Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening is not a new subject to many gardeners. After all, there are hanging bags, pots and all manner of trellis systems available just for that purpose. However, on a recent lunch break walk at my workplace, I came across some really original means of vertical gardening!

These after lunch walks are a good way to burn off some extra blubber and a chance to check out the local neighbourhood gardens…sort of a mini garden tour! The blocks around the hospital in Toronto, where I work, are filled with larger brick homes that are built with their front porches all about ten feet or more above the city sidewalks.

Gardens there, are a fine example of vertical gardening and show a wide variety of landscape designs, using countless perennials and annuals. In fact, I found them so interesting I recently took my camera along to record some fascinating versions of  this gardening type.

vertical rock garden

Vertical planting and gardening design, or use of the upright spaces in your garden can be used in landscape planning in gardens of all sizes and purposes. While the steep front yards I see daily, provide limited gardening space, they also have the additional challenge of soil and water runoff due to the pronounced slopes. As I wander along the block, I see many mixtures of hard and soft landscaping, used to reduce this problem.

Several slopes have been professionally landscaped  with large interlocking stone retaining walls and a plant layout that incorporates evergreen shrubs and a variety of annuals and perennials as seen below.

A few homes have permanent retaining walls that provide a larger, space where the homeowners can do their own landscape planning. Two examples of this are the cool rock wall and the more functional cement block wall as the next photos show.

 

Others have a more casual approach with natural stone or flat slabs of rock such as field-stone, all of which are available at many garden centres.  In this landscape design, plants fill in the empty spaces to soften the overall look.

There are a wide assortment of plants suitable for use, from tuber rooted perennials such as Day-lilies to a extensive variety of tough rooted sedums, just to mention a few. In addition, annuals are often used for a pop of instant colour. Overall, the combination of hardscaping materials and plantings seem to be keeping the slope gardens in place quite fine.

 

Vertical gardening combination of Sedum and stone retaining wall

 

While the gardens at these homes seem to be doing well, lovely green lawns are few and far between. Certainly the gardening challenges here must be in keeping the finer roots of the grass in place, and moving on such an angle!  After working on my own lawn slope disaster I can certainly appreciate all the hard work of one homeowner as seen below.

Although all each of these home gardens had their own garden design and implementation issues, as a mini garden tour visitor, I merely get to enjoy the fruits of their labour. In addition I often make note of their design ideas for future use myself. In fact the vertical planting in these gardens triggered memories of similar gardens I had seen at many Canada Blooms.

Known of course for the amazing flowers and landscaping layouts in addition to so much more, this past April’s show featured the use of  climbing vines and clumping plants in a variety of structures I hadn’t seen before. One company designed their entire exhibit around old wooden skids or pallets as they are also known. From the sidewalk…or boardwalk to the walls and planters, the recycling of old in to the means of displaying beautiful, bright blooms, was fascinating!

 

Vertical gardening in skid wall

 

In addition to being a cool idea, I had three pine skids in my driveway no one wanted. Of course, with no directions on how to begin, they are still leaning against a tree, waiting for an inspiration to kick start me. Now that my garden had driven me to blog, I thought I should check out what was available on line. Eureka…below is the link to an article, complete with a picture and easy to follow directions for anyone to try their hand at vertical planting , turning one of these in to a planter! Away we go!

 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/organic-authoritycom/grow-it-vertical-diy-wood_b_1638489.html

 

Certainly trellis and other garden structures are part of good landscaping design, but they are not the only reason for growing up. After reading several articles and thinking of it from a common sense point of view, the vertical way of growing plants accomplishes several things. Growing raised plants saves on garden space and provides shade below if for example, grown on an open pergola. In addition, it exposes the plants to more sun and yields more flowers.

Recent trends use many surfaces to allow for vertical growth, even in backyard gardens where such vegetable crops as cucumbers are being grown above ground on chicken wire structures. Because the plants leaves are less crowded, more flowers bloom and more cukes are harvested.  According to the next site, many other climbing veggies can be grown this way as well.

 

http://www.mercurynews.com/home-garden/ci_20995828/master-gardener-letting-sun-solve-problem?source=rss

 

Remember, when designing your garden, even growing of tradition plants such as clematis, climbing roses and morning Glories can help add a cottage feel to your garden. Trellis, hanging containers and layers of window boxes and slotted wall growth also be part of vertical planting of any garden layout.

Besides the aesthetic, these gardening features can add a relaxing tone, create shade or distract from eyesores like garbage cans, air conditioners or even provide privacy screening from your neighbours. Any way you look at it, vertical gardening is an interesting subject that lends itself to many applications, and to much more exploration…ready, set, go!

 

Motivational Inspiration

Motivational inspiration

 

Motivational inspiration varies from person to person, as actions or changes we make in our lives that come from some form of inspiration. Motivational  is the term applied to any  change or new project we might take on as inspiration itself moves us.

Inspiration…now that is a tough thing to define for each person! Of course, as I claimed this is what started my blog, I have been giving this subject a great deal of thought. When the cottage garden flowers and all their colours got me out of the doldrums I had been in, having a green lawn was the furthest thing from my mind. 

 

In fact, my brain was pretty bogged down with a zillion and one worries, not unlike most other people, especially mothers! So what was I hoping for here was to provide help and inspiration.

It seems so far the part that has helped me most was writing the steps to a greener lawn , and although rather dull, it was a form of motivational inspiration!  To some, having a lovely lawn can be inspiring  and certainly it helped me feel better to drive up to my house in the city and see a green lawn where potholes once were. 

Motivational inspiration

Motivational inspiration is seldom an issue for enthusiastic gardeners! For all you gardeners that love your green blades of grass, enjoy! If the colours, sounds and movement of a newly refurbished garden , inspire you to try your hand at water painting, wood carving, scroll sawing, wooden garden art , writing a song, or dancing a jig then the inspiration of nature has helped bring you joy!

 

Joy however is not a word I would use to describe such natural things such as slugs, grubs and other squishy garden pests! Of course they are great snacks for birds, toads and even birds and beetles. 

 

 

Then of course, there is the matter of the Poison Ivy that is found growing along the ground and climbing to new heights through many a country meadow. Norfolk County, where my country cottage is located, is, as one local official stated, the Poison Ivy capital of Canada.

 

These leaves of three, along with those of Poison Oak and Poison Sumac contain an oil called Urushiol that causes an allergic reaction in approximately 85 % of the population. The oil can stay for months to years on articles of clothing etc and is even active in the smoke if you try and burn the poison Ivy. After several encounters with it myself I can tell you it will make deep potholes in your skin, make you swell up and  get very, very itchy.

What remains a mystery to me then is that birds, sheep and goats can eat poison ivy with no reaction…I guess they have strong stomachs! Personally a nice garden salad suits me better, with oil and vinegar dressing please. In fact there is nothing quite as yummy as fresh from your garden greens, tomatoes and other fresh veggies.

 

 

Unfortunately unlike Poison Ivy, garden veggies do not grow well without proper tending and with my time split between city and country (not to mention work), there is no vegetable garden at all this year. Despite motivational inspiration, last year I tried tomatoes in the city and onions in the country but both struggled  and withered with neglect…sob…I killed the poor things!

On a positive note, thanks to some hard work by myself and designated weeders who were corralled in to helping, both locations have something stimulating to see that brightens my days. Of course there are always worries galore that can bog us down and having a beautiful garden can’t take away painful things, but for brief moments a lovely landscape, art form or bloom can make me smile and sometimes gives me a brainwave or insight on a situation that hadn’t been considered…motivational inspiration!

 

Columbine Delight

Consider then that gardens are part of a meditation progress that can help us breath and clear the mind. There are a few techniques used in meditation including The “Conscious Breath” meditation that helps you to become aware of your breathing, without controlling it. I cannot begin to cover the subject of meditation breathing, conscious breathing, breathing for yoga, counted breath nor all the other defined relaxation and healing impacts from good, deep breathing.

 The two sites below are a fraction of those available on line that gives the reader some sense of the need to “take a deep breath” and relax.

 

http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm

 

http://healing.about.com/od/breathwork/a/consciousbreath.htm

  

By using these techniques or even that of mindful watching…of the wind blowing through the trees, bobbing flower heads, lifting birds high in to the sky can teach us many things. We can be reminded that so much is beyond our control and yet there is a newness and energy to life that we can harness if we choose! Let this inspiration motivate you to take a chance and try something new and remember the old saying…Rome wasn’t built in a day!

 

Xeriscape Landscaping

Xeriscape Landscaping

Certainly after posting a blog or two about the sad shape of my lawn and garden, I began to wonder how that showed the inspiration I claimed my garden gave me. Of course the landscaping information revealed that I was indeed having fun, even if I was “downsizing” the gardens at home.

The front garden looked sad as the before picture below shows, neglect and soon to be blooming Goldenrod had turned the poor garden in to an orphan. As the weather on this particular day was at a cooler, more reasonable temperature, I decided I was up to the garden intervention!

 

Front Yard gone crazy!

Xeriscape Landscaping site in waiting!

 

With garden gloves firmly pulled on, a trowel and lots of muscle, I began to yank and dig my way through several yard waste bags full of weeds. Stopping only once, for a cool drink of water and to take a picture of my progress, I wasted no time in getting back to my beautification project.

 

HALF WAY THROUGH

HALF WAY THROUGH

After several hours, I stood back to see plants I knew and loved actually smiling through! Okay, at least I recognized the Gaillardia, the post flowering Peony, the Sea Holly, the tiny piece of Phlox and some Red Bee Balm. Now the tall grass rustled as the individual stalks had room to move after some brutal thinning out.

 

Front garden Extraordinaire!

Front garden Extraordinaire!

 

Of course some would argue that deconstructing a garden is not really landscaping but based on several definitions that is in fact what I did. If Landscaping as defined by the Encarta English Dictionary is “the enhancement of the appearance of land, especially around buildings, by altering its contours and planting trees, shrubs, and flowers”, then I indeed become a landscaper.

Included in the new landscaping design are Porportulacs Snapdragons and some Stachys Byzantina better known as Lambs Ears. To enhance their growing spirit and of course their vegetation, the dry, lifeless and dusty soil needed help! I added some Triple mix, turned it over and watered everything thoroughly. Then I mulched and watered again so the shredded bark wouldn’t wick away any of the valuable moisture from the struggling plants to avoid there being part of a Lunar Landscape that was out of this world!

Portulacas

Portulacas

Certainly the view through the walls of any dome of the future would be an Earthy one. But, by the time we explore the Moon in seriousness, I’d be too old for the position but it is fun to think of.Xeriscape Landscaping would indeed be a challenge but one I needed to tackle for the challenge itself and to fill the dry corner garden in front of my house.I do have experience at growing plants in dry, dusty, lifeless soil where potholes and rocks are common. In fact, that describes most of my gardens.

Despite the soil differences normally found between my house and cottage garden, this year thanks to very little rain and certainly neglect…they have the same lousy earth. Even as I drove past the farmers’ fields and homes, in this dry summer, I see dust blowing across some empty fields, and between rows of corn and other veggies.

Green plants were growing thanks to many pumps, wells, miles of pipe and huge agricultural watering system. Along the side of the roads I drove today, the scrub trees were beginning to dry and crunch as the lack of rain is showing. Despite the resemblance to the lunar landscape, with potholes, rocks, dry soil and no vegetation, fields that have been left to fallow for the season give us the reality check of how lifeless spaces can drag us down.

Even this fact is not lost on country homes both large and fancy to the small clapboard homes that have housed farming families for decades. I noticed that flowerbeds show life with coloured blossoms throughout their contours and even when no garden exists, a pot of marigolds or geraniums can be seen on the porch. Of course there are many landscaping features in place you’d least expect…wagon wheels. Tractor wheels and even old machine parts with vines growing on the. Then there are the gardens growing in bathtubs and even in wash tubs.

 

Washtub planter

Washtub planter

 

Certainly the plants in these containers, live well despite often being neglected in out of the way places, and not having their roots firmly set in Mother Earth. In other words, to make certain our vegetation survives we need to think “lunar” and go for drought tolerant plants. Actually this area of Horticulture is called Xeriscaping or Xeriscape landscaping and is gaining popularity.

Weeds are generally far more drought tolerant, thanks to their good root base, but as I am planning this design and not letting nature blow things in whilly nilly, some research is needed. Currently I know that Purple Coneflower and other members of the Echinacea family thrive and bloom well with little water. Other good low water plants are Bee Balm, Yucca, and all the Sedum family just to name a few.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Purple Coneflower
Purple Cone-flower

 

   

 

 

                                             

As I have mentioned in the past, both the library, bookstores and the internet are a great source of information on these and other  plants that thrive on little water. Listed below is one of the many sites I have checked out for lots of gardening information and more on drought tolerant plants.

www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca

Despite summers scorching heat and with many garden centres selling off the last of their stock, finding and planting these may be challenging. Still, if your summer will be centred close to the garden and a good end of season sale can be found, by all means give it a shot…if inspiration can come from even on sprout surviving and you are up for the challenge…take a chance at Xeriscape landscaping and turn in to something out of this world!

Future gardening site!

Landscaping Plans for your Garden

Landscaping  plans  and ideas boggle my brain, so after finally getting my lawn in better shape as seen  below, I switched my brain to the garden. Of course my garden already exists,as battlegrounds where weeds compete with my perennials. Now the garden even has a  huge representation of grass, which makes it  sound like a lovley balanced space. Truth be told, the front is a mess of weeds, grass and some  mystery plants I once knew.

 

Landscaping plans gone mad

Truthfully the front garden has gone berserk…certainly not very inspiring. Of course since gardening is usually a joy for me, I have been motivated to take action. The first step is to get landscaping done at my house is not to create any more gardens but to plan out what each existing one is doing, other than being overgrown.

If you have a new house or an older one in need of refreshment…something to perk it up, then landscaping plans would be the first step. If you have a general idea of size and what your budget is, there are many routes you can take to get started. There are countless professional companies you can hire to sort out or plan your entire yard, or just the gardens. Searching your yellow pages by hand or via a computer search is a good place to start. In fact the listings below will put you in touch with countless resources at your finger tips.

www.landscapeontario.com     and   www.home-landscape-plan.com

The first site is amazing! It lists contractors, garden design plans, helpful hints and even plant resources and more. The second site also has a great deal of info to browse through!

Don’t forget  there are a great deal in books found at your local bookstore or library. The cool thing about books is that you can carry them around and hold them up to see how things might look Currently this is the best option for those like myself, who are caught up in the costs…okay I am cheap, hiring myself seemed to be the best plan.

Speaking of books and planning, I just happen to find a great book I had forgotten, staring  at me from the hall bookcase. Landscape Planning by Judith Adam, published by FIREFLY BOOKS is full of great information that applies to Canadian gardens, and pictures galore that go with it. I also am enjoying Judith’s sense of humour and her common sense approach to gardens  and landscaping.

 

 

In the book she lists her ten elements of Landscaping Design.

Elements of Landscaping Design

1.Personal style – we know what we like

2.Planning  by light, elements, soil. plants and location, self vs contractors etc

3. Lines of Definition-marking the perimeter of yards and gardens with curves and straight lines

4.Space Division – beds, patios, walkways, shrubs, grade changes and arbours just to name a few.

5.Scale and Balance – from the size of trees and plants to stonework and patios etc

6.Garden bones-prominent plants and structures for all seasons

7.Planting Style- what you prefer for example, Japanese, English country garden for overall or individual areas of the garden

8.Colour Choices-themes by colour and season that enhance and excite

9.Succession Planting-flowering tress, shrubs and perennials for all seasons including evergreens and features for winter interest

10.Architectural features-walkways, benches, trellis, gates, fences, bird baths, sculptures and more

For further information please visit my Ten basics of Landscape Design page on this site.

 

Spacing Requirements

 

Now I have come to realize the limitations of what planning I had put in to the front flower bed. Right now it is overwhelmed and under loved! It makes sense  when we are strapped for time we neglect many things including our poor plants!  Keeping this in mind, whether your landscaping plans include hiring a professional or landscaping on your own,  try not to get carried away with the  size of the beds and shrubs if you have limited gardening time.

In fact, if budget is also a major factor, try forming small beds . Other items to  consider are the amount of sun you get, what type of soil you have, and whether you want perennials that give you a good return on your money vs short term annuals. Of course if you are new at gardening and want to get the feel of things before sinking your teeth in to perennials, annuals will let you try a wide variety of plants until you get the soil/sun thing worked out.

 

Perennials

 

Assorted annuals

                                          

 

 

 

 

 

Next steps

Now what you might ask? Well  you can go check out the books and site, or visit a local garden center for hands on help with what plants may suit your needs and go from there. Me, I have decided my  city property has  too many gardens to keep up with and they are  all suffering as a result.

I get overwhelmed looking at all the weeds/wildflowers that now call my yard home, so downsizing and compartmentalizing is the way to go. Of course that may sound destructive, ripping most things out and shrinking things, but when there is only so much time to go around, I think of it ultimately as good time management.

First I have to just focus on a small area or section of each garden so the overwhelming mess doesn’t get me discouraged. I try to pick  a section of garden that is manageable to tidy well and mulch in a few hours. Once this is tackled then I move to the next section, and before the week is out I have one tidy, good looking garden.

To make all the approximately eight gardens look good is too big a task, as they are suffering after several years of neglect, so my landscaping plans include time management. Remember picking one small garden area at a time  means, more time to admire the lovely flowers in bloom and to make garden art like my scroll sawed Garden Shed sign below. 

Scroll Sawed Sign

 

For further information on scroll sawing, visit the great site listed below:

www.woodworkingtipsforwomen.com

 

 

 

Garden Slugs and Snails- Pests in our gardens

Garden slugs and snails are only two of the many pests in our gardens.Pesky things drive us crazy, whether they are in our daily work and family lives or even in the garden. As I have written recently, the bald lawn was driving me crazy…then the weeds that were co-habiting with them…so much for lifting my spirits! Or at least that is how it seemed to me…that my enthusiasm was damped and muddied by discouragement as well as lousy soil.

The soil in my yard as well as my garden really is poor and lacking in nutrients…so what am I going to do about it you ask? Well I think it is time for me to look at the garden with new eyes of wonder and realize, like any kid does, that there are lots of really cool plants and bugs out there just waiting to be noticed.

Okay, so snails and beetles chewing their way through my lovely garden plant leaves may not be waving so I would take notice, but they certainly are making themselves known by the lacy pattern they have eaten. So not only are the weeds/wildflowers sharing in the undesigned landscape around my house, but now the crawling pests have arrived to picnic on my plants.

Of course I find the slimy garden slugs and snails to be the yuckiest…such a highly scientific term! All I know about them is the slimy trail as well as the holes they leave when done snacking. I do know that cold, damper areas as well as the underside of leaves is where they are commonly found and that I single handily use my trusty trowel of death to fling them on to the road. Of course, for the purpose of providing real information on this slimy garden pests, a little bit of research made me fear them even more.

In most Ontario gardens, the grey garden slug (pictured) Deroceras reticulatum is most common and in the fields have the grey field slug Deroceras laeve. What the difference is I am not certain. While some grub like pests live and eat in the soil, the grey field slug is, as it’s name suggests, are more active above ground than the others. Breeding data states one can produce many juveniles despite having a short life cycle, making it a particularly dangerous pest. Further reading revealed that slugs, which are a mollusk, are hermaphrodites! Yes they are male and female in one body…no wonder they have no trouble finding a mate.

I think that finding out about their sex life was more than I bargained for. To make things even worse, once they mate they can each lay up to 300 eggs that look whitish jelly filled, ‘BB’ sized balls. In less than two weeks they hatch and become a lean, mean, eating machine that produces mucous from a foot, which prevents them from falling down off the plants they are eating. No wonder there is such a lacy pattern on tall plants I thought would normally be beyond their reach. Okay, despite my repulsion, I found reading about their life cycle interesting and have provided two of many links, for you to check out.

AdTech Ad

grey-field-slug

Slug grey field variety

www.uoguelph.ca/pdc/Factsheets/Other/SlugsSnails.htm
http://idtools.org/id/mollusc/factsheet

Look for Deroceras agresteor

Of course on this slimy topic, I had been following the much cuter mollusk, the banded wood snail, Cepaea nemoralis, is most common species of snail. This one too has the same basic anatomy but carries its house along for protection and can seal the end of the shell when it pulls itself in for protection. Wow that would be handy when predators want to lunch on them!

Speaking of lunch, both grubs and snails are tasty meals for some beetle, birds, garden shakes and mostly eaten by toads. Most wild toads will eat worms, ants slugs, snails,spiders, butterflies, crickets and centipedes, so having one or two around should keep the pest population down. Then the veggies and lettuce you are growing in your garden might make it to a bowl for your lunch.

Certainly most pests, especially thegarden slugs and snail I have mentioned love tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and other veggies such as beans. Of course not to be left out are the blooms and leaves of petunias, zinnia, lily of the valley just to name a few. I found a snail recently suspended from an the bloom of an anonymous summer bulb, which it was sharing with a ladybug!

Common Garden Pests

Common Garden      Pests

 

As I do not plan on sharing any more plants with snails or slugs, there are a few steps of preventative nature I can take. Removing dead and decaying plant debris, clearing up standing water, prune low tree and shrub branches cuts down on damp shady areas. Then there is having a sharp stabbing tool handy for organic termination, or throwing the snails out on the road for crushing!

Other organic means include shallow trays of stale beer, that must be emptied regularly. crushed egg shells around plants have some measure of success as does diatomaceous earth (crushed sea creatures), both of which give jagged texture which repels anything slimy trying to crawl over them. Newer suggestions include salt and sea weed as a small scale repellent, but the salt from both sources leaches in to the ground.

There are two main chemical repellants which are toxic to birds, cats and dogs as well as children. Of course i do not fall in to any of these groups, but still find anything toxic to them, harmful to the environment and my self. Methaldehyde and methiocarb are used in pellets and on tree tapes, with killing in mind on a larger scale such as in field and fruit tree farming where financial and business production can be dramatically affected . Then the lacey pattern and the often stripped bare stems would be a problem on a scale I cannot even imagine.

www.msu.edu/~gillilla/cepaeanemoralis.html

From one little garden where there have been about fifty snails and ten slugs found on my afternoon hunt, I have learned a great deal about mollusks There is also a great deal left to learn, should I choose to . One thing I did learn that I kept silent about earlier was that snails do some good in many countries even the ones in our garden, are cooked for food. Of course most of us have heard that in France cooked snails are referred to as escargot and served as a gourmet appetizer

Eating snails has been a culinary custom for thousands of years and is a delicacy in many Asian countries, in African countries and are catching on in th U.K. and other European countries. From article on line, even north Americans and Aussies are eating them. In fact now they are even raised for such purposesand may be the key to nutrition in developing countries.

Snails are supposedly nutritious, being high in protein and low in saturated fat, provided of course they do not have butter added. According to several articles they are also a good source of essential fatty acids, vitamins E, A, B12 and vitamin K, magnesium, iron, and selenium.Snails and slugs can have be infected with a parasite known as A. Cantonensis which can cause a rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis if ingested. Don’t let this unfortunate experience happen to you. If eating snails appeals to you, at least make sure they’re well cooked.

http://voices.yahoo.com/eating-snails-answer-malnutrititon-4940788.html

On that note I think it is best to move back to salad free of pesticides and garden pests alike. As for my gourmet palate, well I think it is safe to say I do not plan on eating any snails in the near future. Whether pest or food product, I hope this blog has been of interest to you and helpful for a greener, lusher garden.

 

Weeds or Wildflowers: the debate continues

Organic gardening, while great for the health of the planet, certainly takes some good planning and hard work. Just look at the number of hours I have been preoccupied with the green shoots of grass that are sparsely spread across sections of my lawn. But I certainly couldn’t help it when the bald spot is there catching my eye every time I go in or out the back door or drive up to the house. Now of course my house, even though it is in a big city, is really a cottage stuck in a time warp. Now the one thousand square foot bungalow is surrounded by tall pine trees and tall weeds.

Okay the garden weeds can have nice shaped leaves and often even pretty flowers but their odd shapes and height make for one messy looking lawn. Although not a very neat person, this horticultural mish-mash has been driving me crazy! In fact, I learned a thing or two about myself as I followed my own steps in the Save the Lawn Project. From this experience I reinforced my ability to work hard at something I love…being outdoors. What I had not realized was how little patience I have for some repetitious chores. Yes watering the same area over and over, day after day is trying, monotonous and keeps me from the inspirational garden I really want to be working on.

While inspiration for this blog started after staring at the new growth in the cottage garden, not all of the greenery was a plant we value, as a garden treasure. Certainly some weeds almost fool you in to believing they are real plants. Others are just scraggly, spiky things that can make you sneeze or even give you a rash (we won’t even mention the poison ivy).

After a current weeding session at the cottage, which is in farm country, I decided to surf the Internet to try and identify some of the weeds there. Below is a listing related to field and crops that has a lovely WEED photo gallery. Who knew!

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/IPM/english/weeds-herbicides/gallery/index.html

Of course we all have our very own weeds that we hate and sometimes even ones we love. Certainly Dandelions are cool looking with their lovely yellow bloom and even their dreamy looking white fuzzy seed state. Then there are the dubious weeds like forget-me-nots that have escaped from the garden and other self seeding plants such as the herb lemon balm which spreads everywhere and anywhere. I guess as someone once told me, they believed if it had lovely blossoms it was a wild flower and not a weed.

Pretty lawn weed

 

Dandelion Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on this definition, many unwanted growing things are weeds. Another term used to help us decide what may or may not be a weed is: a plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden. Just think of how complicated and messy my yard would be if the lawn was full of assorted, unwanted plants and my garden was full of lovely thick lawn grass…how uninspiring would that be!

Certainly as I want to motivate you all to have lovely, organic inspirational areas to play, sit, and dream in, what I described would definitely not be a motivating space. Without a doubt my yard temporarily falls in to this less than desirably category, I am using this blog also to get myself in gear and take simple steps that will give me the meditation space I so need. In fact as I recall the need for peace in my garden and realize how obsessed with weeds and other stray things I have become, I realize everything growing has its place…just not in my sod or my garden.

While things grow everywhere and anywhere, it seems they are literally rooted in ways that often make removal difficult. Take for example the tap root of a dandelion that anchors it firmly and also sends out a new plant if every tiny bit of root is not removed. Then there some like the plantain that has numerous hairy roots that cover a wider range of soil to anchor their base. Creepers, like Creeping Jenny, are also tough as they often have above ground laterally growing roots that also root from stem nodules. No wonder with these and even more means of thriving and spreading, unwanted vegetation can run amuck!

Certainly I am growing a new respect for the tough weeds that grow and flower everywhere and anywhere they choose. In fact, I realized that their fortitude was a good example of how being tough can help with one’s self preservation, especially when taking on new challenges. Who knew such unwanted greenery was a means to self enlightenment. Certainly this sounds like something Buddhist, but maybe after checking the library or the Internet to learn more about them, you will respect them for their stamina as well, even as you yank them out by their hair.

With the memory of pulling out my hair after many a weeding session still fresh in my mind, despite any inspired at those solitary plants that grow in the toughest conditions with poor soil and water levels, I am not starting a weed garden anytime soon…at least not on purpose! Of course maybe it would become a new trend that could start with one single, lovely beach wildflower…or is that a weed…judge for yourself!

 

 

Beach Wildflower

 

 

Growing a healthy lawn

All this week I have been staring out the window at the sad excuse of a side lawn and then looking across the street at all the healthy green lush ones. Of course part of the problem is a huge bald spot on the slope, that is very visible from the street. Adding to that dead area are a multitude of potholes left by some kind of digging animals who feasted on bug snack food before moving on to greener pastures. Now all I needed to fix the mess would be the Jolly Green Giants green thumb !

 

Of course the other piece of the problem came from me, the head gardener, who bit off more than I could chew. Then again last summer’s laziness didn’t help as the exposed area got drier and sadder each passing week. Now, I asked myself if the ninety-two year old neighbour has a lovely lawn what’s wrong with me? Certainly the fact that my organic lawn has every weed imaginable thriving does interfere in the growth of normal grass. But then the environment is healthier because of me and my lawn and it makes the surrounding green spaces along the block, look even better.

Mystery Weed!

 

This is all the more apparent each day as I drive down the street towards my house and now the shame has finally gotten the better of me. Okay my eyes could only look the other way for so long, before even these lazybones knew I had to do something! The craters on the side slope could be tackled…I just needed a some help and a plan.

 

The plan was to get seed and turf..no not surf and turf…and fertilize. To get a good start on this plan, while I was out doing errands , I got the sod. I don’t know if you have been to the lawn seed and fertilizer aisles of a big box store recently, but the choices are overwhelming! I knew I needed seed for shady areas, and that I had a mess in the side yard, but nice grass on the front where it is sunny most of the day.

 

Thankfully there was a fertilizing person at the store filling in his company’s products. Now of course he could have pushed just his products, but he really just explained it would be difficult seeding and sodding a shady area. His suggestion was to use a starter fertilizer as well, which would not only help the sod to take well, but would also perk up the roots of the other struggling grass.

 

Following his advice, back I went to the garden centre. Of course not really being gardeners, but barely out of school young adults, not one had a clue as to the length of a flattened roll of sod. Although the price of $3.20 a roll was good, despite my nagging inner gardening guru’s voice, I bought only two rolls. What was I thinking? Obviously in my mind, the dead zone was not too big, but sadly that was not the case!

 

Rolling out the sod later at home, revealed I needed many more rolls to fill in the crater. Then of course, after my underestimation, I checked on-line and the general consensus is a roll is about 24 inches wide and 5 feet long. I love metric, but if you need a conversion you are on your own, as my long measuring tape is traditional units…so feet it is!

Sod Inspector

 

Whether you actually have a metric or standard yard tape measure, I suggest you get it out, with a pencil and paper. First measure the width and then the length so you can practise your math skills and calculate the total area you want to grow healthy again. If a 2×5 foot roll covers 10 square feet, using some long division should help you come up with a total roll count.

 

So out I go and despite my own suggestions, I use an old semi-reliable set of measuring devices that are never hard to locate… my very own two feet. From actually measuring them on on a small wooden ruler, they are approximately 10 inches or 25 cm in length. Now a few calculations and tada…I need 5 more rolls of lovely grass, so off we go on another trip to a garden centre .

 

Certainly garden centres are lovely, energetic, inspiring places to hang out. The biggest pitfall however, is trying to keep my wallet closed to all but the green rolls of nature’s carpet that I came to buy. Keeping my eyes focused to the aisles and away from those pesky tempting perennials, garden ornaments and my favourite, the garden gnomes, would definitely be a challenge. On my last stop though, only one lovely Hellioborus made it in to the cart and past the checkout. Once planted in its shady home, I was pleased at how lovely it looked between the ferns and the hostas in the side garden. Even the gnomes, who live there all year round, seemed happy with it.

 

But no one is happy with the lunar landscape of the neighbouring slope, and certainly the work is more exhausting , as things are seldom as easy as they sound. First I needed to cut out all the tiny pieces of sod that will cause a problem with the rolls lying flat. Then as the soil underneath seems to have no nutrients or water retention abilities, I will need to put down a layer of black topsoil and some peat moss before going any further. Doesn’t this sound like good solid gardening advice?

 

In fact, taking these suggestions as fact, I checked the multiple bags piles in the backyard and discovered there was good soil and peat moss ready to spruce up any yard or garden. Then off to the garden centre where only five rolls of the sod went in to the trunk without any accompanying plants that would need a home…so my focus was on my soon to be healthy lawn.

 

The next step to good health was to pull any interfering weeds and grass clumps out of the staging zone. Then any big clumps were raked out and some starter fertilizer was spread out over the levelled surface. I was pleased at remembering the flattened soil had to be lower so the top of the rolled out sod would be even with the surrounding lawn. Then after all seven, soggy, lead weight rolls were down in a rather staggered pattern, I back filled the edges and gaps all around.

Lawn Care at work

 

Of course there were lots of gaps and pot holes to fill with good soil all over the place. Wow was it exhausting! But despite my aching muscles, there was still the watering step! After all, how could those little strands of grass and tiny seeds become my fabulous lawn without water! But that led to the official turning on of the hose..a rite of summer! Despite a tiny leak, flooding was minimal and now the watering of the sod takes place each and every day, as I wait for ten more sleeps to see how my hard work turns out!

 

 

 

May Showers

May 1, 2012

 

 

Hello. As I write this entry I am listening to the rain that is taking April and turning it into May, and eavesdropping on the thirsty plants drinking in all that water! Certainly this rain is well needed to help them send out a solid root base for their new growth. Just think of how tall they’ll get!

Of course my lawn is moving on up that way as well. Certainly at this time of year the weeds are highest, followed by many heights of grass. In the front there are patches almost six inches tall. Of course that’s because our lawn mower of last season has died and hand trimming is definitely not an option.

Instead, the choice made this morning was to go mower shopping after work…who knew rain was definitely coming (except of course for the weather people). Despite the rain, the old carbon spewing mower was driven to its grave…a major big box store giving a large discount on “Eco Friendly “mowers. Now a lovely battery operated one sits in its box waiting to be assembled. Welcome to the future where we put up with the uncertainty of results in favour of the planet.

While the planet can’t thank us personally, certainly every little bit helps. Please consider that when you make a new garden tool purchase or pick up herbicides and pesticides. Of course my completely organic lawn means neighbours are less than happy with every weed imaginable living and roaming free. Now if someone could just come up with a way of corralling them or chocking the life out of them in an environmentally friendly way, we could all benefit…of course I meant the weeds should die, not the neighbours!

In the meantime I will try the natural way to rid my lawn of the unruly weeds. So far this spring I have dug up over 100 dandelions, yanked up a yard waste bag or two of creeping wide leaved green things and planned another post rain assault. In the past I have sprayed heated vinegar along sidewalk cracks and on stubborn clumps of weeds, with limited success. Still, as Astro turf is not a natural or affordable option, some good lawn care is really the best plan.

 

Pretty lawn weed

 

Yes, despite the state of my lawn, I do know what should be done, especially now that the warmer weather is coming up. As the lawn has been thoroughly raked and has been aerated, a two part plan is coming up. First I will put down some good soil, especially on the slope where grass is almost gone. Then I will get a good brand of grass seed that can do well in shade or a good mixture that I can spread on the whole lawn. Between better soil, being kept moist and careful attention, by me, the family gardener, the green tufts should be everywhere.

Or there may be a plan B in the works, which is costlier but less work in the long run. After good soil is placed on the slope and in the biggest hollows, then rolling out some sod and firmly packing it down is the next step. Of course keeping it moist is important too and a mild fertilizer would help also. Knowing me, this strategy would probably give more consistent results. After all, since in the past I have not consistently watered the seeds, once germination has really just begun, then the poor strands of grass begin to shrivel up! What a sad tale…the waste of time, effort and water.

With just these basic guidelines, some good fertilizer and lots of manual labour, I hope, to have a lawn to be proud of before long. Of course if nothing else, I have lovely bulbs still in bloom which redeems me somewhat. If I know anything, it is that nobody holds all the answers, except maybe the internet…the best garden guide one can find at your fingertips. Now it’s time to rest my typing digits…and check my eyelids for leaks…Chow Baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring’s bloom

 Springs’s Bloom

Perennial Daffodil

 

Inspiration can come to us from many things with results we may least expect out of the clear blue sky! Who knew this would happen for me recently when my garden’s rising shoots were the beginning of a new plant and a new idea that had never crossed my mind. While gardening guru I am not, certainly I have lots of experience in the field, in weeding lawns, gardens and wondering what that funny coloured bug was. As I type even now the question pops up… what words of wisdom could I share?

Wisdom, learning and sharing garden thoughts, joys and failures, certainly connects us and often makes us see the world from a brighter place. If nothing else it can make us look outside of ourselves, breathe a little deeper and relieve stress even for just a short while!

Spring’s bloom is a time to enjoy nature’s beginning without worry. After all, do plants stress about wearing the season’s latest styles, or if their blooms are big enough? No they just grow and provide pleasure for us and food for assorted bugs and often provide the inspiration needed for us to start our very own growth.

While seeing buds bloom and shoots grow might not be what inspires some to branch out, for some reason it was the muse I needed for a new start. Whether my blog takes off in any way to be as lovely as a flower is yet to be seen, but certainly it is my hope.

 

 

Trillium welcomes Spring

 

So far it may seem like yet another site, but I hope to peak your interest of gardens and nature with pictures, facts, hints and inspirations…all with a sense of fun! Certainly most of us can all use more fun in our stress filled lives and as we dream, plan and work in our lives and gardens. In fact, where would we be without all those parts of our lives…how could we bloom where we are planted, to quote an old saying.

Speaking of blooms, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are up and ready to burst! Despite the unusual weather…from shorts in March and early April to parkas the next day, the poor defenceless plants and bulbs have survived! In fact, with the last of the snowflakes finally leaving us this week and the sun’s warming rays, there is a glorious crop of spring flowers along city streets and country roads and in awakening fields.

Spring’s bloom in the field of my country estate has tiny violets and other wild flowers coming to life. As I write this looking out over my garden, masses of deep purple and red tulips are just waiting for a bright sunny day or two to open. Okay, 1.8 acres does not an estate make, and the Ottawa Tulip Festival has nothing to worry about, but my tulips are lovely as you can judge for yourself.

Remember, there are flowers everywhere….just keep your eyes open…and enjoy!