Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Love Tomatoes

Did you know?

It is a proven fact that tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in gardens across North America with hundreds of varieties on the market.
The tomato has come a long way to reach today’s height of popularity. Originating in South America, the tomato was classified into the Solanaceae family, which includes the belladonna and deadly nightshade, when introduced into Europe. In the 16th century, botanists described the fruit as inviting as a peach but unfit for human consumption.

Today, tomatoes are found everywhere from ketchup, salsas, sauces, or fresh in salads or sandwiches. Not only great tasting and versatile, studies are now showing many health benefits, namely the antioxidant, Lycopene which is primarily found in tomatoes and tomato products. Lycopene has been shown to help counteract the harmful effects of substances called "free radicals" which are thought to contribute to many chronic diseases and age related processes in the body.

Tomatoes are very easy to grow. In order to produce fruit before the end of the summer season, they need to be started indoors around the middle of April and then set out when the danger of frost is past, however like myself I start them in February so I have them extra early.  Nothing tastes better then a fresh tomato from the garden.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Starting Annuals

Yep, its that time of year again.  It's time to start the seedling.  Most annuals can be started in March or April for our summer gardens like one of my favorites, marigolds.                                                
However, some need to started in January and February if you want them to bloom this summer.  Most usually bloom within 6-12 weeks, hence sowing them in March and April and can be sown out in the garden hopefully with fingers crossed by the end of May in these parts of the great North.
Not all annuals are actually true annuals.  Some are tropical perennials that we treat as annuals.  Spring bulbs act the same way like my favorite dahlia.  It is a zone 8-10 and would no way life here without lifting them in the fall.
Some do not always want to bloom the first year, so to insure that they do you need to start them in January or February to give them at least a 5 month heads up on bloom time.
There is also quite a few factors involved in starting our seedling and the major one being light.  Sometimes mother nature is not always there for you this time of year so we rely on grow lights.  Fluorescent lighting will also do fine providing they are cool white.  They need to be set about 6" above the seed trays and moved up as the seedling begin to grow.  Using a timer is also a great way to ensure they are getting the needed light.
So what are one of those annuals you ask.  Begonias.  One of the most popular begonias now is the Tuberous Begonia.  The Nonstop Series of multiflora begonias are smaller but have numerous blooms and are quite expensive if bought at your local nursery.  However, the seed is not cheap either, but spending $15-$20 in seed can give you hundreds of dollars of annuals if you were to buy them.  Your gardens will be exploding with massive planting.
They are rather slow at starting and putting them in the pots is rather a challenge too.  The seed is so tiny, you can barely see them with the naked eye.  These gems need to be started in January.  They grow best on the surface and them covered with a plastic dome in a well lit spot at about 24-26 degrees celeius.  Becareful though, they start producing tubers then go dormant if they do not get up to 15 hours of light.  So after all that you should see green in around 20-25 days.
They like to be warm and well lit and only need watering if the soil is getting dry.  After your have reached germination leave the dome on as they like and need the extra humidity. Within a month of germination you can start to see the leaves and this is when it is time for their first transplant.
It is suggested to put a dome over them again for about a week.  Fertilizing is recommended with a half strength all purpose soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.
Soon they will need a second transplant and using a 4" pot is best.  Once again water only when the soil is dry.  Overwatering will most likely rot them.  In late May they can start to be hardened off and by June they can be planted out in the garden in partial shade in hot summer areas or full sun in cool areas.  Enjoy them for the rest of the summer.  It will be well worth it. 
Another begonia is the wax begonia.  They are a little faster and  a little less complicated to grow then the tuberous but equally as small and fragile in the beginning.  They can be started in February but prefer longer days of light, up to 18 hours and can be grown a little cooler at 15-18 degrees celeius once they are up.  Since they are a smaller plant, transplanting them into a 3" pot is sufficient.
Here are a few other annual that should have a earlier start. 
Zonal and Ivy Geraniums
Annual Penstemon
Flowering Maple
Madagascar Perwinkle

Happy Gardening

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  I am excited for the 2011 year as 2010 did not end so well with  a death in the family days before Christmas.  It sure can drag the Christmas spirit down but yet you hold strong for your young family as they do not realize what has really happened.  So today as I was going through so pictures I thought it would be nice to recap some of the past year.   

Long pasted are the days of these. Ahhh, spring.  The glorious meadow of trillums, otherwise known in these parts as the Mayflower.  I can already smell their aroma.

And the birth of nature....Killdeer eggs. These beauties were actually in the same field as our 400 cows and were never ever stepped on.  They are simply stunning.  Mom always tried to get me to turn the other way but faking a broken wing.  Amazing how nature takes care of itself.

This is my favorite picture of summer 2010.  Our three beautiful children playing at our beach.  They always play till the sun goes down.

Tiger lilies standing tall. They are special to me since they come from my grandmothers gardens years ago.  A little piece of her proud in the garden.

Fall, my favorite season however spring is just on its tail.  Just some of the 200+ acres of corn to be harvested. 

Natures beauty.  The maple bush.

Sure don't blame this dahlia for not opening.  I wouldn't either if I had a cap on my head like that.  Burrr....

I hope you enjoyed my little recap of the year gone by. 



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 Things About Snow

1. Lots of snow is good - seriously! Good snow cover is important for the winter survival of hardy perennials because it keeps the ground temperature stable. Uncovered ground is subject to rapid fluctuations, known as the freeze-thaw cycle. Freezing and thawing of the ground shifts the soil, which can heave plant roots up out of the ground. Unseasonably mild temperatures can fool a plant into budding; when the temperature turns seasonably freezing again, the tender parts get "nipped in the bud", which can affect the development of the plant or even kill it.

2. Every snowflake is symmetrical. When you examine individual flakes, some will be unsymmetrical, but this is because they have been damaged. Scientists are not certain why the crystals form symmetrically, though there are theories about surface tension and microcosmic fluctuations in temperature. (Huh?)

3. What to do with burlap. Covers and tents for evergreens in winter are not meant to keep them warm but to protect them from sun scald and the drying effects of the wind. The trees still need plenty of air circulation, so it is recommended that you not wrap your evergreens but build a frame around them to make a little tent that does not touch the branches.

4. Big snow. Snow takes up eight times as much space as liquid water. Try it for yourself: if you put eight inches of snow in a straight-sided glass and take it inside, you should have roughly one inch of water when it melts.

5. Plant 'em if you got 'em. Snow doesn't necessarily stop you from planting bulbs, if the ground isn't frozen. If you can dig a hole in the earth, you can put a plant in it, even with the snow flying around you. The same is true with bulbs. Planting season isn't over until the ground is frozen solid. (As a procrastinator, I know this from experience!)

6. Watermelon snow. Some snow is pink and smells like watermelon, but not around here. Watermelon snow is most commonly found in the high-altitude Sierra Nevada of California, where snow is present through the long days of summer. The colour comes from a kind of algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis. It's a cold-loving alga that contains bright red carotenoid pigment. The phenomenon of watermelon snow, which turns to deep blood red when compacted, was reported as far back as the writings of Aristotle.

7. Frost flowers are beautiful, ephemeral flowers made of ice. A gorgeous phenomenon in wetlands, frost flowers are the result of ribbons or hairs of ice extruded through plant stems. It happens when the sap in the stem of certain flowers freezes; high water content causes the sap to expand and squish out through thin cracks in the stem. They're very delicate, and they'll break if touched. To catch sight of them, you must find them at dawn before the sun melts them away.

8. Frost is not bad for every harvest. Some wine growers love frost and snow. Some of the finest, most world-renown wines in Canada are harvested well after the first frost; ice wines require grapes which have spent two nights at -8 degrees Celsius. And those super strong dessert wines go for well upwards of $40 per 375-millilitre bottle. On the other hand, if you're a vintner not into ice wine, a good freeze before harvest will be disastrous.

9. Where did the snow go? Even if temperatures remain stable, snow does not. If it only snowed once but the temperature remained below freezing, the snow would disappear over time owing to a process called sublimation. Sublimation, essentially, is the phenomenon where a solid (the snow) changes to a gas (water vapour) without passing through a liquid state. For deeper explanation than that, you'll have to consult a chemist!

10. Pukak snow. You may have heard that First Nations languages include a great number of words for snow. One of those words is pukak, and it describes the layer of deep snow next to the ground. This layer, though it starts as an even mass, breaks down as heat rises from the earth inducing the snow to form into ice crystals, forming air pockets. Small rodents break through the walls of these air pockets and create a system of tunnels they use to get around.

**Note - When shovelling your walkways it is a good to pile snow onto the base of trees or your shrubs and perennials, keeping the roots covered. If a salt or ice melter has been used, push the piles away from trees and shrubs' dripline area as this could poison them when it is spring and the thaw is on.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

10 Things About Dormancy

1. Why go to sleep? In dormancy, metabolism virtually comes to a standstill to conserve energy. Dormancy is triggered by environmental changes, such as decreasing temperatures, but living things are also affected by light. In plants, dormancy can also be triggered by drought and heat, such as when lawn grasses turn brown in midsummer.

2. Hibernation. Plants aren't the only living things to utilize dormancy. Animals hibernate, decreasing heart rates by as much as 95%. Hibernating animals prepare for this state by building up reserves of fat to provide them with the fuel needed to get through the winter. (Is that why many humans gain weight before Christmas?)

3 . Diapause. Certain animals, such as roe deer (native to Britain) and marsupials, and some insects enter a state called Diapause. For higher animals, this results in a delay in the attachment of the embryo to the uterine lining, ensuring offspring are born in spring. Insects that enter this state simply suspend their development and growth.

4. Aestivation is almost the same as hibernation, but has opposite causes. Aestivation results from exposure to very hot or very dry conditions. Garden slugs, snails and worms are subject to this type of dormancy.

5. Brumation is similar to hibernation but it happens with reptiles, which can go months without food. They can stay in brumation for as long as eight months. They will occasionally "awake" long enough to get a drink of water, but they do not eat in this state. Brumation can be triggered by cold and reduction of sunlight.

6. Viruses can also go dormant, remaining quiescent in the cells of the human body for long periods. An example of this would be the V aricella zoster virus which cause chickenpox, then sleeps for years until it awakens as shingles ( Herpes zoster). Bacteria can also go dormant.

7. How do they know? Some plants have a kind of biological clock to alert them about when to take a rest. Houseplants, for example, often stop growing when the days get shorter, even though the temperature never varies. You should stop watering as much now and avoid fertilizing.

8. Seeds can also go dormant. When a ripe seed is given all the right conditions but fails to germinate, it is considered dormant, not dead. A 1,300 year old lotus seed was germinated after recovery from a dry lakebed in Northern China. Do you still believe in the end of the world?

9. Deciduous trees and shrubs, as you know, also go dormant, losing their leaves and halting photosynthesis. But they do still need some water in the soil to survive, so be sure to water in late October or when the tree has lost all its leaves. These trees store food reserves of sugars n their roots. (Cold-hardy deciduous trees will not survive indoors in winter, so bonsai growers let them go dormant before storing them in a cool place for the season.)
10. Evergreen trees. Evergreens don't go completely dormant in winter by they slow right down, retaining some moisture in their needles which are protected from desiccation by a waxy coating. They continue to photosynthesise at a reduced rate (which is why their leaves look grey or black as the temperature drops). Help them out by keeping late winter sun glare from drying out their needles. Build a sunscreen (but don't let the burlap touch the needles because it acts like a wick, drawing water away from the tree). You can even simply rough up the snow in front of your evergreen on a south facing lot to deter the drying effects of the sun's reflection off the snow.