Monthly Archives: October 2014

Winter Garden Preparation

Why get your garden winter ready? Winterizing your garden in fall is the way to ensure that come spring you will have less work and more time to enjoy the spring flowers. While plants and lawns do become dormant, they still need some pre-winter care and protection to make sure they are at their best in spring.

Get ready to winterize your garden!

Here are some simple winterizing tips and ideas that you can do this fall to make sure your garden is ready and prepared for the colder weather this winter.

Winter garden clean-up

  • Remove all the dead flowers and prune off any bushes or shrubs so that you won’t be caught in the spring when it may be too late to prune. (see our article on when to prune.)
  • Pull up any weeds, rake up fallen leaves and any other garden debris. Don’t leave piles of raked leaves sitting on your lawn over the winter as this will kill your grass! Except for some types of weeds, you can compost most of these materials.
  • If you have vegetable garden beds, turn the soil over with a gardening fork or spade then cover the dirt with a layer of leaves or grass clippings. This will act as a mulch and besides breaking down over winter to enrich your soil, it will prevent any hardy spring weeds from coming up when the ground warms a little.
  • Plant any spring flowering bulbs now, such as daffodils and tulips. Be sure to plant in clusters as this makes a nice show when they come up rather than a row of “soldiers”.
  • Some of your more tender plants and shrubs may need to be covered for winter if you live in a colder zone. You can cover the base of your plants with leaves or other mulch but if you expect a very cold freeze, try completely covering with burlap or potato sacks.
  • Finally, organize your garden fertilizers and tools. Don’t leave shovels and spades sitting all winter with dirt on them! Clean them off, sharpen them and store them undercover so that they won’t rust. Dispose of any old fertilizers or pesticides and make sure that any powders, crystals or granules are stored properly so that they won’t get damp over the winter.

Now your garden is winter ready!

Just a weekend of winter preparation can make a huge difference for your garden in spring. So before you go inside and shut the door on your garden for the season, make sure to winterize your yard properly.

Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is the best way to ensure that no harmful chemicals or substances have gone into the fruit and vegetables you grow. As well, gardening organically means that you are gardening in a way that is natural and environmentally responsible.

Is it possible to still have delicious, healthy, pest free fruits and vegetables from your garden if you don’t use commercial chemical based fertilizers and pest control products? With organic gardening: Absolutely!

What can I use to fertilize?

Making sure that you have healthy soil is a first step in organic gardening. Always rotate your crops so that the soil will not become depleted in one area of your vegetable garden. Then one of the best ways to build up your soil is to add in compost every year. Making your own organic compost is simple and it’s free! (see our article about composting) Adding well rotted manure to your soil is another great soil builder if you don’t have enough compost or have a really large garden. For more intense fertilizing you can purchase organic fertilizers such as fish fertilizers. These won’t burn your young plants and won’t cause damage as they drain away in the earth.

What about weed control?

Make sure that you put a mulch around your plants and vegetables. A layer of straw or even grass clippings one to two inches deep on the soil around your plants will keep down the growth of weeds, reduce water loss and benefit the soil as the material breaks down over the gardening season.

How can I get rid of harmful insects?

There are so many natural predators in your garden that chemical means are really unnecessary. Organic pest control uses beneficial insects like wasps, ladybugs and green lacewings who love to devour aphids and other harmful garden insects. If aphids are very thick, then you can simply spray them off with plain water, or try mixing a gallon of water and about a half teaspoon each of pure soap and vegetable oil to use as a spray.

Nematodes which are microscopic parasites, will destroy all kinds of soil dwelling grubs and larvae and benefit your lawn and root crops. You can even inject nematodes right into the stems of plants like pumpkins and squash to stop borers.

Where can I find these beneficial insects?

They are probably in your garden already if you know where to look. But we usually don’t have enough of these helpful organic organisms. You can build up your supply by purchasing these handy bugs from garden retailers. They are shipped to you live, along with instructions and you release them into your garden!

A word of caution: Don’t make the mistake my husband did when he thought we were being attacked by tiny alligator-like insects which he found all over our fence one day. After squashing the last of them, he looked them up in a book and discovered they were lady bug larvae and would have eaten thousands of aphids!

Learning ways for gardening organically in order to have a bountiful, safe and environmentally responsible crop can be a lot of fun and will benefit your garden and the environment now as well as for years to come.

Slug Control

Any gardener who awakens to discover their new plants or seedlings have been chewed off at the base by slugs, knows that the annual battle for control of garden slugs has begun for the season. These slimy pests just love to demolish new vegetables, flowers or anything else you value in your garden.

Controlling slugs and snails in your garden is usually a topic of great debate and interest to gardeners. Take heart though as slugs can be controlled through a variety of fairly simple protective measures.

Controlling slugs

First of all, slugs do have some natural enemies. Frogs and toads, centipedes and black ground beetles as well as birds all love to eat slugs. Providing a toad house along with nesting for birds somewhere in your yard is a great way to encourage these welcome slug predators to your garden.

Minimize slug hiding spots

Then try to minimize the places that slugs and snails have to hide during the hot sunny days. Slugs need shade and moisture so they will hide under leaves, mulch, boards, tools or anything at all that will provide some protection for them. Control them by making sure you don’t leave things laying around in the yard.

Protect individual plants from slugs

The only guaranteed protection from slugs and snails is enclosing each flower or vegetable seedling in its own slug protective cover. These special plant protectors can be purchased, or just try making one yourself by placing a plastic half gallon drink container over the top of your plant.

Simply saw off the bottom of the container and make sure the edges are pressed down in the soil so that the slug can’t slide underneath. These should be taken off during hot days so that you don’t cook your seedlings!

Controlling slugs with beer (favorite with husbands)

Dig several shallow dishes or cat food cans into the soil deep enough so that the rim is just a fraction of an inch higher than the surrounding soil. Place them about two feet apart surrounding the area of plants you are trying to protect. Fill up with beer! Any old beer will do, leftover beer with no fizz is fine.

Overnight, slugs will be attracted to the beer and slide into the dish for a drink. They become ‘drunk’ from the beer and drown! The next morning you can fish out the dead slugs and then top it up again in the evening. This is the preferred method for most gardeners as it seems like the most humane (fun, even) way for the slugs to die.

Next best – Control slugs with a physical barrier

Control slugs with a physical barrier such as a trench of salt, egg shells, broken glass or sand. With this method you control slugs by surrounding your garden with a layer of material, one or two inches wide, over which the slug has to pass to reach your vegetables and flowers. Of course they never make it as they become dehydrated on the salt or cut from the sharp shells or glass. This seems like a pretty ghastly way to go compared to the beer method, plus it is more unsightly in the garden. However some gardeners find this their preferred method of slug control.

Chemical products

There are a variety of chemical pastes and pellets available to control slugs. These are generally effective but the drawback is that they are highly attractive to cats, birds and other garden wildlife. You can purchase special containers designed to protect other wildlife and place the bait into these. None of these chemical means are any more effective than the beer or barrier method however, but they can be much more dangerous to use.

Whichever way you choose to control slugs, try to remember that slugs do provide some benefit to your garden. They produce a rich compost-like waste that benefits your soil, even if that waste is a by-product of your own prized flowers and vegetables!

Pergolas

Pergolas add elegance and style to any garden. A pergola is simply a charming outdoor shade structure designed from either metal or wood featuring a very open plan.

Generally pergolas are freestanding, although they may be attached to your home or other structure. Typical pergola construction uses some type of vertical supports which in turn hold open, horizontal rafters across the top. Pergolas can be adapted to enhance and beautify any garden situation and have a variety of uses.

Why use a Pergola?

  • Create a more intimate enclosure for your patio or deck.
  • Provide dappled shade for exposed outdoor seating areas.
  • Use as support for all kinds of climbing vines and plants.
  • Perfect for hanging flowering baskets from the open flat roof.
  • Provide protection and shade for small outdoor ponds or planting areas.
  • Large pergolas can be covered and used as a carport.

Whatever use you have for a pergola, you will be delighted with the beauty and flair it will add to your seating and garden areas.

Pergolas can easily be constructed in just a weekend with a few simple materials. Make sure you choose rot resistant, treated wood