Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shade Garden Plants


Light or Dappled shade, is bright enough that most plants will grow there, even those that claim to need full sun. In this case the sunlight moves across the garden and never stays in one place for long.

Open shade may be found in that small space beside your garage or shed that has a northern exposure. The light there is bright but it rarely receives any direct sun.

Medium shade this is the drawing line between plants that will accept shade and those that do not. Usually found under small trees or near decks and stairwells, for example.

Deep shade allows no obvious sunlight to enter where trees, fences and buildings block the view. This is the home of some ivies and mosses.

The following plants will bring colour, form and texture to the shaded areas.

Royal Hellebore Mix, Helleborous orientalis, is the earliest blooming perennial. It is also known as the Lenten Rose and will add that burst of colour to the early spring garden. This mix is easy to grow and the showy flowers are complemented by the evergreen foliage so you have a dramatic impact throughout the gardening season. Works well is shaded borders or woodland gardens.

Ferns are an ideal choice for your shade garden. The Japanese painted fern has a weeping habit and the foliage appears to have been painted with a silver tip. This plant can brighten a night time garden. The Japanese painted fern, Athyrium niponiucm var., grows in clumps that are 30-40 cm high and will spread to 70 cms.

Hostas are one of the better known shade plants and there is a new on the market. Interestingly named the Bulletproof Hosta, Hosta ‘Bulletproof’ because of its frosted, metallic blue and heart shaped leaves. Pale violet-blue tubular flowers appear in mid-summer. This hosta is ideal for borders as a ground cover or for the container garden.

If you are a begonia fan then the Bonfire begonia or Begonia bolivienis 'Bonfire'. Will please you; its bright red-orange flowers are striking and the plant requires no pruning. It will grow in a bushy round form with new flowers constantly replacing the old ones.

One of my favourites is the Mouse Tail plant, Arisarum proboscideum, so named for the long ‘tail’ that look like a mouse tail. This plant grows from early to mid-spring and its maroon and white blooms are attention grabbing. This plant will readily naturalize and works well in the border or stand out in a container.

Last, but certainly, not least is the Poker Primrose, Primula vialii, this beauty will bloom in late spring and the flowers appear on 30-40 cm spikes. The bright red buds appear first and open to fragrant, lilac blue flowers. The blooms last between six and eight weeks and will bring the butterflies

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Are We Here?

Why are we here? What is our purpose? The search for purpose and meaning in Life has pre-occupied humanity for millennia. There are many, diverse responses to the questions, Why are we here? What is our purpose?

My answers are we are the gardeners; we are here to tend the earth, to nurture her and maintain her for future generations who will do the same.

You do not need a green thumb to be a gardener, nor do you even need to grow anything yourself. The concept of being a gardener, in this larger context,extends beyond growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. It spreads through all that we do during our stay here on Earth.

Our purpose on Earth is to tend the garden that Nature provides. This includes maintaining an organic or natural garden in your yard, where you grow flowers, herbs or food; it includes looking after a plot in a community or allotment garden.

Gardening, or caring for the earth, means more than tending your own plot; it reaches out to encompass recycling, reducing and reusing in order to keep items from the waste stream.
Garbage and garbage dumps are taking up far too much space, and are not earth friendly; throwing something in the garbage rather than recycling or composting it, is not nurturing the earth, but is cluttering it.

Walking or riding a bicycle or taking public transport is another way to care for the earth that is compatible with good gardening practices.

If we all lived each day as though we were tending the earth for the future generations who will inherit what we leave behind, we would take major steps towards eliminating many of the environmental problems that plague us today.

We are here on this earth at this point in time to care for it and to make sure that future generations are able to thrive and not choke on our exhaust or drown in our waste.

We are the gardeners who have been given the responsibility to tend the earth as though it was our garden, one that meets our needs now and into the future, not just our future but the future if generations yet to come.

A wise gardener does not just look at today but gardens in both time and space. The gardener can peer into the future and get a glimpse of what the garden will look like if the gardener continues on the same path and behaves in a similar manner.

The gardener has choices and can pick a path of renewal or a path of destruction, we can do this each and every day. We are the gardeners.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tomato Varieties

Determinate: varieties are often referred to as bush tomatoes. This is because the terminal (top and end) buds end in a flower cluster that produces fruit. The plant will stop growing when the terminal flowers develop. The fruit then develops and ripens over a short period of time, depending upon the weather. Tomatoes like heat so in cooler summers this process will slow down. The determinate varieties usually mature early and will produce small plants with generally smaller fruit. The small size means they do not need to be pruned or staked and can be great for a balcony or patio, especially if space is limited. 

Indeterminate: these varieties are very popular with home gardeners. The indeterminate varieties will they often produce high-quality, flavourful, desirable fruit; they do mature later in the season than the determinate varieties do. Indeterminate refers to the continual growth habit of the plant which will continue to grow and flower until a killing frost. These are tall plants and will require staking for best results. Pruning is also vital if you want to enhance quality. Both flowering and fruiting occur over a longer time period. 

Semi-Indeterminate: the name says it all they have characteristics that are intermediate between determinate and indeterminate. Basically indeterminate in nature, they will need staking and pruning in order to improve quality, but this is not essential. The indeterminate varieties are also very popular with home gardeners as they can provide a fairly early and good-quality yield.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Perennials A Garden Must

Perennials for the backs of borders:


When you use a tall perennial for the back of your garden border you create a look of permanence and their majestic size catches the eye. Some tall perennials such as one of my favorites the delphinium will require support in order to avoid being knocked flat by the wind. Delphiniums like rich and deep soils.

Rudbeckia is a strong growing plant with bright yellow double flowers and a green centre that appears among the leafy green foliage from late summer into the fall.

Perennials as Specimen Plants:

A specimen plant is a plant that is so striking that it can stand alone as a special feature in your garden.

Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum plamatum) is a large, lobed leave plant that displays brilliant heads or crimson flowers in early summer.

Perennials as groundcover:


There is no reason to leave bare spot sin your garden when there are so many perennials available that make ideal groundcover. The hosta not only provides groundcover and beautiful foliage but enjoys the shade and will produce flowers in summer.

If you are seeking a native plant,, then depending upon your location the wood anemone or Anemone nemorosa is ideal. This plant will form a carpet of ferny leaves and star-shaped flowers in the spring.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mulching Tips

There are a number of benefits to adding mulch to your garden beds. They include:

1-water/moisture conservation - mulch works like a sponge in that it will hold water and nutrients close to the soil, shields the soil from the drying effects of sun as well as reducing evaporation as it protects the soil from the wind’s blast. The plants form strong and healthy roots in this protective environment which also attract earthworms that provide another service, aeration. Aerated soil enhances water absorption.

 2- Mulch controls weeds. Mulch makes it difficult for any weed seed to reach the ground and germinate; fewer weeds less time spend pulling weeds and reduced need for pesticides. 

3- Mulch acts as insulation that keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter. 

4- Mulch breaks down and feeds the soil which as any gardener knows is the gardener’s principal task; feed the soil and your plants have a better chance of thriving and feeding you.

Mulching Tips:

1- Mulch is spread on top of the soil around the plants and along pathways. You can use wood chips, leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs, lawn clippings and sawdust as mulch around perennial plants. 

2- For your vegetable garden use nitrogen-rich green materials, for example, lawn clippings and other green garden trimmings.
  • To mulch your lawn leave the grass clippings in place after mowing as this add nutrients and reduce water loss.
  • Annuals, perennials and vegetable seedlings can benefit from mulch which you move aside at planting time and then pull back around the plant as it grows.
  • You do not put mulch too close to tree trunks or near the base of heat-loving vegetables and flowers (mulches cool the soil). Spread the mulch trees out to the drip line, which is the outer perimeter of the tree’s branches.
  • Remove mulch or turn it under in the Spring as slugs and snails will see it as an ideal lace to lay eggs.
You will have a plentiful supply of green material as you cut the lawn, rake the leaves and carry out your regular garden chores. Save your kitchen scarps for the compost pile, keep them out of your mulch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Resilient Gardener

Gardeners pay close attention to weather forecasts, however, even the best forecaster does not always get the long term conditions right. The gardener can consult an almanac or a ground hog but whatever they do, there is little substitute for the understanding that this growing season may not be the same as last year. It may be better or it may be worse, either way the wise gardener is prepared.
One of the best ways to be prepared for unanticipated changes is to plant a garden that is resilient. Resilience is an ecosystem, in this case, the garden’s ability to withstand sudden catastrophic events.
A prolonged drought or excessive rainfall, could, from a garden perspective be considered a catastrophic event. This is especially so, if the gardener was unprepared, and had planted a garden that relied on the weather conditions always being the same.

Planting the resilient garden requires the gardener to purchase plants that are best suited to the conditions that are the norm on the site; for example, if you have a 90 day growing season and want to grow tomatoes, pick a variety that will mature in that period. There are a number of heirloom varieties that will ripen within 65 to 70 days.

There are six words that will help you create a garden that thrives. The words are right plant, right place, and right time. Pay close attention to these six words and you are off to a good start.
Floating row covers can assist the gardener protect the garden if the year is cooler or wetter than the norm. I have three row covers in the shed in the backyard and during the first week or two and the last three weeks of the garden season I pay close attention to frost warnings. 

 Simply because the usual last frost and first frost dates occur around given times, does not mean there will not be a change, so be prepared.

This way on cool nights pull the covers over the garden before dark and if the frost comes, the plants are protected.

Long dry spells or a drought is a serious threat to the vegetable garden. Many of the vegetables we love to grow and eat, require regular watering( tomatoes, peppers cucumbers, lettuces, for example).
If your backup watering system is the city water and there is a long dry spell water restrictions may, wisely, be put in place, and you will then need to schedule your water usage. If the long spell turns into a drought, water use will be further restricted.

You can add a rainwater catchment system, rain barrels, for example, however, it has to rain for these barrels to be filled. Still having the barrels in place to catch the water when it does rain is sound planning.

Mulching the garden will increase the garden’s ability to withstand dry spells. In addition to mulch, adding organic material, compost, for example, will help feed the soil and thus the plants.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Season's First Robin

I have been looking but not expecting to see my first robin of the season. this is a personal yearly tradition, the robin, along with coltsfoot, signal the true arrival of Spring and indicate that growing season is near.

This year the snow has kept both the robin and coltsfoot at bay, but the robin has arrived beating out spring's most common early arrival coltsfoot, which is nowhere to be seen at the moment. The long, slow melt is on and the crocuses, dandelions, coltsfoot and daffodils will be emerging soon, well maybe not soon, but within two weeks, hopefully.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Considering Chickens: First Thoughts

Keeping your own chickens and harvesting their eggs is a step towards being able to feed yourself during tough economic times. In addition to the food value of the eggs, there is the economic value in the ability to trade some eggs for other items and having something to trade may be worth more and more if the economy keeps on sliding as food prices keep on rising. 

You will also have the chickens which you can trade if it is absolutely necessary to do so.
However, before going out and investing in laying hens and the material for the chicken coop, do your homework; learn as much as you can about all aspects of raising and caring for chickens and as I said near the beginning be sure you can keep them where you live and if you can follow the bylaw to the letter. 

How many chickens will you need? Well, that depends upon your egg consumption; so many eggs does you family eat each week?

You may find that one layer lays one egg per day, so if this holds true then 4 layers means four eggs per day which quals 28 eggs per week which will be more than enough for a family of four.

Trees Backyard April 11, 2014



Friday, April 11, 2014

Food Is the Entry Point to a Strong Regional Economy

Food production in urban centres may well be the place to begin developing strong local economies. To begin with everyone has to eat and most of us want to do so on a regular basis. This is a common ground that can be used to bring people together to discuss how they can work together to meet their food needs from main courses to condiments.


Agriculture is a major industry and moving food from the field to the kitchen is a huge enterprise. It is possible to reduce the distance traveled, improve the quality and freshness of the product and reduce our use of fossil fuels to do so.


Meat and diary producers would be located on farm land that is near to the community and may even provide the opportunity for consumers to enjoy an outing while going out to the farm to purchase the goods.


Cheese makers could be located near to the milk producers and have an on site sale room that could include a plant tour and some product samples. This combines food production with tourism and opens the door for local food tourism enterprises.


In town and village there could be urban agricultural sites that produce all the fruit, vegetable and herb needs.


This also paves the way for local businesses to make herbal vinegars and teas for example.


Growers and producers could participate in a local farmers market which would include regional crafters and artists.


Growers could also sell from their farm site direct or through a cooperative food buying program.


Environmental Restoration:



Most municipalities have areas that have become run down or litter attractors. They are also likely to have abandoned industrial sites such as factories or gas stations which are known as brownfields.


The restoration of these brownfields can not only improve the visual appeal of the municipality but can be an economic activity.


Housing is one use, affordable, accessible and environmentally sound housing is one project. Urban gardens are another.


Green spaces bring tranquility and can cause visitors to slow down and look around; they might even park the car and take a stroll down that tree-lined avenue.


 The first step  towards growing a strong regional economy  is to look at the money you spend on shopping as an investment when you invest it locally you help build your community when you spend it in a shop that is owned by a corporation far from your home, you are sending that money away.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Landscaping with Fruit: A Brief Book Review

Lee Reich’s recent book, Landscaping with Fruit from Storey Publishing shows you how to have a great looking yard and eat it too.

The subtitle of this guide gives an indication of what waits inside; “Strawberry groundcovers, blueberry hedges, grape arbors and 39 other luscious fruits to make your yard an edible paradise.”

 Reich’s book is indeed a guide,  a guide that shows you how to use tasty and easy to grow fruit trees, shrubs and vines to landscape your property. 

The first section of the book concerns itself with landscaping from design basics to useable landscape plans. The reader will learn about plants as design elements, climate assessment, plant selection and view specific landscape designs such as A Child’s Garden.

The second half of the book features the fruiting landscaping plants and is complete with photographs and all the information a gardener needs to determine if a particular plant is suitable for his or her site.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Flowers That Speak of Love

The Acacia blossom represents concealed love and chaste love while Arbutus says I only love you. The Aster is the symbol of Love and daintiness. The red Chrysanthemum says I love you while a yellow Chrysanthemum speaks of a love slighted.

The Daffodil tells the receiver that he or she is the only one and the Daisy refers to loyal Love.
Forget-Me-Nots stand for true Love.

The Maidenhair fern speaks of the secret bond of love and the gardenia is given to a secret lover.

Love at first sight is signified by the Gloxinia while Ivy is the acknowledgement of marriage.
Orchids represent Love and Beauty.

The red rose says I love you and a red tulip is a declaration of love.

Indoor seed Staring

I was at the Galerie Restigouche Gallery the other night and among other topics, I was asked when is the best time to get seeds started ind...