Veggie Garden – Day 5

Potato harvest. One of my favourite things to grow, even tho' they're cheap to buy.

Potato harvest. One of my favourite things to grow, even tho’ they’re cheap to buy.

Day 5 of Garden Tribe’s 21-day Boot Camp is sub-titled “Right Sizing for Success”. Which incidentally I’ve already addressed in Veggie Garden Day 3.

But since if you’re anything like me you haven’t actually started yet, let’s just do a quick 3-point lesson:

1. No garden is “no-maintenance”, so be realistic about how much time you can spend working in the garden. I’m usually reluctant to use the word “working”, because I always want people to feel like this is an enjoyable activity, not a chore. But in this case, since success is what we’re after here, I have to admit there are a few garden-related tasks that are less fun, more duty. Like weeding. It’s pretty hard to grow vegetables without incurring weeds. So what do you think? One hour per day? Two hours per week? Can you get into the garden for 15 minutes before or after an 8-hour work day?

2. We’ve already established that as a novice vegetable-gardener, you’re going to start with just 5 crops. But if some of those 5 are cool season crops, they’ll stop growing early to mid summer, so in the same location, and for no extra work, you can substitute a 6th crop. Say you started with radishes in one 3’x3′ space. By mid June they will pretty much give up trying, so why not sow beans now in that space? Better yet, if you knew beforehand that by mid-June your radishes would be exhausted, at the end of May you could have started beans indoors and have transplants ready to go into that spot. (That’s what calendars are for!)

This is a terrible photo of radishes and peas. They'll both be done by mid-summer, so I'll transplant some beans babies into the same spot. Maybe...

This is a terrible photo of radishes and peas. They’ll both be done by mid-summer, so I’ll transplant some bean-babies into the same spot. Maybe…

3. Another thing–mentioned yesterday–is to only sow a portion of your patch at a time, then sow a few more next week and a few more the following week. That way the crop will mature over an extended time instead of all at once. Now having said that, some crops that are slow to put on growth in the cooler weather will be faster when it warms up a bit, so the later-sown ones may actually catch up the the earlier-sown ones. No problem, you’re still getting vegetables on your plate.

Tomorrow’s subject: draw it all out.

 

Great Gardening Books

Oh dear, I fell like RLGS is turning into an Ad Agency. Today I got an e-newsletter from North Coast Gardening about some Kindle books that Amazon has on sale. So of course I checked them out, and within a minute I was the proud owner of another Tracy DiSabato-Aust book, “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden”. 

WEll-Tended Perennial Garden

I already have “The Well-Designed Mixed Garden” and love it, so I highly recommend her books.

If any of you have great suggestions for gardening books, I’d love to see them. Leave a comment…

 

Mulch Volcanos or How Not to Plant Trees

It seems a lot of people and/or landscapers are under the misapprehension that when it comes to soil, more is better. This is not always the case.

In my neighbourhood

In my neighbourhood.

This volcano of soil is doing a couple of bad things to this poor rhodo. Firstly, stems and trunks should never be buried like this. DSCN2343You’ll see more of this in the next few pics. You should always see the root flare at the junction between the stem/trunk and the soil. You’ll see “bell bottom trousers”.

Here’s a beautiful Blue Spruce in excellent condition

Blue Spruce in the neighbourhood.

LOVE this tree: Blue Spruce in the neighbourhood. You can just about see the root flare if you click on the image to enlarge it then click again.

Secondly, rhodo roots are even more shallow than other woody plants, so adding ANY soil on top of the planting area is going to make your rhodo suffer–from too much moisture and too little oxygen.

Very sad little rhodo in a brand new planting bed--the duplex was just finished in the Fall.

Very sad little rhodo in a brand new planting bed–this duplex was just finished in the Fall.

You can and should still mulch rhodos, just several inches away the the trunk, and only about 2″ of nice light mulch (wood chips or well composted compost), not soil.

The Problem:

Also my neighbourhood.

Also my neighbourhood.

Exactly the same thing above–soil (or in this case bark mulch) mounded up around the trunks of these Thuja (arborvitae).  This causes a number of problems: Too much moisture against the trunk will invite disease and bark splitting. It also promotes root girdling, which is when roots start following a circular path around the trunk instead of heading out perpendicular to the trunk. As those roots grow and fatten they will often pinch the channels that draw water, oxygen, and nutrition up the tree. Root girdling is a very bad thing for your tree.

DSCN2374DSCN2375Two views of the same tree. Here the planter put a rodent guard around the base of the tree, which will also also help reduce moisture against the bark. But the roots will still opt to grow up into the volcano soil causing the root girdling again. And then to hide the look of the mounded soil, they planted creeping raspberry (Rubus pentalobus). In other circumstances I’d say this was a good plant for under the tree, but it will hold the soil there (eroding away would be a better thing) and act like living mulch, which will just exacerbate the moisture problem. (It’s a pretty vigorous plant in coastal BC and will begin to take over the lawn area–not a bad thing maybe.)

I plan to write discreet polite letters to the owners of these trees and shrubs offering to help remediate their plantings. Hopefully they won’t be too offended at the local busybody who thinks she knows everything!

Love to get your comments and questions.

How to Capture Morning and Evening Light

How to use morning and evening light to your best advantage

It’s late October, but still a great time to be planting here in coastal BC. And one of the things I’ve loved about my own garden is how I serendipitously planted some shrubs and perennials where they’ll GLOW in morning or evening light. And of course, since it was serendipity–read “total accident”–I missed the opportunity to do the same with others. No problem, my “research” garden is always in the process of change-I love to dig things up and move them around. They seldom mind.

Here’s some examples:

Imperata cylindrica, Japanese Blood Grass:

This is what it should look like in your garden

Red-baron-Imperata-cylindrica-SADNICA_slika_XL_3062736

You can see that the light is shining through from the back right (shadow front left).

My JBG on the other hand looks like this:

Not taking advantage of this glorious sunny day, just kind of ...dull

Not taking advantage of this glorious sunny day, just kind of …dull

So it’s going to be dug up, divided, and moved to here:

DSCN1052In among all this lily-of-the-valley, I’ll put clumps of JBG. What a fabulous combination when morning sun shines through.

Japanese Maple:

Morning sun front-lighting this Japanese Maple

Morning sun front-lighting this Japanese Maple

This Japanese Maple–almost overpowered by the Pieris japonica–is beautiful from the street side. But from the house side (not my house)…

DSCN1062

I know you’re confused–“Where’s the Pieris?” This is actually a different tree, same property.

…it’s practically on fire! And because it’s out toward the street giving enough open space on all sides, the evening lighting will be even better.

Euphorbia characias is an amazing structural plant:

Thanks to HortusUrbanus for her Seattle picture

Thanks to HortusUrbanus for her Seattle picture.

But if you situate it where there is open space between the viewer and the morning or evening sun, you get this:

DSCN1007How about this Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris

DSCN1006Or even

Even your teeny tiny botanical tulips.

Even your teeny tiny botanical tulips.

Then there are things you can’t control

DSCN2125

…but keep your eyes open, and appreciate them when they appear.

How to

The key is just identifying plants that will show extra-special when backlit–either flowers or foliage, like the lily-of-the-valley above–and then plant them so they are positioned between you and the early morning or late afternoon sun. (These are mostly early morning pictures, but late afternoon sun gives even more fiery effect since the angle of the sun produces that golden glow.) Make sure they’re planted with open space, or lower growing plants, on the “sun-side”, so your targets plants are not in the shadow of the others.

Then go out and enjoy the view. Take pictures. Send them here. I’d love to see what others have done to Capture the Light.