What’s Growing On

So right now I’m noticing a huge difference between my home plants in containers, and my raised bed plants at the community gardens. My home plants are just thriving. My herbs have really filled out the terracotta planter well, and my tomatoes are really taking off, especially my yellow pear. Unfortunately, the plants in my raised bed are really struggling. After three weeks they look the same as they did when I transplanted them.

Yellow Pear tomato, (marigold trying to sneak out of picture)

So, I fed them last week with an organic liquid fertilizer, (4-2-3), and I’ve still seen no difference. I used the same fertilizer at home too, and everything here is growing great. So, I’m going to blame the soil. Unlike my containers, I did not fill those beds. I don’t know where that soil came from, but I have been told by one woman who gardens there, the one who planned the garden site, that the soil is seriously depleted in nitrogen. Everything growing in the communal beds is also struggling. There is no compost on any of them, and I doubt anyone has been fertilizing. When I look at them I’m reminded of The Grapes of Wrath. I call them the dustbowl beds.

We have a compost area set up, and I was told someone is in charge of that, but it doesn’t look very promising to me. It is full of sod and weeds; no vegetable scraps, no egg shells, no coffee grounds. So, I’ve started bringing my compost from home to supplement it.

I have a lot of plans for salvaging my bed for next year, but I can’t afford to do those things on as large a scale as the three communal beds. I imagine other people have been implementing their own startegies, as a couple people have lush growing beds there. I’ve been thinking of talking to one of our local chicken farmers. I’ve heard that chicken manure is very high in nitrogen. Part of the problem is that I still have no communication with my fellow gardeners. There hasn’t been a meeting. Apparently there is an email list that I am part of, but I haven’t seen any emails, and I don’t know how to post to it. I’m trying to stay patient, but I’m getting frustrated by this.

Three buildings have been built on the site now, though. We have an office, and two storage sheds. Plus the gazebo has a roof on it, and we have two picnic tables. So, at least something is happening there. I am very excited to have the opportunity to garden there. I guess I just wish it seemed more like my fellow gardeners were equally excited.

Do any of you have suggestions for ways to amend depleted soil?

Here Be Slugs…

I woke up from a nightmare recently that left me lying awake for over an hour afterward. It was a vivid dream of a large slimy green slug balanced on the lip of a container eagerly stretching out towards my vulnerable bush beans, its antennae twitching with anticipation.

I lay awake afterward remembering how I hadn’t put the slug trap back in place, and should I go outside to do so. This would mean opening the sliding glass door, which could wake Joe, since our bedroom is right above it. I lay awake contemplating whether his possible lack of sleep was a justifiable sacrifice to save the remaining plants. You see, I recently have had three vibrant beautiful bush bean plants eaten down to the very base by slugs. There are now three short green stubs, still covered in slime, where once grew lush plants full of promise and potential. I imagine they don’t come back from that, and I will need to reseed.

Since then I’ve been looking into methods of slug control. I tried the popular beer trap. I filled a cottage cheese container with beer, and dug it a little ways into the ground. Unlike the earwig trap, you don’t want it flush with the soil as then you risk drowning ground beetles, which apparently eat slugs. I knew I liked ground beetles. I read that the traps are effective within a 3′ radius, so you may need a few depending on the size of your place. So after one night this little trap caught 9 slugs. It has caught a few more since then. This isn’t enough to keep my plants safe; however. I added crushed egg shells to the soil around the base of my plants. If slugs travel over them they are cut and then they die of dehydration. (Diatomaceous earth does the same thing, but eggs are cheaper.) To their credit, I think most of them are smart enough to avoid this, as I have never seen a dehydrated slug or snail.

I am happy to report that no more plants were eaten to the ground after this; however, they were taunting me by hanging out on the lip of my container and eating all the leaves they could reach from there. So, I started looking for copper slug tape. Apparently, if slugs or snails pass over copper it gives them an electric shock, so it’s something they naturally try to avoid. After searching many local garden stores to no avail, I finally found some at Canadian Tire. It is made in Victoria, B.C. too, nice and close. I must admit I am disappointed in the small local garden centres that sell slug poison, and slug pellets, but no copper tape that is made here on Vancouver Island. One woman even went to so far as to tell me it was only available in the states.

If you happen to find copper slug tape, ket me warn you to wear gloves while handling it. I have many itchy paper cuts on my fingertips right now. Since I’ve applied the tape to my containers, my beans and other plants are safe. My beans are even thriving now that I’ve removed the fennel too. This is something else I’ve learned. Most plants don’t like to live next to fennel, and it actually inhibits the growth of beans. I planted the fennel in there after reading somewhere that slugs don’t like fennel. Well, that may be so, but perhaps you should mention to gardeners that most of our vegetables don’t like fennel either. Small rant aside, the beans are doing great the fennel was only in there two days, so it seems no lasting damage was done.

So I’m happy the tape has worked for my containers, and it would work well for raised beds too, but what about the rest of the yard? I won’t even plant hostas, because I think it would just be cruel to them, and feed the population I have here. What are  your methods for slug control in your garden? Good luck in your battle against slugs.

Pizza Feast

For dinner last night we had pizza, salad and peach strawberry crisp. I used as many local and self grown  ingredients as possible. I actually wanted to make strawberry rhubarb crisp, but I couldn’t find any rhubarb without driving quite a ways to get it. I asked a friend to get some for me at the Cedar market, but she said they were selling skinny stalks for $2.50/lb., and the worst part is they were selling them with the large leaves attached. Who wants to pay for that? That isn’t right. It reminds me of a woman at the other market I usually go to who sells the tiniest eggs I have ever seen. She calls them medium, and charges $4/dozen. I thought about talking to her about it, you know, nicely, but I one time made the mistake of opening a container in front of her, and she went off about how she weighs all her eggs etc. So, I don’t need to argue with a woman about how she wants to sell her eggs. I just won’t buy them, but I’ve digressed from the dinner now.

turkey sausage, mushrooms, red peppers, and cherry tomatoes

So my pizza was topped with pizza sauce with homegrown oregano and marjoram, local turkey sausage, mushrooms, local red peppers, and the sweetest local cherry tomatoes. I covered it in a blend of jalapeno jack, and organic New Zealand cheddar. (I’m not a mozza girl as I don’t like the way it sticks to the back of my teeth.)

Joe’s pizza is vegan. It has the same sauce, veggie pepperoni, sliced zucchini, local red peppers, mushrooms, and sliced black olives. It is covered with a combination of mozza and cheddar daiya cheese. (dairyless cheese that melts).

vegan pizza for Joe

Isaac’s pizza is gluten free and dairy free. I will post the recipe for the crust shortly. It has the same sauce, local gluten free turkey sausage, steamed broccoli, hot banana peppers, and the same combination of daiya cheese.

gluten free, dairy free pizza for Isaac

We also had a salad of local butterhead and red leaf lettuce with homegrown watercress, sunflower seeds, and a maple balsamic dressing that was awesome. I threw some of those cherry tomatoes into mine as well. They go so nicely with the dressing.

fresh salad with maple balsamic dressing

To top it all off, for desert I made a maple peach strawberry crisp with the last jar of peaches that I put up last summer, organic strawberries, and organic maple syrup.

maple peach strawberry crisp

Isaac’s Pizza Crust:

ingredients:

  • 1/2 C tapioca flour
  • 1/2 C chickpea flour
  • 2/3 C almond milk, you could sub. your favourite milk here
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t each basil and oregano

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl, and wet ingredients in another. Add the wet to the dry, and combine well. Pour, (it well be very wet, not dough like at all), into a very well greased toaster oven pan. I use coconut oil. Make sure you get up the sides. Bake at 425F for 20 min. Check while cooking to let the air out of any pockets that start to rise. You’ll have a mountain range pizza otherwise. After putting on ingredients you broil the top to cook.

Quick and Easy Earwig Trap

photo by Gilles Gonthier

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my small yard is teeming with earwigs. The problem with earwigs is they eat indiscriminately. So, they eat not only plant-eating bugs, but beneficial insects as well, and your plants. They’re really just looking out for themselves, but what really bothers me is the way they crawl up my laundry rack, and hide in my underwear waiting to jump out at me when I fold my laundry. It’s definitely enough to make me do the squirmy dance, and let’s face it, as upset as I may get about them eating my plants, it’s not enough to make me make me shriek and squirm on the spot.

So, I happened upon a pretty nifty DIY earwig trap recently. I don’t happen to remember where I read this, but I’m passing it on. You take a small plastic container, like a cottage cheese container, and punch several holes in the lid. Into the lid you stir up equal parts soy sauce and oil, any liquified oil like olive oil or canola would be fine. Snap the lid in place, and bury it in the ground up to the lid of the container. The earwigs are attracted to the soy sauce, and crawl in, but because of the oil they can’t crawl out. Just dump out the container and refill as necessary.

I haven’t tried this yet, myself, but I’m eager to. Let me know how it works, if you happen to try it, or if you have any cool pest traps of your own.

Catching Up

For those of you who have been reading from the beginning, I have been posting about notes I have taken in the past. In this post, I hope to catch up on everything I have not yet mentioned, as briefly as possible, so as to allow me to post what is currently going on with me. I feel like I’m doing so many things that I want to share.

So, I planted arugula, and radicchio in containers. I used bone meal and green sand in that mix. The arugula sprouted in 4 days, and the radicchio in 5. Something’s been eating the arugula, so yesterday I added a seashell mulch to the container, hoping that would help. I need to get more of this; I’ve run out.

A friend gave me some plants from his garden for mine. I’ve dug up all the buttercup and dandelion that was plaguing south wall of my tiny yard, and I’ve planted geraniums, ornamental grass, rose campion, foxglove, lady’s mantle, poppies, and borage. There is another plant, that I have yet to identify. I am growing my appreciation of the outdoor space we have.

south wall of my yard before the dig with arugula and radicchio in foreground

south wall of my yard after the dig and transplant.

I planted my garden plot at the community garden. I did this in spite of the rain, as the slugs on my patio were stalking my squash. A couple leaves were seriously chewed before leaving here. In this plot I’ve planted buttercup squash(2), cabbage(3), pumpkin(2), yellow zucchini, green zucchini, delicata squash(3), cayenne pepper, jalapeno pepper, cinnamon basil(4), genovese basil(3), marjoram, smoky fennel(3), and borage, calendula, and alyssum to attract beneficial insects.

I used the Gaia Green fertilizer (4-4-4), 1 C/100m sq. I need to get some more mushroom compost for mulch. There is compost provided here, but after seeing what goes into the compost bins, I didn’t really want to use it. It is mostly uprooted weeds, and sod. No one has been adding any vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, or any of the other goodies that make compost great.

With Joe’s help, my husband, I got the tomatoes planted yesterday into two large self watering containers made from storage totes. It goes much faster with help. I used the same mix as for the beans and strawberries, and added about 1 C rabbit manure to the rooting area. In one container I’m growing Black Krim and Yellow Pear, in the other Bonny Best and Super Italian Paste. The Bonny Best was a surprise as I thought I grabbed a Green Zebra. Sometimes while searching for a better looking transplant, I grab a completely different cultivar. This also happened with the cinnamon basil. I wanted thai basil, and honestly, I’ve no idea what to do with cinnamon basil, any ideas? Plus, if any of you have grown any of these tomatoes, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Herbs in a Strawberry Planter

On May 20th I planted a collection of herbs into my terracotta strawberry planter. I tried growing strawberries in it a couple years ago, but I found they just dried out . I got very little fruit, and they eventually died. Most herbs thrive in the drier conditions provided by terracotta. So, I made up a combination mix for this planter. It was half organic potting mix, and half soil given to me from a neighbour. You can’t get much more frugal than free; however, I’m a bit of a control freak about details. I was told there was coffee, and seaweed in the soil. I don’t know how much of either, so it’s difficult for me to gauge how much of other amendments to add. Apparently, coffee’s great for acid loving plants, and worms especially love it while slugs don’t. Yea for that. So, I didn’t add any green sand or other soil amendments, other than vermiculite and perlite. I will say the soil is lovely and dark and full of worms.

a strawberry planter full of herbs with extra rosemary and marjoram on the side

Here’s a good tip, that I wish I had considered before I started this: when planting a strawberry planter, plant as you fill. So, in other words, don’t fill the whole container full of your soil or mix, and then try to cram the poor plants into the little holes, the way I did. (Marjoram is a wimpy ass plant, by the way.) It still hasn’t properly recovered from the abuse. Fortunately, I did plant some in its own terracotta pot as well, as it will need to come in for the winter with the rosemary. I do love the smell of marjoram, and apparently it has a beneficial effect on the plants around it, improving their growth and flavour. I’ve never cooked with it before, but I feel fancier just knowing that I have some growing on the patio.

The other plants in the planter are tarragon, italian parsley, sage, thyme (which is now blooming), winter savory, and I seeded some genovese basil in the top. It took 12 days to sprout. I can’t wait to make pesto, one of my favourites.

Strawberries and Beans

These notes are from May 12, when I constructed my first large self-watering container. I converted a large storage tote. I bought four of them when they were on sale for this purpose. Well, one of them I’m using as a soil mixing place as I don’t have a wheelbarrow, and they’re really quite expensive. Plus, I’ve never seen the need for one, having only a patio. I can move stuff around in the wagon most of the time.

I would recommend for anyone constructing their own containers that they wear gloves. It took quite a deal of finessing and time to make my first one to make sure I didn’t cut the lid too small
thereby making it useless. So, I ended up with quite a blister, due to the tin snips. I took a break and planted the rosemary. I put it in its own container, rather than in the large strawberry planter that I was planning for herbs, because I need to bring it in at winter time. The last time I had rosemary outside in a pot I killed it by leaving it out.

I used the same mix for the large tote, which will be home to strawberries and bush beans, as for the watercress except I added about 1/2 C of bone meal to it. I planted 6 beans, a tricolour mix, with the plan to plant another row after these sprout. The beans started popping through the soil after after 11 days. It was a very exciting moment for me. I love how thrilled I am every time I see something sprout. I think it’s good for the self esteem to know that you’ve helped something to have life.

I bought the strawberries from a local garden centre, and although I love this place for many things I would not buy those little cardboard packages of berries again. There were only 9 in there instead of 10, and two of them were dead. I lost another one after planting. Fortunately by that time, I had purchased lovely large strawberries from a local grower at my farmers’ market. So, I will definitely start there the next time I need to buy some. The strawberries and beans are both thriving now, and I need to plant my second row of beans.

strawberries and beans thriving in a self watering container