Gardening has many benefits. One I have enjoyed over the years is working with others to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers. Today I begin a look at gardening with others, others include more than human helpers.
A community garden:
A community garden is a plot of land that is usually divided into subplots with each gardener having their own plot. You can grow herbs flowers or vegetables or a mix of all three. Next article how to start a community garden.
As I have previously mentioned I will be incorporating a few native plants into my small pumpkin patch and elsewhere on the property. Here is a list, supplied by my sister, of plants native to this area. I will keep you posted on which I use and why. Columbine, asters, milkweed, Jerusalem artichoke, foxglove, bergamot, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, cardinal flower. Jerusalem artichoke Any others I need to consider?
I'm considering creating my own line of cards, not ecards, but hard copy on post-consumer recycled paper, cards. Cards one can mail. perhaps do a few postcards as well. This is one image I am giving thought to using. Comments? Would you buy this?
If you want a great lookinglawnthen Spring is the time to get started. As soon as the snow is gone for the season and the days are getting warmer, take some time to inspect your lawn and see how it has held up over the winter months.
Then take the following actions and you will be well on your way to a lawn that is the envy of your neighbours.
Spring clean up, time to rake up and bag leaves and grass clippings; they can be added to your compost pile or directly to your early season garden as mulch.
While you are raking, it is an opportune time to give the lawn a once over; take a careful and close look. Spotting possible problems now give you the opportunity to fix them before they get worse. For example, moss patches may indicate; low fertility, insufficient sunlight or poor drainage. If a patch stays in the tines of your rack, then white grubs may have moved in. White grubs are Japanese beetles or pill bugs and dealing with them now, is much better than later.
It is time for a soil test. Drop by the garden centre and purchase a soil testing kit; follow the instruction. You want to know your soil’s pH and ideally, your soil for the lawn should have a pH of between 6 and 7. You will also want to know the levels of the big three (potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus) so that you can plan your fertilizing regime.
Time to aerate. You can use a manual aerating fork if you have a small lawn or a lot of time or you can rent an aerating machine. Aerating gets rid of thatch and enables the soil to retain and release nutrients.
Fertilize – use natural fertilizers such as blood meal, chicken manure, cottonseed meal or you can also buy organic fertilizers.
Reseed – time to reseed the bare spots
Watering- Do not water your lawn shallowly; when it is time to water, every 7 to 10 days, allow the water to run long enough in one spot for about 3 hours, sue a sprinkler because you cannot do this by hand.
If you follow the above steps you will have a healthy vibrant lawn; one important point to remember the healthier your lawn is the better that it will withstand drought and any accompanying water restrictions.
My suggestion is that when it comes to lawn, less is better.
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers and dies in one year.
Some love annuals because they make excellent cut flowers; some because annuals are easy to grow; some love them for their brilliant colours while others just love to create a new garden every spring.
The reasons do not matter as they are all sound; if you love to garden and enjoy bright vivid colours then annuals will satisfy your needs. I am very fond of annuals and cannot imagine a garden that does not have a few.
They enlarge the palette but perhaps, more importantly, they enable me to make simple but noticeable changes to my garden and perhaps even better, they give me a reason to get out in the garden.
You can add annuals to your garden, throughout the growing season.
Annuals bloom continuously and produce prolific amounts of seed and this requires the production of many flowers; all making a win-win situation for any gardener.
The choice you have when selecting annuals is quite large so you will need a plan. The first step is to consider your climate, the soil and the amount of sunshine available. Now if you have been gardening for some time, you will have these answers. So the next step is to answer this question; what function will the annuals serve? Are you creating a cutting bed or adding a splash of colour to the border.
Annuals not only come in many different colours but heights and their foliage will have different textures and shades so if you have an existing garden and want to add some annuals to your perennial border make sure what you add is a comfortable fit with what is already there.
When you visit the plant centre you may become overwhelmed by the rows of annuals stretched out before you so get a plan before you go. Let's take a look at one of m favourite annuals the cosmos.
The cosmos is a rapidly growing plant with delicate and graceful flowers. They will grow to between 4 and 6 feet tall. Some years back we had cosmos planted across the front edge of the front yard, creating a lace-like fence between our yard and the sidewalk.
Cosmos will grow well in full sun in most soils. You can start them indoors five to six weeks before the last frost date or you can sow them directly after the danger of frost has passed. The plants should be 12 inches apart and the seedlings will transplant easily. If the location is very windy you may need to stake them.
Anyone who wants to can garden. There is no such thing as a green thumb. Gardeners learn to garden by getting up off the couch, and going out into the yard and planting something, anything.
The question to ask is not what to grow but how to grow? The answer to that question will help any wannabe gardener move well along the path to a happy, thriving garden, and an activity that is good for the mind, body and soul.
My gardening education goes back many years; both my father and mother taught me much and my maternal grandmother added even more plant wisdom.
However, I did not really learn to garden until I put aside the books and got down to the business of interacting with nature to take care of a particular patch of land that was commonly called a garden.
Gardening is active learning and yes, not all we do will work, but take note of both what does, and what does not work and you will evolve.
There is no such thing as a green thumb, what does that mean? It means if you want to grow something in your backyard, a community garden or allotment plot, on a patio or in a window box you will find a way to do so.
Telling people you can’t garden because all the plants die, or your thumb is not green, is an excuse. The desire to grow, to plant a seed and watch it emerge from the soil; to harvest the fruit or flower from that plant and enjoy its beauty or be nourished by its goodness, is what is needed.
Anyone who wants to can garden. You do need knowledge but you do not need to know it all before you begin. If you wait until you have a complete knowledge base before you begin your garden, you will simply never begin.
It does not matter how long you have been gardening; how many different plants you have grown; how many books, seminars and workshops you have attended, you will quite simply always find there is something new to learn, so don’t wait, get out and grow.
That is all there is to it get out and grow, something, anything. Start small, maybe a container of herbs for your kitchen, but start. Life and learning is about interaction so don’t wait, get going. A world of discovery, fun and adventure awaits
Plant hardiness zones—also known as planting zones or growing zones—help gardeners understand which plants can survive their region’s climate. Find out which planting zone you’re located in and grow a great garden, one that thrives. There are a number of online sites that will enable you to find out which hardiness zone you occupy. One of my favourites is the Old Farmer’s Almanac
Water is a vital component for sound plant health. Either too much or too little water will impact the garden’s yield. Water early in the morning or after sunset in the evening. Let the water sink in, it is the roots that need to drink.
Do not water every day, unless the plants are growing in containers. The soil in containers dries out faster that the garden bed. See the section on container gardening for more information.
Shade gardens can be glorious and to make full use of the shade your garden offers, you must first understand shade itself.
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.
Sunflowers love the sun. They turn their flowers to follow it.
I am curious as to what motivates people to become gardeners. Do you garden to grow some of your own food? Do you grow because you enjoy flowers? Do you garden because gardening brings you into contact with nature?
I picked up a six pack of these beauties about three years back. They were planted in the community garden in Campbellton. I'm on the outlook for them again. Like to put them on the front deck. They would contrast well with the red brick walls.
Majestic and proud, those are the words that come to mind when I see hollyhocks and ancient. The hollyhock has been around for a number of centuries and there are times when I am standing near one that I can almost feel the pull of that history.
The hollyhock is well known in the English cottage garden standing above all else well except maybe the delphiniums, but unlike the beautiful but tender delphs, the hollyhock can stand alone without support.
If you do live in a place with high winds, I’d still provide them with some support though why take chances.
The hollyhock is often referred to as a biennial which means the plant flowers in the second year but it is considered by some to be a short-lived perennial.
So remember when you plant the seeds in the fall that is you do not see flowers that first summer, do not despair and rip them out, give them the time that they need and your patience will be richly rewarded.
There are annual hollyhocks available. The hollyhock will self-seed.
An aside, the house I grew up in had hollyhocks planted in a small side yard near the neighbour’s house. It was a favourite play area for us when w e was small. It was a little space and the hollyhocks dominate the area. The frequent bees buzzing in and out also added a fascination.
One day that house was torn down and the hollyhocks went with it. I was a teenager at the time and had pretty much forgotten my old companions.
One day, about ten years later when my parents were getting ready to move, I was cleaning up the backyard and noticed that there were hollyhocks coming up. They were about 2 feet tall. My parents had not planted them.
I decided that they were sprouting from seed that had been scattered all those years ago, and this chance meeting renewed my affection for this magnificent plant.
The hollyhock enjoys being in the sun but is happy with some shade. Make sure the soil is rich and somewhat moist if you want the plant to thrive. Just before you plant be sure to add well-aged manure or compost as this will help the plant grow.
You can sow the seeds outdoors just slightly beneath the surface of the soil one week before the last frost. It may take 10-14 days for the seed to germinate. Be sure to space the seeds 18-36 inches apart.
If the weather is dry it is vital to provide water if you want them to flower. You can plant hollyhocks near a rain barrel if the site gets sufficient sunshine. They can help beautify the spot and this will make regular watering easier, provided, of course, that it rains.
The hollyhock flower is edible and would look great in a salad. I prefer to leave them on the plant and enjoy them visually but it is good to know that they have a secondary purpose.
The hollyhock is an ideal plant for the back of the border along the fence and especially with chain link fences can help serve as a privacy screen.
Drop by your favourite plant nursery and see the varieties waiting for you to take them home.
Balcony gardening can offer greater challenges than working a garden bed in your backyard. The first one is that it may be against the building rules to grow anything on your balcony and so by doing so, you may run into some problems with other tenants, the superintendent or the owner.
The second challenge is the conditions, low light, or high winds can be common conditions on an urban balcony. However, if you can get 3-4 hours of sunlight each day, more is better, but if that is all you get you can still grow your own food.
It is possible that the yield will be less or the plants will take longer to produce fruit. It is almost certain you will need to water frequently as the containers will dry out under the hot sun or high winds.
Before planting anything get to know the conditions, especially how much sunlight you get on your balcony if it varies then place the containers where the sun visits the longest.
Cherry Tomatoes, I use CampJoy but any cherry tomato will do well in a container and the bonus is you can grow basil in the same container. Two containers, 18 inches across and 2 feet deep will hold two tomato plants and two basil plants.
Green Peppers, both peppers and tomatoes enjoy the sun but need heat so if the spot is cool, then I suggest planting something else. Plant peppers same as tomatoes without the basil.
Pole beans need support; I use bamboo poles, available at the plant nursery. They are cheap and last for years. You can put two plants per 18 inch diameter pot.
Peas, you will need a support and there are trellises that will fit into an 18 inch or larger container. They can also support themselves on balcony railings.
Herbs, chamomile, borage, chives, thyme will all do well in a container. You could create an herb garden in one 24 inch diameter container and plant a few of your favourites. They will also help to bring in the pollinators when in flower.
Gladiolas, I must have one ornamental per garden and the glad is an ideal choice. The bees are as necessary on the balcony as they are in the backyard. Fuchsia works as well. Morning glories can grow along railings.
You can use anything that is deep and wide enough as long as it will hold soil in place. A drainage hole is essential and you may want to palce the container in another container to catch the excess water. If you are cramped for space you can use smaller containers and plant fewer seeds or seedlings per pot.
Gardening brings us a benefit, well actually two benefits, quite apart from the beauty of the plants we grow, the vegetables we enjoy or the herbs that season our meals. I am not talking about curb appeal either.
All these and so much more come from spending your time gardening but perhaps the most long-lasting and least considered benefits are those that come from the act of gardening itself. The mental and physical exercise you get when you garden.
The mental exercise takes two forms. The first one is the getting away from it all, leave all your cares behind and get lost in the garden: when I am working in my garden, the world slows down and the rush and worry that is all too often a regular part of life goes away.
It feels as though I have stepped out of time and am reconnecting with something more ancient, more primal than the asphalt, concrete and electronic world that devours so much of our attention and our time.
This is a release and clears the mind so that when it is time to return to other business, I am calm and focused.
The second mental exercise is the planning and decision part of gardening which usually takes place during the winter months as I look at seed catalogues, pictures of last year's garden, images of plants that interest me and otherwise conjure up images of what my garden will look like next year.
This exercise will, in time, turn into a plan on paper that will serve as a guide when spring comes.
This work exercises the imagination and creative aspects and allows me to consider what could be.
Not only, is this an enjoyable way to invest my time in the long, dark winter months but it energizes me and enables my work to grow.
Our gardens need to be designed using the best plant for the job whether the plant is native or not. Having said this, I will post a few words about the virtues of native plants.
When we are discussing native plants what we are referring to is plants that have evolved here, in North America, over thousands of years.
These plants have adapted to the environment where they are growing and have been part of the evolving local ecosystem for many, many generations; they are adapted to the rainfall patterns; to the myriad of other creatures that have evolved with them, pollinating them, feeding on their nectar; to the area's soils and climate; to the whole web of connections that nature provides.
This is why native plants will require little attention from you, they are hardwired to thrive.
If you are planning to create a native plant garden, you will need to know what plants are native to your region. I always recommend that people visit their local public library as the library can be a source of much information. If you have a native plant society in town, then contact them.
There are some very sound reasons for selecting native plants for your garden, for me the environmental reasons carry the most weight but ease of care follows as a close second.
The environmental reasons are strong motivators for selecting native plants, with a native plant garden you will:
provide habitat for a wide variety of creatures such as birds and butterflies;
provide a home for many native plants that are becoming increasingly rare in the wild;
and eliminate the need for chemical inputs such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
The other important reasons for using native plants are the practical and aesthetic benefits of native plant gardening: less work and lots of beauty!
Once you get started you will soon discover that native plant gardens almost look after themselves. Remember the plants look after themselves in Nature and do not have a gardener to feed and water them
If you love songbirds and their summer morning chorus then consider planting trees and shrubs to attract them and keep them.
Now if there was a situation when it was important to follow the right plant, right place rule it is when you are choosing a tree or trees for your property. Pick the wrong tree and you may find its roots assaulting the foundation of your home. Pick the right tree and you will enjoy its many benefits for many years.
Remember that a tree’s root system can cover an area 2-3 times as wide as the crown. Also, be sure you know how tall the tree will grow, you do not want a 50-foot tree in your 10x10 backyard.
It is not only individual properties that benefit from trees. A busy shopping district that has a tree canopy is a much more pleasant place to walk, stop and shop than one where the sun beats down mercilessly upon your head
Shade is vital to protect us from the sun and schoolyards need shade. A few well-placed trees can turn a hot unpleasant space into a shady playground or a place t sit and read and what would a park be without a few trees.
Trees create homes for more than birds and many urban children has seen their first wildlife thanks to the trees planted nearby.
Trees act as a windbreak and can help cool your home in summer and heat it in winter. Trees can also act as a noise barrier and reduce the traffic sound from that major street that is all too near your backyard.
When you go out to purchase a tree it is important to buy one that fits in with your overall design and how you use your yard. Are you looking for a shade tree under which you can enjoy summer picnics?
Are you looking for a tree that will drop its leaves in fall after a display of vibrant colour, thus providing you with mulch and compost material? Or do you want an evergreen/
What is the maximum height and width of the tree? You will need to know about the tree’s root system how deep do the roots go and how far do they spread?
Ask yourself this is the tree’s primary function in the yard. Are you seeking more privacy, additional shade, food, or visual appeal?
What else do you plant to grow? Trees provide shade and this will determine what else you plant and where you will place it. Trees are a long-term investment. Do your homework before making the commitment.