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"

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Ornamental Garden Plans

When we first viewd our new home, the garden that accent the front and sides of the house as well as the perimeter of the back yard appeared lush.  When we moved in, we quickly realized thistles were quite problematic in most of the garden beds.  The plantings were ecclectic, and too much.  Once again we resigned ourselves to ripping out the gardens and starting fresh with the look we wanted.

small garden bed between sidewalk and garage on west side
There is a small garden bed between the sidewalk and the west side of the garage.  There was a large Rose of Sharon that was quite lovely but blocked being able to use the sidewalk without battling branches.  It was simply too large for that location.  We cut it down shortly after moving in.  In the spring, this little garden started coming to life but it certainly wasn't what we wanted.  It was too cluttered.  Adding to the cluttered feel, the previous owners had placed a one row brick retaining wall partially onto the sidewalk pavers around the entire little garden.  A matching but higher wall (not shown) on the other side of the garden runs the width of the house, wrapping around to contain another tree that is too large for its location and then abruptly ends with jagged rock taking over to define the side garden bed.  We are ripping it all out!

small garden bed between sidewalk and garage replanted
Once the garden bed was completely cleaned out, we installed a red cedar trellis.  I have two more of them to be installed either on the west wall of the house or the east wall of the garage.  I planted a clematis that will give a nice impact of colour without impeding sidewalk traffic or damaging the siding.  I finished off the bed with red cedar mulch.  I like the clean, uncluttered look.  I may add a decorative element but want to see how the garden looks once our steps are refinished and the front garden bed is redone. 

We are being hampered by weather between heat waves and storms so not much is getting done in the gardens.  Well, we are getting things done but it's slow going.  I keep puttering away at the ornamental garden beds.  The front garden bed is going to be a lot of work with the removal of a tree, two shrubs and moving all of that brick for the retainer wall.

Happy Gardening! 

Garden Gnome


Friday, June 29, 2012

My New Square Foot Garden Raised Bed

Yesterday I told you about my new PVC raised gardening boxes in the far top left corner.  At $59.97 each on sale, they certainly were not a cheap way to build raised garden beds especially since between the two I ended up with 16 square feet of growing space.  My husband doesn't like the new PVC beds so he picked up some spruce to build me a wooden raised bed.

newly constructed square foot garden bed
The new raised bed is 4' x 12' x 10" giving me an additional 48 square feet of growing space.  The new bed construction took a couple of days due to weather but finally it was ready for soil.  Again we were delayed due to weather but finally the bed was ready to lay out the grid then plant.

The cost for the lumber and brackets totaled $38.45, considerably less expensive per square foot than the PVC beds.  I've had wooden square foot garden beds last well over five years so if you want neat and tidy raised beds that are easy to set up for square foot gardening, untreated spruce is more than reasonably priced.

new square foot garden bed planted
By then end of the afternoon, I had the bed mostly planted.  Three squares remained unplanted.  I planted bistro salad blend, dill, habs, golden acre cabbage, super chili peppers, muskmelon, watermelon, holy moly peppers, celery and sweet million tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, roma tomatoes and lemon boy tomatoes.  Within a couple of days something had got to the celery and dill but the dill is coming back.  I noticed a couple of small grasshoppers so that is not a good sign.  Something is already eating the cabbage but I haven't seen what yet.  I'll just have to keep and eye out to identify the pests then work on control from there.

Happy Gardening!  

Garden Gnome

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My PVC Raised Garden Boxes

I use a variety of garden bed styles, preferring raised beds but like in ground beds for flower beds.  Shortly after arriving home from our spring vacation, Home Hardware had 4' x 4' PVC raised garden boxes on sale for $59.97.  As raised beds go, these were expensive but I reasoned the PVC would out live the untreated spruce I normally use for my raised garden beds.  The looked slick and a bit upscale.  I bought two of them.

PVC raised garden boxes in cartons
The Canadian made (Home Gardener) PVC beds (Home Hardware, 5010-044) are maintenance free.  They are made of heavy duty PVC that will not rot or rust making them ideal for creating permanent raised garden boxes.  The ready to assemble boxes came in large, moderately heavy cardboard boxes. 

Each box is 4' x 4' x 15", providing ample depth for planting.  The design is such that the box could be moved to another location later if desired making it suitable for those renting.  The snap system would make it harder to disassemble the walls though.

PVC raised garden box pieces
The boxes are easy to assemble using a snap lock system.  There are no instructions included in the box.  Be warned when assembling that each side consists of two PVC boards one of which has a finished top.  Be sure you have the finished top upwards before snapping on an end post.  Given the way the boxes are assembled one side at a time, it would be easy to create the box around a pre-existing structure.

As promised the assembly was very easy.  I put both together the same day.  Assembly required no tools.  I thought there would be some type of bottom as the boxes are raised off the ground a bit.  There isn't.  Basically the box is just a fancy raised frame.

first of two PVC raised garden boxes assembled
I put the assembled boxes along the back fence.  Although the previous owners had a garden in that location at one time the area is over grown and quite weedy.  It is going to take considerable work to make the area look nice.  The first problem is ridding the area of thistles!  Near the top left there is a patch of unidentified plants thought to possibly be in the onion family.

The raised boxes are nice and it would be rather easy to add a hoop house topper.   I planted strawberries in one and asparagus in the other.  I am rather up in the air as to wether I like the boxes as much as I thought I would.  They don't lend themselves well to establishing a grid for using the square foot garden method but they do have the benefit of not harbouring carpenter ants, rotting or rusting.  I will report back on how well I like them at the end of this gardening season.

Happy Gardening!
Garden Gnome

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hibiscus at Captain J's, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Habiscus at Cocoa Beach, Florida

 Hibiscus at Captain J's
(Cocoa Beach, Florida)
May 10, 2012

We left beautiful Ontario, Canada for our spring vacation on May 8.  Another couple came with us who would also join us in Aruba then head back home on May 20 while we would not arrive home until the early hours of May 30.   We didn't fly out to Aruba until May 12 so that gave us a bit of time for sight seeing around our vacation home area.  The second day there we made a side trip to visit Cocoa Beach and have lunch with one of their kids.   I just couldn't resist taking this picture of their gorgeous hibiscus, wondering if the weather had been kind enough to spare the potted hibiscus I had put just outside the front entrance before leaving for our vacation.

Back in the late spring of 2011 while our previous house was still on the market, I bought two potted hibiscus at Wal-mart.  They were on sale for $5.  I popped them in their pots in two larger containers on either side of the front entrance just to make it look friendly.  When we moved, we brought them with us.  Well my husband took one to the office then proceeded to neglect it so I brought it back home to nurse back to health.  Now this variety of hibiscus doesn't do well below 50ºF so would be considered an annual where we live.  The temperatures dipped in the fall and I lost one of them.  I brought the other in the house to over winter.  Surprisingly, the plant did quite well, rewarding me with stunning peach colour blooms the entire winter.  It survived being attacked by gnats, moving outdoors and me being away.  The tree is quite healthy looking although it is not in bloom.  As soon as it blooms I will share a few pictures with you.

Happy Gardening!  

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Heat of the Day

Now that we are back home from our three week spring vacation, attention has been turned to outdoors.  We have opened the pool, bought a few plants and we are getting to know our new property.  I actually discovered a gooseberry bush yesterday!  What I have noticed is this is definitely a hot property.  Unlike our last house, there is very little in the way of shade.  Our last house was so shaded that it was a hindrance and yet this house is the opposite!

While we were well aware of the heat of the day (12 PM to 4 PM) it is not as big of a problem here in beautiful Ontario, Canada.  At the same time, unless working farm labour or other employment that requires you to be outdoors during that time period, many stay indoors if possible.  When it come to home gardening, here's a few tips for dealing with the heat of the day:

  • watering - Do not water during the heat of the day as that can cause plants to burn or become distressed.  Water before to help your garden beds cope with the heat of the day.  Use self watering planters wherever possible and keep the reservoirs filled.
  • take a break - The sun is at it's peak with the strongest UV rays so take a break from your gardening chores.
  • protect yourself - Anytime you are in the garden you should protect yourself with a good sun block with high SPF, long sleeves, wide brim hat and pants and closed toe shoes (preferably boots).  UV rays are not the only enemy in the garden.  There are biting insects, snakes, and poisonous plants so wearing some type of barrier to protect yourself is prudent.  Encounters with snakes are more common during the heat of the day as they are out sunning themselves.  Increased perspiration will attract biting insects and enhance the effects of poisonous plants like poison ivy.  Don't use scented products like hair gel, perfume or anything with a floral scent as that will attract biting insects as well.  
  • provide shade - Set up a shaded sitting area where you can take a break if you have to be out in the garden during the heat of the day.  Take regular breaks so you don't become overheated or dehydrated.
  • stay hydrated - Always carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated and drink small amounts often.  If your mouth feels dry you are already dehydrated.  Dehydration can quickly lead to heat stroke!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Call Before You Dig

This is the time of year many home gardeners are tilling up plots, putting new beds in, revamping old beds and planting trees or bushes.  In many areas, utility lines are in the ground meaning there is a very good chance you could sever one of them.  The rule of thumb before digging anywhere on your property is to get free line locates.  In our case, the possible lines include: telephone/satellite, cable tv, water, hydro and natural gas.  If there are any registered easements on your property, chances are good they are for utilities meaning the is a very good probability of finding utility lines in the ground in the easement.  Even if you don't use a service the lines could still be below where you want to dig.  For example, we don't use cable tv but there is a junction box next door only about 18 - inches from the property line.  It's reasonable to speculate that we could possibly have a cable tv line running through our property.  We have hydro, telephone, satellite (phone line), natural gas and water.  Of those the phone lines are quite easy to sever because they aren't buried very deep in the ground. 

In Ontario, Canada the line locates are free which means you should use them before digging.  If you sever a utility line you are held responsible for the repair costs, any resulting damages, you are fined and you be sued. A few years ago, a guy was doing a bit of digging and severed the fiber optics line running between two communities. Both communities were without internet until the line was repaired.  Just imagine the costs and legal penalties if that severed line led to the death of another person which could easily happen if you were to sever a telephone line!  In Ontario, Canada homeowners and contractors are require by law under the Occupation Health and Safety Act of Ontario to ascertain the location of buried natural gas pipes.

In Ontario, Canada use the ON1Call service.  Simply fill out the form online.  If you don't hear from them within 2 business days call 1-800-400-2255.  You may have to call one or more utility companies as well if they are not part of ON1Call service.  Line locates generally are completed within 5 to 7 business days after making your request.  You should not dig before the lines are clearly marked on your property.

Lines will be marked usually with flags and spray paint according the utility service.  The flag colours are:

  • red - electricity
  • yellow - gas, oil, steam, chemical
  • orange - communication, cable tv
  • blue - water
  • green - sewer, storm drain
  • pink - temporary survey markings
  • white - proposed excavation

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Garden Update

I recently wrote about my neighbour's instant garden.  I'm not kidding, it went from barren to lush growth!  We left on May 8 for our spring vacation to Florida, a side trip to Aruba, then back to Florida arriving home side in the early morning hours of May 30.  Gearing up for the vacation, I put what plants I could outdoors but really didn't do much in the garden.  I was envious of my neighbours here (Ontario, Canada) who were busy little beavers in their yards.  Then our neighbours in Florida were busy planting but there was little to do in the way of gardening at our vacation home as we have a gardener there.  I have been itching to get out and start my new garden beds!

Our neighbours here are very much into instant gardens though.  I was amazed to see porches in full bloom, a multitude of hanging baskets and potted plants brightening their homes!  The nice thing is a lot of the plants in our garden beds are in full bloom so now I have a better idea of what needs to be cleaned out and what doesn't.  I bought two 4' x 4' raised PVC garden beds (will post pictures in a day or two) but still have to pick up wood for more raised beds.  I started working on the small garden beds on both sides of the garage.  I'm digging them out completely to start fresh.  I bought 4 red cedar trellises, two will go on the east side of the garage, one on the west side of the garage and I'm not sure where I will put the last one yet.  I want to put clematis on the trellises even though we have four nice looking clematis in the back yard.  Clematis is rather problem free and the vines don't damage the siding.  I have red cedar mulch to finish off these beds but now I'm considering a low growing ground cover.

I lost a few potted herbs and almost a full flat of vegetable plants while away.  Apparently it turned quite warm which caused them to burn on the deck even though some were in self watering planters.  The sun must have been quite strong.  Although I was not happy with the loss, there is nothing I can do about it.  Yesterday, I stopped a nursery and picked up ten various cell packs of vegetables, dill, and two larger tomato plants.  A family member picked up ever bearing strawberry plants, asparagus roots and rhubarb from the greenhouse she works at.  It's been raining quite heavily today so I won't get much done in my gardens or my new project (community garden).

On the community garden front, things are progressing nicely.  We now have a huge water storage tank and a few 50 gal plastic drums with a pump to get water to the back of the property.  Strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers and beans are planted.  We still have to plant asparagus roots and potatoes.  We are working on getting items like a garden shed, gardening tools, and fruit trees.  Between my own garden and the community garden, I am going to be a very busy gardener!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome