All posts by peterboroughmastergardeners

Attracting Birds Part 3

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first two blogs about attracting birds. In this one I’ll talk about your garden.

To keep the birds coming year round, they need to be provided with an environment that accommodates their changing requirements. Native trees, shrubs and flowers that grow naturally in the forests around you will attract the birds to your garden; hedges with dense cover provide nesting places, bushes and trees  that produce berries provide additional food for them.animal-3434123_640

Keep cats away. Make sure your feeders are not close to where cats can lay in prey. Old rose canes cut into 5cm pieces can be scattered around where cats like to hide to discourage them.

Keep dead trees. The insects in them are food for many birds and the hollow trunks are nesting places.

These are just a few suggestions for attracting Birds. The first three of following websites will give you information about how to attract birds, including native trees, shrubs and perennials that attract birds. The last three are for garden centres in our area that feature native plants. In addition to the ones listed, I am sure you can find many others.

Attracting Birds
Plants that Attract Birds in All Seasons
Audubon: 10 Plants for a Bird-Friendly Yard

Local Native Plant Garden Centres near Peterborough
Native Plants in Claremont, ON
Natural Themes Farm
Ecology Park, Peterborough

 

Moisture Tolerant Perennials

by Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

So far, spring 2019 has been one of almost continuous rainfall in southern Ontario. The following plants do not demand boggy soil and are hardy in the regular garden. However, they are all moisture tolerant and are a good choice for poolside or boggy plantings.

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) – I love this plant! It looks especially pretty when planted with hostas and bleeding heart…almost a woodland garden without the trees! Lady’s mantle can take sun, sun/part shade and light shade. They can handle dry or very moist soil. They produce frothy, green flowers that look good in fresh, or dried bouquets. Lady’s mantle is one of those plants that acts as a ground cover with its “mantle” of leaves that grow 30-45 cm. (12-15 in.) high. After a rain, the water droplets will bead and sparkle on the fuzzy leaf surfaces.

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis formerly Dicentra spectabilis) – Bleeding heart is one of those old-fashioned flowers that was probably in your grandmother’s garden. It grows to about 30-120 cm. (12-47 in.) high. It will keep flowering from spring and into the summer in moist soil. However, it may go dormant, and disappear, if the soil stays dry but will then re-grow again the following spring. Flowers are an unusual shape and may be pink and white or just plain white.

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Lady’s mantle foreground, Bleeding heart background. From the author’s garden.

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum formerly Eupatorium purpureum) – According to one folklore source, this native plant gets it’s name from a colonial-era, indigenous healer named Joe Pye who used the weed to cure fever. This plant grows tall, 100-200 cm (39-78 in) high. With its whorled, lance-shaped leaves and purple flowers, it can be quite an exclamation point in a moist garden.

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Joy Pye weed with visitor.

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) – Creeping jenny is one of those plants that you may grow to hate if it gets loose in an area that provides its ideal growing conditions. I like this plant because it is a great ground cover in the moist garden or as a “spiller” in a patio pot of mixed plants. Its brightly coloured chartreuse leaves will draw your attention to a sun/part shade area of the garden. Creeping jenny spreads by rhizomes and grows very low to the ground at just 5-10 cm. (2-4 In.).

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Creeping jenny in the author’s garden.

Queen-of-the-Prairie (Filipendula rubra) – I only recently discovered this plant when a friend gave me a seedling from her garden. I have it planted along side our pond where it should do well in the moist to wet soil. This plant can be quite spectacular as it may grow to be as much as 245 cm. (8 ft.) high. I am expecting it to have a pale pink, fragrant flower. I can hardly wait!

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photo courtesy of Sugar Creek Gardens 

So, don’t fight mother nature, use plants that can survive and thrive in the moist garden!

For more information Landscape Ontario has a great resource here.

Native Plants that Bring Me Joy in the Spring

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener in Training

One of the joys of living in Canada is that we get to witness the rebirth of spring. I love to watch the plants emerge from the ground after a long hard winter and peruse my garden to see what has survived and sometimes shed a tear over the ones that haven’t.

Native plants have evolved over time. It can be confusing and we must remember that not all plants that grow in the wild are native. For instance, dandelions arrived in North America with the European settlers. Generally, native plants are those that grew in a region long before European settlement. They are easy to grow and will almost always survive.

Here are four native plants in my garden that return each spring and bring me great joy!

WILD GINGER, Asarum canadenseWildGinger

This plant is a lovely groundcover that likes full to partial shade. It has lovely heart-shaped leaves and if you look closely in the early spring, you will find a maroon coloured flower hidden under the foliage. It grows well under my birch tree and I find it is well behaved and spreads slowly. It does require moisture and will wilt quickly during the long hot summer.

WOOD POPPY, Stylophorum diphyllum

WoodPoppyA few years back on a gardening bus trip, we were gifted with a small wood poppy from a fellow Master Gardener. It is a lovely plant with irregular lobed leaves that range in colour from light to dark green. This poppy requires shade and prefers moist conditions or the leaves may wither. You will be thrilled with the lovely yellow blooms that appear in late spring. It grows to about 1 ½ feet tall into a small, bushy plant. They readily self-sow in ideal conditions such as moist woodlands, but in my garden I have never found more than a few babies.

BLOODROOT, Sanguinaria canadensis

BloodrootYou know that spring has arrived when you are thrilled with the appearance of bloodroot’s cheerful white flowers that open during the day and close at night. The leaves are clasped to the stem and slowly unfurl to reveal large, saucer-shaped but deeply scalloped foliage. It is very effective as a groundcover and prefers rich, moist woodland soil. It will tend to go dormant in the hot summer months. You will notice the roots’ red juice, hence the name. The sap was used by Native Americans for dyes. We are lucky in Peterborough to have a beautiful mural of Bloodroot under the Hunter Street bridge that was painted by Jill Stanton.

PASQUE FLOWER, Anemone patens

PasqueThis is a very interesting plant due to its large bloom in relation to the overall size of the plant. The Pasque flower has a silky, hairy, fern-like foliage and erect open bell-shaped lavender flowers. The foliage is deeply divided. It is not that fussy about soil conditions. It generally requires full sun but mine does well in sun with partial shade. It grows to about 12 inches and is well behaved. It is a beautiful spring addition to the garden, but like the bloodroot, it may go dormant in the hot summer months. Pasque comes from Old French for Easter in reference to the spring bloom time. All Anemone plants come from the Latin meaning sway as the flowers sway in the wind

Beyond the Plentiful — 5 Unusual Perennials

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Last week, my colleague Emma Murphy wrote about her 5 favourite perennials (Day lilies, Blanket Flower, Coneflower/Echinacea, Asters and Rudbeckia/Black-Eyed Susans).  Those are definitely cool plants, and are generally well-behaved and easy to maintain.

In this article, I’d like to introduce you to five unusual plants that I’ve grown to love and will pick up new varieties whenever I see them.

1. Epimedium also known as Barrenwort

Think “light and airy”.  These plants are delicate, light-shade loving plants that make excellent companions to hosta due to their very different but complimentary leaf structure.  Their flowers are tiny but extremely detailed.  They look great all summer.

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2. Eremurus also known as Fox Tail LilyIMG_20140625_160657

Tall and dramatic.  Guaranteed to prompt “Wooooooow! What are those” responses.  These plants grow in full sun, in well-drained soil and will not tolerate anything soggy.  It’s not a plant you’ll likely see blooming in a garden centre but if you watch for it, many places do carry it.  It’s a hardy bulb that does not need to be lifted and will multiply year after year to form a stunning clump.  I have orange and yellow varieties, and am on the lookout for white.

3. Athyrium known as Lady Ferns

Ferns are perfect for the shade garden. Lacy fronds soften the texture of other go-to shade classics like Hosta, Astilbe and Tiarella. Ferns like a light to medium shade setting with loamy soil with lots of leaf mold.   A few of my favourites are Dre’s Dagger, Japanese Painted.  A relative is the Maidenhair fern which is delicate and striking.ferns

4. Sempervivum also known as Hens & ChicksIMG_2187

These plants give and give and give.  They look great all year round.   They come in hundreds of colours.  They’re easy to propagate (pull off a chick and replant).  The only thing that I don’t like about this plant is their flower stalk — which I generally remove and it doesn’t seem to harm the plant at all.  They will fill in tightly together, leaving zero room for weeds.  Mix a bunch of colours together and see what happens!

5. Hellebore also known as Lenten Rose

These are stunning in the early spring, right around Lent which is where their name comes from. Unfortunately, many garden centres don’t stock them or may not stock them in future because they bloom before most people show up at the garden centres looking for plants.  I like them because their leaves are often patterned, but they’re always thick & leathery — and they look great right through the summer.  They’re a definite must for a serious gardener.hellebore

I know I said 5 unusual favourites.  But as a gardener, there’s never a finite number of any kind of plant, right?  I always have “n+1” favourites.

6. Saxifrage also known as RockfoilSaxifraga_paniculata_1_lg

Whenever I come across these at a garden centre, it’s an easy decision.  Into the cart!  They are well-behaved, unique and have interesting patterning in their leaves.  Their flowers are mostly inconspicuous — I grow them for their foliage.  Many spread into mats that are geometrically-intricate.   I have yet to come across one of these that have disappointed me.

My favourite places to get unique perennials?  Garden Plus, Peterborough.  Anna’s Perennials, Omemee. Lost Horizons, Acton. Griffins Greenhouse, Lakefield.   Take some time when you go.  Browse.  Ask questions.  ALWAYS google before you buy because the plant tag won’t tell you everything.  Watch out for the words “aggressive”, “self-seeding”,  and “vigorous”.  Always check the climate zone.  Peterborough is Canadian zone 5b.  Add one zone to anything American or that you expect might be American.  Experiment and enjoy the results.

 

My Five Favourite Perennial Plants

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

During the winter months, Ontario gardeners have a number of survival techniques to make it through the “non-green” time of the year (this includes most of Canada, except for those lucky folks on Vancouver Island). We read gardening books, travel elsewhere to see lush green vegetation and flowers, pore over seed catalogues, or surf the web in search of colourful blooms in the Google Image Gallery.

Once spring arrives (still waiting in Central Ontario…) our thoughts turn to getting into our gardens and all the newest plants profiled online, in magazines, and by our favourite garden bloggers. While I love to look at new perennial plants, I thought I would share my five favourite, easy care perennials with all of you, along with the reasons why I love them. I am not a fussy gardener, and I don’t like fussy plants that require a lot of hand holding. To survive in my garden you have to be tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be beautiful. I also like my garden to add to the ecological diversity, so I like to plant things that attract pollinators and birds.

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1. Daylilies (Hemerocallis)

Daylilies may be one of the most carefree of all flowering perennials. They grow quickly and live for a long time (looking nice even when not in bloom). They thrive in almost any soil, will grow in sun or shade, and don’t seem to be troubled by insect pests or disease. Known for being tough, they dazzle us with their big, colourful flowers in all shapes and sizes. Blooms begin in midsummer and continue into early fall. The best part? New blooms every day. Daylilies combine well with other perennials like coneflowers (Echinacea), bee balm (Monarda), and summer phlox (Phlox paniculata). For me they are a mainstay in the garden, and I can share with friends, dividing as my clumps get big.

 

2.  Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

One of those flowers where I actually think the Latin name is prettier than the common name. It’s another summer and fall perennial that blooms right until the first frosts, providing a late season burst of colour in your garden. Part of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and native to North and South America, blanket flowers come in a range of colours (yellows/reds/oranges), although I find that the tried and true Gaillardia x grandiflora is my favourite. These are not the longest lived perennials, but reproduce well so I have never had an issue with them dying out. They are easily divided, can handle poor soil, and will bloom continuously, although I find deadheading does extend their blooming (something to do while you drink your coffee or tea and wander around your garden in the morning).

Gaillardia2.jpg

3. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)

I agree with many other that no garden should be without this tough native flowering plant with large, purplish pink flowers. The common name derives from the prominent cones in the center of a single layer of slightly reflexed petals. These plants are wonderful summer bloomers, providing food for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. I love them in the fall and winter too, as I leave them up in the garden and wonder at the finches that land on them and hungrily eat the seedheads. All parts of the plant have medicinal properties and you often see it in natural cold and flu remedies.

Native Echinacea only comes in purple, pale purple, or yellow, but hybridized echinacea (derived from E. purpurea)  can be red, orange, pink, and green. While there are lots of new hybrids out there now with different colours and shapes I am still partial to the tried and true varieties, although I confess to liking Echinacea ‘Merlot’ with its reddish stems. Read more here about which one to choose (true natives vs hybrids) and why. Coneflowers can propagated by root or clump divisions. This year I am on a search for our native Echinacea pallida, which has thinner reflexed petals and a pale purple hue.

Echinacea.jpg

4. Asters (Astereae)

Aster comes from the old Greek word ‘astér’ which means ‘star’ and refers to the shape of the flower. These lovely delicate daisy-like flowers come in all shades of pink, purple, lavender, and white. Flowering from early summer to fall (depending on variety), they can be started from seeds, but purchasing young plants is the best option. Plant them out in spring for summer blooming that usually extends to fall. Asters do well in full and partial sun conditions but like good soil and drainage for best show. I love the combination of fall asters and goldenrod in the late summer and fall in my garden – so much colour and texture! There are so many asters – you can learn more about this fascinating group of plants here (for Ontario) and also here.

5. Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

What can I say? I LOVE the Rudbeckia family of flowers. With lovely bright yellow petals and contrasting centres, these plants demand attention. Rudbeckias in general are perennial, but the smaller Rudbeckia hirta can be grown as an annual if started early enough. In most zones they start flowering from early summer and continue on until fall. The ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’) is considered to be among the best perennials of all time (Perennial Plant of the Year in 1999), bringing a bursts of colour from late summer into October. These drought-tolerant plants can grow about two-feet tall and offer the best visual effect when planted en masse. A shorter variety Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Little Goldstar‘ – grows to just knee height if that is more to your liking. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ and ‘Indian Summer’ are also popular.

My two favourites are the butterfly magnet Rudbeckia triloba and Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Hortensia’, commonly called the Outhouse Plant. The first (triloba) is an excellent native addition to naturalized areas, wildflower meadows, prairies, cottage gardens, native plant gardens and borders. Plants form a rosette of green leaves the first year, then the second year they produce bushy, upright stems loaded with thousands of tiny brown-eyed golden daisies from midsummer on. As a self-seeding biennial, it is ideal for naturalizing. The Outhouse Plant is an old heirloom selection – very tall, with many fluffy double chrome-yellow daisies on the top. It’s not a bad idea to pinch these down in June to get them to be bushier, as they tend to flop in the windy summer thunderstorms. Be warned – this one can be a vigorous spreader, so keep on top of it!

 

 

 

Agastache: Herb of the Year 2019

By Christine Freeburn, Master Gardener

agastache-3966329_960_720Agastache (pronounced AG-a-stak-ee) has been chosen as Herb of the Year 2019. This name is actually the plant genus and includes many different species native to North America. All species attract bees and butterflies and deer do not usually eat. The plant we are most familiar with is Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) which has a strong anise or licorice fragrance to its leaves. It is a prairie plant that likes sun and grows 3′- 5′ tall in any type soil as long as it is well drained. Anise Hyssop has average moisture requirements and is a perennial herb zone 4. Bloom time is mid summer and common flower colour is purple, but it can be found in white and pink. The native strains can reseed, but you can find sterile cultivars like Blue Fortune which may need support. Use the leaves in teas, green salads, or fruit salads. The flowers are edible also. You can use as cut flowers or dry the flowers for arrangements.

(Agastache scrophulariifolia is known as Purple Giant Hyssop and is similiar to Anise.

Agastache nepetoides is the native Yellow Giant Hyssop or Catnip Giant Hyssop that grows in forests which blooms yellow in summer and grows 2′ to 8′. It is rare in southern Ontario, being more common in the eastern states.

Other varieties of Agastache are Korean Mint (Agastache rugosa) which is zone 6 and Rose Mint or Mexican (Agastache pallidiflora) which is zone 7.

 

GreenUP Ecology Park Spring Sale

By Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

GreenUP Ecology Park Spring Sale – Saturday May 18th 2019

The GreenUP Ecology Park  has often been called a hidden gem, it has been in Peterborough in its current location for 25 years, but many people are still unaware of its existence. I first discovered the park approximately 8 years ago when I was researching native plants. At that time I wanted to plant a large perennial bed filled exclusively with native plants. I spent all winter researching the plants I wanted and where I could buy them locally and came across the Ecology Park and better still discovered they were holding a spring sale.

I dutifully arrived on the day of the sale 5 minutes after opening only to discover a very, very long line of people all carrying totes, boxes, bags, anything that could be used to carry plants. Even though it was incredible busy I was able to find almost everything on my list with help from the many knowledgeable volunteers and staff that were on hand to help. I was quickly and efficiently processed through the payment line, and was soon on my way home to start planting. The quality and choice of plants was extensive, and I knew then that I had found something special. I have been returning to the Ecology Park every year since either as a customer or as a volunteer.

plantsalecourtesyofGreenUpFBpage

Native plants are plants that grow locally in a particular area. Whether you are planting an entire garden of native plants or simply planting one or two, the benefits are numerous. Native plants tends to be more hardy to the local conditions, needing less watering, and next to no pesticides or fertilizers. They can improve air quality, help in managing rain water runoff and maintain healthy soil as their root systems are deep and help prevent soil from compaction and erosion. Native plants provide both habitat and food sources for wildlife, as many native pollinators rely on native plants. There are numerous interesting articles on the internet detailing the benefits of planting with native plants – I have listed a few below. There are also links to two other native plant nurseries (in addition to Ecology Park).

Why Native Plants Matter
Benefits of Native Plants
List of Native Plants in Ontario
(from Ontario Wildflowers – a comprehensive list)

Native Plants in Claremont
Ontario Native Plants (online only – ship from Hamilton)

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This year the GreenUP Ecology Park Spring Sale is being held on Saturday May 18th from 10 am until 4 pm. As well as trees, shrubs and wildflowers you can also buy vegetables and annuals at the sale along with compost, mulch and wood chips, but make sure you bring your own containers to hold the compost or mulch. A list of available trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses is available on the Ecology Park website.

Children are welcome, even encouraged. While you shop there is a large children’s play area complete with a willow trail and cedar maze to keep them entertained. Be sure to check out the latest addition to the park, the new children’s education shelter which has been built using sustainable practices.

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And finally, the Peterborough Master Gardeners will be on hand wearing their red aprons between 10 am and 2 pm to answer any gardening questions you might have. Be sure to stop by and say hello!

Seed Starting Tips & Tricks

by Mary Jane Parker, Master Gardener

I have been starting seeds indoors since I was a kid. This was probably the fault of an early teacher for introducing me to Dixie cups and bean seeds or half egg shells as pots. I have run the gamut of single grow lights to a full-fledged grow room with a 1000 watt metal halide lamp on a track – serious stuff. I currently make do with a 3-tiered system which gives me everything I need.

First tip – Pay attention to seed packet instructions if available. They contain the best advice possible for timing. Obvious but a lot of people ignore that.

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Choice of potting mix is personal and requires a trial and error mode to find out what works for you. I personally use a local product because I witnessed someone who owns a commercial nursery trotting out of a store with multiple bags. I thought, hmm, I’m going to try this and have used it ever since.

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Damping off has to be the biggest issue I have faced starting seeds early. There is nothing worse than seeing your wonderful little seedlings wither and die. For years I mixed No Damp with my soil when potting seeds for ornamental (not food) plants.

When this became unavailable, I started using very strong chamomile tea as a soil drench and spray. Seems to work for me. I have also at times sprinkled cinnamon on the soil surface.

Two other important techniques/tools for indoor seeding are air flow – I use a fan when plants are a few inches high. This really strengthens the plants. And before I even start, I sterilize all my trays, etc. because I reuse them for years.

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That’s pretty well it and then it is as Garry Edwards of Meadowview Gardens says “You might as well forget it if they dry out. Seedlings do not thrive on neglect.”

P.S. Garry Edwards suggested that seed packets do not always contain correct info. He noted many instances where they were totally wrong. He also concurred that air flow is important.

Happy Easter!

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener-In-Training

I hope that you have had a good weekend with family and friends and had a chance to enjoy a little time outdoors. This time of year brings thoughts of spring bulbs, budding trees and the sound of birds which are getting very active. It won’t be long until we see our first hummingbirds in the Peterborough area.easter-3123834_640

A planned outing to some of your favourite garden centres at this time of year can be fun and educational. We are lucky here in Peterborough and the surrounding area to have a number of excellent nurseries that carry quality plants and have knowledgeable staff to help with your questions.

Go to gardenroute.ca for some amazing local businesses that specialize in being growers, maintaining gorgeous display gardens and full service garden boutiques. Members of “The Route” are Anna’s Perennials, Avant-Garden Shop, Blossom Hill Nursery, Gardens Plus, Garden Style Bridgenorth, Greenhouse on the River, Griffin’s Greenhouses, Johnston’s Greenhouses, Keene on Gardens and Williams Design Studio.

PGS-logo-tinyAll of these businesses and more can be found this weekend at the Peterborough Garden Show. It runs from Friday, April 26th to Sunday April 28th. The Peterborough & Area Master Gardeners will be there giving gardening advice and are available to answer all your questions! Come visit us at our booth. We are the ones with the red aprons! This year’s show is in a new venue, Fleming College’s Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre. Lots of free parking and the cost is only $10.00 which gives you access to the show for the whole weekend. There are many wonderful speakers and workshops. All the proceeds go back to the community. Check it out at peterboroughgardenshow.com.  Hope to see everyone at the show!

Spring Cleaning Your Gardens

by Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

It is that time of year again…..time to start to prepare your gardens and lawn for the outdoor living season.

It may be too early yet to walk on your lawn, it should be firm not mushy with moisture, or in your gardens, the soil should be crumbly and not stick together. I know that it is still very early but there are a few things that you can do.

I have started to cut back the ornamental perennial grasses. These grasses begin to grow early. They like cool weather so they need to be cut back in preparation for this early growth garden.

CherylH1

I have also begun to remove some of the debris around the edges of my perennial gardens. I avoid walking in the gardens because they are still quite wet and partially frozen in some cases. We also have a small pond that I have been able to cut back the cattails. I will not get to carried away with this yet because there are some “critters” that live in the garden clutter that I do not want to disturb. For example, ladybugs will still be snoozing. You also do not want to accidentally discard a praying mantis egg case. Both insects are beneficial insects because they are predators and will eat other less beneficial insects in your garden.

My garden shed was opened this weekend. I have started to move out my rain water collection barrels and to put them in place.

barrels

It is a great time to inspect your trees and shrubs before they leaf out. Remove any winter injured growth and any growth that does not keep the plant balanced or where branches rub together. There are some flowering shrubs that, if you prune now, you may remove this year’s flower buds so know what you are dealing with before you prune.

It is also not to late to do some planning. You will soon be able to see what survived the icy Ontario winter and what did not. You can think about what you would like to plant in the place of those that did not survive. Always remember to think about your plant zone, amount of light, moisture requirements and the type of soil when choosing a new plant. Matching a plant to the growing conditions is the best way to grow a plant that has a chance to thrive and overwinter successfully.

There is lots more to do but it is still early spring! Stay focused and finish one task at a time and your garden will be outdoor living ready before you know it.

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