Saturday, July 30, 2016

Thinning Out Tomatoes

I grow tomatoes, specifically cherry and pear tomatoes in pots. Main reason, there is a HUGE Black Walnut tree situated about 20 feet away from the most sunniest spot of the garden. In another post, I'll explain why this is an issue, but growing them in pots hasn't been difficult. In fact, it's a huge bonus.

Somehow, with the fresh soil and compost (made from scratch) every year, compost tea, organic fertilizer and a dash of Epsom's salts in our watering cans - they fair really well and produce bumper crops. This summer's heat has made a huge impact too.

So much so - they need a haircut this time of the growing season.

Why?  Have a look:

Slightly overgrown, don't you think?

Reasons to thin out:

1. Tomatoes rippen and become really sweet with the suns rays. If there is an over-abundance of green growth, sheltering and casting shade on the fruit, well - this delays the ripening time.

Trying to find the cherry tomatoes is like trying to find Waldo. :) 

2. I don't know about you, but when you have to water pots every day - it becomes difficult to budget your gardening time and water reserves. Removing green mass on plants reduces the need for the water at the root level; not as many leaves = not as much water needed.

3. Cutting leaves off, forces new stem growth from the bud axil - joint.  New stem growth = more flowers. Leaves don't bear the fruit, stems do. This continues the cycle and keeps you supplied with more tomatoes!

5. Pruning increases ventilation and helps to promote open branching network. Powdery mildew and other diseases can become a problem if over-growth crowds and takes over.

6. Cherry tomatoes fall under what is known as the indeterminate category. They grow exponentially, almost vine like. They set fruit on side shoots and when you prune off leafy growth, this stimulates more side shoot development.

7. Pruning strengthens stems and also reduces a weight load that should only be for fruit. Stems will become thicker and will be able to bear the weight as it broadens in height and width.

8. Pollinators have an easier time pollinating flowers. Better access.

Where/what to prune:
  • Overlapping leaves
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaves that are too close to the ground
  • Leaves that are covering the ripening tomatoes
  • Stems that are bent or damaged
  • Remove the leaf below stems emerging from the axil joint - this initiates more growth on the new little stem (like above), growing at a 45˙angle from the axil joint.

  • Below is a better view of how the axil stem grows at a 45˙ angle.

    Just leave a little nib of leaf, so that you do not damage the main stem or axil joint.

    Cut the leaves off at the bottom of the plant. Less splashing of soil/water on the base leaves, the better. This helps to prevent diseased leaves.

    Even if you don't see a leaf, you can still see a bud at the axil joint. With the leaf removed, this bud will soon swell and become an axil stem.

    Five minutes later, I had a 15gal pot full of leaves.

    Much better. Sun and air filter through. Less green mass.

    Where's Waldo?  So many more tomatoes to be seen now.

    Healthy, non diseased leafy matter is welcomed in our compost!

    In another few days, we get to enjoy the bounty!

    Sunday, July 24, 2016

    Collecting Hosta Seeds: Update (2 years later)

    As the summer heat continues, I have been diligently looking after some of my strategically placed baby Hostas - which I grew from seed (link to previous post here).

    Two years ago, the above seedlings were just setting root in mid summer and I transplanted them into tiny pots. Come autumn, I tucked them in sheltered spots of our garden where I would find them again.

    Having planted them all over the garden, I've been making sure in this heat to keep them moist.

    Still super small, they are putting on some lovely growth. The above is my best sample. 7 leaves and still more emerging.

    This one above is situated in our herb garden. I was testing to see if more organic matter and compost tea make a difference.

    The leaves are surprisingly tough. Quite slug resistant. The original parent had leathery leaves too, but with deep yellow variegated margins.

    None are showing any venation or variegation. But that's ok. For now they are doing great, considering I haven't done much.

    In all honesty, if I really wanted these Hostas to thrive and grow quickly, I would of left them to grow in pots and nurture them more. But reality dictates little time and so finding spots where I know I can keep a close eye on them seems to have been the best bet.

    I am anxious to see their eventual mature size. I've noticed the above photo has more rounded leaves. Who knows, I may have a "Heidi Horticulture" hybrid developing! Ha!

    Tuesday, July 19, 2016

    Plant Profile: Orchids in Ontario?

    I first saw this plant 10 years ago. It doesn't look like much from a distance.

    It came out in spring resembling Polygonatum (Solomon's Seal) poking through from the ground. I had it growing in an area where we had drift wood showcased in the garden at one time, but rot took over and then these emerged. Then the growth stopped at about 18 inches tall. It stumped me at first.

    Now, I see it everywhere. As you look closer, you can see the flowers resemble orchids. It is in fact a a terrestrial orchid, called Epipactis helleborine. It has sturdy upright stems with nodding orchid blooms that range from creamy beige to pink/purple.

    Up close, you can see it's real beauty. I wish I could say it's native: that would of made my day. But alas, no, it was introduced to North America many many years ago, having originated in Europe.

    It likes moist conditions, but I've seen in grow in dry areas, seeding itself even in turf. Where I captured this photo, it's situated in a fair amount of shade.

    The "Heleborine Orchid" can also be slightly invasive. Matter of fact, where the rotting drift-wood once lay, was in an area we turfed over. Years later, I would be mowing over these plants that constantly sprouted back up. It was amazing. So stubborn!

    As you can see from last year's photos, come late August/September flower stalk fades and these plump seed pods develop. Quite the heavy seeder. They remind me of gooseberries. The trick is to cut the stalk back before these pods open, spreading the seeds everywhere. Worth the preventative measure.

    If it does begin to take over, using a deep spade dig, make sure you get all the roots.  Roots go down about 8 inches. I don't find it uncontrollable.

    In the last few weeks, I've watched several bees and wasps pollinate the flowers and that makes it welcome in the garden.

    Sunday, July 10, 2016

    I Actually Like Aegopodium 'variegatum'

    Aegopodium 'variegatum': also known as Goutweed, Bishops Weed, Variegated Ground Elder..."that ghastly weed"...well, it gets a bad rap in the horticultural world.

    Here's my take:  if it's planted in the right place, it's FABULOUS.

    Case in point:

    •   The Right Location: between homes, with a brick wall and concrete barrier/patio walkway running 25 feet. 
    Perfect situation. It's got no where else to go. It gets moderate amounts of light. Very little irrigation and maintenance. Keeps moisture away from the side of the house. Turns this difficult space into a lovely mass of colour. 


    1. Any Aegopodium left to its own devices can become noxious, overbearing and a plant bully. Do not plant it close in proximity to any plants that are non-aggressive and or just establishing. Think LARGE scale when situating.  Use structures/hardscaping parameters that can confine its roots.

    2. When the plant flowers, dead head almost immediately once the flowers start to decline. I can't stress it more. This prevents the plant from spreading via seeds. VERY crucial to do this in mid-June.  I remove them in succession.  Aegopodium flowers are fabulous pollinator blooms. Several bees, butterflies and hover flies buzz with furry, collecting pollen. We need more flowering plants like these to encourage pollinators to visit the garden.

    As you can see below, there are still white flowers mixed in with a flower that has gone to seed in my hand. It takes little to no effort. They just come off with little required pulling. 3 minutes later, they were all off.

    I don't compost these, they go out in the City yard waste bag.

    Every plant has a purpose and a place where its best situated. As gardeners, it's our job to figure that out.

    Sunday, July 03, 2016

    Squirrels and Spice, How Nice!

    I give up! Every day, I get this:

    I'm getting tired of this. Constant digging up of my planters/hanging planters... Sometimes I see an entire plant popped right out!

    Living in a townhouse complex, you get interesting neighbours in the mix. I really can't complain, they are lovely folk, but they LOVE feeding squirrels. The funny element: they each own a cat and guess where the squirrels find freedom away from those clever felines? My garden. Sigh....

    I happen to have the 'get-away' tree. At one sitting, I saw about 6 little squirrels to contend with.

    In shade, plants take longer to flush out and thicken, and so when the squirrels had their fill of food, they bury the rest. EVERYWHERE. Where ever there is a little soft soil or pocket, they find it.

    Weapons of choice:

    Plant netting: purchased at the dollar store. I had to do this, as two of these hanging fence line planters are closest to the 'get-away tree'. Grrrrrr. 

    Cayenne pepper: it works!  Testing it now for 4 days, it has kept them at bay.

    Sprinkle as close to the soil as possible and don't be stingy. A good covering is essential.

    The trick is to apply AFTER watering. Or it's rendered useless.

    Don't worry about getting it on leaves. Does nothing (at least I have not noticed any affect).

    I bought bulk cayenne at the bulk store, so that it didn't cost a mint.

    Just be aware, when placing it in baskets or planters close to eye level: sprinkle down wind. You don't want pepper dust getting into your eyes or nose. AHHHHH-CHEEEEW! :)

    Until my plants thicken and spread out to cover the bare soil, I shall be out there sprinkling away: after every watering (2-3 days).
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