KEN'S GARDENING BLOG
A COLLECTION OF HIS SEASONAL ADVICE
On my front page I offer a short piece of seasonal advice about what I am doing in my garden that week.
It occurred to me that I should be accumulating those pearls in what amounts to a gardening blog so that my readers can look back and see what I was doing yesterday or last year at this time. So here it is. Dated and linked, where possible, to other pages on gardening-enjoyed.com so that you can quickly find further information about that topic. Hope you find this useful.
Here I am with my trusted advisor contemplating the tips, tricks and ideas that will appear on the front page and be accumulated here.
10 May 2017 We have jut survived 4 days of torrential rain and the yard looks like a bog. The Cucumbers won't be planted out there for a while but that won't stop me from starting them indoors. All of the big vines such as Cucumbers, Melons and Zucchini get about a three week start indoors before they make it outside. They can't be started to soon or they grow long and difficult to handle as transplants. The Morning Glories get the same treatment and they can't start too early or they wind themselves around each other, creating an hour or two of work to untangle them before they can be transplanted.
18 April 2017 Somedays you just have to bite the bullet and tackle that job you have been avoiding. The joys of a pond and waterfall are many but every few years it gets ugly for a day or so. All of the accumulated gunk most be removed and the overgrown plants need to be cut back to a reasonable size and none of this could be classed as an enjoyable task. Pump out the water, catch the fish, climb in and get cold wet and dirty that sounds like a great way to spend one of the first warm sunny days of spring. It looked great the next day and the fish were happy.
30 March 2017 I have a long standing love affair with Tuberous Begonias but I have been a bit slow starting them this year. Now is the time to pot them up and get them started. I have to admit to going to the garden centre to buy some soil and coming home with four new tubers and I have no idea where they will go but that's the fun of it all.
01 March 2017 Starting seeds and cuttings requires sufficient light and most of us use some artificial source. Fluorescent tubes are the source of choice for most home gardeners. Choosing the right tubes to get the most light for the least cost can be a daunting task but it need not be. LED lights are much more efficient but as yet their capital cost for backyard gardeners is prohibitive. Here's what I use.
06 February 2017 In the depths of winter our houseplants feed our need to tend to green growing things. How much should we water them and how often. The answer is not always simple. Seasonal variations in light and temperature have a big impact on our houseplant watering schedule.
18 January 2017 I've been enjoying the sunny warm days in Ft. Lauderdale for two days at a Garden Writer's meeting. Today we toured the facilities of RF Orchids in Homestead. The display garden around the owners residence was wonderful and this picture was in his retail area at the front of his production houses.
04 January 2017 It's a new year and I'm starting to think about new plant additions or at least changing out some of the old ones. The seed catalogues have started to arrive and I've been in the basement getting ready. Washing all of the seeding equipment is the first very important step. Keeping fungus diseases such as Damping Off, at bay, is the first secret to successful seed growing. A little bleach in the wash water helps to eliminate any old spores that might be hanging around on the seedling trays.
10 December 2016 The waterfall is quite beautiful as it builds up layers of interesting ice but it really is time to shut down the pump. The tops of the ponds are almost completely frozen over today so it's time to put in the bubblers. Simple air bubblers in each pond will provide enough fresh air to keep the fish alive all winter.
21 November 2016 Winter arrived here this morning, suddenly and with a vengeance. Two days ago it was +20 C and this morning there is snow and it's -3 C. It's past time to do some of the winterizing chores such as pruning the Roses. They get their real prune in the spring but at this time of year we cut the canes down to about 30 cm and cover the bases with some soil or compost. The shortened stems are less likely to move in the wind and separate themselves from the protective soil at their base.
20 October 2016 It has been an unseasonably warm October in my little corner of the world but the days and nights are rapidly cooling. There are any number of part time houseplants that need to be making their way indoors in the next short while. From the most tender Amaryllis bulbs to the frozen Hibiscus we need to start moving them to their winter refuge. A place where some will just rest and others will fill the winter days with glorious blooms.
20 August 2016 Iris, probably my favourite perennial. Now is the time to dig and divide clumps that have grown too large or have developed a large empty space in the centre. There are always extra divisions which friends and fellow gardeners seem to magically become aware of and show up at just the right time.
27 June 2016 I have a variety of Alliums providing late spring interest. Some of them have a nasty habit. They produce a ton of seed that happily waits in the soil to germinate next spring. Getting free Alliums may be delightful until you get so many that they become weed like and take over. I wander around with my pruners and chop off those big flower heads once their colour is gone. If I had nothing better to do with my time I might take them indoors and spray paint them to make interesting accents in vases. I don't.
16 June 2016 My garlic is starting to unfurl its long curly scapes. These are the reproductive organs of Garlic. It doesn't actually flower but these scapes produce little bulbils that will grow into new garlic plants and that's one of the reasons to cut them off. If all of those bulbils land on the soil you will have Garlic as a weed for many years. Fortunately the scapes are delicious either chopped into a stir fry or used to make a great pesto. The scapes may also be harboring a worm that is the larva of the Leek Moth. The moth lays its eggs through a tiny hole and the larva hollows out the inside of the scape. Cut the whole scape off and dispose of the hollowed out sections.
25 May 2016 It's time to start preparing for Tomatoes and other warm season vegetables. I maximize my garden space by growing my Tomatoes up a rope. 16 ropes actually that are part of this Tomato growing structure. using 3 or 4 indeterminate varieties I prune them to a single vine and twine that vine around these hanging ropes. Lots of Tomatoes, very little space.
13 April 2016I think or at least I hope that it may have finally stopped snowing. That makes it time to set up the rain barrels. Start collecting all of that free water. Not only is it cost free but it is chlorine and fluoride free. Those chemicals are great in our drinking water but most plants don't like them in the quantities that tap water provides. Make sure that your barrels are set up high enough that you can get a watering can under the tap. They also need a mosquito proof lid, some fine screening over the intake opening works just fine.
21 March 2016 They really are quite attractive but the red Lily Beetle is as destructive as it is colourful. As soon as the soil starts to warm up in the spring start looking around any new Lily shoots. Even earlier than Lilies these little nasties will attack your Fritillaria and that's where I start looking for them. I carry my needle nose pliers and rather enjoy the distinctive CRUNCH they make as they get squeezed by those pliers. Such mechanical controls are really the easiest and most effective.
03 March 2016 Some days it snows and other days it's bright and sunny and we have that urge to get outside in the garden. Pruning the grape vines or the crab apple tree are great late winter activities. Grape pruning is a specialized bit of work but once you realize that you need to remove about 90% of the last season's growth it becomes easier to understand. There are several styles depending on the type of grapes but they are easy to do and are a pleasant way to spend a productive sunny winter afternoon in the garden.
23 February 2016 We have washed the containers and cleaned the fluorescent light tubes and made sure they are all working. The heating cable or mat for the seeds has been tested and now it is time to start sowing the seeds that will fill our yards all summer. The early seeds have been sown and now the serious seeding starts. Early vegetables and long season flowers such as Petunias should be finding heat and moisture now.
03 February 2016 We have washed the container and cleaned the fluorescent light tubes and made sure they are all working. The heating cable or mat for the seeds has been tested and now it is time to start sowing the seeds that will fill our yards all summer. One of the first seeds that I sow are several varieties of Onions. You can plant a lot of Onion seeds in a small space and keep them in that seeding tray until it's time to plant them outdoors. That allows me to try several different varieties without taking up much of my valuable seedling space.
21 January 2016 Don't have a greenhouse, neither do I. Fluorescent lights provide more than enough light to grow sturdy healthy transplants for spring planting. There are a variety of choices in fluorescent tubes and more expensive doesn't always mean the best light source. Distance from your seedlings is one of the more important considerations.
16 January 2016 A little warm water, a little bleach, and your seed starting will be much more successful. Nasty diseases like Dampingoff want to enjoy your seedlings. One of the best ways to combat them is to make sure your seed starting equipment is as clean and sterile as possible.
06 January 2016 As the new year starts so does the preparation for starting this year's seeds. Seed starting containers don't have to be fancy, I reuse a variety of other containers and turn them into seedling containers. It's great recycling and it saves money.
14 December 2015 The holidays are rapidly approaching and all of my grandchildren are expecting this guy to appear. He's going to have a tough time with that sleigh if the weather doesn't change. We are still in the middle of a December heat wave, 15C (60F) here today and more of the same predicted. No hurry to put the bubblers into the ponds and that's usually the last outdoor chore before we head to the ski hills. I still have a couple of tough annuals, like Dianthus, showing a few blooms. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers.
19 November 2015All summer my rain barrels have been providing free, chlorine free, water for all of my containers. I still have a few containers alive thanks to the strange extended warm weather but that has to end soon. Those rain barrels need to be emptied so that they don't freeze and burst. There are good reasons to use all that water at this time of year. Everywhere that I planted new bulbs will get soaked to make sure that they have sufficient water to root thoroughly. All of my evergreens will also get thoroughly watered so that they will have a reserve of water in the soil when the warm spring sun starts to pull water from their needles and leaves.
30 October 2015 Beside my deck are three ponds and a couple of waterfalls. Their sound and the movement of fish are a delight when I actually take time to sit on that deck. Like the rest of the yard, the ponds need some winterizing. The first thing is to cut down and remove as much of the vegetation as possible, otherwise it sinks to the bottom and contributes to the goo that eventually has to be cleaned out. It's also much easier to skim the falling leaves each day if the pond surface is wide open.
05 October 2015 It's time for one of my favourite gardening activities, planting bulbs. I like the bulbs themselves, smooth solid storage organs that feel good to run through my hands. More importantly is the promise that they hold. Vast splashes of colour in the garden on cool spring days that are the result of just a few hours of planting on a crisp autumn day. They are the antithesis of the instant gratification that seems so prevalent these days. You must plant them in the fall and wait patiently for spring to enjoy their beauty. First Snowdrops, then Crocus, then Iris, then Narcissus, and Tulips with the best colour display of the year.
24 September 2015 Here I am standing at the base of an 80 year old Olive tree that I met on last week's garden tour in Pasadena. Huntington Library was one of the major spots that we toured and we enjoyed it despite the 103F temperature. On cooler days we saw the Los Angeles Arboretum and a few private gardens where I met this venerable Olive.
07 September 2015 It's too hot for early September but I still need to start thinking about next year's garden. Taking cuttings from Geraniums and some other annuals is best done at this time of year. later in the month the stems will get woody and they will not root as easily. A few moments cutting and rooting will provide wonderful inexpensive plants next spring and something to tend over the winter when our gardening souls need a little nourishment.
05 August 2015 Patty Pan is an interesting but rather descriptive name for these interesting summer squash. They come in a variety of colours and should be picked relatively small like most summer squash. They can be cooked in a variety of ways or even chopped raw into a salad. I had a couple of medium sized ones, about 5" in diameter, last week. I cut them in half to make two large flat pieces and then scooped out the seeds and softer flesh around them. Filled the cavity with a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and sweet peppers with a little Oregano and Basil and salt. They were baked until the flesh was tender, about 30 + minutes and they were the hit of the dinner.
28 July 2015 Scheherazade is a fabulous OT hybrid Lily that is much easier to grow than it is to spell. This 2 m (6') tall specimen in my garden has about 40 blooms on it. The last to open will probably come as the first is fading but it still is a massive presence, standing above anything else in the Perennial bed in mid summer. This about the third year from planting the original bulb and it has been taller very year. What will next year bring? It's supposed to have considerable fragrance but it's not detectable on my specimen. It has produced just this single stalk each year and I'm hoping it will start to multiply like some of my other orienpets.
05 July 2015 One of my most interesting ways of growing Clematis is to wind the vines of summer blooming types through the branches of an old crab apple. This tree arches over my ponds and to have it filled with dozens of large purple blooms in mid summer is a real show stopper. A little careful winding and tying will easily create this delight.
15 June 2015 My Garlic plants are starting to develop those long curly tops that we call scapes. Two things to know. They need to be cut off as they develop so that the won't throw their "seeds" onto the garden and become weeds and they are delicious in a stir fry or salad and I make pesto from them. This year again I see some of mine attacked by the leek moth, who's larva burrow down through the scape and stop it from developing. It's easy to spot and just needs to be extricated and crushed before it breeds.
01 June 2015 I have carefully avoided planting my Tomatoes too early despite the very warm weather and now in the first week of June we are having unseasonably cold weather, nonetheless, I will head outside and start setting up the various structures that I use to maximize my Tomato production in my small back yard.
12 May 2015 I like to enlist the help of a few million friends when taking care of my plants. Beneficial nematodes are a essential part of my bug control program. They keep my Iris free of the dreaded Iris Borer and my Camperdown Elm and Birch Trees free from the leaf miner. They also have a role to play protecting the vegetables from a variety of nasty invaders.This wonderful, chemical free pest control is easy to use and comes at a reasonable cost.
23 April 2015 They are back. The dreaded Red Lily Beetles are emerging from the soil. They usually attack the Fritillarias before the Lilies emerge but they seemed to have ignored them this year. I will have my needle nosed pliers in my pocket from now on. A simple pick and squeeze will eliminate an adult before she has time to lay her eggs. I have found this mechanical control to be the easiest and most effective.
14 April 2015 Despite the very cold winter and the slowness of some shrubs and bulbs to flower, I found the soil in the upper veggie bed to be dry and friable. I seized the opportunity and ran for my seed box. That warm soil is now getting ready to germinate a few early vegetables. Peas, Spinach, White Turnip and Swiss Chard seeds are all carefully tucked into the soil and we hope for continuing warm days to help them spring forth from the soil.
26 March 2015 It was a treat to get out into the sunshine after this coldest of winters. I can prune my grapes anytime during the winter but it has no appeal when the temperature is -25 C. This past week the sun shone and it got slightly warmer and the grape vines were attacked. That always seems like the right verb since we remove about 90% of the vines growth, leaving just a few spurs on each branch that will produce this year's fruit.
04 March 2015 One of the mistakes most commonly made when sowing seeds is covering them too deeply. The rule, if they need to be covered at all, is four times their diameter. That's not very deep if you look at the size of most seeds. To get a nice fine covering, I use an old kitchen sieve and shake it over the seeds until I can no longer see them. This fine material is then lightly tamped down to insure good contact with the seeds.
25 February 2015 After the seeds have germinated, light becomes the most important key to the success of growing healthy transplants. Fluorescent tubes are my light source of choice, they are inexpensive and provide all of the light necessary to grow healthy seedlings. The secret to success is to be able to move those lights up and down so that they stay within an inch or two of the seedlings.
17 February 2015 A few flower seeds have been sown but now the real planting starts, the first vegetable seeds. Onions are a long season crop and they like to go out into the garden as early as possible. That means that we need to get their seeds in the germinating bed now. This will give us a couple of months to develop good sized transplants. There is always the question whether to sow them in individual cells, (takes a lot of space,) or to broadcast them over the surface of a small tray. I've done both and had success both ways.
07 February 2015 January has come and gone and it's time to get serious about starting some seeds in the basement. I already have a couple of very early types such as Begonias started. One of the most important steps for seed starting is to insure that all of your containers and tools are clean and sterilized. A hot water and bleach bath does the trick for me. Always use a sterile soilless mix for a seed starting medium. With all of these precautions we stand a good chance of escaping the damping off fungus that can destroy a tray of seedlings overnight. Once everything is clean it's time to actually sow some seeds.
06 January 2015 Another year has begun and so far I have had a perfect garden. Many seed catalogues have come through the door and I avoid the cold weather by wandering through them and trying to figure out where I might find the room to try out some of the many exciting new varieties. There are many more new things than there is space for them but in the depths of winter I can imagine perfection in the yard. If the seed catalogues only show perfect flowers and no weeds does that mean I can have the same thing if I just plant their seeds?
19 December 2014 It's time for a holiday. I wore this lovely outfit at the local community centre evening and had a great time delighting the kids. Now I will take a break from writing and planting until early in the new year. I will spend some of those easy days updating my various talks and presentations. Click here to find out all about them. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of my visitors.
09 December 2014 The waterfall is building up some very pretty ice formations and that means it's probably time to turn off the pump. The continuous pumping of the pond water over the waterfalls keeps it oxygenated so that fish are happy. Without that water flow we have to put bubblers into each pond to keep the water oxygenated during the winter months. Just returned from buying a new air pump as they see to last 4 - 5 years pumping outside for a few winter months. The pump is protected from the snow but that is the only concession they get to survive a Canadian winter. It works, the fish survive.
01 December 2014 One of the chores that is always forgotten until the last minute is emptying the rain barrels. It's a dual purpose chore. The barrels might crack if left filled with water and that water has an important role at this time of year. All of the evergreens get a thorough soaking so that they have lots of water in reserve for those warm sunny spring days when the leaves start to transpire and ask the roots for more water. Lack of water at that time of year does more winter damage than any cold weather. Now it's time for me to retire indoors and start to work on some exciting new presentations for next spring's speaking tours.
17 November 2014 They are still hanging on the trellises outside. Many dried pole bean pods are waiting for me to clean off the trellises and collect those bean pods. We had an early snow this week and the pods now have snow sitting on them which will require a bit more drying, if I'm not already too late. Dried pole beans come in a variety of colours and patterns that almost make them too pretty to cook but a good pot of baked beans is very tasty.
10 November 2014 All of the bulbs are planted outside but down in the basement are several packages that I never intended to plant outdoors. Each year I plant up several pots of bulbs to force into bloom in the middle of winter. I like dwarf Narcissus for this job because they provide lots of bloom and don't make a floppy mess when they grow too big. 5 or 6 bulbs are planted now in a 15cm pot, then thoroughly watered and moved to the cold room to get their winter's rest .
03 November 2014 We have enjoyed a very long warm autumn and our first killing frost finally occurred on 01 November. Many of the Roses are still blooming and will continue to do so until we get a much harder frost. Some of the newer roses just wander into the winter naked and exposed but we do have to protect a few of the fancier ones. We are basically lazy gardeners and have developed the easiest ways possible to ensure the survival of most of our rose bushes. Some light pruning and some soil protection for the graft unions. We now like to acquire own root Roses when we can to avoid some of the problems with root stock that doesn't suit our northerly climate.
13 October 2014 There are a certain number of plants that we call part time houseplants. Hibiscus and some Cactus just need to come inside for the winter so they don't get killed by our cold winter weather. The other group, like several orchids, summer outside to store up the sun's energy so that they can provide us with their spectacular blooms during the winter. There are others where we simply bring in their bulbs and tubers and let them rest in the basement for the winter.
29 September 2014 Bulb planting season is one of my favourite times in the year. For the next few weeks we can enjoy the crisp autumn air as we plant a wide variety of bulbs. Each is a wonderful promise of things to come. Glorious flowers will bloom for several weeks in the spring if we just spend a few hours now. From the earliest Snowdrops to the latest Alliums, they will burst forth next spring to reward your autumn efforts.
23 September 2014 Peonies are magnificent, long lived perennials that are very low maintenance. Now is the time to plant them or to dig them up and transplant them. Digging is a significant job because they have huge root systems. Dig them and divide them into large pieces, each of which should have 4 -5 buds. Plant the pieces with those buds, or eyes, less then an inch below the soil surface and they will grow and bloom for you for many more years.
15 September 2014 Now is the time to save some money in the spring. Taking cuttings from my favourite Geraniums and Begonias and this year, some Coleus, will provide me with lovely large plants for next spring's planting. Not only do I save some money but I have the pleasure of a little gardening activity during the long winter months.
09 September 2014 Digging up the Potatoes in the fall is one of those chores that I find very satisfying and a bit magical. All of the above ground vines are laying brown and dead on the soil surface but a little gentle digging produces this abundance of delicious tubers. Lots of different colours and sizes reveal themselves in the rich autumn soil. A gentle cleaning and then they are off to the cold room to await their opportunity to grace our dinner plates for the next few months.
30 August 2014 It's the last few days of summer and we are overflowing with delicious vegetables. Now is the time to store them for the winter and my favourite storage method is to make a huge batch of my spaghetti sauce. That uses up a big pile of vegetables and stores them neatly in the freezer for warm winter meals..
16 August 2014 We are back from our sojourn in Pittsburgh and catching up on the many chores. The raspberries were not great this year but we did add some new ones that should produce next year. The existing ones do need to be pruned to maximize their production next year.
10 August 2014I'm spending a few days at the annual Garden Writer's symposium in Pittsburgh. Here we are at the amazing Phipps Conservatory admiring the discovery garden and its lovely butterfly sculpture. The Assistant Gardener is at home tending to the many chores and enjoying the many vegetables.
04 August 2014 My old cottage style house look wonderful with its covering of Boston Ivy. As with most gardening successes that great look comes with a price. Established Boston Ivy can grow at an alarming rate and that means at least one annual pruning. Since it likes to grow up and over the eaves and across the windows, the long ladder must be found and put to use. We know its time when the light coming in the front window is noticeably reduced or the side door cannot open because of the vines growing across it. It's one of those jobs that take some motivation to begin but is fairly easy to actually do and the results are always worth the effort.
31 July 2014 It's midsummer and I'm being rewarded for my constant battle with the red lily beetle. The yard is filled with the sights and scents of many magnificent Lily blooms. The amazing growth of some of the newer hybrids such as the OThybrids provides us with huge clumps of tall strong stalks with a myriad of blooms in some surprising colours. Now to plan where this fall's additions will be going.
25 July 2014 Spent a wonderful day this week at the Sawaya trial grounds inspecting over 2000 varieties of annual flowers. they are all grown in containers with a drip irrigation system. A great opportunity to see all the newest varieties and compare them with some of the old standards. The 2 hour drive was well worth it and I now have another couple of hundred pictures in my library.
21 July 2014 I'm just recovering from having the local garden tour bring some 300+ visitors through my garden. They are always a great experience and one of the best is in Buffalo NY. Garden walk Buffalo is a free peek at over 300 gardens in Buffalo and it takes place this year on the 26 & 27 of July. It is well worth the trip if you like to see a great diversity of gardens.
03 July 2014 Growing many things in containers is a great way to save space and create a great look in a small space. Regular water and fertilizer is the key to keeping those containers healthy. I add some soluble fertilizer to my watering can about every third watering. It takes no time and makes a great difference.
20 June 2014 The Tomatoes are growing and it's time to start their training. Pruning and twining them around their ropes now becomes one of the weekly chores. The system gets us lots of Tomatoes and uses a minimum of space.
02 June 2014 My variegated Harlequin Maple is one of my favourite trees. I did plant it front and centre to be enjoyed by all but it is in a location that is too small for it. Nonetheless, I happily prune (butcher) it every year to keep it to the correct size. The other chore is to inspect it early each summer to find and remove any branches that have reverted to producing plain green leaves. These naturally grow somewhat faster and will quickly take over if not cut out.
20 May 2014 I brought home two varieties of mint from the Loblaw's media day. I love mint. I use it with potatoes in many forms. I add it to salad, I flavour drinks with it. I NEVER plant it in my garden. Mint is one of the most invasive plants that I know, it can make Gout Weed look tame. Fortunately it grows very well in any container that you care to plant it in. I have had it grow out the drainage hole in the bottom of a container and find the soil underneath so keep that container on a hard surface. It will even overwinter in the container most years. Mint, contain it and enjoy it.
14 May 2014 It has been a cold damp spring in my corner of the world and the early vegetables were very late finding their homes in the soil. This week we are finally getting around to planting all of our Onion seedlings. I have 6 different varieties that we are growing this year and we look forward to seeing how each one performs. As usual there are also some Leeks joining this this planting frenzy.
02 May 2014 After staring at a large swath of fresh brown mulch for a couple of weeks, I was delighted yesterday to find it finally disturbed by the first spears of Asparagus pushing through. This long awaited first vegetable is a much anticipated taste sensation and this year it's close to three weeks later than usual. We actually ate some overwintered parsnips last week that were technically the first vegetable of the year.
17 April 2014 Down in the basement, under the light, spring is progressing at a much faster pace than is actually happening outside. Lots of seeds have germinated, many now need transplanting to their larger cell paks. Cool weather crops under the lights must move to the cold frame to make room for all those new transplants. Spring is a time of constantly juggling things to make enough space for the growing crops.
13 April 2014 While I may be cursing the the very soggy bottom of my yard, I'm also setting up my rain barrels to capture that same water. Using this captured rain to water my many containers all summer just makes eminent good sense. It doesn't come through a meter and it's absent the various chemicals that make it very good to drink but may not be so good for the plants.
09 April 2014 The ice has finally disappeared from the ponds and I can see all of the gorp at the bottom. Removed a few fish that found the winter too difficult. The lower pond's bubbler quit working at some point and a few extra fish went to that big pond in the sky. Now it's time to get out my Pondshark and scoop out as much of that gorp as possible.
31 March 2014 We are into full fledged seed starting by now. Tomatoes, Eggplant and Peppers were planted on Saturday as I was doing a planting demonstration all day at the local mall as part of the city's sustainability day activities. Getting the correct covering over newly sown seeds is critical to your germination success.
22 March 2014 Each year as the snow disappears outside the solarium windows I attack my big Hibiscus standard. It ahs been blooming sporadically all winter but the time has come to be ruthless. I cut off almost all of last year's growth so that by the time it moves outdoors in May it will have some new growth that will produce those gorgeous flowers all summer.
10 March 2014 It must be spring. My speaking schedule now keeps me out at least a couple of evenings a week. Canada Blooms, Toronto's huge flower show starts this Friday and I'm speaking there on the 22nd. Come out and meet me if you are coming to the show. This link will take you to my speaker's page where all of my engagements atre listed. Any of my readers would be welcomed at most of them, so if I'm in your area, drop by.
03 March 2014 It appears that nobody has told the weather that it is now March. -20C this morning albeit with a bright sun to lure us outside. I retreat to the basement to plant some more seeds. A frequent question is, How deep to plant seeds? 4 times their diameter is an old rule and that often means planting very shallow. I like to cover mine with some very fine soil bits to maximize the contact between seed and damp soil. The sieve in the picture, that I "borrowed" from the kitchen, does a great job.
24 February 2014 There are a lot of fancy items for sale to help you germinate your seeds and grow them on. I'm too frugal to purchase many of them, especially when a host of great containers arrive at my house for free. Reuse and recycle take-out food containers, little yogurt tubs and many similar containers. Drilling drainage holes in their bottoms is the one essential step that you must do to turn these items into useful, and free, planters.
15 February 2014 Starting seeds indoors is a great way to get a jump on the season or to ensure that you have ripe Tomatoes by the middle of the summer. Now is the time to sort out which seeds to plant when. Slow growing annual flowers and cool season vegetables are the earliest seeds to sown and now is the time to get growing.
10 February 2014 Starting seeds indoors is a great way to get a jump on the season but it requires sufficient light. Fluorescent tubes are the most economical and efficient way to do this. There are a wide variety of such tubes on the market and it's difficult to decide which are the best. For simple seed starting I find the inexpensive cool white or warm white or a combination of the two, to do an excellent job without breaking the budget.
04 February 2014 It was so cold where I live that I felt it was time to investigate some new houseplants. That's most easily done by a trip to the south where many of them grow outdoors as landscape specimens. It's always good to remind oneself that the 1.5m (5 ft) Palm tree living in a 25 cm (10") pot in my living room really wants to be 10m (30ft) tree. That helps us to understand its struggles as a houseplant and the research kept me warm for a week.
30 January 2014 It's that time of year when much activity starts under the lights in the basement. All of the equipment such as the seed starting cell packs need to be thoroughly cleaned to try and eliminate the appearance of "damping off" a fungus disease that attacks tiny seedlings
23 January 2014 My break from writing and planting is over. I happily adjourned to the basement this week to start the first seed. That required a rather major cleanup of that part of the basement but nasty chores pop up in all of our lives. The seeds that I collected from the Begonia boliviensis last fall need to be in the ground. They look more like brown dust than they do seeds but amazingly they germinate well and grow quite quickly once they have started.
27 December 2013 The holidays are winding down and it's time for a relaxing stroll through the pile of seed catalogues that have arrived in my mailbox. Even though I usually buy seeds from their online catalogues there is something special in perusing the printed ones ans imagining next year's delights.
18 December 2013 There have been no updates for a few days. I took a breather and went looking at some stunning marine life in Mexico and studied a few plants that we use as houseplants
04 December 2013 There is nothing worse than going out on the first big snowstorm and trying to start the snowblower that hasn't run in several months. I try to start it and lubricate it on a warmish day in the late fall. This year I have even remembered to do so.
28 November 2013 I usually like to leave my waterfall running as late as possible but this year it was losing water somewhere and I didn't want to try and solve that problem. The day after I shut down the pump we had the big early freeze and the ponds remain frozen solid. It's time to go and punch a hole in the ice and drop in the bubblers to help the fish get enough oxygen to make it through the winter. If I do that now, it will guarantee that the weather will warm up again.
25 November 2013 I certainly got caught out this year. It dropped well below freezing on the weekend and now my unemptied rain barrels are a block of ice. Hopefully we will get a thaw and I can get them emptied. Hopefully they have not already been cracked by the expanding ice. I use the water to thoroughly dampen the soil around my evergreens because they will need some water on warm sunny days during the winter. I also like to make sure my newly planted bulbs are well watered so they develop good roots for thier spring growth.
21 November 2013 One of the last uses for the lawn mower each year is to mow the vegetable patch. All of the Maple and Ash leaves from the front yard are spread over the bare soil and then the mower is used to mulch them. They provide a great organic boost to the soil and the mulching makes them decompose a little more quickly. By planting time in the spring they will just be part of the soil.
14 November 2013 One of the great things about growing Pole Beans is collecting the dried pods in the fall. We didn't eat them all during the summer so some pods wind up drying on the vine. When we pull down the vines we collect these pods and display the coloured beans in the kitchen until they wind up as baked beans or navy bean soup.
07 November 2013 If I want to enjoy the mature trees in the yard then I have to cope with a couple of rather ugly chores. Their leaves fill up the gutters on the house and that means cleaning them out. I try to wait until all the leaves are down so that it is a one time chore.
04 November 2013 My Roses have been providing some wonderful late season blooms during our extended warm fall. Now that we have had a few frosts it will soon be time to think about getting them ready for winter. When it's obvious that they are not going to give me any more blooms I will start the process by shortening the longer canes.
31 October 2013 Compost is one of nature's miracles. All, or at least most, of the detritus from the fall cleanup can be tossed into the compost bin and then next year it emerges as the best rich soil amendment possible. I turn my compost once a year to speed the process and to create an empty bin to receive this years contributions.
23 October 2013More plants are moving indoors as the weather approaches a frost. The Cactus take a bit of time and my needle nosed pliers to remove all of the impaled leaves etc that they have accumulated. The hard hat is a necessary gardening item when I'm working under the large walnut tree.
17 October 2013 Cold weather has been very slow arriving for us this year but it will be here very soon. There are several plants around the deck that are part time houseplants and they need to get inside before the cold damages them. The Amaryllis are the most sensitive then the Colocasia and Hibiscus. The Orchids like a little cool weather but even they must come indoors soon.
07 October 2013 I love my colourful spring garden filled with Tulips and Narcissus and a host of smaller bulbs. Now is the time to get those bulbs into the ground. There are no instant daffodils, we must plant them now and wait patiently for them to bloom in the spring. Plant great drifts of them they are the best value in the garden and they continue to increase and bloom for many years.
26 September 2013 The Colchicum are blooming. The earliest and biggest of the autumn blooming bulbs magically pops up with its large mauve flowers. It's a great treat and reminder to start buying and planting as many bulbs as possible.
13 September 2013 A rare treat was the opportunity to visit Quatre Vents. This amazing 22 acre garden is part of the summer residence of the Cabot family and being allowed to tour it with the owner was a once in a lifetime experience.
09 September 2013As summer closes and autumn arrives I usually find Powdery Mildew arriving as well. On the vine crops it is rapidly devastating but we harvest most of the fruit. My wonderful Tuberous Begonias could easily last another month before the frost does them in. I've found a couple of simple home remedies. I'm spraying a dilute milk solution on them to see if it works. Read all about powdery mildew and other solutions here.
03 September 2013 The Assistant Gardener joined me in Quebec City for a week at our annual Garden Writers' meeting and we had a great time. Dallying in the Dirt will have articles about the wonderful gardens we saw over the next few weeks. Now it's time to catch up with all of the late summer chores. There is a plentiful supply of Garlic waiting to be harvested. Dig it out of the ground and leave it in the sun to cure for a few days and then store in a cool spot for use during the long winter months. It is so much better than the supermarket stuff.
27 August 2013 I was away in Quebec City for a week at our annual Garden Writers' meeting and had a great time. Dallying in the Dirt will have articles about the wonderful gardens we saw over the next few weeks. Now it's time to catch up with all of the late summer chores. There is a plentiful supply of Garlic waiting to be harvested. Dig it out of the ground and leave it in the sun to cure for a few days and then store in a cool spot for use during the long winter months. It is so much better than the supermarket stuff.
10 August 2013 The containers of trailing annual flowers such as Petunias and calibrachoa are looking magnificent but a closer inspection can sometime see that they are getting a bit straggly. Here is a hard job. Cut back at least a third and up to a half of those trailing flowers. They will rebloom in about a week and continue thick and floriferous until the end of the season. I will be running the lawnmower over my patch of bright yellow Mecardonia to get it thick and blooming again. Its long growth may be due to its location in a bit of shade.
06 August 2013 It's mid summer and that means a whole new variety of vegetables to grace the dinner plate. Pole beans are one of my favourites. Great flavour and abundance in a very small space. Even better, I don't have to bend over to pick them. There is a much greater variety in flavours and textures with pole beans, compared to their ground hugging cousins.
02 August 2013 The 100 year old house looks wonderful with the Boston Ivy crawling all over the front walls. The problem is, that it crawls all over. It's amazing growth manages to cover doors and windows by mid summer and the annual chore of cutting it back produces quite a pile of material for the compost heap.
24 July 2013 Cucumbers are among the items that are growing extremely well this year and they did nothing last year. I grow mine up an obelisk to make the best use of space. They need a bit of training and encouragement to find their way upwards but once they do they produce wonderful clean, slug free fruit. This year they are already over the top of the obelisk and are just a mass of green leaves and yellow flowers.
21 July 2013 One of the best residential garden tours I have ever been on happens next weekend, July 27, 28. Garden Walk Buffalo is a wonderful place to spend an entire weekend. Around 350 home gardens are open to the public and best of all it's free. There are shuttle buses and tour maps and guides available. The diversity of the available offerings is quite amazing and many of them are in clusters that make walking between them an easy adventure.
17 July 2013 The weather has suddenly become much hotter and the constant rain has slowed. Taking care of our containers has suddenly become a bigger job. All of the rain that has flushed through them has leached out most of the available nutrients. It's now up to us to replenish those nutrients. I find it convenient to add a soluble fertilizer to my irrigation water and then water each container almost as normal. Usually not every container gets watered, some just don't need it that day. When fertilizing I tend to do every container so that I don't have to remember which ones were fertilized and which ones still need it.
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