It is early May and my husband has been watching the rhubarb emerging with great anticipation. I like rhubarb, he loves rhubarb and it will soon be time to start harvesting the stalks (petioles)!
Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum), native to central Asia,is an easy, hardy, and edible perennial. Technically a vegetable but treated as a fruit, it is long-lived, easy to care for and bothered by few pests and diseases.
Rhubarb is sold by ‘crowns’ or perhaps you can get a division of a plant from another gardener. Spring and early fall are the best times to plant it. Rhubarb likes a well-drained site with full sun (6-8 hours minimum). Give your plant plenty of space to grow, about 3m2. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder so mulch around your new or established plant with compost or well-rotted manure. I generally give mine a spring dressing of compost as it starts to emerge in the spring. Rhubarb should be watered deeply during times of drought.
A new rhubarb plant will need a couple of years to get established before you start harvesting it. Don’t harvest any stalks the first year and then very little the second year. The plant needs those large leaves to develop to provide energy for the roots and crown to grow. Over the growing season, flower stalks will start appearing and these should be cut off at the base to reserve energy for the plant.
Rhubarb is ready to harvest when the stalks are 25 – 40 cm long. Grab the stalk part way down and pull or twist to the side. When I pull rhubarb, I come prepared with a paring knife and cut off the leaves after pulling the stalks and leave them as mulch. Rhubarb leaves are toxic as they have high levels of oxalic acid, however they can be safely composted.
Rhubarb is a cool weather plant so as the season warms up growth may slow down. Let your plant rest so the crown can recover. If you have an established plant that doesn’t seem to be as vigorous as it was, it may need division which should be done in early spring. Dig up the whole plant if possible. Rhubarb has a very deep tap root but if you capture enough, you can divide the plant making sure each division as at least one or two buds. Plant your divisions with the buds 4 – 5cm deep, gently firming the soil.
The only other job to do is weed through all the tempting rhubarb recipes. Enjoy!
Regenerative Agriculture describes soil management practices that help to reverse climate change while rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil. Through photosynthesis, plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil. In addition to carbon sequestration, practices that increase soil organic matter also increase biodiversity both above and below the soil surface, while increasing water holding capacity and improving soil structure helping to reverse soil loss.
While the movement was initially geared towards farmers, more and more gardeners, particularly those involved with the growing of annual crops, have adopted some of these principles recognizing the benefit for both the garden and the environment. In fact, many of the practices have been employed by gardeners for years without realizing how the benefits for the environment.
Regenerative Agriculture aims to:
generate/build soils, increase soil fertility and health;
increase water percolation and water retention;
increase biodiversity, ecosystem health and plant resiliency;
increase carbon sequestration thereby helping to cleanse the atmosphere of excess CO2.
Specific Practices include:
No-till/minimum tillage. Tillage breaks up soil and destroys soil structure. Tillage greatly increases soil erosion and releases carbon sequestered in the soil. A secondary effect is soil capping and slaking that can plug soil spaces reducing water percolation creating more water runoff and soil loss.
Conversely, no-till/minimum tillage, enhances soil aggregation, water infiltration and retention, and carbon sequestration. Some soils benefit from interim ripping to break apart hardpans which can increase root zones, improved soil structure and carbon sequestration. At a low level, chiseling in some beds may have similar positive effects. Cracking the soil slightly allows amendments such as compost to infiltrate the soil without damaging it. A broadfork can be a very effective tool here.
2. Increase soil fertility biologically through application of cover crops,crop rotations, compost, and animal manures. These increase the soil organic matter and restore the plant/soil biome which promotes the cycling of essential soil nutrients. Increased organic matter (OM) enhances soil structure, increases porosity which increases water infiltration and drainage. Increased OM also stores and supplies micronutrients and enhances soil microbial populations. A tip for annual beds; When removing the plant in the fall, only remove the portion above ground. Leave the root ball in the ground to decompose over winter.
3. Build biological ecosystem diversity with inoculation of soils with composts or compost extracts to restore soil microbial community population and functionality. Restore soil system energy through full-time planting of inter- crop plantings, multispecies cover crops, and borders planted for bee habitat and other beneficial insects.
Increased organic matter means more friable soil. Friable soil means deep roots; increased biological activity mean more nutrients released for plant use and microbial diversity means less disease. The result is healthy, vigorous plants that need less watering, less additional feeding/supplementation and less treatment for disease while sequestering carbon at the same time. That is a win win!
“Earth is what we all have in common” Wendell Berry
I can not claim to be a clematophile (Clematis expert) but I do like Clematis! Clematis are wonderful perennial flowering plants … many grow as vines, some are more like small shrubs, some are evergreen and some are herbaceous so die back to the ground each winter. Their flowers come as bell-like or more star-like shapes with sepals that are single or double; some are scented. And the colours! They range from white or yellow to pink or red to purple or blue … pale to deep and some are even striped. Some flowers grow as large as 25 cm (10in) across! The beautiful clematis blooms are followed by eye-catching fuzzy seed heads. There are lots of choices in the genus Clematis.
Clematis grow in zones ranging from 3-11. If you are not sure which zone you are in, check here. Choose a plant from a reputable dealer. Look for those that have strong stems and are at least 2 years old so that their root structure is well developed. Most Clematis prefer sun or part shade but like their roots kept cool so mulch or plant another perennial close by to shade the roots. Plant your Clematis in moist but well drained soil with lots of well-rotted, organic matter (eg. finished compost) added. Plant the ripened stem (brown, no longer green) about 16 cm (6 in) below the final soil level. Clematis prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil. All new plants need to be watered regularly until they are established and during dry conditions. Fertilize with an all purpose organic fertilizer monthly but stop when flower buds are ready to bloom in order to prolong bloom time. You may start fertilizing again after flowering has ended but stop feeding in late summer early autumn.
Pruning your Clematis for the best blooms may seem complicated. The confusing part for me was that some references refer to groups 1,2,3 and others use group A, B, C while others will use the species names. What is important is knowing what you have and then you can determine how to prune. Read your plant label for pruning directions or if you do not know which Clematis you have:
When does your Clematis flower?
*flowers on old (previous year) wood in early to late spring, early summer. *does not need regular pruning – prune to remove damaged stems or to keep your plant tidy and growing within it’s allocated space. Prune after the flowering period has ended.
*flowers early on old (previous year) wood and again in late summer on new current year’s growth. *prune to remove damaged or weak stems and the early flower shoots (encourages the second period of flowering) immediately after the early flowering period.
* flowers on current year’s growth in mid to late summer. * prune back all of the previous year’s stems to the lowest pair of live buds in early spring.
Clematis may suffer from snails, slugs, aphids or mildew. Clematis wilt is a fungal disease that may result in the sudden collapse of a previously healthy plant. Cut back affected part of the plant, even right to the ground if necessary, if fungus wilt occurs. I have to say that I have only ever experienced the odd slug-chewed clematis leaf in my garden just east of Peterborough.
Clematis will grow on a trellis and in a container, through the branches of another shrub or even up into trees. It may be used as a ground cover and the shrub types look great in the perennial border. Clematis flowers are lovely and will attract pollinators and provide them with pollen and nectar.
Read plant labels, talk to garden nursery staff and other gardeners in your area and/or google to ensure that you purchase the clematis that is right for you. We may not all become clematophiles but we can still have some of these wonderful plants in our gardens!
The idea of growing and caring for orchids may be daunting, but perhaps you would like to try something new. Don’t be afraid! A few years ago, I was seduced by a beautiful, exotic bloom and bought my first orchid. I was very happy to discover that even I could successfully grow orchids!
All of my orchids are Phalaenopsis orchids; these are the easiest ones to grow. I love the airy sound of the Latin name and it suits the common name perfectly which is “moth orchid”. These orchids bloom in many different gorgeous colours and have shiny, thick and leathery green leaves. Their aerial roots are part of what makes them look so exotic. They like the average home’s indoor temperatures and light levels so make great indoor plants.
Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytes, or air plants, which means that they grow on rocks or trees in their natural, usually tropical or subtropical, habitat. They get much of their water and nutrients from the air. As indoor plants, these orchids will need to be potted in a special potting mix. Orchid potting mix often contains bark, vermiculite, perlite and moss. Regular potting soil retains too much water which will rot the roots of your Phalaenopsis orchid. Orchid pots often have holes in the sides of the pot in order to keep the roots well aerated. This inner orchid pot is then often placed in an outer more decorative pot as shown in the picture above. Orchids need to be repotted every 2-3 years as the bark in the potting mix breaks down. Orchid potting mix is available from many of our local nurseries.
Phalaenopsis orchids do not like direct sun but will do well in indirect light close to an east or west window. You may put them outdoors during the warm summer months but not in direct sunlight. They like high humidity and may benefit from sitting on a drip tray.
I water my orchids once a week. I flood the surface of the potting medium with room temperature, non-chlorinated water until it runs through the bottom of the orchid’s pot. I allow the excess water to drip from the bottom of the orchid pot before placing it back into its outer pot. I have also used ice cubes to water my orchids. Place 2-3 ice cubes on the surface of the potting media, not on the plant, once a week, and let them melt. I know, I know, ice to water a tropical plant??!! The Ohio State University and the University of Georgia did some experimenting to prove that ice cubes will not harm your orchid. Check out the results here (Watering Phalaenopsis orchids with ice cubes) . I do not fertilize my orchids but if you wish to do so here is a link (How do I feed my orchid).
When you purchase your orchid, it may be in full bloom. Don’t just look at that beautiful bloom! Check the plant for signs of poor health, disease and/or pests. The plant’s leaves should be firm, shiny and green not pale and floppy, wrinkled, cracked or missing pieces. There should be no insects living on your plant. If you can, look at the roots in the pot, make sure that they are white/cream coloured. Black/brown roots indicate root rot. The best place to purchase your orchid is from a reputable local nursery. Big box stores may have what appear to be lovely plants but you may bring home more than you bargained for…perhaps pests or disease that will kill your orchid and infect your other indoor plants.
The gorgeous blooms on your orchid will eventually die and drop off. Cut the flower stem back to the node closest to the where the bottom flower was located. The stem may die then you will cut it off close to the parent plant or it may develop into a new flower or a baby plant called a keiki. Cooler night temperatures may encourage reblooming. I move my plants to my cooler basement to encourage them to rebloom. Note that they are still exposed to lots of indirect light during the day in my basement.
Don’t be afraid. Give Phalaenopsis orchids a try. They are well behaved indoor house plants and their blooms are spectacular!
Full disclosure – I have never been a fan of lawns. I’ve had a 20 year plan to convert my large property to perennial gardens and paths, and I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
However, I am fascinated with how (and why) people are so attached to their square green spaces of grass.
A little history first..
Lawns became popular with the aristocracy in northern Europe from the Middle Ages onward, evolving as a sign of wealth. Originally they were mostly used as pasture – lawns like we have today first appeared in France and England in the 1700s when André Le Nôtre designed the gardens of Versailles that included a small area of grass called the tapis vert, or “green carpet”.
Immigrants to North America brought these traditions with them as they settled the land. Particularly after the Second World War, the creation of the middle class and suburbia and the advent of chemical fertilizers led to a North American culture of ‘the lawn is king’, with the requirement that it was every homeowner’s responsibility to keep it watered, mowed, repaired, and cultivated, just like their neighbours. One article I read even went so far as to blame the rise of lawns on the Scots, who brought their love of lawn bowling and golf to this continent (and therefore the need for flat green areas).
Lawn is a cognate of llan which is derived from the Common Brittonic word landa (Old French: launde) that originally means heath, barren land, or clearing.
Lawns are expensive to create and maintain, so why do we still have them? Simply put, the belief is that lawns are indicative of success – if you have a well maintained lawn you have the time and money to create and maintain it, and you care about belonging to your neighbourhood.
Fast forward to current times, where we now see articles in the Globe and Mail asking whether “it’s time to decolonize your lawn” and efforts are underway in many areas to convert lawn areas into more ecologically responsible landscapes to support our pollinators, birds, and wildlife. Whether you simply overseed with some white clover, and reduce or eliminate fertilizers, or convert your entire lawn into a wildflower meadow, there is a full range of options to consider.
Such changes have not been without their challenges. A recent newspaper article shows the conflict between those who want a new attitude towards our properties. Nina-Marie Lister, a Ryerson University urban planner and ecologist removed all her lawn, replacing it with “a lush and layered landscape” filled with “milkweed, boneset and black-eyed Susans, among other plants largely native to the region.” Her neighbours complained and she was visited by a Toronto city bylaw officer – under Toronto’s municipal code, residents need to “cut the grass and weeds on their land” whenever they grow past 20 centimetres.
The comments community lit up, and well known gardener Lorraine Johnson even penned an editorial in the Toronto Star about it.
Naturalized gardens are becoming a widespread phenomenon, and municipal bylaws will continue to be challenged by those that advocate for increasing biodiversity by creating landscapes that support an abundance of species of flora and fauna. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see someone complain to bylaw about a green lawn destroying biodiversity, filling the landscape with chemicals, wasting water by watering, and creating air and noise pollution through mowing? You see, it’s all a matter of perspective.
The debate is far from over, but gardeners should enter the discussion and think about whether there is a way for their green spaces to be just a bit more ecologically friendly.
Whatever your opinion, I encourage you to read these articles and think about the issues surrounding our garden spaces. I know I will never convert the staunch, lawnmower riding king to create a wildflower meadow, but if I just get a few people to think about how they can make a small difference in their own backyards I will be happy. I don’t have all the answers – I just want to stimulate the discussion.
FUN FACT – clover was an accepted part of lawns until the early 1950s, only becoming a ‘weed’ because the earliest 2,4-D herbicides killed it off along with the dandelions.
Annuals are happily planted out in late spring and early summer into our garden beds, into containers or hanging baskets. They give us a splash of colour which lasts through most of the season and are often referred to as bedding plants. There are some annuals that are grown for their foliage, such as dusty miller and coleus. They are generally free of disease and pests and other than the benefits of deadheading and the application of fertilizer every couple of weeks to keep them healthy and blooming throughout the season, they are very easy to grow!
Botanically speaking, an annual is a plant that grows from seed, blooms, sets seed, and dies, all in one season. Many of them are actually tender perennials that could be left in the landscape all year if we lived in a much warmer climate than we experience here in the Peterborough area. If you have ever visited a subtropical country, you would notice geraniums that are several feet tall. A few years back I visited Madeira and marvelled at the poinsettias that were the size of shrubs!
During my father’s time, annuals were very popular and most of the garden centres sold more annuals than perennials. As a child, I remember many visits to Edwards Gardens in Toronto, which is now located in the Toronto Botanical Garden. The garden beds were spectacular and featured extensive displays of impatients, petunias and geraniums. (Impatients were hit by downy mildew a few years back and have gone out of favour to other more hardy bedding plants). I have always enjoyed the use of annuals, not only in containers, but also planted throughout my garden to give me some constant summer colour. They can also be very useful in order to encourage pollinators to your vegetable gardens.
Here are three of my favourite annuals that are blooming in my garden this year:
Geraniums, which are part of the Pelargonium family are perennials in their native region of South Africa, but here in Peterborough they are treated as annuals, although you can overwinter them in the fall. You could try the ‘pot it up and put it in the window’ method or the ‘bare-root’ method. This Mark Cullen article gives you detailed instructions.
The familiar annual flower in red, pink, purple or white blooms with thick, pleated leaves are not really geraniums at all, but rather members of the Pelargonium genus. True members of the Geranium genus are the hardy perennial plant also known as cranesbill. Originally, they were both part of the Geranium genus and are still known by this common label.
They are a favourite for containers or hanging baskets, but I enjoy planting some throughout my perennial bed. There are more than 200 species, but the most common are Pelargonium x hortum, where the flowers are generally solid tones and the leaves are oval; Pelargonium paltatum, which is the ivy-leaved geranium which has a bit of a trailing habit, and Pelargonium domesticum which is the scented-leafed geranium with smaller insignificant flowers and various leaf shapes.
JEWELS OF OPAR (TALINUM PANICULATUM)
Talinum has fleshy lime green leaves with delicate, wiry flower stalks. The flowers are hot pink followed by carmine-colored seed pods that are showier than the flowers. It is related to Portulaca and has a tuberous rootstock.
I got this annual about 3 years ago and was surprised to see that it self-seeds in the same area each year. They are easy to remove and replant in other areas if desired.
They prefer full sun and grow to approximately 18 – 24 inches. It is a pollinator magnet and I love the bright colour of the leaves at the front of my perennial beds.
Zinnias grow in a variety of brilliant shades and come in various types, such as single, double, ruffles and pompoms. They are a reliable annual that are, without a doubt, one of the best cut flowers you will ever grow in your garden! They attract many bees and butterflies and are easy to grown from seed. They also come in a variety of sizes, from 8” to 36”. Each flower blossom is just as perfect as the next, delightfully supported on attractive green stems with stunning colours that are ideal in any fresh bouquet.
Zinnias have pointy seeds, shaped like little arrowheads and they require only basic garden prep to sprout. Give them a well-drained soil in full sun and you will have little seedlings in days. Zinnias are low maintenance and because they are fast-growing, they shade out weeds. They don’t require much in the way of fertilizing (just an occasional well-balanced mix), and they don’t need mulching. Deadheading will help to produce more flowers.
Because zinnias are native to the grasslands of the southwestern states, Mexico, and South America, they know how to handle the hot, dry conditions such as the heat we experienced this July.
Container gardening has grown in popularity for many reasons. As property sizes have decreased, it has allowed those with small yards or even those living in condos to enjoy the colour and blooms that abound in containers. They allow you to bring the garden to the deck, patio, steps, driveway or the front entranceway. You can grow tropicals, keep invasive plants under control, ensure easy gardening for those with aging bodies and they can be placed wherever you need them. A container of herbs right near the kitchen door will ensure the cook in the home has easy access. A well designed container can add colour and texture to any area in your home or apartment and it can be a wonderful introduction to gardening for children as well as adults.
When choosing your container, ensure you choose one that is large enough to allow adequate root growth as well as appropriate drainage holes. Remember that a large terra-cotta pot will be heavy, so you may find it is preferable to use one of the newer styles made from synthetics such as fiberglass, although these can be fairly expensive. Remember that extra work will be needed to keep smaller containers watered.
When choosing your plants, use ones that have similar cultural requirements, such as sun or shade, moisture loving or drought loving, and vigorous growing or slow growing. Colour is a personal preference, however, it is pleasing to the eye to use complimentary harmonies such as purple and green or analogous harmonies such as pink and blue. The container will be more interesting if you have contrasting leaf shapes. You need not limit yourself just to annuals, although they will provide more long-lasting colour. A popular formula to follow is ‘thriller, filler, spiller’. Thrillers provide the drama and are typically the tallest part of the container. Common thrillers are canna lilies and ornamental grasses. The filler gives the container body and substance and often surrounds the thriller. Examples of fillers would be coleus, geraniums or even coral bells. The spiller can create a flow by pouring over the edge of the container, such as wave petunias, lobelia or sweet potato vine.
Container soil lacks natural nutrients found in regular garden soil, therefore, fertilizing is necessary every couple of weeks. Using regular garden soil is not advisable as you will get poor drainage. It is best to use a good soilless mix. In the heat of the summer, containers will need daily watering. Fertilizing every two weeks is a good rule of thumb, but in hot weather you may need to feed more often as water use increases.
At the end of the season, the tender annuals will be discarded. I often use Coleus in one of my pots and in the fall I take cuttings and root them in water and then repot them indoors for the winter months, to be used again the following spring. I usually cut the annuals to the soil level and use the existing soil in the container to insert some winter greenery. The soil will eventually freeze and hold the greenery in place.
When we last travelled to England, we stayed across from a small thatched roof home where an older couple grew almost everything in pots. They had very little property but still managed to have a very interesting garden. I enjoyed watching them with their morning tea wandering through their front yard inspecting and watering their many containers.
This is one of my pots from last year. As you can see the fillers (dragon wing begonias) and spillers (sweet potato vine) did so well that the thriller (Kimberly Queen fern) did not have an opportunity to shine. I find that my pots respond differently every year. It depends very much on the weather conditions, remembering to fertilize on a regular basis and the type of plants used. It is fun to experiment and try new and different colour schemes. Have fun with it!
The University of Georgia has published the following on Gardening in Containers. It contains some good information on soil mixtures and fertilizers as well as some suggested plants
Gardeners have been passing down tips, tricks, and knowledge for generations. Some of this advice is science-based and works, but much of it is a mix of folklore and superstition. While some of it is benign, some of it may actually harm your gardens or have you spending money when you don’t need to.
Here are five of my favourite garden myths – there are hundreds out there – just google ‘garden myths’ and you’ll see what I mean.
I think social media has intensified the problem – in the past information spread through word of mouth, often handed down through generations. Now anyone with a computer can claim to be an expert, and provide inaccurate information that others will share.
Part of my reason for becoming a Master Gardener was to expand my gardening knowledge and share my passion for growing with others using solid, science-based information. We offer our services to the public in many forms – through presentations, advice clinics, answering email queries, and publishing blogs like this one!
The Master Gardeners of Ontario (MGOI)website shows where all the Master Gardener groups are located – find yours and their website and take advantage of their knowledge and expertise. If they don’t have the answer they will go research it for you.
MGOI also has a great Facebook page where you can post questions to Master Gardeners. And I highly recommend The Garden Professors Facebook page for science-based gardening information.
Truth:Unless it’s top-heavy or in an especially windy site, your tree does not require staking. Some movement is actually good for young trees. I loved this description “Just as our muscles grow larger with exercise, tree trunks grow thicker and stronger when they’re allowed to move.”
The response of trees and plants to wind is called thigmomorphogenesis (yes that’s a word!). The buffeting from winds releases ethylene gas, a growth mediator that triggers the formation of wood-strengthening lignin.
While staked trees tend to grow taller, their trunks are skinny and weak, so if you decide you must stake, stake as loosely as possible and only for a short time (no longer than six months). Make sure to use something soft against the tree bark to keep from cutting into it. But best to practice tough love – your tree will appreciate it.
Myth: Gravel in The Bottom of Containers Improves Drainage
Truth: This myth will not die. We’ve all been told to place stones or pieces of pot at the bottom of our containers “for drainage”. The reality is that added gravel or rocks to the bottom of your pot will actually accelerate the potential for root rot, rather than preventing it. Water is pulled down through the container by gravity and builds up near the drainage hole. A layer of gravel at the pot’s base serves as the drainage hole and collects water in the same way. So gravel actually moves the pool of water higher up the pot, where it damages your plant.
As long as there is a hole in the bottom of the container, water will find its way out without the need for stones.
Myth: Add Epsom Salts To The Soil Helps Tomatoes Grow
Truth: You would think it was a miracle cure for everything “It helps seeds germinate” “It makes plants grow bushier”
“It can prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes” (see bonus information at the bottom of this blog!) “It can prevent transplant shock” “It results in more flowers” “It increases chlorophyll production” “It deters pests, such as slugs and voles” “It reduces the total amounts of fertilizers needed”
Magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt, is a naturally occurring mineral consisting of magnesium and sulfur (MgSO4). Magnesium is a necessary element for plant growth but adding unnecessary salts to your soil will destroy your soil structure over time. You are better to simply add compost or worm castings to the soil. There are decades of research that has documented damage done to both plants and soil with overuse and misuse of magnesium sulfate. Want to read more about it? Check out this peer reviewed study by Washington State University’s Extension Center (click here for more of their excellent science-based studies). The best thing epsom salts can be used for is a nice hot bath after working hard in your garden all day.
Myth: You Can’t Grow Anything Near A Black Walnut Tree
Truth: This one is a personal favourite, since I have extensive flower and vegetable gardens in the vicinity of two almost 150-year-old black walnuts. While the roots of black walnut (Juglans nigra) do release an allelopathic chemical known as juglone that inhibits the growth of some plants, the idea that nothing grows under a walnut started gaining traction in the 1920s when a Virginia researcher saw his tomatoes were suffering and just assumed the nearby trees were at fault based on folklore he had heard. Washington State University put out an excellent peer reviewed paper in 2019 explaining the history of walnut allelopathy.
Enjoy your walnut trees! Not only are they robust landscape plants but they provide food and habitat for wildlife and birds. Here’s my lovely perennial garden under my walnut tree (and featured in Linda Chalker-Scott’s paper mentioned above) and my previous blog specifically on this topic.
(Bonus – information on Blossom End Rot)
Research has shown that calcium deficiency is not the cause of blossom end rot. Egg shells won’t correct it. Epsom salts (which are magnesium sulfate) won’t correct it. Nor will coffee grounds, Tums, calcium sprays, dairy products, or any of the other things that are usually recommended for it. It just corrects itself. It’s not caused by a fungus, bacteria, or virus. It’s not in the soil. It’s an internal condition of the plant. The cause appears to be simply environmental: low temperatures at night, fluctuating temperatures, watering too often, etc. Ammonia fertilizer is linked to it, so some forms of plant food can be a problem. But basically: just pick off the fruit that are affected, water more deeply and don’t allow the plant to get severely drought stressed (daily watering is probably not necessary unless you have unusually fast-draining soil or are growing in a container). The next fruit will probably be fine. It’s usually a problem with the first tomatoes, peppers. and squash that set in the season and the rest come along fine.
This past growing season was my first foray ever into growing marijuana. I tried this because I want to attempt to make a salve that I have been purchasing locally for arthritis (which, by the way, seems to work for me!)
I started my seeds inside under lights. When I planted the seedlings outside, one went into the ground in my garden and the other went into a 5 gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom. The bucket plant went into my little greenhouse.
I did not fertilize either plant regularly – maybe 3 times the whole summer – but I did water the potted plant pretty well daily. I gather from other growers that I should have fertilized a lot more and then held back on the fertilizing later in season to clear chemicals out of the plants.
I thought this would be a good way to test growing techniques – greenhouse as opposed to outdoors but in the end it was not. I had planted 2 varieties that had very different characteristics. One had a beautiful bluish, reddish tinge to it and the other was twice as bushy.
Both plants ended up being well over 5 feet tall with lots of flowers. I cut them down before first frost and hung them in the greenhouse with shade cloth draped overhead.
So now, I am not sure if all the work was worth the effort and I haven’t even made the salve yet. I don’t know how the hippies from the 60’s and 70’s did it. I was told to trim off all the leaves before I hung the plants. That took an incredibly long time. And apparently I will have to trim the dried flowers off in the very near future. The marijuana plants themselves are kind of interesting architecturally but they stink. Birds for the most part avoided them and I don’t think I saw even one bee on them and I have lots of bees here. At any rate, I will make the salve and reserve judgement until then. We have to try new things, right?
In June this year, I was sitting with my son on the deck looking at the backyard. He asked me why I had so much grass in the garden. Now, he is definitely not a gardener, so I was a little confused until I realized he was referring to all of the daylily leaves. I felt it my duty to point out the stunning delphiniums, peonies, irises, and lupins which were all in bloom. I also tried to explain that in another month or so the garden will be a riot of colour when all the daylilies and coneflowers started flowering. Daylilies have always been my favourite plants; they are hardy, drought tolerant, low maintenance and beautiful in bloom. See our blog post from July 22 describing how daylilies are the perfect perennial. I probably have at least fifty different varieties, all of which I bought over from my last garden four years ago. But as I sat there looking at the garden I did wonder if maybe I should add more diversity.
Shortly after, I was watching my new favourite garden show on Netflix, ‘Big Dreams, Small Spaces’ with Monty Don. If you have not heard of him, Monty Don is something close to a hero to most British gardeners. In this episode, he was relaying a gardening principle to the couple that were designing their new backyard. He mentioned that for simplicity and cohesiveness “no garden needs more than seven different plants”. I was trying to remember where the back button was on the remote as I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly, but he did partially redeem himself when he clarified that statement by saying that you do not have to take this too literally, but that a good garden can be made with just seven different plants. My current garden design is more of an English cottage garden, informal with little space between plants and if I was going to add more diversity this summer, I would definitely have more than seven different plants.
I spent this summer with pen and paper in hand walking around the garden, asking myself if I really needed 20 different variations of pink daylily, some of which even I struggled to tell apart or did I need the same daylily variety in four different places in the garden. I also noticed the daylily blooms had very few insects compared to the spectacular activity around the native plants. I made copious notes in my notebook and labelled many plants I wanted to move or give away. Because of a rising concern for environmentalism and climate change, I also wanted this to be reflected more in my garden. To do this I decided I needed to do the following:
Plant more native plants. I have collected seed from most of my native plants including swamp milkweed, culver’s root and liatris and will use these to fill in over the next few years.
Add more edibles to the perennial garden. I tend to edge with swiss chard, beets or cardoon. I don’t actually eat the cardoon but I love the foliage on the plant.
Choose more plants that have multiple functions, i.e. yarrow which attracts insects, is drought tolerant, is a nutrient accumulator bringing nutrients from deep in the soil and storing them in the leaves, has attractive flowers in many colors, and can be used as a manure tea.
I’m excited for next year to see the changes I’ve made. I’m hoping that I have still kept the basic structure of the garden design with the emphasis on the summer color whilst adding more variety, especially pollinator and native plants. I learned this summer that a garden design does not have to be static; it can evolve as your values and beliefs evolve.
The design of your garden can be very personal, ever changing, reflecting who you are. For me it is somewhere where I feel at peace with the world–there is nothing I like more than taking a cup of tea out to the garden in the morning and just sitting and looking around.