Cuban Gardens

Cuban gardens were a new subject for me until I recently traded in our cold Canadian weather for a week of hot Cuban “winter” weather and a plant tour that reminded me of my indoor plants back home in Canada.

Cuban Resort garden

Cuban Resort garden

Not only were the blooms and foliage amazing, but the air itself is full of a scent that is indescribable. While unable to pinpoint any specific scent, upon closer examination  of Cuban gardens, I was able to identify many plants as those “tropicals”,  for sale in garden centres and greenhouses here in Ontario.

Schefflera

This four story plant is one of many Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree) plants growing around our resort and seen all over the island. Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree). The genus is fast growing in tropical and subtropical areas to the extent it is classified as a weed in these areas. With idea conditions here in Cuba, the actinophylla species has  long, shiny, oval green leaves that droop gracefully from a central stalk and  also produces long red tentacle blooms.

 

Schefflera flower

 

Here in Ontario Canada and other colder climates, where our cold winters prevent idea growth, we grow Schefflera arboricola (sometimes called dwarf schefflera)  which has much smaller leaves, sometimes with creamy variegation and generally doesn’t get the right conditions for blooming. Under ideal conditions it produces creamy coloured berries.

Schefflera_arboricola_

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Cottage Blooms

Cottage Blooms

Cottage blooms are part of the cottage feel…the escape from reality we all look forward too. When the city life is far away. we can relax and enjoy our gardens. Whether part of an organized garden with annuals and perennial plants bought from a local garden centre, or provided by Mother Nature, the beauty they give us is inspiring!

Cottage blooms show below are merely a small sampling of the variety found in the garden and the meadow around my cottage.  Norfolk County, Ontario has a wide variety of Carolinian wildflowers that brighten up the day.

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Buttercup wildflower

 

 

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cottage blooms

 

 

 

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Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Cottage blooms can also break up large expanses of otherwise boring spaces such as along roadsides where local clearance by-laws rule. Small planting of perennials such as this Yucca, combined with wildflower perennials such as the Purple Coneflower and annuals will provide a nice touch of colour while ensuring a garden that will not get too large and out of control.

 

panosonic 251

 

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

wild violet

This lovely yellow violet was found growing in mass between the Red Sycamore plants. Across my 1.8 acres there are many clumps of violets. Despite merely being 2 cm across, the flowers are dainty and delightful!

 

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Shasta Daisy from garden centre

 

 

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Whether planted or part of the randomness of nature, all blooms delight the eye and dazzle the senses. If you do not have a cottage, just take a drive through the countryside on warm ,sunny day and you won’t be disappointed.

Seed planting in Spring and caring for sprouts

 Seed Planting in Spring

Seed planting in spring and caring for the sprouting seedlings are always popular pastimes and certainly April is one month that has Northern Hemisphere gardeners chomping at the bit.

 plant stuff and office 015plant stuff and office 042

 

 

 

 

Whether you had carefully scrutinized seed catalogues for your purchases or chosen them from the countless seed displays in local stores, you will have noticed the huge variety of seeds available!  Perhaps you collected seeds collected from last season’s garden, just as those in the Southern Hemisphere may be doing now as their gardens go dormant as colder weather approaches.

While many seedlings require different germination needs as previously written on this site, no matter  whether gardeners are working in large gardening centres or toiling over their grow lights and window sills, they are all hopeful those conditions have been met.

-_Seedling_-001

 Despite the complex process a seed goes through before the first sprout appears, from large global gardens such as Viceroy’s Palace Garden in India and Tsarskoe Selo Russia, through to massive garden shows like Canada Blooms to our small but priceless gardens, each carefully planted seed carries with it the hope and perspiration of many hands.

Now that seeds are under the lights, or on a sunny window ledge the tricky part begins. Keeping a few simple points in mind should ensure the sprouts you watch daily, will grow tall and healthy awaiting their new home in your garden or planters.

 

plant stuff and office 053

 

POST GERMINATION CARE

While the information on temperature, light and moisture levels seem pretty straightforward, to novice gardens especially, these both require careful monitoring. In addition, fertilizing is important in the right strength, to help ensure healthy hearty plants come from your seed planting in spring.

 

Temperature

If possible, providing a source of gentle warming from beneath is a valuable tool, enabling most seeds to germinate faster as it mimics the warm soil of your garden or planter. Certainly the top of refrigerators were once the site of many seed tray and seedlings, the newer model appliances give off very little heat. However, if they allow good sunlight, this would still be a good location for both new seeds and struggling seedlings.

The temperature requirements of most seeds are on the packages, but generally whether purchased or collected; seeds and seedlings both have minimum temperatures for good growth. Generally this is approximately 65 º F or 18 º C but above 68 º or 20 º is better. In addition, the optimal temperature is one if many pieces of information on the seed packages.

Heated seed tray starting kits are a big help as the try comes with a heating pad designed to warm the seeds from the bottom at an even temperature. Unfortunately on the one I purchased the actual temperature was not listed but the seeds sprout much faster than the comparable one in the small trays beside it.

 

plant stuff and office 028

 

If you live in an older home heated by radiators, covered in a non combustible material, trays could be placed there for warmth but monitor the area regularly so they are not baked instead.

There are several problems that can arise if the temperature needs of the sprouting seedlings are not met. The first problem with lower temperatures is the metabolism of the seed/seedling is slower. In addition, the cooler temperatures combined with generally high moisture levels are good breeding grounds for fungus which may result in the disease or condition know horticultural as damping off.

Lighting

Seeds generally require a good source of light and in fact, some require so much to germinate that the packages suggest little to no coverage of the seeds. In addition, some plants do not grow well if planted early indoors and transplanted. I have had little success transplanting sunflowers and in fact, the package instructions say just to plant in the garden after danger of frost is past. While the root systems may not support the transfer, more often than not the plant’s metabolism requires a high level of natural sunlight, hence straggly plants even when under grow lights.

If you do not have a sunny, no draft location for your seed trays, pots, pellets or whatever you planted in to, perhaps grow lights are for you.  There are many locations from larger big box stores and most most large garden centres  that sell tiered, fluorescent lit plant stands. Another good source to check out are garage sales, or on line used items sites as new tiered light stands are generally quite costly.

 

plant stuff and office 022

 

With the availability of new natural daylight frequency bulbs, often even a desk lamp or shop lighting arrangement can be used for seed planting in spring and  to give seedlings the light boost they need until they can be transitioned to outside areas. Of course there are many home made lighting set ups people have come up with, including adding foil around a light source to keep stray light at a minimum. In addition the increased warmth from the lights also helps with maintaining a good even temperature in the growing area.

To ensure good even lighting, start off with the grow lights approximately 6 inches or 15 cm from the seedlings and raise them as the sprouts grow. If the lights are too high above the greenery, the plants will grow taller and spindly as they try for more lights. In addition the lights should be on 16-18 hours a day to ensure the growth of sturdy  not tall thin plants.  Good, adequate lighting  promotes good leaf formation and strong stems,  and helps prevent  damping off.

Moisture levels

Water levels as any gardener know as crucial to plants, but with seedlings it is a bit tricky. Certainly the peat pellets, coir pots, mini greenhouse, coffee cups and pots that have been carefully planted are being watered regularly, but with the extra light and greenhouse like conditions watering may be a challenge. Of course it is highly recommended to either water via mat watering system or use a spray bottle to keep them seeds moist without disturbing them.

 

Mini Greenhouses on self-wicking water mat

Mini Greenhouses on self-wicking water mat

 

If corms or tuberous plants such as begonias or dahlias are started now to get a jump on the outside growing season, watering with a small container, gently on to the media is best to ensure thorough watering.

Begonia corms    sprouting

Begonia corms
sprouting

 

Possibly the easiest thing for garden novices especially is not drowning the seeds they plant in the spring. While the soil are growing media needs to be moist, try to ensure a consistent source of water by thinking of the seedlings as larger more mature plants. Most plant lovers know they do not need to water a plant every day, but when the soil surface is generally dry. Of course while there are always plants with more exacting water and lighting requirements, this is generally a good run of thumb that should be applied to the younger plant as well.

If there are tray covers on holding in the moisture, check the surface of the media used for possible mould formation. This is also possible when contaminated medium or dirty pots have been re-used. Provided the sprouts are up and growing fine, consider opening any vent on the lid or shifting it to allow more ventilation while maintaining a moist atmosphere over all. If you have rigged up plastic to create a greenhouse effect or are indeed using a greenhouse, remember circulation is vital, so create an opening and consider the use of a fan for good air movement.

Remember not all seeds even of the same plant will sprout at the same time so do not leave the lid on waiting for them all to catch up, so take the lid or dome off when a good percentage have sprouted and mist the rest. While moisture is required, at this point especially, good circulation is a must.

 

striving for better air flow

striving for better air flow

 

Fertilizing

One element often overlooked with seedlings is when and if they need fertilizer. Remember nutrients are important but the seed embryo itself contains all the food the new sprouts will need until they have developed true leaves, not the first ones formed. In fact, according to several expert sources, even mild fertilizer can kill the seedlings by over accelerating their metabolism and burning them.

If the growing medium you used contains no fertilizer, begin weekly feedings with a ¼ strength dilution of fertilizer, whether synthetic or organic. Keep in mind for most plants higher amounts of Phosphorus for good root and plant formation. In addition, if Coir pots or media are used, that coconut fibre product can compete with the new plants of Nitrogen so a more balanced N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) ratio is best. After a week or two ½ strength can be used.

Full recommended dosing is not advisable until the plant is larger and ready to be acclimatized in to a cold frame, or shady area on the way to its permanent home. Another option at that point is mixing a granular organic or synthetic slow release fertilizer in to the soil when the seedlings are moved.

Additional Suggestions

There are countless sites, books, garden experts and even gardening forums that offer a variety of information and support and a few are listed below:

www.GardenWeb.com

www.Helpfulgardener.com

 

Final notes:

While to some, planting seeds in the spring is not something they are interested in, others find it very rewarding. To those of you who cannot spare the time but love to garden, remember most garden centres carry basic perennials, annuals, vegetables etc. at a reasonable cost so you too can have a garden of your own without breaking the bank… so whether it be seeds, sprouts, veggies, ferns, flora or fauna…let your garden inspire you…and happy Spring wherever you are!

lily Logo

 

 

 

Planting Bulbs

Planting Bulbs

While there are many things I have posted on that can inspire others to garden, paint, research their favourite flower, just to name a few, one activity that much of the Northern Hemisphere has in common in the fall is planting spring flowering bulbs. My last post gave brief information on bulbs and their origin, leading to this more factual information on the steps to actually planting bulbs and corms.

 

corm

corm

bulbs

bulbs

 

Tulips are merely one of many bulbs, along with Hyacinths, Daffodils and Narcissus that are the most widely known bulbs. The structure of a bulb’s interior is composed of fleshy, modified leaf like layers, which would be easily visible if it was cut in half. Corms such as crocus and gladiolas may look similar to bulbs, but they are basically thick stem like tissue.

Whether you choose true bulbs or corms, be certain they are winter hardy.  Remember then, to provide the proper temperature for  vernalization to take place. Vernalization is derived from the Latin word vernus, or spring, and is the required exposure to cold winter weather which allows the plant to grow and flower. If you live in a warmer zone than an 8, where the temperature outside will not provide the required temp of 5-10 degrees Celsius (40-50 Fahrenheit), then forcing bulbs in your fridge is a good option. Instructions for this will follow those for gardeners who will be planting outside in the flower beds.

Bulbs can be planted almost until the ground freezes, but early to mid October planting allows time for the bulbs to settle before the cold winter starts. There are many things to consider when planning what and where to plant, but with a few basics, anyone can have lovely spring blooms!

 

planting info

 

SUNLIGHT

Despite the deciduous trees having no leaves in the spring, shade from buildings and evergreen trees is still a factor to consider. With a shadier area in the front garden both at home and at the cottage, I was concerned about how this would impact the blooms there. After a bit of digging, into books, I found that bulbs labelled “early flowering” were the best for this situation. Really this classification of bulbs is not based on a specific family, genus or species, but the fact that they bloom and flower with less UV rays than other plants…hence the early designation. I other words, these bulbs, that require less UV are better suited to shadier areas.

SOIL

Bulbs sleep all winter, blanketed in soil, until the temperature there has chilled them for approximately eight weeks below 10 degrees Celsius or 50  degrees Fahrenheit, long enough for their growth cycle to begin. This is an important factor to consider as with planting any annuals or perennials.

If your soil is sandy , like at the my cottage, any natural compost, peat moss, cocoa fibre  or organic aged manure  that can be worked into the soil  will help provide a more even moisture content  throughout the winter in to spring. If the soil is too dense, these additions can also break up the clumps that often prevent adequate drainage.

Basically you need to add anything natural that will help lock in moisture and provide nutrients. Adding clay soil to offset the sandy is good, or vice versa, but remember to ensure nutrient levels are high.

Organic matter, in addition to being a good additive for improved soil fertility, also provides food for earthworms and beneficial bacteria in the soil. These creatures break down the soli and its nutrients so they can be absorbed well by the forming bulb roots and all plants as they grow.

 NUTRIENTS

Certainly the better flowing nutrient laden soil is better for both spring and summer flowering bulbs. In addition to augmenting the soil itself, the addition of blood or bone meal, provides a boost to the bulbs themselves.  Approximately ¼ to ½ a teaspoon can be added to the hole around each planted bulb.

Blood meal as a dry powder made from animal blood that provides much needed nitrogen to the soil. In addition, spread on or slightly below the ground level, the scent is a deterrent to small animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Bone meal is crushed bone that provides higher amounts of phosphorus which is good for root growth, but it may in fact attract animals looking for bones.

A good soluable general fertilizer 10-10-10 can also be added to the soil and then watered or dug in again when the bulbs begin to shoot out of the earth.  This can be mixed with the blood or bone meal and should be in the soil down to below the level of the bulbs being planted.

LOCATION

Again, the sunny spots will probably produce the best blooms with early flowering bulbs the best selection for shadier areas. Evergreen trees will shade all year round but do help even out the soil temperatures close by, evening out extreme fluctuations that can damage bulbs. In addition, spring bulbs planted on a slope will tend to bloom earlier than bulbs in a dip or gulley as warm air rises and cold air tends to settle in lower areas.

PREPARATION

Beyond the soil preparation, there are a few basics that can be prepared in advance. Collecting clean spades and trowels as well as blood/bone meal or other fertilizer helps cut down on the actual planting time. Also knowing the location to plant, whether it is in an existing garden or part of a new garden design, and proper spacing of all bulbs to be planted, is vital for enhanced garden design and good spring growth.

METHOD OF PLANTING

There are basically two methods of planting, both of which require the gardener to know the depth of planting. As a general rule of thumb the bulbs or corms are planted with the fine tip up and to a depth of approximately 3x the height of the bulb itself.  Checking the package or growing directions at the nursery will also help. Good gardening practise is also never to plant in even numbers as it seems odd number produce a more natural look.

 

1. Using a spade or small shovel, one large hole is dug at the required depth for the assortment of bulbs requiring that depth. Using a tape measure or judging by eye are the basic way of measuring the depth. Then a small bone /blood meal or natural fertilizer is spread lightly in the whole before placing bulbs.

 

grouping in one large hole

 

If space allows for any smaller bulbs/corms to be planted, once the bigger bulbs are partially buried, spread more nutrients and add those buds.

 

smaller bulbs above

 

2. This method is similar but uses a small trowel or a bulb planter. There are short handled manual bulb planters that require you to be on your hands and knees and many long handled versions where you stand and use your feet to force the tool in to the ground.

 

bulb planter

 

 

 

 

 

There are many of both types available at local garden centres, many of which have the depth scale right on the tool. Again, nutrient supplement is added to the whole once the soil is removed, before the bulbs are added.

larger bulbs in place

best individual holes

small bulbs indiv

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL STAGES OF PLANTING

After bulbs have received their nutritional supplement, been spaced properly in depth and between each other, soil is filled in around them. Then mulch on top will provide an extra measure of winter protection and keep the temperature and moisture levels more constant. Finally a thorough watering will ensure the ground there has adequate moisture for the  bulbs to get started once there is a spring thaw.

REFRIGERATOR BULB GARDENING

If you can purchase at garden centres or by the Internet, spring bulbs that require vernalization, never fear as your fridge is near! There are many articles on what is called forcing bulbs and sometime the misconception that they have to actually be frozen.

Basically the easy version is as follows:

-good soil

-pot 13-18 cm deep  ( 6-9 inches)

– few inches of soil in bottom so bulb is ad required depth

-add bulb and cover well (with nutrients to be watered in later)

-water thoroughly

-put in a plastic bag with one end open for ventilation

-place in the back of the fridge

-check on it every week to ensure it does not get too dry

-after approximately 6-8 weeks  there should be small shoots

-bring out of fridge in to partially lit room for a few days

-water with fertilizer and then bring to a brightly lit room or window ledge

-enjoy!

Final thoughts

Remember, while many things seem to go wrong, bulbs are very forgiviing. In fact, once I planted my bulbs upside down and although it took some extra time, they did bloom. Only when I thinned them out a few years later, did I realize the pointed tip was facing down!  🙂  Happy planting!

Holland  Commercial Tulip Farming

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

 

Bulb Beginnings

Fall is a wonderfully time of year to enjoy your garden and for bulb beginnings! Not only are flowers still in bloom without the heat of the hot summer sun, but here in Ontario Canada we enjoy the colourful changing of the tree leaves. Certainly the marvelous Maple shows its yellow, orange and red leaves as the last stage of the life of a leaf. Sumac trees and shrubbery radiate red in their long finger like leaves as does the burning bush ( aka Winged Euonymous alata)

 

Burning Bush

 

 

From trees to small garden perennials, the leaves that are leaving us…do so in a blaze of glory. Even some annuals show off their foliage as I witness first hand at my cottage this past weekend. In fact, intent on cleaning up the garden and cutting down the bare stalks of cone-flowers and other garden favourites, I headed out with spade in hand.

Cone-flowers

Bulb beginnings

Like many a fall or autumn day, the weather gave up another bright sunny day and the plants untimely death was postponed. Not only could I not bring myself to trim things back as cottage season comes to a close, but I finally  prepared to plant the most widely planted fall perennial… spring flowering bulbs , purchased several weeks ago.

 

Bulbs bust out of the garden along the sunny side garden in mass. Even the front garden has its share of purple, white and a few red tulips. Several years ago I planted white, pink and purple Hyacinths along the darker side of the house there and each year since they have burst in to wonderful bloom. Today I planted White Narcissus and purple Grape hyacinth spring bulbs whose proper name is Muscari.

 

With each bulb planted, I began to wonder where they originated and what family they were from. Basic research revealed that a vast number of bulbs such as tulips and crocus actually originated in Turkey before they were moved and in some cases stolen. Often research and exploration led to removal and relocation in some cases leading to extinction in the natural habitats.

 

Spring flowering Tulips

 

I was surprised to read that Turkey had areas stripped of bulbous plants, and that tulips were not all from Holland originally. Certainly as usual this fact led me to  dig deeper in to the origins of two of the more commonly found spring flowering bulbs.

 

Tulips

There are many spring flowering bulbs that are planted in the fall, but probably one of the most recognized is the Tulip. Tulips belong to the Liliaceae Family, Genus Tulipa, and have at least 109 species. They are found in Turkey and are indigenous to mountainous areas there as well as in central Asian countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, specifically the Pamir Mountains.

Under the Ottoman Empire, which was founded in Turkey approximately 1299, commercial cultivation of the flower began. Approximately when the empire reached its peak at 1590 covering parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, tulips began to arrive in northwestern Europe. There is some confusion as to who introduced them to European but it was definitely politically connected and took place approximately 1559.

By 1573 tulips were seen planted in Vienna in several garden, eventually via private gardens the bulbs made it to the Netherlands officially in 1594.  For many years the bulbs were cultivated but on such a small scale that eventually they became highly coveted and a Tulip Mania began. This mania peaked 1636-37 when bulb trading costs were reportedly higher than a tradesman’s yearly salary! Despite the high prices, tulips changed hands rapidly, until the trade ground to a halt and commercial cultivation on large scale began.

 

 

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

Crocus

Crocus, another widely popular spring flowering perennial flower actually grows from corms. From the Iridaceae ( Lily) Family, genus Croci with 80 species, these flowering plants are native to woodland, scrub and meadows in Central and Southern Europe. They are also native to, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to western China. Like the tulip, crocuses were also native to areas of Turkey.

Cultivation and harvesting of crocus was first documented in the Mediterranean, notably on the island of Crete. The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where crocus species are not native, were from corms brought back in the 1560’s from Constantinople by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador and by 1620, new garden varieties had been developed. Slowly from there commercial cultivation began and these plants also spread across the world.

 

Crocus

 

 

 

Bulbs and Corms present day

Thankfully with hybridization, research and mass growing fields bulbs of most types are economically priced.  Worldwide gardeners can certainly enjoy the blooms of perennial bulbs, whether they are spring blooming such as those in Canada and the United States.

For those of you who live in tropical areas or those who are above Zone 9 or who do not have the required temperatures of approximately 0-4 degrees C, tulips and many other spring bulbs would have to be forced in the refrigerator.  Of course, if your country has a mountainous region, such as Turkey, where most of the tulips, crocus and other spring bulbs originated, naturalized planting and garden planting may both be possible.

While there are a great many things to consider when planting bulbs, even the new garden can successfully plant for a wonderful spring bloom filled garden. As with most plants, the sun, soil and nutrients are all factors to be considered and knowing your garden’s details will help you when purchasing individual bulbs at local garden centres.  Certainly the staff there will be happy to assist you if the information on each bulb display does not have all the information you need.

Even local supermarkets often sell packages of bulbs in their florist area or even within the produce section. Usually there is printed information on these packages stating planting depth, light requirements, planting depth and plant height when in bloom.

 

My next article will cover all the basic information any gardener would need to plant these lovely perennials. In addition I  would be happy to answer any questions left for me under Comments.

Before long, armed with your trusty garden tools , helpful information and enthusiasm, your hard work will be rewarded in the Spring, with an inspirational  flowering garden to be proud of!

Purple and double pink tulips

 

Fall Garden Plans

Fall Garden plans

Sitting on my back patio with the sun shining on my face is certainly a lovely way to enjoy a warm September afternoon. Not to be outdone are the flower blooms that wave in my general direction. With each view, I try to hold the moment, all too aware of how fast life moves and how much our need to take charge pushes things forward, often too fast to treasure.

Yes, soon enough the cooler weather will be here, accompanied by a long list of gardening chores to be done. Of course there always seems to be the need to do everything in the correct timeframe add so much pressure that I usually get stressed out and forget something that really needs to be done, like digging up my Dahlias before  the arrival of hard frost.

 

White Dahlia

 

Red Dahlia

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a result I have decided to do first is to list items I should do or need to do. Then from this list, I think I will number the chores with numbers perhaps from 1 to 4 in order of importance. Of course, as with most things in life, what is important to each individual person may vary.

In fact, as I valiantly dig up my Dahlia tubers and begonia corms each fall, I know of at least two fellow gardeners who let them rot and replant them each spring. Their explanation to me was they had little time and could afford the replacement costs. With time often being a precious commodity, I certainly understand this point of view but for myself, a thrifty person, I prefer to save money and enjoy the blooms I have grown to love from year to year.

Sedum Autumn Joy growing in sidewalk crack

Preparing Fall to do list

If you have a fall routine or set pattern that works for you year to year, then you are ahead of the game. For the novice or over extended gardeners, perhaps  starting a   “ to do list “, and posting it front and centre on your fridge or bulletin board  for further updates would be a good idea. Don’t forget to mark the importance to you. I have marked only a few now but will update that later.

Here, in no particular order, is the start of my list:

Trim shrubs back         *1

Cut seed heads off plants for saving or discard

Weed

Fix garden edging

Mark site and colours of Begonias, Gladiolas and Dahlias      *1

Bag up yard waste

Clear away base of trees and mulch them

Mulch gardens

Consider fall lawn treatments

Add compost/organic matter to gardens

Planning and planting new spring flowering bulbs

Fall planting  of garlic?

Garlic Clove

 

Review

While your list of fall garden tasks may look different, I hope this one helped get you started. Certainly there are many more suggested things that I have left off my list that will be added as I go and the weather gets colder. Below are several good resources to check out. With their suggestions in mind I will add to my fridge.

www.lanscapontario.com

 

www.canadiangardening.com

 

In fact I forgot to put down clean garage and garden shed where empty pots, planters and window boxes can be over wintered…not to mention storing the lawnmower. While the list seems endless, we only have so much time, so keep that in mind or if funds permit hire a landscaping company to do some of the heavier work. Another option is getting family help which would be a good way to spend time together and ensure the fall garden list is complete before the colder weather hits.

Maple leaf in Fall Colours

 

No, I will not be discussing winter, when Mother Nature is still blessing us with lovely summer like daytime. Of course as the annuals are still blooming, and the perennials to, something I read that could extend the growing season is fall vegetable planting.

Fall vegetable planting

A recent article I read suggested planting veggies such as cabbage which has a 30-60 day maturity and is hearty until frost. In fact cabbage outer leaves can wither in a light frost and the main head would still be fine. Further research has also suggested   other vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, beets and even radishes could be planted early in September, of course, depending on our climate zone. One site also suggested herb seeds can also be fall sown as well and of course in locations such as B.C that has a more moderate climate, even some varieties of lettuce can be grown outside.

 

seeds

Fall Seeding References

www.your-vegetable-gardening-helper.com

 

www.canadiangardening.com

Check out; What to plant in the Fall and 16 essential Fall garden tasks

 

There are so many suggestions, books and sites to read that I find it overwhelming. As you read any and all information, again you need to prioritize for your time and what  applies to your garden space. Of course after reading about essential falls chores I have found more to do, but in keeping with the seed planting, I think I will look through my seed collection or go to a local nursery and look for seeds of hardy annuals I can put in the garden to over winter before spring weather releases them.

 

Suggested seeds of annuals that benefit from fall sowing are such as sweet peas, mallow, pansies, larkspur, ornamental cabbage and snapdragons as well as any plant that is listed as hardy annual on seed packs or in catalogues. In addition, pansies and ice pansies can be planted now and in addition to braving the cold later falls temperatures, they arrive in the coolness of spring often before the bulbs bloom.

Pansy

Sod it now

Lawns do much better started in fall. The cool air temperatures reduce evaporation and slow foliage growth, giving the roots time to dig in. Typically, lawns sown or sodded in fall grow just enough to look good, but really show their strength the following summer when, thanks to a deep, well-established root system, they breeze through summer droughts. Sod or sow lawns at least eight weeks before the first killing frost.

 

Plant a tree

 

Many trees and shrubs do well when planted or transplanted at this time of year. Both deciduous trees and evergreens can be planted until quite late in the fall. However, according to www.treecanada.ca   poplars, willows, ash, elms, and birches tend to overwinter better if planted in the spring. Further information can also be found on the sites previously mentioned, and at local nurseries. While you are there, check out tree, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and even seed stock.

Remember, anything planted now still needs to be watered well so they can adjust at first and the ground around needs to have a good moisture content to ensure a good start when spring comes. Wait, watering is not on my list but a dry fall can certainly make new growth difficult for all gardens and lawns trying for a new start after winter.

 

Summary

With fall approaching it may seem like the end of gardening season, as I have shown, there is still a good deal of life and planting that can be done. In addition, while the list of fall chores may seem daunting, try to allocate a chore with the time you have at that moment. If you have an hour on a sunny warm autumn day, use it to plant or trim a small plant rather than take on a large job such as mulching which takes much more time and can add frustration to an otherwise lovely day.

Remember Fall or Autumn is merely another season to be enjoyed…plant an ice pansy, plan a bulb garden, or just enjoy a Mum or two…and be inspired!

 

 


Potted Mums

 

 

Fall Seed Sowing

Fall Seed Sowing

Sitting on my deck recently enjoying a warm, sunny September afternoon, I started to take inventory of my gardens. While the summer flowering annuals and perennials are still growing, the signs of cooling weather are showing up as more tree and shrub leaves begin to discolour, as buds and blooms begin to diminish.

Of course with fall becoming apparent here and with the shopping world promoting warmer clothes and back to school supplies, I too began to think of what I would need to do as the garden to get it in shape for its long winters rest. However, when I began to compose a list of garden chores, so none I deemed important would be forgotten, the seeds of a new type of garden growing came to light…. Fall sowing.

 

Sedum Autumn Joy

 

 Fall Sowing

As many gardeners know, fall is a good time to plant new, or split perennials, plant garlic cloves and small shrubs. Even many types of trees can be planted in September and possibly in to early October if the night time temperatures are not too cold. Most know that spring flowering bulbs can be planted even in to November provided the ground has not frozen. None of these gardening tips were new to me, but fall sowing was something I had never considered.

 

Garlic Clove

 

A recent article I read suggested planting veggies such as cabbage which has a 30-60 day maturity and is hearty until frost. In fact cabbage outer leaves can wither in a light frost and the main head would still be fine.  Further research has also suggested   other vegetables such as kale, Swiss card, beets and even radishes and carrots could be planted early in September of course depending on our climate zone. One site also suggested herb seeds can also be fall sown as well and of course in locations such as B.C which has a more moderate climate, even some varieties of lettuce can be grown outside.

 

Resources

www.your-vegetable-gardening-helper.com

www.canadiangardening.com

article :  What to plant in the Fall

 

There are so many suggestions, books and sites to read that I find it overwhelming. As you read any and all information, try to take what you think is essential that applies to your garden space and the time you have to spend on it. Of course at this late time of year, after checking out my seed collection, I will visit a local nursery to see what if any seeds they have for sale.

 

Seed Suggestions

Suggested seeds of annuals that benefit from fall sowing are such as sweet peas, mallow, pansies, larkspur, ornamental cabbage and snapdragons as well as any plant that is listed as hardy annual on seed packs or in catalogues. In addition, pansies and ice pansies can be planted now and in addition to braving the cold later falls temperatures, they arrive in the coolness of spring often before the bulbs bloom.

 

seeds

 

Planting location suggestions

Fall harvests

I have never planted at this time of the year and I confess as there are no veggies in my garden at all this year, maybe I should try planting some. In the garden or even a large pot if you are hoping for the seeds to germinate as soon as possible, for one last harvest of veggies or herbs, plant the seeds at the germination depth suggested on the package.

Spring germination

For spring germination of hard annuals, planting at that depth would not be suggested as the winter weather and early spring frosts would probably throw the seeds out of the soil. They are also then at risk of being eaten by birds or mice or drying out in the spring before germination begins.

One suggestion to deal with this is to mark the rows, plant at the usual depth and then mounding a ridge of earth or mulch two or three inches deep over the line of each row. Then in the spring the excess can be removed carefully allowing better temperature and moisture access for good germination.

Container planting

 In addition to planting right in the garden beds, pots and containers can be used. In this case plant the seeds as suggested on the package for good germination as the plants will not be outside during the winter. Once the colder weather arrives, the plants can then be moved inside or to a cold frame at night or permanently when the colder weather hits. Cold frames in my mind where something I wold build out of wood and heavy plastic that would house newer plants in the cooler spring weather. I had never considered using them to start or encourage the growth of plants in September.

 

The many pots of rich composted soil on my porch and back steps that were ready for the blooming annuals that I never bought, would be the perfect place to start my fall sowing.  Of course I must be mindful of the pot size and the interior location I hope to place them in.

 

Planting Equipment

Further information

Remember to determine the interior site first, checking not only for the diameter of pot that can be placed there, but most importantly for the amount of light that spot gets. There are many good sites to check for information on fertilization etc. and I have listed several good ones below. Good luck and happy fall planting!

 

www.vegetable-gardening-online.com

   growing-vegetables-in-containers

 

www.canadiangardening.com

 

/gardens/fruit-and-vegetable-gardening/no-garden-no-problem-grow-veggies-in-containers

 

 

 

Pansy

 

 

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

 

 

 

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!