20 Easy Plants

June 4, 2014

Here is the updated presentation on 20 Easy Plants from last night’s seminar:

RMSi 20 Easy Plants 2014

Happy Gardening!
Aileen

There has been significant interest in the development of grass varieties to better meet the challenges of today’s turf conditions. The restrictions on cosmetic pesticides and outdoor water use have resulted in increased maintenance required for traditional turf grass varieties. In Ontario, turf is typically composed of cool season grasses which include Kentucky Blue Grass (KBG), Perennial Ryes and Fescues, each with both positive and negative characteristics. KBG is valued for its colour and its ability to self-repair due to its rhizomatous root structure, which is fairly short making it easier for sod harvesting. Unfortunately, this grass is more susceptible to pest problems including white grubs, chinch bugs and blue grass weevil. Its wider grass blade and shorter roots equates to a higher evapotranspiration rate, leading to increase water demand and/or early onset of dormancy in hot, dry weather.

The perennial ryes and fescues have longer roots systems, systemic endophytes (symbiotic fungal presence within the grass blade) to deter pests and have lower evapotranspiration rates compared to KBG, meaning longer periods before the onset of dormancy. The most common downside to these grass types is that they lack rhizomatous or stoloniferous root structures, limiting their ability to self-repair. Essentially these grass varieties are one seed = one plant, whereas the KBG is one seed =colony development. They are typically clump-forming and will need seeding to re-establish areas with die off or damage.

To maximize benefits and minimize challenges of all three, over-seeding existing lawns with a mixture of all three is encouraged. In recent years, there have been two new grass cultivars that capitalize on the benefits the three common cool season grass types. They are Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass (RPR) with determinate stolon roots and Regenerating Tall Fescue (RTF) with rhizomatous roots.

The determinate-stolons found in RPR grow from an auxiliary bud near the base of the mother plant and grows horizontally at, or just below, the soil surface, creating identical new plants as they grow. When RPR turf is damaged from an extreme or persistent traffic event, the determinate-stolon roots grow horizontally into the worn areas, developing roots and crown growth in the damaged area.

Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass

Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass

The rhizomatous roots found in RTF grow laterally, similar to the determinate stolons in RPR, spreading underground to grow new grass in bare spots. The ability for both of these root systems to self-repair was a characteristic previously sought after, and only common to KBG. These new varieties now have the ability to self-repair while retaining their beneficial characteristics of longer roots and systemic endophytes. Both are winter hardy and show increased drought and insect tolerance when compared to other varieties of cool season turf grass varieties. RTF’s root system can grow as deep as 1.2 to 1.8 metres to find out water sources and nutrients other grasses can’t. While RPR roots are not able to grow as deep as the RTF, they are shown to have better drought tolerance than other perennial rye grasses and can better stand wear and tear.

Rhizomatous Tall Fescue - RTF Water Saver

Rhizomatous Tall Fescue – RTF Water Saver

Guelph Turf Grass Institute Study:

The Guelph Turf Grass Institute conducted a RTF, RPR and Home Lawn Mix Trial in 2012 looking at alternative grass species for drought tolerance, weed invasion resistance and resistance to insect feeding. Three turf species were used; Rhizomatous tall fescue (RTF Barenbrug), Regenerative perennial ryegrass (RPR Barenbrug) and Home lawn mixture (50% Kentucky bluegrass, 20% perennial ryegrass 30% fine fescue). Plots of each grass species were either irrigated or non-irrigated. Both RPR and RTF showed greater insect resistance and had fewer bare spots without irrigation than the HLM. The RPR had better resistance to weeds, especially when irrigated, than the HLM, an area that RTF fell short on.
(Source: Pam Charbonneau OMAFRA Turfgrass Specialist Presentation on Landscapeontario.com from 2013 Turf Grass Symposium, Guelph ON)

So in summary, these grasses should better resist insect damage by grubs and chinch bugs, be able to fill in bare spots so weeds don’t and they will stay greener, longer, during a summer drought. I have started growing the RPR in my front yard and so far I am very impressed. Quick germination, great colour and good coverage. I applied them with compost and I threw on some bone meal in an attempt to discourage birds from eating the seed. I kept them moist during the hot days and they started germinating in four days and were almost fully germinated within the week. If you are looking for a better lawn, I would recommend trying out these new types. They may be hard to find, but worth the hunt.

From my research, a summary of the Pros and Cons for RPR and RTF:

My summary of the Pros and Cons for RPR and RTF

My summary of the Pros and Cons for RPR and RTF

 

For More Information:
http://www.barenbrug.com/rpr—regenerating-perennial-rye-grass.htm
http://www.rtfwatersavercanada.com

https://qualityseeds.ca/turf/ryegrasses/regeneratin-perennial-rye.html
http://www.guelphturfgrass.ca/
http://www.guelphturfgrass.ca/
http://www.landscapeontario.com/attach/1358539733.Sustainable_Turf,_Biological_Tools_For_Turf_Pest_Management_-_Michael_Brownbridge.pdf
http://archive.lib.msu.edu/tic/stnew/article/2012sum16.pdf

The Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act (2009) and the changing weather patterns have made lawn care a bit more challenging, but not impossible. A few steps will help you to grow a healthy, hardy, lawn that can compete with weeds and better resist pest and disease. 

Don't put up with a bad lawn just because you can no longer apply pesticides. it is possible to have a great lawn, its just takes a little work.

Don’t put up with a bad lawn just because you can no longer apply pesticides. it is possible to have a great lawn, it just takes a little work.

To do this you need to:

  •   Feed the soil
  •   Choose the right grass type
  •   Practice preventative management
  •   Monitor for pest or disease

Soil is the foundation to healthy plants. It is important to top dress with well-screened, weed-seed free compost. Compost:

  • Provides a whole range of nutrients; it is like a healthy meal versus just vitamins  (fertlizer).
  • Feeds those soil micro-organisms that keep the soil functioning.
  • Increases the water holding capacity of the soil. 

Just like humans, sometimes we may need to supplement our meals with vitamins, research is showing that some fertilizer may be warranted – BUT, applied properly:

  • Only 2x a season is needed, spring and fall.
  • Use a slow release in the fall (no later than Sept 15).
  • Choose one that has a good balance of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
  • Do not apply it before an expected rain event.

 A mix of grass species is best, look for a grass seed blend that suits your sun exposure and the amount of wear and tear your lawn receives. Include turf-type ryes and fescues which have longer roots and offer increased pest resistance. Keep an eye out for some very promising new grass species like RTF and RPR which may be listed as “self-repairing”.

For annual lawn maintenance:

  • Aerate, especially for heavily compacted (clay) soil.
  • Top dress your lawn with 1/3 inch of good screened compost
  • Overseed with a mix of grass seeds.
  • Mow properly; with sharp blades, do not cut your grass any lower than 2.5 – 3 inches
  • Leave clippings on your lawn so the water and nitrogen they contain goes right back to the soil.
  • Monitor and properly identify pests so that you know what, how and when to use a control method.

 If you water your lawn, water properly with a maximum of one inch of water a week, including rain. Avoid ‘sprinkling’ watering which promotes a weak shallow root system. If you don’t water your lawn, don’t start once the lawn has gone dormant, it will stress the lawn.

 

To make sure your gardens their best this summer, here are some last minute tips. Consider keeping a garden notebook to make your yearly maintenance much easier by recording the following:

– Make a map of your plants
– Note any problems such as disease/pests
– Record any changes you should make (divide or transplant)
– Take pictures throughout the seasons

When tidying your garden beds, clear away any diseased or dead matter (including plants left for winter interest), and of course, newly growing weeds. There is no need to till your soil. That will ruin the soil ecosystem and may turn up weed seeds. Instead, just top dress with a good compost (plant or mixed). This will:

– Keep the soil micro-organisms and ecosystem happy and healthy
– Increase water holding capacity
– Add a range of nutrients and maintain good pH
– Improve drainage

This is a good time to divide plants that were too big last year, or that need revitalizing. Divide with a sharp knife or a double pitch fork. Add water to the hole and also wet the roots. Protect the soil with 2-3” of mulch and don’t pile against plant stems. Either wood chips (organic) or stone aggregate (inorganic) will work, but organic is better.

Organic mulch, such as woodchips, are a must-have for any garden. They prevent water loss, protect roots and keeps weeds at bay.

Organic mulch, such as woodchips, are a must-have for any garden. They prevent water loss, protect roots and keeps weeds at bay.

Keep your beds edged with a “Dutch Edge” to keep grass out.

Keeping your garden beds edged at a 30 -45 degree angel will help deter grass roots from wandering in.

Keeping your garden beds edged at a 30 -45 degree angle will help deter grass roots from wandering in.

When it comes to garden pests and diseases, practice prevention for long term success. Keep your garden soil healthy, make sure there is good air flow through the plants and attract the help of beneficial insects and birds. There are options natural remedies for control, but these are only band aid solutions for the short term, prevention is the best long term solution. It is important that you understand how these work so that you use them right and not kill those beneficial insects. Make sure to properly identify which bug is doing damage before setting out to destroy it.

Properly ID which bugs are doing damage. This is the Red Lily Beetle, which cause problems for the Asiatic Lily. Not a beneficial bug for your garden.

Properly ID which bugs are doing damage. This is the Red Lily Beetle, which cause problems for the Asiatic Lily. Not a beneficial bug for your garden.

Preparation and maintenance is the way to keep your gardens blooming beautifully. If you have a lawn, see our blog on how to maintain it so it too is ready for the season.

Happy Gardening!

Like any good relationship, these two bring out the best in each other. Flowers will come and go but foliage colour lasts all season, and both of these deliver. Planted together they make a charming combination in the spring when the Ninebark has its pinkish-white cluster flower tufts. As the season wears on, this turns into an eye-stopping bold partnership as the blue-gray of the Blue Fescue grass (Festuca glauca) brings out the bold red wine coloured leaves of the Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius).

A great combination with three season colour!

A great combination with three season colour!

These plants are both low maintenance. Blue fescue grass is a well behaved, clump-forming, drought tolerant ornamental grass. They have the best affect in the garden when planted in 3’s (or larger odd numbers), either together or echoed throughout your garden. Ninebarks, also drought tolerant, come several leaf colours and are now available in a dwarf version. Depending on your preference, you can allow this shrub to grow freely, or prune after flowering to maintain a more managed shape.

ninebark blue fescue 2

The Specs:

Blooms:
Ninebark: Flowers in spring
Blue Fescue: No flower

Exposure:
Ninebark: Full sun to part shade
Blue Fescue: Full sun

Water: Both of these plants need very little water, if any, once it is planted. Water only after two weeks without rain. If you are planting in sand, the blue fescue may need watering in the heat after 4-5 days.

Shopping: These are both very common plant that are easily found at garden centres.

Happy gardening!!!

Click here for the link: RMSi Prescription Landscaping

Happy Gardening!

Aileen

How can you keep your lawn healthy when it’s hot and dry? If you want a green lawn when the weather is hot and dry, it is going be tough, as you are fighting Mother Nature. You see, in northern climates, including Southern Ontario, turf is composed of cool season grasses such as Kentucky Blue Grass, Fescues and Perennial Ryes. Their most active growing periods are in the spring and fall when temperatures are moderate and precipitation events are more frequent. These species have their dormancy period during the hot and dry summer months and over the winter.

Lawns in northern climates naturally go dormant when the weather gets hot.

So, our turf is smart; it knows when the best times of the year are to grow and which ones are not. When it gets hot and dry, the grass begins to go dormant to protect itself from stress, damage and possible death. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, healthy cool season turf grass can survive up to six weeks without rain during the summer.

If your grass goes into dormancy (turns yellow), and then you decide to water it, you can cause a lot of stress. Consider being woken from a sleep with a bucket of cold water, it would be a bit of shock. However, grass can get up and run after the culprit…

Keeping your grass green and lush during a hot dry summer will take work and a LOT of water. You will have to continue to water your lawn throughout the summer to prevent the grass from ever going into dormancy. It may mean a fabulous looking green lawn, but you are breaking the turf’s natural tendency to go into dormancy. You will also be wasting drinking water, water that has to be pumped, purified and delivered to your tap by your local municipality. That takes a lot of energy, energy that causes carbon emissions, contributing to smog and poor air quality. And then you get your water bill… Although we don’t pay a lot for water in Canada, it still adds up.

Basically you have three options for your lawn;

Option 1: Let it go into dormancy. Stay off it at this time and monitor for chinch bugs, which may take advantage of your sleeping lawn. (see http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/08-019.htm  for details)

The benefits:

  • You won’t have to mow your lawn so often.
  • Less money spent on your water bill.
  • More time to spend doing fun things with your friend and family, instead of worrying about your lawn.
  • You be reducing the demand on municipal water systems and air quality.
  • No more wrestling with the hose.
  • You are helping the environment by doing absolutely nothing.

Option 2: Be that guy and spend your free time, energy and money fighting Mother Nature to keep your lawn from going dormant. You may have the best looking green lawn on the block, but you may end up being the oddball on the block.  Across Canada, almost half of the population no longer waters their lawns, less than 20% water their lawns on a regular basis.

A green lawn that will need a LOT of water!

The benefits:

  • A green lawn that stands out. Neighbours will walk by and comment on how your lawn is one of the few on the block with a green lawn.
  • The time spent watering and mowing your lawn means you will have less time to spend with your in-laws.
  • Who know what fabulous ideas you will come up with while you spend hours mindlessly watering and mowing the lawn?

Option 3: Consider alternatives to turf. Typically you see suggestions to get rid of your lawn and plant a garden. Healthy turf can go six weeks without water. If you are replacing your lawn with a garden, make sure the garden won’t need more water and maintenance than the lawn would have. Consider sedums, succulents, decorative stonework, mulched areas, larger deck and outdoor living areas or more tree and shrubs (with mulch, good soil and the right species, an established shrub bed can last weeks in a dry spell). You could also try a clover lawn, which stays green in the summer and fixes its own nitorgen, eliminating the need for fertlizer!

The benefits:

  • A trendy, easy to care for alternative to the suburban lawn.
  • Better looking landscape in a drought.
  • NO MORE MOWING.
  • More livable space to spend all the extra time you will have with your loved ones.
  • Better curb appeal for your home.

Some ideas:

A lawn alternative idea for a sunny spot. From www.gardensnob.com

Lawn alternative for shade. From www.richlanddesign.com

A little bit of grass in this one… but you get the idea. From http://www.alonsolandscapeservice.com

Here is a link to another blog with some nice ideas for lawn alternatives: http://jocelynsgarden.blogspot.com/2011/08/garden-designers-roundtable-lawn.html (it is from down south, but use the concepts, they still work up north).

It’s your choice folks.

Happy gardening….

Aileen

The qualities of Lavender seem endless; it is used for aromatherapy, antibacterial properties, cooking, insect resistance and many other uses. My preferred use is in my garden as one of my favorite focal points. It’s long lasting blooms and tough “I don’t need no water” attitude make it a perfect resident for a full sun, well drained, drought tolerant garden.

The perfect plant for a hot, sunny location

In the spring, it may look a little ragged. Feel free to cut it back a bit, or do as I do, just ignore it and wait for the new growth to cover up any ugly old growth. When it flowers you can cut off a few of the flowers spikes, tie them together and let them dry for an all-natural air freshener.

When out and about in your garden, try rubbing a few of the leaves into your hands for a nice aromatic scent while you weed, read or enjoy some wine. Lavender is reported to help you relax, so with some wine, you will no doubt feel great in your garden.

Even the butterflies love Lavender…

The technical info:

Blooms: From June through to end of summer/early fall

Exposure: Full sunColour: Lavender (yes, I get the irony)

Water: Lavender likes it hot and dry, the conditions it adapted to in its native climate of the Mediterranean and Africa.

Combination ideas: The greyish coloured leaves and light purple flowers go great with white, pink or dark purple colours. Avoid combining with plants with reddish or brown undertones. Try it with Salvia, Blazing star, Little Blue Stem, Catmint, or Shasta Daisies. Another option is to use lavender as a small hedge or border.

Shopping:  A very common plant, easily found in most garden centres. Make sure you get the English Lavender, which is hardy to zone 5.

Portulaca (Moss Rose) Portulaca Grandifolia

Annuals are a popular choice for gardens because they provide colour, all summer long.  There is a cost for all those colourful flowers; when a plant produces a flower, it’s like growing lots of little babies; it takes extra nutrients, water and sunshine to fuel the production of the flowers. The longer they are in bloom, the more resources they need. This means you will likely have to spend more time fertilizing and watering annuals to keep them going through the summer. There a few annuals that are a bit more efficient with their resources, saving you time. My favourite is the Portulaca.

These easy annuals come in a variety of colours.

I grew up with a front garden full of Portulaca’s that my Dad planted for my Mum, they were one of her favorites. I had no idea about plant biology, water conservation or gardening back then, but I loved the playing with their paper-like flowers and seed pods. Perhaps my love of gardening is “rooted” in my days playing with Portulaca’s in the sun?

Portulaca’s are a fleshy, succulent annual that love sunny, dry areas. Their multi-coloured blooms come out in the sunshine and then close up when the sun sets. They are great for containers, sunny rock gardens or hanging baskets.

Using these on your containers means a lot less watering needed.

The technical info:

Blooms: Daytime in the sun. Blooms from after the last spring frost through to the first fall frost.

Exposure: Full sun

Colour: White, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Coral

Water: How you use them will dictate how often you need to water. When planted in your garden, they may go all summer with no water. In a container, I have seen them last two weeks without water. In a hanging basket, they will survive a day or two without water once the soil has gone dry.

Combination ideas: I use these as a filler plant for my water efficient containers. They are also great as a border or in a rock garden to full any spaces between your perennials. They will go with many types of plants, but keep in mind that they often bloom in multiple colours, so adding them to an arrangement with a lot of different colours, may look a little busy. You can find them in single colour cell-packs, allowing you to work with a single colour.

Using Portulaca as a filler in your water efficient containers. (with Sedum “Angelina”, Coral Bells, Blazing Star, Creeping Jenny and Common Thrift)

Shopping: You may have to look a little harder for them at the garden centre as they are not as popular as the other annuals such as petunias or marigolds. They may not look like much in the cell pack, but they will grow and flower quickly once planted. Bradford Greenhouses had a four pack on sale for $0.79 last week!

 

Note: If you spend most of your time in the garden in the evenings, this may not be the plant for you, as you will miss the bright coloured blooms that only come out in the sunshine.

My sister recently told me that her lettuce wasn’t doing very well because she hadn’t had time to water it. I told her that shouldn’t matter, and she argued with me, telling me that lettuce needs lots of water. I like to test these “rules” in my own garden, which often makes for some interesting arrangements and results.

On May 5th I bought a mix of lettuce and planted it. I watered it on the day of planting and once after. As you probably recall, we had very little rain in Southern Ontario in the month of May, so my watering was the most the lettuce got.

I was pleasantly surprised how much my lettuce grew in that time.  I had my first salad from my garden this past Monday, and it’s still growing strong, ready for another harvest today. (I know we had a fair amount of rain this past weekend, but I my lettuce was growing very well before that).

My low water lettuce, with one harvest already done.

 

A little about the conditions of my garden; I have a raised garden/retaining wall, which is south facing and has a sandy loam soil mix (thanks to the previous owner). The retaining wall is crumbling, adding to the “well-drained” conditions of the raised garden. I have wood mulch throughout, and lots of it (the other day I was planting some Kale and realized there was over 6 inches of mulch in once area of the garden).

I grow a mix of perennials, annuals and vegetables in my garden, most planted somewhat haphazardly as I use my garden to test and experiment, rather than as a visual masterpiece. Sometimes this works in my favor and a neat little colour combination of plants will reveal itself…

Using lettuce to create foliage interest in your garden.

For the first time ever, my other half actually commented on how great the garden looked, and how beautiful the colours looked (he prefers grass to EVERYTHING).

Dianthus with some chartreuse lettuce for an unexpected colour combo. Both get very little water…

Am I telling you to push your plants into a perpetual state of thirst? Not at all. But stop over-pampering your plants, they are living things and they will adapt to the conditions to survive. They have root systems which will quickly grow or move to find moisture, and at the same time, they will shrink and limit growth if there is too much water. Play with the “rules” of gardening a bit and see what great results you may end up with. Less water will typically amount in better results than too much.

Happy Gardening!

Aileen