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.

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Growing a healthy lawn

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

 

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

Mystery Weed!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sod Inspector

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Lawn Care at work

 

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

 

 

 

May Showers

May 1, 2012

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pretty lawn weed

 

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

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

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