6 Eco Friendly Garden Tips

spring is almost here

Gardening, like anything else, is easier when you have the right tools and know the right short cuts.

eco friendly gardening tips

Here are a few tips that you’ll find make your life easier and make gardening more fun:

 

  • Don’t like wearing gloves when you garden?  No problem. Take a bar of soap and run your fingernails into it so that you have soap on and under the nails.  You can now put your hands in the dirt without having to scrub it out from under your fingernails for hours afterwards.  If you’re gardening with bare hands, invest in some heavy duty gardener’s hand cream to moisturize them afterwards so they don’t get rough and hard.
  • Use the water left over when you steam your vegetables and pour it onto your pot plants.  It’s full of nutrients and plants love it.
  • Save your coffee grinds and tea bags!  Dig them into your flower beds – plants love coffee grinds! Hydrangeas, Rhododendrons and other acidic loving plants benefit greatly.
  • Got bugs?  Little pests like aphids can be blasted off plants with a spray of water.  Just be sure not to break the plant. Or you can pick them off with sticky tape or masking tape.  It’s gross but it works!
  • Put your wheelbarrow to work when you’re potting.  Put a plank across the top of the wheelbarrow and rest the plants on the plank along with your tools.  In the wheelbarrow put your potting mix. Voila!  A mobile potting table!
  • Use a mixture of vinegar and water to do clean up outside.  Whether it’s garden tools or crusty terracotta pots, this mixture is eco-friendly and works like a charm!

Gardener Newbie? Easy Gardening Tips To Get You Going

garden tips

So you’ve decided that it’s time to garden but you feel overwhelmed.  Don’t panic, we have easy tips to help you make a success of your gardening efforts.

attract butterflies gardening tips

Take inventory

For an existing garden:

If you’ve inherited a garden someone else planted then the best way to begin is to take some notes and pictures so that you can speak with your friendly horticulturalist at the local garden center.

Take a series of pictures of the garden layout, then photograph each plant close up.  You may not know what the plants are so the photos will help the garden center identify them for you.

For a new garden:

Make a note of what you like and don’t like.

Walk around your neighborhood to see what looks good in the surrounding gardens.  Taking pictures will help your garden center both identify the plant and tell you whether it’s likely to do well in your garden.

Take a picture of the garden area and make notes of the sun /shade patterns.

gardening tips

Dream and Plan:

For both new and existing gardens:

Look at garden pictures online and in magazines. Save the pictures that you like.  Make a note of what you’d like your garden to look and feel like.What does your dream garden look like?  If you’re going to start gardening, you may as well work towards making that dream a reality.

Also make a note of your lifestyle.

Do you have lots of time to garden?  Do you love being outdoors? Do you want something low maintenance and functional?

All these details will help your garden center advise you about how to plan and plant a garden or plan and alter a garden to suit your specific requirements.

Put the Plan on Paper:

Mapping out your dream garden layout and the plants you want to surround yourself with is the best way to figure out what you’ll need to make that dream come true.

It will help you, together with your garden center horticulturalist, figure out exactly how many of each variety you’ll need and the tools you’ll need.  All this will help you work out what it will all cost.  If it’s beyond your budget, you can still work towards the end goal, but just scale it down by either doing a section of the garden as you can afford to, or by planting a ‘skeleton’ garden that can be fleshed out later.

 

Don’t have space for a vegetable garden? Use a Container

If you don’t have space for a full out vegetable garden, you can still grow veggies! Just do it in a container!

Growing vegetables in a container is very similar to growing flowers in a container. The video above gives you quick step by step instructions.

Step 1:

Choose your container

Step 2:

Choose your vegetables according to similarities in the type of environment they’ll do best in.  For instance, if the container is to be in full sun, choose vegetables that all like full sun.  If some like shade and some like sun, only some of them will be happy and grow healthy.

Step 3:

Add good quality potting mix to the container

Step 4:

Soak the vegetable plants in the nursery pots in water until the soil around the roots is wet

Step 5:

Remove the vegetable plants from the nursery pots and untangle the roots if they are at all root bound

Step 6:

Plant them in the container at the same depth they were in the nursery pot

Step 7:

Water well and make sure you water again when the soil begins to dry out.

Plan, Plant and Prosper: Vegetable Garden Tips

Were you disappointed with last year’s vegetable garden? 

If so, don’t despair: here are some tips to help you make your best vegetable garden ever!

Plan before you plant:

Planning ahead of time will save you time, money and frustration.  In order to plan, you need to know where your vegetable garden will be and the conditions that prevail.  Is it sunny all day, or partly shady?  Is it sandy soil, or clay?  Is it exposed to wind or is it sheltered.

You’ll need to choose the vegetable plants that will do well in this particular location – and that will do well when planted together. If you want to plant lettuce and squash, you’ll probably need to have vegetable beds in two different locations: one in a partly shady spot and one in full sun. You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to start those plants off from seed or planting seedlings?

If you’re a gardening novice, then take photos and notes and head on down to your garden center for advice.

vegetable garden

Plant Productively:

The best way to plant vegetables is to do so with a harvest in mind.  If you want to reap for longer, you’ll need to plant successive crops.  Many vegetables have varieties that ripen at different times.  Check before you plant.  If you’re planting vegetables that all ripen at exactly the same time, you’ll end up with a huge harvest and not be able to use all the vegetables you reap.  While you can always donate and give away the excess, you also don’t want to be left with nothing else ripening for the rest of the season.

While all this planning might feel like a chore, if you take care of it before you begin preparing your beds, you’ll find that you do less work for better results.

Here’s a link to a vegetable garden planner you’ll find helpful.

 

Dead Or Alive?

dead plant

deadYour plant looks as if it has gone on to the happy hunting grounds, but is it really dead or is there still life inside?

 

Here are a few ways you can check to see whether it can be revived:

  • Is there any green in it?  Are there still some green leaves or twigs to be seen?  If you cut a twig or stem is it green inside?  If so, don’t give up on it just yet.  Cut off the dead foliage and water it.  It may just recover!
  • Did you water it too much?  If so the leaves may be yellow or brown.  They’ll likely be limp or at least soft.  In that case check the soil.  If it’s very moist or waterlogged this could be the problem.  Make sure there’s proper drainage and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.  When you do water, do so sparingly.
  • Did you water too little?  If the leaves are dead and hard on the edges and if the soil is rock hard and pulling away from the sides of the pot, this is likely the problem. Cut off the dead foliage. Make sure there’s proper drainage then start watering that plant.  Set an alarm on your phone so that you remember to water it twice a day. It may well recover.
  • Is it getting too much sun?  If the leaves look as if they have brown spots or burnt areas, this plant probably needs some shade.  Cut off the dead foliage, move it out of the direct sun and water it.
  • Is it getting too little sun?  If the leaves appear pale and wan and limp, this could be the issue.  Especially if you recently moved the plant from one position to another.  Change the position so it’s getting the right amount of light and / or sun depending on the plant and water as usual.
  • Plants often like humidity, especially indoor plants.  They absorb moisture through the leaves so make sure it’s not being dried out in the position it’s currently in.
  • Is the plant starving?  it might be deficient in some nutrients. Ask your garden center which fertilizer would be best for this plant then apply as per product directions.
  • Is it time to say goodbye?  If you’ve done all you can do to revive the plant and it’s not working… well it’s probably time to head down to your garden center and get a new plant to love and care for!

fall color mums

Container Gardening 101

container gardening

Successful container gardening is easy with these basics:

Remember that when you are planting a container you are dealing with a different environment than you are when you plant directly into your garden.

Fall Planting Container Gardening

You have to treat the container as a micro-environment, not as part of the entire garden. 

Here’s what you need to do:

 

 

  1. Choose the right container for the plants and visa versa
  2. Make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom so that it doesn’t become water logged
  3. Add some drainage medium – small gravel or stones works well – in the bottom of the container
  4. Use potting mix as your planting medium, not just soil you dug up from your garden
  5. Soak the plants you’re going to plant in the container in a bucket of water – push the pot into the water until all the air bubbles escape.  Leave the plant to soak while you prepare the container.
  6. Remove the plants you’re going to put in the container from the pots in which they were sold – use your fingers or a small garden fork to tease the roots apart.  Many of these plant have become somewhat root bound and will grow better if you ‘unbind’ the roots so they can reach out for water.
  7. Add bone meal and fertilizer. Ask your garden center which will work best with your chosen plants.
  8. Wet the soil mix  in the container and then plant the plants in the grouping you want.  Ask your garden center for advice about container companion planting to ensure your plants are compatible and that they’ll produce a nice show of flowers and foliage throughout the season.
  9. Be sure to get the soil off the leaves and stems of the plants.  Cover the roots. with soil
  10. Water the planted container thoroughly but not so much that the water runs out the bottom as this will wash out all the nutrients.
  11. Water the container at least twice a day, especially as the weather warms.  Remember that container soil will warm up and dry out quicker than garden soil as it’s exposed on the sides to the sun and the heat.
  12. When blooms fade, if the plant requires deadheading do this to prolong the blooming seasonContainer Gardening

Helping Your Garden Recover From Winter

helping your garden recover from winter

This Winter was a doozy!  Here are a few tips to help you bring your garden back to its vibrant best.

 

Tip 1:

The good news is that lots of snow isn’t always bad.  Snow actually insulates the roots of plants.  When it doesn’t snow and just gets cold, roots are not protected and they run the risk of freezing which will often kill off the plants.

Tip 2:

helping your garden recover from winterCut off the dead leaves and twigs and aerate the soil around the roots.  Water as usual and wait a while.  Those ‘dead’ plants may well surprise you with new shoots as the weather warms.

 

 

Tip 3:

helping your garden recover from winterCheck for split or broken branches, road salt damage or other damage that could hinder the plant’s recovery.  Trim off these damaged areas. In the case of split or broken branches, make a clean cut above the break so that the branch can heal. Make sure to hire a professional arborist to remove larger branches as these can be very unstable and dangerous.  If in doubt, take a photo and ask your local garden center’s advice.

Tip 4:

helping your garden recover from winterA quick way to tell if a plant has actually died or if life still lingers is to check to see if the stems are completely dry and brown inside or if there appears to be a hint of green or white inside which indicates that there’s still sap flowing.

 

 

Tip 5;

If the stems or branches appear dead, sometimes the plant will shoot again from the roots, so be patient and wait a while before ripping it out of the ground.

Tip 6:

helping your garden recover from winterTake care when trimming evergreens with foliage damage.  Don’t prune the foliage any more than normal as you might end up with bare patches.  Instead wait a while as new foliage will likely make an appearance soon.

 

 

Tip 7:

As the weather warms, prune, water and fertilize.  Ask your local garden center about the correct fertilizer and amount of water for your specific plant.

Tip 8:

helping your garden recover from winterIf you notice that your shrubs such as hydrangeas are not blooming after this hard winter, don’t worry too much.  They will probably begin blooming again the next season.

 

 

Tip 9:

For shrubs and plants that were flattened under the snow, give them time to rejuvenate unless they are actually broken or the roots pulled out.

Tip 10:

Make a note to mulch around your plants, shrubs and trees before next winter sets in.  This is the best way to avoid damage to the roots.

Avoid Allergy Triggers In Your Garden:

Allergy Triggers In Your Garden

Avoid Allergy Triggers In Your Garden:

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenSpring and Summer are wonderful times to get out into the garden and enjoy getting close to nature – unless, of course, you have allergies.

If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from allergies triggered by pollen and plants, then you’ll want to eradicate the culprits and replace them with plants that will allow you to enjoy your garden without the runny nose, streaming eyes and itchy throat.

First we’ll tell you about some of the common allergy triggers and then we’ll give you a list of plants that will be easier to live with.  It might mean you have to dig up some of your favourites, but, you’ll find that there are equally beautiful alternatives that will allow you to enjoy the outdoors without those nasty side effects.

Common allergy triggers:

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenSunflower: who doesn’t love these giant, sunny blooms? Unfortunately they’re also prone to setting off nasty allergic reactions.

Chamomile: yes, this calming herb is a hay fever trigger.  If you’re especially sensitive, it can also react with your skin and you’ll find drinking Chamomile anything but calming.

Daisies: many of us love those cheerful, down-to-earth blooms, but the pollen, the leaves and even the flowers are often very effective allergy triggers.

Jasmine: this beautifully perfumed vine is also a big allergy trigger – and as we often have this plant indoors or in containers near the house, it’s probably best to avoid it.

Juniper:  one of our B.C. landscape staples, Juniper can cause hay fever and skin rashes.

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenWisteria: it’s such a pity that this showy vine is a quick way to suffer a severe bout of hay fever and even skin rashes.

If you’re feeling a bit disheartened because we’ve pinpointed one or more of your favourite plants, we have good news.  There are alternatives that are just as pretty and rewarding to grow.

Here are some of the easiest alternatives to grow in our climate:

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenEnglish lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). There are any number of lavenders, and you no doubt know, these plants are the ultimate multi-taskers.  The gorgeous purple flowers in Summer can be used for tea, soap, baking, cooking and many other uses.  Lavender is a compact shrub with silvery green leaves – indicating that it’s also a great addition to the xeriscape garden.  It’s not just humans that love lavender, so do pollinators!  It’s hardy, loves everything from full sun to part shade and doesn’t need much water. Simply trim back when flowering is over.

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenRosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Rosemary shares many characteristics with Lavender, but has a few more variations including upright, bushy, weeping or creeping varieties. It grows between 1 and 8’ high but will spread as far as allowed. It also attracts your favourite pollinators and is a wonderful addition to your culinary efforts.

Rosemary doesn’t require much maintenance. It doesn’t like too much water and will grow in relatively poor soil. Cut back tips to shape it. Hardiness depends on the specific variety so check with your garden center as to which variety is best for your location.

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenMint (Mentha spp.). If you’re looking for a plant to fill up bare spaces, then mint is it!  It spreads aggressively.  And that’s fine because you can use mint in cooking, baking and in teas!  It’s hardy, easy to grow and doesn’t require much maintenance at all.  Mint grows to about 2’ tall but will spread as far as you allow it to. It likes everything from full sun to part shade.

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenWoolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) is an excellent ground cover that grows quickly and in almost any kind of environment. It has small leafed green foliage and small pink flowers throughout summer and grows about 2 – 3” high and about 3’ wide. Woolly thyme likes full sun and requires very little water once established so it’s perfect for xeriscaping. Can be used as a lawn replacement, a wall adornment or anywhere you need some low maintenance cover. All that’s necessary is to trim it back periodically. It attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators.  It’s hardy to -28.9 C, so it can survive even a cold winter like our last one.

Allergy Triggers In Your Garden hummingbirdsFall phlox (Phlox paniculata) produces fragrant white, pink, rose, red or lavender coloured flowers the whole summer. It’s perennial and very hardy, requiring very little maintenance.  All that’s necessary is to dead head and pinch back tips to encourage the plants to become more bushy instead of lanky.

 

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenClematis: a hardy, long flowering vine that rivals Wisteria for showiness. They like full sun to part shade – keep the roots shady and the rest of the plant in sun for best results.  They like well drained soil but do need regular watering and fertilizing.  They’ll also need some support to climb on. Depending on the variety, these vines can grow quite large – from 10’ to 20’.  Clematis offer a variety of flower colours including white, pink, purple and blue.

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenSweetpeas (Lathyrus spp.) come in varieties including annual and perennial, vines, bushes, and varieties that flower at different times.  They might not be quite as showy as Wisteria, but still offer lots of pretty flowers and fragrance to the garden without the allergy triggers.  They can be a little more picky about their environment, so before planting, check with your local garden center to ensure that your choice of location will yield good results. They require a little maintenance needing regular watering and dead heading.

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenGoldenrod (Solidago spp.) keeps the colour going with swathes of yellow flowers from late summer through the fall. Depending on the variety, they can grow as high as 8’ and will spread by seed.  If you don’t want them to spread, dead head before the seeds appear. If they do spread or become too dense, they can be divided in the Spring. Like many of the plants we’ve mentioned, these happy flowers are almost maintenance free and are especially attractive to pollinators.  They like anything from full sun to part shade and can do well in less than ideal soil conditions.

Allergy Triggers In Your GardenDaylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids)? are easy to grow, low maintenance, hardy perennials that love full sun. They do need regular water as soon as the temperatures warm in spring and right through to the beginning of winter. Daylilies grow 2.5 – 4’ tall and spread 2 to 3’. There are several varieties with different blooming times, and some even re-bloom.  You can choose evergreen, semievergreen and deciduous and can be divided if they become too dense.

How to Attract Hummingbirds and Other Pollinators Into Your Garden

attract hummingbirds

Not only is it good for agriculture to encourage and support pollinators, it’s also a lot of fun watching as they flutter and dart from flower to flower.

 

Here’s a quick video that gives you an overview of how you can attract these little critters into your garden:

 

Here are 5 old fashioned favourites that Hummingbirds love. 

These are all suitable for Zone 8 and provide you with lots of colour.  Many are also perennials so you won’t have to replant them every year.  Less work and more fun!

Get inspired then come in and chat with our horticulturalist to see how to combine these with other plants to extend flowering displays and to continue attracting pollinators as long as possible.

Lupines:

attract hummingbirdsLupines are colourful and come in a variety of shades.  They grow to around 3′ tall and spread to about the same amount. They’re perfect for the backs of borders or as a backdrop in a flowerbed.  Even when the blooms are gone, their foliage is beautiful. They’re easy going and you can plant them in full sun or part shade, just make sure the soil is moist and well drained.

Phlox:

attract hummingbirdsIt’s the perfect summer flower bearing pink, white, lavender or red flowers throughout summer.  The sweet fragrance is a magnet for hummingbirds and other pollinators. They grow to about 4′ tall and spread out about 3′.

Bee Balm:

attract hummingbirdsThe name says it all!  Another easy going perennial that grows about 3′ tall and 2′ wide and acts as a pollinator magnet! Flowers can be red, white, pink or violet. Plant in full sun or part shade in well drained soil.

Hollyhocks:

attract hummingbirdsThese lovely perennials grow really huge!  They can get up to 8′ tall and 3′ wide.  Their blooms are gorgeous and can be single or double.  They come in a variety of colours.  Because they can get quite lanky, it’s best to plant these behind other, shorter flowering plants. Plant in full sun in well drained soil.

Coral Bells Heuchera:

attract hummingbirdsWe love Heuchera.  They’re the perfect, neglect proof perennials.  They grow up to 3′ tall and 2′ wide and when they’re not flowering, they have lovely foliage. Plant them in part shade in well drained soil.

Recipe Alert: Brambles Spring Roll

brambles spring roll

Recipe Alert: Brambles “Spring” Roll

brambles spring rollbrambles spring rollbrambles spring roll

INGREDIENTS:

Ginger Garlic Dipping Sauce

1 Cup     Soya Sauce
¼ Cup  White Granulated Sugar
1 tbsp.   Chili Flake
1 tbsp.   Sesame Oil
1/3 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
2 tbsp.   Minced Garlic
½ Cup  Packed Brown Sugar
.5 oz      Whole Ginger Peeled
.5 oz      Thinly Sliced Green Onion
2 tbsp.  Mirin
——————————————————–
4 0z Vermicelli rice noodles
1 Green Apple, sliced into matchsticks
1 Mango peeled and, sliced into thin strips
½ lime juice
1 avocado pitted and sliced
½ cup loosely packed basil
½ cup loosely packed mint
8 rice papers
Sea Salt
¼ cup Microgreens (optional )
½ cup Pickled Red Cabbage ( optional)
10 small colourful edible pansies

DIRECTIONS:
In a small bowl, mix together soya sauce, white sugar, chili flake, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, mirin and green onion until incorporated. Let sit in the fridge till ready to use!

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare the vermicelli rice noodles according to the instructions
on the package. Drain and set aside

toss the Green apple with lime and pinch of salt. Have all filling ingredients prepped and in front of you before you start rolling- noodles, mango, green apple, basil, mint, microgreens, pickled cabbage, pansies

Assemble the spring rolls:Fill a shallow glass baking dish or pie plate with 1 inch 2.5 cm warm water.
Submerge one rice paper wrapper in warm water for 15 seconds and then lay the softened wrapper
on a clean kitchen towel.Place a portion of each filing ingredient on the rice paper. Fold the bottome of
the wrapper over the filling and gently tuck the filling under the wrapper. Fold the sides over the filling.
Continue rolling and tucking the rice paper to form the spring roll. Repeat with the remaining rice papers.

Serve with Ginger Garlic Dipping Sauce.