Category Archives: Annuals

What to Get a Gardener who has Everything For Christmas

by Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

Generally on the whole gardeners are a pretty easy bunch of people to get Christmas presents for – who doesn’t love a good ‘garden themed’ mug or calendar?

But what do you get the gardener in your life who already has a dozen or so mugs and calendars, bookcases overflowing with garden design, plant identification books and Canadian Gardening magazines, a shed full of shovels, trowels, pruners and every imaginable weeding tool that has ever been created.

So to my husband and anyone else who is looking for something a little different, I have attached my Christmas list:

Gardening Gloves

I know, I know I have at least 10 different pairs in the shed, but I must lose at least half of those pairs in a single season in my own backyard. Not to mention the other pairs I lose whilst gardening for someone else, or just simply driving, I’m not sure if they jump out of the car by themselves or simply get lost between the seats.

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Gift Certificates

I’m pretty easy and flexible on these. Gift certificates for seed companies are always welcome, as is a gift certificate from Lee Valley, there has to be some tool I don’t already have. You can also purchase gift certificates from the many nurseries or garden decor/accessory shops in and around Peterborough, like those on the Peterborough and Area Garden Route. A gardener will always have room for one more plant, insect house or garden gnome.

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Advance Passes to a Garden Show

Canada Blooms in Toronto in 2019 is being held on March 8-17; advance tickets can be ordered here. And locally the Peterborough Garden Show is on April 26-28; advance tickets can be purchased at numerous physical locations plus online.

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Folding Garden Stool with Tools

We are all getting older and in my case also more forgetful. As well as losing gardening gloves, I also frequently lose my tools. My husband even tried painting the handles of my tools bright red so I would be able to find them easily, that did not work. Every summer I must find at least 1 pair of pruners and a hori hori knife (I currently have 3) from the previous year or two. So to save both my aching knees and not lose any more tools I am adding this stool to my list, which actually stores the tools under the stool.

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Seed Bombs

No other reason than I love the look of these. If you look at some of the websites out there you can find them in many different colors containing different types of plant seeds, for example seeds specifically for pollinators. They are also small enough to fit in a stocking, and if you like to make your own gifts this could be something you could do yourself.

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A Gardening Book

And finally, of course, a gardening book, but not just any gardening book. This book was listed in the Toronto Star as one if the ‘100 notable books of 2018’.
It is called ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers. I haven’t read this, hence it’s on my list, but I am intrigued by the description given in The Star: ‘The science of botany and the art of storytelling merge to ingenious effect in Power’s magisterial new novel – in which people are merely the underbrush and the real protagonists are the trees that the human characters encounter’.

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I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you all receive what you wish for under your tree.

Bringing Outside Plants Indoors

By Chris Freeburn, Master Gardener

The long hot summer is coming to an end. Now is the time to start thinking about what plants you are going to bring into your home to overwinter and how you can do that successfully. During the summer months, many houseplants can become outdoor plants.thumbnail_DSCN2619

It is relatively easy to overwinter ivies which can go into outdoor containers. Take cuttings from your ivies, spray them with a safer soap solution to eliminate pests and place the stems in water to root in a bright window. You can also try this with other annuals like coleus or wandering jew. Once the stems have rooted, plant them in good potting soil and you can enjoy them through the winter months and have them again for outdoors the following year. In early summer put plants such as oxalis, kalanchoe, asparagus fern, or wandering jew outside to enjoy on your deck. Most can come back into the house in early September after a thorough spray with safers soap.

Tropicals

Tropicals like hibiscus and bouganvillia love to be outside during the hot summer months but it is sometimes a challenge to overwinter them indoors. The trick to avoiding plant shock is to bring your plant in before the nights get too cool. Tropicals like a warm, even temperature so if you wait too long to bring into your home, the plant will shock, drop leaves and look like it is dying. I have had a bouganvillia drop almost all its leaves when I left it out during a lovely fall season. The trouble was the nights were down around +10 while the days were up over 20 degrees. I cut the branches back, saw there was still green in the stems, so put it in indirect light, watered lightly and eventually new leaves began to sprout and it came back to be placed outside again the next summer. If you can stop that reaction by bringing in earlier, it is worth the effort.

Spray for Bugs!

Any plant that comes inside should be sprayed for bugs. There is nothing worse than an indoor pest infestation which can travel from one plant to another. Using a good safer soap product and completely spraying leaves, stems and soil a couple of days before you bring them in will help. Now is also the time to transplant plants into fresh new soil. Over the summer, your plants will have grown below the soil as well as above. If you are bringing in plants from a container, plant up in a pot that is just larger than the root ball with new soil. This will help to eliminate those pests as many will lay their eggs in the soil to hatch and attack your plant. You can also prune back plants that have gotten large. Most annuals do well with a bit of a haircut.

Bringing plants indoors and extending their life can be a fun and rewarding task. Don’t be discouraged if you experience some failures. It is always nice to have to go out and purchase something new to add to your collection!

Summer Deadheading

by Christine Freeburn, Master Gardener

After spring cleaning in your garden, when you have been weeding and digging and transplanting and prepping flower beds, July gives you time to really enjoy your gardens. But don’t spend all your time sitting in your muskoka chair admiring all your work. Deadheading perennials and annuals keeps them neat and tidy and in many instances, brings back more blooms.

The definition of deadheading from Barron’s Complete Gardener’s Dictionary states “Removing spent blooms before they form seeds. This tends to lengthen bloom season because it encourages many plants to produce more flower buds.”

Deadheading Annualsdeadheading

When taking spent blooms off most annuals, don’t just snap off the blossom. Follow the stem right down to where it meets another branch and break it there. Otherwise you will leave on a stem that will just turn brown and be ugly. Annuals like geraniums, large petunias, marigolds, daisies, and cosmos to name a few, will continue to produce more flowers if they are regularly deadheaded. When plants like alyssum, diascia, bacopa and other trailers have lots of dead blooms, use scissors to trim back, removing the dead parts like giving a hair trim. Coleus grow seed heads which should be broken off to encourage more leaf growth. Most annuals will love it when you cut them back and will bloom again looking bushier and healthier.

In the Perennial Gardensharleenpratt

Perennials also benefit from deadheading. Again, do not just cut off the spent flower head, but go down the stem. If the flowers are en masse, like creeping thyme, take a pair of grass shears and give the plant a hair cut to make it neater. Deadheading also stops unwanted seeds from dropping to the earth and reseeding where you don’t want them.

In the Vegetable Garden

In your vegetable garden, you may want to leave on those peas and beans that got away on you and have become over ripe. You can let these seed pods dry out and ‘harvest’ those seeds to plant next season. Peas plants are a great source of nitrogen, so you can leave them in your garden to die back naturally before you compost, allowing the nutrient to go back into the soil.

When you keep up with the removal of spent blooms, you keep your garden looking tidier, don’t invite disease from rotting blossoms and spread out the fall clean up.

So, grab your wine glass in one hand and get close and personal in your garden to deadhead.

Frost Dates and Pushing the Limits

By Chris Freeburn, Master Gardener

Many of us have grown up with the rule of planting the vegetable garden on Victoria Day (May 24th) long weekend. With the changing weather, hardier plants and stretching the limits, we have realized that many plants can go into the ground well before that date, while others do need the soil to be warmer.spinach-3368254_640

Cool Weather Crops

Cold weather crops like lettuce, spinach, pea, beet and carrot seeds can be planted well before that mystical date. They actually like a cooler temperature to germinate. If you plant them the first week of May, you should have sprouts coming up by the time you plant other seeds.

Warm Weather Crops

Ground temperatures need to be warm for beans and cucurbits such as squash, pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini. Mid May to early June is probably best for putting actual plants in the ground, if you are in an area that does not get frost. Check your weather network for overnight lows. If the temperatures drop and the night sky is clear, chances of frost are better than on a cloudy night. If the air is still, colder air will settle close to the ground and damage plants. If your property is on a slope or higher ground, the cold air will settle around you in the valleys and you may not be touched by a light frost. Being closer to water often draws the cooler air away. If you have planted tomatoes and peppers and there is a frost warning, go out and cover your tender plants with sheets.

Basil and cilantro do not like cool nights, so leave these tender herbs in pots to bring in overnight or do not plant until June.

Annuals

pansy-3373732_640Some annuals such as pansies, dusty miller and english daisies are cold tolerant while others like potato vine and impatiens do not like temperature changes. Do not plant the latter 2 choices into the ground until all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature has warmed. If the nights temperatures are dropping, bring your pots into your garage or cover with an old sheet to protect.

Perennials

Perennials have survived the winter frozen in the ground so a bit of frost will not hurt them. If you are buying perennials that have been grown and forced in a hot greenhouse, they will need to be pampered by slowly introducing them to seasonal temperatures. This is called hardening off. To harden off any plants that have been living in a warm greenhouse, put them outside in a shady area, protected from the wind for a few hours over several days. Bring them back into the warmth of your home or heated garage for the night. Increase the number of hours they are outside each day, until they are used to the outside temperatures.

According to the Farmers Almanac, the last frost date for Peterborough is May 14th, however the full moon is on the 28th. If the night of the full moon is clear and cool, we could see frost. Beware!

Preparing your garden beds for planting vegetables and annuals

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

It’s spring. You’ve got a lot of the clean-up well underway. You’re starting to look at your annual and vegetable beds to get them ready for bedding plants and seeds.

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If you work the soil too early, it could be too wet and end up compacted. To test if it is time to prepare the soil, pick up a hand full and squeeze it into a ball. Then drop the ball from a height of about a meter or break it up with your fingers. If it shatters readily then it is ready to be worked. If it stays in clumps, then it is too wet and you need to wait a bit.

Can’t wait? Use a large flat board or two to step on. Move them around as you work. The board will distribute your weight and not compact the soil as much.

Remove any weeds that have sprouted over the winter.

If the soil is nice and light and easy to dig into, then all you need to do is add a good layer of compost and let the worms in the soil do the mixing for you. A healthy soil is moist, dark and crumbly with lots of organic matter. Compost is is full of all of the the nutrients the plants need which are released as the plants need them.fresh-2386786_640

Mulch the soil with some straw for the vegetable beds or shredded bark for the flower beds. This will discourage weeds and conserve moisture in the soil until it is time to plant. All you will need to do is to pull the mulch back, plant your plants, and put the mulch back in place.

For more information about soil check out this site:
https://www.planetnatural.com/garden-soil/

Happy Gardening!

Young Seedlings & “Damping Off”

By Christine Freeburn, Master Gardener

There is nothing more disheartening than checking your freshly sprouted seeds to discover them rotted and almost dead. Damping Off is a fungal disease that often kills young seedlings. There are several fungi that are responsible, however the most common ones are soil-borne.

Damping off can be identified by these symptoms:

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Seedling 1386653 by Alex80, 2016, used under CC0 1.0.
  • wilted leaves while soil is moist
  • rotten mushy seedlings
  • roots that have rotted off
  • stems that have thin, brown, almost transparent sections
  • white mold, almost cobweb-like on plant stems or surface of soil

Here are some tips to prevent this disease:

  • don’t plant seeds too closely together – plants need air to be healthy
  • fill container to top with soil, so seedlings grow up where air circulates
  • keep air circulating around the young seedlings – do not cover
  • water from the bottom with room temperature water
  • do not let container sit in water – no waterlogged soil
  • use good sterilized seed starting soil and clean containers
  • keep seedlings warm – cool wet conditions are where fungi thrive
  • apply a natural fungicide like a weak solution of chamomile tea

Basically, the best solution to controlling damping off is to give your young seedlings the best soil, watering techniques, and temperature control to ensure success.

 

The Soil in Your Garden

by Christine Freeburn – Master Gardener

For the plants in your garden to be the best they can be, you need to start with the best soil you can make. Enhancing your soil with compost and manure is the best way to do this.

Soil provides physical anchorage for plants

You need your soil to have enough texture to hold your plants without being so heavy that it strangles them.

You should know what your SOIL TEXTURE is.  To do this, you can try this simple test:

  • fill a quart jar one third full with a sample of your soil
  • dig down into the soil to get a sample
  • fill the jar with water, put the lid on tightly and shake well.

As the soil settles, you will be able to see different layers.  The bottom level is the sand portion.  Next will be silt. Silt has larger particles than sand, but smaller than clay.  Last will be clay.

The amount of each that you have in your soil will determine what type of soil you have….clay, sandy, silty or any combination of these. The best soil is sandy loam, which is about 60% sand and 40% clay.

This will also tell you how your soil deals with water….does it drain well or hold and stay wet longer.

You can amend your soil to improve the texture, but it is a constant challenge. Sometimes it is better to accept what type of soil you have and grow plants that prefer a sandy soil or a clay soil.

Soil supplies water and nutrients to plants

When you water, water the soil and roots of your plants, not the leaf portions. Water is absorbed through the roots and channels up into the leaves.

pH

Another thing you should know about your soil is it’s pH…is it acidic or alkaline. pH has a scale of 1 to 10, with acidic soil have a low number. Most plants like 6.0 to 7.5. This is where they can best absorb the nutrients in your soil. You might have heard that plants like rhodendrons prefer acidic soil, which would have a lower pH.

Knowing the nutrients in your soil is important also. You can send away to Guelph University to get your soil tested, however that can be expensive. You can use an inexpensive soil testing kit also. It will also test for pH.

There are 3 big nutrients and these are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. You will be familiar with them as the three numbers on fertilizers. Many fertilizers are synthetic, however you can get organic types.

Nitrogen is for leaves and greening of your plants.NPK-01.png

  • fish emulsion
  • blood meal

Phosphorus is for bloom

  • bone meal

Potassium is for roots and overall health of plant

  • wood ash
  • composted seaweed

Other natural fertilizers

  • animal manures – make sure they are well composted or they will burn your plants or be full of weeds
  • manure tea – dilute manure in water, let sit for a week, then water plants
  • comfrey tea – another good nutritional source
  • epson salts – put a tsp in hole when planting

Know your soil, it’s texture, pH and nutritional content

Grow the plants that will thrive in those conditions or be prepared to make amendments

Soil is a living thing which needs to be enriched on a regular basis

Compost and Topdress

Planting a Flower Patio Container – Things to Consider

by Pat Freistatter

Location of Container

  • Sunlight – how much sunlight will the container will receive – afternoon sun is hottest – choose plants for those light conditions

Viewing Container

  • larger leaves with coarse textures and tall spiky grass can be viewed from a distance and make a visual statement
  • fine textured plants invite you to look more closely at the detail
  • a taller pot may be needed if you want the flowers to be viewed from afar

Container Size and Material

  • Container needs to be big enough to hold enough soil for the growing season
  • Fiberglass or plastic pots do not dry out as fast as clay and other porous containers.
  • Three to seven 1 cm holes need to be drilled into the bottom of container for adequate drainage.

Soil Mixture Contents

  • Materials such coconut husk fiber and sphagnum peat moss help retain water
  • Black earth (humus), composted manure, perlite, lime, and fertilizer support plants throughout growing season.

Colours and size of plants

  • White flowers catch your eyes and help other darker colours jump out
  • A variety of leaf shapes and sizes increase drama and interest in your pot

Plant soil and moisture requirements

  • All plants in container need to have same moisture requirements – don’t mix plants that like dry conditions with those that prefer wet feet

Structure

  • Thriller – tall centre
  • Filler – plants around thriller
  • Spiller – plants that spill over the edge of the container

Note: if the back of your container will be up against a wall, then the taller plants should be at the back 

Container Maintenance

  • Check planter daily to ensure it doesn’t dry out
  • Fertilize container every couple of weeks with water-soluble fertilizer
  • Remove dead flowers to encourage re-blooming.
  • Empty and wash out containers at end of season