A Gardener’s Diary: A bouquet for a birthday

Summertime is family reunion time for Jocelyne Sewell, who celebrates what would have been her father's 100th birthday

Another month went by and it seems that all I did was water the garden. I am picking beans, all the lettuce is gone and somehow I haven’t seeded more. I should do this next week hoping that August is not as hot as July. I harvested all the garlic and onions and I only have one batch of potatoes left growing. My fig tree (in a pot) produced 13 fruits this year.

On July 26, my dad would have been 100 years old. We celebrated this centennial by having my family coming west instead of me going to Quebec. Two of my nieces were here at the end of May and last weekend, we had a nice reunion at our house. We could not be together all at once, but by the end of September, only two nieces will be missing. One of my sisters and husband came by car and my only brother made it on his motor bike all the way from Quebec City and is now on his way back home. One more visit in September and I can testify to a fantastic reunion that extended over the summer. My sister was so happy to be able to get fresh herbs from the garden. She had a chance of picking fresh raspberries, blueberries and other small fruits.

I cut a big bouquet of flowers and chose the main ones as rudbeckia because of my father’s fondness for the shades of these flowers. These are amazing cut flowers that last for days. Even on the same plants, there are many colour variations.

As I was picking tomatoes, I noticed a few with rot bottom. These tomatoes have a condition called blossom-end-rot (BER). This is caused by either a lack of calcium in the soil or the plant’s inability to draw calcium from the soil due to stress. Inconsistent watering can also cause it, which is very common when growing in containers. The tomatoes are still edible as long as the BER did not spread above the top half of the tomatoes.

During drier conditions, the plants have a more difficult time absorbing nutrients. Since calcium is normally low in content in most home gardens, the first few tomatoes will experience this problem. The good news is that it does not spread to other tomatoes and will normally correct itself after a few weeks. Even better news is that you can prevent the problem by using corrective measures in early spring.

Epsom salts, composed primarily of magnesium sulfate, have been proven to help prevent BER. Simply mix one or two tablespoons of epsom salts to the soil when planting. Once the plant begins flowering, apply 1 tbsp. epsom salts to one gallon of water and spray liberally on the plants. Then mulch the plants with three inches, or about seven cm, of straw or dried grass clippings to help retain moisture and keep down weeds. This should be sufficient enough to prevent this problem in the future.

One other trick for established tomatoes is to crush a few Tums and carefully work them into the soil around the plants. Tums contain calcium and will sometimes serve as a quick solution to BER, but I have not tried that yet.

Amend your soil every spring by adding ample quantities of compost, shredded leaves, aged manure and peat moss. These organic supplements increase the fertility of the soil and provide a steady supply of nutrients to the plants throughout the growing season.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast and member of the Okanagan Gardens and Roses Club. Her column appears in The Morning Star every other Wednesday.