The lack of Iris Borer last year, thanks to the nematodes have made the plants very sturdy and floriferous this year. Maybe when I rebuild that wall I can make room for a few more new varieties this year.
Here it is the second of June and, despite the wall, I’m sitting indoors feeling a bit smug. My Tomatoes and Peppers and Eggplant and a variety of different Zinnias are still sitting in my nicely heated cold frame and the temperature outside is low enough that the furnace in the house is running. Don’t be in a rush to get warm weather crops into the garden has always been my best excuse for spring procrastination and many years the weather actually vindicates me. It was all of 11̊C yesterday afternoon when I was trying to get that part of the garden ready to plant and it seems to be no warmer today. Shoving the roots of those plants into cold wet soil just shocks them and they will take some time to recover. Right now they are sitting on a lovely heated gravel bed and asking for water every day.
There are always amazing things that happen by absolute chance in any garden. I apparently was not that fastidious when harvesting my Shallots last year and left a few small ones in the ground. The bulbs divided and threw up some lovely fresh shoots this spring. Not only have they made interesting and very early green onions, but I took three of them to the flower show last week and got a ‘best in show’ for the vegetable section with last years leftovers. We all know what would have happened if I had actually planned to try and overwinter them.
Working through all the beds and cleaning them up this spring has given me a chance to really assess the several types of mulch that I tried last year. The results and my opinions are on the new mulch comparisons page. Some very interesting results, I think.
The rest of the part time houseplants moved outdoors this week and some like the Christmas Cactus enjoyed a good haircut. I simply don’t have room to let this monster keep growing every year, so I prune it to maintain it in a reasonable size and shape. Now it can develop lots of new growth and set its flower buds for next Christmas.
You have been with me all winter as I have been maintaining and propagating the new Bonfire Begonia and this week all of those new plants went into the garage wall planters. It’s already looking good after a few days of their settling in there. Couldn’t find these great plants at my usual garden centre this year and that’s where I purchased them as a new variety last year. They are one of those plants that does amazing things when brought home and planted but don’t look at that great in a 4" pot. The propagation that I did all winter was technically illegal because it is a patented variety but when I talked, (last fall at the Garden Writer’s symposium,) to the nursery that developed them they were not the least bit concerned that I was doing it only for my personal use. The fact that I was doing it to promote their product made then quite eager to help me.
The clouds are clearing, the temperature is sneaking up; I should go outside and at least contemplate that wall rebuild while I wait for the soil to get warm and dry. I can also start to set up my Tomato structure. I have had a roll of red plastic in the garage for a couple of years. This year I’m determined to try it out. Apparently if I plant the Tomatoes through holes in a strip of this, the yield increases noticeably. Have to give it a try.
My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.
Marg Asks?Hi Ken, I am curious about growing tomatoes in "hanging bags" I know they are popular in England and I did see an ad. for strawberry bags in the Lee Valley catalogue.
Ken Answers! I have never tried this technique but apparently it works. You need to use a relatively small fruited Tomato and be able to hang the bag in nearly full day sun. My reluctance to try it may be from the Assistant Gardener’s commentary how many weird things we already have growing around the patio and her counting of the number of Tomatoes in the garden. Give it a try and let us know how it worked.
Silvia asks? .Can I plant my pepper, eggplant and tomato seeds directly on my raised beds NOW? I'm doing square foot gardening in raised boxes that are 4ft x 6ft. I have about 12 boxes. I have seedlings but now realize I should have planted more several weeks back. Could I count on plants being up and smiley in 4 weeks time if I plant the seeds now? I have about 8 hours of sun exposure on the beds.
I also have rabbits (not by choice). They ate 3 pear trees and anything else they could chew in the last few years...Do you use floating row covers? How do you protect your greens? I'd love to see more pictures of your garden in its entirety :)
Ken Answers! Yes, you will get some Tomatoes and Peppers but it may not be until near the end of August with this late a start. The raised beds should help as they will have warmer soil in them. I have tried floating row covers a couple of times and discovered that while they helped keep the bugs off my tender plants they also allowed a wonderful crop of weed seeds to develop under them. I guess I grow enough greens, that my tiny rabbit population gets a few and I get the rest. Since you asked, here is the front garden near the height of bulb bloom.
Norma Asks? Enjoy your newsletter. I'm intrigued by your "Pillar of Peppers". What a great way to get them out of the cold soil & to save space. Could one insert a perforated drain pipe down the centre of the pillar to facilitate watering, perhaps stopping a foot from the bottom so as not to drown the lowest plants?
Ken Answers! I had to laugh when I read your question. That was how I originally built the ‘pillar of peppers’ and I remember very clearly filling that tube with water and then watching as the pressure from the water blew out the bottom of the pillar, spewing water and soil over a considerable distance. Learn from my mistakes. Just put a wire colander in the top of the soil and the water will filter down just fine.
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