Friday, April 19, 2019

Before the Rain Set In...


They say April showers bring May flowers & we are certainly getting our fair share of rain.  We did have a few good days this past week, however, and I was busy getting the garden ready for planting.

Raindrops on spruce trees...

The task that was at the top of the list last week was spreading compost on all the beds.  Since I get compost in bulk using a utility trailer, it's a job that's dependent on the weather, as is the task of getting it from the trailer onto our beds.  Thankfully, I was able to finish up yesterday before the rains started.

Other than plant specific soil amendments such as manure,
the beds are all ready to go...

I still have about a quarter of a trailer full of compost left which is destined for the asparagus beds & fruit trees, but that will have to wait until the rain lets up.  In the meantime, the trailer has traded places with my car so it's safely in the garage waiting until our next dry day.

I also made a start of one of the beds in the front garden.  Last year we had our front walkway redone and I’m now on a mission to finally deal with a long 43’ x 6.5’ shady bed that runs between it and the house.  The beds in front of the house, especially this one, are littered with inherited invasives.  Since this area doesn’t get much direct sunlight (many sections don't get any at all), I’m thinking the previous owners tried to plant it up with readily available perennials and shrubs that are known to handle full shade.

The bed that I’m tackling first is overrun with periwinkle & ribbon grass.  On the surface, both of these look quite pretty, what with ribbon grasses variegated blades and periwinkles glossy evergreen leaves and pretty blue flowers.  Those unassuming vines & grasses, however, quickly take over an area & are a right pain to remove.  I can't believe that I still see periwinkle at some garden centres even though it's specifically listed as an invasive in Ontario.

This is one of those embarassing "before" photos taken back in 2013.
You can see the ribbon grass together with a carpet of periwinkle
(and a very weedy bed on the other side of the path - yikes!)

Although I’ve made a bit of headway over the years by pulling & digging, this time round I’m taking the more aggressive approach & covering the area with black plastic & mulch.  Around the cedar trees, I’ve used thick cardboard so that they benefit from any rainfall that we get.  Next spring I will remove the plastic & hopefully have a clean bed that I can start to plant up (aka the fun part!).

Moving from outside to inside, there is a lot of promise for the coming season under the grow lights.

The peppers were started late this year and are still rather small but they will bulk up quickly once I repot them (on the schedule for tomorrow), so I’m not worried:

This year, I'm growing 8 varieties of peppers (all sweet)....

The tomatoes are on their way too but it will be at least a week or two until they get potted up.

and 13 varieties of tomatoes.

I also have a few greens under the lights including kale and broccoli.  This year, I decided to only use seed that I already had in my stash and, unfortunately, that meant that my tried & true Arcadia broccoli is off the table as I had run out of seed.  I’m planting Aspabroc in its place, which is ok as I actually LOVED this variety last year – it was so sweet!

Aspabroc became a favourite last year - it was so delicious!

I’ll also be trying a variety that I’ve had in my seed box for a few years now but just never got around to sowing as it's specifically recommended only as a fall crop (and therefore sown in the summer):  Calabrese.

It’s a rare year, however, when the odd seed-starting issue doesn’t arise, especially when trying new varieties or some seed packets are a little bit older than they should be.  I’ve started 6 varieties of lettuce, but 4 of them are having sporadic germination....or are they?  When I went down to check on them today, some of the empty cells had tiny seedlings coming up.

Black Seeded Simpson and Freckles are two of the four lettuce varieties
that are especially slow to get going this year.

Each of the cells has plenty of extras, so I'll still have enough to fill up the bed even if some varieties do come up short.

I've also had in issue with a couple of ornamentals where germination was barely 50%.

It's my first time growing Honeywort (Cerinthe major) & the seeds are large and hard as a rock.
I did soak them for a few hours before sowing, but that may not be enough to crack this particular nut 😉

But the zinnias had almost 100% germination - not bad for an entire flat with 12 different varieties!

We are in for lots and lots of zinnias this year!

This coming week, some more indoor sowing is on the books (sunflowers, melons, cucumbers) plus I’ll hopefully be doing the first round of direct sowing in the garden (arugula, mache, radishes, peas).  This winter seemed particularly long and it's wonderful to finally feel as if spring is here...now if only the rain would stop!

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

20 comments:

  1. A deadline can really help expedite work on a "to-do" list. You did a LOT! Periwinkle is considered invasive here too, yet still sold in the local garden centers, along with Stipa tenuissima and other questionable plants. Our rain is over. We're unlikely to see any more until October or November so here I'm in a race to get my summer plants started before it gets too hot. Unfortunately, cooler weather slowed down the spring blooms so the assembly line for my cutting garden is already backed up. I wish I had your space!

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    1. It amazes me when I see plants that are listed as invasive for sale at garden centres - when you're in the industry, I would expect you to be at least as knowledgeable as us mere consumers (and hopefully much more so - people go to garden centres not only for plants but advice!). In the past few years, I've been quite frustrated by the weather, especially the transition between winter and summer (aka spring!). It's duration seems to be narrowing with fewer days of good gardening weather - or maybe it's just me and my huge laundry list of spring tasks that I can never seem to get through before we hit 30+ (80's) degree weather.

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  2. Periwinkle is a menace! It's in a part of my garden that only gets whatever water winter rains provide and then total drought the rest of the year. Six or more months of zero water does not do it in. It comes back every winter. I yank it out and dig it up and it keeps coming back. It certainly is amazing stuff, surviving your freezing winters and my totally dry summers, I'm not sure that even going nuclear (aka Roundup) would get rid of it.

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    1. Periwinkle is definitely a menace! The only saving grace around here is that it's in a confined space & cut off from the main garden. I considered doing the entire bed with cardboard but, as you say, it's a thug (but I have to say that the ribbon grass is even worse, so imagine that!!) and I decided that depriving it both of sunlight and moisture would have a better chance of finally quashing it. I guess we'll see next year!

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  3. It’s so dry here, we haven’t had any decent rain for ages. Strange that the cerinthe is reluctant to germinate. They self sow like weeds on the allotment and in my sister’s garden.

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    1. You know how it goes - you plant something and it languishes while nature's self-sown plants flourish :) Fingers crossed you get a bit of rain soon!

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  4. I've been wondering what to do about the periwinkle in my garden, Margaret. (I didn't plant it.) It has taken over one bed in particular. I am going to try your suggestion of black plastic and mulch. Let me know how you make out with it. P. x

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    1. Will do, Pam - I've done this in a couple of other areas it has worked well, so I'm optimistic :)

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  5. Hi Margaret .. you are so much more organized than I am (I had a bit of a hiccup with some surgery .. so the garden fell behind) .. I need good compost to feed my babies with .. number one on my to do list for sure !
    Thankfully the only thug I have right now is a Tiger Eye sumac which will have to give up the ghost for it's space .. I want something more .. hum .. eye catching ? where it is .. I still have no idea what else has bitten the dust .. you know how long some plants are to show they are alive after such a long dragged out winter .. I should know by now to have a lot more patience but I am still like a kid playing in the garden ? LOL
    Yours looks wonderful !! KUDOS !!!

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    1. Oh, thank you Joy. In the spring it's SO hard to be patient! The plant I'm most anxious to find out about this year is the Austin Rose I planted last spring. I piled on mulch in the fall and have my fingers crossed I like what I see when I remove it!

      I hope you are doing ok after your surgery. I've had a few unexpected injuries over the past couple of months that slowed me down and a couple of days ago, I sprained my wrist somehow. The timing is just so wrong, especially with the promising forecast for this coming week :(

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  6. Everything is coming along so nicely. I don't do much inside sowing anymore as don't have the set up space but none this year with my broken arm. I did plant a few things outdoors and quite a few are up. Happy Gardening! Nancy

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    1. Oh no - I'm so sorry to hear about your arm! Sending some healing thoughts your way, Nancy.

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  7. I bet your zinnias will be pretty, and it sounds like you will have lots of them! I'm trying Aspabroc for the first time and it's good to hear you liked it.

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    1. The taste really surprised me - it was outstanding!

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  8. It seems to me you are doing well, although sorry to read you hurt your wrist … hope it's all ok now.

    We've had some wonderful weather recently here in the UK but the weather forecasters are now talking rain! We'll have to see.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Oh, thank you Jan :) My wrist is a bit better than it was yesterday, but I'm wearing a tensor bandage as it's not 100% yet. Hope that your rain is short lived - just enough to get the garden really going, but not keep you inside for an extended period :)

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  9. I hope you've had some more dry days so that you've been able to finish off spreading the compost, I know how good it feels to get a full task crossed off the list. I can't remember the last rain we had, it's been so hot and dry here over Easter but there's rain forecast for the next few days so I'm waiting to see if it materialises. I just wanted to thank you for the lovely comment you left on my last post about the death of my mum, it was very much appreciated and helped so much to know that people were thinking of me at this difficult time xx

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    1. I was able to finish spreading the compost and am taking advantage of any good weather we get to make a start on other tasks. Todays afternoon rain will come in handy, actually, as I seeded some grass in a few areas that were damaged last year when we did our walkway & not having to water it every day is a bonus. So long as I can get out there for an hour or two each day and make a bit of headway on the laundry list of spring tasks, I'm good with that.

      P.S. Even though we've never met, I feel as if we are good friends and your loss brought tears to my eyes. Sending you a big, virtual hug XO

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  10. That's a lot of peppers and tomatoes. My Zinnias also germinated really well.

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    1. The hard part will be thinning those that have a couple of seedlings in a cell - still undecided as to whether I will do that or not (or perhaps I'll do a mini-experiment to see if it makes a difference)!

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