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!

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

Adding Curb Appeal

October 24, 2011

Selling your house? Remember your curb appeal!

I spent the majority of the weekend at house showings and open houses. The homes were located in a newer subdivision with wonderfully designed homes, both the exterior and the interior. One thing that disappointed me over and over was the poorly maintained landscapes. You always hear about how important “curb appeal” is, but I didn’t see much of this at any of the homes we visited. Gardening is not rocket science and if done right it does not have to be time consuming.

The landscape is the first thing perspective buyers see when they arrive.

If you spend all that time to stage the inside of your home, why not put a little effort into your landscape as well? This is the first thing potential buyers will see when they pull up to your house.

Here are some simple tips to prepare your landscape for house showings and/or open houses:

WEEDING

This seems like an obvious task when preparing for an open house or a showing, yet many of the gardens I saw were full of weeds. These were not hard to pull weeds, they were big, obvious weeds that are easily pulled by hand. Weeding is best done after rain when the ground is soft, but anytime works. It doesn’t take much to go through a 10ft by 10ft garden to pull weeds. To keep things weed free during the time your home is on the market, apply  mulch. Adding 3 inches of natural mulch (wood chips, cocoa mulch etc.) to your garden can cut weeding by up to 90%! (It also reduces moisture water loss in the soil by up to 70% meaning you have to water less.)

When you add mulch, remember to add enough, at least 2 inches, preferably 3 inches. A small scattering of mulch looks worse than the weeds and does not work .

ADD COLOUR

Add some colour, but be smart about it – If you don’t have an established perennial garden with wonderfully coloured foliage and well-timed flowering times, then some small punches of colour can easily jazz up a garden, even in just one strategically placed pot or urn. Choose a colour palette in your garden as you would in your house.  If you have a shrub with purple tinted leaves, then use this as your wall colour. Choose your flower colours to compliment the tree or shrub foliage colour as you would choose your pillows to compliment your wall colour. Remember, foliage colour counts.

Another option is to go with a monochromatic colo ur scheme with your flowers i.e. all white, all red or even all green (green IS a colour). Too many colours sprinkled about looks messy and amateurish whereas one colour  that compliments the colour of your home’s exterior repeated in large patches looks calmer and has an inviting visual impact even from afar.

Many people choose bright red mulch in attempt to add colour to their gardens. The red coloured mulch is a very hard colour to match or accent. Try matching the colour of mulch to your home’s brick or accent colours, or better yet, choose mulch without dye in earth tones,
for a natural look.

If you are planning on selling in the winter, then leave some of the plants intact for winter interest.  Some of the best ones for winter interest include ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed grass, Autumn Joy Sedum, Purple coneflowers, and of course evergreen shrubs.  The best part is that all of these plants are VERY low maintenance, year round!

PRUNE PROPERLY

I rarely see proper pruning techniques in gardens.  Having poorly pruned shrubs is
like having a bad haircut.  You wouldn’t dream of putting a bowl on your head and snipping around the outside, so don’t do this with your shrubs.  With a few simple pointers you can cut back your shrubs in a way to add to your curb appeal and save your shrubs from the dreaded bowl cut!

When choosing what branches to prune, start with any dead or dying branches. Next, thin out the older growth (identified by the more woody stems) especially crossed/funny angled branches. Then start to shape the leftovers, but don’t just chop the shape, give it a proper hair style!

Always cut the branch to the nearest bud, leaf or where it joins with another branch or the stem.  This helps the tree better mend itself and prevents from having half dead sticks on the outer edges of your shrubs.  Remember to never take more than one third of the shrub when you prune, or you will risk killing the shrub.

For more details on pruning, check out:

http://www.northscaping.com/InfoZone/IS-0133/IS-0133.shtml

http://www.gardenseeker.com/pruning/pruning_shrubs.htm

MOW THE LAWN

I was surprised at how many homes were being shown with messy, unmown front lawns. A quick cut will make a big difference in your curb appeal.  For best grass health mow your grass at a height of 2 ½ – 3 inches. A short mown lawn will yellow very quickly, look sparse and attract more weeds. This can distract from even the best house on the block.

With a few easy tips, you can make your landscape look as fabulous as the interior.
Small things, at  little cost, can make a big difference when it comes to curb appeal!

For more information on making a great showcase landscape, contact us @barclay@rmsi.ca.