Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Gardening: it's that time of year again.

by Colman Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 10:39:40 AM EST

Snowdrops If, like me, you're in the dreary depths of winter it's time to start planning and planting for the upcoming growing season. The first snowdrops popping up is always a sign of that.

We (well my wife) emptied most of our compost heaps into the garden over Christmas leaving just enough left to renew the soil in our container garden and we have some heavy work to do. Our garden has a small (8' diameter) lawn in the centre which, as we feared when we planted it, is too small to survive the slight depredations of even two miniature dachshunds. We're going to take most of it out and replace it with gravel and proper log edging to the borders around it. If we get a decent weekend - it's looking good for tomorrow.

More importantly, I need to start planning what crops to grow: it's still very early, so the best I can do now is plant lettuce, radish, spinach and some dwarf broad beans under cover. If I can figure out where I would transplant them later I'll plant some leeks as well. If our soil wasn't heavy clay I'd throw a few cloves of garlic around the place but anything calling for well drained sandy soil is doomed in our garden.

My aim is to produce as much good, high-value crops from the garden while still leaving enough space for recreation, wildlife and the dogs - not easy when it's three metres wide and not much longer.

Anyone else got plans this year?


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It's Friday afternoon: there's no way I can handle anything serious until Monday anyway. I'm posting this as a diary because it's so peripheral to the site.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 10:40:33 AM EST
Well, I think gardening fits in just fine, thank you...not so peripheral to the European lifestyle. And I haven't started to plan yet...mostly because here in Switzerland it is still snowing pretty regularly...but now you got me thinking. And anyway, my indoors plants are happy and cruising along!

I have one challenging plant, however, and thought I'd ask if anyone has an answer for me. I bought a real nice lantana for my wife two years ago, one that has been pruned so it has a long stem and is a ball at the top. What's nice about lantana is that it flowers off and on from April to November (and is even beginning to now). The problem is that it is quite needy...it requires a lot of water, and quickly slumps if it isn't given water when it needs it. It is also a messy plant, dropping lots of leaves and "branch litter". So it is really a better outdoor plant, but I don't know if lantana's can stand cold weather, so I have brought it indoors the last two winters...where he/she lives quite contentedly, demanding water and dropping stuf on our floor. So...does anyone know if lantana plants can stand freezes?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 11:20:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A web search indicates it's a tender perennial, so no. You'll just have to work out a better watering system. Maybe some sort of drip system?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 11:28:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lantana can live outdoors in winter in Mediterranean climates. Anywhere else (here in SW France included), it needs bringing in to a greenhouse or conservatory etc. So it unfortunately has to be a pot plant for most of us.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 12:06:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll see if I can get some advice on watering. Maybe the leaves and branches fall because of water deficit from time to time?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 12:08:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks colman & afew for this info. When I went away for 10 days in December, I thought I had a good watering system set up...only to come back and find the poor lantana on deaths doorstep. But with lots of watering and pruning, it has bounced right back.

So...indoor watering systems...anyone have experience with a good indoor watering system that you could point me to?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 05:21:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I found some interesting designs by typing "vacation watering" in google images.
by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 09:01:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Moved to the front-page now - it's the weekend.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 02:53:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish I had a place to do some urban agriculture. As it is, my plan for the next 10 years or so (not just next year) is to get that place.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 10:44:45 AM EST
There's always window boxes.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 10:54:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Though depending where you live you may or may not be able to grow anything edible in a window box. When I lived in a flat it was a basement on a street with lot's of night-clubs and bars, not to mention traffic fumes. I didn't dare eat anything grown there.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 10:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does anyone have any advice about roses?  I love roses and, since I moved into this house, I've been getting them as birthday and Mother's day gifts.  I live in the Pacific Northwest which, presumably, is quite good for growing roses, but I'm having a lot of problems with mildew.

My only experience with them was in California which has other problems, but dampness isn't one of them.  Also, I've been unwell for a few years and haven't tended to them as I should have.  I also don't use chemicals of any sort.

As a result, the spots have gotten out of control.  I meant to cut them back in the fall and take all the leaves off, but didn't get around to it.  So now I'm wondering if it's too late to cut them back, if I should still take the leaves off (there's still a few hanging around) and what's the best way to get and keep them healthy -- is there any hope?  

My gran used to dump her tea leaves in the rose bed, and I'm wondering about that.  I'm clueless -- any advice would be appreciated.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 06:34:02 PM EST
One thing I've found when dealing with rose spots is to just let them be. I tried to get rid of leaves with spots but the spots always come back. So I gave up on fighting them. I suppose that if it's a bacterial infection then there isn't much you can do besides use a chemical. Anyhow the rose plants are still alive today.

Tea is an excellent fertilizer, but I am not aware of any virtues it may have regarding spots. I have also found that coffee is good for plants that like acidic soils ... they grow as if they were doped on coffee!

This isn't my garden btw, I only take care of my mom's when I can, as she is utterly lazy in that area.

I only have plants in pots of my own, essentially tropical ones, seeds I've brought back from abroad, like a Bauhinia, a baobab, a curry tree, a few citrus plants, and a few other dwarf trees (that used to be bonsais until the day I concluded that it was vicious of me to keep plants too stunted - better to let them grow, but not too tall as all my plants need to be brought inside in winter).

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 07:03:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the tips.  I thought I'd heard that coffee one before, but I wasn't sure.

You have a baobab tree?!?  I've been enchanted by those ever since I read The Little Prince.  How tall is it?

One time a friend and I grew a redwood and planted it in his mother's front yard, but I don't know what became of the situation.  I've since learned that they don't grow singly, but last I saw it was skinny as a whip and about 5 feet tall.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 07:10:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My baobab is about a meter tall, from seed. But no flowers yet.

Redwoods are beautiful trees too!

by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 04:57:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I love roses too. I have started collecting them in pots, as unfortunately I do not have a garden at present, only a small balcony. I collect old roses, like the one you see in old Dutch paintings and who smell deliciously.

I found Neem helpful for all kinds of problems and parasites on plants. Neem is an amazing plant with lots of uses, not only gardening and organic agriculture. There are a lot of links but the following one is a good startneem foundation.

by Fran on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 02:53:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks so much, Fran!!!  I just had a look and I'm going to try this!

I love the old roses, too.  The new hybrids don't have much scent.  A friend of mine did give me an antique rose a few years ago.  It's a lovely pink and the smell is incredible.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 03:16:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi izzy, now is a fine time to prune your roses, actually, just before spring. I believe you can find a good book by Sunset on rose pruning at one of your nurseries...but you can consult with your local nursery too, they will have suggestions.

And invest in a pair of good nippers (I was a landscape gardener for 10+ years, and I and all my compatriots use the Felco brand...which has numerous sizes to fit different hands...and, yep, they are Swiss made!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 05:28:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Felco ones are great: I must try and get the parts to fix the ancient set that belonged to my father-in-law. Or possibly his father.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 09:40:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks so much, Bob!  I can prune with some confidence now next time we have a sun break.  I really appreciate the advice.  If things work out, maybe I'll have some photos to post on future gardening posts.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 03:35:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here in Austin the winter has been so ridiculously mild that I'm wondering if "that time of year" won't be much earlier this time.  I've already ordered seeds (three types of tomatoes, jalapeno and poblano peppers, beans) and I have saved seeds for okra, so I can get started on seedlings right away.  We've worked on the soil for years now, adding some we bought from an organic garden center and the rest from our plentiful compost pile, so it's doing alright.  We thought we would horrify the neighborhood by putting a garden right in the front yard, but people have responded well to it.  Here you can see it with 2 grandchildren:

And here are some former fruits of our labor:

We have a small raised garden and some containers in the back yard, too.  Last year's tomatoes didn't do so well, so this year we're trying heartier types.  

Hooray to the European Tribune for letting me get my  mind off the stock market and the damned political situation in the USA for a few moments!

Karen in Austin

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 07:23:24 AM EST
Lovely: I'm jealous - it's just not sunny enough to grow peppers outside here, even on our very sheltered south-facing patio.

And taking your mind off the horror is part of the point of these threads.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 09:43:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Grandkids and vegies...great shots, thanks!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 05:27:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's still a little early for us here since we're expecting -15 Celsius (5 F) for a few nights. Since I'm not a cold weather person, this is just the time for me to stay inside all day.

I've already ordered and have my seeds for the garden in our three flat building's small backyard. Unfortunately, the slugs got more out of it than I did last summer. I've  just about given up on doing much with the existing beds.  I tried beer traps and became proficient at picking up slugs with chopsticks...but to no effect. I've heard that snails won't touch copper, so I've managed to find a small piece that I plan to fashion into little cuffs to put around the pole (climbing) beans. So, I'll likely become a container gardener also this year. We'll see if this works.

by gradinski chai on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 12:12:58 PM EST


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