Horticultural Societies

Horticultural Societies or garden clubs, are a wonderful way to keep in touch with others who love gardening, as well as increase your knowledge and pleasure of plants. Whether you are in the midst of winter or summer, located in North  or South America , Europe, Asia or places beyond, these societies or clubs are wonderful meeting places!

 

OntarioHortLogo

Horticultural societies

Whether  listed as a horticultural society or a garden club, despite having a different focus depending on the members needs and wishes, both provide a source of energy, information and shared interest that promote a collected sense of well-being for us as members . In addition, the community we live in will also improve when we make positive changes in our gardens whether being ecologically more friendly or putting in one of many beautiful native plants.

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower

 

Horticulture societies, are not complicated  groups of higher learning but are  people sharing a positive love…of plants and gardening. Whether  locally, provincially, nationally or internationally represented,  all members share that one common interest and use the societies, or garden clubs to promote the science , art and joy of gardening.

 

Local garden groups have meetings where speakers talk, demonstrate or show slides on any give topic related to plants. Members are  not  required to have a green thumb, a big garden or even one plant, but merely an interest in growing, propagating, studying their classifications or anything else related to plants. Most groups meet monthly, have speakers series, demonstrations lending libraries, bus trips, garden tours as well as volunteering their members at local community gardening and greening events.

OHA booth at Success with Gardening Show

OHA booth at Success with Gardening Show

On a province wide scope, horticultural associations represent all local groups or clubs in that province. In Ontario, for example, all horticultural societies are themselves member of the OHA or Ontario Horticultural Association.  They are the parent of the tiny off springs and through their promotions, show, information and training, enthusiastic gardeners have a valuable tool. In addition,  website  www.gardenontario.org  provides people with a  wide variety of information at their fingertips.

 

 

Amaryllis Blooms and beyond

Amaryllis blooms are spectacular no matter the colour and with a minimum of care, will bloom over Christmas and throughout the winter months. Native to tropical and sub-tropical locations, this bulbous plant is not winter hearty here, but provides us a much needed indoor blast of colour in the coldness of winter.

 

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

 

 

Garden centres sell the widest variety of bulbs, which they generally sell loose for your planting pleasure. Potted bulbs beginning  their rapid leaf growth are also found in garden centres, and a wide variety of other locations including grocery and big box hardware stores. While many people are familiar with this plant, the background, cultivation and care information is something not be commonly known.

Amaryllis Genealogy

Amaryllis is the common name used for the herbaceous , perennial flowering plants of the Amaryllidaceae family. The actual genus Amaryllis bulbs come from South Africa , while the genus Hippeastrum bulbs from South and Central America are what are commonly sold here in the Northern Hemisphere around Christmas time.

Amaryllis  of the genus Hippeastrum have a wide variety of colours, both solid and in combination as there are approximately 90 species and 600 hybrid varieties. These herbaceous bulbs begin by sending out 2-7 narrow, flat long strap-shaped, green  leaves and from there if conditions are right, the flower stem begins to grow.

 Amaryllis Bloom Kits

Amaryllis bulbs are sold, as previously mentioned, loosely in most garden centres as well as in kits. The bulbs when found in grocery store , or big box store floral sections,  are generally in a kit either already growing or with all the necessary ingredients to start your own  plant.

Kits include a large tuberous bulb, a plastic or ceramic pot as well as growing medium. I purchased several kits, one of which had coconut fibre pellet that had specific volumes of warm water needed to get the right texture for planting in its drab green plastic pot. However, I have learned form many sources that this fibre can remove nutrients from the plant itself so I chose to use a soil-less, potting soil, coconut fibre mix instead. The other kit had a bag of slightly moistened soil-less mix, that I add some of the leftover fibre to, as an additional means to help with water retention in the lovely white ceramic pot.

Growing requirements

Amaryllis bulbs should be planted in the centre of a pot only  about 1 in larger in diameter than the bulb. One kit I purchased had a poor quality pot that was far too large, and so a more suitable size was used instead. Approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the bulb should be above the planting medium, which should be firmly packed before watering. Water well and find it a good spot to begin growing.

Amaryllis bulbs love warm sunny spots, and prefer to out of drafts. My collection sits in my front window which faces south west and primary gets sun from late morning until about 5 in the evening. After that time, I pull the tray back form the window, to allow the blinds to go down and to keep the plants away from the cold that radiates in through the glass.

my new white Amaryllis

my new white Amaryllis

Feeding

Water lightly at first, until the stems begin to grow when watering increases and fertilizing is needed for strong plants and beautiful Amaryllis blooms. At this point  the use of high Phosphorous fertilizer is important. Phosphorous is the middle number on household plant fertilizers and is the most important for healthy full blooms. The nitrogen and Potassium, which make up the first and last of the NPK components of fertilizer, help the plant grow strong roots and ensure  good overall health. You could use  a 5-10-5 or 11-35-15 fertilizer or whatever you have with the higher middle number.In addition, as Amaryllis are hearty feeders, watering in the fertilizer every second or third week while they are in bloom,  ensures longevity!

Salmon coloured amaryllis

Salmon coloured amaryllis

 

Once the flower begins to open, experts suggest the plant then be moved out of direct sunlight to ensure the  blooms last longer. By removing some of the light, the metabolism of the flower/seed formation would  decrease and allow for maximum enjoyment.

Summer Blooms

Summer blooms need lots of tender loving care to ensure they are always producing new buds. Certainly as we are in mid July, by now most gardeners have worn out their green thumbs by planting and relocating countless perennials and annuals.Not to be forgotten are the countless seasonal flower sales that often drive gardeners in to a last minute frenzy as the temptation to have just one more summer bloom takes over.

Lily

 

 

Garden Sale points:

1. is there a spot in my garden for it

2. is the plant in good enough shape to survive the transplanting

3. is the price really a “sale”

4.  do I need it.

Certainly summer blooms are tempting, but unless a lovely perennial seems just what you need to fill one last spot in the garden, walk on by. If the plant is sadly not at its best due to bad watering or crunched foliage, is it beyond saving? If the overall plant core seems healthy, and the briken or damaged leaves can easily be removed, then a sale plant certainly deserves to be a someone’s garden.

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If you just can’t stop staring at the plant, just buy it! Certainly an extra plant or two can be squeezed in somewhere and the cost most likely will not break the bank. Of course one last thing is the price vs the condition of that plant or shrub. A local garden centre near me recently had it’s 30% sale but as their prices run much higher than anywhere else, the sale wasn’t really great but they did have  a larger variety of plants. If the plant is really sad, but you need it, there is no harm in asking if they will take less, especially as the peak planting season is almost past.

Remember if you will be away on vacation or at the cottage, those plants will need a sitter to keep the summer’s heat from killing your lovely summer blooms. Even apartment dwellers with window boxes and veggies growing in all manner of containers, will need close care in the heat of the summer.

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Giant Coleus in Planter Box

 

Summer bloom care list

To ensure you have good blooms all summer remember to follow the basic list

1. good water

Most plants need to be kept from drying out too much so a good water twice a week should eb fine. Daily watering, whether it be the lawn or garden, keeps the plants roots closer to the soil surface and then a severe drought or a forgotten trip can cause the plant to dry up and die quite quicky due to no deep root formation.

2. fertilizing

Regular fertilixzing with organic ferilizers ( preferred) or the slow release type provide basic nutrients ensuring a hartier, healthier plant with showier bloom. Keep in main theat by the end of July and definitely in to August, most applications run the risk of  burning the plant out as its metabolism increases at a time when both the temperature and water condtions are not optimal.

3. deadheading

Deadheading of some plants such as petunias are well known, all plants benefite form thei, as then their energy can be put in to growing , not seed production. Once a bloom is past it’s prime, snip it off . Removing the dying bloom also makes the plant look tidier and obviously well cared for.

4. pest control

Especially in summer’s high heat days, all manner of garden pest seek, food, and shade. They also need the plants sap as a good source of water. On lily plants. removing the dark “poo” like substances on the leaves, removes the beginnings of the lily beetle that loves to consume the leaves . If the bugs are larger, wearing garden gloves, carefully remove them. If they return or you have small bugs such as aphids,  try straying on a mixture of warm water containing some dish soap, small amount of cooking oil and if that doesn’t keep  work, there are slightly more concentrated organic soap solutions that can be bought at more garden centres and greenhouses.

Milkweed and pests

Milkweed and pests

 

 

5. weeding

Weeding not only ensures a tidy garden it also removes the roots of those unwanted plants that would compete with those of the plants you choose to keep. Most weeds and wildflowers have a great tap root or wide root base that ensure they survive in nature to return each year.

 

Of course as you admire your garden you may already be planning changes for new year or just sitting like moss…a bump on a log.

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  For those you of you more adventurous…maybe seeing wildflowers for the water…kayaking across the country…may inspire you to as we live in a wondrous place…enjoy!

 

EARTH, WATER, SKY

EARTH, WATER, SKY

Tune in next month for further information and glorious photos of summer blooms in Nova Scotia

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is a toxic plant that many campers, cottagers and rural gardeners are familiar with. I myself have been a victim of its rash and blisters and have become quite familiar with those leaflets three and so I do let them be. Only when I began to research Poison Ivy did I realize how little I did know and how far back people have been dealing with the consequences of coming in contact with this plant.

 

History of Poison Ivy

Originally rumored to have come from Europe, Poison Ivy has been in Americas for centuries. In fact, it was even documented as being observed first hand in Bermuda and the Americas by Captain John Smith in his publication Generall Histories of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles written in 1624. “The poysoned weed is much in shape like our English Ivy, but being but touched, causeth rednesse, itching, and lastly blisters, the which howsoever after a while passe away of themselves without further harme, yet because for the time they are somewhat painfull, it hath got itselfe an ill name, although questionlesse of no ill nature.”

Even in the 1784 First Volume called Memoirs of the American Society of Arts and Science mentioned a plant that “produced inflammations and eruptions”. They then went on to nickname the plant as “poison Ivy”. Since then there have been countless articles, research and trials attempting to control the spread of this toxic plant.

Poison Ivy Plant Classification

Poison Ivy as we know it to be called is really just one of many poisonous plants in the family of Anacardiaceae. In fact the cashew tree whose name forms the basis of this family does have toxic resins in the casing that surrounds the nut itself.

The English word for this family is derived from two Portuguese words which describe how the cashew nut grows… “ana” which means upward and “cardium” which means heart. Originally native to Northern Brazil, the Cashew was taken by the Portuguese to Goa in India around the year 1560-65 and now they are grown in parts of Africa and throughout Southeast Asia.

 

 

Cashew  Apples

Cashew Apples

The cashew nut is really a seed, whose casing, called a cashew apple, contains skin irritating chemicals, one of which is related to the oil;  Urishiol found in poison ivy. In fact, roasting does destroy the compound, but just as with poison ivy, the smoke contains the chemical and inhalation causes severe lung irritations.

Interestingly enough the mango, which is in the same family, has an urushiol oil based allergen that can also cause dermatitis and even anaphylaxis in in some people. The urushiol is present in the mango leaves, stems, skin and sap. Eating unripe, pickled or cooked fruit, the skin of the mango is edible but susceptible people may still get dermatitis of the lips, or the tongue. Generally ripe mangos should be peeled before consumption to avoid the oils. Despite this, further research has provided data stating the during the mango primary ripening season, it is the most common source of plant dermatitis in Hawaii.

Originally Poison Ivy was known as Rhus radicans;  part of a the genus Rhus which contains over 250 species of flowering plants including all varieties of sumacs, poison ivy, and poison oak. Research data has suggested that the Genus be split in to 6, based on redefined plant characteristics. In this case there would be only approximately 35 plants left in the Rhus genus.

Created from further botanical clarification, botanists generally accept the reclassification of Poison Oak, Poison Sumac and Poison Ivy in to the genus Toxicodendron, which is Greek for two words, meaning toxic and tree. All three of these plants contain some version of chemical compounds called pentadecylcatechols or PDC’s. Found in the clear sap of these three plants as well as other members of the Anacardiaceae or Cashew family worldwide, the PDC’s are generally referred to as urushiol.

This term was taken from the Japanese name for a tree there called Toxicodendron  vernicifluum. Despite the toxic chemicals there, the Japanese have used an oxidized form of the tree sap, to produce its famous finish for their lacquer ware.

Poison Ivy Range

This particular toxic plant ranges from Canada to the north down through the United States, areas of Mexico and in to South America. Poison Ivy may be found in these countries up to approximately 1,500 M (4,900 ft) but is extremely common along the edges of wooded areas, in open fields and other undisturbed areas.

While it is recognized as a creeping plant, it also grows bush like. Regardless of the style of growth, poison ivy is considered officially a noxious weed here in Ontario Canada and in the U.S. states of Minnesota and Michigan. Although some varieties  are shade tolerant, all forms of this poison plant prefer sun and in fact Poison Ivy was recently located at my favourite beach!

 

 

Beach-side Poison Ivy warning sign

Beach-side Poison Ivy warning sign

Poison Ivy Forms

Basking in the sun, this shrub form is merely one of the three ways this plant can be found. In fact, the shrub can grow one main stem with side branches, up to over 1 metre (3 ft) tall. Certainly as it is called ivy, given a good support pole, plant or tree, poison Ivy can grow taller than you can imagine. A good example, (Or bad) is the large mass of vines attached to a pine trees at my cottage by hair like brown aerial roots to a height of over 25metres (80 Feet). The last form is as a groundcover of 10-25 cm (4-10inches), as often seen in campgrounds and growing between other native plants along roadsides.

Trillium and poison ivy roadside

Trillium and poison ivy roadside

 

Description

 

Roots

The vine and bush plants have a rhizome root base. This allows the roots and new plants to spread from the subterranean nodes. The aerial roots attach themselves to the plant / object for support and nutrition.

Poison Ivy root runner

Poison Ivy root runner

 

Stems

Poison Ivy stems are woody and grey. On small plants the colour may not be as noticeable, but is definitely seen on bush and trees climbing forms. In fact, the wood on the vines of poison ivy that are climbing up the pine trees at my cottage have a dark grey to reddish tint. Their hair- like roots, which are reddish in colour are also poisonous to humans.

450px-Poison_ivy_vine

 

Leaves

Despite knowing the old saying” leaflets three, let it be”, there are other plants with similar three leaf configuration. Generally there is one leaf and the end and two below that which are side by side. They are normally 10-20 cm (2-4inches) in length, with toothed or lobed edges, although occasionally the edges can be smooth.

Of course when they are small, but still containing urushiol, they begin with two leaves only, so weeding in the front of a rural garden especially can be dangerous if gloves are not worn. In the spring, the new leaves are a reddish green colour, changing to deep green and then yellow, orange and red in the fall before dropping off.

 

 

Flowers

Despite having poison ivy in various locations at my cottage, I had not seen the flowers myself until recently when visiting my favourite beach. In full sun the shrub form had developed 2.5 to 7.5 cm (1-3inch) clusters of the small green flowers. The tiny 5 petal blooms are quite often hidden under the leaves themselves.

 

Poison Ivy flower

Poison Ivy flower

 

Fruit/seeds

Small flowers produce small seeds and these tiny white berries are round, hard and about 0.4 cm (1/8inch) that have ridges in them that make them appear to have segments like a peeled orange. Forming in the fall, the berries contain the seeds of the plant which are spread by the over 50 species of birds that eat them with no ill effects.

 

Poison Ivy Berries/seeds

Poison Ivy Berries/seeds

 

 

Toxicity

It is estimated that 85% of the population is sensitive to the urushiol toxin found in all parts of the poison ivy plant. Skin reactions range from a slight dermatitis called Rhus dermatitis, to blisters. These blisters result from blood vessels somehow developing gaps in response to the chemical in the oil and then fluid leaks through in to the skin.  The blister themselves do not contain the urushiol.  In severe cases these blister cause tissue damage and may need plastic surgery to repair. In extreme situations, anaphylaxis may occur.

If you believe you have bruised the plant and released the oil, wash the affected area immediately with soap and water. Rubbing alcohol will also remove the oil and now specific lotions are available at the drugstore. According to recent testing, there is a compound in crushed Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that relieve the effects of recent contact with poison ivy in about 85% of people tested. Dermatologists recommend oatmeal baths and baking soda to relieve the itching and there are prescription cortisol based lotions for more severe cases.

Remember that all clothing and even tools need to washed down well in the same way, because the oil remains potent indefinitely and it will re-poison you.  Further risk comes from transfer by other animals and even of burning the plant. Dogs for example have some resistance due to their thick fur and the natural oils there, but can transfer it to their owners’ hands. Smoke from burning any and all parts of this plant contain the oils and can cause serious allergic reactions inside lungs of susceptible people.

Control

Controlling Poison Ivy is a challenge regardless of the affected area, because of its toxic oils. As a result, the number one thing to remember is to wear protective clothing. Cloth or leather gardening gloves are recommended over rubber as according to several sources, the urushiol is soluble in rubber. Even in the garden at the cottage I wear gloves as …surprise…poison ivy alert under the perennials!

 

Poison Ivy in my garden

Poison Ivy in my garden

 

If the poison ivy is a few plants, growing as ground cover, then carefully pulling them out with all the roots works. Then the plant needs to be discarded safely. I have a large plastic pail with a lid, and the smaller pieces go in there to die completely. After a month, once there is no sign of life, I dig a hole about one foot deep and bury them.

When poison ivy is growing on a larger scale, the task of control definitely becomes difficult. One suggestion for large mass plants is covering them over with tarps and soil so no light reaches these and they will die. Of course they need to remain covered for several years before it is safe to assume they are dead.

Shrub forms of poison ivy are very difficult to deal with. If the shrub is not too large, herbicide spray can be used. The newest generation of these sprays interfere in the plants photosynthesis when the leaves are saturated. It is important to wear protective gloves , face shield  and disposable gloves when using these products.

Controlling Poison Ivy is possible, however, even using herbicides that do not leach in to the soil, getting rid of it for good is highly unlikely. In addition, beware of home remedies that are dangerous, such as pouring salt or bleach all over them because the soil is then contaminated and the chemicals can leach in to the water table.

Summary

While contact with poison ivy can have toxic consequences, by wearing gloves in the rural gardens and watching vegetation you are walking through carefully you can minimize your risk. If you live in the country and have dogs, the chances are much higher you may contact it from their coats. In that case, having a knowledge of treatment including rubbing alcohol and lotions would be a good precaution.

 

 

 

Wildflowers in spring

Wildflowers in spring are found blooming everywhere just as our home gardens are trying to adapt to change. Woodlands are full of new shoots struggling to find the sun, petals and buds forming and finally many blooms open and share their glorious colour. In fact, in the cooler days of May, as my seedlings are adapting in the sun porch  the meadows and woodlands of Mother Nature are full of growth and blooms galore!

 

Trillium and poison Ivy

 

As we gradually condition our seedlings to the changes in temperature and light etc, nature has a communication system we are not directly connected to. Certainly when cooler weather hits, the seedlings in nature are already adapted somehow, as if by unspoken communication. Seldom do we see dandelions wither if a colder snap hits at night.

 

happy Dandelion

 

In fact, after centuries of adaptation, even wildflowers that return each year from seed propagation seem to be adapted in ways commercially sold seeds seldom do. Certainly the pampered conditions we give them to promote optimal growth in some way baby’s them, but  with the exception of some heartier seeds and ones that need cold to begin growth, commercial seeds seem to be less hardy.

Whether you are in warmer climates where your new plants are blooming and adapting well, or in cooler areas still waiting for warmer weather, a walk in the wild certainly  shows that wildflowers in spring are an array of amazing plants!

 

Unfurling Fron

 

With the arrival of new plants comes the fungal world as well. One such specimen was growing in plain sight, as if its brain like appearance was waving at me to take notice. In fact, it lead me to one of my previous posts from Oct 15/12 entitled Plant Family Classification. I was then reminded that Fungi is one of 5 Kingdoms that all living things are classified in to. Further investigation led me to a book called Mushrooms of Eastern Canada where I determined the odd living thing was a Yellow Morel.

Yellow Morel

Yellow Morel

 

Springtime in the woods certainly contains lots of other yellow, especially Dandelions ! Despite a dry spring this year, the Dandelion blooms were almost 2 4 cm or 1.5 inches across and the plants were several shoe lengths tall.

 

Dandelion face

 

 

bobbing Dandeions

 

Everywhere I looked they bobbed in the wind and new buds were forming. In fact, they begin their life cycle so early in the spring that many Dandelions had gone to seed stage, just awaiting the wind to carry those seeds.

 

Dandelion ...Wishes

Dandelion …Wishes

 

The woods held many plants I have yet to learn about as shown below. There are single spikey yellow blooms, shrubs with multiple white blooms and more.

 

Mysterious Wildflower     Multiple budded shrub

 

Plants were also discovered along wetland areas and one I had the joy to discover was the Jack-in-the -Pulpit. Hiding in the shadier areas along streams and riverbanks, this stately bloom is wonderful despite the rather sedate colouring.

 

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

 

Perhaps one of the loveliest wildflowers in spring , found in forest across Canada,are those of the lovely Trillium. Of course many people recognize the white Trillium as Ontario’s official flower emblem, but the smaller Red Trillium flowers are still lovely to discover.

 

Trillium Ontario's Flower Emblem

Trillium Ontario’s Flower Emblem

 

 

Red Trillium

Red Trillium

 

One such discovery I made gave me several surprises. First, while I was busy photographing a patch below some tall trees, I  had not noticed the plants were happily growing in a large spread of Poison Ivy!

 

Trillium and Poison Ivy

 

Then I thought I had discovered a mutant pink Trillium only to find out later that white blooms turn pinkish -purple when they are close to dying. This would explain the mixture of colours seen in the patch. What a treat to discover!

Thankfully the Poison Ivy did not contact my skin so no oils were transferred and no rashes appeared. Of course springtime in the woods does include Poison Ivy and other toxic and dangerous plants. Further discoveries of the roots were found weaving through the undergrowth as well as high over head in Pine trees.

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

 

Despite the toxic nature of many plants, they do exist and sometimes even are a sight to behold…whether their colour, shade, tenacity or other characteristics fascinate us, wildflowers in the spring are never disappointing and always reminds us of the awe inspiring   universe around us!

 

ben and stuff 368

 

 

 

Hardening off seedlings

Hardening off seedlings is a necessary step in preparing your new seedlings for the giant leap in to the wilds of your garden. For those of you new to the seed planting process and its steps, ‘Hardening off” is the name or term give to the steps that “harden” or toughen up seedlings, ensuring they survive their permanent move to their new outdoor conditions.

 

Tiny seedlings

Tiny seedlings

 

Hardening off  dates  depend on individual plants and checking the corresponding seed packages will give the best temperature and approximate date for planting them in the garden or outside planters.   Combining this information with the predicted spring temperatures for your region, will allow you to pick the best actual planting day. With this date as the final goal, hardening off seedlings should begin 7- 10 days in advance.

From the warm, moist environment under grow lights or on sunny window ledges, the seedlings need to be gradually exposed to the differences in ultraviolet levels and temperature. In addition there is the physical impact of wind, rain and even garden creatures that can affect their ability to firmly root in the garden. In addition to the changes the tiny plants will face, the structure of the stems and leaves needs to be toughened up.

 

Plants natural Defense Layer

Specifically the outer waxy layer of the seedlings’ stems and leaves, known as the cuticle, needs to thicken up to prevent seedling death. This protective substance is formed by the outer epidermal layers of the plant to keep the moisture in the plants as well as to minimize sudden changes in temperature. Basically its role is to provide a good barrier between the plant and the environment around it.

Part of Hardening off seedlings then is moving them gradually from the pampered state they live in under our care, to ensure they adjust well to a new harsher environment. According to resources, there are a few things that can be done inside to help the tiny plants begin to form thicker cuticle layers.

 

Cuticle thickening

Indoor plants in ideal conditions tend to have thinner outer layers and longer, thinner cell structures, both of which make them highly susceptible to breaking off in the wind, drying out quickly and wilting even due to temperature fluctuations.

Allowing the seedlings to dry out between watering is a simple method to force the cells to shorten up and form a thicker cuticle in response to  evaporation  and as the plant tries to prevent any further moisture loss.. In addition a fan or even gentle manual stimulation by hand of the stems and leaves also encourages more compact plants and thicker cuticle formation.

cuticle

cuticle

 

 

Hardening off Seedlings Schedule

As mentioned, hardening off seedlings can be timed to optimal outside temperatures based on information from seed packages, or simply following the weather patterns for your area and the generally accepted date for the last frost. In south-western Ontario Canada, the Victoria Day long weekend (approximately 15-20th of May), is considered the safe planting time for other than fall hardy plants such as the annual pansies and perennials. Seedlings of annual and most vegetables need to be adjusted for 7 – 10 days starting after May 1st

 

Hardening off Aids

1. Sun rooms or enclosed porches

2. Greenhouses

3. Cloches

4. Cold frames

 

Sun rooms or enclosed porches

Hardening off seedlings does not require additional equipment, but there are various versions of plant and seedling protectors, depending on whether you move them outside directly or place them closer to outdoors by moving them to a protected environment such as a glass encased back porch or sun room   If these areas are used, then moving the seedlings earlier is fine as wind, rain, pests, temperatures and light levels are still more regulated than directly transferring to outdoors.

 

Greenhouses

Greenhouses, of course, are a dream come true to many gardeners and the ultimate in starting and protecting seedlings.  Hardening off here can be done by opening the glass during the day and closing it at night to keep the heat in. Of course if the greenhouse itself has additional heating, this should be turned back over a few days and then turned off completely. If none of the glass (or plastic) panels can be opened, then hardening off seedlings must be done by gradually moving them outside in the same manner from inside the house or the porch.

Mini greenhouses with plastic protection are currently available at big box and other garden stores in a price range the average consumer can afford. These come in many sizes, with role up doors, windows and other types of vents. Smaller units even have wheels so they can be used inside or in a porch and be rolled out for gradual seedling adjustment and rolled back in the evening.

 

Portable greenhouse in sunporch

Portable greenhouse in sun porch

 

 Cloches

Cloches or bell jars originally made of glass have been used for hundreds of years, by the Italians, French (Cloche is French for Bell), Dutch and the English.  They speeded up plant growth, kept moisture in, as well as wind and bugs out. Their use in North America had decreased over the later part of the 20th century but has been gaining in popularity again.  Traditional glass cloches had no vent openings and could steam the seedlings if not removed early in the day.

With the invention of various types of plastic and the Do-It-Yourself movement, many other variations are currently available at local garden centres or by mail order. The internet provides directions for several homemade versions including plastic milk bottle cloches where the bottle top can be removed to prevent heat build-up. When using cloches of any type, then hardening off seedlings from inside still needs to be done in stages before permanently planting them, to ensure lighting changes promote good growth with no steamed leaves.

 

Victorian cloches in a walled garden

Victorian cloches in a walled garden

 

Cold frames

Cold frames are transparent lidded structures that are placed low to the ground, to protect plants against the elements. Although kits are available  generally most are home building projects with    wooden frames have a hinged old glass window or sheeted plastic top that can easily be propped open for ventilation during the day and closed at night.  Due to their size in a home garden, cold frames can be  easily moved to ensure optimal light and  generally constructed with a sloped lid also ensures good light and rain runoff.

 

a Typical Coldframe

a Typical Coldframe

 

Basically these cold frames are used as unheated green houses, although heating cable can be used in them.  The micro-climate provided her promotes good see germination and hardening off. In addition they are used to extend extending the growing season by leaving them in place with the top open all summer and then closing it in the evenings once the cooler weather returns. Whether from indoors or greenhouses can be done by moving them in to a cold frame before final in ground planting.

 

Hardening off Points

– Allow 7- 10 day adjustment period

– begin moving seedling s outside in the early morning

–  put them in a sheltered shady spot like under a tree for approx. 3 hours the first day

–  bring them back in at night

–  increase their outside exposure by 1- 2 hours a day

–  after 2-4 days move them to early morning sun with afternoon shade and in at night still

–  after 7 days they give all day sun and stay out when night-time temperature over 15°C

–  when 7-10 days have passed ,transplant seedlings in to the ground on a cloudy day

–  water well

 

Additional Notes:  Cold frames or Cloche use

–   if seedlings  are being relocated to the  them begin with the same approximate schedule

–   3-4 hours of open exposure in the shady area for a day or two for light adjustment

–   open lids or remove bell during the day and close/cover in the evenings

–   after 7-10 days seedlings can be planted into the ground and frame /cloche can be removed entirely

–  for veggie crop extension cold frame lid can be left open all summer and used as above in the fall

 

seedling in ground

Hardened off seedling happy planted in the  ground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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

 

 

 

Germination of seeds

Germination of seeds is certainly a topic in most gardeners’ minds at this time of the year.  In fact, while I was cleaning out my old pots and collecting seeds to plant, my mind wandered to wonder…wondering how the tiny, hard seeds can indeed produce shoots to become wonderful and inspiring plants from something that almost seems dead.

group pf germinating seeds

group of germinating seeds

A seed surely looks lifeless as it displays no obvious signs of life rolling around in its package.  According to several articles in fact even biochemical tests for metabolic processes such as respiration, show very little to indicate whether the seed is alive. Of course for us the seed collectors, we hope the seeds have been stored correctly so they are not dead, but merely dormant.

 

Dormancy

 

While all living seeds are inactive, awaiting hydration, some require specific environmental conditions which generally mean a longer time before germinating.  In the case of home germination of seeds, gardeners need to know what those conditions are, as generally stated on seed packages or by checking out good sources of planting information.

Common vegetable garden seeds generally lack any kind of dormancy and are ready to sprout with some moisture and warm enough temperature for their biochemistry to begin. Many flower seeds and those from wild plants in particular may have deeper forms of dormancy that require further conditions before their growth is triggered.

While we may be familiar with scarifying and stratifying, both terms that describe external treatments   of a seeds outer membrane that some seeds require to leave their dormant state, temperature, and light also play a role before hydration can begin.  There are also physiological factors that signal the end of dormancy, such as plant hormones of Gibberellins which activate plant growth.  Other seeds may have a naturally found coating of Abscisic Acid which prevents germination until environmental conditions have worn this layer off and provided the conditions for germination of those seeds.

Germination

 

Germination can be explained simply with a few brief diagrams, or in great detail with many technical terms. When I bought seeds recently and began to collect pots and planting materials, the gardener and biochemist in me wondered how a few molecules of water and some sun could cause the tiny speck of a seed to ultimately form a large, beautiful plant.

Regardless of its size, each seed contains an embryo and in most cases, a store of food to help that seedling begin its formation.

Avocado seed diagram

Avocado seed diagram

 

A “typical” seed   has fundamental parts:

  • a seed coat
  • a storage area (in this case the endosperm which houses food and genetic material)
  • a dormant embryo

 

The embryo has three parts:

  • the cotyledon (or seed leaf)
  • the epicotyl (becomes the shoot)
  • the radicle (becomes the root)

 

456px-Salix_scouleriana_seed

 

 

 

Physiology of Germination

 

When water penetrates through the seed coat and begins to soften up the hard tissues inside, causing the seed to swell up and then split.  Then water enters even faster and begins to activate the biochemistry of the dormant embryo.   Once such substance activated there is Gibberelli Acid (GA), which is a plant hormone similar to steroids.

Then the GA is carried with the water through out the seed tissues and in to the endosperm until it activates genes inside the seed and a complex DNA/RNA reaction takes place. Basically this “blue print” allows the genetic characteristics of the parent plant to be passed on through the seed. Also as this is going on, the embryo feeds on the starch and sugar found in the endosperm as well.

Under proper conditions, the seed begins to germinate and the embryonic tissues begin to protrude from the seed’s casing in the form of what is called the Radicle. This primary root anchors the seedling in to the ground as well as absorbing more moisture.  From here other growth takes place, but the components vary.

In most plants another shoot emerges, many of which have three parts:

– the embryonic stem called the hypocotyls

– the cotyledons ( first leaves)

– the epicotyls

 

 The hypocotyls

The hypocotyls grows out and lifts the growing seedling up as it becomes the stem of the seedling and carries the cotyledons (embryonic leaves)   clear of the ground.  At this point growth components change depending on the classification .Flowering plants are classified in to two groups, depending on whether they have one or two cotyledons.

The cotyledons

Monocots have only one single shoot or cotyledon after the seed breaks out of the ground. In these plants the roots develop from the stem instead of from the base of the embryo. Included in this group are flowers such as orchids and lilies as well as wheat, onions and corn, asparagus and many other plants and grasses.

 

 

Monocot diagram

Monocot diagram

 

Dicots have two initial leaves or cotyledons that grow from the embryo.  Then the the epicotyls forms the initial stem which holds up the true leaves, while the radicle grows and forms the plant’s the root-system. Most flowering plants found in the garden belong to this classification. Beans are also a dicot.

 

 

Dicots

 

The epicotyls

The epicotyls, which are above the cotyledons and below the plants real leaves, are not found in every plant. Where they are present, they become the plants stem, which rises up and gives way to the plant’ s further  leaf and stem development. The growth of plants is another matter that requires far more complex physiological terminology than this author/gardener can explain.

 

Germination of seeds

 

In addition to Monocot and , Dicot germination there are other forms including but not restricted to Epigeous, Hypogenous and Precocious germination. There are many names, classifications, conditions the seed requires and other complexities that my brain can barely contain!

Despite that, germinating seeds each spring is part of my celebratory ritual and I am glad to have some basic understanding of what really is going on inside each seed.  Based on several definitions, seed germination is said to have occurred when growth of the radicle bursts the seed coat and protrudes as a young root… but to us gardeners the no names matter as the excitement builds when the green shoots poke their heads above the ground and inspire us to bury more seeds for germination!

 

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Gardening in Winter

Gardening in Winter

While to many, thinking of gardening in  winter may seem to be a foreign concept, really the “thinking” is no different than ever, just the practicalities and chores are different. Now while we merely remember the plants we once had or perhaps look at photos, our outside gardening is limited to trimming and protecting the grounds we love

In fact as we dream of the upcoming spring, our thinking caps need to be on and our imaginations too get to run wild, while our gardens are fast asleep in the frozen ground(except for a weed or two!) . In many countries that experience winter in Dec-March, the temperatures do not take on the -20 C we here in Ontario have been experiencing this past week, but still experience the dormant periods most plants experience in the cooler weather.

 

weed Geranium

weed Geranium

While the gardens may be dormant, January and February are the few months where gardeners are not, but certainly do less physically demanding chores and store up their energy for the upcoming spring. Personally after the Holiday season ends, I turn my focus to my poor neglected house plants before the seed catalogs come pouring in.

Indoor Gardening Chores

While house plants are in a slow growth period as well, due to lower UV light levels even in a sunny window as well as generally cooler temperatures and humidity inside tend to slow down their metabolism, transplanting is not recommended. After having said that, I must confess I occasionally do that if the plant/pot ratio has gotten out of hand for a few sad struggling plants, knowing full well they will probably not get a new lease on life come spring and the busy outside garden season.

Here is my rough list of chores to accomplish in February and March. While this list is not as extensive as it could be, it serves as a starting point for you to jot down your own and keep you in the gardening in winter mode… knowing soon the first buds will form, plants will come to life and spring fragrances will fill the air!

cottage planter in January

cottage planter in January

 

 

Inside plants

-water sparingly and put humidity sensitive plants on gravel to provide extra humidity

-cut off dead/dying leaves and top up soil

-re pot leggy plants in to larger pots or cut plant back and put in original pot

-check for gnat flies/ treat with yellow sticky pads

 

Relocated garden tubers/plants

-check any plants brought in from outside to ensure no bugs are present and treat if necessary

-trim dead/dying leaves and top up soil

-check Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, begonia tubers for rot or dampness

-cut out any spots and ensure shavings/newspaper wrappings are dry and plentiful

Seed supply and propagation equipment

-check seeds harvested from last summers plants

-ensure they are still dry with no mold or mildew formation

-collect propagation trays, labels, soil less mix, seed dispensers etc.

Gardening tool tune up

Brave the cold if need be and gather all spades, trimmers, trowels etc from the garden shed and clean, sharpening and repair them.

 

Pruning

Gardening in winter also includes getting shrubs ready for spring. Despite the cold, February is a good month to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Even shade, flowering and fruit trees can all be pruned  now, but spring flowering plants such as Forsythia or Spirea as what you will actually be pruning   flower buds  along with the new leaf growth.

Any pruning of these plants should not be done until after spring flowering is complete .Of course pruning a branch of spring flowering shrub from the back will do  little to ruin the overall look in spring  but allow you to force the blooms on it and give your winter gardening a preview of things to come.

 Odd and Ends

There are many odds and ends that still require our focus as the uneven temperature fluctuations of winter create hardships for plants and birds. Remember to keep your birdfeeder (s) full of yummy seeds.

Then of course, you can enjoy a lovely cup of tea or coffee while you daydream and plan with your gardening catalogues.

 

 

Winter Garden Tour

Winter Garden Tours

Winter garden tours may seem like a dream unless you live in a warm climate, but today when the sun was out I decided to take a tour of my garden, with camera in hand.  Normally the weather would make this a rather chilly walk, but as the early morning sun and temperatures up to 9 º Celsius had melted the snow on most of my property  while others around were full of snow!

two seasons at once

two seasons at once

 

While this January has not yet seen the record -15º, with the exception of the Hellebore plant in my side garden, I expected everything to be frozen. To my surprise there were so many plants still alive, despite the -4 º temperature nights and warm almost Spring like weather during this unusually warm January in Canada.

 

Who know there would be a lovely green Fever-few (Tanacetum parthenium) plant nodding at me in the wind? In fact, there were parts of the old plant with new growth bursting forth in both the side and back gardens.

 

Feverfew

Feverfew

 

Close to the Feverfew, are the mixed red and green leaves of the Toad lily (Tricyrtis latifolia) which survives being previously buried in many inches of snow.

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

The snow in the front garden also was inches deep for several weeks, but not long enough or cold enough to kill off the small pink rose bush that bloomed there all summer and was now an inspiring part of my winter garden tour. While there are no flowers, there quite a few dark green leaves and even a rose hip that waved as a reminder of past glory!

P1410078

 

Past the front and through the side gate, leading to the north side yard, revealed even more winter surprises. First my eyes fell on the lovely green crinkled leaves of a Primula, easily recognized despite none of the yellow flowers being evident.

Primula

Primula

Representing the wildflower family, not to be outdone, was one Golden rod.  Bouncing in the wind, its tiny yellow flowers made a statement, despite not displaying their brilliant summer colour. Buried also in the snow, but not down for the count, was a wild weed Geranium (possibly a Dovefoot Geranium).

 

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

P1410093

wild Geranium

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked completely around to the rock garden as my winter garden tour continued, under the huge Spruce tree, I found buds forming on the heather plant (Calluna Vulgaris) that in early to mid summer would be filled with lovely, tiny, pink blooms.

 

my Heather in bud

my Heather in bud

Heather in bloom

Heather in bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beside this was a Chrysanthemum plant fiercely growing new green leaves, despite the dried flower bud still attached!

 

 struggling Chrysanthemum

struggling Chrysanthemum

 

Not to be outdone was the lovely evergreen fern Dryopeteris erythrosora (Autumn fern).

 

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 Last, but not least, was a Heuchera key lime pie that didn’t seem to mind the cold at all!

P1410135-001

Today, despite the return of real winter weather and -10 º weather the Hellebore is happily bobbing its head and I am bundled up, remembering my inspiring winter garden tour while dreams of seedlings run through my head.

sunflowerseedlings_1