Plant Easy-To-Grow Garlic Now

By Lois Hole

Love it or hate it, almost everyone knows the taste of garlic but few people realize how easy it is to grow.

Over the years, we have discovered that the secret of growing the largest garlic bulbs is to plant in late August for a harvest the following year. These plants need a long growing season - five to six months - in order to mature to a good size. You can also plant garlic in spring but the earlier, the better. They will not be harmed if the weather turns cold again; garlic can freeze and still grow when the weather warms.

Each clove of garlic grows into a bulb containing 10 to 20 cloves. The largest cloves produce the largest bulbs, so save the small cloves for use in the kitchen. Plant only the firm healthy cloves.

Garlic is so easy to plant as it is to grow. Separate bulbs into cloves and choose a sunny site in the garden. Simply push each clove into the ground to about the depth of your second knuckle, firm the soil around it and water. The pointed end must be up, or it will not grow.

If you’re planting in rows, allow two to three inches between cloves. Try to find a spot where garlic or other members of the onion family were not recently grown.

The cloves can also be planted in a flowerbed by poking in amongst growing plants. Garlic takes up little space while growing and its tall, onion-like leaves add interest. It has been reported that roses benefit from interplanting with garlic, but I have found that the garlic plants are often the ones that do better. This is most likely due to the sunny location and constant watering and fertilizing that roses usually receive.

Garlic is, however, reputed to be a good companion to other plants for its insect-repelling qualities. Scientists have been unable to prove this, but they do know that garlic naturally contains some fungicidal chemicals and feeding deterrents. A woman I know plants garlic throughout her vegetable garden and tucks a few plants in her flowerbeds. She uses no insecticides and has very few problems with bugs. I am sure that one of the reasons is the interplantings of garlic.

In the spring when leaves begin to grow, fertilize the plants with a high nitrogen fertilizer (fertilizers are labeled with three numbers- the first indicates the percentage of nitrogen.) Pull out any weeds to reduce competition for moisture and nutrients.

When flowerstalks appear next summer, nip them off to allow the plant to devote more energy to the developing bulbs. Use the flowers for a pretty and zesty addition to salads and vegetable dishes.

Allow tops to fall over on their own. Bending them down in late summer can cause new shoots to form and delay rather than promote early maturity. Stop watering the plants toward the end of August. Allowing the soil to dry out around the maturing bulbs will improve storage quality.

Dig the plants out and leave them on top of the ground for several days if weather is warm and dry; otherwise, allow the plants to dry in a warm, dry basement or garage. The roots can be rubbed off when dry if you like although it is not necessary.

Once your garlic plants have become extremely dry, store them in braids or bunches, or cut off the stems about two to three inches above the bulbs. Do not wash or separate cloves until you are ready to use them. Store the majority on slatted shelves or screens.

In the kitchen, keep a small supply of bulbs in a wire basket, garlic pot, or any container that allows air circulation. Do not keep garlic in the refrigerator as humid conditions cause bulbs to sprout.

To make garlic easier to peel, press against it with the flat side of a knife. And one of the best ways to counteract ‘garlic breath’ is by chewing a sprig of fresh parsley immediately after eating.

Fall Savings on Spring Flowers

Fall Savings on Spring Flowers

By Lois Hole

One of the best ways to save money on spring-flowering bulbs is to choose top-quality varieties that naturalize.

Bulbs that naturalize spread from a single plant into many, producing more flowers each year from a single planting. Species-type tulips, for example, do this, while hybrid tulips tend to fade out after a few years, and new ones need to be added in order to continue the spring floral show. Species tulips, on the other hand, will spread to the extent that eventually you may want to divide and replant some of them in another area of the garden.

Hardiness is another factor to keep in mind. All crocuses naturalize, but the large-flowering Dutch types will not survive unless provided with a protected location in the garden, such as in a east or west-facing bed against the house. The early-blooming wild crocuses, however, can be planted anywhere in the yard. The species Chrysanthus often blooms while snow still reamins in shaded areas of the garden.

Daffodils and narcissus also naturalize. Keep in mind, though, that with novelty types with pink, ruffled or double blooms, you are trading stunning flowers for hardiness. The small-flowered, rock-garden types of narcissus are also very hardy, and have fragrant, long-lasting blooms.

Offset Cheery, bright yellow daffodils with the blue flowers of grape hyacinths (Muscari) and Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum). Star-of-Bethlehem bears dense clusters of white or blue starry flowers on long-stems.

Squills are another hardy spring delight. Siberian Squills (Scilla) survive for years and years, and march through the garden with clusters of star-shaped, intensely blue flowers on thin stems.

The Striped or Lebanon Squill (Puschkinia) is a striking bulb with clusters of bluish-white flowers that hug its stems. Thin stripes of bright blue divide each petal.

The Checkered Lily (Fritillaria meleagris) has extravagantly checkered flowers in bronze, rose or white. This bulb is also known as the Snake’s Head Lily, for its slender, twisted stems rising about narrow leaves, like snakes dancing to a charmer’s tune. When the solitary flowers appear, the stems straighten out, and the flowers nod above like large bells, with their distinctive checkered pattern resembling that of snake skin.

The earliest bloomers are Snow drops (Galanthus), white flowers nodding above grassy clumps of leaves; Snowflakes (Leucojum), small, delicately-scented, white bells nodding flowers with petal tips spotted bright green; Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa), stalks of tiny flower clusters in pink, solid white or white-eyed blue; and Winter Aconite (Eranthis), usually the earliest of all, with yellow buttercup-like flowers that pave the garden in sunshine almost overnight.

Plant your bulbs now (September), to allow them time to grow roots before winter’s cold sets in. In a warm year, bulbs can successfully be planted until fairly late fall, but the later that you leave it, the more chance you are taking with the weather. Be sure to water well when planting late.

Bulbs tend to look most natural and produce a more spectacular splash of colour in odd numbered groups of five to ten or more, and in clumps or drifts rather than straight lines.

As a rule of thumb, plant bulbs three times the depth of their height, and twice their diameter apart. For example, bulbs which are two inches (5 cm (high and one inch (2.5 cm) across, should be planted six inches (15 cm) deep, measured from the base of the bulb, with two inches (5 cm) between each bulb. The pointed end must be up or they will not grow.

Mix in 1 tsp of Earth Alive Soil Activator and 1 tbsp of Bone Meal into each planting hole when setting in the bulbs to help roots become established more quickly.

In late spring, allow foliage to wither and die back, as that is when the bulbs are storing the energy that they need in order to bloom the following season. Give them an added boost with a shot of water-soluble fertilizer with a high middle number, such as 10-52-10. Use other plants such as daylilies or irises to hide the withering leaves.

Houseplants Clean Indoor Air

Houseplants Clean Indoor Air

Lois Hole

As winter time nears, doors and windows of most homes are well sealed and tightly shut against the cold outdoors. Along with the cold, however, we are also keeping out fresh air. With so much more time spent indoors, the quality of the air within is more of a concern in the fall and winter.

Many homeowners are surprised when they realize the number of air-pollutants that are commonly found in most of our homes. New or newly-renovated houses especially, with their freshly painted walls and bran new carpeting, can have a high level of potentially harmful pollutants.

It is, however, fairly easy to compensate for that fact by simply filling your home with attractive houseplants. Studied by NASA have found that certain houseplants actually “clean” the air of harmful chemicals, such as benzene trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.

Benzene is a petroleum distillate commonly used as a solvent, and is found in gasoline, inks, oils, paint, plastic and rubber. It is also used in the manufacturing of detergents, pharmaceuticals and dyes.

Trichloroethylene is a commercial product used in some printing inks, paints, varnishes, adhesives and dry cleaning. Formaldehyde is found in virtually all indoor environments. Sources include foam insulation, particle board, pressed wood products, furniture and carpeting. It can also be found in grocery bags, waxed paper, facial tissue and paper towels.

Many common houseplants combat these pollutants. For a bright light situation, choose an attractive flowering plant. Both Pot Mums (Chrysanthemum) and Gerbera Daisies (Transvaal daisy) bloom in a variety of colours to brighten rooms as well as purify indoor air.

The Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea siefritzii), English Ivy, Fig Tree (Ficus benjamina) and several types of Dracaena (Dracaena massangcana, Dracaena marginata, Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’, and Dracaena warneckei) are helpful, handsome plants that do best in a medium to bright diffused light.

Low light areas will support Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllm ‘Mauna Loa’) and Mother-In-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant (Sansevieria laurentii). The snake plant is one of the easiest houseplants to grow.

In almost any location, grow Spider Plants. These houseplants have green or variegated leaves and do well in bring or low light situations. The “spiders” that form on trailing stems can be repotted or simply plunked into a jar of water; they will grow for years- even with no soil.

Gardening Safety

Gardening Safety

By Lois Hole

Gardens aren’t terribly dangerous places, but there is no place on Earth that is completely free of danger. Taking a few simple precautions to protect you and your family can provide a lot of peace of mind.

Sun Protection

Everyone is sensitive to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun, so make sure that you’re properly prepared for the outdoors to avoid sunburns. A hat is essential. Long sleeves are best for sun protection, but the heat may make this impractical; if so, use sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply frequently and generously, as sunblock can be diluted by perspiration. Sunglasses will protect your eyes, but only if they capable of filtering out at least 96% of UV radiation. Check the label! Make sure to protect yourself, too—adults can be sunburned just as seriously as children.

Lawn Safety Tips

Never mow in bare feet or reach into the exhaust chute to clear grass while the mower is running—this is just common sense, but I mention it again because too many people have lost fingers and toes to mower blades. I also recommend taking a quick walk over the lawn before mowing to clear any dangerous debris away; such debris can be hurled at high speed by a whirling mower blade. Believe it or not, I’ve seen people lifting up their mowers and using them to trim hedges and shrubs; this is not safe and should never be done. If you are using a riding mower, mow up and down slopes, not side to side; this way, you reduce the chances of rolling the mower.

Trimming can be just as dangerous as mowing; again, a pair of good shoes or boots can protect feet from the rapidly rotating nylon wire used in most trimmers. Eye protection should be worn, as well; trimmers have a tendency to fling gravel and soil around indiscriminately.

When applying herbicides to the lawn, read all instructions carefully. Some weedkillers are toxic and can cause skin irritation, so be careful when you spray.


Keep all pesticides out of the reach of children, preferably in a dark, dry, well-ventilated storage cabinet that you can lock. Read all package labels carefully and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions to the letter. Make sure never to mix pesticides in containers
that someone might eat or drink out of, and mix the sprays outdoors for better ventilation.

The Right Equipment

Cost doesn’t always refer to money. Cheap equipment can be a real hazard in the garden, whether it’s a shoddy hoe that snaps off in your hand or a cheap garden tractor that breaks an axle. We’ve always been sure to buy the toughest, most reliable tools, even back when that meant we’d suffer a little short-term economic hardship. Using top-quality, well-maintained machines is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your yard and garden are safe environments. Even if you’re buying something as seemingly simple as a lawnmower or hedge trimmer, quality tools can make an important contribution to your safety. Perhaps the best way to keep yourself and your family safe is to simply exercise common sense. If your instincts seem to be telling you that something you’re doing isn’t safe—follow them!

Teaching Kids to Grow

Teaching Kids to Grow

By Lois Hole

Every year, I give away thousands of Tiny Tim tomato plants to children
who visit the greenhouse with their parents. There are a couple of reasons why I do this: one, it keeps idle hands busy, and two, it gets kids excited about vegetables and gardening. After helping bring one of these plants to fruition, children are actually eager to eat the vegetables they’ve grown. Fresh vegetables are so much tastier than those bought at the store that your children may never develop the distaste for vegetables that so many kids have.

I think that it’s very important to be aware of every child’s initial level of interest in gardening. If all they want to do is water and watch the plant grow, for example, then let their involvement stop there. There’s no sense in trying to push. When my mother introduced me to gardening, she never forced me to weed or water. She let me discover the joy of gardening gradually. Children like to explore on their own, so give them the freedom to do as much or as little as they want to in the vegetable patch. Let them observe you as you weed or lay down mulch; curious children are sure to ask why you’re doing certain things. That’s your opportunity to give them a chance to try tasks out on their own.

You don’t have to give a child a tomato plant to start them down the garden path; any easy-to-grow vegetable with interesting characteristics will do.

Try kohlrabi; it’s probably the weirdest-looking vegetable around, with its otherworldly collection of stems growing from a green or purple globe. Raw kohlrabi tastes like water chestnuts, a light taste that won’t upset picky young taste buds. It’s also easy to grow.

Carrots are another good choice. They, too, are easy to grow, requiring minimal attention to produce a heavy yield of tasty vegetables. Pulling carrots out of the ground was a special joy of mine when I was a child; there’s something delightful about unearthing the long, orange roots.

If carrots aren’t of interest to your little ones, give peas a try. They are a little more difficult to grow, but in my experience, peas are the one vegetable that kids love to eat more than any other. It’s lots of fun to pry or snap open the pods to discover the sweet seeds within. Plus, their meandering growth habit is fascinating to watch, whether they sprawl over the earth or wind their way through a supportive trellis.

Pumpkins and squash are ideal choices for more patient young gardeners. The sprawling vines and huge leaves make finding the bounty quite a treasure hunt come harvest time; my grandchildren love to join me when I go out to track down the ripe fruits. Squash can grow so quickly that you could measure the fruit each day and see a real difference in size! Both pumpkins and squash require a lot of space, though, and they have a long growing season, so keep this in mind.

I know they’re not vegetables, but if you’ve got the space, sunflowers may be the best plants of all to have your children grow. We had dozens of sunflowers spring up in our garden this year; I just love them. The flowerheads are bright and beautiful, and kids can look forward to a harvest of delicious seeds. As an added bonus, these flowers also attract birds.

When I was a little girl in Buchanan, Saskatchewan, my mother set aside a space behind the house for me to grow some sunflowers. Before too long, the plants were much, much taller than I was—big beauties with flowers more than a foot across. Mom and Dad used
to cut off the flowerheads for me; I’d walk around with one of these huge things in my hand, eating seeds from it like I had a bag of peanuts. I got pretty good at cracking open the shells with my teeth, spitting them out, and swallowing the tasty seeds within.

Sunflowers are easy to grow. Seed can be sown in the early spring; just give them a sunny spot, water regularly, and watch them shoot up to the sky. Smaller varieties like Big Smile feature full-sized flowerheads on shorter, 1 m plants, making them more accessible to children.

There are many leisure activities open to kids today, and that’s a good thing. However, I can’t think of an activity that provides healthier, purer fun than vegetable gardening.

Plants I Recommend for Children’s Gardens

  • Beans

  • Carrots

  • Kohlrabi

  • Peas

  • Pumpkins

  • Squash

  • Sunflowers

  • Tomatoes

All the Garden Stages

All the Garden Stages

By Chris Hamilton

Stage One: Develop a Long-Term Plan

Designing and planning a landscape for your yard can be a daunting task. So much space to fill, but with what? Choosing from over 600 varieties of shrubs alone could take an entire summer! But don’t despair—the truth is, designing a great yardscape can be done within one day.

Growing the landscape, however, will take years. There are many aspects to consider: maintenance time, budgets, the presence of pets and children... for a yard that will last a lifetime, you need a long-term garden plan. Think of your yard as a changing, dynamic entity that evolves over time, rather than as a static creation that endures for years without change. As you age and the composition of your family changes, so too should your yard change.

Stage Two: Provide a Framework

I’ve done a lot of landscape designs for newlyweds and new homeowners, and whether they were moving into a new home or an older one, they always seemed to have some common desires: low maintenance, lots of colour, not a lot of lawn, no weeding, no pruning... demands that would make a seasoned gardener chuckle. In response to these suggestions I always want to say “Condos are nice...”

But seriously, the first thing to do is provide a framework for the yard. The first step in building that framework is get the big stuff in! A landscaper and his client have to decide on the best spot for the deck, the patio, a fire pit, pathways, large trees, swingsets, evergreens, and shrubs. Not all of these features will go in at the same time, but you should know where and when you will install them. Keep an eye out for powerlines and other potential obstructions. Map out shade patterns in the yard; that will give you an idea of where to put a shaded bench or the sun-loving annuals. One more tip: don’t pinch pennies when choosing building materials. You’re in this for the long haul, and remember that your return on investment for a well-landscaped yard is large—anywhere from 100-200%! Once you’ve decided where all of this stuff goes and when it’s going in, it’s on to the next stage.

Stage Three: Maintain a Great Lawn and Simple Yard

Some of the homes I visit are “owned” by kids. The parents are there too, of course, but the kids run the show! Keep their habits and needs in mind when growing your yard. Most yards aren’t too complicated at this point—a lot of lawn space is essential to provide ample room for horseplay. For the petunias’ sake, don’t plant between the goal posts! Your main jobs during this period will be mowing, fertilizing, watering, weeding, and pest control—routine tasks. Any plants you put in should be able to withstand a little damage from wayward kites, frisbees, etc.

Stage Four: Time to be Ambitious and Experimental

Once the kids are older (and able to do the mowing), there is generally more time for gardening. That’s a good thing, because this is also the stage where the yard requires more work to really look good—this is where true gardening often begins. The pleasure of weeding your prize rose garden, the amazement at the incredible size of your Atlantic Giant pumpkin, the heartbreak of fire blight on your apple tree...the garden is full of drama! Some grass can be removed to make room for perennial borders and beds, and perhaps a small vegetable garden. It might be a good time to add a gazebo or pond, since the kids are on hand to provide a little extra help. This is the best time for planting annuals—you still have lots of energy and there are plenty of hands around to help water and weed. (All joking aside, I’d always recommend encouraging, not forcing, kids to help in the garden—they’ll be far more enthusiastic if gardening is something they do by choice.)

Stage Five: Reduce the Workload

Soon enough, your babies are off to college, and the annuals have never looked better! It sure helps not having the soccer ball crushing the blossoms. As you struggle to pay the university bills, you might find that you have less time for gardening; annuals may become scarce in the yard, to be found only in pots; perennials continue to grow faithfully in established beds. Your children might be married by now, and they may have figured out that perennials can be divided. When they come knocking for your plants, make a deal—if they do some weeding, you’ll hand over your cuttings.

Stage Six: Relax and Enjoy Gardening

Finally, blissful retirement arrives. Nothing to do but putter around all day in the garden. Most of the “senior gardens” I lay out focus on low maintenance. That means fewer annuals, and perhaps a rock garden (or even a parking stall for the r.v.) in place of the vegetable garden. That deck you built back at stage one sure comes in handy now as you sit back, sipping on mint juleps while admiring your simple, but attractive, garden.

Herbs on the Balcony

Herbs on the Balcony

Herbs are perfect for balcony gardening. They’re easy to grow, many smell quite nice, and they provide ready-to-use flavours for your meals; just harvest them right out of the containers. The selection is almost unlimited; there’s mint, chives, basil, summer savoury, dill, lemon balm, coriander, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme... the list goes on and on. There are a few important things to remember before cultivating herbs. For instance, most of them are quite
vigorous—especially mint, chives, and summer savoury. Because of this, I always keep each variety in its own container. Herbs should be grown in very clean soils with good drainage; high-quality potting soil is best. For basil, I recommend a soil-less mixture; there are fewer problems with disease when basil is grown in this medium. Basil is prone to a stem rot
that garden soils can encourage; clean soil can help prevent this occurrence.

To get the best herbs, I fertilize them with 20-20-20 once every two weeks. Of course, I keep my watering consistent to promote strong, even growth and to inhibit disease. Adding rich compost to the soil gives herbs (except basil!) a real boost, as well.

I always harvest soft new growth to promote branching in the plants, and produces a greater overall yield. When winter arrives, you can bring the smaller herbs like bay, basil, savory, chives, parsley, sweet marjoram, tarragon and sage indoors for year-round production. Just make sure that they receive at least 5 hours of direct sunlight per day (you will probably have to use grow lights in the dead of winter). Indoor herbs will be smaller than those grown outside, but they are still quite tasty and well worth cultivating. With containers full of fresh herbs at your disposal, you’ll have a blast preparing meals with an extra bit of dash.

Good Bugs. Bad Bugs.

Good Bugs. Bad bugs.

By Lois Hole

A lot of gardeners have a fit if they catch a glimpse of some creepy-crawly slithering over one of their plants. Not me. Not all bugs are vicious beasts intent on devastating your garden; the vast majority of insects are either beneficial or have no effect on humans. Of the 15,000 insect species that interact directly with humans, only 3,000 have been identified as pests, a definite minority. Knowing the difference between good and bad bugs can save you time, stress, and money.

Insects play an important role in Earth’s ecosystem. Here are just a few of the vital products and services insects provide: they pollinate many of our food crops; they break down dead, decaying matter; they help to keep soil healthy by aerating, decomposing, or adding nutrients; they serve as food for larger animals; and they provide silk, honey, shellac, and dyes. Insects are also important in research, acting as experimental objects in many fields, including genetics, physiology, ecology, and behavior. Clearly, we would be in real trouble without insects.

Good Bugs

The ladybug, for example, could be called the gardener’s best friend. Almost everyone recognizes these beneficial insects; the adults are hemispherical, red-orange to yellow, with varying black spots or bands, while the larvae are elongate and dark-coloured with black or orange lateral spots. Both ladybug larvae and adults prey on soft-bodied insects like aphids; in fact, ladybugs are incredibly voracious, eating many times their body weight in aphids in a single day. If food is limited, ladybug adults will fly off in search of greener pastures, though some ladybug strains, available from commerical sources, have had this trait bred out or addressed during rearing so that the ladybugs stay in one area.

Lacewings are great friends to the gardener, too. They are pale green, slender-bodied insects with lacy wings extending over the abdomen and beyond. Their larvae—elongate, hairy, and dark—are what will take care of your aphid problem. Like ladybugs, lacewing larvae love aphids and will gobble them up with gusto.

Parasitic insects come in a wide variety of forms; there are many species of wasps and flies that lay their eggs in or on their preferred host. The eggs hatch and the host insect is consumed from the inside out, a gruesome but effective way of dispatching the prey. Parasitic wasps and flies attack a wide range of insects; soft-bodied pests like aphids, caterpillars, and beetles are legitimate food, though a particular species of parasitic insect generally attacks only one species of prey. A wasp from Europe, Lathrolestes luteolator, is doing a superb job of attacking the birch leaf miner.

Flowerflies in the adult stage bear a striking resemblance to bees. Like bees, flowerflies are important pollinators of flowering plants; they feed exclusively on nectar and pollen. Their larvae are elongate, legless maggots that feed on aphids and their relatives.

There are a number of other creatures that feed on garden pests. Yellowjackets and hornets may be annoying, but they won’t attack you unless provoked; they would much rather spend their time searching for prey, namely medium to large insects. Spiders of all kinds are exclusively predators. Orb-weaving spiders will capture moths, flies, and beetles in their webs, while other spiders will simply lie in wait inside flowers and attack any unwary insects that happen along. Finally, predatory mites feed on spider-mites, fungus gnats, and thrips. They are tiny creatures, but efficient; some are active on the foliage, while others work in the soil.

Although we have seen that most insects are beneficial or harmless, there are some that pose a serious threat to crops. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with these pests.

Bad Bugs

The Colorado Potato Beetle is one of the most notorious pests in the garden. The adults are 6-15 mm long, oval in shape, with 10 longitudinal black stripes on a yellow background. The eggs are elongated and orange, and are laid on the underside of leaves. Eventually, they will hatch into crescent-shaped orange larvae with lateral black dots. Both adults and larvae chew on leaves, and they usually feed in groups; plants can be stripped of their leaves in no time. As the name implies, these insects prefer potatoes but will also attack tomato, eggplant, pepper, petunia, and thistle.

To manage this pest, check your plants every spring, searching for adults and eggs. Handpick all that you find, and you should have few problems for the rest of the season. Adults can survive over the winter by burrowing into the earth, so rotating crops can help alleviate the problem by leaving the emerging beetles without a food source. If you need to spray, use House & Garden Protector.

Aphids are tiny—only 1-3 mm long—but they can cause large amounts of trouble. They are soft-bodied insects that range from yellowish-green to black in colour. They reproduce at an incredible rate; most aphids don’t even require a mate to give birth during the summer months. When food quality declines or overcrowding occurs, a winged generation is produced. This more mobile crowd of aphids migrates to another area of the garden or greenhouse to begin the cycle anew. It’s easy to see how aphids can quickly infest entire crops. They spread viruses, too.

Aphids attack nearly all vegetables, sucking the juices out of the plants. You’ll find them feeding on buds, stems, or, most commonly, on the undersides of leaves. If your plants are wilting, if they have malformed buds, stunting, yellowish leaves, and a sticky, shiny substance on the leaves (the aphid excreta), then you’ve probably got an aphid infestation to deal with.

One method of managing aphids is to spray your plants with cold water, preferably in the morning. The jet will blast many aphids off the plants and drown a good deal of them. If that fails, you may need to spray with Trounce or House & Garden Protector.

Cabbage and onion maggots will also cause you a good deal of grief if they get into your vegetable patch. The adult flies resemble small houseflies, about 5 mm long and gray. They emerge in late May to early June and will start laying eggs near the base of the host plant after a rain, when the soil is moist. (Egg laying coincides with the flowering of Saskatoon bushes.) When the eggs hatch, the maggots that emerge will burrow into the roots of the host, where they feed. Cabbage maggots primarily attack plants in the mustard family—cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, radish, and turnip. Onion maggots, naturally, like onion, but they will also infest garlic, leek, and chives. Damage symptoms include wilting and yellowing of the outer leaves. Cabbage and onion maggots like moist soil, and they’re less of a problem in drier years.

One of the best control methods is to lay down newspapers or commercial root maggot collars around the base of the plants. The adult flies will lay their eggs on the surface, where they will dry out and die. Keeping the garden free of weeds will also help. 

If your vegetable leaves have dozens of holes in a “shotgun” pattern, you may have flea beetles. Flea beetles attack potato, cabbage, turnip, cucumber, lettuce, cauliflower, radish, bean, tomato, or pepper. Adult beetles are quite small, about 1-2 mm long. They are dull black to metallic blue, or orange and black.

The best way to fight flea beetles is to control weeds that act as spring hosts—stinkweed, shepherd’s purse, and wild mustard. If chemical controls are used, spraying should be done when the plants are emerging from their hills and have reached a few centimetres in height, usually around the end of May or the beginning of June. If you spray, use House & Garden Protector. Also, check the label (on any pesticide) to see how many days you should wait before it’s safe to eat any fruit or vegetables you harvest.

Tarnished plant bugs are flat, oval-shaped insects about 4-6 mm long; their larvae resemble aphids. They attack alfalfa, canola, and most vegetables, fruits, and flowers. The adults emerge in the spring, feeding on weeds at first and then migrating to crops and gardens in mid-May to mid-June. In addition to eating your plants, they will also lay eggs on leaves and stems. Tarnished plant bugs may cause plant leaves to become deformed, stems to be scarred and discoloured, and buds and fruit to be dwarfed or pitted.

Removal of broadleaf weeds will help to reduce the build-up of this pest. Also, be aware of any alfalfa or canola crops grown near your garden; a large influx of these pests can occur after such crops are sprayed or harvested. House & Garden Protector will kill tarnished plant bugs.

The best way to control insect pests is to take good care of your garden. That means regular, consistent watering, careful weeding, rich soil, proper fertilizing, and a good location with plenty of sun and good air circulation. Insects are less likely to attack healthy, hardy plants.

Insects might not be pretty, but they are important. So the next time you’re tempted to squash one, remember that you just might be stepping on a friend.

Rooting Around in Peat Moss

Rooting Around in Peat Moss

By Linda Affolder

What you add to your soil can be as important as what you plant in it, and springtime preparation of gardens and beds often involves the addition of peat moss. Most gardeners know the basics and benefits of peat moss:
• It is an organic soil supplement that improves plant growth by increasing the air and water surrounding plant roots.
• It saves water. Peat absorbs and gradually releases up to 20 times its weight in water.
• It improves the physical structure of soil. Peat loosens and aerates clay soil and binds light, sandy soil.
• It reduces leaching. Peat absorbs and slowly releases nutrients present in or added to the soil.
• It is a valuable ingredient in gardening compost, curtailing odours in the compost pile.
• There are over 100 species of moss worldwide.


The peat moss you add to your soil comes from the gradual, incomplete decomposition of sphagnum moss, which accumulates in peatlands (or bogs). The development of peatland depends on a complex combination of climatic and other physical conditions. Generally, peatland forms in very moist and poorly drained environments. When the water table stabilizes and the growth of plant material exceeds decomposition, a layer of organic residue results - fibrous peat moss. This layer is excavated, dried, shredded and pressed into bales.

Of the many species of peat mosses, sphagnum peat moss is the most suited to horticulture because the large cell structure of sphagnum moss enables it to absorb, like a sponge, large amounts of air and moisture. The different species of sphagnum vary in their absorptive capacities but remain substantially higher than any other fibrous peat moss.

Most of the world’s peatlands are found in the northern hemisphere and in particular, Canada and the northern United States. Natural peatland accounts for roughly 12% of Canada’s landbase, covering approximately 275 million acres. This figure represents more than one quarter of the world’s estimated 1 billion acres of peatland and covers an area equivalent to the combined size of Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada.

Peatlands cover 20% of Alberta’s landbase. Due to climactic and geological factors, peatlands are chiefly located in boreal wetland regions and the concentration of peatland resources in Alberta is therefore higher in the northern areas of the province.

The value of peat moss lies in its high absorptive capacity, resistance to decomposition and deodorizing quality and a variety of applications for peat moss have existed outside the garden. Historically, peat moss has been used as livestock bedding, surgical dressing and building materials. In fact, by the early forties several thousand Alberta homes were insulated with peat moss manufactured into an insulating material. Peat moss can absorb just under 6 times its weight in oil and currently sectors of the oil and gas industry use it to clean out oil receptacles and absorb accidental oil spills.

Canadian gardeners have added peat moss to their soil for generations. Prior to the Second World War, however, commercial peat cultivation in Canada was small, although sphagnum peat moss existed in every province. At that time, Canada and the United States imported the bulk of their peat moss from Europe. When the Second World War disrupted and cut off these shipments, the Canadian commercial peat moss industry expanded and established Canada as a substantial and high quality source of peat moss.

Today, Canada is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of sphagnum peat moss for horticultural use, producing more than 98% of the peat moss imported by the United States. The majority of the production is located in eastern Canada, primarily in New Brunswick and Quebec. Peat production also occurs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Reap Your Just Desserts Success with Raspberries

Reap Your Just Desserts Success with Raspberries

By Christina McDonald

Growing your own fruit is rewarding, but many new gardeners lack the confidence to attempt the task. Raspberries, however, are easy to grow and, contrary to popular belief, are not an invasive nuisance. 

Choosing a suitable site is quite simple using the triple-S method: sun, space and soil. Raspberries produce best in an area that receives 6 hours or more of direct sunlight per day. The commercial standard of spacing your canes 45-60 cm apart and allowing 2 m between rows aids in air circulation, ease of fruit picking and cane maintenance. Raspberries adapt well to most soils (with the exception of heavy, poor draining clay), but produce heavier yields in soil rich in organic matter. Save yourself a lot of grief and ensure your potential patch is weed free before you plant!

The kind of raspberry you plant dictates how you grow and maintain your canes. Raspberries are divided into two main groups: primocanes, which produce fruit on canes grown that season, and floricanes, which produce on canes that are two growing seasons old.

Primocanes, such as the varieties ‘Double Delight’ and ‘Red River’, are the easiest to maintain, requiring pruning in the form of mowing them down to about 30 cm each fall, after the foliage has died back. They produce berries at least two weeks later than floricanes, but when you plant both groups together, the harvest period may be extended.

Floricanes, such as ‘Souris’ and ‘Boyne’, are a little trickier. For good, consistent fruit production, all canes two seasons or older must be pruned. This is not as difficult as it may sound—some commercial growers use a very simple trellising technique to simplify the job. It’s called “T trellising” and you can employ the technique at home.

Drive a long, T-shaped stake into the ground at each end of the row, then attach sturdy wires to each end of the T. Tie canes that are producing that year to the wires. This technique supports weak canes, makes picking much easier and helps identify which canes to remove in the fall. After pruning, tie this season’s new canes to the wires and start all over again.

Moisture is key to fruit production, so water to a depth of 3 cm per week (increasing that amount if weather conditions dictate) and mulch between each row, slightly back from the base of the canes to conserve moisture and help keep weeds down. Fertilize annually.


Q: I’ve had some problems successfully growing raspberries. Can you offer any tips?
Raspberries are very sensitive to iron deficiency and have a heavy demand for nitrogen. If new growth is veiny looking, use iron chelate to keep the soil slightly acidic.

Remember that most raspberries are biennials. Suckers come up the first year, with fruit forming on these suckers the following year. At season’s end of the second year, chop up the canes that have produced berries and toss them into the compost pile; they won’t fruit ever again. Do not prune next year’s canes too severely, or at all; 75 per cent of raspberry fruit is produced on the top 25 per cent of the cane.

Make sure that bees are welcome in your berry patch; raspberry plants need good pollination for fruit set. Some bright flowers planted nearby can tip the odds in your favour.

Q: What’s the best way to enjoy my raspberries?
When harvesting, remember that picked raspberries spoil very quickly. They should be eaten or frozen as soon as possible after picking. Freeze them in single layers on cookie trays then transfer the frozen berries to plastic bags for long-term storage in the freezer. Freezing them first on trays first ensures that the berries remain nice and round and don’t get crushed together.

Create a Privacy Screen with Clematis

Create a Privacy Screen with Clematis

Many residential districts these days are constructed along a certain pattern—bigger houses and smaller lots that bring neighbours closer together, often with only transparent chain-link fences to separate them. While being close to your neighbours is good thing, so is a little privacy, and in areas where bylaws restrict construction of new fences, getting a little space to yourself can be difficult. Fortunately, perennials expert Jan Goodall has a simple, yet beautiful solution—clematis.

Perennial Privacy

Clematis is a vine-like, very hardy perennial (some species overwinter even in Zone 2) with a compact growth habit that easily covers 2 m of fence or trellis. It’s perfect for covering the gaps in a fence that’s too see-through for comfort. Here are three species of clematis ideally suited for privacy screens.

Clematis alpina easily covers a 2–2.5 m fence with a thick, vertical carpet of foliage. Foliage emerges on old wood in early May; by the third week in May, it’s usually fully leafed out. As a bonus, small, 5-cm bill-like flowers appear in May or June in pinks, blues or whites. A smaller flush of blooms follows in the fall. During high summer, there aren’t many blooms, which Jan says is an advantage—that’s BBQ season and fewer blooms mean fewer bees on your patio. The growing point, or base, is fairly small, only about 60 cm across, so you won’t need a lot of soil space.

Clematis macropetala looks and performs much the same as alpina, but with fully double flowers in pink, white or blue.

Clematis tangutica is a more rambling variety, suitable for covering a larger area and more height; it will grow up to 9 m wide and 3 m tall, and produces yellow blooms from June to September. In Jan’s experience, tangutica, unlike other varieties, grows equally well in shade or sun. The basal growth is relatively small for this species, too, despite its massive top growth.

For the average home, one plant is usually sufficient for a privacy screen for one fence. However, like all perennials, clematis takes time to mature. Clematis alpina and macropetala grow large enough to suit most privacy needs by the third growing season, the faster-growing tangutica by the second.


Plant in rich, well drained soil. If you plant more than one clematis, make sure to plant them at least 1–1.5 m apart.

Since clematis is a climber, you’ll need to provide support. Jan uses stucco wire—it’s strong enough to support the weight of the plant even when it gets old and heavy, yet flexible enough that the entire plant can be laid down if you need to work behind it. You can use a fancy trellis, but Jan suggests this may be a waste, as the plant’s foliage soon hides the trellis from view.

Care and Nurture

Fertilize your clematis once a month with 20-20-20. Clematis is very tough and needs little care beyond fertilization and regular watering. Pests leave it alone, and it competes very well against weeds and even the native plants on Jan’s acreage. Plus, the above listed varieties are not prone to clematis wilt, a disease that affects some of the other clematis varieties.

In the fall, clematis looks somewhat messy with dead leaves and dried seed pods. To tidy, Jan uses a stiff corn broom to brush away the bits of detritus. It’s an easy job that takes only a few minutes, though you’ll have to rake up the debris, too—you were raking your lawn anyway, right? Don’t take down your clematis for the winter; these hardy plants will survive quite nicely left on their supports.


Clematis alpina and macropetala are compact, never get leggy and, therefore, require less pruning than tangutica. As it ages, tangutica tends to leaf out in June. To prevent an overabundance of growth in the summer, prune it back by 1/3 in the spring. The goal is to train the plant to grow thick lower down, as this helps the vine bush out and the end result is much more aesthetically pleasing. Prune the dead branches of any clematis species at anytime. According to a Robert Frost, “good fences make good neighbours.” A screen of clematis , so much more attractive than a fence, makes a good neighbour indeed.

Bouquets That Make "Scents"

Bouquets That Make "Scents"

Enjoying the Fragrances of Summer

Using your garden flowers to create indoor arrangements is one of summer’s delights—it’s a simple pleasure that most gardeners do without even thinking. 

When creating a scented bouquet, it’s important to follow one very important guideline: simplicity is your best friend. Accordingly, use one scent at a time, or groups of similar fragrances. Apple blossoms combined with lavender, for example, might look attractive, but the delicate apple aroma will be completely overwhelmed by lavender’s powerful fragrance. Sweet peas and lilies would have the same problem.

For best results, we recommend using one type of flower as the focus of your aromatic bouquet and visually complementing it with non-scented partners. For example, combine lilacs with a bit of greenery such as hosta leaves, ostrich ferns, or any deciduous tree leaves such as dogwood, bergenia or beargrass, and small filler flowers. Alternatively, partner a single, very strong-smelling flower like an Oriental lily with mountain ash berries, rhubarb leaves, Swiss chard (especially the colourful, neon Bright Lights variety) or any deciduous or perennial foliage with appealing texture and colour.

Hints for Enduring Arrangements

• Clean your vase with bleach, soap and very hot water before adding any water or flowers. This will kill any bacteria, which if left alive can significantly shorten the life of your cutflowers. Putting a vase in the dishwasher also works very well.
• Use a clean, sharp knife to harvest your garden flowers. You may want to try cutting at the late-bud stage, just before the flowers open. This will lengthen your enjoyment, as you can watch the flowers open in the bouquet. Of course, this also means that you’ll have to sacrifice the pleasure of seeing them flower in the garden; the choice is yours.
• Fill your vase with lukewarm water. Just before putting the flowers in the vase, re-cut the stems again with a sharp, sterile knife, as the cut ends rapidly close after cutting. This seal prevents cutflowers from drawing water up the stem, hence the need to re-cut.
• Place the flowers in the vase. Add a floral preservative to further extend the life of your bouquets. Floral preservatives contain simple sugar solutions that are food for the flowers, plus chemicals to inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria, and pH adjusters that lower the pH of your vase water to the ideal, disease-inhibiting range of 3–4. Add floral preservative each time you add water to your arrangement.

Spring Scents

For your scented bouquet, turn to these delightfully fragranced flowers, which are ready to pick in the summer, or in the spring where indicated. (Keep in mind that fragrance is subjective; what we call lightly scented, for example, may seem strong to sensitive noses. Also, some flowers may fall into more than one category.)

Strongly Scented • Hyacinth (spring), Narcissus (spring), Lilies, Roses, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus

Lightly Scented • Forsythia (spring), Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) (spring), Sweet peas, Peonies, Roses, Lilac, Apple blossoms, Cherry blossoms, Plum blossoms, Scilla

Sweet Fragrances • Double-flowering tulips (spring), Dianthus, Gypsophila (Baby’s Breath), Cimicifuga (snakeroot), Freesia, Peonies, Roses, Apple blossoms, Cherry blossoms, Plum blossoms, Mayday, Wolf willow, Mock orange

Spicy Fragrances • Freesia, Stocks, Roses, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Bay

Boulevard of Dreams

Boulevard of Dreams

By Lois Hole

Originally published on September 18, 1999, the impetus for this article came when a boulevard tree with a root ball girdled by a nylon cord was brought into our greenhouse in St. Albert, Alberta. The cord could only have been left there as the result of carelessness, and the indignation I felt forced me to examine what could be done to improve the health of city-maintained trees.

A city that has boulevards lined with vigorous, healthy trees tells me something about that place: it tells me that its citizens care about beauty and the environment. A stately procession of big, beautiful elms or maples lining the streets takes my breath away. But I’ve come to realize that these trees are not just the city’s responsibility.

Back in August, our son Bill saw that some well-established boulevard trees up the road still had braces on them—long after the trees could stand on their own. Fortunately, Bill noticed the braces just as they were beginning to cut into the bark. A quick phone call to inform the city’s parks department solved the problem. The endless profusion of cords and straps wrapped around the trunks and branches of young boulevard trees is a definite problem. These devices look harmless, but they’re killers. Christmas lights are lovely on outdoor trees, but the straps that hold the strings of lights in place must be removed annually. Leaving these straps on the trees makes it easier to hang the lights every year, but as the tree grows, the straps inevitably cut the circulation to the branches, ensuring premature death.

We must realize that planting trees is just the first step. Diligent maintenance is just as important as proper planting. While limited city budgets and honest misconceptions can make it difficult to provide long-term care to boulevard trees, regular upkeep and a little common sense can preserve a community’s investment. Several practices contribute to the downfall of boulevard trees, but a little care and planning on our part can ensure that they have a long and healthy life.

One practice that countless boulevard trees are subjected to is the relentless torture by weedeaters. Trees appear so tough and sturdy that many people don’t realize the extent to which these buzzing devils can damage trunks. Young trees are particularly vulnerable: the snapping cord of the weedeater slashes through and injures the thin cambium (the layer of bark responsible for growth) very easily. The damage is easy to spot: it manifests as a raised circle that girdles the trunk. Weedeater wounds can stunt growth, make trees more vulnerable to insects and disease, or kill them outright. It is simple to prevent such wounds. Just allowing the grass to grow a little taller around your boulevard trees can eliminate the problem, although many people think this looks unkempt. A plastic collar or a circular bed of annuals around the trunk can solve the problem, too. In the short term, it’s an expensive solution, but far less expensive than replacing the tree.

Like any trees, boulevard trees need regular pruning. If left to their own devices, many trees develop weak branches attached to the main body of the tree at dangerously narrow angles. Unless they are pruned at the appropriate time, these branches may snap off during a strong wind and expose the trunks to insect and disease pests. Most cities have excellent pruning programs, but occasionally a tree or two gets missed. If a tree looks particularly neglected it might be worthwhile calling the city’s parks department.

Construction is a necessary evil in cities but can cause severe damage to nearby trees. A magnificent 80-year-old silver maple that I drive past regularly is surely doomed: a couple of years ago I watched, horrified, as construction crews tore up the earth around it to put in parking spots. The idea was to create a few lovely shaded spots under the tree, but at least one of the tree’s largest roots was severed during construction. Ironically, the soil preparation for that pristine circle of asphalt will likely cause the tree to crash on top of the cars parked beneath its huge canopy.

Most Canadian cities are forced to use salt on the roads to increase traction in the winter. Unfortunately, salt usage has a number of disadvantages, including tree damage. Whenever a snowplow dumps a load of brown mush onto the boulevard, the ground beneath absorbs the salts, cutting off root absorption of water. While larger trees have a sufficiently extensive root system to evade salts, young trees don’t. In our area, a related problem is the all-too-common practice of homeowners dumping sump pump water, high in sodium salts, onto the soil around boulevard trees. Saline sump water should never be dumped around the base of trees.

Sometimes, a tree’s poor health can be traced back to the day it was planted. On one street close to home, there’s a long line of superb lindens—but every August, their leaves turn an ugly brown. Since this occurs during hot weather, there’s a tendency to blame the change on high temperatures. However, closer inspection reveals that the trees were planted in small holes cut into the sidewalk. Removing a chunk of concrete and planting into a little hole with compacted clay leaves little room for roots to expand and absorb water. The loss of moisture through the leaves far outstrips the capacity of the confined roots to draw in water. During periods of drought, the leaves invariably turn brown, severely weakening the tree.

Fortunately, awareness of the importance of maintaining city trees is growing. Just a few months ago, an venerable and rare horse chestnut smack in the middle of downtown Edmonton, Alberta made the news when a concerned horticulturist noted that the paving recently installed around the stately old tree would surely kill it. A group of concerned citizens raised enough cash to remove the pavement and re-landscape, saving the chestnut and beautifying the whole area. Many citizens contributed time and money to the project; my family donated lilies. I hope this story reflects a growing concern about the plants that are so very important to a city’s image. It’s everyone’s job to look out for their health.



By Jim Hole

The rose is one of the most cherished garden plants and enormous efforts are directed toward  the production of new, exciting rose varieties by a multitude of professional plant breeders. But why wait for the professionals to hand new varieties down to you on a silver platter when you can develop them yourself?

From the perspective of most gardeners, plant breeding is an arcane science that is undertaken only by scientists with PhDs who parade around in white lab coats. Nonsense! The development of new plant varieties is within the grasp of anyone with the desire and patience.

The first step to producing new roses is to join your local or national rose society. They often provide plenty of information in their newsletters, and members may share their hybridizing experiences with you. However, to give you an idea of what’s involved in home hybridizing, here’s a simple breakdown of the major considerations.

The basic principles behind creating a new rose variety are really quite simple. Pollen from one rose is transported by hand to the stigma in the flower of another rose plant of a different variety. If pollination is successful, rose hips will swell and the seed contained within will ripen by fall and hopefully contain a gorgeous new variety that you helped create.

Of course, I’ve left out a few little details on the road to successful seed production. There are four essential elements in successful amateur hybridizing: plenty of patience, the right parent varieties, a little extra space both indoors and out to grow roses and seedlings, and a desire to learn and experiment.

Patience is mandatory when attempting to breed your own rose varieties; for one thing, you will have to wait an entire season to get seed, and then wait months for that seed to germinate, and still more months for the seed to grow into a mature, blooming plant. Even then, the road to developing a new, wonderful rose is inevitably strewn with many truly unspectacular roses. It may take many years to grow a rose that you would be proud to show off.

That’s why it’s so important to choose your parent varieties carefully; when it takes what seems like an eternity to achieve good results, you want to start by choosing parents that will give you the best odds at a superior offspring.

When selecting parent varieties, the first factor to consider is that the seed of some varieties simply will not mature in time in some regions with cooler climates. Keep in mind that parent plants that are late to set hips are usually bad candidates for short season areas.

Rose hybridizing societies have extensive lists of roses that are good choices for crossing. But don’t be afraid to experiment; that, after all, is the point of your endeavors.

Step by Step

The key to successful pollination, beyond choosing species and varieties that will mature before winter arrives, is to focus on the proper transfer of pollen to stigma, at the best time of the season, and the best stage of flower maturity.

Pollen is the yellow powder contained in the tiny capsules surrounding the central stigma of the flower. The pollen capsules should be cut from flowers of the rose that you select as one parent of your new rose variety and stored indoors for a day or two until the capsules split, releasing the pollen.

On the rose plant that you choose as the other parent, it’s critical that you select flowers that will open only on the day of cross- pollination. In the early morning, remove the petals on the flowers of this plant to get to the stamens, which carry pollen. If these stamens are left in place, they will self-pollinate the flower, ruining your attempt to cross-pollinate, so they must be removed. Do so, but be careful so as to avoid damaging the pistil, which supports the stigmas that will receive the pollen from the other parent variety.

An artist’s brush is a good tool for dabbing in the pollen and spreading it onto the stigma. The stigma is usually most receptive in the early afternoon, so it’s best to do the work then, when your odds of a successful cross will be that much greater.

Keeping records is critical. Tag the parent plants with durable metal tags, and keep a journal of all the crosses. Tagging the hips, once they mature, is also critical to chart your course and have accurate details of lineage.

October is the typical harvest time for hips. Bring them indoors and store in a cool, dry, dark place. After about a month, the hips can be split, the seeds extracted and then grown in a seedling mixture over the winter.

All of the tools (grow lights, seedling tray, growing medium, fertilizer, etc.) and rules used for the successful germination of any seed will also be needed for rose seed. In brief: use a high quality seedling mix, keep it moist and check your progress regularly. Temperatures should be around 12–15° C, with lots of light.

Remember that seed germination is slow and may take a couple of months. Also, don’t be surprised if very few seeds germinate. Roses often have very complex lineage, and species can vary a great deal with respect to the quantity of their chromosomes. The result is a fair bit of sterile seed, depending on the parents chosen.

Come spring, you should have a number of seedlings ready for transplanting into the garden. Remember to harden them off by putting your trays out on the porch during the daytime and bringing them in at night for a few days. Then, transplant the seedlings into your rose garden, preferably in a sheltered location with full sun and rich, well drained soil (the resulting hybrid may or may not be all that hardy in cold winter climates. Winter protection is essential in these regions). With any luck, before season’s end, you’ll enjoy the fruits—or rather, the blooms—of your labours. If you’re one of the fortunate few to come up with something truly spectacular, let your rose hybridizing society know, and they’ll put you on the road to registering the new variety. You may even get to name it.

Be patient, try lots of crosses and don’t be disappointed when seeds don’t grow. That’s not a failure; it’s just a footnote for you journal.

Lasting Impressions

Lasting Impressions

By Christina McDonald

Take a walk or drive around any neighborhood and you’ll likely agree that the homes that leave a lasting impression are those with effective landscaping. Faced with a new home and a barren yard or even with an older home in need of an exterior facelift? If you’re feeling bewildered and daunted by the prospect, take a couple of moments and ask yourself the following questions.

What is my style?

All to often people pay too little attention to their style preferences and the architecture of their homes. Let’s face it, while you may love the idea of a romantic English cottage garden, it just won’t jive with your Spanish colonial home. Couple that design faux pas with a lack of knowledge and a personal schedule that doesn’t allow you to maintain that look and you’ve got an all around gardening disaster on your hands. Now take that same Spanish colonial, add a welcoming paved courtyard, some symmetrical plantings of drought hardy plants and a sculpted stone bench or small fountain and you’ve made that lasting impression.

How much can I spend and how quickly do I want the landscape completed?

These questions need to be addressed together as each affects the other greatly. You may have grand ideas and the financial where-with-all to execute and maintain them, but then you are in the minority. Most of us need to approach design in two ways—get it done right now within budget or break it up into as many years as it takes to finish, allocating funds accordingly project by project. There are a lot of opinions out there on what percentage of your home’s value should be spent on landscaping but they simply don’t take into account the
fact that most of us, after buying a home, may be slightly squeezed for cash. A better approach would be to take a hard look at your yard, wander around a garden centre to get a feel for prices and then set a realistic budget.

How much knowledge do I have and how much time do I have to maintain a particular style or design?

If you realistically don’t have the time or the desire to learn about a high maintenance garden style then don’t get in over your head. You’ll just be frustrated and in the end unsuccessful. Do you only have 1.5 hours per week to dedicate to the yard? Adjust your design ideas accordingly. Low maintenance does not mean commercial or dull.

Now you’ve acknowledged your abilities, style, budget, time frame and commitment. Put it all together and start designing your realistic landscape—one that leaves a lasting impression.

Carrots: New Twists on an Old Favourite

Carrots: New Twists on an Old Favourite

As a garden staple, carrots are familiar and well-loved for their crisp, snappy flavour and texture. Though some gardeners find them most delicious when eaten right out of the ground, those who like to experiment in the kitchen will find that a little imagination can lead to great culinary rewards.

Carrot Cake

2 cups (500 mL) flour
2 cups (500 mL) white sugar
2 tsp. (10 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp. (5 mL) allspice
3 cups (750 mL) finely grated carrots (approximately 2 lbs.)
1/2 tsp.(2 mL) salt
2 tsp. (10 mL) baking soda
1 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil
4 eggs

Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Add oil. Stir well. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each for approximately one minute. Add carrots. Blend well. Grease and flour 9” (25 cm) cake tins. Bake at 350° F (180° C) for 40 to 50 minutes.

Puree of Turnips, Parsnips and Carrots

1 large turnip, sliced
2 med. parsnips, sliced
8 med. carrots, sliced
3/4 cup (180 mL) 2% evaporated milk
6 tbsp. (90 mL) butter

Cook the turnip in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Add the parsnips to the turnips and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook until all are tender, about 10 minutes more. Drain well.

Puree 1/2 of the mixture in the blender. Add 1/4 cup (60 mL) evaporated milk and 2 tbsp. (30 mL) butter and whirl.

Repeat above step twice more with remaining vegetables. Place all in a well-buttered, 2 quart (2.5 L) casserole dish. Dot with butter and refrigerate until ready to bake. Bring to room temperature. Place in preheated 350° F (180° C) oven and bake for one hour. Note: Puree may be prepared the day before serving.

Carrot Orange Cookies

1 cup (250 mL) grated raw carrots (2 medium small or 1 large)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all purpose flour
1/2 to 1 cup (125 to 250 mL) sugar
1 tsp. (5 mL) nutmeg
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter or margarine
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. (7 mL) grated fresh orange peel
1 tbsp. (15 mL) orange juice
3/4 cup (180 mL) chopped walnuts or pecans

Grate carrots and sift flour with baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Cream butter with sugar until fluffy and beat in egg, orange peel and juice. Stir in flour mixture alternately with carrots until dough is well mixed. Blend in nuts. Drop by overloaded teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° F (190° C), 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly tanned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in tightly covered container. Makes 5 to 6 dozen cookies

Carrot Slaw

2 cups (500 mL) shredded green cabbage
1 cup (250 mL) shredded raw carrots
2 finely chopped green onions
buttermilk dressing (see below)
2 tsp. (10 mL) sugar
1 tsp. (5 mL) Dijon-style mustard
chopped salted nuts (any kind)

Mix cabbage with carrots and onion. Season with salt and pepper and toss with about 1/2 buttermilk dressing, flavoured with sugar and mustard. Chill. Top with chopped, salted nuts when ready to serve. Makes 4 servings

Buttermilk Dressing
Combine equal parts buttermilk and mayonnaise and stir until smooth and creamy. Add herbs, garlic, parsley, chives or other seasoning. Also tastes good without herbs.

Lois Hole’s Cream of Cold Carrot Soup (Delicious hot, too)

2 medium onions
3 tbsp. (45 mL) butter
1 tsp. (5 mL) curry powder
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) dill seed
2 lbs. (1 kg) carrots (about 12 medium carrots)
5 cups (1250 mL) chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2-2 cups (375-500 mL) heavy cream
fresh parsley or dill (for garnish)

Chop onions into coarse chunks. Sweat onions in saucepan or stock pot until translucent. Stir in curry powder and dill seed and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Slice carrots (reserving 1 for garnish). Combine carrots and onion mixture and add chicken stock. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. (Use salt sparingly if you’ve used bouillon for stock.) Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Puree the mixture in a separate bowl in 3 or 4 batches. Chill thoroughly. Just before serving, stir in cream, adjust seasoning and garnish each bowl with a carrot curl and a sprig of parsley or dill.

Variation: If served hot, add the cream gradually to pureed carrot mixture and heat
gently, without boiling. Serves 6-8

Nurturing the Next Generation

Nurturing the Next Generation

By Lois Hole

Years ago, we used to give away tomato plants to young children. It was a way to show the little ones the joy of growing something of your very own—they would plant the tomato, water it each day and enjoy the juicy tomatoes at season’s end.

One early Sunday morning before the store opened, a man was banging frantically on the greenhouse door. We let him in and asked what was wrong. “I need a tomato plant right now, and it has to be exactly this big!” he said, indicating a height of about two feet.

It turns out that this man’s son had received one of those free tomato plants and had been impatiently caring for it for weeks, always asking when the fruits would be ready to eat. Well, the boy’s father had been trimming the lawn that morning and accidentally chopped his son’s tomato! No wonder he was in a panic. Fortunately, we had a plant just the right size and, as far as I know, the man planted it that morning and his son was none the wiser. Presumably, he enjoyed a nice harvest of tomatoes later that summer.

I suppose you could say that our giveaway was simply a way to sow the seeds of future customers, but there was more to it than that. To me, the primary purpose of handing out those tomato plants was to nurture a love of nature.

As a farm woman, I’ve always felt that it’s essential to give children the chance to enjoy the outdoors. Gardening, playing touch football, climbing trees or simply playing in the dirt is good exercise, teaches respect for our environment and, as it turns out, may even be vital to our health. A recent CBC report noted that allergies are on the rise, not because of impurities in food, but because children aren’t getting enough exposure to the outdoors that allows the body to develop immunities. Without time spent outside, kids become more vulnerable to allergens in the environment than they would normally be.

But as important as the outdoors are to a healthy body, I feel outside activity has an even more beneficial effect on our hearts and minds. That little boy with the tomato plant, and all the others like him, enjoyed the experience of nurturing a living thing. He helped it grow, ate its fruit and perhaps even saved and planted the seeds. In short, he joined the circle of life and, in doing so, learned that he has an important role to play in the natural world.

And that’s a great lesson to pass on to any child, of any age.

Two Simple Landscape Plans

Two Simple Landscape Plans

By Christina McDonald

Faced with the challenge of landscaping a new front yard? Maggie Clayton, professional Landscape Architectural Technologist, suggests two simple plans using hardy plants that are commonly available and easy to grow. These plans can easily be implemented in a fairly standard 35 x 15 m yard and acknowledge property lines and good neighbour policies by positioning the trees carefully. The plans allow for access to modern, narrow sidewalks and paved driveways and offer some privacy from the street.

Design Sense

A good design incorporates not only colour, texture and seasonal interest in a variety of forms, but also offers views from the interior of the home. “All too often people don’t realize that they can actually create their own views or correct a poor one,” Maggie says. Look out windows and note where a well-placed tree, shrub or entire planting could provide a point of interest to be enjoyed from outside and inside your home. Think of it as reverse curb appeal. The placement of outdoor lighting, statuary and water features can all be added with the same views in mind. Try adapting either of these plans to your back yard—just substitute the driveway for a patio, pool or deck.

A good design can also make quick and substantial improvements. Foundations can easily softened and linked to their surroundings by planting shrubs and perennials of differing heights in a slightly raised bed directly against the building. The use of hot and cool colours in these beds can visually pull or push the house toward or away from the street.

Plan One—Sun

The beauty of this perimeter scheme is that neighbours can plan and plant together to create stunning joined beds that make both properties look great. Designed for a sunny, south facing yard it creates a frame for the edge of the property that takes into account not just light conditions but also the amount of heat the area receives. Once established, the suggested shrubs and perennials are considered drought tolerant. “Amend your soil when planting to help hold what moisture there is and remember to mulch thickly,” Maggie advises. Installing a drip hose is another way to reduce moisture loss by providing water only where the plants need it most.

Plan Two—Shade

Try this landscape plan for north facing locations with somewhat moist soil. It offers good use of foliage from tried –and-true perennials and shrubs. The more shade tolerant plants are placed closer to the house, with the classic kidney- shaped bed highlighting those requiring more light. The focal tree, either an Amur maple or a hawthorn, can be pruned to an open form that allows maximum light through to the plants below.

Is Big Really Better?

Is Big Really Better?

By Christina McDonald

The latest trend in gardening is to use really large plants and the nursery industry has responded with improved growing and shipping techniques that help to bring a variety of large perennials, trees and shrubs to the marketplace.

Why the trend for big? Not content to purchase a smaller plant and patiently await its maturity, new homeowners seek out plants that fill out their garden immediately. This trend also benefits those replacing a dead plant in an existing mature garden. A new plant no longer has to catch up to the surrounding landscape.

There are advantages to going this route. Aside from having an instant garden, you’ll spend less time guessing how a plant will look at maturity. Often several years old, these are premium plants that have been properly pruned and shaped and come with an intact, healthy root system.

There are also some disadvantages to consider, however. The price, for one, reflects the years of care each plant receives before it arrives at the garden centre. There are times when choosing a large over a small may not be economically advantageous. Fast-growing species that establish quickly may be best purchased in a smaller size and your landscaping dollars saved for bigger, slower growing plants or for those that will give you the instant impact you’re seeking. As well, while handling large perennials and shrubs isn’t too difficult for the average gardener, if you’re looking to bring in a very large tree, you’ll need the services of a specialty nursery or tree moving company.

Just how big are people planting these days? One excavating company in Connecticut handles trees up to 16 m tall with a trimmed and tied root ball measuring up to 4 m wide. Weighing in at almost 14 tonnes, these trees can come with a hefty price tag for the tree and its installation. Trees with the best survival rates are generally six to 12 years old with a caliper measuring 10-15 cm in diameter and a length of 3-6 m, depending on the species being planted. Planting is accomplished with a large machine called a tree spade, which is mounted on a truck. A ratio of 10 to 1 for spade diameter to tree diameter (caliper) is recommended so that the tree retains enough root mass to transplant successfully. Be sure to ask if the tree and its installation are guaranteed and let your landscaper know early on if it’s having problems.

Across North America some of the most popular trees to move and install are ash, apple, maple, chokecherry and evergreens such as spruce, Douglas fir, pine and hemlock. Trees are planted more successfully in the cooler spring and autumn months than in the heat of summer.

Not every property is a candidate for planting a tree this large. Accessibility is key with lots of room to maneuver and no overhead or underground lines and utilities with which to contend Keep in mind that the heavy equipment used can destroy sidewalks, driveways and compress and damage lawns. This type of planting is best done before the rest of a new landscape goes in and prior to the installation of fences. Trees may be installed before a house is constructed, however watch out for heavy equipment compacting the soil around a tree and factor in the cost of having water trucked in.

Whether planting a tree, shrub or perennial, provide an adequate planting hole that is at best 1.5 x 2 times the width of the root ball. Place at the same depth as in the pot. Backfilling adequately is important and building a trench or saucer around the plants root zone really helps to catch and hold moisture, as does adding a layer of mulch. Remember that root development is the goal in the first year and large plants need more water than their smaller counterparts. Make sure to ask how much and how often each plant should be watered and the best fertilizing routine.

Seasons In The Sun

Seasons In The Sun

By Lois Hole

Originally Published in the summer of 1998, the following article highlights Lois Hole's respect for the natural change of seasons and her acknowledgment that no garden is eternal and unchanging. As she describes, the passing of seasons – while daunting for some -- is just one more beautiful reason to enjoy gardening.

A friend of mine had always grown wonderful tomatoes in her backyard. She loved their fresh taste and the satisfaction she got from growing the plants herself. Over the years, however, she noticed that the flavour of her tomatoes gradually began to diminish. She hadn’t changed her watering or fertilizing practices, and she was planting the same varieties year after year, so the reason for the change was elusive.

My friend also had several trees in her backyard. She finally noticed that as her trees grew, they were shading out the tomato patch. The tomatoes were being deprived of their crucial source of energy—the sun’s rays—and that was enough to rob the tomatoes of their flavour. Such stories remind me that the sun has the most profound influence in the garden. Success in the garden ultimately revolves around the sun.

Just out of curiosity, I pulled out my copy of Climates of Canada to see how summer sunlight levels vary across the country, since day length is one of the ways that the sun affects plant growth. Many people are surprised to learn that corn will grow in Yellowknife, despite its rather short growing season. This is possible because northern areas have many more hours per day of sunlight, which somewhat offsets the cooler temperatures in these regions. Although the average frost-free period in Yellowknife is only 111 days, on June 15 the sun rises at 2:45 am and sets at 10:30 pm! Compare the average hours of sunlight between Yellowknife and Toronto: the southern city receives a little over 1000 hours of sunlight during July, while Yellowknife gets almost 1400 hours of sun. It’s no wonder that cabbages of monstrous size are often grown in the Territories, since those long days allow the leaves to use more sunlight, which generates more growth. The same sort of effect happens in Peace River, in northern Alberta: corn grown there will mature only a few days later than corn grown in Medicine Hat, close to the US border—even though the corn in Peace River gets planted much later! I have friends in both communities who grow vegetables, and it’s interesting to watch the friendly competition between north and south: whose crops will mature first? The south usually wins, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion.

The same combination of long days and cool temperatures creates the most vibrant flower colours, too, and long days can boost flower production. Snapdragons, for example, often enjoy an increase in flower numbers as the day’s length increases. Flower stalks that mature in June are about one-third longer than those that mature later in the season.

As you might suspect, low light levels tend to have adverse effects on nearly all plants. Fruit flavour can deteriorate quite noticeably under these conditions; tomatoes that get less than six hours of sunlight per day may taste mealy and unpleasant, and the sharp tang of apples won’t develop without plenty of bright sunlight. Most flowering plants won’t bloom at all if there isn’t enough light. Mandevilla, for example, is a gorgeous vine that produces pink, trumpet-shaped flowers, but it needs to accumulate a lot of energy from the sun’s rays before it will even consider producing flower buds.

However, too much sun can be just as bad as too little. Sunscald—the plant version of a sunburn – is a concern right across the country on hot, bright days. Plants affected by sunscald develop pale-yellow or greyish white patches on their leaves or fruit. This often happens when the plants are in a location that reflects the sun’s rays, such as next to a white stucco wall. I’ve had the fruit of my pepper and tomato plants burned badly by reflected light, so I’ve learned to plant them where this won’t happen; next to a darker-coloured wall, for example.

One danger, though, is exaggerated. According to a commonly held belief, you shouldn’t water on really hot days because water droplets on the leaves will magnify the sun’s rays and burn the plant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this, from friends, professional growers’ magazines, and even community-service bulletins. But think about it for a minute: we often get bursts of rain followed by intense sun. I’ve never noticed hundreds of holes or burn marks on my trees or on the grass. In all my years of watering, I’ve seen no evidence of water droplets searing leaves or fruit. Perhaps this notion came about because pouring cold water on plants like African violets can sometimes cause chilling injury. White spots appear on leaves and flowers because of the sudden cold shock, but sunlight is not to blame.

There’s not much we can do about day length or the sun’s intensity, of course, but we can breed varieties that are adapted to these conditions. Strawberries, for example, typically bear fruit in June, when the days are longest. There are everbearing varieties as well, which bear mostly in June, but also sporadically through the course of the summer. The newest varieties of strawberry are the day neutrals. These plants are not influenced by day length and so bear fruit heavily from July until the first frost. Day neutrals were developed by crossing and back-crossing June-bearing types with a wild everbearing strawberry found in the mountains of Utah. (“Back-crossing” is the process of crossing hybrid varieties with original, heirloom cultivars.) The result is a vigorous plant that bears fruit much longer and much less sporadically than other varieties. I switched to the ‘Tri-Star’ day-neutral variety several years ago, and the difference in yield and flavour has been just tremendous. I always look forward to seeing what kinds of new varieties will be tested in our trial gardens; many of these, like the day- neutral strawberries, will be able to make more efficient use of the sun’s energy.

Keeping the sun in mind will give you a big leg up in your pursuit of the perfect garden. As the Beatles used to comes the sun, and it’s all right.