Category Archives: Shrubs & Trees

Book Review – The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard

by Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

Yesterday I was lamenting the fact with a friend, who has just celebrated her 90th birthday, that something had been eating the leaves on my fruit trees. She went away and quickly returned with a book that in her own words talked about using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach which consisted of making home pesticides using ground up insect pests.

Having piqued my interest with visions of myself running around in my pajamas early in the morning trying to catch said insects, I felt that I had to read the book, The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard, edited by Dan Wallace and published in 1982.

book cover

The section in the book that I most focused on was the section entitled ‘Outdoor Formulas’. Topics described include the importance of nourishing and rebuilding the soil using organic methods such as composting and mulching, crop rotation, interplanting, companion planting and succession planting, along with fertilizing and managing garden pests. The book does a good job explaining what each of these terms means and gives a detailed explanation on types of composting, how to achieve the correct balance between carbon and nitrogen, and what materials to add.

Natural Fertilizers

Natural fertilizers are discussed in detail and the reasoning behind using natural or organic fertilizers (as opposed to chemical alternatives) is laid out reasonably and convincingly. Formulas are included for making your own general purpose organic fertilizers, as well as specific fertilizers for trees. What I like about this book is that detailed descriptions are included that explain the reasoning behind each ingredient and how to apply the fertilizer. An example of the all-purpose tree fertilizer formula is as follows:

  • 3 parts soy or blood meal
  • 2 parts finely ground raw phosphate
  • 3 parts wood ash, granite, rock or green sane
  • 1 part dolomitic limestone

trees_royaltyfree

Managing Garden Pests

Managing garden pests is outlined in the book as follows

‘There is more than one way to approach garden problems and so-called pests, Insects, soil diseases (like fungi), prolific weed control, and trespassing wildlife can be viewed as enemies that need to be obliterated as soon as they are discovered – or they can be considered natural occurrences that call for careful management’.

IPM is described as a way to structure your garden or farm so that different animal and plant species can coexist and complement one another thereby creating a stable growing environment where no individual species takes over; balance is created.

Steps to achieve this balance include achieving good soil health, choosing the correct plant varieties, and growing crops at specific times when pests are less active. If however balance is lost, there are a number of formulas included for making your own organic sprays. These formulas are given with the suggestion that you should first try spraying with cold water from the hose for at least one week before resorting to other sprays. Again, the formulas are given with detailed explanations on how and when to spray along with the reasoning behind the individual ingredients. Sprays include liquid soap sprays, plant and insect sprays, dormant oil spray and botanical sprays.

At the time of writing this review, I have not tried any of the recipes or formulas in the book, I am therefore not recommending that we all start catching and grinding up our garden pests. However it is an interesting read and does offer us alternative options.

Used copies can be purchased through Amazon.ca or your local used book store (links to Peterborough area stores below)

Mark Jokinen Books

Lakefield Station Book Store

Knotanew Bookstore

NOTE: The book explores more than just gardening/outdoor solutions – it also has detailed directions for making polishes, stain removers, detergents, shampoos, herbal remedies, baking mixes, cereals, and other household products from easily available ingredients.

For more information on IPM, please check out the following links:

National (US) Pesticide Information Center on IPM

OMAFRA IPM

Continue reading Book Review – The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard

Where’s the Rain? How to Deal with Drought Conditions in Your Gardens

By Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

(top photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Gardens website; Dogwood (Cornus) wilting from water stress)

Just two years ago, the Peterborough area experienced Level 2 drought conditions. Local residents and businesses were encouraged to reduce their water use by 20 per cent daily and there were 11 days in August when daytime temperatures were higher than 30 degrees Celsius.ONDrought_zpsal2mmbjn

Drought conditions usually relate to sunny, dry conditions, combined with an extended period of very hot weather, and it looks like the summer of 2018 is shaping up to be very similar to 2016. “The watershed region received below normal precipitation amounts in June, and during the first two weeks of July precipitation has been 25% of normal.” said Dan Marinigh, Chief Administrative Officer for Otonabee Conservation.

So what can a gardener do to help their gardens survive (and even thrive) during dry or drought conditions?

In the Short Term

Just before or during drought conditions

Recognize the Signs of Stress

Plant dehydration symptoms include:
• Curling or rolling of leaves
• Slowed/no growth, undersized leaves
• Leaves, blossoms, or fruits drop prematurely
• Wilting, limp and droopy leaves
• Leaf scorch, yellowing and/or browning, death of leaf edges
• Dead or brown/dying extremities starting from the outer leaves inward

Water Wisely

Avoid watering during the heat of the day when evaporation rates are highest. Water either very early in the morning or late in the evening, and adhere to any watering restrictions that may be in place. Try and keep water off flowers, as sunlight is magnified through water droplets and can damage delicate flowers. Depending on your garden, consider hand watering rather than using a hose or sprinkler. Hand watering using a watering can targets the water to the areas that really need it, keeping waste to a minimum.20180716_133136

Harvest Water

Water harvesting is a great way to use water from your home’s roof and direct it onto the landscape, where the soil becomes your “holding tank.” The best example is using a water barrel – we have four of them in our garden and they are a great investment. You can also practice ‘passive’ water harvesting by creating depressions that fill with water from the roof runoff or formal rain gardens, both of which help with stormwater runoff issues. You can find out more about rain gardens here. Peterborough Greenup Rain Program 20180716_132548

Reduce Stressors

Skip the fertilizer or pruning live branches during drought conditions. No need to add to the plant stress! When soil moisture is low or temperatures are high, plants don’t benefit from fertilizer and without adequate water, fertilizer can burn your plants. Excessive pruning will stimulate new growth that will not be drought tolerant. However, it is good practice to deadhead flowers, as removing spent blooms before they have a chance to set seed saves energy for your plants.

Make Priority

Give priority to watering newly planted trees and shrubs during periods of drought. Young plants have not had sufficient time to establish deep root systems, and depend on surface water for survival. Do not let the root balls of newly planted trees and shrubs dry out completely or become too saturated.

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Over the Long Term

Planning for Future Drought Conditions

Think About Plant Selection

Use appropriate plants, which are often marked as drought tolerant or resistant. Consider native plants, which generally adapt better, have lower water demands, and fewer pest problems. Group plants according to how much water they need. Ask your local garden centre or nursery staff which plants they recommend. Check out members of the local Peterborough Area Garden Route. Peterborough and Area Garden Route

Maintain Healthy Soils

Good soil is the foundation for good plant growth. Anything you can add to your native soil like compost or other organic matter will make it easier for roots to penetrate deeper, creating more expansive root systems that can seek out water and nutrients. The result? Healthier, more drought-resistant plants. Good soils are better able to absorb surface water runoff, minimize erosion, and access nutrients and sediments.fresh-2386786_640

Use Mulch

Mulch reduces evaporation, moderates soil temperature, and inhibits weed growth. It is estimated that three quarters of the rain falling on bare soil is lost to plants through evaporation and runoff. Both of these are reduced up to 90 percent by adequate mulch. Use compost, wood chips, bark nuggets, shredded bark mulch, shredded leaves, or any other organic material to cover the surface of the soil at least 5 cm deep.

Water Well

Deep watering encourages roots to go deep down in the soil to where it is moist and a lot cooler. Water less frequently but for longer periods, so water reaches deep into soil. Good thorough watering promotes healthier plants. Also, water only when necessary, based on condition of the plant. Most plants will normally wilt in hot sun, and then recover when watered. Also, a dry surface is not always a sign of water need. The surface generally dries out first and is not a true indicator of what is going on down deep near the plant root. Make use of a hand trowel to check for moisture.

Weed Management

Weeds will compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients. Keep your gardens and areas beneath trees and shrubs weed free. Once the weeds are eradicated, apply mulch.

Consider Alternate Watering Methods

Investigate use of soaker hoses or other irrigation techniques using a timer, which keeps water on the soil and reduce losses by evaporation. Adjust watering frequency and amounts based on season, temperature, and amount of rainfall. Overhead watering uses more water and encourages fungal diseases.

Practice Water Conservation

Not just in your gardens. Water is our most valuable resource. Learn how to reduce water use throughout your house and gardens at this link.
Water Conservation Fact Sheet – Otonabee Conservation 20150822_185728

Is it Dead?

By Emma Murphy, Peterborough Master Gardener

It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter in the Peterborough Ontario area, and a long, cold, wet spring. After our recent ice storm in mid-April, one was left wondering if spring would ever arrive. One thing is for sure – spring has been delayed in our area by several weeks.

Late Arrivals

Some trees, shrubs, and plants are always late arrivals – think of the Northern Catalpa tree (which can leaf out almost a month after other trees), Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), and Platycodon grandiflorus (Balloon Flower).

However, this spring has some gardeners in a panic. While many woody plants are sprouting buds, maybe one of your plants isn’t doing anything to show the slightest sign of life. Is it dead? Before panicking and assuming they are dead, look for some reasons for the delay.

  1. If you planted something late in the season last year, it may still be settling in and putting its energy into root growth before growing leaves. I have a new garden bed I planted last fall and everything in it is late emerging.
  2. I know part of our garden was submerged for an extended period this spring. A spring flood can delay leafing out for trees (but cause no other long term damage).
  3. Did you plant something near the edge of the normal hardiness zone? It is possible that the dormant buds may be dead but the tree may still be ok. You need to give it time to see if it recovers.
  4. For trees and woody shrubs check the branches – try the “bend but don’t break” test – try and bend them a bit – if they are dry and snap rather than bend that is not a good sign.

deadparrot

Doing the Scratch Test

My favourite trick is the scratch test. It’s very simple – you scrape the bark off a small section of your woody shrub or tree and take a look. With your fingernail or penknife, scratch a section so you can see the cambium (layer just under the outside bark). If the tree/shrub is alive, the cambium will be green. If it’s brown or white and dry, unfortunately, it may be dead. However, don’t give up all hope! If it’s brown you can try another scratch further down the trunk to confirm death (or life!)

If the cambium is dead, the only hope left is that the plant will be able to regenerate from its base. That’s often the case for shrubs, but not all trees. And if a tree does resprout from the base, if it was a grafted tree (the case with most fruit trees, for example), what grows may not be the cultivar you wanted but the stock plant (the tree the desirable variety was grafted on to).

Pruning Options

If you find only part of the stem on a plant is dead you may want to cut the stems back to the first visible green growth. If no new growth is visible, a rule of thumb is to cut the stems back a third of their length at a time until you find green tissue. Prune too early though and you risk further damaging the plants (for example, from a late frost). Check the Old Farmer’s Almanac list of frost dates (for Peterborough that’s about May 12). It is generally safe to prune about two to three weeks before the last frost date, since you are less likely to experience a damaging frost at that point.

Patience

The ultimate word is patience. Warmer weather has arrived now and hopefully you will be able to ascertain any damage to your garden from this tough Canadian winter and wet, cold spring. Happy Gardening!!126-2649_IMG

(Featured image from www.thetreecenter.com)

Some tasks to get started on now…

By MJ Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Spring is just starting to peek through the winter cold and soon it will soon be time to start getting your hands dirty again. Before you break out your trusty garden tools and seed packets, there are a few garden chores you need to tackle to get your garden off on the right foot.

Inspect Raised Garden Beds: Check garden beds for any damage. Over the winter, rain, snow and ice can damage the wood frames of a raised garden bed. Repair or replace as necessary.

Check Your Garden Tools: Get your garden tools a good wipe down and inspect for rust on the tool heads. Oil and sharpen if necessary, paying particular attention to wooden handles that show signs of splits or cracks; rub them down with boiled linseed oil.

fresh-2386786_640Turn Your Compost: It’s time to turn your compost pile and check for any that is black and crumbly and thus ready to use. Making your own compost is free and a great way to amend your soil! Add compost to improve soil by scratching in finished compost into the top one inch of soil.

Top Dress Garden Beds: If you run short of home-grown compost, use well-seasoned manure to top-dress your garden beds in preparation for planting. If you planted a winter cover crop, now is the time to dig it into the soil in preparation for planting the beds.

Plan to Divide Perennials: Spring is a great time to think about dividing or moving plants around as you walk around your gardens.  Any plant that has gotten too large or that has a bare spot in the centre is a good candidate.   Sharing is a cost-efficient way to add more plants to your landscape, but be mindful of pests, disease, and weeds. Only share plants from your garden that are healthy and inspect plants from friends or plant sales thoroughly. If there are any signs of distress or discoloration, do not plant it in your garden.

Weed and Mulch: Eradicate those pesky early spring weeds (or late fall weeds that didn’t get attention) before they get too comfortable in your garden. Be careful of where you step as it will compact the spring soil.  Remove any young weeds first and then put down a layer of mulch. Alternatively, you can plant your garden tightly with perennials, annuals, trees, and shrubs to crowd out weeds. Leaving bare earth anywhere is a recipe for a weed-infested space!

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Prune: Remove any dead branches from shrubs, trees and perennial foliage after new growth has begun. Prune the spring bloomers, like forsythia and rhododendrons, as needed soon after flowering is complete. Thin and shape hedges after the first flush of new spring growth.

Taking the time now to complete a few essential spring garden tasks will bring you benefits for the rest of the season.

The Right Way to Plant Trees, Shrubs and Other Plants

by Lee Edwards, Master Gardener

The task of planting is among the many tasks avid gardeners faces every season. Therefore, we’ll focus on the proper way to plant trees, shrubs and plants thereby reducing transplant stress while promoting lush, healthy, plants and root growth.ecology-2985781_640

1. Dig A Proper Hole

To achieve the correct hole size that allows a plant, tree or shrub’s roots to stretch out, dig a hole wider than the width of the plant’s container; about two to two and a half times wider, and as deep as but not deeper than the container’s depth. Then, water the hole.

2. Remove Plant From Container

Ease the plant from its container, gently pushing up from the bottom. If roots are densely packed outside the container (rootbound), loosen the roots before removing the plant. Do not pull on the plant’s trunk, stem or branches when removing from the container, as this may severely damage the plant.

3. Inspect and Prune

Once out of the container, inspect the plant thoroughly. Prune damaged, girdling (circling), dying roots, and suckers. Water the roots, wrap with moist paper, and place in a shaded area away from the wind until ready to plant (same day). If you plan to plant in a few days, cover the paper with mulch and water thoroughly.

For bareroot plants, prune, completely wet then wrap roots, and keep shaded until roots are fully hydrated. For burlapped and dug plants, cut away burlap/wires, prune, wet then wrap roots, and keep shaded until ready to plant.

4. Prepare Soil

gardening-690940_640.jpgSoil is important. Use the soil that was dug from the hole and amend it as needed; for example, add loamy soil to clay soil to ease denseness, or organic matter to sandy soil to slow the soil draining quickly. Ensure the soil is suitable for the plant being planted with sufficient nutrients to satisfactorily support and sustain the plant.

5. Plant Properly

The depth a plant is planted is important. If a plant’s crown is too far below soil level, stunted growth or crown rot may occur. A crown planted too high above soil level may cause sunscald and unnecessary drying out.

Place the plant in the pre-dampened hole and spread out its roots. Make sure the roots sit on firm soil with the crown slightly above soil level to safeguard the crown from sinking below soil level after watering. Fill the hole halfway with soil and tamp down with your hands. Water thoroughly to remove any air pockets. Fill the hole with the rest of the soil and create a shallow, bowl shape at soil level around the plant. Tamp down firmly.

6. Water and Mulch

To reduce transplant stress, water the roots slowly and thoroughly allowing the water to completely sink down and around the roots. Add mulch as needed to maintain moisture then water again. For the next six weeks, regularly water taking care not to allow the soil to dry out.

Have Fun Gardening!

Lee Edwards is a Realtor, Master Gardener, and co-owner of Avid Gardeners-a Garden Consulting & Maintenance Company. She enjoys spending time with her family and best pal, Sir Max, along with reading, gardening and writing articles for online publications.

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