Annual Flowers from Seed (2018)

This year, as I was starting some herbs, I had a few extra peat pellets left, and I figured I would try to start a few annual flowers again. I’ve made a bit of an attempt over the years, and this will be no different. Depending on the money situation, I will likely buy any bedding plants, but these will hopefully add a bit of homegrown colour and interest to the garden.

 

Lavatera – My grandma grew this almost every year without fail. She would have this huge stand of these beautiful pink flowers along the back side (south facing) of her house. And every year she would save seed from them for the next year.

This packet is from McKenzie seed, and is from 2016.

  • ‘Silvercup’Lavatera
  • “Dense, bushy, mound-shaped plants are clad in attractive, dark green foliage and covered with 10cm (4″) flowers. The brightest of all mallow blooms! Ideal as a mixed border or a quick growing, compact summer hedge. Easily grown”

Cosmos – I grew these along with the veggies back when we had the greenhouse garden to use (before we realized JUST how bat-*&$% crazy the owners of the property were). The beneficial bugs loved them, and so did I, so I figured it was worth a shot again in my backyard this year.

This packet is from McKenzie seed, and is from 2014

  • ‘Early Sensation Mix’Cosmos
  • “So easy to grow they seem to thrive on neglect! Daisy-like 9cm (3 1/2″) blooms in crimson, rose, pink and white are enhanced by yellow centers, held high on graceful fern-like foliage. Exceptionally beautiful in beds, borders and background planting.”

Asters – These are new to me. I got them many years ago with the intent of growing them, but the seed packet sat there unopened until now.

This packet is from McKenzie seed, and is from 2014

  • ‘Powder Puffs’ Aster
  • “Tremendous double flowers, 8-10cm (3-4″) in diameter, grow upright on long sturdy stems. Lovely bouquet-type habit makes it an excellent cut flower. Resists wilt. By picking off faded blooms, you will prolong the flowering season.”

I sowed these (4 of Lavatera, 4 of Cosmos, and 3 of Asters) on April 8, 2018. There may be more if this snow keeps up and I need a small bit of hope of  the summer to come.

Update before I make this post live (April 26):

  • The Aster’s still haven’t germinated. So I think the seeds were too old
  • The majority of the Cosmos have germinated and are currently working on their first true leaves.
  • The Lavatera had spotty germination. One is doing well, a few more germinated but didn’t manage to break their seed leaves through the hard seed shell. I think I have another packet of seeds that I may try to direct sow, but my lavatera dreams may have to wait until next year.

 

 

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Sweet Potato Experiment Update (2017)


Before I get started, here is the link back to the first post on the Sweet Potatoes. I did try this a few years ago, and I never got to the part of putting them outside. I did have some really beautiful flowers in my kitchen window though. If you didn’t know, Sweet Potatoes are related to Morning Glories and are not part of the Nightshade family like regular potatoes. So in all actuality, I may only be able to produce pretty little flowers and tiny little tubers not worth all this effort. That is the beauty of an experiment. These are FAR outside my zone, but I am banking on the heat of my patio to hopefully get a little harvest. I don’t have aspirations of becoming a sweet potato farmer, this is just a fun little thing to try out.


I left the last post at “wait for sprouts to arrive”…

Well boy did they ever. Within a week, I had some sprouts that were almost 6 inches tall. Keep in mind that these are vines, so they will grow fast.


Once these sprouts get a decent size, gently snap them off. This takes a little bit of the tuber away with it. (Just be gentle and don’t be alarmed. It is just a sweet potato and we are just experimenting. The fun is in the learning and its ok to screw up.)  Leave the smaller sprouts on the tuber to develop some more.


Take the sprouts you removed, and snip off their lower leaves with scissors or a pinch of your nails. Put these in a separate jar. Soon we will see some little roots sprouting off the stem.


Now the trick will be to keep them growing slowly until we can get them into their final home. I’ll update again at the next steps. Or if anything exciting happens.

A few points to remember:

  • Keep the jars topped up with water. As the sprouts start growing more vigorously, the water will go down faster. Just keep an eye on it and don’t let it dry out. I have to top the tuber jar up every couple days now because of the amount of sprouts/roots happening. As the slips start producing more roots, that jar will need water added more frequently as well.
  • If you notice the water is getting smelly, growing algae, or turning a weird colour, dump it out and add some fresh water.
  • I don’t know if I clarified to put these in a sunny window or not. If I didn’t then I am now… Keep both jars in a sunny window. Plants need light. 😉
Tuber roots before I topped it up with clean water

Kale for Days

 

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I just found this post in my draft folder. I was so sure that I had hit publish on it, but I guess not. This was my intro to the Kale I grew last year. I didn’t manage to get any growing photos of it last year (because 2016 was a giant steamy pile of… fresh compost), BUT I plan on trying them all again this year.

I love Kale. I think most of the world does now too. And the good thing, if you are also a Kale lover… Its ridiculously easy to grow. I was originally just going to group the Kale in with the other Brassicas that I am growing this year, but then I decided to dedicate a whole post just to the Kale

Rule of thumb – cover any kind of Brassica (which Kale is) to protect it from becoming a white cabbage butterfly (or moth…whatever it is) nursery. You can try and spray the eggs off with a jet of water from the hose… and then pick any caterpillars off the leaves later on if you want; But I find the easiest way to protect my brassicas is by covering them with a screen material. The one exception to this, is the Curly Kale. It doesn’t seem to attract the little buggers like pretty much any other brassica does. But be ready to cover it if you start to see the pretty little butterfly floating around them.

I’ve grown the Curly kale over-sown in a container just outside the kitchen door for baby leaves for a few years, and I definitely recommend trying that if you have no where else to grow it. So easy! You can let some of the plants grow on into full sized Kale plants too, so you can get the best of both worlds.

I’m growing 5 different varieties this year! My best friend brought me some different varieties back with her from a trip to Ontario. White Russian and the Rainbow Kale are the new additions here. They are from a seed company called “Urban Harvest” and I’m looking forward to trying all the seeds she brought me.

  • White Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex cells)
    • “This beautiful variety has green, wavy leaves with white stems and veining. Thought to be one of the vest tasting kales. Very tender and hardy. Use baby leaves in salad and mature leaves for stir fry or steaming.” Urban Harvest Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: Not mentioned on seed pack
  •  Rainbow Dinosaur Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “This European Kale has been developed by Frank Morton. A cross of Lacinato (Dinosaur) & Redbor hybrid kale. He selected this diverse population that includes the leaf qualities that Lacinato is loves for, overlain with hues of red, purple, and blue-green. More vigorous and cold hardy than Lacinato. Not bitter and very tender.” Urban Harvest Seeds 
    • Days to Maturity: 62
  • Dinosaur (Lacinato) Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “Handsome heirloom known for its blue-green crinkled leaves, tender texture & sweet flavor. Delicious in salads, for sauteed greens, soups or braised with garlic & olive oil. Kale’s flavor is vest in cool weather; mature plants handle frost well or extended harvesting” Cornucopia Seeds
  • Red Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Dark gray-green leaves provide more vitamins and minerals than other greens. Red and purple hues intensify after fall frost providing tender and sweet rich dark green kale when cooked. Tasty steamed, stir fried or in salads.” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60
  • Dwarf Green Curled Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Decorative green curled leaves. May be boiled as greens or chopped fresh for salads when young. Kale is the oldest form of cabbage, being superior to most vegetables in protein, vitamin and mineral content. Cool weather crop that likes rich well drained, moisture retaining soil. Tastiest after a light frost. Slow to bolt” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60-75

 

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So, for this year (2017), I think I will try the exact same Kale situation as I wrote about above. Which is why I left the dates I sowed them (for my own notes). As always, plans could change. At the very least, I will sow the curly, rainbow and the dinosaur Kale. At this point in my garden plan for this year, Kale will be the only Brassica I am going to grow, with the possibility of Broccoli if I can find some room for it.

If you have any Kale or other Brassica tips, share them in the comments below. Do you have a (preferably organic) way of keeping away the white butterflies? I would love to keep the netting out of my garden that doubles as our backyard landscapes, but I also know that I cannot keep up with hand-picking the eggs or little caterpillars off the plants.

Little February Update

I have no real gardening updates. When the weather is allowing, I’ve just been working like crazy making things for our little Etsy shop. We’ve had a few nice Chinook days where it makes it really tempting to pull the seeds out and start sowing. But I have been good and resisted. The cold and arctic weather between the Chinooks, has been a good deterrent as well.

The most I have done garden- related is start attempting to get some sweet potato slips. The tuber itself has made quite a few little sprouts that have grown quite vigorously. So I will have to make a little update on its own.


I have indulged in a few seed packets as well. 2 varieties of carrot (‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Little Finger’), some Dill and some ‘Diva’ Cucumber. The Cucumber is new, and I’m excited to try it. I like to grow the pickling cucumbers, but I don’t have the space to get the volume of cucumbers to make pickling all of my own worth it. Hopefully someday, but for now, I’m going to try something new.

The two carrot varieties will be heading straight to my community garden plot. I want to double (or even triple) the amount of carrots I grew last year. Fresh from the garden carrots are one of my most favourite things. You just can’t beat them. The plot there will also have beets and onions for sure, maybe more.

Now that we are heading into March, I can allow myself to take a peek at my tomatoes and other seeds. I re-purposed my little LED light I got for seed starting into a shop light, so I may have to take it back in the house for a few months to get things going.

Keep an eye out for more garden related content in the coming weeks. The season is starting to kick off and I will actually have something to write about.

Quick little tip before I sign off on this post:

When you get new seeds, write the year you got them on the package. Most seeds are viable for a few years if stored in the correct conditions, so you don’t need to purchase them every single year if you still have some left. By writing the year on them, in a few years you will know that the germination rate of that package may not be the greatest. I grew some seeds I had left from 2013 last year and they grew just as well as the new ones.

Happy New Year!

Thank you 2017 for finally getting here. 2016 was full of Monumental loss for me personally. I just need to use the freshness of this new year to help push through the sadness and bullshit that was 2016. This meme totally sums it up for me:

negan2016

But moving on… (I’m sorry if you don’t watch The Walking Dead and don’t understand the meme above… also if you do watch, please don’t spoil the new season for me… We like to wait til it is all over and then watch the whole thing…I only know who died because its impossible to not know if you spend any amount of time on the internet)

  • I’m considering starting onions from seed again this year, any thoughts? I’m only considering because they were quite successful last year, BUT I want to simplify things a bit this time around, and the sets will be so much easier. If I decide  to do it, I need to do it now.
    • If I do start some from seed, I may give Leeks another shot and put them out at the community garden. I’m not wasting my limited space on them here.

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  • I am working on getting a 2017 garden layout post written so I have some plans once spring hits. Because once it starts warming up, I’m going to be out there digging.
  • Someone remind me to try and get some squirrel protection over my strawberries before I lose them to the squirrels again. All the new plants I put in last year should be at peak production this year. Maybe I’ll finally be able to achieve my 100% homemade jam dream. (hopefully the crab apple tree doesn’t get beaten up by an early hail storm again, so we get the natural pectin)
  • Fingers crossed that my chocolate mint survived. Otherwise I’ll be buying that again from the garden center. (Not that I really use it for anything, I just like to stop and smell it every time I walk by it)
    • I’m curious to see if any of my other herbs that I planted in-ground will survive the winter. Any bets?
  • Grow my own Sweetener, 2.0 will be a go if I can buy the Stevia plants again this year. Going for simplicity and planting 87 different plants from seed doesn’t follow that.
  • I might even be able to plant my OWN garlic. If I have some left by the time Spring rolls around… Regardless, I’ll still be putting in some that I buy  (hopefully I can find some in the near future), But I have really been enjoying having a good supply of garlic that I grew myself. I want to have a bit more for next year.

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  • I had decent Habenero crop but I didn’t do anything with them. So I may start some of them again in the very near future. They are slow growing and can use the extra time inside.
    • I’ll also do Cayenne again, but not started as early as the habenero…. and clearly with some squirrel protection. Who would’ve thought that the squirrels would steal hot peppers?!?!
  • On the Tomato front… I am not going to let myself plant 20 different varieties again. But for-sure I will be planting:
    • Sub Arctic Plenty  (They were fantastic and so easy)
    • Tumbler
    • Black Cherry (I didn’t really get to have any of them -Squirrels – so I want to try again)
    • At least one beef-steak type
    • Any Best-friend or Mom requested varieties.
  • I’ve really enjoyed having my own homemade pickles, but since only a handful of them were actually from my own plants, I may skip growing pickling cucumbers this year, and just buy them from the farmers market. I do want to try and grow some eating type cucumbers though, so I may focus my attention on that.

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  • And of course there will be Zucchini
  • And I wont forget Beans this year
  • Or Peas

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Now I just need to plan out where all of this is going to go…

And Maybe I’ll throw some sunflowers in too, because they were really fun. And that is what this year needs to be after last year. And there might be considerations of putting some pumpkins and/or squash at my parents place… We’ll see.

One last thing… I may start putting quick garden videos up again. I’ll let you know here if I actually put effort into my YouTube channel this year.