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!

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

Easy Weedin’

April 12, 2012

Cosmetic pesticides are now banned for use in Ontario, meaning you cannot buy them or APPLY them (even if you get them from the states). As easy as they seemed for getting rid of weeds and pests, they did not solve the problem, they merely treated the symptoms. The new approach to pesticide-free lawn care may seem like more work, but it will pay off in the end.

 

Many people are complaining about the ban, but I think it’s a great idea. When I mention this to those who do not support the ban, they often respond with details on how the pesticides aren’t that bad and that the health claims against them are false or overhyped.  I admit I don’t know every detail of the health impacts of pesticides, but I do know that they are chemicals that kill living things.

 

My biggest concern about the use of cosmetic pesticides on residential lawns is what I call the “Idiot Factor”.  These are the people that do not follow the proper guidelines for the use of these chemicals.  I have been in garden centres, pre-ban, and heard people say that they weren’t really sure what was causing the dead patches on their lawns, so they were going to buy one of each pesticide and apply them all together, figuring that something would work. I have also heard people talk about how they would double or triple the application rates for better results.

 

I have seen lawn care companies go to the wrong address and spray the backyard with pesticides, right over top of the homeowner’s young children’s toys that were in the backyard. One of the children had severe sensitivities to chemicals and they had to throw out all of his toys that were sprayed, much to the child’s disappointment and to the parents’ fury.

 

I have had lawn care summer students tell me that the dead patch on my lawn was definitely grub damage and that I would have to spray my entire lawn to get rid of them. The dead patch was where because I had left a bad bag of compost out for too long in the sun. The rest of my lawn was free of any dead patches and any sign of grub damage.

 

These people are the reason why I support the ban. Even if 99% of people were using cosmetic pesticides the correct way and the “Idiot Factor” only represented 1%, that is 1% of trouble I would rather not see.

 

So, how can you get rid of your weeds?  First of all, it is time to rethink the lawn. Even golf courses do not have 100% grass blade turf.  Nature does not naturally have pure monocultures of any species, including grass.  Do you really want to spend your free time fighting the forces of nature?

 

Secondly, look at the weeds as a symptom, not the problem. If you have weeds on your lawn, they are there because of a bigger problem. A thick healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds. Weeds arrive when there is compaction, bare spots or thin turf, basically a sign your lawn is weak and needs to toughen up.  For more information on lawn care, see my previous post…

For picking weeds, I have played with several weed “pluckers” and I have my favourite type…

 

My preferred weed plucker

I find this one works well and does not take a huge chunk out of my lawn like the Fiskar’s model. It also works to aerate compacted lawns. After you pull out the weed, fill the hole in with a mixture of sand and seed, and if mixed and used on the same day, some compost.

 

 

Twist, pull and push it out.

Looking for a cost-effective option, try a steak knife and some pre-weeding stretches. For years, my mother would wander around the lawn with her steak knife cutting out the weeds. The lawn always looked great and she only spent around 15 minutes each week weeding.

No one wants to go out in the rain, but if you can get out just after the rain, the weeds pull out much easier… You may get dirtier than on a dry day, but a little dirt has got to be good for the soul.

At minimum, make sure to pick off the  weed flower heads before they go to seed (when they are blooming) to reduce the weed seed bank in your lawn and  garden.

Lastly, are the “weeds” you are worrying about really a bad thing? Some see clover as a weed. Clover has the ability to take Nitrogen from the air and make it accessible to roots under the ground. Why spend all that money on lawn fertilizer when clover gives it to you for free. Cost effective plant magic! Clover also stays green during a drought and provides pollen for bees. (FYI – our bee populations are in big trouble and they pollinate a huge majority of our food crops, they really need our help and do not generally sting unless heavily provoked).

Because your lawn is pesticide free, dandelion leaves are safe for consumption. They are great in a mixed salad and you can make wine from them! No matter how ugly you think dandelions are, can you really hate anything that gives you wine?

If in doubt about how your lawn looks, go across the road and look at it from the neighbors’ perspective, it probably looks much better…If it still looks less than perfect, have a glass or two of wine and repeat.

 

Nutritious and you can make wine from them!

 

If you have a specific question about weeds, email us at info@rmsi.ca

For more information on the ban visit: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/environment/en/category/pesticides/index.htm

Happy Gardening!
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.