Saturday, March 31, 2012

Collecting Hair for Garden

I had my hair trimmed, and I collected the trimmings. I have thick hair and the hairdresser always remarks that I leave a small animal behind ;)

I made sure this time I took my furry leftovers with me.

You may be wondering why.

My garden has slugs. My Spinach, Strawberries, Hostas and other perennials were damaged last year. (I will make a post on other slug control methods in a short while).

This year, I will nip the problem in the bud with this organically and most cost effective pest-control method.

I used to have an ample supply of dog hair for my old garden, but having lost my dog to old age a number of years back, I have resorted on finding other alternatives to getting hair.

Here I've cut mine in shorter strands, just large enough to keep slugs at bay.
If you don't have a dog or cat to collect hair, the next time you go and get your haircut, ask the hairdresser or barber for yours, if not others.

Once my Hostas start to pop up, a bunch of hair will be scattered about 2 feet around each plant.

How it works: The hair will get all entangled on the slugs and they will move on elsewhere.

TIP: I've cut the hair down into smaller strands as in the past, when I've used my hair, the longer the hair the more it blows around and the more it gets used by birds to make nests.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Frost Protection

Having a partially shaded garden has it's perks. Most of my perennials and bulbs are just peaking through, where in sunnier spots they have flushed tender growth from the last two weeks of warmth.,2030,33142
Lee Valley's Floating Covers
The weather forecast is calling for -3°C (26°F) this evening, which can certainly cause damage to your tender plants.  For perennials and low growing plants cover with old towels or bedsheets, weighed down on corners. You can buy frost protection fleece or cheese cloth material, but in a pinch what you have around the house will do. Just don't use fabric that is overly weighted, which can break, bend and damage stems.

Lee Valley's Ventilating Cloche
Lee Valley's Garden Cloches

I've also used in the past overturned plant pots, cloches, pop bottles (with bases cut off) which also work great.  In windier situations, place a large stone over such plastic covers, or heel in with some soil so that it remains stable.  With the darker pots, you must remove them in the sunlight the next day but with the clear plastics/glass, you can leave until fear of frost is gone. All plastic covers should have a venting hole so that it doesn't get too hot inside.

I've also used newspaper and garbage bags, but the items mentioned above were most effective.   Some folks may have budding and partially leaved Japanese Maples. These should be covered with sheets if possible.

Hopefully with these methods, frost damage can be avoided. Unfortunately for fruit trees, a large tarp or cloth needs to cover the entire tree if you want to protect the bloom. This is hard to do.  Many fruit groves use overhead sprinkling systems to run all night to make sure the cold air doesn't come in contact with the blossoms and leaves.  

So many things we can do to try and prevent these strange springs, but thankfully, plants will recover in time.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Watering the garden in March

Helleborus x Gold series
I honestly cannot ever recall having to water the garden in March. I looked outside this morning and saw my Helleborus Gold flowers drooping. 

Thankfully, they perked up again.

Mini Narcissus " JetFire "

I'm not sure what to make of this early spring. I enjoy seeing the garden come alive...
Sedum telephium " Autumn Joy "
Blue Scilla

It's so strange having to water my partly shaded garden. Can't imagine how full sunny beds are fairing.

Given the way things are turning out,  I will start mulching and adding more compost to keep up moist levels.

Thankfully there is rain in the forecast later this week.

I figure, the garden is in the usual stage of late April early May already. Wow...
My Brunnera macrophylla " Variegata " has reverting leaves. Wondering if the heat and the strange winter/spring has helped to cause this reversion. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Canada Blooms 2012

Oh Canada! Great use for Kalachoe's eh? :-P

Canada Blooms this year was a joint venture with the National Home Show.  It's been a few years since I attended Canada Blooms, as I have felt many of the garden trends and designs are unrealistic to maintain, and the average home owner can't afford such extravagance. It used to bother me to see spring/summer forced material blooming all at once and to see plant material suffer. But I can see how it drives the garden economy and gives people a joy to see spring colours in full show. So, I decided to give it a go.

The Canada Blooms portion of the show was a lot smaller and more concentrated. Overall it was a great show, a little less showy than years past and the market place was smaller than I remember. However, the National Home Show section was a nice draw once we were done with the Blooms portion.

Like a bone-head, I forgot to check my camera to see if I remembered the memory card. Forgive my photos, as they are from my camera phone.  Sorry.

Here are some of the highlights I chose:

I'm quite partial to interesting floral designs. Aren't these sweet?

Orchids, sphagnum moss, Kermit Mums, Aspidistra leaves.

Peace on Earth

I thought this one was quite clever. Called "Peace on Earth". This photo does not capture it at all. The wood use is all drift wood, weathered by water. It must of taken hours to put together and years to collect. I really think it was done well.

The next photos are of the Green Zone section. I enjoyed this most. Living walls, roof top gardening, and interesting containers used to grow veggies.

This is the roof top garden display.. I really like the concept, but how realistic it is to maintain it in this patterning is uncertain. It certainly points to a great trend and environmental focus.
Living salad bar. So cool. This was a part of the Food Share section. Lettuce and sprouts were in growing mediums, with grow lights above. Harvest as you make dinner.

Sorry, I tried a close up. Sprouts growing in these cool clay pellet medium.

Humber College's Landscape Design display featured a more earthy, Urban Homestead theme. Loved it. This living wall, herb and veggie boxes, are quite fun. Tilted to reach appropriate sun levels. I really thought it was a great method to screen in privacy and provide yummy nibbles. Their sustainable features are an example to where gardening trends need to go. I am glad to see my former alumni heading this direction.

Plant World's Display

I feel bad as my camera cut off the other container, but a colleague of mine put these together, and I think they may have not been the showiest, but they certainly have unique elements that could realistically be situated in your own backyard. Well done Edward!

It was a fun evening. Parking is free after 5pm, which I took advantage of. Cheers to the Bloom display designers and organizers.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Life Is Emerging

Blue and White Scilla
The unusual warm weather has put a spring in everyone's step. People are outside, walking, running and enjoying this early gift of spring. It's been really lovely out. However, I can't help but be concerned for fluctuating temps that may come down the pike. Let's hope April's weather is not overly severe. I would hate to see fruit trees bud and a harsh frost kill off tender blooms and other budding shoots.

I planted several bulbs last fall. And I am thrilled, as my neighbours warned me about squirrels digging up all theirs over the years. Most of them are popping up!  I am just not used to the litter layer of leaves and debris I've left. I can see their beneficial use. The earth is quite loose and not compacted from the rain!

In sunnier areas around my neighbourhood I've seen Narcissus (Daffodils) and Crocus already in bloom. It's sooo early! My shadier spot out back is coming along though.

Narcissus " Jetfire Tops "
I figured, the smaller the garden, the smaller the bulb would do the trick. Scilla, Muscari, Species
( "Chrysantha" ) Tulips, and dwarf Narcissus " Jetfire Tops " varieties are mainly multiplying bulbs. Smaller flowers and dwarfer habit, but they increase in number over the years. They won't take too much time to bloom and their foliage won't need to be removed, leaving my perennials to grow in and around them.

I planted them in 3's only because I hope they will multiply in larger batches next season.


Soon I will be able to cut back and use my chives again. Yay!


One bonus of the mild winter is my oregano overwintered and...

Chrysanthemum Chrysanthemum.

Here in the greater Toronto Area, it's a hit and miss generally to overwinter Chrysanthemums. So I am grateful.

Strawberry "All Star"

My strawberries have flushed leaves and look twice a large as last year.

Sedum telephium " Autumn Joy "

I was late bringing out some overwintered perennial Sedum "Autumn Joy" from the garage where I stored them. Last October I uprooted and divided them, transplanting into pots too late in the season to get them planted in time for overwintering. I have a garden I tend to and will be planting them there hopefully in a few weeks. Within 3 days of this warm trend, they grew all this pale new growth. I am always so amazed at plants and their will to grow, even in the darkest spots. I'm going to prune them back hard later, I just brought them out to colour up a bit before I do it. I'm just amazed!

Finally I see my roses have started to flush as well.

El Nino, warming trend - whatever it is, I"m going to keep my ear tuned to the weather reports in case winter hits one last blow. Let's hope not.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tried, Tested and True Perennials

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the newest varieties of perennials and new plant introductions on the market these days. Seeing first hand how many "new varieties" of perennials struggle to establish in the past, I have become 'buyer beware'!

Working part-time at a garden centre doesn't help. I've seen the lists for 2012 selections and yes, I am floored and can't wait to see the plants first hand.  I love the new flower colour selections, new dwarf sizes and foliar colours never seen before, yet I've seen many new varieties struggle and not perform the way the plant tags suggest. Perhaps I am jaded.  I just don't have the time to nurse certain plants to become true performers nor do I have thick pocket book to shell out that kind of money for new cultivars.

In the centre square I had Heucherella x ' Stop Light ' (6 years ago). It lasted for the first year, not a vigorous grower and it began to die late May as you can see. So frustrating. I gingerly transplanted what was left in to a pot to try and nurse it back to health, but it died. It's a lovely specimen, but not sturdy enough yet. My other Heucherella's and Heuchera's were great. : (

Now I classify myself as a waiter.  I wait to see new perennial varieties stand the test of time and waiting a year or two, when they eventually go down in price. No, maybe my selections won't follow the newest garden trends, but at least I won't be having to line up at the counter, with receipt in hand stating my perennials and or nursery stock just didn't make it two years later. My conciliation is I'll be saving some money in the long run.  I'll stick to the "tried, tested and true" among the bunch.

What are your thoughts?  Agree? or disagree?

Now to flip through the 2010 nursery catalog's. ; )

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Starting Compost

I purchased this Dual Batch Tumbling Composter because of its rotational drum and two chambers. My only complaint: it took a bit of time to put together, as there's so many fiddly nuts and bolts and about 20 parts to fit together. Solid build though. Rotates smoothly and lots of air pockets for good aeration and water drainage. I'm happy with it.

The neat design to this composter is it's two chambers. That way, I have two batches to work with and hopefully can harvest my first batch in what the instructions say: 5-6 weeks. I can add less coarse bits to one side to start this spring and add regular compost to the other side. While one side newly composts the other side I can begin to use. That's the theory anyway...  It also has a great lid that is animal proof (hopefully) and it's off the ground. So critters if trying to get on it, will fall off because it rotates easily.

One of my hanging baskets
To start I added some soil from my winter containers. It's spent soil from last years annuals, and to initiate decomposition you need some soil. I also added just a skimming of soil from my garden (it has the microbes to help break down the refuse).

It's best to add materials in layers:
  • a brown layer (leaves, soil)
  • a wet (kitchen) layer 
  • and a green layer in stages.

My brown layer was made up of leaves, some leftover fall annuals (cut up), some perennial die-back and clippings from my rose bush.

The wet layer was made up of coffee grounds, potato peelings...etc. (Never compost dairy, meat, bones and wood ashes).

My green layer was the clippings I cut last week for homemade mulch. 

I've yet to fill the entire left chamber. I added water to get all the soil and material inside slightly moist (not soggy).

I will fill it all up once my other containers have thawed out. They were still frozen. lol 

Now that temperatures are getting warmer and there's plenty of bright spring sunshine, warmth and moisture will begin the process.  Will keep you posted as to how long it will take to get workable compost!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Homemade Mulch

The warmth outside today got me out in the garden. What a beautiful day!

I've decided that I will no longer buy mulch in a bag (or bulk bin) for myself. Since I have a small garden, and ample resources at my disposal, I will use what I have to make my own mulch. My aim is to have a good litter layer over my soil. Hopefully this will minimize watering during the heat of the summer and will deter slugs this spring.

Resources at my disposal:
  • evergreen boughs from my winter containers
  • pine cones (Christmas decor extras) collected from various gardens where I work
  • cuttings from my rose and ninebark bushes
  • leaves not yet composted from last fall 

Necessary tools:
Too coarse to add to perennial beds
  • sharp hand pruners (secateurs), loppers if necessary
  • my garden bin
  • time and elbow grease
For now, I've used my winter container material.  These pine and cedar boughs are not overly large, but since I have perennials, I need to break it down to incorporate it into the small space.  So, I've cut it into smaller bits.  Otherwise this size would work great under large evergreens, or in the back of a shrubbery bed. It didn't take long - just half and hour. It was a great way to enjoy the 10 degrees plus today. Spring is coming!
I will have more than enough for my hostas
Slugs attacked my hostas in the darker corners of my little garden, and with this pine and cedar mulch, I think I will be able to keep them at bay. (The pine needles and rough pine bits scratch slugs' skin, hopefully keeping them off my perennials.)  Once I see the Hostas peek out of the ground, I'll scatter about 2 inches of this around so once the leaves emerge, it won't be noticeable.

If you don't want to spread this mulch in the garden, cutting up your garden waste this way accelerates decomposition.  The smaller the bits, the quicker they will become compost. (Evergreen needles have a natural resin that takes longer to decompose, that's why it's a great resource for mulch. However, if you want to compost it quicker, cutting it up speeds up the process.) I used to add all my winter greens into my city yard waste bin, now the leftovers will go on my garden or in the compost bin.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Square Foot Gardening

If you are planning to grow your vegetables in raised beds, try this method: Square Foot Gardening.

I remember watching the PBS program, "Square Foot Gardening" when I was a kid. Learning heaps then.  Now, Mel Bartholomew has revised his book from the 80s, concentrating on companion planting, diversifying plant species, improving soil mixes for minimal watering and avoiding chemical usage (for pest or fertilizers).

Great idea for small spaces, for implementing a no-dig method, it minimizes weeding, and is easier on the back.