New Things To Come At Minerva’s Garden!

Hi everyone!  It’s been really busy here, but very soon I will be having Minerva’s Garden make the switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, which will make the site better.  Stay tuned for (hopefully) some blog beauty!

Now, what in the world is up with the weather?  (Can you say climate change–why yes, yes, I can.)  We haven’t had much cold weather, one day of snow in January.  (You know it’s warm here when the agapanthus hasn’t died back at all, and it isn’t even covered with plastic or anything–that’s a zone 9 plant!)  All of my fruit trees are breaking dormancy already, as are all the roses.  NONE of my bulbs are blooming yet, and normally by this time of year I have snowdrops, crocus and winter aconite in bloom, not to mention sarcococa shrub flowers.  The winter jasmine is loving the warm weather, as is the Chinese witch hazel, and they are blooming away.  All I am seeing is some bulb greenery coming up.

My greens under plastic were in fabulous shape and we were eating off them a fair amount until the snow.  I haven’t had a chance to even go out to look under the plastic in a while, but that will be a project for one of these upcoming sunny days, perhaps tomorrow or Saturday.  Hopefully all is well, and I suspect it will be, because the snow didn’t crush the hoops or plastic coverings. 

My baby lettuces, radicchio and basil are growing away under lights.  I may just keep them around, and if this weather keeps up, plant them out under the plastic (of course, not the basil–it’s way too cold for them to be outside, even covered.)

What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods?  Do you have any early bulbs in bloom yet?  Let me know down in the comments!

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Tuesday Garden Update

I’m super busy right now, and will be until the middle of September.  I will try to continue to add some brief posts as I can.

Here are a couple of flower pictures from the garden:

This is what I called my “Lone Wolf” sweet pea (remember Lenny “One Wolf” and Squiggy?).  It is blooming during 95+ degree weather–go figure.  There are some light lavender ones that bloomed after this photo was taken as well.  I love sweet peas–so very pretty and delicate flowers.

Just a pretty hydrangea growing on the side of the house.  I love to use them as cut flowers for a quick and easy arrangement during the summer months.  This was planted by previous owners prior to our moving in here, so I have no idea what the specific variety is, but I like it and it is hardy in PNW garden zone 8.

I have a lovely hibiscus ‘Sweet Caroline’ that I am anxiously waiting to bloom.  It has gigantic hot pink flowers, and is wonderful to see in the declining August beds, so I will try to remember to post a picture of it when it starts blooming.

As for the vegatable garden:  I have lots of green tomatoes, but no red ones yet.  I’ve picked about three little batches of ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans so far, and they are lovely and tender and prolific here.  Runner beans are starting to produce little bitty runner beans.  I had lettuce starts outside hardening off, and then this hot weather hit, so I took a few losses there–I need to plant them out when it cools off a bit later this week.  Corn is tasseling up nicely.  Potatoes are producing some of the first new potatoes of the season.  I could eat them all now at this stage, but am trying to be patient and wait for a bigger crop.  I have four nice green peppers–just waiting for them to ripen and turn red before I pick them.  Pumpkins are producing massive vines and several little baby pumpkins.  I have a squash that popped up out of nowhere on its own, and it will likely produce something that is not edible but will be great for autumn decorating, which is cool.  The late-season raspberries are putting out lots of green and pink berries–will be ready in a couple of weeks, maybe.   Lots of basil to use now, and dill is about ready to start using as well. 

The hummingbirds have been buzzing around the garden.  They like the liatris, verbena bonariensis, nasturtiums and petunias in my hanging baskets, an orange crocosmia now in bloom, the last few Lamb’s Ears flowers and other butterfly bushes that are blooming, plus the feeder that I put out for them.

How is your garden growing?  Leave me a comment–I’m always interested to hear how your gardens are doing!

Please visit Oregon Cottage Blog’s Tuesday Garden Party.

 


Garden Update and Troubleshooting Guide

I am in Southwest Washington State, gardening zone 8, and until recently the weather has been extremely cold for this time of year and damp.  Last week, it shot up to 99 degrees.  The plants actually loved all that warm weather, as did I, although I was out watering vegetable beds twice a day to keep them going in the heat.  Here is a little guided tour of the vegetable beds:

The Cukes:

Now, I know you’re being polite, but you’re probably thinking to yourself, “That bed looks mighty empty.”  And I would concur.  This is due to my having to replant this bed three times before anything would grow.  I did chitted cuke seeds, which worked very well last year, twice, and twice they all died but the one bigger one at the bottom of the photo.  I then decided that I should plant plain old seeds in the 90 degree weather we had last week.  I kept the bed watered, which you typically are not supposed to do with cuke chitted seeds, and four days later all these babies appeared!  So now I have all salad slicing cukes, because I ran out of pickling cuke seed in all the replants, and they are about 2-3 weeks later than they should be.  Such is life in my vegetable beds this year.  And did I mention that I am a Master Gardener and have been through all the training, and have about ten+ years of vegetable growing experience under my belt?  So don’t feel bad if you have problems sometimes in your garden–we all do at one time or another!  The trick is to think like a detective and try to figure out how to fix it or do it better or differently next time to get a different result, hopefully a better one.  Also, notice I still have hoops and plastic in place–I cover this bed every night it is below 60 degrees or until the plants outgrow the hoop area.  Cukes, eggplant and peppers require it to be 60 degrees at night before they will set fruit and the fruit will mature, so if Mother Nature does not provide that for the plants, you need to do it for them.  This is one big reason why people can’t get eggplant and peppers to mature around here–it’s too cold and we have a short growing season because it takes forever for the temperatures to warm up at night in the spring (and this year in the summer until about last week).  The only way I’ve been successful with eggplant and peppers is to cover them at night, and then they produce well.  Usually.

The Eggplant, Peppers and Green Onions: (Voted Most Likely To Succeed)

 

So this bed looks a bit better than the last one.  To my eye, the plants are on the small side for this time of year, and that is purely due to cold temperatures for the entire month of June.  Also, I cannot for the life of me get green onions to germinate from seed outside.  I followed all of Steve Solomon’s tips, to no avail.  So I tried some thing different to get a different result–I started some seed inside under light, and transplanted the little guys out when they were big enough–about 4-5 inches tall.  They are doing alright, but they too would prefer some warmer weather.  No flowers yet on the eggplant (and they are a gorgeous lavender color!), but the peppers have a few flowers and baby peppers on them.  Now you may notice some leaf damage to the pepper plant in the corner.  Here is more of a close up of the damage to the leaves on some of the bigger peppers:

You see those holes and part of the leaves chewed off?  That is slug damage.  How do I know?  Experience gardening here–slugs are notorious for this, and I saw a huge slug on the inside of the plastic when I uncovered this bed today.  Remedy:  Pick the slugs off when you see them and smash them to bits with a rock.  Not the violent type like I am when I see a slug?  You can also put out beer traps and Sluggo.  A good and cheap slug trap is to get a clean and empty cottage cheese carton or a yogurt carton with a lid.  Use an exacto knife to carefully cut slug-sized holes in the upper side of the container(go slow and be careful–easy to cut yourself doing this–don’t ask how I know), then fill it with beer (don’t use non-alcoholic beer–it won’t attract the little devils–alcoholics all–don’t ask how I know), and then put the lid on it.  Dig a little hole in the dirt so the holes in your container are level with the soil line, and put the container in the hole.  Come back in a couple of days, and there should be drowned slugs in the container, which you can empty in the trash and refill with beer and replace.  Hey, at least they die happy.

The Beans:

They look pretty good–about where they ought to be for this time of year and when I planted them.  I have both bush beans and runner beans. 

The runner beans produce red and lavender flowers that the hummingbirds love, so I planted these right next to our pergola so we could see some hummers up close, and then from the flowers come the beans.  It doesn’t look like much at the moment, but it will soon be covered with bean vines and flowers, and eventually, beans for dinner and freezing.  I put garden twine on the outer edges of the trellis to provide more room for the outer bean plants to grow up.  Here’s a close up or two:

I use what I have to hold those strings taut in the dirt–a heavy wire u-shaped garden staple, or even tent stakes.  Tie your string on, and then use a mallet to drive them into the dirt.  Easy.  The beans will climb up those strings–you might have to point them in the right direction to give them a little help at first.

The bush beans are next to the peppers, so guess what I noticed is going on up there?

In the bottom-left corner of the photo you will see the telltale holes and unevenly chewed edges on a few of the leaves indicating slug damage.  And now you know what to do about that.  However, you will also notice that most of the plants are clean and look great, so this is a relatively small issue.  C’est la vie.  I may just sprinkle a little Sluggo around the chomped plant and call it good.

The Corn and Pumpkins: (Voted Best Body)

Just had room for one little bed, but they are doing as well as can be expected due to the colder weather we’ve had.  I would like these plants to be bigger (kind of a recurring theme with me, you’ve probably noticed), but the good news is that they are pest and disease free, which is great–a success story!

They would be happier with more sun and warmer weather.  (So would I. )  I probably should cover these with plastic, but I took it off because we had company over, and the plastic was pretty ugly.  Perhaps an excuse to get some better looking plastic.  Is there such a thing?  I could also cover them with row covers, but they are quite expensive to buy so plastic it probably will be.

The Tomatoes: 

They loved the warm weather last week, and shot up!  Still, very few have flowers yet, no green tomatoes yet.  I have one tomatillo at the end that has some flowers–yay!

This is about half of our tomato crop this year.  I hope we have a “crop”–come on warm weather!

Okay, I have kept the worst for last.  That honor goes to . . . (drum roll, please):

The Salad Greens and The Potatoes: (Mustard Greens voted Miss Congeniality)

I have had so much trouble with the salad beds this year, beds that ordinarily are really super easy to grow.  First off, could not get any lettuce seeds whatsoever to germinate outside.  I finally am starting some seed inside under lights so that I can transplant it out.  Next, I have planted the mustard greens that will not die.  Seriously.  We had a warm winter, and I started a bed very early, on Feb. 2nd, of course covered with plastic.  We had salad greens to eat for dinner in four weeks!  Only thing was, all the the cold-tolerant seeds that I had planted, like spinach, beets, arugula, swiss chard, etc., all had been overtaken by the mustard greens.  So I think to myself, not a problem, quit your whining, at least you have salad from the garden in March!  So then I started another bed in March with a variety of seed types, and guess what?  All mustard greens again.  The problem continues, but to a lesser extent now that the weather has warmed up a bit, and I have clued in.  I think what was going on is that I used my own homemade compost on the beds, and my guess is that I had composed mustard greens that had gone to seed, and the seed did not die but remained viable over the winter, and then when I added fertilizer to the bed, they said “Yippie!” and shot up, smothering the other plants.  I have been trying to be more scrupulous about keeping the beds weeded, but as you can see, I have a lot of beds, and I am the only gardener in the family, so I do my best to keep up, but in all honesty I hate weeding (don’t tell the Master Gardeners–they’ll excommunicate me), and it sometimes finds its way to the bottom of my gardening to-do list.  But I do love salad, and so I have been trying to mend my wicked ways.

(Notice the gigantic mustard green leering at them from the other bed.)  The rows need to be thinned, and I can take the thinned out ones and either replant them in all the empty rows that had lettuce seed in them, or I can put them in tonight’s salad.  A win-win situation.  And if I am going to be really on top of things, the old mustard greens that have now gone to seed?  I will cut off the flower and seed heads and those will go into the trash rather than the compost heap.

Now for the potatoes.  As readers of my blog know, I have been battling flea beetles out here all season.  Several factors led to this situation, the biggest one being a long cold and wet spring and summer until a couple of weeks ago.  Normally in the past, I have applied diatomaceous earth early when I first notice leaf pin hole damage on early growth, and that tends to get rid of them.  Then normally the weather warms up and the flea beetles are no longer a problem, because they tend to go after new growth on potatoes and tomatoes for me, but they get killed or are less interested in the older growth on plants.  Well, along came the Spring and Early Summer of Our Weather Discontent.  Because it stayed cold for so long, the flea beetles really dug in and caused a lot more damage than they normally do.  Thus the following pictures:

I did everything right in starting these potatoes.  I spaced them correctly(rows should be 36″ apart on the centers).  I started with certified clean seed potatoes from a reputable nursery(if you use potatoes that come from the grocery store, you run the risk of introducing the disease called scab into the soil, which is very hard to eradicate once there).  I used the appropriate fertilizer on the hills (which is complete organic fertilizer minus the dolomite lime, or four parts seed or alfalfa meal, one part bone meal and a half-part kelp meal.)  I planted them at the right time (when the minimun air temperature is at least 43-45 degrees and the minimum soil temperature is at least 39-41 degrees–I planted on April 20th, but could have done it even a couple of weeks earlier but was too busy).  As they grew I hilled them up properly, ending with hills that are about 10 inches tall and about 18 inches wide.  What more could a potato ask for?  Well, it could ask to not be devoured by flea beetles, apparently. 

The good news is that it was really hot last week, and I am hoping that put a damper on the flea beetles.  I also found out that diatomaceous earth will harm beneficial insects, so then I ran to the gardening center to find something that would work on organically grown vegetables that actually works.  I ended up with Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew.  This I sprayed on the tops and bottoms of the potato leaves and vines twice.  I think that, plus the warming weather, helped to stop the infestation.  I am seeing dark green leaves with almost no leaf damage now.  This stuff is not perfect, however, because it can kill bees for up to three hours after application.  The good news is that there are no bees around these plants because they have no flowers yet, so the bees were kept safe.  I am a little worried that there are no flowers yet–it seems pretty late in the growing season to not have flowers.  I guess time will tell with this bed.

I will be writing other posts soon about how to troubleshoot problems in your garden, so tune in frequently!

I don’t want this to be a complete gardening buzz-kill post, so here are some pictures I took this morning of pretty flowers and other plants.

Summer jasmine, dark purple ‘Jackmanii’ clematis and lighter lavender ‘General Sikorski’ clematis

This is ‘Niobe’ clematis reblooming.  If you keep this one deadheaded, and fertilize once a month, it will usually bloom through September.

This is the Garage Rooftop Garden.

Flowers and grasses and sedums.  Okay, I gotta confess–that green tall plant has a story.  Went to a plant sale, saw a plant, liked the plant, bought the plant.  Got plant home, realized it had no name tag, and I had forgotten the name of the plant on the drive home.  Solution:  Pot the plant up and get it to flower so that I can identify the plant.  (Sheesh, I hope no other Master Gardeners are reading this . . . excommunication here I come . . .)

A plant rack I got for $5 for a pair of them at a salvage yard (!), attached to the fence and filled with strawberry plants.  And do you know that slugs still occasionally find the fortitude to climb all the way up there?  (Dirty bastids . . .)

 My basil plant flotilla.  ‘Genovese’ basil.  The flower container is filled with coleus that I started from seed, a burgundy petunia, ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia that I started from seed, and Golden Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’.

That’s all I got.  Please visit the Tuesday Garden Party for more gardening fun!

 


Planted More Basil Starts Yesterday

Gorgeous weather and I have to work, wouldn’t you know.  However, I eeked out a few minutes to run out and plant some more basil starts outside in containers late yesterday afternoon.  Also some coleus and lobelia starts into my flowering containers.  I always start those from seed because it’s too expensive to buy as many as I want to use (ie. lots), and they’re pretty easy to start from seed indoors under lights.  I especially like ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia, which is a sky blue color and so pretty when paired with other yellow-foliaged plants as well as dark burgundy ones, such as the coleus leaf color often provides.  I will try to work fast so I can get outside later and continue planting.

It was warm enough–around 74-76 degrees–yesterday and today that I uncovered all the plastic-covered veggi beds outside.  I’ve gotten germination on my new salad greens bed, and I am seeing some ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans and I think ‘Scarlet Emporer’ runner beans (I mixed some of the seed in the row, so I won’t know for sure until they get a bit bigger) germinating.  The Sugar Snap peas are now finally ready to pick and eat at the baby stage–absolutely sweet and delicious–(I know, I tasted some last night!)  I’m also seeing baby apples on my ‘Spitzenburg’ mini-dwarf apple tree that I grafted four years ago–this is the first time I am letting it produce fruit!  My ‘Einset’ grape that is growing up the side of the pergola in the backyard is covered this year for the first time in tiny grape clusters–I will need to thin these out a bit so the vine doesn’t get overwhelmed.  I also have an ‘Arbequina’ olive tree that is hardy down to 14 degrees that is covered with flower buds–we will see if it gets hot enough to actually produce any olives.  It produced a few last year.  This is another dwarf evergreen tree that will top out around 8-10 feet tall.  My Aronia berry shrub is also loaded with immature fruit as well.  I will try to add some pictures to this post later today if I have time.

If you are in Camas this afternoon, the Farmers’s Market is on downtown in front of the library from 3-7:30pm.  They had great cherries from Zillah last week, and are supposed to have fresh almonds this week, so check it out.  This will be the first market of the season with no rain–about time!

Planting Basil

Yesterday, in between rain blasts, I ran outside and planted some basil starts.  I started basil seeds indoors under lights on March 6th.  My choice of seed is ‘Genovese Basil,’ because it has large leaves, grows well here and is great for cooking or using fresh in salads.  This basil can be grown in the ground or in a large container outdoors, but since my planting beds are rapidly going to be filled with other plants, I chose to grow my basil in containers.   My starts had reached a size of around four to six inches tall, and had several large leaves on them, so they were ready to go out.

Prior to planting them outdoors, I hardened them off first.  I put them outside in a protected area on May 24th, so they could get used to outdoor temperatures and weather conditions.  I kept an eye on them and on the weather forecasts, but where I am the weather has been very rainy, but very mild overnight temperatures, so I just left them outside.  I did this for about a week, and that is enough time for them to get ready to be planted out.

I chose to plant my basil starts in containers.  These are simple two-gallon or larger plastic containers that I have painted turquoise blue to match the accent color of our house, and they work great.  Basil plants will put out a pretty big root system relative to the top of the plant growing above ground, so I usually plant one basil start per two-gallon pot, and more in a larger pot.  Water them in after planting, and you are done.  It has been my experience that using smaller containers will not work as well, because the basil will put out a lot of roots, and they won’t have enough room for the roots to expand as they should if they are constricted by too small a container.  Also, smaller containers dry out much more rapidly, making for a lot more work for the gardener.  Now that we still have rain, nature will usually water the plants for me, but when we start to have drier and warmer weather, I will need to water the containers once a day, and fertilize with complete organic fertilizer once a week or every other week.

A benefit that comes from growing these heat-loving herbs in containers is that the soil temperature tends to be warmer in a container than out in the ground, and so they get a little extra heat with these growing conditions.  Basil of course can also be planted in a prepared garden bed as well.

So go for it!  You will find lots of uses for fresh basil in your cooking this summer!