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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tomatoes

Isn't it wonderful to go down in the vegetable garden and pick up all you need for a good lunch or dinner?
Tomatoes have always been one of my favourite crop and, they are doing pretty well in my garden.
So far, I have never sown tomato seeds in late winter in house. But, I am going to do that the next year. I would like to try some new tomato hybrids like so called "black" tomato 'Black Cherry' and I will order some seeds from Thompson & Morgan . Actually, I will order some more vegetable seed for the next season because I cannot find it here in Croatia.

The three kinds of cherry tomatoes.

Cherry tomatoes are good for salads and pizza and I have them planted in large pots. I have three kinds of cherry tomatoes this year, one of them being yellow.


I usually buy young plants on the market. Some of my friend saw the seeds directly on spot but since we live in the continental climate we cannot sow or plant the vegetable garden before end of April. If we sow the tomatoes in April we cannot get early crop. I usually make sure to buy young plants of early and late varieties to have the crop throughout the season.
I bought spiral metal supporters last year so, they will last for years. I usually plant two young plants together and then twist them around the supporter as they grow. When they reach the top of the supporter I cut of the tip of the stem.


I mulched tomato plot with grass clippings when the soil became warm and planted Tagetes around it. Mulch keeps the moisture and suppresses the weeds. Tagetes keeps the pests away. Mulch also prevents the soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants. The first bottom leaves are the first to catch the fungus and I remove them if I notice them turning yellow. 


Water them well and pinch off the suckers that develop between two branches. They do not bear fruit and only take energy away from plant.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Furniture make over


I love old things and keep in search of them. My friends know for it and bring me the thing they do not need anymore. So I came in possession of tables and chairs, chests, boxes, pots, cups and so on.
Firstly, I painte the things with an oil based paint. Sometimes I use acrylic paint and a special varnish that make the paint to crack and give the things an ancient look.
Secondly, I decorate the things with motives cut from paper towels. The technique is really uncomplicated and all you need is a little bit of time and patience.
So, this is how I did the chairs and other things.

1. Wash and dry the chair you want to decorate. If you need to repaint it do that.
2. Material you need: paper towels (serviettes) with floral or some other motives you like, special decoupage paper glue, scissors, brushes. There are special hobby shops where you can buy everything you need for this technique. I buy material in CHEMACO.
3. The motives look better if the thing you do is painted in the same colour as the paper towel background. This way the motive will blend with it and look as if you have painted it by hand. I usually tear the motives from the paper towels, don't cut them with the scissors. The serviettes usually have more layers and you need the top one with the printed motive. Take it carefully off.
4. Place the motive on the surface of the chair. Take some of the glue with a smooth brush and start smearing the glue from the middle of the motive towards the edges.
5. Let it dry completely. There is no need to use other varnish to protect the motive. This glue makes a firm, varnish-like film over it and seals it completely. It can be gently washed too.


A chair...

... and used tin cans.

Wooden box

Friday, 23 July 2010

Wildlife in the garden, part II

Birds


Birds are certainly lovely creatures and useful too. My garden is really full of birds. Sparrows, tits, eurasian nuthatches and black birds are regular inhabitants. But I have visitors like craw (snitching my walnuts!!), robin, lark, jay, song thrush and some other I did not identify yet.

Great tit (Parus major)

I do not feed them except in winter leaving some dry bread slices or seeds on the window sill. If you want birds in your garden plant the shrubs with berries like Pyracantha or Cotoneaster. Sometimes they eat the buds of Wistaria in spring! They will also come for various seeds, but they eat pest insects and worms too.

I made two bird baths of hypertufa and placed them in the borders. They love to take bath in it splashing all the water out!
Make sure to place the bird bath high enough so the cats cannot reach it!

Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)  is a valuable destroyer of pests though not entirely a beneficial species. It may destroy the buds in search for insects, but no species eats so many coccids , aphids and  leaf miner grubs.

Recently I discover the bird nest in the shrub. Do not know whom it belongs to.


Blackbirds always follow me when I mow the lawn. The worms disturbed by the mower vibration come out of the ground and the black birds collect them!

***
Strange thing often happens - the birds crush against the window! I guess they see the reflection of the trees on the window glass and cannot tell the difference between the real tree and the image on the glass. Small birds survive, but once the jay broke the neck striking the window glass! I was so sorry...

Monday, 19 July 2010

Ivy

Ivy (Hedera sp.) is a very popular plant and it can be used for many purposes. It is really easy to grow and it comes in a variety of differently shaped foliage that may be single coloured or variegated. It is a plant form the family Araliaceae, woody and evergreen. Being evergreen makes it an excellent screen plant. I have planted several varieties on the fence between my and neighbouring garden.


Ivy on the fence.

Ivy is a vigorous climber that happily climbs the trees and walls, but it can be used as a trailing plant for containers and hanging baskets.
Ivy is happy in bright indirect light or part shade and moist soil.

I use variegated ivy as a ground cover to lighten up a dark shady corner.

This one has deeply lobed pale green leaves.

This one (probably Hedera colchica) came from island of Hvar as cutting. I have it on the fence as well as ground cover. It has really big leaves.

This one climbs happily the house.




Friday, 16 July 2010

Echinacea

Echinacea mixed with Monarda and Hemerocallis

The Purple cone-flower (Echinacea purpurea) belongs to the family Asteraceae. It is native to eastern North America and is popular ornamental plant in cottage, natural and so called prairie gardens. It looks good with grasses and other flowers of the same family.
Many cultivars has been developed today for quality of  flower shape and colour. Echinacea is up to 1.2 m tall herbaceous perennial plant. It prefers loamy well drained soil and an open position.

Bees pollinate the flowers.

Echinacea is a well known medical plant used against the cold and as an immunostimulator.
Echinacea can be propagated by division of the clump or by sowing the seed. Of course, plants raised from seed will not be true to the mother plant. The flowers last really long. You can cut them off when they fade away for a second flowering in late summer. Dry stems look attractive even in winter covered by snow.


The central disc of tubular flowers looks like a hedgehog, hence the name "echinacea" - form Greek "echino" meaning hedgehog.

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan', photo Decora

Echinacea purpurea 'Sundown' is new in my garden.

I like Echinacea because they have a really long period of flowering. The stems are upright and rigid and do not need staking unless it rains heavily.


Thursday, 15 July 2010

Roses I

I have about thirty different roses in my garden. Some of them, like this 'Don Juan' climbing the trelly, are really old. This rose is grown from a hard wood cutting some 25 years ago.

'Don Juan' is a wonderful climber with large velvety and scented flowers.

I use to buy my roses in Virag rose nursery in Novo Selo Podravsko. They have a very good plants with three good shoots and three roots. They sell plants bare roots in autumn. It is the best time to plant the roses really, each one of them grows happily in my garden.
One of my favourite is 'Double Delight'. The flowers change colour as they slowly fade away.

'Double Delight' (hybrid tea rose)

'Double delight' the next day...

'Imperatrice Farah' bears large flowers on long stems (hybrid tea rose).

Floribunda roses (also polyantha) bear clusters of flowers that bloom perpetually during summer and autumn.

'Lavaglut' (polyantha)

I am very fond of old roses among which are alba, gallica, centifolia and damasc roses. One of my favourite old rose is hybrid perpetual rose 'Baron Girod de I'Ain.

'Baron Girod de I'Ain'





Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Wild life in the garden, part I

Insects

Ideally, we should attract three kind of beneficial insects into the garden - parasites, predators and pollinators. When I say parasites, I mean parasites on pests not the plants!
Insects love scented flowers. Pollinated insects such as bumblebees and bees will certainly come to Nepeta, Salvia, Agastache, Asters, Echinacea, Monarda, Lavandula, Rosmarinus... Having pollinating insects in the garden is very important especially if you grow fruit e.g. apples, pears and red currants.

 
Bumblebee on Centaurea

Butterflies may be both pollinators and pests and are attracted to flowers full of nectar but also to caterpillar host plants. Buddleia in bloom is always full of butterflies. It is also called "Butterfly bush" - certainly for a reason! Vividly coloured and scented flowers attract the butterflies, but they come to our vegetable gardens too. Just think of the Cabbage White! How many times you saw the eggs and caterpillars on the cabbage leaves?
Lovely butterfly visiting Lychnis flowers.

Thanks God, we mostly think of butterflies as a beautiful creatures and not the pests even though their caterpillars may cause severe damage on plants. I usually collect them manually. Better so than spraying with pesticides.

We do not have to kill every single creature that crawls in our garden and bite the leaves of our precious plants. Aphids, for example, are eaten by lady beetles and green lacewings.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis is certainly a predator and is capable to handle bigger pest, but it eats also caterpillars.
Ground beetles (Carabus ssp.), wasps and stink bugs are beneficial insects feeding on snails, aphids, and other insects.

You can make an insect hotel, or simply leave hollow brick, old tree trunk or pile of twigs  in some wild part of your garden. These wasps made their home on the inner side of my old garbage can which I now use as a composter.


Plant the plants of the Apiaceae family. They are excellent insect plants as well as Compositae and Lamiaceae.


Graphosoma lineatum loves dill


Tip: Try to have an organic garden and avoid use of pesticides to preserve the wild life. Pests are annoying, but they too are part of nature so, try to see them in another light. They can be collected manually, or try to spray the plants with natural remedies to fight them.

Monday, 12 July 2010

What's new?

hemerocallis 'Catherine Woodberry'


Hemerocallis 'Bonanza'

Hemerocallis 'Clothed in Glory'

Lilium tigrinum 'Splendens'

Hibiscus syriacus


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Allium

Allium 'Purple Sensation' with Aquilegia

Allium is a genus of plants of the well known onion family - Alliaceae. Onions are grown as ornamentals and herbs but also for food. Allium is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows from a bulb. Sometimes the bulbs are clustered as in  Allium ascalonicum (shallot). Allium flower appears in white, yellow, purple and blue.
They prefer open, sheltered, sunny positions and well drained soil.
Alliums are good to fill up the gaps in a spring border. They do not need a lot of space for their leaves are close to the ground and the flowers form on a single stem that grows straight up. Many of them are self seeding, but you can collect the seed and sow it immediately in a cold frame to stay outside over the winter. They need a period of cold to germinate. You can keep the seeds in the refrigerator for six weeks before sawing if you sow the seeds in spring. Immediate sowing is better. It may take up several years before the bulb reaches the flowering size. However, the alliums grown from seed will not come true to the mother plant.
Some alliums form small bulbs in the flower heads. That is the vegetative way of reproduction, and the new plants will be the same as the mother plant.

Aerial bulbils formed in flower head

Allium schoenoprasum; well known herb. I divide the clump every three years.

Allium ursinum; native to Croatia. It grows in woods in moist and fertile soil. The leaves and bulbs are edible and used as medicine plant too. I brought a few bulbs from the woods into my garden some years ago and it spreads quickly. Make sure to have plenty of space for it. It may appear on unexpected places in the garden because the seeds are carried away by the ants.

Allium aflatunenense 'Purple Sensation'; good ornamental onion. It flowers in April, and bears seeds in July.


Allium bulb should be planted in autumn. Large bulbs need to be about 25 cm apart, the smaller 6-8 cm. Plant them at the depth three or four times the diameter of the bulb. Lift, divide and replant large clumps when the leaves and flowers die down.

Vegetable garden


It is time to harvest the first crop from the vegetable garden.
Three kinds of runner beans

I have already made the black currant jam.

Swollen kohlrabi stems are ready to harvest. I often eat it raw, but also use it in vegetable stews.


Celery is doing well...


Tomato splits when rain comes after the long period of heath.