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)

Perennials: When should they be divided?

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Happily, perennial plants increase in size over the years, and at some point they will benefit from being divided. In general, the best time for this task is in the spring when they have just emerged from their winter hibernation.

Perennials should be divided when:RHS_PUB0003004_484282

  1. They have started to die out in the middle
  2. They don’t flower as well as they used to due to congestion or the roots grew to be old and woody
  3. They have used up all of the nutrients in the soil near them, resulting in stunted growth, yellowish leaves or lack of bloom
  4. They are infested with weeds

Rule of Thumb

One rule of thumb for division is this: perennials that flower between early spring and mid June are best divided in early fall. Perennials that flower after mid-June are best divided in the spring.

Summer and fall-flowering perennials have the whole spring and early summer to recover from being divided, and most will give you an excellent flower display the same year.

Three plants that prefer to be divided at other times are Peonies (fall only) and true Lilies (mid to late fall). Daylilies (Hemerocallis) can be divided at nearly any time.

The first time or two that you divide perennials will be a bit nerve-wracking and anxious. This is normal!

Basic Steps

The basic steps of dividing are simple. Once your plant shows signs of growth in the spring (an inch or two of new shoots is fine), dig up the entire clump with a deep shovel. Try to be generous and get as many thick roots as possible. Dig all the way around the clump, then pry it out of the ground. Put down a tarp somewhere handy, and transport your clump there.

Try and knock off any loose soil. Find a knife — a Hori-Hori knife, root knife or even an old bread kniofe. Look closely at your clump in an attempt to find a natural point where it can be easily separated. Cut directly down the center with your knife, from top to bottom. Once it’s split in two, then look at each half to see if there is a sensible spot to cut yet again, then split these each into two. Try and keep the sections generally of a good size, say the diameter of your fist or larger.

Discard old and woody roots from the middle (add them to the compost pile).

Then, replant!

Once your dividing task is complete it’s time to replant the pieces. Try to plant them at approximately the same depth they were growing. Water them in well at planting time, then maybe once a week for the first month unless spring rains are generous.

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!

Why a Rain Garden?

By Cauleen Viscoff, Lindsay Master Gardener

In the forest, a raindrop’s journey is long; from cloud to creek; intercepted by trees and vegetation before it soaks into the ground-less than 10% runs off into rivers and streams
In the city, its a fast ride; on the roof, down a spout onto a driveway, onto the street and down the storm drain.pavers-2946486__340

When a forest becomes a city, more than 50% of rainfall meets impervious surfaces -roads, buildings, parking lots; the rain becomes stormwater, filled with polluted urban waste; fertilizer, animal waste, oil, heavy metals, road salt, cigarette butts, etc.It causes erosion, flooding, (over $1 billion in flood-related insurance in past 6  years). Stormwater is the leading cause of poor water quality.

Every time you press your car’s brakes, cadmium and zinc are released onto the road; and every pound of leaves left on the street, contains enough phosphorous to bloom up to 10 pounds of algae (if allowed into the storm drain).

What can we do?

Manage rain where it falls.
SOAK IT UP – porous pavers, grass and gardens
SLOW IT DOWN – rain barrels, downspouts into garden – keep away from foundation and out of storm drain
KEEP IT CLEAN  – rain garden – filters rain water, slows it down, soaks it up and keeps it clean.

A rain garden is easy, simple and best in a low spot where rain naturally runs off. Use plants with spreading roots. Find out how to here:
http://www.greenup.on.ca
http://www.bluethrumb.org
http://www.seagrant.umn.edu
http://www.susdrain.org

For a detailed plant list, send me a note: cauleensgardens@gmail.com

Maintaining the Garden – Common Garden Practices

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener in Training

Bed Preparation

This is probably one of the most important practices of gardening.  How you prepare your soil will have huge implications on the health and survival of all your plants.
Heavy clay or stony soils are very challenging and can be quite intimidating, but an initial effort to either remove or amend the soil will go a long way in ensuring healthy plants.  Two years ago, my husband dug a deep hole in preparation for building a small pond.  All the clay, rocky soil was removed.  In the end, we decided on a smaller water feature, so I filled the hole with the soil from my composter as well as some good quality garden soil.  I ended up creating a garden bed that was rich in nutrients and a soil that had good water-holding capabilities.  The following spring, I planted annuals in my ‘new’ garden bed.  They were fantastic!  The old saying, “Tend the soil, not the plants” is right on the mark!sharleenpratt

 

Perennial Division

Some perennials can get out of control quickly and benefit from division.  One common problem of fungal infections in gardens are plants that are overcrowded without sufficient air movement.  They can become spindly and weak and are more prone to disease, as well as insect attack.  Remember that some perennials will divide easily while others will not be happy! It’s always best to check with your favourite garden centre or a good perennial book to find out the best time to do the division.

Plants will benefit from dividing when:

  • They are spreading into other plants
  • Shoots are popping up amongst other plants
  • There is a bare patch in the centre of the plant
  • They are leggy and sparse and not flowering well
  • Soil around the plant has become clumpy and hard

A general rule for perennials is to divide in early spring and just after flowering.  Avoid hot, windy days and ensure that all newly divided plants are well watered for at least six weeks.  Dividing is an excellent way to share your favourite plants amongst friends and your perennials will definitely benefit from the division.

 

Simple Pet Deterrent for your Garden

By Lee Edwards, Master Gardener

Do you have pets, yours or perhaps the neighbourhood pets, that constantly tramp through your garden beds, eat or damage your bulbs and flowers, and even worse, litter in your garden? We certainly do! Now, we love pets, but we’d much prefer them to stay out of our garden beds and away from our prized flowers and vegetables.cat-2539225_640

In this article, we’ll share with you our tried-and-true garden hack. A pet deterrent that is chemical free and not dangerous to pets; up-cycled, used, plastic forks, that have successfully deterred many a four-legged invader from our gardens.

How To:

Sink any colour, any size, used plastic forks, tine side up and close together in the ground all over your garden bed; about two inches apart is good. Make sure the forks are snug in the ground by tamping down firmly around them. Also, the stronger the quality of the forks use, the better they will withstand pet weight in the ground.

Then, cover the forked bed with mulch, or your favourite finishing topdressing such as river rocks, straw, etc. Leave about an inch of the fork tines showing above the mulch.

These prickly forks’ tines sitting just above the topdressing make it uncomfortable on the paws of animals thereby discouraging pets from walking through or laying down in the garden bed while maintaining the finished appearance of the garden.

Voila! A simple, eco-friendly, pet deterrent that dissuades pets from lingering in your garden.

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.

Benefits of Gardening for Kids

By Amy Woodward, Master Gardener

Spring is upon us and summer is fast approaching…what a great time to introduce children to gardening.  During the spring, children can start planting seeds indoors or plant cool weather crops outdoors.  In the summer children can continue to plant and maintain the garden.  During the fall children can harvest and enjoy what has been sown.amy

As I child I can remember countless hours spent outside in the garden.  In this electronic age, many kids spend time indoors hidden behind a screen or television.  This summer, encourage your kids to limit the amount of screen time and get outdoors and try gardening.  Gardening is a healthy, fun activity that has many benefits for kids.  I would encourage anyone who has considered planting a garden with children to do so.

Why kids should garden:

  • Creates more family time
  • Reduces stress
  • Encourages children to eat more vegetables
  • It is educational & healthy
  • It is good exercise
  • Helps reduce waste
  • Teaches responsibility

Getting Children Interested in Gardening:pansy-2173208_640

  • Give children their own space such as a square foot garden or their own container
  • Supply children with their own tools
  • Plant flowers that attract insects
  • Grow interesting plants
  • Promote composting

Gardening activities:

  • Convert a sandbox into a garden
  • Set up a worm farm or make a bat house
  • Use eggshells to grown plants in
  • Plant in old rain boots
  • Make garden markers from rocks
  • Create a fairy garden
  • Make a small greenhouse

Recommended Gardening activities for kid’s websites:

https://kidsgardening.org/garden-activities/

https://www.kcedventures.com/gardening-with-kids

https://www.parenting.com/family-time/activities/10-inspired-gardening-projects-kids

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.

What is a “Bee City”?

By Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

beecitycanIn the summer of 2017 the City of Kawartha Lakes was officially recognized as a Bee City by Bee City Canada. I live in Lindsay and heard this first through our local newsletter last summer. Since then I attended our local horticultural meeting in January and heard Susan Blayney, who had spearheaded the project, give an interesting and enthusiastic talk on what exactly this means to the City of Kawartha Lakes and how a city can officially become a Bee City.

Pollinators are vital. They are responsible for 1 in every 3 bites of food that we eat, as well as the reproduction of 90% of the world’s wild life plant species. The approach of Bee City Canada is to bring first nations, cities, campuses, schools and communities together to promote and protect pollinators, encouraging a natural, pollinator friendly approach to gardening and farming, where ecology is respected and biodiversity is the goal.

Bee City Canada was launched in Canada in 2016 by Shelly Candel after being inspired bnature-3240902_640y the success of Bee City USA. Bee City USA is a non-profit organization, which was started in 2012 to help motivate communities to sustain pollinators. There are currently 62 cities and 33 campuses or educational institutes recognized through Bee City U.S.A.

The official vision of Bee City Canada is ‘Communities across Canada, connected in the protection, promotion and celebration of pollinators, enjoying the benefits of healthy ecosystems’. The first city to be recognized by Bee City Canada was Toronto in 2016, and since then 10 additional cities, 8 schools and 3 businesses have been recognized. The City of Kawartha Lakes is the first municipality to be recognized, and is unique for both its size and its agricultural component.

lavender-1537694_640The City of Kawartha Lakes has a number of initiatives that they are working towards, the largest being the Fenelon Falls Pollinator project. Last year, a 1.5 acre decommissioned parcel of land on the Fenelon Falls landfill site was reseeded with a pollinator friendly seed mix. This project is an ongoing pilot that is being monitored by students from Fleming College along with the Ministry of the Environment. Other initiatives that are being planned include pollinator gardens, a 100 garden challenge, education in schools and seed bombing along trails, roads and parks.

It is important for all of us to recognize how necessary pollinators are, and to do whatever we can to encourage and support them. For anyone with a garden, we can all create pollinator friendly spaces, growing plants that will provide food, creating shelter, leaving space undisturbed for pollinators to build nests in the soil and creating a safe, pesticide free environment.