Nonstop Mocca Yellow Begonia

Here's another addition to my front garden! It is a Nonstop Mocca Yellow Begonia. It's a new floral for me, so I thought I'd do some research to aid in its care. Here's what I found out about Begonias:

  • They like well drained soil, as they will rot if they become too moist, but the soil should not be left to dry out completely between watering.
  • They like sun, but should be protected from the most intense sun if your climate is hot and dry.
  • Bring inside before first frost, but not into a room that's too warm.
  • When you bring them inside, start with the sunniest location you can find and then gradually allow them to get used to reduced amounts of light.
  • Zones: 3-11 (Annual in zones 3-8; Perennial in zones 9-11).
  • Tubers can be saved over the winter to start new plants the following year.
  • Leave foliage in place after blooming has finished for the season, as the leaves can continue to generate food for the bulbs/tubers. Foliage can be cut back once it turns yellow.
  • Begonias can be propagated from cuttings.

Plant Avenue Home

Mold On Zucchini Leaves

This is my latest gardening hurdle: there is powdery, grayish mold on many of my zucchini leaves. As it turns out, there are a few simple things you can try to combat this.

First and foremost - never put moldy leaves in your compost. The spores will survive and spread.

As for getting rid of mold on leaves, I was able to find three different organic solutions that can be sprayed directly on the plants to alleviate mold:
  1. Chamomile tea. Make a strong brew and let it cool first before spraying. Chamomile tea is high in sulfur and is a natural fungicide.
  2. Baking soda and water. Mix 1 tbsp of Baking Soda and 1 gallon of water and spray on leaves.
  3. Skim milk and water. Combine at a 50/50 ratio and spray on. This remedy supposedly changes the pH of the surface of the leaves, which prohibits the mold from surviving.

PS - here's a handy link with more remedies for other plant diseases (in addition to mold).

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Cabbage Worm

Aw, he's cute!!! Too bad he and his lil' buddies are devouring my pretty blue ornamental cabbage.

I picked off all the worms I could find yesterday, and tossed them in the yard as far away from the garden as I could (they turn into the Cabbage White butterfly so I didn't have the heart to kill them).

My edible cabbage in the back garden has also been devoured, and although I can't find any worms, I do recall seeing these lovely little white butterflies flitting about (ah-HA!).

The butterflies deposit their small eggs on the underside of the leaf. After a short time (about a week), the eggs hatch and the worms start munching away, nourishing themselves to make their chrysalis for the next generation of butterflies.


I found a great article on this topic at EcoSMART, which includes a photo of the eggs, as well as several solutions including:
  • Use floating row covers and/or nylon stockings to cover your plants.
  • Remove and destroy the worms (does throwing them across the yard count? I'm thinking not, lol).
  • Plant other things to deter these pests (such as RED cabbage, Mint, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme or Hyssop).
  • Catch the butterflies with nets or sticky tapes.
They also sell their organic insectide, which is another option to try.

Another spray option, which I might try because I can mix it myself and is chemical free, is the combination of 1% garlic, 1% fish oil and 98% water. You can visit this site for more information on this.

Flour, dusted on the leaves when they're damp from dew or rain, also works. The worms eat the flour, become bloated, and die. I'm considering trying this as well, since it's a totally non-toxic option. This e-How article by Chris McLaughlin describes the flour method.

There are many things you can do to combat the Cabbage Worm - I'm planning to add to this post as I come across more information. Meanwhile, I guess I'll try one of the remedies described above and see what works!

PS - I just went out back and inspected my cabbage - I saw some eggs, although no big clusters of them - AND I saw some that had hatched into tiny baby worms (about 1-2 mm in length)!! Previously I had scanned for full grown worms and not seen any, but this time I looked closer...

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Strawberry Runners Propagation

Here's an update on my strawberry runners - I tried propagating them by planting them in their own pots while they were still attached to the mother plant. Apparently it's working, because not only are they thriving, but one has even grown a blossom! All I have to do now is decide when I'm going to cut them free...

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Shasta Daisies

I added a new perennial to my front garden: Shasta Daisies.

I read that they are a Perennial and bought a plant without much further thought. It looks as though I made a good purchase because it turns out that they're hardy and easy to grow. Here is some information about the Shasta Daisy:

  • They can survive in planting zones 5-10.
  • They like well drained soil and full sun.
  • They are very drought tolerant, and can withstand more summer heat than many plants.
  • They attract bees, birds and butterflies.
  • Care includes deadheading (this will promote further blooming), and dividing the plant every 2-3 years.
  • They have sturdy stems, and flowers easily remain upright even after a hard rain.

So far I've deadheaded a few flowers from the plant I bought, and it continues to thrive. Hopefully it'll be a part of my garden for years to come!

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Growing Avocado Pits

I was turning my compost pile with a shovel one day last summer when I saw what looked like a tall weed. I pulled it out from the earth only to discover it was a sprouted avocado pit! Intrigued, I planted it in a pot where it thrived, until the cold of our BC winter killed it.

I've been meaning to try growing one again, but this time with indoor potting soil so that I can keep the plant warm in the house this winter. I debated whether or not to simply fill a pot with potting soil and put the pit in it (because that apparently works!), but then I thought I'd do some Internet research on the topic.

Voila! The toothpick suspension water sprouting method! (See picture).
  • Clean the avocado pit and remove the thin skin.
  • Make a slice down one side of the pit.
  • Suspend the pit with toothpicks so that the narrower part of it is above the water and the wider part is below.
  • Check water daily to ensure that the bottom half of the pit is still touching it.
  • Wait and watch!
The trick to growing avocado plants indoors is adequate sunlight - bright windows are best. I have mine on my kitchen window sill overlooking our sunny back yard.

I'll post more pics as it grows!

Plant Avenue Home

Growing Strawberry Runners

Previously I've tried cutting strawberry runners and then planting them alone, with no success. Here's a tip I heard recently that I am in the process of trying.

Before cutting the runners off the mother plant, secure them in pots and let them establish themselves in the soil, while they're still attached. Only then can you cut them free and transplant them elsewhere.

Wish me luck!

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Are Green Potatoes Toxic?

Yes, according to Snopes, and many other sources.

The green is from chlorophyll, which is not the dangerous part, but is present along with the toxin: solanine. Large amounts of solanine consumed at one time can cause nerve damage, and smaller amounts consumed regularly can be carcinogenic.

Potato greens (leaves, stems) should never be eaten, and if you find any green on your spuds, it should be cut away, or the entire potato discarded. I found this one in my garden (see picture), and tossed it into the compost heap.

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Harvesting Seeds From Peas

I am becoming more and more interested in obtaining my own seeds directly from the plants I've grown. My Father-In-Law has shown me how with marigolds, and when I saw these dried peas still on my aging plants (see pic), I wondered if you could with peas as well.

Apparently you can, as I read on this and many other web sites. The trick is to leave the pods on the plant until they're very dry, and then store them in an envelope until next season. You want all of the moisture to be gone, so that no mildew forms during storage.

I've taken the peas in this picture and put them away for next season... hey, you never know! And to think that in previous years I may have composted perfectly good seeds ;)

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Eating Peas From My Garden

Kids can be picky eaters, but you never know what they'll like.

I seldom ever cook the food from my garden (except for potatoes). We normally just eat most of it raw.

My five year old son, for example, LOVES peas from the garden. I shell them and put them in a bowl for him, and he snacks to his heart's content :)

Cutting Back Lilies

My lily flowers have now died, and are ready to be deadheaded. Before heading out front with my clippers, I thought I'd do a little research on the topic.

I found out an interesting tip: if you don't cut the stems back (i.e. only clip off the top where the spent flower was), the bulbs will be better nourished and create healthier plants next season, rather than if you had cut the stems all the way back.

This is assuming the stems are still green - once they've died off and turned brown, then you can cut them as well.

Good to know!

My Good Veggie Crops This Year...

...have been tomatoes, beans, peas, zucchini and cucumber. Here's a picture of some tomatoes and beans I picked recently.

My biggest challenge with the tomatoes has been keeping them up off the ground. The plants need to be propped up, or the weight of the growing fruit will pull the branches down. (The beans require less effort to keep up because they're lighter.)

My advice to anyone who has never grown tomatoes or beans before is to plant them along the edge of your garden if it's enclosed with a fence (this is what I do, then simply tie them up against the fence). Either that or have long sticks and twine ready, or purchase plant "cages" from your local gardening store to support the plants.

While I love the Roma tomatoes and the beans from the garden, the cherry tomatoes are fabulous!! Store bought cherry tomatoes simply cannot compare. If you've considered growing them but have never tried, you should - you won't regret it :)

Potato Growing Tips

My potato crop was a little light this year, so I thought I'd give myself a potato growing refresher:
  • Rotate planting location on a 3 year cycle (you need 3 sites if you want to plant potatoes every year).
  • Allow your seed potatoes to sprout ("chitting") by keeping them in a warm, dry and dark place for a few days, before planting.
  • Cut seed potatoes into small pieces, ensuring that each piece has at least one eye (sprout).
  • Plant as soon as the soil can be worked, but warmer than 45F/8C.
  • Plant in loose soil, not too damp (good drainage), slightly acidic.
  • Potatoes like full sun.
  • Plant 3 inches deep and 12 inches apart.
  • Water early in the day so that the leaves have time to dry before the evening (if the plants stay wet they can be subject to rot).
  • Once plants have flowered and the blossoms have died, that's a sign that there are potatoes ready to harvest. Simply dig through the soil with your hands until you find them.
  • FYI - potato greens are highly toxic, and should never be eaten. The same is true of green potato skin. If you dig up some spuds that are still partially green, either cut away all the green before you eat them, or dispose of them.
Upon reviewing the above, I think what I can do next year to improve my harvest is to change my planting location. I have a very sunny spot that would be perfect! At the moment I have cucumbers and zucchini growing there, but our family eats far more potatoes. Next year that will be my new potato spot :)

Brussel Sprouts Info

This is a new crop for me: Brussel sprouts. I planted them for the first time this spring, and the plants have thrived.

Thrived, but... no sprouts! While so many other veggies in my garden have found their way to my kitchen by now, the Brussel sprouts still haven't made their appearance. Then I thought, what if they're biennial?

It turns out that they're a relatively hardy, cold weather plant, and a frost or two actually improves their flavour. They may not produce sprouts until very late in the year, sometimes waiting until the beginning of the following year.

I planted mine from seeds in the garden in late May, which means I won't see any sprouts until early 2010.

I'm glad I researched this, or I may have pulled the plants and discarded them, thinking that they had failed. Now I know they're doing fine, but not quite ready yet :)

Pollinating Strawberries, and Hand Pollination

Strawberries, while technically being self-pollinating, do benefit from some help. Many gardeners find that hand pollination of their strawberry plants produces a better yield.

There are several ways you can hand pollinate:
  • use a cotton swab, and gently wipe each flower (using the same swab for all)
  • use a soft clean paint brush and carefully brush the blossoms
  • gently shake the plant (this may not work for plants with flowers that don't have both male and female parts)
Hand pollination is commonly used in greenhouses in lieu of bees, and it's a useful tool to know about.

My strawberry plants are thriving, but as I write this, they're not producing the quantity of fruit that I would like. I have tried all sorts of things including watering more and trimming off the runners, but it hasn't really made a difference. The one thing I haven't tried yet is hand pollinating. Now I'm going to!

Pollinating Blueberries

Last year I bought two small blueberry bushes, which both had flowers at the time of purchase. I brought them home and planted them on either side of our considerably large yard, thinking I'd end up with better spacing that way. The flowers, which had already been pollinated, turned into berries, and I thought the plants were doing well.

This year, one of the plants has died, and the other, while still very healthy, has not produced flowers OR fruit. What I'm learning now is that blueberry bushes are not self-pollinating, and need to be planted close to each other so that they can cross pollinate. While blueberries have both male and female parts, they are self-sterile and cannot be pollinated from their own pollen.

Bees are important for blueberry pollination, and they prefer warm sunny weather. Next spring I plant to purchase more plants and put them within close proximity of each other, in a sunny, bee-friendly location. Hopefully this will produce better results!

Pollination Terminology

Pollination is a fairly involved topic that I am just beginning to learn. Here is some basic terminology:

Male flowers: produce pollen and have only male parts (stamen, anther, and filament).

Female flowers: produce fruit and have only female parts (pistil, stigma, style, ovary, ovule).

Imperfect flower:
a flower that has either all male parts or all female parts, but not both.

Perfect flower:
a flower that has both male and female parts.

Self pollination:
refers to the transfer of pollen from the male flower parts to the female parts of the same flower.

Wind pollination:
pollen that is transferred to other flowers via air currents over a long distances.

Cross pollination:
pollen that is transferred, mainly by insects, between flowers.

Self sterile:
a plant that cannot be pollinated by its own pollen.

Self fertile:
a plant that can be pollinated by its own pollen.

Ripening Tomatoes

Tomatoes taste best when they're ripened on the vine, but sometimes there isn't time before the first frost in the fall. This happened to me last year - we had such a short growing season that most of my cherry tomatoes were still dark green when the temperatures started to drop.

I googled the topic and discovered that you can ripen green tomatoes by bringing them indoors and placing them in the dark, somewhere cool. I thought I'd try, and took a large plastic container, lined it with paper towels, and spread out the tomatoes. I then covered them to keep the light out and waited, checking on them every couple of days.

Voila! Success. I discovered something interesting, too... if I took out ALL the ripened tomatoes, it took longer for new ones to ripen than it did if I left a few ripe ones in the tub. It turns out that ripe tomatoes produce Ethylene, which accelerates the ripening process for the others. Supposedly ripe bananas have the same effect on green tomatoes, although I haven't tried that one.

Here are some other tricks to speed up the tomato ripening process (these ones I haven't tried yet):
  • shock the plant by yanking on the root
  • cut back on watering
  • pull the entire plant and hang it upside down
This year we're having a much warmer summer so I've been letting my tomatoes ripen on the vine, but it's nice to have some tricks up my sleeve for the future :)