Category: deck garden

Ah my small green babies, how you have grown! Tomato cages are…

Ah my small green babies, how you have grown!

Tomato cages are great for tomatoes and all, but I find them really helpful for squashes too! I don’t have the horizontal room for sprawling stems, so the cage helps funnel that growth upwards instead.

Tomato & zucchini update!

Tomato & zucchini update!

Bucket trio! Red Robin cherry tomato, selected because I…

Bucket trio!

Red Robin cherry tomato, selected because I thought a compact determinate variety would be a nice change of pace from the ~5’ tall Sungolds of the last two years.

Purple Beauty sweet pepper, which I picked because honestly, how do you pass up a purple pepper? It’s like something out of a nursery rhyme.

Ronde de Nice zucchini, an heirloom variety whose fruits are the approximate size and shape of pool balls. Again, I picked this one because it seemed weird.

All three of these plants need lots of water, so I put them in self-watering planters made of nested 5 gal. buckets. I’ve had lots of success with this style of container!

May 26, 2017 Top-down, left to right: 1. Peas! They’re…

May 26, 2017

Top-down, left to right:

1. Peas! They’re about eye-level now (cheating because the soil’s about knee height)((also I’m 5’2″)) and should be developing flowers soon!

2. I planted these a couple weeks ago, golden beets along the edges (husbo loves beets, apparently) and rainbow carrots down the centre. The germination rate is good, helped by a burst of warm weather. Beets come up thickly because the seeds are actually clusters, and carrot seeds are too tiny to space out evenly. I’ll have to thin these out in a week or so.

3. Herbs! I still haven’t planted a basil like I intended, and now I think I may just abstain and let the thyme and sage have the extra space.

4. Nasturtiums (left) and poppies (right) are starting to show tiny buds tucked among the masses of leaves

5 & 6. Strawberry and blackberry flowers, respectively. I can’t wait for delicious berries!

May 4, 2017 We had quite a hot day today, smack in the middle…

May 4, 2017

We had quite a hot day today, smack in the middle of two weeks of normal early May low-mid teens temperatures. The forecast said this evening was going to bring a cold front in off the ocean, and the resulting mix of cold and hot air masses were expected to cause a major thunderstorm – to the point that Environment Canada issued a severe weather warning.

In anticipation of heavy rain and hail I covered the heavy planters with acrylic and moved the light ones closer to the house to bring them under the protection of the little overhang above the deck. The peas I could not move to shelter because there was no space left, so I kludged together this little tent out of garbage bags and clothes pins.

I was hoping to at least deflect the worst of the hail, but we’ll never know if it would have worked because it’s a quarter to midnight and it stopped even raining hours ago. I think there were two lightning. That’s it, just two.

May 1, 2017 Behold my deck garden in all its panoramic…

May 1, 2017

Behold my deck garden in all its panoramic glory!

I shuffled everything around yesterday into the configuration it will more or less keep all summer. Things with higher water needs (peas, greens, eventual tomato/zucchini buckets) are along the railing where rain falls unimpeded. Things with lower water needs (herbs) or which can tolerate a bit of drought (wildflowers) or which like the extra warmth provided by the wall OR which just fit nicely there are along the house wall.

The side-by-side compares of the herb planter and the dwarf blackberry are April 11/April 30. These guys all seem to be steaming along happily!

The little plant stand keeps the wildflower boxes out from underfoot, and gives them all equal sun exposure.

I’m so glad it’s May! Soon it’ll be time for tomatoes, zucchini, and carrots!

April 26, 2017 The weather remains wet. Wet wet wet. The temps…

April 26, 2017

The weather remains wet. Wet wet wet. The temps have risen, at least – Easter Sunday it was a lovely 20C in the afternoon. This return to seasonal temperature norms has kickstarted growth on several things.

First, the peas – at about 8″ high these sprouts have just about doubled in height over the course of a week!

The wildflower and poppy planters are thickening up and setting out true leaves. The wildflower boxes (rectangles) are never evenly sown, because I just sprinkle the seed mix over the top of the soil willy-nilly. I like the rambling look. Constraining wildflowers to tidy rows would dampen much of their charm, to my mind.

The centre photo is one of the marigolds we planted at Sparks at the beginning of March. Some of the girls missed the meeting, so I was left with a few to take home myself. This one is the closest to blooming, but the interesting thing here is the dark purplish colour of the lower leaves. Normally green leaves turning purple are a sign of a phosphorus deficiency. This can be caused by a simple lack of phosphorus in the soil, or some environmental factor interfering with the plant’s ability to take up or use the nutrient. In this case it’s probably both – low temperatures can cause this problem for marigolds, and they were just planted in a basic sterile potting soil. I’ve amended the soil with a bit of slow-release fertilizer and the temperature is improving so with a bit of luck they’ll rebound. I just used some bog-standard Miracle Grow, because I’m not babying these guys.

Last but not least, my reseeded mesclun and chard are slowly establishing themselves. I leave this planter uncovered most of the time now, but I do keep my sheets of acrylic close to hand in case of violent downpours. If you look closely at the chard (left) you can see the various stem colours characteristic of the rainbow variety. Unlike with the sad marigolds, the purplish colouration on the tiny lettuce (right) is not a sign of a problem. This type just grows like that!

April 12, 2017 Yesterday I planted the herbs I’d picked…

April 12, 2017

Yesterday I planted the herbs I’d picked up the day before – thyme, oregano, sage, and rosemary. I left a space for basil, which will come later. Basil is more tender than the other four and the current average overnight temps – about 5C – are too low. Basil also has a higher water requirement than its eventual pot-mates, but I’ve found in the past that this planter is large enough that I can water the basil without overwatering the others, which are all arid Mediterranean-adapted types.

I also picked up a dwarf thornless blackberry – the nursery brand is Bushel and Berry and the variety is called Baby Cakes – as a fun experimental addition. Blackberries grow here with no trouble – in fact they have rather too little trouble, and tend to overtake open lots, the edges of forests along roadways, etc. I don’t have the space (or the inclination) to wrestle year after year with thorny brambles but I do love blackberries, so I can’t wait to see how this goes!

Lastly, the current state of my peas. Growing ?

April 9, 2017March was a disappointing month overall,…

April 9, 2017

March was a disappointing month overall, garden-wise.  We got about 70 hours of sunshine – half the average and the lowest since recordkeeping started in the ‘50s – and it rained 28/31 days, totalling somewhere over 200mm for the month (close to 8 inches and almost double the average).  Basically it was gross and gloomy and wet, though at least it wasn’t particularly cold.  All this adds up to lacklustre performance in the garden.

Starting with what has gone well, my flower boxes are coming right along.  The three terracotta-coloured rectangles are sown with a blend of native wildflowers that will bloom in stages from late spring through to frost and attract bees and other pollinators.  One of the greatest advantages of growing native species is that they’re adapted to native weather, so you generally don’t have to baby them through soggy late springs! 

The upper of the two grey squares is bursting with California poppy seedlings, and the lower square is planted with nasturtiums which are just now starting to pop up.  Both the poppies and nasturtiums are pretty hardy, but they seem to like different things; last year I started both indoors in coir pellets, which the nasturtiums loved and the poppies hated.  This year I direct-sowed both, and the poppies are happy while the nasturtiums are more reluctant.  Experimenting is fun!

On the veggie front the peas are all up, slower than expected but the germination rate is good.  Peas do like cool weather and don’t mind the wet terribly, though mildew and enation resistant varieties like this Super Sugar Snap are recommended in the Pacific Northwest.

In the salad tub the germination rates are less satisfactory.  The chard has done ok, the spinach hasn’t, and the mesclun is middling.  I reseeded yesterday, so if this batch does better now that the weather has warmed a tad we’ll have a nice succession going.

Last but not least in the little greenhouse on my kitchen table the tomato starts are growing happily.  A year ago I was about ready to plant them out, but this year I’ll be waiting until the weather catches up with the date – early/mid-May, probably.  This season I went with a cherry variety called ‘Robin’s Egg’ because I wanted a smaller plant than the giant and hugely prolific ‘Sungold’ of the last two years.  I only need one plant for myself, so the other two will go to my mom and father-in-law.

March 31st, 2017 Some closeups of the gorgeous ranunculus and…

March 31st, 2017

Some closeups of the gorgeous ranunculus and erysimum blooming on my deck in shades of red and pink. My favourite so far is the warm pink watermelon-coloured ranunculus top right in the bright blue planter, but I couldn’t pass over any of the other four at the nursery because they’re all just so pretty!

Not pretty yet but very exciting nonetheless, the first pea seedlings have broken ground! This one wasn’t up this morning when I left for work, so more can’t be very far behind!