How to organize your Crops and Harvest

Hello everybody!

Today we’re going to talk about our beloved orchards, I know spring is already gone 🙁 but, I’ going to give you some tips for an organized crop and harvest.

I have to be honest, I don’t have an orchard myself, we’ve been traveling a lot during the past years so even if I had the space to grow something, I wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on my beloved veggies and there are no “plant-sitters” around yet (sigh).

So to gather all this info, I talked to an experienced Italian grandpa, he has been growing his own food for years, and he has become the “Veggie Guru” of the area, so people ask his opinion about their own plantings everytime they see them around.

His name is Virginio and he became my “to go” person to talk about veggies and fruits, you know, casual conversations.

Virginio, the Italian Veggie guru (yes, that’s also my finger in the pic)

I asked Virginio to let me visit his orchard and learn more about plants, care and, how he organized his crops.

First, let’s talk about what he usually grows and recommends:
This is what Virginio recommends to plant from March to the end of the season

 

HOW MANY PLANTS?

About 6 sprouts from each aromatic, but if you buy them already grown, you can totally buy less.
From 15 to 20 tomato, peas, lettuce and rocket salad plants, 4 zucchini and spinach sprouts, 4 to 5 peppers and so on.

You can totally plant whatever you like, this will depend on your taste.


Disclaimer #1
He explained that if you want at least half a year worth in vegetables, a family of three will need more than 1 sqm like you normally read online.
Don’t get me wrong, planting in containers or small terraces will *always* be worth the try and, it’ll give you something to eat, however, what you can harvest from 1 container of peppers is not going to be enough for the rest of the month, nor the year.

According to Virginio, if you want to take home a good supply of veggies, you will need more space, about 15 to 20 sqm is OK to grow vegetables from the list above for 3 people.

This is about 15 sqm with a lot of space between sprouts, you can put one more line of them.


Planting in containers

If you have a terrace, you can always grow your own aromatic herbs, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, arugula, zucchinis, wild berries (like strawberries) and even small trees (like citrus trees), everything is possible, so don’t worry, any space is a good space for a plant!

Once you’ve selected the planting area, the next thing is to clean it from weeds, move the soil and add hummus and mix it together, that’s the base to start a project.

Beds ready to be planted
Land ready to be planted


Now, you have to select the space for every vegetable, for example, putting the tomatoes on the back of other small vegetables so every plant will have the same amount of sun. This layout will change around August when you’ll start again the seeding season. It is very important to change it so you will avoid plant diseases and other anomalies in the soil.

Every plant will have its space and organized position


Another great advice from Mr. Virginio (to an amateur like me) is to plant lettuce, peas, cabbage, etc., at different times (dates) and groups;

For example: if you buy the little six-pack sprouts, plant them around March; after 30 to 40 days, plant another group of sprouts and repeat it again once or twice, that way you’ll have early and continuous harvests.

Lettuce & chard growth. Sprouts planted every 30 days (from left to right)


If you can cover your plants forming a greenhouse, you can totally anticipate 1 month of planting, even more, if you live in warmer areas.

ABOUT THE SOIL 

Once a week, carefully move the soil around the plants with a hoe, it will help oxygenate the roots and the soil.

Preparing the soil. Peas on the right

If you need/want to fertilize your plants (with granulated or liquid organic fertilizer), do it around the total diameter of the plant, not directly to the stem, this way you’ll help the roots absorb the nutrients better.

CROP ROTATION

In late August / early September, you can start rotating the crops and changing the planting position. It will help maintain the soil fertility, control weeds, minimize diseases spread and pest growth.

Crop rotation chart

That’s it, for now, I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did, I had a lot of fun at the orchard and learned a lot with Virginio.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! You know where to find me 🙂

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Garden tips & plants for humid areas

Hello people, it is Project Time!.

I’m always excited about projects and I hope you are too, here you’ll find tips and ideas to apply to your own garden or terrace. Remember you can find me on Fresh Lemonade Gardens. Send me your gardening plans or questions!.

Ok, now, I bit info about the clients:

A family of three (mom, dad and baby girl) recently moved into a new and bigger house in northern France, with a lot of green space to work on, they want to start by renewing their entrance area, where they have a garage and a secondary access to their house, but, it’s the access they see every single day, because it’s the garage access.

The problem

They just rented a house that was inhabited for a long time, they have a bunch of old and dead plants that cover all the space. The garage area has also dead plants and they would like to cover it all with beautiful plants.

Northern France has a wet weather, so they have grey days most of the time.

They need a space where they can feel safe and bring to life their new home.

First impression of the area
What they want/need

They need an organized space (that gives them a “welcome home” effect) with low-maintenance shrubs. As the area is not attached to their house and they have to walk a few meters to actually enter the house, it is convenient to have small shrubs that leaves them a clear view, to see everything around.

The garage has already a define flowerbed space and they want some evergreen (plants that maintain their leaves in cold weather) to cover it, like a Lavender mix (Lavandula angustifolia, L. stoechas, L. officinalis, L. dentanta) and a climbing rose at the back.

Lavender & pink roses

They would like to have an ornamental tree that provides color and fun to grey winters.

The project

We are starting by cleaning the area to understand what we have over there and, let us have a clear vision of what we want. It’s a bit heavy work, but it’s important and worth doing it, trust me, you’ll feel much better after you see that clean and open space, sometimes you’ll feel it look bigger than you thought, and that’s so good, more space for plants! right?.

Notice they have stairs that divide the “planting” area, we are going to use that “highness” to simulate different shrub dimensions.

How it will look 🙂
Plant selection

They need low-maintenance plants for a wet zone (northern France) so this is the list of plants for this specific area

Plant selection and distribution
  • Edgeworthia chrysantha or paperbush: an ornamental tree is very resistant and can easily grow on container too, the Paperbush is a good option for this kind of climates. It likes partial-shades and with the right draining soil, it will grow and give you all the satisfaction you need in cold winters. It will thrive during winter with early blooms, in summer, it has a leafy and globe shape with big oval leaves.
Chinese paperbush
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’: is a perennial bush, with succulent stems and leaves and pink blooms from August to November. It attracts butterflies. They like full sun or partial shades, it’s a low-maintenance plant and it thrives between ornamental grasses.
Sedum spectabile & Stachys
  • Alchemilla mollis or lady’s mantle: is an herbaceous perennial, it loves partial-shades and blooms from July to August with small, bright yellow flowers in large sprays just above the foliage.
Alchemilla mollis in Vancouver
  • Euonymus ‘Silver Queen’: evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and white edges. It grows well in full-sun or partial-shades. It will make your garden stand out in winter.
Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’
  • Juniperus communis ‘Depressa Aurea’: it’s a dwarf conifer, evergreen with nice bronze foliage colors during autumn. It grows well in any type of soil and loves temperate climates.

  • Carex brunnea: ornamental grass with clear cream/yellow leaves. It likes partial-shades and it’ll bloom in summer and it’s perfect to plant with other flowering plants to create a green “separation” in between.

  • Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’: another perennial shrub, with heart-shaped silver leaves and blue little blooms in spring. It loves partial shades and it goes well around ornamental grasses like carex.
Brunnera foliage & blooms
Alchemilla mollis & Brunnera
  • Tiarella cordifolia: this is a small perennial evergreen, it can become a groundcover if you leave it the space to grow. Interesting autumn foliage and blooms from April to June.
Tiarella cordifolia & Carex pensylvanica
  • Bulbs: I recommended a mix of irises, tulips and garlic bulbs, to plant next to the stairs and between small shrubs. 
    Yellow tulips between blue and pink blooms, they will stand up around all the green colors in the garden

    This garden was designed to have blooms through all seasons. You can always plant them in containers and give them try. You’ll see that the “right” perennial plants are the solution to all your problems and will bring you joy with really low maintenance.
    The idea of having a garden is to have fun too, try it and let me know all about it!

 

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ISABELLA GARDNER MUSEUM – PART 2

COURTYARD’S SEASONAL DISPLAYS

 

This is the second part of a Post I published last week Isabella and her love for Art and Gardens, on it, I talk about the amazing life of the Gardner family, its trips, and their lifestyle that lead them to build the Isabella Gardner Museum.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was passionate about art and culture, she became interested in the gardens she saw while traveling all around the world and wanted to leave her legacy through art; this Museum is the accomplishment of those interests, with, of course, her personal and intimate touch.

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice, 1894, by Anders Zorn (Oil on canvas, 91 x 66 cm)

Her museum is a mix of styles, gothic, renaissance, roman and byzantine, famous because of its great art pieces, nevertheless, the garden courtyard is also an essential part of the building, with floral exhibitions of new and full-grown plants that change constantly during the year, according to seasons and blooms.

Every month the courtyard has a floral theme and color, therefore it has become as essential and iconic as every part of the museum.

The Courtyard


Before we start talking about plants, here are some curiosities about the courtyard and it’s care:

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • Each plant is placed in the courtyard for around 7 days, after that, they have to replace it with another identical one; there’s a lack of sunlight in the courtyard, caused by the tall walls so close to each other and the plants can suffer having low light.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.


That being said, here’s the list of displays during the year

 

Winter tropics (January – February)

Tropical and subtropical plants fill the courtyard: lots of Orchids, norfolk island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), tree ferns (Cyatheales), fishtail palms (Caryota), areca palms and ferns.

This display is inspired by old images of plants placed by Isabella.

(You can also grow this plants at home, in a room with indirect light and high humidity).



Orchids (February – March)

Exotic orchids native to Southeast Asia and Africa, like slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) with maroon and green flowers, Leopard orchids (Ansellia) with yellow flowers and brown spots, nun’s cap orchids (Phaius tankervilleae) and other groups, all of these, surrounded with calla lilies.


Hanging Nasturtiums (April)
The most traditional display in the museum.

As Isabella did in the late 1800’s, hanging nasturtiums keep making a dramatic appearance above the courtyard. Cascades of flowering nasturtium vines grown in the Museum’s greenhouses, they require continuous care to ensure the dramatic length.

Hanging nasturtiums above the Gardner Museum courtyard

 

Spring blooms (April – May)

Time to talk about color! After the Nasturtiums (also colorful), they place azaleas, blue cineraria, ivory and cream daffodils, and pines. Another Gardner Museum’s signature is the Clivia miniata. Flowering maples used to flank the steps and the statues.

This is the most famous and labor intensive of the courtyard displays.


Hydrangeas (April – June)

The most notorious and common are the Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea paniculata among other specimens grant life and color to the courtyard. Violets, deep blues, and whites of the hydrangeas complement the delicate yellow oncidium orchids.


Summer blues (June – July)

Late-flowering hydrangeas are a great source of color and create a nice environment in summer. Mophead Hydrangeas and H. paniculata ‘Grandifolia’ fill in the courtyard and stand out among the statues, then, they introduce Agapanthus blue blooms.

Agapanthus at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Bellflowers (August – September)

As the courtyard has small dimensions and tall walls, it remains fresh during warmer months, ferns and fountains’ water help maintain it that way. At this time of year, chimney bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis) appears in the courtyard. The Museum’s horticulturists grow this plant as a biennial, from seeds; it takes two years to get Campanulas to maturity (1,80m tall) and thrive in the courtyard.

Campanula piramidalis at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Chrysanthemums (September – November)

Late September is chrysanthemums’ time, different colors and species. It’s known that Isabella grew many chrysanthemums varieties, as a matter of fact, a pink-tinged chrysanthemum was named for her.

Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum
Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Holiday Garden (December – January)

Holiday traditions at the Gardner Museum showcase flowering jade trees (Crassula argentea) raised in the Museum’s greenhouse for many years, the oldest ones are 60 years old, with trunks around 10 to 15 cm in diameter and 90 cm tall.

Crassula, holiday courtyard

Other plants thrive around the Museum like jade trees, like silver dusty miller, green aloe, and amaryllis red winter blooms.

 

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