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!

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!!!

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

Black Walnut trees are native to Ontario. They are great trees for wildlife as they produce an abundance of walnuts in the fall. They can be quite a nuisance when they overhang your driveway, house or shed. We have four large Black Walnut trees along our driveway, all about 20 metres in height. When a big fat walnut falls from those top branches, it can cause a lot of damage. Our cars get dented, windshields get broken and we are often woken up by loud bangs in the middle of the night when a walnut drops onto the shed, house or a car.

Black Walnuts produce "juglans" which limits what you can grow under them.

The walnuts are very messy on the ground and if you are not careful, you can easily twist or sprain an ankle tripping over them. They are an all-u-can-eat buffet for every squirrel within squirrel-running distance. If you have a dog like mine that goes crazy for squirrels, this means a lot of barking in the fall.

There is one last one inconvenience with Black Walnuts in an urban setting; Black Walnuts have a natural herbicide in their roots, leaves and nuts called “Juglans” (their Latin name is Juglans Nigra) which limits what will grow under them. The production of juglans is the tree’s natural defense against competition for resources from other plants . Few plants can grow near walnuts because of the juglans in the soil, so the walnuts, and their offspring, get a better share of the space, water, nutrients, sun etc. It is quite a clever adaptation.  Fear not, there are many plants that are able to withstand the presence of juglans.

Here are some options for under a walnut tree:

Trees:

  • Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga Canadensis *native
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis *limited to zone 6
  • Southern Catalpa, Catalpa bignonioides
  • Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum

Shrubs:

  • Cedar, Thuja species *native
  • Euonymus species
  • Daphne, Daphne mezereum
  • Mock Orange, Philadelphus sp.
  • Most Viburnum species *native
  • Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus

Vines:

  • Clematis species (some better than others)
  • Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia *native

Perennials:

  • Bee Balm, Monarda didyma *native
  • Bellflower, Campanula latifolia
  • Bloodroot, Sanguinaria Canadensis *native
  • Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans
  • Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
  • Common Daylily, Hemerocallis species
  • Coral Bells, Heuchera
  • Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum
  • Goldmoss Stonecrop, Sedum acre
  • Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  • Great Solomon’s-Seal, Polygonatum commutatum
  • Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  • Hosta
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum
  • Jacob’s-Ladder, Polemonium reptans
  • Kentucky bluegrass,  Poa pratensis
  • Lamb’s-Ear, Stachys byzantina
  • Lungwort, Pulmonaria species
  • Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum *native
  • Showy Sedum, Sedum spectabile
  • Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana *native
  • Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica *native
  • Summer Phlox, Phlox paniculata
  • Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa
  • Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
  • Trillium White Wake-Robin, Trillium grandiflorum *native
  • Wild Bergamot, Monarda. fistulosa *native
  • Wild Ginger (European, not sure about the native variety)

 Vegetables:

  • Squash
  • Melon
  • Bean
  • Carrot
  • Corn

For more information and options visit:

Toronto Botanical Gardens: http://www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca/mastergardener/Juglone.shtml

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/info_walnut_toxicity.htm

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