gardenchatter

Garden adventures and advice…


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To Rake or Not to Rake…

Like it or not, it’s that time of year again. Falling leaves – or those pesky leaves that seem to blow onto your lawn from every other tree in the neighbourhood. But what happens if you just leave them alone?

 
 
You can – for a while, but a heavy layer of maple, oak or other large leaves won’t keep your lawn healthy over the winter and will end up creating more work, and expense, when spring arrives.
 
 
Here’s the risk – a heavy layer of leaves, particularly left under an even heavier layer of snow will start to smother the lawn. It can’t breathe and therefore creates the perfect environment for diseases like snow mold and brown spot to develop – not to mention the pests that might decide to move in as well. The weight might also prevent new grass from sprouting in the spring.  That leaf-layer presents a barrier to water, nutrients and air that the root system needs to survive. 
 
 
But that doesn’t mean every single leaf needs to be removed – here’s a few ideas to reduce the risk and make good use of the nutrients that leaves can offer, when used correctly.
 
 
Run the lawn mower over them. Your lawn will love  you for it. Those finely shredded leaves will fall between the blades, adding both a fertilizer and mulch to the yard – which in turn helps reduce the number of weeds in the spring and provide healthy lawn growth.
 
 
Shred some for the garden beds. They’ll break down over the winter and will reduce the amount of time and money spent in adding nutrients before planting season starts again. 
 
And don’t forget your compost pile, it would welcome a good helping of shredded leaves. 
 
 
And if shredding isn’t your thing, then get out the rake, enjoy the warm autumn sun and bag them up in paper leaf bags (vs. plastic) so they can be taken to (or picked up – depending where you live) the local composting station…and who knows, when you go pick up compost in the spring…you might just be getting your own nicely-composted yard waste back! 
Oh….and a good jump or two in the leaf pile won’t hurt a thing!
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Daylily “Happy Returns”

There are hundreds, possibly thousands of different daylilies but Daylily ‘Happy Returns’ (Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’) is one of my favourites. A non-stop summer bloomer, Happy Returns presents 3-inch, butter-yellow flowers similar in appearance to early spring daffodils. It’s smaller size (2 feet high) makes it perfect for a garden border, a perennial bed or containers. It grows well in full sun but does appreciate some morning or afternoon shade. Hardy in zones 3 to 9, it’s not fussy on soil type and pollinators love it. A bright addition to any garden – large or small!


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Seed Starting….Easy Peas…ie

For those of us that like to grow-our-own, that time is once again here. The ability to walk around the garden at the end of the day collecting dinner or cutting flowers for the table is truly an exciting experience; every time I take that walk, I am overwhemed at what I have created.
 
Here’s a few things to consider if you plan to grow from seed (and if you don’t, give it a try – it’s easy!)
 
Use the best quality seed you can afford. If you have seed but are unsure of how old it is or where it originated, don’t use it. Buy new.
 
Good lighting is essential. Seeds need light to germinate. And heat.
 
If planting indoors, use a good soilless potting mixture. This provides the needed air circulation, good drainage and typically these mixtures contain no diseases or pests. Garden soil is too heavy for young seedlings – and may contain pathogens that little plants can’t fight.
 
Use the seeding guidlines on the package. It will tell you how far in advance of the usual last frost date to plant – if you’re planting indoors, and explain how and when to seed if planting outdoors. Some plants prefer the cooler weather, some need the summer heat. When in question for any part of seed starting – follow the seed package instructions and information – the seed growers know what they’re doing! (Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.)
 
What’s best to start indoors?
      – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, cauliflower, perennials and  herbs
 
Best for either starting ahead or directly in the ground?
     – greens, kale, chard, cucumbers, squash, melons, sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds
 
Best for sowing directly in the ground?
     – peas, carrots, beans, corn, radishes, parsnips, onions, turnips, morning glory, scarlet runner, sweet pea.
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Deer Resistant Shrubs

 

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Looking out the window to see deer frolicking in the distance is a magnificent sight. However, when the frolicking turns to feasting on favorite plants and shrubs, the beauty of the view turns to one of frustration, and the time and dollars needed to repair, replace or replant the damaged bushes. Fortunately, for avid gardeners and nature lovers, there are shrubs available that deer do not put at the top of their favorite food list and will tend to avoid in search of tastier treats.

Flowering Shrubs

There are flowering shrubs that deer avoid. Flowering varieties add color to the garden and many attract butterflies and birds to the area. Lilac (Syringa spp.) is a medium to large shrub that produces large, vibrant flower clusters each spring, changing to dark green leaves once the flowering is complete. Lilacs are available in a range of colors including pink, white, purple, blue and mixed. Lilacs are hardy to zones 1 through 12.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia spp.) is a nonstop bloomer and a true butterfly magnet. Growing from 6 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety, the butterfly bush produces an abundance of flowers all season long. Hardy to zones 3 through 9.

Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) grows into a large, mounding shrub, full of long trumpet-like flowers that grow up to 10 inches long. A fast-growing shrub, flower colors include yellow, apricot, pink and white. Hardy to zones 7 through 13.

Bluebeard (Caryopteris spp.) sprouts blue blossoms from midsummer until frost arrives. A smaller shrub, bluebeard grows to 4 feet high and wide, depending on the species. Bluebeard prefers full sun, and the other flowering shrubs listed above will grow in sun or part shade. Bluebeard is hardy to zones 4 through 9.

Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs add year-round color to the garden and some are distasteful to deer. Boxwood (Buxus spp.) is a breeze to care for and can be left alone to grow naturally, or pruned and kept at a specific height or shape. A dense evergreen, boxwood grows from 1 foot high for dwarf varieties to 7 feet high for other varieties. Hardy to zones 2 through 12.

Holly (Ilex spp.) varieties range in size from 1 foot high to up to 50 feet high. Smaller varieties create low hedges and the larger varieties work well for areas needing privacy or tall hedges. A dense shrub, prune any damaged or weak branches to promote new, healthy growth. Hardy to zones 4 to 9.

Mexican orange (Choisya ternata) quickly grows to 8 feet high and wide. Small flowers sprout during spring and summer, and shiny, dark green leaves fill in this shrub throughout the year. Hardy to zones 6 to 9.

Coprosma (Coprosma spp.) is a colorful evergreen shrub that spreads to 8 feet high and wide depending on the variety. Needing little water, the leaves on various types of this shrub are variegated with bright color. Hardy to zones 8 to 10.

Deciduous Shrubs

Various varieties of the Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.) shrub are deciduous and one of many shrubs avoided by deer. Cotoneaster can be a low-growing shrub, or sprout to 25 feet high depending on the variety. Simple white flowers develop in spring and small, glossy leaves cover the plant the balance of the year. Hardy to zones 3 to 12.

Spirea (Spiraea spp.) grows to 6 feet high and wide, is easy to grow and adapts to any soil condition. Bridal wreath varieties develop clusters of cascading, white flowers and the shrub types develop small pink or white flowers in the fall. Leaf color varies by cultivar. Hardy to zones 3 to 12.

Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus spp.) are fast-growing shrubs that require almost no care. Dense and tough, deciduous varieties have silver-gray leaves that appear to sparkle in the sunlight. This shrub is heat and wind resistant. All varieties listed will grow in full sun or partial shade. Hardy to zones 2 to 12.

Shrubs With Berries

Attract birds instead of deer to the garden with deer-resistant, berry-producing shrubs. Current (Ribes spp.) plants provide dense growth to 12 feet high and wide, depending on the variety, and drooping clusters of white flowers develop into masses of sweet dark berries. Hardy to zones 2 to 12.

Mahonia (Mahonia spp.) is an evergreen shrub, sprouting bright yellow flower clusters that develop into dark bluish berries. The spiny foliage of mahonia can snag and this shrub is best planted away from heavy traffic areas. Hardy to zones 2 to 12.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.) grows to 6 feet high and wide and produces pink or lilac colored flowers that develop into round, purple fruit. The berries remain on this shrub well into the winter months. Each plant listed grows in full sun or partial shade. Hardy to  zones 3 to 9.

 


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Dog Vomit Fungus

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Yep! That’s what it’s called. And those of you with dogs (or cats) will certainly see the resemblance. This little gem (pictured) startled me one day on my way to the back door and I wasn’t completely sure how it got there.

Dog vomit fungus (Fuligo septicai) is most often found sprouting on wood mulch or lawns during warm, wet weather – and has a tendency to magically appear overnight. Technically a slime mold, dog vomit fungus varies in color from bright yellow to an unpleasant orange tone as the mold begins its fruiting stage. As the slime mold ages over the next couple of days and conditions dry out, it becomes a dark, hard mass, then turns into a crusty mound and eventually moves into the spore state.

Migrating to moist and shady areas, the wind-borne spores patiently wait for the right conditions and when they arrive, absorb that extra moisture and open up to start the process all over again, producing a brand new patch of vomit-like mold.

While odd looking, dog vomit slime mold is harmless and won’t damage plants. It will disappear on its own within a few days, but if you prefer you can break it up with a rake or use a trowel to remove it before the spores develop.

(close up below)

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Rat’s Tail Radish

Want to grow a fun, non-stop vegetable? Then plant Rat’s Tail Radish.

Unlike the traditional underground, round, red radish, rat’s tail is an edible pod that sprouts from pale pink flowers that in turn, sprout from long, flowing stems.

A non-stop summer performer, rat’s tails are easy to grow and won’t fade away in the heat like most radishes do. This is certainly not a cool-season radish – they thrive during  warm summer days and prefer full sun. Similar in appearance to a long bean, (and a rat tail!), this edible pod is delicious fresh from the garden, is a great addition to stir-fry’s and is also an easy pickling vegetable.

Butterflies flock to the flowers and continued  pod harvest will also continue to produce new flower growth and in turn, more radishes.

Rat’s tail is an Asian heirloom that was introduced to the U.S. in the 1860s and has been growing ever since. Plant this interesting, easy-care and colourful radish every two weeks over the season for a continued harvest.

 


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Life Under a Walnut Tree

 

 

black-walnut-61599_640Black walnut trees can grace a yard, provide plenty of shade on hot summer days, and produce delicious nuts that both humans and squirrels enjoy. But those same trees aren’t always the best neighbours for the rest of the plants found in the garden.

Walnuts are members of the Juglandaceae family and produce a chemical called juglone that is toxic to many plants and vegetables. Juglone is found in every part of the tree but is most prevalent in the flower buds, nut hulls and roots. And those roots can extend up to four times the diameter of the tree’s canopy.

The science behind juglone is that this chemical is a respiration inhibitor which deprives sensitive plants of needed energy for metabolic activity, thereby causing nearby plants to struggle to survive, or not survive at all. Symptoms of walnut toxicity range from stunted growth, to partial or total wilting, to death of the affected plant. The toxic reaction often occurs quickly and sensitive plants can go from healthy and vibrant to dead within a couple of days.

So what does this mean for gardeners that want a diverse, vibrant garden?

  • There is actually a long list of plants that are tolerant to juglone (see below), but if the plant begins to looks stressed or is struggling to grow, it might be best to remove or relocate it.
  • Plant as far away as possible from the black walnut. Consider using raised beds to move the roots further away from any contamination in the ground. Remove any debris or nuts that do gather in the bed and ensure good drainage – it seems to help.
  • The toxicity can remain in the soil for years once the tree has been removed – the only way to truly ensure elimination is to remove all the roots as well.
  • Juglone will eventually break down in composted leaves, but it takes time. It’s best to either dispose of the leaves or compost them separately and use that compost on non-sensitive plants.

 

Plant Type Sensitive to Juglone Tolerant of Juglone
Vegetables Cabbage Squash
  Tomatoes Melon
  Peppers Beans
  Potatoes Carrots
  Eggplant Corn
  Asparagus Beets
  Rhubarb Onion
    Parsnip
     
Flowers Peony Aster, Astilbe, Bee Balm,
  Petunia Black-eyed Susan, Crocus,
  Chrysanthemum Daylily, Ferns, most Hostas,
  Forget-me-not Hollyhock, Impatiens,
  Autumn crocus Marigold, Morning Glory,
    Pansy, Phlox, Zinna
     
Shrubs and Vines Azalea, Blackberry – most Black Raspberry, Clematis,
  Berries other than the black Current, Forsythia, Euonymus,
  Raspberry, Hydrangea, Lilac, Honeysuckle, Rose-of Sharon,
  Potentilla, Yew Sumac, Pachysandra,
    Viburnum, Virginia Creeper,
    Willow, Witch Hazel