Here is the condensed version of Sabrina’s “Tending to Your Trees” presentation. Thanks Sabrina for sharing!

Tending Your Trees Sabrina Selvaggi Blog

Trees are very important! Plant one today...

Trees are very important! Plant one today…

 

 

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

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.

 

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

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

Daffodils, or as my niece used to call them “Dapp-o-diwls”, are my favorite bulb for many reasons. Yes, the tulip comes in a variety of colours, but Daffodils are perfect for my easy-peasy gardening regime.

Little drops of sunshine

Some of the reasons I love daffodils and why I am encouraging you to plant some now, before it gets too cold:

  • They are one of the first flowers to show up in the spring. I equate them to little drops of sunshine after a long, dreary winter.
  • Unlike tasty, nutritious tulips, squirrels do not like daffodils, so they do not get eaten or moved by our furry little friends.
  • They are done their blooming by the time your other perennials start to shine. I always hated waiting for my tulips to go brown before  cutting  them back; I always saw the post-bloom tulips as messy, brown, ugly spots on my fresh, green spring garden. Daffodils are great for stepping out of the way early so the rest of the garden can take front stage. How kind of them!
  • They are the favourite flower of one of my best friends, Jen. She doesn’t really like gardening, but loves these beauties.
  • They are water efficient. They do not need any other water other than what Mother Nature provides. They look after themselves.
  • Daffodils are a symbol for the Canadian Cancer Society. Buy your daffodils in the spring to support the fight against cancer.
  • They are great for your garden budget. The bulbs are fairly inexpensive, and they come back year after year.
  • You can “layer” the bulbs with later blooming plants in your garden. Because they are a small bulb, they will not take up much space in your garden. Daffodils can be planted very close to each other, and close to perennials and small shrubs, without having to worry about overcrowding.

So get out there and plant your daffodils, now, before the cold weather arrives. You will thank me next spring.  Alliums also meet many of the criteria above, and the bulbs can only be planted in the fall, why not pick up a few of those too…

Allium, another great bulb to plant this fall

Snow Seeding?

October 13, 2011

Snow Seeding

Timing of your fall lawn overseeding is dependent on the weather. With the past week of unusually hot weather, the typical timeframe of September 15th to October 15th may not have had the best results with grass seed germination.  New advice is starting  to appear on the circuit that is based on old practices. The practice of “snow seeding” or “winter seeding” is when grass seed is applied in northern climates just before the snow falls. The idea is that this will prevent the birds from eating the seed and then will freeze the seeds, preserving them over the winter. The grass seed will be ready for naturally induced germination in the spring.

I have to admit that I have not tried this yet, although for years I have planned  too. From a biological perspective, it makes sense. Think about how many fall flowers, trees and shrubs cast seed at the end of the season, only to begin germination the following spring. Why not grass?  I would imagine that a late season warm spell, a late frost or other unusual weather patterns may hamper this process, reducing or even eliminating the spring germination.

For me, the best feature of this technique would be that I wouldn’t have to be out with the hose daily keeping the seeds moist until they germinate. As a water conservation professional, and a lazy gardener, this works for me! (Plus, my outdoor hose bib has been broken for years; I have embraced this as a challenge to have a landscape that does not use any tap water.)

Lots of snow to protect your grass seed.

Has anyone tried this technique? I’d be interested in
hearing about your experience with this.