Archive for April, 2013


Planting Potatoes in Colorado


While visiting family in Fort Collins, Colorado I watch Grandpa Roy plant some Potatoes. It was interesting and educational.

He roto-tilled the ground and then added some fertilizer called Bradfield Lawn and Garden.


Then he added some Alfalfa pellets. Alfalfa is about 3-0-3 so provides some Nitrogen and Potassium. It’s also a soil conditioner because it has lots of organic matter in it and expands once it gets wet. Roses love it too and you can even put it in the compost pile to speed things up. Sweet!


There were already some Onions in the ground and they had been planted through black fleece to keep the weeds at bay since Onions resent having their roots disturbed by weeding.


It’s so interesting watching someone else work in their garden. Everyone does it differently. And everyone figures out how to grow successfully in their little pocket of the world. There is no right and wrong way. There is only a good harvest.




Bought these gorgeous Ranunculus for my sister in law. They are a lovely unusual peach colour and look amazing in this Fiesta water jug.


Salad in Vacuum Jars


While visiting Papa and Grandma Diane I learned a nice little trick for preparing salads ahead of time using a Mason jar and an air extractor.

Simply, prepare your salad and build it up layer by layer in the jar. Put the dressing at the bottom so that when you tip it out the dressing pours itself over the leaves. Next put in the meat, cheese, fish or whatever you like. Then the Salad leaves and if you like Tomatoes on top.

Then seal the jar and make a small hole in the lid using a pin tack or drawing pin.

Now the science. You’ll need a vacuum pump. Ziploc does one that looks like a big syringe.

Pump the air out of the jar and seal the hole with tape. These prepared Salads will store in the fridge for four or five days. You could prepare one for each day and store in the office fridge making it easy to eat healthily. Or just store them in the fridge at home to be prepared for the week. Inspired!


Onion Fly


One of my Shallots started to wilt around two weeks ago. The foliage turned an unusual light green colour and started to keel over. Over time it just continued getting worse and worse with no sign of recovery and so I thought it was about time to find out what was wrong.


As you can see here it was the only one of the bulbs to be affected in the row.


When I dug up the plant the culprit was clear; Onion Fly. The base of the Onion is beginning to rot and you can see tiny maggots (larvae) wriggling out. These eat the onion and then eventually turn into Onion flies.


You can see how tiny the larvae is in this photo. So what’s to be done? Nothing for this plant. I had to dig it up and put it in the bin. For the others I can just hope that this was an isolated case. I will be digging the soil over to see if I can see any other larvae. But they are so tiny it’s unlikely I will see them. I could use row cover or horticultural fleece over the plants to stop more females laying eggs.

Next year however I’ll be rotating my Onion bed to another part of the garden just in case it’s a problem with that particular bed. Apparently, putting sets in later in the season helps too as you can miss the first wave of flies. There are also nematodes that you can buy that will deal with this situation.

But… as I’m not a farmer and my livelihood doesn’t depend on my Onion crop, I’ll probably just hope that I can harvest most of my Onions and be happy with that.


Tying In


I spent some time today tying in some plants that need a bit of extra support. My Broad Beans (Fava Beans) were starting to flop over and so I put in a sturdy support and tied them in making sure to loop the string around in a figure of eight to give the plant some give.

I did the same with my Sweet Peas that are trying to clamber up a metal archway but keep getting knocked off by the wind. I love this dark purple twine that a friend gave me. Sometimes I want to hide the string supporting my plants and in this case I’ll use green. But occasionally it’s fun to show it off and make it a feature of the row. With such a bright colour you can see the string from the other side of the garden.


One Garden Bench


Bought from a garden reclamation yard.


Spray painted with anti-rust paint. Job done. All I need now is a nice cushion and some lollipop Bay trees in pots on either side and what I have is the perfect place for a mid-morning chai latte.


My Garden Then and Now


Spring is really here in Portland. Today was the last frost day and although temperatures are not soaring it’s a great turning point for a gardener new to the area like me. This is how my kitchen garden is coming along. I planted a row of Box bushes to define the edges (and keep the kids and dog off the soil). And then I sowed lots of rows of cool season crops like Radish, Spinach, Arugula (Rocket) and Peas. They have all come up beautifully and have really filled out the whole area under the greenhouse window. I couldn’t resist the sky blue bistrot set infront of the greenhouse. That spot gets the evening sun and is perfect for a nice chilled glass of wine after the kids go to bed.


You can see from this photo that back in February the tree in the background had hardly any leaves, now it is lush and green. And the blossom has bloomed on the peachy-coloured Dogwood next to it. Also the Grape Hyacinth bulbs around the fountain have sprouted and are about to flower.


The weather is still very wet. As I’m speaking there is a serious deluge outside. But the garden is being planted up bit by bit. In the foreground here I have various types of Lettuce, Peas, Cauliflower, Chard and Kale. Also a small Strawberry patch on the left.


It’s a far cry from how the garden looked in the middle of February when the landscaping was finally finished! Hooray! A garden at last. It feels like forever that things were growing here.


Starting a New Herb Bed


Since my garden is brand new this season I had no herb garden. In my last garden I had a lovely herb patch that was in constant use so I thought it was about time to start a new one.


I’m not super adventurous when it comes to using herbs. I like the standard ones like Bay, Thyme, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Coriander, Chives, Rosemary and later on Basil etc Which is actually quite a lot to be growing in one roughly 8 foot by 5 foot bed.


You’ll notice there is no Mint on the list. I love Mint but it is invasive and so I won’t be growing it here with the others. Besides, I have a huge patch of it on the parking strip outside our garden which is so wild I have to cut it with a weed strimmer once a year. So I think I’m good for Mint!


One thing I’ve learned about growing herbs is that they are not too picky when it comes to soil or position. Average, gravelly soil will do, no need to give them the good stuff. And a position with some sun, maybe half day, is fine too. They love to be hacked about a bit and when you cut them to eat them it’s like they get a mini prune every couple of weeks. They respond by putting on more growth. An ideal partnership really.


The tags I’m using are metal ones from Alitags. I have a letter punch to mark out the names but because they are metal they should last for years and become a little less shiny with age.

Most of these are small plants that I bought from the nursery. At this time of year you can pick them up quite cheaply. I did grow some from seed – the Coriander, Basil and Chives just because I’ll be using a lot of these and I needed lots of plants.

I’m also branching out into Asian herbs since I love Thai food. I sowed some Shiso, and was given a Lemongrass to propagate (more on that later – if it works!). I’ve also got my eye on a Kaffir Lime leaf bush which will need to go into a pot and overwinter in the greenhouse.


My Tiny Seedlings


The number of seedlings in my greenhouse is increasing a pace. There are still two weeks to go here until the risk of frost is gone and so I’m keeping most of them indoors until then. I have started sowing the more delicate crops like Cucumber, Squash and Melon and these already need potting on.


These are my Cauliflowers that can go out into the open ground now – I just haven’t had chance to put them out yet. And behind them some Hollyhocks that will stay in the greenhouse a bit longer.


Lettuce, I have been sowing every two weeks since early Feb. I have two rows in the ground (with the fleece handy incase it’s forecast frost). And others inside at varying stages ready to go in later. I’m growing Rouge D’Hiver, Red Velvet, Super Jericho and Parris Island Cos. I’m also growing some Tom Thumb but I’ve found the germination on this one to be a little patchy.


I’m gradually migrating most things (especially Tomatoes) from seed trays into individual pots. As you can see from the photo above I’m amassing lots of plants, some of which will need to be donated to the neighbours! Nobody needs 10 Cucumber plants, do they?


Root Weevil Larvae


I found some of these lovely little grubs in a potted plant that I bought at the nursery. I looked them up in my insect field guide, since I didn’t want to squash them if they were beneficial insects. They’re not. They’re the larvae of the Vine Weevil (from the largerRoot Weevil family) they feed on a plant’s roots and then hatch into those brown/black beetlelike bugs that eat notches out of the leaves on Broadbeans, Rhodedendrons and countless other things. So they got squished. And you should do the same if you see them too.

Root weevils in general can do a lot of damage to leaves. They tend to come out at night so the best way to catch them is to collect them in the evening in a jar. If you dig around the bottom of the plant too you might find some of the grubs above. These are best dealt with in the Autumn.