Seeds: All of the Dirt

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

Spring is almost here!

rucola-salad-plant-leaf
Home gardening by Kaboompics, 2015, used under CC0 1.0.

The seed catalogues have arrived and been perused. Seed varieties have been chosen and ordered. Or not. It’s not too late. It’s almost never too late to buy and plant seeds as different things can be planted almost throughout the growing season.

In addition to Canadian gardening catalogues, you can buy seeds at hardware stores and garden centres. If you are looking for something different, Seedy Saturday or Seedy Sunday is a good option. In Peterborough, it is held on the second Sunday in March at the Emmanuel United (formerly George Street United) Church basement. Many local growers grow their own seeds including many heritage varieties and share/sell the extras they don’t need. There is also the Peterborough Garden Show in April where you can buy seeds not generally available elsewhere.

Let’s get started:

You can buy soil specially prepared for starting seeds. It had the best texture for small seeds to be able to put down roots. The soil should be damp like a wrung-out sponge. Using clean containers, fill them with the potting soil. Read the package carefully for the needs of the seeds. Label your seeds carefully so you will know what you are growing.

Spread the seeds on top of the soil, and then add a dusting of the soil mixture using a sieve to the recommended depth on the package for small seeds. Larger seeds can be pushed gently into the soil. Gently pat the soil, so the seeds are in good contact with the soil. Spray the top of the soil with water. Place a plastic cover lightly over the seeds, allowing for some air circulation.

Some seeds need light to germinate, others don’t. Again, follow the directions. Seeds germinate best with a little heat. The top of the refrigerator is a good place to put them. Once the seeds have their second pair of leaves they can be transplanted into bigger containers. The nice thing about starting seeds indoors is that it can extend the growing season for you and give you many vegetables (or flowers) earlier than you would otherwise have if you just planted them directly. Other plants like tomatoes and peppers need to be started early as they have a longer growing season for them to mature before frost takes them.

Here are some interesting websites which including Starting and Planting calendars:
http://littlecityfarm.blogspot.ca/2011/01/annual-seed-starting-planting-calendar.html

http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/seeding-and-planting-calendar-vegetables

https://www.almanac.com/content/starting-seeds-indoors

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.

Reblooming an Amaryllis Bulb

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener (in Training)

sharleen amarllyis
Amaryllis Bulb in its 3rd Year

Amaryllis bulbs are a wonderful winter flower! They never disappoint and are easy to grow over the Christmas season. They come in many dramatic colours. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the bloom, so it is always a good idea to spend a little more to get a good sized bulb.

They are prized for their exotic trumpet-shaped flowers that sit on top of leafless stalks or “scapes”. They are native to Peru and South Africa. The bulbs were brought to Europe in the 1700s. In warmer climates, they have been known to bloom for 75 years.

In Canada, we generally buy new bulbs each year, but did you know that it is possible to keep these bulbs from year-to-year and it is relatively easy to get them to re-bloom. Below is a simple guide to what works for me, but I have also attached a few reliable articles. The methods are a little different, but with the same end result.

 

HOW TO GET YOUR AMARYLLIS TO RE-BLOOM

  • Wait until the amaryllis finishes blooming.
  • Remove the wilted flowers and allow the stalk to die back a little to feed the bulb, then cut it down. Leave any leaves as they also help to feed the bulb.
  • When all chance of frost has past, take your amaryllis outside in the pot and place it in a protected area. It is best to choose a spot that gets morning sun rather than the scorching sun of the afternoon.
  • If you wish, you can also remove it from the pot and plant it in the garden. I tend to leave it in the pot as I find there is less chance of infection from disease.
  • During the summer months, feed it with an all purpose fertilizer about once a month. To be honest, I don’t always remember to do this! If we have a really hot summer, you may actually get another bloom during the summer season. I had this happen two summers ago.
  • Around Thanksgiving, before a hard frost, remove the bulb from the ground or the pot.
  • Cut all the foliage back, close to the bulb.
  • Dry the bulb well (this is important), outside if it’s sunny or in a nice sunny window.
  • Once it is good and dry, put the bulb in a brown paper bag and store it in a cool, dry place. I store mine in the back of the garage up against the house.
  • Leave it for at least 6 weeks.
  • Bring it back in, pot it up in good potting soil. Don’t use a pot that is too large as they like to be snug. Remember to leave the top 1/3 out of the soil.
  • Put in some good supports, fertilize with an all purpose fertilizer at ½ strength, keep it watered but not too wet and ‘cross your fingers’.
  • Indirect light is best until you see some growth, then move it to where you normally keep your amaryllis.
  • You may find that you will get leaf growth first, but eventually you should see a stalk emerge.
  • I have found that you tend to get flowers closer to the end of January, which is a real treat in the middle of winter. If you prefer to have them earlier, start the process before Thanksgiving.
  • Good luck!!

For a slightly different method, check out this article by Sonia Day who writes for the Toronto Star. Or, check out this article written by a Master Gardener from Guelph-Wellington.

Four Great Books

by Cauleen Viscoff, Master Gardener

1. The Informed Gardener – Linda Chalker-Scott

51XOwySYW6L._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_Debunking many anecdotal garden myths, this book is backed by scientific research. Boring, it isn’t. It is charming and witty with a no-nonsense approach. Ms. Chalker-Scott is a passionate professor whose life work is devoted to raising consciousness about marketing misconceptions so we can garden with intention and confidence in an environmental and sustainable way. (paperback – $20.00)

2. The Informed Gardener Blooms Again – Linda Chalker-Scott

9780295990019I learned so much from her first book, I bought this one and was not disappointed. She surprises, teaches and makes sense. (pp. $20.00)

weeds3. Weeds: in Defence of Nature’s Most Unloved Plant – Richard Mabey

This book is readable, informative, and also charming but in another way. He takes us through the life of some plants and seeds we call weeds, showing why we do, where they came from and that many have been here for many centuries. He shows how they travel thousands of miles on ships, in ballast, on animals and in other unmentionables. This is a book to read…and to learn, of course… loved it. (pp $20.00)

4. The Wild Garden (expanded edition) – William Robinson and Rick Darkewild garden

This is such a pleasure to read; it begs a snowy afternoon and a pot of tea. Originally written in 1870, Robinson works to teach formal gardeners to let some “wild” creep into English gardens. He travelled the world to do so. This book has been updated at least 4 times and this edition, with beautiful new photos, includes the original chapters and engravings. Readable, educational and well worth the price. (Hardcover – $71.00- softcover – $10 less)

The Evolution of Gardening

By Amy Woodward, Peterborough Master Gardener

Last year I went to the Master Gardener Technical Update at Toronto Botanical Gardens.  One of the keynote speakers was Mark Cullen and he was discussing how Canadian Gardening has evolved.  The way we garden is constantly changing by utilizing small spaces, composting and appreciating insects and the natural environment.

Gardening Spaces

Many in urban areas are limited to the space they can garden in.  There are numerous examples of minimal space gardens such as in apartments, community allotments, rental properties and new homes with smaller yards.  A change in my gardening pattern has been from the old fashion long vegetable rows to square foot gardening.   Mel Bartholomew, creator of square foot gardening, was disenchanted with long rows that took up too much space and involved too much weeding.  He came up with the square foot method of gardening that takes up much less space, less weeding and minimal maintenance.  This method is very popular amongst our Master Gardener Organization and for those short on space.  Other approaches to limited space are container gardening, rooftop gardening and lasagna layering.

Composting

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Leaves 1789120 by pixel2013, 2016, used under CC0 1.0

 

Although composting has been around for many years, we have seen changes in the way people compost.  For instance, in the past, leaves were known as a nuisance and people would rake them, bag them and wait for the municipality to pick them up.  Now it is recognized that leaves are a great addition to the compost pile.  Leaves are rich in carbon and balance out nitrogen rich green material.  You can also use leaves as mulch.  Simply rake leaves onto the garden and the leaves will keep the moisture in and weeds out.  Leafs are also used to improve soil texture and encourage earth worms to reside there.

Pollinators

 

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Nature 3076891 by hettyvanderzanden, 2015, used under CC0 1.0 

The public is now more educated and interested in how to save native pollinators such as flies, wasps, beetles, birds, butterflies and most importantly bees. Unfortunately, pollinator populations are decreasing.  A number of steps have been adopted to protect pollinators including choosing native plants, planting milkweed, decreasing pesticides and installing insect hotels.  The critical role that pollinators play is why the public is so concerned and methods of gardening are changing.

 

 

Overall, gardening continues to change and evolve.  It will be interesting to see what our future has in store for us.

Perennial Plant of the Year 2018: Allium ‘Millenium’

Adapted from perennialplant.org allium millenium

Allium ‘Millenium’ has numerous virtues to add to the landscape setting and will not disappoint.  It boasts low-maintenance,  dependability, and is not invasive.

Soil: Grows best in well-drained soils.

Uses: Full-sun gardens–where its sleek structure can complement many other growth habits. Cut flowers retain a blush of their summer color.

Unique Qualities: Allium ‘Millenium’ is a butterfly magnet. The plant is interesting through multiple seasons for both foliage and large, gorgeous blooms. Reseeding is much less a problem than in other alliums.

Maintenance: Allium ‘Millenium’ is subject to no serious insect or disease problems. Deer and rabbits usually avoid ‘Millenium’.  Alliums are bulbs that are available in stores for fall planting.

Growing best in full sun, each plant typically produces an upright foliage clump of grass-like, glossy deep green leaves reaching 10-15” tall in spring. In midsummer, two to three flower scapes rise above the foliage with each scape producing two or three showy two-inch spherical umbels of rose-purple florets that last as long as four weeks. Alliums are sometimes avoided due to their reseeding behavior. Fortunately, ‘Millenium’ exhibits 50% reduced seed production, raising less concern for self-sown seedlings.

Blooming at a time when most of our garden begins to decline in the tired excess of the season, ‘Millenium’ offers much needed color.  It is truly an all-season plant that offers attractive shiny foliage spring through summer and caps off the season with its crown of perfectly round rose-purple flower umbels.

Got the Winter Road Salt Blues? Some Advice on What to Plant

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener (Twitter @Hey_MzEmma)

It’s an unfortunate reality. We live in Canada and we get snow, lots of snow. And then there’s the ice. So our industrious public works folks are out there putting down road salt (sodium chloride) and sand to keep us moving. We also apply salt or sand on paths and walkways on our property. Unfortunately it seeps into the soil and kills plant roots. Road salt mixed with melted snow creates a mist that blows on to our properties, especially when cars splash through melted snow. Having lost a few very nice plants to a combination of huge snowbanks and road salt, I was curious about what plants can survive (and maybe flourish) in a front garden that inevitably gets doused in road salt.

What Does Road Salt Do?

The negative effects of road salt on humans and the natural environment have been well documented. The Smithsonian magazine has two great articles on the subject.
The Hidden Dangers of Road Salt  What Happens to All the Salt We Dump on the Roads? 

Road salt doesn’t just dissolve into thin air. It splits into sodium and chloride ions and gets absorbed into roadside plants, licked up by wildlife or accumulates in aquatic ecosystems—sometimes with devastating consequences. All that saltiness can help invasive or even toxic species spread, not to mention increase traffic danger due to deer and moose drawn to salt-covered roads. (From a gardening perspective, if you want to deep dive into the nasty things that happen to soil structure from salts, this article by the Soil Science Society of America provides some great insight.)

salting truck

What Perennials Can Handle Road Salt?

Our Savvy Gardening friend Tara Nolan (@ThatTaraNolan) (who you may remember as a speaker from our 2017 Peterborough Garden Show) recently posted a great blog post on how we can combat the road salt challenge in our gardens.

Salt-tolerant Plants that will Survive in Road Salt-laced Soil

So what are some of Tara’s favourites salt-resistant plants?

Autumn Joy Stonecrop (Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Columbine (Aquilegia)
‘Karl Foerster’ reed grass (Calmagrostis acutifolia ‘Karl Foerster’)
Silver mound Artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana Silver Mound)

IMG_4946
Gaillardia
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Autumn Joy Stonecrop

Some other ones I found doing an Internet search:

Rugosa roses (Rosa rugosa)
Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris)
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
Daylilies (Hemerocallis)
Catmint (Nepeta)

So, if your garden is looking less than wonderful due to winter salt damage, try some of these options!

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Daylilies

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

Building Natural Ponds by Robert Pavlis

Book Review by Cheryl Harrison

8dd21-building2bnatural2bponds2bbook

What does the dedicated gardener do on cold Canadian winter days? Read gardening books and day dream, of course!
Santa brought me “Building Natural Ponds”(ISBN 978-0-86571-845-6) by Robert Pavlis. Mr. Pavlis is an experienced Master Gardener. He owns and developed an extensive botanical garden. He is a speaker, teacher, writer and blogger.
We have two ponds on our large rural property. Both are natural ponds. The previous books that I have read about creating and maintaining gardening ponds usually talk about pumps, filters and chemicals. They talk about the need to clean your pond regularly, what to plant and how to care for your fish. All of this requires lots of effort….seems like not much time to enjoy your pond when coupled with all of the other usual garden chores.
“Building Natural Ponds”, although a small book, takes the reader from the pond ecosystem and environmental benefits, through planning, pond design and building to fish, plants and maintenance. There is even a short chapter on “pools, bogs and rain gardens”. I was able to easily follow the pond building process and with the diagrams and photos included in the book, I could picture each step. I could also imagine how the information can be applied to our current ponds. For example, Mr. Pavlis talks about algae. He eloquently explains the science around the balance needed to ensure that algae growth is controlled. The book is also indexed and includes a list of helpful references.
My only very small criticism would be that not all the pictures are in colour. The colour pictures that are included, are lovely and do contribute to successful day dreaming!
I would recommend “Building Natural Ponds” by Robert Pavlis to anyone considering a future pond build, to anyone who would like to learn more about their current pond or just to anyone who likes to learn and dream gardening!

Growing Strawberries in Containers

by Pat Freistatter

Why grow strawberries in containers? 

  • It does not require a lot of space.
  • Containers can be close to your kitchen
  • Bacterial and fungal diseases and damage from slugs are reduced.
  • Containers can be moved around to take advantage of warmth and light from the sun.

Note: Strawberries on plants still need to be protected from Insects and birds

What type of strawberry plant grows best in containers?

  • Any type of strawberry plant can be used.
  • June bearing strawberry plants provide one large crop.
  • Day neutral strawberry plants produce fruit throughout summer, except during hot weather.
  • Ever-bearing strawberry plants produce 2-3 harvests each summer from early spring to fall.

What type of container can be used?

  • Many types of containers can be used: eg. hanging basket, pot, wooden box (must have several drainage holes in the bottom)
  • Strawberry plants have a small and shallow root ball so they can be grown in small containers; as small as 25 cm in diameter and 20 cm deep (Note: small containers must be watered more often)
  • Light coloured pots keep the plant roots cooler in the heat of the summer.

What type of soil should be used?

  • Use loose, loamy potting soil that will hold water, but allow excess water to drain away.

How do you plant the strawberry plant?

  • Fill the container with potting soil to within 2.5 cm of the rim
  • Put plant in pot and cover the roots, up to the crown (where the leaves emerge), with the soil and water well. Add more potting mix if needed after the soil settles.
  • Strawberry plants can spread out about 60 cm – put only 1– 2 plants in a small container.

When should the plant be watered?

  • Water strawberries whenever the soil feels dry to about 2.5 cm below the surface.
  • Avoid both soggy and dried out soil.
  • Daily watering may be needed in periods of hot, dry weather.
  • Keep moisture off the leaves to prevent fungal diseases that will damage the fruit.

How should the plant be fertilized and when?

  • Strawberries should be fertilized every 3-4 weeks, as soon as the first flowers appear, with a fertilizer high in phosphorus.

How much sun should the plant receive?

  • At least 6-8 hours of sun – rotate container every 3-4 days if possible

Fun things to do with strawberries in containers: Create a Strawberry Waterfall

  • Stack a few lightweight pots filled with potting mix, starting from largest to smallest.
  • Plant strawberries around the edge.
  • Take care of your strawberry fountain following the previous directions for containers.