I moved into a new house in August and couldn’t stand the front yard. I got to work right away at adding some curb appeal. It wasn’t hard at all! The photo below was 7-8 hours work and $200 (being the end of the season, I got some great deals!)

At the beginning….

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The Steps:

  1. Choose your Space – Consider location, snow piles, dog’s peeing, ease of mowing, postman paths and kid routes.
  2. Plan and Design – Iscape and other apps, use other gardens for inspiration, be realistic about the size and maintenance
  3. Utilities Check – Ontario One Call!
  4. Get Rid of the Grass – Dig it out, solarize or sheet mulching. Make sure you get rid of ALL the grass and roots
  5. Amend  the Soil – Compost made from yard waste/ vegetative matter is the best!
  6. Choose your Plants  – Consider hydrozones, choose non-invasive (watching out for “spreads easily” on the plant tag), use some native plants, shrubs are a must have and VERY low maintenance, look for drought tolerant, hardy perennials.
  7. Mulch –  natural products are the best (wood chips, cedar, pine bark), 2-3 inches
  8. Efficient Irrigation – water only when necessary – use your finger to see if the soil is dry down 2-3 inches before adding any water), check the forecast!

Digging the edge…

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The Plants I used (although the weren’t planted in the “after” photo below”:

Daffodils – Narcissus

Purple Coneflower – Echinacea Purpea

Sedum Autumn Joy “Purple Emperor”

Dwarf Goatsbeard – Aruncus aethusfolius

Coral Bells – Heuchera “Peach Flambe”

The Shrubs:

Tiger Eye Sumac – Rhus Typhina “Tiger Bailtiger”

Ninebark – Physcocarpus opulifolius “Diablo”

Emerald Cedar – Thuja occidentalis “Smaragd”

Golden Globe Cedar – Thuja occidentalis”Golden Globe”

 Almost done….

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What I wanted to Plant if I had more sun….

Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia

Allium – Allium Spp – they are all great but have to be planted in the fall

Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa

Variegated Iris – Iris Pallida “variegata”

 Time and Water: Precious resources wasted on the pursuit of a green lawn!

How to save money on your new garden?

  • ˜Fall Discounts – up to 50%, but no warranty…
  • ˜Donations from friends– but be CAREFUL!
  • ˜Buy bulk mulch and compost
  • ˜Investment plants; shrubs and perennials – no annuals
  • ˜Less watering needed when planted in the fall – and choosing drought tolerant plants and shrubs means less/no watering next year!
  • ˜Reuse the existing plants until fall sales start (if you are impatient like me…)
Its not that hard, let me know if you have any questions!
Happy Gardening!
Aileen

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!

Safe Vegetable Growing

July 15, 2012

I love the trend to grow your own vegetables at home, it is better for the environment, gets you outdoors and active, and can be very rewarding. However, there are some risks to growing your own vegetables, mainly growing them in soil that has been contaminated with lead or other heavy metals.

Are your jalepenos packing more than a spicy kick?

Homes built during the era of lead-based paint are most at risk. Paint chips, dust and run-off from the house or other outside buildings can contaminate the soil and potentially your vegetables. Areas of existing or former industrial uses may also be a risky place to grow your veggies. I found this article from the University of California, which explains a lot about the risk of lead contamination in urban soils and vegetable gardens: http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8424.pdf

Testing your soil for lead is worth it to make sure you have the healthiest, home-grown produce.

Out in Halifax, they have put together a great guide on the subject: http://www.ecologyaction.ca/files/images/file/Food/urbansoilguide.pdf

A bit more locally, the Niagara Region has issued a fact sheet: http://www.wdghu.org/tytler/docs/Gardening%20in%20Pb%20Contaminated%20Soil.pdf

They suggest planting your vegetables gardens:

  • 5 metres from older buildings with lead paint (lead paint was banned in Canada in 1976)
  • 30 metres from major roadways or parking areas that are older than 30 years.
  • 2 kilometres from former or existing industries identified as a source of lead contamination (metal mining, smelting, refining operations, and other heavy industries)

(They recommend adding compost (high in phosphorous) to lower contamination risks – once again compost is proving itself as the best soil to use in your gardens!)

To get your soil tested, you can send a sample to one of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair’s accredited laboratories (although most test for soil fertility for agricultural use, some will test soil for lead): http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/resource/soillabs.htm

The costs for soil testing are in the range of $40 – $100. If you think your soil may be at risk for lead contamination, it is worth the money.

Happy (and safe) gardening!

Aileen

Here is my presentation “Garden Maintenance Shortcuts”. Not too much text or a lot of explainations, but let me know if you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer! Don’t be a slave to your garden.

Garden Maintenance Shortcuts RMSi 2012

Growing Vegetables

April 26, 2012

More and more people are growing vegetables in their gardens, which is a great idea! I often hear from people “I rarely water my garden, well, except my vegetables, I water those every day”. Why are those the exception? You can have a water-efficient vegetable garden without constant watering.

Here are some tips to create a water effiicent vegetable garden:

  • Use a rain gauge to keep track of how much rain has fallen during the week. Only add water if there hasn’t been sufficient rainfall (one inch per week)
  • Water more deeply but less frequently to encourage deeper, more vigorous root growth.
  • Time your watering to when the plants need it most in their life cycle.  For soft fruits such as tomatoes, this is as their fruit is setting, for leafy vegetables, as their hearts develop; for peas and beans, when they are flowering, and for potatoes, when the tubers begin to form.
  • Group vegetables and herbs according to moisture needs (hydrozone).   Herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, winter savory and thyme have better flavour when grown in hot, dry conditions.
  • Perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb do not need frequent watering, if at all.
  • Whatever your soil type, make sure to add lots of organic matter, preferably good compost, to increase the water holding capacity of the soil to reduce the amount of supplemental watering.
  • Prepare a flat soil surface.  Raised areas such as hills dry out more quickly, and water runs away from the root zone and is wasted.
  • Use mulch, it retains moisture in the soil, controls weeds, stabilizes the soil temperature, and insulates roots, providing protection from heat stress. (Using straw allows more water loss to evaporation than woodchips. I have been growing vegetables in 2-3 inches of woodchip mulch and have had good success, with virtually no water).
  • Water based on soil moisture, not plant tag recommendations. Soil should be dry to a depth of around two inches before adding any supplemental water.

When was the last time you saw a farmer watering his pumpkin patch?

If you are growing vegetables this season, why not grow an extra row and share it with a local shelter? The Compost Council of Canada has a great program called “Plant a Row, Grow a Row”, check it out at: http://www.growarow.org/

Happy Gardening!

Aileen

Hello!

From my seminar “20 Easy Plants” …

20 Easy Plants

Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any questions info@rmsi.ca or post a comment below.

Feel free to follow this blog for more info on smart, sustainable landscapes that are easily maintained and don’t need a lot of water, if any!

Aileen

If you want a great lawn this summer, you will have to do some work.  The first three tasks should be done at least once a year, twice if you have bad soil, heavy compaction or a thin lawn.

There are 5 recommended tasks for building and maintaining a great lawn:

1. Aerate  – this will reduce compaction and get rid of thatch. No need to if you are on sand

2. Topdress  – this will feed your lawn and improve soil

3. Overseed  – this will thicken your lawn and fill any spaces so weeds won’t establish

4. Mow high  – at least 2 1/2 inches, but in the hotter months 3 inches

5. Don’t over water  – 1 inch, once per week, at most, including rain, or let your lawn go dormant in the summer, it is a natural adaptation.

Time to get to work if you want a great lawn this summer!

Aerate once the lawn has dried up and is no longer damp. After aerating, add a well screened layer of compost to a depth of ¼ to ½ an inch. Adding compost to your lawn is the equivalent to feeding it fruits and vegetables. Compost will add the main nutrients (N, P, K) as well as the micro nutrients needed.

Choose a mixture of grass seed that has several species of grass in it. Remember, with grass seed, you get what you pay for, so a few extra bucks will go a long way with the quality of seed. Spread the seed over the compost and lightly rake it in. Keep the seed moist (not soaking wet) for a period of 8-10 days.

There are many options for grass seed. Buy the best quality for the best results.

They are predicting a bad year for bugs, so applying beneficial nematodes will help prevent damage by pests such as grubs. The key to using these is to follow the directions EXACTLY! Nematodes are now available for purchase at most garden centres and large box stores such as Home Depot or Canadian Tire. They will likely be stored in a fridge, if not; you may want to look for them elsewhere. They need to be kept cold so the nematodes stay in a dormant state before application. I won’t go into specific detail on how the nematodes work, but if you are keen, google it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

If your lawn is covered with more than 50% of weeds, and you don’t want the weeds, you should resod, or consider an alternative to your lawn.

In my next post I will tackle weeds…

Aileen