Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Windbreaks

In rural communities, windbreaks are a common scene and for good reason. They slow the wind down or prevent prevailing winter winds from hitting your house directly saving valuable heating dollars. In the summer they slow or prevent soil erosion. In the heat of the summer deciduous windbreaks help to cool winds before they reach your house. Some windbreaks provide a habitat for small birds that help in insect control as well. Every house can benefit from the proper use of windbreaks but you have to understand how the prevailing winds are affecting your home.

One Windbreak

Our house is very well shielded with both evergreen and deciduous windbreaks on all four sides. The entire property is bordered by smaller almost 3' high evergreens and boxwoods on three and a half sides as well as bordering the laneway. Pictured is the larger evergreens that form a portion of part of a portion of the one side. This is side is the most open but the neighbours trees in the background serve as a windbreak as well. Towards the base of the large evergreen you can just barely see the water's edge. This side does not need as much of a windbreak because if the wind is coming from that direction it is from the south, something rather desirable in the winter months because it is a warmer wind. Just barely showing to the right is a large maple tree that provides a windbreak to the upper level during the summer. In line with that tree is a shorter windbreak of evergreens to the water's edge. Along the water's edge is another windbreak of boxwoods that cool the summer west winds but allow the winter winds warmed by the water through. The north side is fully protected to block as much of the winter north winds as possible.

Physics of Windbreaks

A windbreak is essentially vegetation or fencing or any other obstacle meant to slow down the velocity of the wind. The wind hits the windbreak then is forced to go around creating a blocked area on the other side of the windbreak with no wind. A distance from this area the wind will swirl together again. In essence buildings are quite effective windbreaks but for energy efficiency you want windbreaks to slow the amount of wind from reaching the building directly. Properly placed windbreaks can direct the winter prevailing winds away from houses and laneways effectively directing blowing snow from these areas. At the same time they can prevent winds from reaching the house almost entirely. For example if you plant a row of thick evergreens 2 to 3 feet tall along the northern wall of your house with a crawlspace it will greatly increase the energy efficiency and comfort level of that wall because the wind is blocked.

Effective windbreaks include: corn stubble, tall grasses, tall and short evergreens, deciduous trees, living walls. living privacy screening and of course wood fences. Wherever possible try to use living windbreaks as they give back to the environment. When establishing windbreaks pay attention to the winds you want to block in the season you want to block them. In the northern hemisphere that will mean blocking the north and northwesterly winds in the winter. For lower areas and directly abutting your house use lower growing, dense evergreen shrubs. To slow winds before they get to your house use taller evergreen and deciduous depending on what winds you want to control.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Real Verses Artificial Christmas Trees


It's that time of year for the most popular holiday icon to make its presence. A decorated Christmas tree is a must have for many. In years past that meant going out and cutting your own tree. In recent times it means pulling the artificial tree from the closet and setting it up. Either way the Christmas tree is a seasonal tradition. There are definite reasons for choosing a real Christmas tree over an artificial tree if at all possible. The pros and cons of using either follow.

Artificial Christmas Trees


Pros

  • artificial trees are inexpensive and can be re-used for several years
  • they work well for those living in apartments where there may be restrictions
  • they eliminate allergy concerns for those sensitive to evergreens or other allergens they may harbour
  • they are essentially mess free
Cons
  • many of these trees are petroleum based produced
  • they collect dust that can also be an allergen for some
  • they do not contribute anything positive to the environment during production or use
Real Christmas Trees

Pros
  • these trees are grown on tree farms so are a cash crop helping to support those who grow them
  • buying locally means you are not adding to your carbon footprint
  • real trees help clean the air and provide oxygen during the time they are growing and they continue both while being used as a Christmas tree
  • they are natural air fresheners
  • for those with wood stoves or fireplaces the trees can be used for heat
  • they can be recycled through municipal pick-up or composting
Cons
  • real trees can harbour allergens including the possibility to that particular variety of evergreen itself
  • they can harbour insects
  • they can be messy
In terms of environmental concerns a live tree is superiour to an artificial tree. Many nurseries are now selling potted live Christmas trees that can be decorated for the season then kept to plant when the weather turns nice. I know everyone has favourite decorations for their trees but consider going for an old fashioned approach using popcorn and cranberries to make garland. Cinnamon dough decorations will give a wonderful holiday scent while decorating your tree and they can be put in the compost bin when you no longer need them. Homemade beeswax ornaments, lace ornaments and other home crafted ornaments can give your tree a lovely look and feel. To make your tree choice more environmentally friendly if you decide to light it up use the new LED lights that will use the minimal amount of energy to light up your tree.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Carbon Neutral for a Day

Photobucket


You cannot imagine how surprised I was to see this certificate saying I was carbon neutral for a day! Our carbon footprint is something that we have been actively reducing for quite some time. We do this by growing as much as we can organically and reducing our consumption in all areas of our lives. With each house we have learned more so we have been able to fine tune to a higher level and much quicker. I happy to say our recent energy audit for this house came in at almost half that of other homes in our area (write-up here) but there is still room for improvement.

Every person who takes the time and energy to grow any portion of their food is reducing their carbon footprint. The more you grow the more you are reducing your carbon footprint as well as providing fresh produce for well under the price of even produce bought from the farmer's markets. It is surprising at how much produce can be grown in small spaces, in containers and indoors. It is also surprising how little effort growing your own food can be. Gardening is beneficial on so many levels. Sure you get the produce and that lowers your food costs but there are health benefits. Gardening sooths the soul, lowers your blood pressure, gives you fresh air and exercise. At the same time gardening keeps your brain active and gives you a greater appreciation for the environment.

During this holiday season I would like to gift the first 25 people who click here in support to fight climate change with one carbon neutral day. This generous gift is donated by Brighter Planet. So please click the link and get your own carbon neutral day.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Remembrance

I come from a strong military family with ancestors that were instrumental in shaping the history of Canada. I grew up surrounded by relatives who had fought for this country. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice and while they are no longer here they live forever in our memories. If this video does not bring tears to your eyes, nothing will. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we honour our fallen with 2 minutes silence from shore to shore of our great nation, Canada. Please join our nation in showing our respect and how thankful we are for enjoying the freedom they fought so hard for.



Remembrance Day Tribute
courtesy of
Global TV Edmonton


Garden Gnome
©2006-2008

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Update 3

Sorry it has taken me a bit longer than anticipated for updating. I really wanted to update the background to the new style that I like but at the same time I wanted to keep the ivy graphic. Most of the updating is finished and I'm happy with the results. Over the next few days you may notice a few minor changes but nothing really disruptive. I'm considering eliminating both the "digg" and "buzz" buttons from the posts as they tend to be taking up blog real estate yet aren't used much and are in the way when I want to post a picture in the centre. Other than that other changes should be rather subtle. Feedback is always welcomed.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


More Updating

I'm working on finishing up the blog changes today so don't worry if you see a few strange things going on.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Leaves

Blog Update: Starting tomorrow morning I will be updating this blog somewhat. You may see some weird things going on as I test things out. Most of the changes will involve the sidebar and header. I'm still debating other changes like the background. Please don't worry though as these changes will not affect the posts or archives. So please bare with me for the next couple of days. I promise things will be back to normal shortly.


Autumn Beauty
October 22, 2008

It's autumn! The peak tree colours are now waning and leaves are flitting everywhere. Don't leave those leaves laying on your lawn or gardens. Rake them and bag them then set aside where they can sit undisturbed over the winter. By spring you will be able to use them for preparing your garden beds. You can also do a final mowing with the bagger in place or a leave vacuum to mulch the leaves that will help them break down faster.

This is a good time for me to share my views on leaf blowers/vacuums. We have one that sits in the garage wasting space. Yes it is easy to use but it uses electricity. The strap stresses the shoulder joint making it not exactly the healthiest thing to use for anyone who has back problems. However, the biggest complaint I have about this garden tool is the horrid noise it makes. This time of the year in urban settings you can't go a day without hearing one of these things. In my opinion they are nothing more than another irritating form of noise pollution, something that does affect your health. Our lovely rural setting is blissfully free of the sounds of leaf blowers!

A good, old fashioned fan rake is used to gather leaves. This is a non-polluting way of getting healthy exercise while filling your lungs with fresh air. At the same time we end up with a good soil ammendment for the garden beds in the spring and through-out the growing season. If you have more leaves than you can use in your own gardens put the word out to other gardeners who will be glad to take them off your hands.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Over-wintering Plants

Our ADFF was October 12th this year meaning on that date there was a 50/50 chance of a damaging or hard frost. Unfortunately it came earlier than predicted spelling disaster to local tomato farmers. There were hundreds of thousands of dollars lost due to the early frost. Our property is water front so tends to be a bit protected from frost longer into the season still it is time to bring in plants for over-wintering. These include any herbs grown in pots, geraniums and any plant I want to try over-wintering. Over-wintering allows you to save some potted plants that you want to use the following year but at the same time if you do it correctly some plants will provide you with a bit of fresh produce while giving you any easy way to propagate some plants.

My method is relatively simple. I clean the plant of any dead growth, inspect well for any signs of infestation and wipe down the pot. Then I fertilize using an organic fertilizer and water well until the water runs from the bottom. Once the bottom of the pot is dry I bring the plant in where it is isolated from other house plants until I am sure there is problem with infestation. Potted plants can introduce spiders, earwigs and pill bugs to the home so I check carefully under the plants for a few days to be sure there no introduced bugs.

Tomato Clippings

If you have a sunny location in your home do consider taking clippings from your tomato plants before a frost hits them. This technique will work for hybrids that don't breed true through seed so it is a good way of keeping plants going from one season to the next. For best results cut from the terminal end of a healthy tomato plant and keep the clippings less than 1 - foot in length. Place the cut ends into water where they will root. In about a weeks time take each clipping that will now have generous growth of roots and pot them. As the plants grow make more clippings from them. Keep the vines clean by removing any dead or yellowing foliage. Pinch feeders (stems that form between a Y branch) to encourage bushier grown. The feeders can be rooted as well. Continue in this manner and you should have a rather lovely supply of tomato plants in time for planting in the spring. They will simply need to be hardened before planting. Choose the hardiest plants for this purpose. At the same time you will have enjoyed a few fresh tomatoes if you have hand pollinated. Cherry tomatoes when used this way can give you a nice supply of cherry tomatoes throughout the winter and since the vines are smaller they are easier to grow indoors.

Impatiens

Impatiens are a beautiful low growing flowering annual in our area with flowers ranging from white to red and shades of pink. Several years ago when I was learning about ponding I came across a reference that said us use impatiens clippings for shading. It was a simple, inexpensive solution to poke holes in thin styrofoam sheets to allow the impatiens clippings to reach the water. They would form a good root system within a week or so, ready for planting in the garden. That year I had more impatiens than I knew what to do with.

The same technique can be used for over-wintering impatiens as well as propagating for spring planting. Choose healthy plants then cut two or three 4 - inch clippings from the plant. Place the clippings in room temperature water and allow to form roots. Plant in soil. As the plants grow you can take further clippings to start more plants but do not take more than ⅓ of the total foliage when clipping. In the spring you will need to harden off the plants after the ADLF and when the soil warms a bit.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Monday, October 13, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

This is the fifth home we have owned and while each house/property presented unique challenges this property has presented the problem of over growth. The landscaping is mature as far as trees, bushes and shrubs. There really is too much! Compounding the problem are several perimeter, pocket garden beds planted willy nilly with everything imaginable. Despite moving here the end of June 2007 we are still in the tear out mode. At the same time we are doing a fair amount of pruning because we want to keep the look of the gardens without the wild, unkept look. It is obvious that some plants have to go. In order to do this I have been identifying what is growing on the property then eliminating the problem plants while keeping or transplanting those plants that give us the look we want.


Sweet Woodruff
(Galium odoratum)

A sidewalk runs from the driveway to the back steps leading to the lower covered patio. On the house side this forms one small flower bed about 2' x 6' that would be perfect planted with a low growing ground cover. Also bordering the sidewalk on the house side is a L-shaped bend actually more like a P-shape with a narrow tail and wide bed in front of the kitchen window. On the other side of the sidewalk is a meandering garden bed with various plants that in most cases need to be moved. On of these plants is Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) identified with the help of one of my kids. There is a good size patch of this plant along with a smaller one.

and in various edible products (May wine, sausage, jam, jelly and soft drinks) however high levels of Sweet Woodruff is a very pretty, low growing, mat forming ground cover popular for shady locations. It has small, white, four petal flowers formed in cymes (each flower on one stem with stems joined together on a single stem) in the spring. The simple leaves form whorls of six to nine giving this ground cover a unique, delicate look. Sweet Woodruff is said to be slightly invasive but I have not found that to be the case. If anything I would like it to spread a bit more. Propagation is by division. When dried, Sweet Woodruff resembles fresh mown hay or slightly vanilla scented. Dried Sweet Woodruff is used in potpourri and it has both culinary and medicinal uses. Coumarin (a blood thinner) that gives this herb its scent can cause headaches while very high doses can cause vertigo, central paralysis and apnea while in a coma. Sweet Woodruff has not been used as a flavouring in Germany since 1981 however, home growers continue to use dried Sweet Woodruff for flavouring a variety of foods. I am going to stress the high levels as you would have to eat a lot of Sweet Woodruff to experience the negative side effects. Normal culinary levels of dried Sweet Woodruff is unlikely to cause any negative side effects.

I would like to establish a second patch of Sweet Woodruff. It would be a perfect ground cover for the first small garden between the sidewalk and house. Not only would it be pretty and delicate looking, it would be maintenance free. The plant will be ideal for potpourri as well. This will be one herb that I will be growing indoors as well.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Friday, September 12, 2008

Vinca major (Bigleaf Periwinkle)

One of our smaller garden beds has a pretty green and white creeping vine that has little purplish blue flowers in the early spring to mid-summer. It was quite apparent that the vine was of the spreading nature. It had filled the garden bed and was heading down the divider between our driveway and our neighbours. Our driveway is paved but his is gravel so the vine had no problem spreading and rooting. Still it was pretty so I set out to identify whether the vine was friend or foe. At the same time I started trimming it back and asked the neighbour if he wanted it removed from his side. This is always a nice thing to do if something you have in your garden encroaches onto the neighbour's yard to ensure good neighbourly relationships.


Vinca major varigata Louden
(Big Leaf Periwinkle)

Vinca major L. is a very fast growing perennial, ornamental ground cover that has small, five petal, purplish blue flowers often referred to as Bigleaf Periwinkle. The leaves are green with creamy white edging. It is not a climber but can be draped over edges and fences to soften the look. It looks very pretty trailing over the hard edges of flower beds and retaining walls. Vinca major grows nicely in full sun to shade. This vine is low growing at 8 to 12 inches high but it is quite invasive with trailers spreading up several feet. This vine can easily take over an entire garden forming a dense mat and overwhelming other plants. However, its dense growing pattern also keeps any patches of Vinca major weed free. Vinca major is a wonderful substitute for grass because in those areas where you don't mind its spreading nature. It is rather maintenance, pest and disease free. Neither deer or rabbits will eat Vinca major. Aphids may occasionally appear on the leaves but can easily be removed using a strong spray of water. This vine is perfect for sloping areas to prevent soil erosion. In temperate areas the vine is an evergreen. Cuttings can be taken to grow in containers and hanging baskets. Vinca major is quite drought tolerant and over watering will kill the vine so be careful to not over water. It is best to water the soil rather than the plant to prevent an fungal spores present in the garden from settling on the leaves. Propagation is by cutting. If you want to remove Vinca major the best way is to manually pull it out. Do not mow it because the vine has the ability to re-sprout.

Now that I have identified this creeping vine the next decision is whether to move it to another location. It would be better to move this invasive vine to one of the confined garden beds where it can only spread as far as the surrounding hard surface barrier like the space between the house and side walk. I will also be starting a few pots of Vinca major, over winter indoors then use them in planters next spring.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This Lawn is Your Lawn

I'm of the mindset that every household should have a vegetable garden. This is not a new idea as Victory Gardens were encouraged as a way to save energy and keep people fed during World War I and World War II. Twenty million of these gardens existed producing 40% of the vegetable produce consumed nationally in the United States. Planting a vegetable garden was seen as a national duty.



I hope you enjoy the video. As you know this is a Canadian blog so I try to find content of interest to other Canadians. The video focuses on the American White House but the message really can be applied to any country. Our elected officials should be setting an example and practicing what they preach. I urge everyone to write their elected official at all levels of government conveying the idea of encouraging Victory Gardens as a way to help the environment, feed the hungry and encourage people to help themselves. I urge everyone reading this blog to grow fruits and vegetables at some level. If you can, grow more. If you don't have a garden now is the time to start one! Get involved. Start a community garden or a friendship garden. If you have more produce than you or your family can use when preserved for the following year, consider donating it to a food bank or church agency that will see it gets to a family in need. Encourage everyone you know to grow a vegetable garden. Spread the word, sign petitions and write letters but first ensure you are growing a vegetable garden!

Today we have the luxury of huge supermarkets stocked to overflowing with every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable. However did you the average food travels 1500 miles from farm to table? Revive the Victory Garden and Eat Your View are two organizations that are encouraging households to grow Victory Gardens again as a way to reduce global warming. Planting edible landscaping makes good sense environmentally and economically. When you grow your own you end up with nutritious, fresh vegetables at a fraction of the cost of store bought. With gardening comes preserving either by canning, freezing or drying further reducing your food costs. It's a win win situation.

Did you know that home canning continues to increase fueled by the concerns over rising food prices. While a pressure canner necessary for canning low acid foods (vegetables, meats, etc.) will range in price from about $100 to $500 depending on the brand and size, they will more than pay for themselves within one season. Not only do you save money by preserving your own, you also can take advantage of buying local produce in season and preserving enough to get to the next season. I should mention that my pressure canner is in use year round often two or more times per week. Recipes, methods and pictures can be found on my cooking blog.

I've often mentioned on this blog and elsewhere that even small space gardening can be quite productive. Think outside of the box. Replace the environmentally unfriendly lawn with edible landscaping. Many herbs have beautiful flowers so plant perennial herbs instead of annuals. Those dandelions may be a weed in your lawn but if you don't use herbicides they make tasty salad greens. Use trellises and arbours to grow fruit and vegetables up instead of spreading. A small balcony can be used for container gardening. Small patches of land between sidewalk and house can be planted with vegetables or herbs. Window sills can be used to grow herbs and greens year round. Grow your own sprouts (mustard, bean, alfalfa, etc.) indoors year round. I've even had success growing tomatoes, peppers and potatoes indoors. Be sure to save seeds from your garden to reduce the cost of buying seeds the following year.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Sunday, August 17, 2008

I've Been Tagged



I've been tagged! DG from Food and Garden Dailies tagged me today. Hmm, this is my second tag so hopefully I play the game correctly :)

Here are the rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you.

2. Mention the rules on your blog.

3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.

4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.

5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know that they have been tagged.

DG and I met on a canning group we both belonged to. She continues to stop by my cooking blog and this blog. So first I would like to thank DG for visiting my blogs and second for tagging me. DG's blog is about food and gardening. She does have this thing about the perfect trash can so you will want to stop by and read all about it. Her carrot cake with cream cheese frosting looks devine!

Let's see, 6 unspectacular quirks about me:

1. I detest grass lawns! - Sorry folks but grass is simply evil as used in most applications. It is chemically dependent, high maintenance, water hog and environmentally unfriendly plant thanks to the myth that everyone must have a lucious green carpet aka lawn. There are better, environmentally friendly ground covers that can be used in place of grass. The only thing good I can say about it is in some applications it is a good plant to prevent soil errosion.

2. I'm a die hard nature lover. - I am the type of person who enjoys going to the city for a day or two but would never thrive in a city. I need to be surrounded by nature on a daily basis including all the sights, sounds and smells of nature although I will admit I could do without visits from centipedes. I'm also not too fond of snakes either but they are allowed to stay in my gardens as long as they leave me alone.

3. I'm not a bare foot person. - Honestly I wear socks and/or slippers indoors all the time regardless of the season and I wear shoes outdoors. I even have bed socks! About the only time I go bare foot is on the boat or when walking along the beach.

4. I'm actually a very shy, reserved person. - I'm fine around family and close friends but not around strangers or in larger group setting and certainly not in crowds. It takes a long time for me to warm up to people I don't know.

5. I'm a food snob. - I prefer down home cooking using fresh, home canned or home frozen ingredients. I prefer growing as much as possible and look for organic or pesticide free produce when buying. I grow a vegetable/herb garden because I can and because it tastes so much better than you can buy. I can, freeze and dry to preserve the abundance from my garden because I tend to avoid foods laden with extra preservatives, salt and sugar.

6. I stomp cemeteries. - It's true. I head out usually early in the morning to a cemetery of choice looking for ancestors. I carry a PDA with folding keyboard, digital camera, notebook and pencil as well as my lunch. I'll spend a good day documenting and looking for ancestors. My family thinks this is a rather morbid activity but it is a necessary part of genealogy research.

The people I have chosen to tag are:
  1. Maitre author of Magic & Moments At Dragonfly Cottage
  2. Monkey Tale author of Monkey Fables and Tales
  3. Sandy author of Writing in Faith
  4. Debbie author of MamaFlo's Place
  5. eastcoastlife author of eastcoastlife
  6. dawniemom author of My Tasty Space
Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Bindweed


Bindweed
(Convolvulus arvensis
)


Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is a member of the morning glory family. It is a very invasive, spreading weed that can be introduced to the garden through soil and roots. Quite frankly I think bindweed is rather pretty with its small trumpet shaped white flowers with faint pink stripes. It covers wires and chain link fencing nicely but it is still considered a weed especially when it gets into the lawn. That brings to a brief commentary on weeds.

Weeds are essentially plants that for whatever reason are not valued. They tend to be very persistent, hardy in most conditions and difficult to control. However what is a weed in some locations is not a weed in others and some weeds like dandelions are cultivated because they are edible. Folks start to panic when they see weeds in their lawns but lets put this in a different perspective. In terms of the environment, lawns are horrible abusers. They are chemically dependent, water hungry stretches of green outdoor carpeting that really should be banned. Maintenance spills tons of CO2 into the air daily. The only good thing that I have to say about grass is in some locations it helps prevent soil erosion but for the most part, grass is bad news for the environment. There are so many other low to no maintenance, low water using ground covers to choose from that grass is simply not needed! In terms of weeds, consider bindweed. It is pretty and it is invasive. It can thrive in just about any soil condition. You don't need to trim it, water it or anything else because it does thrive on neglect. It would make the perfect grass substitute! However, we are so brainwashed into believing we need that patch of green carpet that the environmentally unfriendly green carpet is a must.

Back to bindweed. Bindweed is on the borderline of being virtually impossible to eradicate. A broad leaf herbicide can be somewhat effective but with the Ontario ban that more than likely won't be possible. More effective is manual removal but persistent pulling and digging. Be warned that the roots can extend as deep as 5 - feet. Inserting solid barriers into the ground along fences or gardens can help prevent bindweed from overtaking the lawn from neighbouring property but new shoots will appear where there are roots. So be persistent!

Bin
Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Friday, August 08, 2008

Petunias


Common Garden Petunia
(Petunia x hybrida
)

Very few gardeners are unaware of the common garden petunia (petunia x hybrida) with their beautiful showy, cascading trumpet shaped flowers. These plants are members of the family Solanaceae (nightshade plant) that originated in South America and are thought to be a hybridization between P. axillaris and P. integrifolia. There is a wide variety of colours available ranging from white to very deep purple and everything in between. Petunias are grown as annuals but in warmer climates they are biennials. They are a popular plant for hanging baskets and containers. Why?

The reason is quite simple. Petunias are very low maintenance plants that but on a beautiful cascading display of colour from mid-spring to first hard frost. Their only real requirement seems to be regular watering. To keep the plant looking nice, remove spent flowers by simply giving a slight tug. This will leave the seed pod intact so you can harvest the seeds. The seed pod will turn brown and open releasing very small, round, dark brown seeds. Since most petunias are hybrids the seeds may not breed true but you can get some interesting combinations and they are free plants!

Petunias are more than just a pretty flower! They are excellent companion plants for pole beans, bush beans, peas, squashes and potatoes. Pink petunias in particular will repel the Mexican bean beetle, potato bug and squash bug. I've also noticed that rabbits don't seem to bother petunias. Taking advantage of that observation I planted petunias around the entire perimeter of my legume bed and sure enough the rabbits left that bed alone. So be sure to plant pink petunias in and around these crops for a natural pest control.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Carrot Evolution

cartoon courtesy of Nearing Zero.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Euonymus Bush


Euonymous
(Euonymous fortunei)
July 15, 2008

Euonymous bushes (Euonymous fortunei) are a common feature in many gardens here in Ontario. The two varieties I'm aware of are yellow and white edged both with bright green centres. These really are easy to grow shrubs with few problems. I had a small one at our previous house with the only problem being plagued by aphids but it was planted beside a rose bush so that could have contributed to the aphid problem.

Euonymous are really lovely garden bushes if you keep them trimmed. If you don't trim them they end up being scraggly or if the branches are tied together they tend to be simply over grown. We removed one what looked to be a large shrub about 4 - feet tall. It was overgrown and showed no signs of stopping. What the previous owners had done was tie the branches together to give the appearance of one shrub instead of trimming to maintain the shape. What essentially was left behind was one long rambling branch tied to look like a shrub. We decided to take that bush out but trim up the remaining euonymus as they were smaller and we could trim them with the electric hedge clippers.

Even though aphids were a problem on the euonymus bush at our previous house they do not seem to be a problem here and I have been watching for them. The standard methods of dealing with aphids are spraying with a soap solution and/or releasing lady bugs. Other than that the only real thing euonymus needs is annual trimming. They are beautiful shrubs for your garden, mainly maintenance free and well worth considering for your garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Thursday, July 17, 2008

White Nancy Lamiums


White Nancy Lamiums
(Lamium maculatum)
June 26, 2008

Moving into a home with mature landscaping has meant discovering a lot of new to me plants. We moved in late June so that meant we had no idea what spring plants there were. Part of the fun has been identifying the various plants as they emerged to decide if they were friend or foe. This means that I have had a wonderful opportunity to expand my gardening knowledge! I will be sharing some of my findings with you but first a valuable tip. If you have a plant you don't know whether it is a friend or foe, leave it be until you have identified. Take pictures and clipping to take to the nursery where they will more than likely be able to help. Quite often neighbours will say "oh that's such and such" more often using the common name.

I discovered a patch of lamiums in one bed although I didn't know that was what it was until I identified the plant. This bed has to be almost completely revamped so the question became whether this was a plant I wanted there and if not where if at all. The plant is quite pretty so I was hoping it was a friend.

Lamiums are a member of the nettle family (herbaceous) commonly called creeping lamiums. They are low growing, spreading ground cover about 6 - inches tall that blooms in late spring and early summer continuing through the fall. There are several cultivars with flowers ranging in colour from pink, dark pink, rose-red, purple, lavender along with variations in leaf colour from yellow and green to silver and green. Beacon Silver with bright lavender flowers and White Nancy (White Nancy dead nettle, spotted deadnettle) with white flowers. These two varieties with their silvery green leaves edged with a deeper green are the same except for flower colour. Lamiums do not like soggy soil conditions. They are are ideal ground cover for dry shady locations. It can be somewhat invasive but my experience so far is that it is not near as invasive as other ground covers. If planting for the first time, plant 16 - inches apart. Propagation is by division and they are self seeding.

I love the looks of this ground cover. As you know, I detest grass so am always looking for environmentally friendly ground covers. It is a little higher so could provide a habitat for rodents but I haven't seen any indication of this happening yet.

As you can see something has been after my lamiums. I suspect slugs but have not spotted them yet in the actual patch but I do know they are in that particular garden. I am treating with diatomaceous earth mainly because we do have an earwig and centipede problem. Diatomaceous earth is 100% organic made from finely ground diatom fossils. It kills off many crawling insects including earwigs and centipedes (thank-you!) and it can be used indoors or outdoors.

Warning: Use a dust mask whenever applying diatomaceous earth as it can cause respiratory problems during application. Wear gloves to prevent problems with skin absorption.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sweet Million Tomatoes (Container Gardening)


Sweet Million Tomatoes
(Lycopersicon esculentum)
July 16, 2008

If you have been following this blog you will know we moved last year and still do not have the vegetable and herb beds in. They are in progress but we were delayed by the spring weather conditions. We plan on having them ready for fall gardening and to allow the perennial herbs to root well before the cold weather. I'll talk more on that in a later entry.

This year's vegetable crop is being grown in containers. Pictured is one of my Sweet Million (Lycopersicon esculentum) plants with fruit ready for picking. This is a indeterminate cherry tomato plant that matures in 65 days to produce very sweet tomatoes. The fruit grows in clusters and is about 1½ - inch in diameter. It does require staking so the plant can be trellised making this tomato plant ideal for container gardening, small space gardening and square foot gardening. The best location for any tomato plant is in full sun but I've had success with partial shade as seen in my former garden. The best time to harvest tomatoes is when they are in full colour. Tomatoes benefit from epsom salt both around the plant and as a foliar spray (more here).

So many folks have said to me that they don't have room for gardening. My comment is always "get creative". The smallest of spaces can produce a lot of vegetables. Use that balcony space to grow some of your own foods. Container gardening needs to incorporate a few other practices for good production. Make sure your containers are large enough. A five gallon container is ideal and inexpensive. You will need one per plant although some vegetables like lettuces, radishes and carrots can be planted at a higher density. I rely on my square foot gardening knowledge and plant the containers to the same density. Weight can be a problem in some locations. If so, use non-dissoluble packing peanuts instead of gravel for the container drainage layer. First and foremost the containers will likely need to be watered daily and on hot, sunny days maybe more. This does present a problem if you want to go away for a few days. The solution to this is to have someone else water your container garden or to use self watering containers (more on this later). Second each time you water you are leeching some of the nutrients from the soil. Unlike other gardening practices, container gardens have a limited amount of nutrients. For that reason container gardens need to be fertilized. Use a good fertilizer like Osmocote® controlled release fertilizer or a good organic fertilizer. As with all gardens, keep your container garden clean by removing any dead vegetation. Insect control is the same as conventional gardening. If your garden is on a balcony above ground level you will likely eliminate problems like raccoons, squirrels, cats and other such pests depending on your location.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Food For Thought


Cartoon courtesy of Nearing Zero.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bearded Iris


Bearded Iris
Iris germanica
June 2, 2008

Iris is the genus (recall the nomenclature post earlier) of 200 to 300 flowering plants. They are herbaceous perennials that grow from rhizomes or in drier climates bulbs. The have long, erect flowering stems that in our zone bloom from late May to early June. Despite being an herb they are mainly grown as an ornamental plant in the garden. The flowers are quite showy but from my first year experience with them are not long lasting. The flowers can be cut for indoor display. They are fragrant but not as fragrant as other cut flowers. They do look lovely standing to great you as you enter the garden.

I have always wanted Iris but until now did not have them. Now I have two clumps of Bearded Iris, one a white with purple edging and the other a peach. I've never had Iris so it is a learning curve for me. They should be planted in grainy, well drained soil in a sunny location. Avoid over fertilizing as that will cause soft, lush growth that will flop easily. Tall varieties should be avoided in windy areas as they are susceptible to both wind and rain damage. Staking will help prevent wind and rain damage. Iris should be divided every few years when fail to bloom or the number of blooms is reduced. Propagation is by division six to eight weeks after blooming. Simply slice though the clump to form two or more clumps depending on the size of the existing clump leaving a chunk of rhizome and roots for each division. Plant the removed clump into a prepared hole with the fleshy part of the rhizome showing and the roots well covered. If the rhizome is planted too deep the Iris will grow profusely but not flower.

Iris borer (Macronoctura onusta) and thrips are two problems you will encounter when growing Bearded Iris. The Iris borer eggs overwinter on debris or on the crown of the iris. The tiny caterpillar eggs hatch in the spring and bore through the leaf eating their way to the centre of the leaf. By mid-summer the caterpillars are about two inches long and have made their way to the rhizome where they tunnel and eat. As a result the rhizome will become soft, mushy and foul smelling (iris bacterial soft rot). Prevention is the best course of action against the Iris borer. Inspect the plants in the summer looking for dark spots on the leaves. Divide the clump as for propagation, manually remove and kill any Iris borer in the rhizome. Cut away the rot if it is minor or remove the rhizome entirely. Bearded Iris can be dusted with diatomaceous earth in the spring as a preventative measure against Iris borer. During late summer and early fall clean the beds well to eliminate egg laying sites. Remove all debris after the first heavy frost to prevent overwintering eggs. Thrips are tiny white flies that lay their eggs in developing buds. The larva damage the flower surface causing the flowers to become mottled and/or streaked. Some buds may not open or will rot. Control thrips with insecticidal soap or diatomaceous earth as soon as the buds begin forming. Fly tack is an effective controle for adult thrips. Aphids can transmit mosaic virus to Bearded Iris causing the leaves and flowers to become mottled. Affected plants should be destroyed. Control aphids with insecticidal soap.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Monday, June 16, 2008

Peonies (Paeonia)

When the peonies bloom it pours. That has been so true this year with a cold and very wet spring. We had two lovely peony bushes at my childhood home. I loved the beautiful showy flowers so when we bought out first house I really wanted to plant peonies. What stopped me was remembering the ants that liked to gather on the peony buds. An old wives tale says that peonies need ants for the blooms to open but this is a myth. The ants are there to feed on the nectar and will seldom stay after the buds open.


This is the first house that I've had peony bushes. One is a gorgeous pinky white and the other a deep purply pink. Both are very fragrant! They are away from the house so as to not encourage ants indoors. For the most part there is very little maintenance for peonies but they reward you with beautiful, showy, fragrant blooms that can be cut and brought indoors. If doing this and you are concerned there may be ants in the blooms, simply soak the blooms in water for 5 minutes. This will drive out any ants without harming the blooms.

I've noticed two problems with my peonies. First we have been experiencing a lot of heavy rain so that has caused the peony bushes to bend over. They really aren't a stand up type of bush but then it could be where they are planted or just rain damage. Second, there has been a little leaf damage due to slugs. Other than that the peonies are performing nicely. They tend to like cooler climates for best growth.

Peonies should be planted in a somewhat protected location from strong winds, in full sun or light shade preferably with a northern exposure. Fertilize with a 5 - 10 - 10 in the spring. Fertilizing with a higher nitrogen content fertilizer with cause weakened stems and reduced blooming. Peonies bloom late May to mid-June and may not look the best in the fall. Disbudding can encourage larger blooms. To do this remove all buds but the terminal one as soon as buds are visible. Flowers should be removed as they fade just below the flower to prevent seed development. Keep watered and fertilized for best blooms but don't mulch for winter. The soil should be well-drained to prevent root rot. Peonies can be staked to improve the look of the bush but it really isn't necessary. Bushes can be transplanted in the fall but do not plant them too deep. Add 1/4 c of 10 - 10 - 10 fertilizer to the bottom of the hole but not in the soil that will surround the roots. They will take awhile to re-establish after transplanting. Bushes can be divided as well in the fall with more success.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Something to Ponder


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pondering


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lilacs


Common Lilac
(Syringa vulgaris)

May 11, 2006

Lilacs especially the deep pinky, purplish ones are one of my favourite flowering bushes. As a child I used to climb one of our lilac trees and sit in a cradle formed through pruning. Hidden from view and cooled by the dark leaves I spent many a summer afternoon reading. With the exception of our first house there has been at least one lilac bush in every house we've owned. We have a small thicket of common lilac here.

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and the smaller hybrid Persian lilac (Syringa x persica) are large deciduous shrubs that range in size from 2 to 10 m. Originated in Europe and Asia, they became popular in New England botanical gardens in the 1750's. A lilac bush can live for hundreds of years! Lilacs bloom in the spring filling the air with their heavenly, sweet scent. Lilacs are relatively maintenance free and very easy to care for. Many believe that lilacs should be pruned however, blooms form on old wood so the bush will produce more flowers if left unpruned. A pruned bush will produce few flowers but fast growing stem growth and may not bloom well for as many as five years after pruning. An unpruned lilac bush will flower profusely every alternate year. Blooming can be encouraged by deadheading after the colour fades but before seeds are formed. Blooms range in colour from white to a pale, bluish purple to a deeper pinky purple as shown in the photo. One lilac cultivar (Aurea) has yellowish flowers. Some cultivars have double flowers rather than the single flowers in the photo.

Lilacs produce secondary suckers from the base and roots of the shrub. If left these will produce a thicket that if not disturbed will remain long after buildings on the property are removed. This tendency makes lilacs the perfect choice for camouflaging unsightly fences or forming a living privacy screen. If you don't want a thicket forming, simply remove the secondary suckers as they appear.

Lilacs are subject to the powdery mildew Erysiphe syringae in late summer although some cultivars are more resistant than others. Humid air, over fertilizing, overcast days and irrigation are conditions that favour powdery mildew. This disease will be more severe in dense plantings and for lilacs planted in damp, shaded areas. Once infected the leaves may drop prematurely but aside of aesthetics this does not harm the bush. A variety of fungicides are available in some areas to control this powdery mildew but should only be used if the disease occurs in the spring or early summer. If powdery mildew occurs late summer there is no need to treat. Some biological control can through a variety of insects and snails that feed on the spores. The best way to prevent powdery mildew on lilacs is to plant where the bush will get good air circulation.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nomenclature (aka naming)

If you have been following this blog you will already have noticed that I try to include the Latin (scientific) names of plants, pests and other critters in my garden. The main reason for this is to avoid confusion from using common names. Common names tend to be region specific and sometimes as with Irish moss the name refers to two unrelated plants where Sangia subulata is an herbal ground cover and Chondrus crispus is an edible seaweed, so two very different plants with the same common name. So when referring to garden plants especially it is best to use include the scientific name. This also becomes very important when ordering seeds so that you end up with the exact plant you want. It is not as critical to use scientific names for pests like squirrels or rodents as the control measures will be the same, however it is beneficial to use scientific names if possible as prevention and/or control may differ.

Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification of living organisms. It starts very broad with Kingdom that is divided into monera, protista, fungi, plantae and animalia based on common characteristics. For example Kingdom Monera consists of prokaryotic cells or simply bacteria. All bacteria have a common characteristic that sets them apart from other Kingdoms. Each of these are subdivided into Phylum which is further divided into Class. The subdividing of each Class is the Order. Following this is further subdivisions to form Family, Genus and Species. When referring to plants scientific name usually includes the Genus followed by the species and sometimes subspecies denoted as "spp. subspecies name. As the divisions from Kingdom to Species continue they become more and more specific. Naming is based on Latin that describes some aspect of the characteristic of that division. For example all the common lilac is Syringa vulgaris. Syringa is derived from syrinx that means hollow tube referring to the broad pith in some species that can be hollowed out to make reed pipes and flutes. So all plants in the Genus Springa will have this common characteristic.

To recap the classifications are:

Convention dictates that when using scientific nomenclature, the Genus is capitalized, the Species is not. The names should be in italics or underlined. For example Sangia subulata or Sangia subulata. The full Genus name can be shorted to the capitalized first initial in italics followed by a period, space then the full name of the Species. For example Sangia subulata can be written as S. subulata. For the purposes of this blog the main nomenclature will involve Genus species or Genus species spp. subspecies.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Daffodils


Daffodils
genus Narcissus
April 28, 2008

Who can resist the cheery bright yellow of daffodils blooming in early spring? These beautiful flowers have graced gardens for centuries. Botanically, daffodils (common name) are are in the family Amaryllidaceae, genus Narcissus. All members of genus Nacissus have a central trumpet (corona) surrounded by a ring of 6 floral leaves (perianth) that forms a tube at the forward edge of the ovary. The outer three segments are the sepals while the inner three are the petals forming the trumpet.

Daffodils are quite cold tolerant and one of the easiest flowers to grow. They grow nicely under deciduous trees as well because they are finished blooming by the time the diciduous leaves are out. They do not grow well under evergreens although some here planted quite close to evergreens are growing fine as seen in the clump pictured above. Daffodils are propagated from seed (sexual - different copies) or bulbs (asexual - exact copies). Naturalize daffodils by planting bulbs under sod or ground cover in locations where the daffodil foliage can be left until died back and the area will remain undisturbed for years. Plant the bulb so the top (pointed end) is twice as deep as the bulb is high. For example a 2" high bulb should be planted 4" deep. Squirrels and rodents will not eat the bulbs because the contain the toxic crystal lycorine but they may dig up the bulbs. Fertilize with 5-10-10 when the leaf tips emerge then with a 0-10-10 or 0-0-50 as they flower. Water well while in bloom and for about 3 weeks after blooming then stop watering. Allow the leaves to die back, removing when they have turned brown. In flower beds, daffodils should be left for 3 to 5 years then moved. Dig them after the foliage has turned yellow. Wash them well and allow to dry about 1 week. Store in a cool, dark location for fall planting.

An excellent resource for further information on daffodils is the American Daffodil Society. There are at least 25 species but many cultivars of daffodils consisting of thirteen divisions based on description. For example all daffodils in Division 1 have a cup that is as long as or longer than the petals with one bloom per stem. According to the division classification, the clump pictured above is in Division 2 with a cup measuring more than a third but less than half of the length of the petals.

I have several clumps of daffodils here. Some have double trumpets (Division 4) and most are Division 2. Some are all yellow and shades of yellow with yellow cups (corona) and perianth while others have yellow cups with white perianth. Most of my clumps are being naturalized in the back yard rather accidentally as we removed flower beds but the bulbs survived. The look is really quite pretty in the sloping and gently rolling backyard so I plan to expand the naturalization of both daffodils and crocuses.

Warning: All parts of the daffodil but more so the bulb contain lycorine and galanthamine that are toxic. They can be dangerous to animals especially dogs. Pets and children should always be supervised when in the garden. For more information on poisonous plants in your garden please click here.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Monday, May 12, 2008

On Vacation

Dear Readers, when we go on vacation you are used to seeing the "'puter on vacation" image. This time I decided to do two things differently. Thanks to Blogger's new scheduling option, I've worked quite hard to give you a few scheduled posts for reading during my absence. That means I created these posts before leaving but have each scheduled to go online on different dates. By the time you read this post, we will be on our way. I hope you enjoy them. The second difference is as a new owner of an iPod Touch I will be able to stay in touch with blog comments, emails and may even make a blog post while away. Although I won't be online much, this will be a nice change for when I want a little personal down time. The iPod Touch will be a lot easier to travel with than the laptop as well.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day


Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Friday, May 09, 2008

Ontario Lawn Pesticide Ban


Female Mallard
(Anas platyrhynchos)

This adult female Mallard has been frequenting our backyard likely in search of a suitable nesting site. While she seems be enjoying her stroll through the lawn and I love her visits, I cannot say the same thing about grass. Sorry folks but I am a grass hater in the form of a pristine, green, outdoor growing, carpet. I can say that even though we laid sod last year as a quick fix before hosting a large outdoor event. Don't get me wrong, grass does have some uses like preventing ground errosion and ground cover but for the most part, the way grass is used is not environmentally friendly.

We are so used to seeing perfectly manicured, chemically dependent, expanses of green lawn. A considerable amount of money is spent to keep them looking that way using fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, copious amounts of water without even considering the environmental impact of maintaining lawns. People pay a huge amount of money to kill dandelions in their yards yet will pay to buy dandelions for their salads. Does anyone see the irony in this? People are complaining about the rising cost of food yet instead of vegetable gardens they have a well manicured yard. Does anyone recall victory gardens? During WWII the government encouraged urban citizens to plant backyard gardens to provide their own fruits, herbs and vegetables, something rural folk had been doing all along. Preserving the bounty from the garden was a high priority as well. A small patch of yard can provide a surprisingly large amount of food instead of grass, something many have already realized.

Quebec introduced it's Pesticide Management Code in 2003 with the final phase effective in 2006. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced his pesticide ban for the sale and cosmetic use of pesticides on Earth Day to go into effect 2009. More than 300 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides will be banned under this legislation including products like Round Up, Killex and Weed 'n' Feed affecting lawns and gardens. Farming and forestry operations will be exempt from the ban as will pesticide used for healthy and safety concerns. This announcement has sent some residents into a stock-piling mode for these pesticides as stores have already started pulling pesticides from their shelves. However, since the ban includes the use of for cosmetic reasons some of these folk will likely get themselves into a bit of hot water. The City of Toronto has begun fining up to $5,000 to people using pesticides and guess what, neighbours or anyone can easily file a complaint that someone has used a pesticide. I doubt the manufacturers are very happy about this new ban. What this ban will do is if force property owners to use organic methods for weed control. However, folks against the ban say that this will force property owners to do more mowing as a means of control, something that will increase CO2 emissions. Compounding the problem is many municipalities have noxious weed control bylaws in place so it is up to the property owner to remove the noxious weeds on their property or the municipality will enter the property and remove them at a cost to the property owner along with in some cases a fine. What really needed is a paradyme shift of public attitude to see that instead of grass there are other low maintenance, environmentally friendly ground covers and at least part of any property with a lawn should be used to grow fruits and vegetables.

Personally, I agree with the pesticide ban but I don't think McGuinty went far enough. I think he should have banned grass used for cosmetic reasons aka lawns. There are so many other maintainence free ground covers that could be used in place of perfectly manicured lawns. The problem is when some people have replaced their lawns with wildflowers or other suitable ground cover, municipalities have waved their little fingers under the property owner's nose, slapped them with a fine and told them to rip out the ground cover and replace it with grass. Heaven help the environmentally friend homeowner who has to deal with a home owner's association! McGuinty should encourage the citizens of Ontario to use low maintenance ground cover that does not need mowing. Just think of how much we could reduce our carbon emissions just by not mowing grass. He should encourage and even provide an incentive for every citizen in the province to grow a modern day version of victory gardens!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Irish Moss


Irish Moss
(Sangia subulata)


I planted Irish moss in a small border bed bordering the garage. The bed is about five feet long, about two feet wide and is tucked between the garage and sidewalk. Like the other border beds here there is a deep layer of gravel for drainage in this bed. Here the Irish moss will be able to spread freely to fill the bed yet be contained from spreading elsewhere. What I like about Irish moss is not only is it low maintenance, it is environmentally friendly. Unlike grass it does not need trimming and because it is so thick, the Irish moss bed should remain relatively weed free. Unlike English ivy, Irish moss does not provide a habitat for rodents nor will I have to worry about it climbing on the brickwork. Irish moss is the perfect solution!

Irish moss (Sangia subulata) is a terrestrial plant also known as Scotch moss (Sangia subulata Aurea) is not a true moss but rather an herb. It forms tight mounds like moss. Chondrus crispus, an edible sea weed that is used as a medicinal herb and thickener is also commonly called Irish moss. Sangia subulata is ideal as a ground cover with low growing bright green foliage and small, star shaped white flowers. Scotch moss has small, star shaped yellow flowers. Irish moss can be grown in any soil while Scotch moss prefers clay soil making both plants ideal for problem areas. Both spread rapidly forming a low growing carpet of green that is deer resistant and tolerant to foot traffic. They are hardy in zones 4 to 9. When planting, space 12 inches apart in full sun to partial shade. Don't over water or allow to dry out. Propagation is done by cutting out sections of an Irish moss clump then pressing the section into moderately moist soil.

If you have a problem area or want to fill the cracks between stepping stones, then do consider this pretty herb. It is sure to be a lovely addition to your gardens.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Days in the Garden

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. The reality is the gardens in our new home are proving difficult at best. I'm dealing with horrible soil that is mostly clay mixed with a lot of stone and rock along with inclimate weather. The gardens are at the point where I look at them then get frustrated because I simply don't know where to start. The problem is we really are still in the tearing out phase of an over planted and poorly planted property yet we have to take our time because we want to see what is where in case we want to keep it. So the past few days have involved more tearing out and minimal planting. As long as I can get the existing beds straightened around and my herbs planted this year, I will be a very happy gardener!

Path

Much of the perimeter of our property is lined with evergreens of some type with very poorly planted flower beds. Bordering most of the flower beds are rocks but some of the beds have the black plastic edging. We are ripping out most of the rock and all of the plastic edging. The primary reason for doing so is aesthetics. I really don't like the look of plastic edging and I prefer soft lines over the hard lines of rocks.

The rocks along the side walkway were actually creating a problem by forming a sloped hill that drained towards the foundation of the house. The garden beds themselves are tucked under tall cedars so they don't get a lot of light. The soil (before) was mainly covered with decaying wood chips providing the perfect breeding ground for the huge centipedes that find their way indoors. There were also a lot of mis-plantings and in spots gravel as well as flat shale stones throughout the beds. I made an executive decision that the only way to control the earwigs and centipedes was to slope the bed away from the house foundation and remove some of their habitat. So the bark chips were raked up and all the larger rocks were removed. A fair amount of soil had to be removed as well to get the soil level below the sidewalk.

One problem we have that will have to corrected is indicated by the arrow. A portion of the sidewalk has sunk as a result of erosion from water running from the garden bed towards the foundation combined with a downspout that was allowed to direct water directly to the foundation. While it does add a bit of character, correcting the water problems are our first priority. This water issue combined with current serious sewer issues means I will not be doing a lot of planting in the larger side gardens in case right away in case we have to dig up the sewer line.

Tulips & Daffodiles

Scattered throughout our property are lovely clumps of tulips, daffodiles, crocuses and narcisses. This is one good reason for not disturbing the garden beds below surface if you move into a home before seeing what is in the garden beds. The garden beds here are loaded with these beautiful spring flowers. I was rather surprised to not find any hyacinths! At any rate these are all bulbulous perennials so the rule of thumb is when the flower dies off, leave the greenery. It will slowly turn brown at which time you can then remove it. If your crocuses or other bulbulous perennials break through the grass, do not rush with that first grass cutting of the season. The reason for doing this is the leaves are feeding the bulb for next spring's display of colour.

Revamped Bed

Our house is earth bermed meaning it basically is built into a slope. This makes it very energy efficient to heat but diverting water away from the foundation is critical. I quickly found out that what looks like a flower bed and was planted as a flower bed is not a flower bed. Such is the case of this small bed that originally had two unkept boxwoods and dead rose bushes. A feeble attempt at digging revealed that this area is actually meant as foundation drainage so filled with a few feet (yes feet) of gravel with soil on top. What I wanted here was colour so I settled on creeping thyme with shallow roots that will fill the bed with maintenance free colour while not interfering with the intended purpose of the area.

I dug this bead out about 2 inches below the level of the sidewalk, lower than the iron bar that indicated where the brickwork starts on the house. Then I added fresh top soil and leveled out the bed. I put in three solar path lights that will help light the side of the house then I sprinkled on McKenzie creeping thyme. This is the first time using this product so I will make a complete post on it as soon as I see the results. Creeping thyme is a low growing ground cover that can handle being stepped on, ideal for the location. Once grown it should soften the edge of the sidewalk without being invasive. Unlike English ivy, it is low growing so will not provide a habitat for field mice, something we have had problems with here.

So, that's what has been happening in our gardens. Yesterday one of my kids removed three evergreen bushes and a dilapidated euonymus bush for me so I'm off to work on one of those spots. I'll post about it shortly.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day


Crocus
April 14, 2008

How did you spend Earth Day? I found it difficult to say I'm going to give up using this or not going to do that for the day. The reason being is we try to celebrate Earth Day every day so some things folks get excited about doing for Earth Day have been a norm for us every day for years. I spent a good portion of the day cleaning out the side yard gardens, most of it manually. That meant moving a lot of rocks then raking to level the ground. The previous owner obviously loved rocks so we have an abundance but they simply do not work well here. I will keep a couple for accents then the rest will be moving on. Oh and this is the second day in a row that the furnace has been turned off and since I was outdoors most of the day energy use indoors dropped. The day was beautiful with warm sun kisses teasing the skin. It was easy to keep going in the gardens :)

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Sunday, March 23, 2008



Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Monday, March 17, 2008



Garden Gnome
© 2007


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Garden Visitor


Buggs
March 10, 2008

Mr Buggs is a rather persistent visitor to my new gardens and visited often last year. He tucks up under the bushes and the lilac tree to watch what is going on in the house. I can tell he is already smacking his lips in anticipation while watching me pour through the seed catalogues. Last year's visits were not so much of a problem as we moved too late for a vegetable garden. He did a bit of damage in the flower gardens but not too much. Mr Buggs will be a problem for the new vegetable beds so I'm already planning on deterrent measures.

From past experience, rabbits may or may not be deterred by cayenne pepper. Noise makes sometimes work. Motion activated sprayers work if you move them around and they were very effective in our previous gardens. However, here the vegetable and herb gardens are going to be scattered over the property and tucked in where I can fit them so it won't be a "all in one spot" design. The thing I've learned when dealing with pests like rabbits is to use more than one deterrent. Mr Buggs is already trying to figure out what I'm up to. I think I will just keep him waiting.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
©2007