Pruning Lavender

Pruning is usually done in the late spring, once you can see your lavender showing new growth.
Lavender can look dead, when in fact it is not so wait to see the new growth.

There is no need to prune a plant you have just planted.
The second year it is in the garden, I would remove dead branched and shape the plant. 
From the third year on:
Step 1.  Remove any dead branches.
Step 2.  Cut the plant back about 1/3 of its size - both the top and sides
Step 3.  Shape the plant.

After blooming or if you are harvesting the flowers, remove the flower stalks and an inch or two of the growth below the stalk. That will encourage more growth.

What to do with a woody plant

The problem in my climate is these branches are prone to damage from the weight of the snow on them. The best thing is to prevent your lavender developing woody branches with proper pruning.
Lavender is an amazing plant because sometimes the woody growth will put out new shoots, but not always. If you simply cut off the woody branches, you risk killing the plant.

There is a three year plan to pruning a plant that is woody. In spring when the first new growth is evident, cut about one-third of the stems back to within a few inches of where the woody part starts. Trim the rest of the stems back about one-third of the way.  For the next two years, cut another third of the stems back near the wood and just trim all the remaining stems.  In this way, you will prune the whole plant in three years without causing too drastic a shock to its system.


The Good Garden Pests

Not all pests are harmful for your garden.Some garden pests, in fact, provide excellent pest control to protect your plants from other quite harmful insects. Isn't nature wonderful?

 1) Ladybugs are not only beautiful, but they are one of the best bugs to have in your garden. In fact, they are referred to as a "gardener's best friend," due to the fact that in their lifetime, each ladybug can consume up to 5,000 aphids, a common garden pest. They also enjoy munching on mealy bugs and spider mites, which are harmful to gardens.

2) Praying mantis. Praying mantises are regarded as the consummate small-sized predator. They are something to behold in their natural environment. The manner in which they hunt down their prey is methodical and meticulous. This makes them efficiently dangerous for other garden insects, but they will not harm your garden.

3) Spiders. They capture insects with their webs and feed on them. In this way, these spiders help to manage pest infestation. Those that dwell in gardens are usually not poisonous or lethal, and there is virtually no risk of these creatures ever creeping into the household. If you want to attract spiders in your garden, grow some permanent perennials. These kinds of spiders find perennials very suitable for a home.

4) Tachinid flies. Grow some pollen and nectar plants, and you'll be able to attract this variety of flies. Once in your garden, these Tachinid flies will feed on small harmful insects. We're talking about army worms, cutworms, cabbage loopers, caterpillars, gypsy moths, squash bugs and sawflies. All of these pests will eat away at your plants and give you a decaying garden.

5) Parasitic wasps. Again, by providing pollen and nectar plants, you'd be able to attract these beneficial garden insects. They really will help your garden because these parasitic wasps will attack and feed on the eggs of harmful insects. With parasitic wasps inhabiting your garden, you'd be able to stop the infestation of dangerous insects by eliminating their very source: their eggs.

 There are more kinds of insects that can help you in dealing with different types of pest invasions. Take the time to learn them. Your garden will be better for it.


Great Tomatoes Plants Grown in Containers

If you live in an apartment, townhouse or have a large deck it's easy to grow tomatoes in containers to provide delicious tomatoes right outside your door!

  1. Start off by picking out your tomato plants and containers. Cherry and patio tomatoes need at least a 3 gallon container, while the larger tomato plants needs a 5-7 gallon container. Make sure the containers have good drainage.
  2. Pick up an all around potting soil. You want a potting soil as it isn't too heavy so the soil won't compact to the point extreme hardness.
  3. Place rocks or broken ceramic pot pieces to cover the drainage holes.
  4. Remove the bottom branches of the tomato plants, the small ones.
  5. Fill the container with the potting soil about 3/4 full, place the plant in the container and fill in around the roots and bottom half of the stem. Firm into place.
  6. Mix a good vegetable fertilizer with water and water the tomato plant well, but do not soak. You will need to fertilize weekly.
  7. Water daily as your tomato plants are 95% water and will suffer if not enough water is supplied while growing.
You may need a to use a pest control as there are plenty of insects that love tomatoes! I use a simple "slightly soapy" solution in a spray bottle weekly to keep insects at bay but you can buy an organic or chemical spray.

You can also grow lettuce, beets, beans, zucchini or many other vegetables in containers right on your balcony or patio as long as you feed, water them and have plenty of sunlight!

I would love to hear from you! Drop me a line comments below.


Enviromentally Friendly Weeding

Dandelions. Ragweed. Lamb's Quarters. Crabgrass. Plantain. Witch grass. Mustard etc etc....
There are ma
ny weeds that can invade your lawn. With the new laws in Ontario preventing the use for homeowners of herbicides or any where if you want to go Green, there are still effective ways to rid your lawn of unwanted weeds. All it takes is time and persistence.
Below I have listed a variety of methods to rid your lawn of weeds. Try a combination of these to further your efforts.

First and most obvious is Digging!
This is the best way but it does involve physical labour! It takes more time but the results, if you get them before they flower and seed, are good. The trick is to ensure you get out the entire root and remember many have taproots.
If you don't get the whole root they may re sprout. There have been great new tools developed that easily dig down to the bottom of a taproot, grab it and pull it out without even bending over. Once they grab the plant you lift it out and deposit into a wheel barrow or bucket.You can use hand tools if your back can withstand the bending or as in my case, get up close and personal. Sit on the ground with your hand tools! You don't have to get all the weeds at once. An hour of weeding a week will get you, and keep you on top of things.

Cut it Out!
An effective way to kill many weeds is to use a hoe and shear them off at the soil line. I find that when I garden if I use the hoe to shear off weeds it keeps them well under control. With your lawn it will eventually kill off the annuals and with persistence even the perennials. Make sure your hoe is sharp to make it easy. A handy little tool for sharpening is called the Samurai Shark by Homesmart. Best sharpening tool I have ever used. Have one for the kitchen and one for the gardening tools.

Pickle 'em with Vinegar Spray
Vinegar is an acid (acetic acid) and if you spray the small weeds with vinegar in direct sunlight it can burn them down to the roots. Pickling vinegar is even stronger and more effective. Well established weeds with large roots will need reapplications as this does not eliminate the root system if they are well established.

Organic Weed Spray
There are organic sprays on the market now. Be careful how you spray as the drift may go onto healthy grass and kill it. These use citrus oils or fungus to attack the weed.

Roasted Weed! (or Burning)
I saw this new weed burner at a local store. It gives off a burst of flame to kill annuals and kill the top of perennial weeds. Eventually it will kill the root system of perennials. Europeans have used the Infra Burner for years. This is a propane burner but the propane combustion is inside the equipment. It is a radiant heat produced that Infra Burners ceramic plate captures and releases to kill the weeds in the lawn, garden or pathways.Very effective weed control, not to mention fun. Nuke those bad boys!

Planting Flowers in Containers

"Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers." - Veronica A. Shoffstall

Container growing can be remarkably satisfying especially, but not exclusively, if you have limited space. I love to have potted flowers on my deck! If you pick the right flowers you will get the birds and the bees like hummingbirds and are able to see these wonderful birds up close.
So before you start picking containers decide where you want them to be. Just outside a kitchen window in a window box? Large wooden planters on a porch in the corners? Around the swimming pool deck?

Next we need to think about the container type.
You can plant your flowers in containers of mixed styles, shapes, material and height. Some containers make beautiful displays to brighten up a patio corner, against a bare wall or on either side of an outside stairway. There are so many pots in various shapes and sizes. There are clay, plastic, ceramic, wire pots, tubs and buckets. Containers you attach to the house (window box) and containers you hang off your railings or hang from posts. Containers that sit on the deck, patio or porch. You choose. You are the artist! Show your colours!
Ensure your containers have good drainage in them. Check to see if your containers have drain holes to prevent over watering and provide air circulation for healthy plants. If there are none put a layer of gravel or pebbles in the bottom of the pot.

Next is to choose the soil. Potting soil is rich in organic material. Added Vermiculite works to help the soil drain and keep it moist. Remember to add a slow release granular fertilizer to the soil to give your plants a great start.

Alright, so, you know where the containers are going, what type of containers you want and you have several bags of good potting soil. Off to the Garden Centre!!!!

No, not yet. Do a little research. You need a "planting plan". Select flowers and plants that compliment each other. Some flowers bloom pink, red, yellow or variegated, have huge blossoms or clusters of little tiny blossoms. Some are trailers, other uprights. You can talk to the gardener at your local Garden plant center. Look plants up online or if you are daring, just experiment with different kinds of plants. You can check out the labels for height, type, sun exposure and watering requirements.I like to add in plants that have showy foliage and trail down to the deck to go with my flowers, like Ipomea (Sweet Potato Plant). Gives the "overflowing look". I like to get height in a planter so often will put a tall grass in the middle.

I have listed a few options of flowering plants and foliage plants that work well in planters.
Annuals suitable for containers:
Alyssum, Begonia, Browallia, Coleus, Geraniums, Impatiens, Lantana, Lobellia, Marigolds,Periwinkle, Nasturtiums, Pansies, Salvia, Petunias, Sanvitalia, Snapdragons, Thunbergia, Zinnias

Some plants that are great for colourful foliage:
Hedera (English Ivy), Ipomea, Lamium, Pedilanthus, Pseuderanthemum, Strobilanthes(Persian Shield), Vinca

What ever you choose enjoy your containers. If you are not too fond of a plant this year, don't use it next year. You may just find your favorite types of plants or try different plants every year. Experiment! Enjoy!

Would not have been my choice in a container but to each their own!


Planting a New Vegetable Garden

Start planning!
What is it you want to grow?
Where can you plant?
In these times of fiscal restraint the addition of fresh home grown vegetables to your meals will benefit not only your pocket book but your health as well. It makes more sense now to consider growing some of our own vegetables.
Size up your garden
The first garden I made was huge! The next year I cut it down to half the size. Be realistic! How much time can you spend in your garden? Adjust the size accordingly. Vegetable gardens are a good deal of work, so start small and expand if and when you have the time. Squash, melons, pumpkins and corn-require large areas to spread out, so be aware of your limitations.
Sun Exposure
Vegetable gardens require at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Check the area to ensure there will not be any major shade obstacles in the way. Large trees, buildings etc.
Garden Site 
The ground should be fairly level. If the area you wish to plant is covered with grass, peel away the sod by using a sharp spade to cut the sod into squares, undercut the strips below the grass roots. I use this sod to repair bare areas in the lawn. Use a rototiller, or manually double-dig the soil to turn over the existing soil. Break up clods and add organic matter. (e.g., compost, shredded leaves or composted manure) You will need access to each plant (for seeding, thinning, weeding, watering, managing pests and harvesting), and paths help keep everything within easy reach so remember to leave a path up the centre of the plot.
Local wildlife that is happy to sample your gardens fare needs to be kept out. You may need to install a physical barrier, such as fencing or netting. I have used chicken wire for years but if you have a lot of deer in the area the fence will need to be at least 6” high.
Cool Weather Planting
These vegetables tolerate low temperatures and can be sown outdoors in early spring.
Beets, Broccoli*, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage* , Kale*, Kohlrabi*, Leeks , Lettuce, Onions, Peas*, Radishes*, Rutabaga, Spinach*, Turnips*
If marked with an asterisk they can also be planted in summer for fall harvest


Spring Cleaning for Your Garden

I really get cabin fever in the winter and so I just can't wait for those first few days in April when it starts to warm up and we are finally getting rain, not snow। This is a good time to start your "outdoor" spring cleaning। As a start you can clean your annual and perennial gardens.
  1. Annual plants are an eyesore and will not return for another year. Clean out those ugly dead plants , surrender them to the compost!
    I like to leave my perennials to prune in the spring। Clean away dead growth, mulch or leaves and prune to ground level as soon as you see new growth at the bottom of the old growth.
  2. Certain plants like to be pruned in spring as compared to the fall. Close pruning in the fall for some means no protection for delicate sprouts in the spring and so they don't fair well, like Artemesia. So here are a few tips for spring cleaning some perennials!
Caryopteris (Blue mist) Cut back to 6-8 inches when signs of green occur.
Buddleia Davvidii (Butterfly bush) Cut back to 6-8 inches when signs of green occur.
Astilbe Can just have a general tidy as they don't require much care, Cut out the dead wood.
Lobelia Cardinalis ( Cardinal flower) Trim the damaged areas or cut back to the ground.
Dianthus Clean up, remove dead wood.
Artemesia Clean in early spring, remove dead wood and leaves

Create a new garden plot

I detest grass!!!

Well.. maybe not grass itself,but cutting grass. Since I do not like to cut grass I prefer to have gardens. To make gardens I have to get rid of the grass! Vicious circle! There is hope though, a technique I heard of a few years ago and it makes creating that new garden in your lawn much easier and without the backbreaking work of removing sod.

Instead you "smother" the grass. Yes I said smother! Simple concept using newspapers, compost and mulch.The reward for smothering grass is a new beautiful plant bed, ready to plant in 60 days.

How to Smother Grass

  1. Determine the size and shape of the new bed. Mow the grass in this area to a height of 5 centimeters. Now spread newspaper over the mown grass. (Make sure its newsprint not glossy paper) Wet the newspaper thoroughly to ensure decomposition and do this to each layer as applied to a depth of 2-3 centimeters. You want this soggy.

  2. Cover the soggy mess with blood meal and composted manure. Sprinkle the blood meal over the newspaper and then layer 4 centimeters of manure on top . This retains the moisture and holds down the newspaper.

  3. Finish this by putting on top 5-7 centimeters of a chunky hardwood mulch. This discourages weed growth and holds the bottom layers in place.

  4. Spray the area with water to keep it moist for the next 45-60 days. Do not allow to dry out completely or the decomposition will stop. In about a month and a half Test the garden. use a trowel to cut several small holes in different places. If the newspaper has disappeared and the grass is suffocated ( I do like the sound of that!) it is time to plant.

  5. When planting don't disturb the soil too much. Dig out an area just large enough to slip in a plant and then replace the soil around it.

You now have a beautiful garden with out removing a single blade of grass to do so!

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