Posted in gardens, gardens4u.ca, loreeebee.ca

Essential Garden Tools

Everyone has their own list of what they consider to be essential garden tools. As the owner of a gardening business, I am no exception. These are my essentials, although you don’t have to use specific brands:

Diggers

A shovel and a spade (shovel with a sharp, flat cutting edge) will cover all your digging needs. Choose a light weight, but good quality version of both so they are easy to use and will last forever. I have several sizes of shovels too, sometimes you need a small one to get into tight spaces.

Rakes

I have a few different styles and sizes of rakes. The fan shaped ones are good for gathering leaves and debris. I have a tiny (child sized) version that is great for getting in and around plants in your garden. The larger ones work better on lawns. I prefer the plastic ones as they are nice and light, but my husband prefers a metal one. Go with whatever you will use. Rakes with straight heads and tines are best for removing thatch from lawns in the spring.

Secateurs or Pruners

This is the one area I advise splurging on because of the working mechanisms. In this case especially, you get what you guy. If you buy inexpensive secateurs or pruners, they will not work well for long. I have a few different ones that I keep around my yard, in sheltered locations to prevent rusting.

Edging Tool

I consider an edging tool essential since I love the look of natural edging, rather than rocks or rubber edging. Of course, a shovel would work too, but an edging tool, whose head is a half circle, works wonders to create smooth edges in your gardens.

Loppers or Branch Cutters

Once again, pay a bit more to get a good quality pair of loppers. You won’t regret it. Buy some that are heavy (strong) enough, but not too heavy that you cannot handle them efficiently. They come in varying mouth widths too, so choose one that will cut branches up to at last one inch thick. Of course, you can have several (I do) for different chores.

Shears

Shears are like large scissors, great for cutting large sections of plant material at once. For example, I use them for cutting back my large ornamental grasses. I have also seen people using shears to trim small chunks of grass after mowing their lawns, around obstacles in the lawn such as trees. They are not however any good for cutting branches or even twigs.

Nice to Have, but not Essentials

There are many other garden tools I have that the average person would not consider essential. I have a compartmentalized tool bag that contains a roll of string, stakes, a box cutter, a hammer, a tape measure, vine clips etc, in addition to my small hand tools.

I also have several sizes of rubber baskets that are essential to my gardens. They are great for toting garden debris, new plants, weeds, cut flowers, even water in a pinch.

Conclusion

What you consider essential will be different than what I consider essential, based on your needs, physical ability and even your budget. The one thing we should have in common though is keeping our tools clean and sharp. Tools should be cleaned off after each use and sharpened at least once per season. At the end of my gardening season, I spray my tools with a disinfectant, wash them well, then rub blades with a bit of oil to keep them all in tip top shape.

Posted in health & wellness, loreeebee.ca

Scoliosis Diagnosis, What Now?

Recently I was diagnosed with moderate scoliosis. The weird thing is that I was being checked out for something else when my curved spine was noted on my chest x-ray. At least I thought it was weird. Apparently, this is common in the otherwise healthy, aging population. The other weird part? I only read about the scoliosis when checking out my new online health file. The doctor never mentioned it until I asked, a year later, when I was perusing the new online health portal.

Let me explain the spine, in case you forgot or never learned anatomy. Your spine is made up of 33 bones, including the pelvis. These bones or vertebrae are normally stacked one on top of the other, with only the top 24 able to move. These moveable vertebrae can be divided into thoracic, lumbar, and cervical regions, based on where they are in the stack. The lower 9 vertebrae are fixed in place, and consist of 5 bones in the sacrum of the pelvis, and 4 that make up the tailbone.

A normal, healthy spine naturally curves slightly in three spots, looking like an S only if you were to look at it from the side. From the front or back it looks straight. This shape permits a spring-like function allowing the spine to move and absorb shocks. At the neck (cervical) and the lower back (lumbar) the spine naturally curves inward (concave) and at the middle of the back (thoracic) it curves outward. (convex) To visualize the “S”, keep in mind the inward curve that would continue at the top of this picture as the spine goes into the neck area.

wikiRadiography

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is defined as a medical condition involving an exaggerated or abnormal lateral (left or right) curvature of the spine, usually in a C or S shape. When diagnosed, it is categorized into a mild, moderate, or severe state, depending on the angle of the curve. The greater the angle, the more severe the condition.

The offending presence of a curved spine is categorized into where exactly the spine is curved:

  • lumbar, in the lower back region. Often presents with one leg longer and one hip higher than the other
  • thoracic, in the mid-back region, is the most common. Sometimes involves ribcage and shoulder deformity and/or lung and heart impairment.
  • thoracolumbar, involving both the lumbar and thoracic spine, often detected in utero or at birth. Also often associated with neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida.

Who can Develop Scoliosis and Why does it Happen?

The condition is divided into three categories based on the age at which it is diagnosed or becomes symptomatic:

  • childhood: diagnosed in infants or toddlers with congenital deformities, it is termed infantile scoliosis, while developing (usually neuromuscular) symptoms between the ages of 3 to 10 is called juvenile scoliosis
  • adolescent: between 10 and 18 years of age where growth spurts are most common
  • adult: symptoms or diagnosis past the age of 18. This category is further divided into 2 groups, idiopathic (unknown reason) and degenerative (our bones do deteriorate with age)

The adult age group is quite large, so a more precise category of “elderly” is also often used. Scoliosis in the elderly is quite common, caused by aging bone structure, injury, or the progression of an (untreated) adolescent category.

For reasons (yet) unknown, female patients tend to be diagnosed with more severe curvatures, requiring a more drastic treatment process.

Treatments for Scoliosis

Suggested treatments are based on the severity of the condition. Options range from simple yoga poses and sleep patterns to surgery (spinal fusion) with lots in between. The in-between may include bracing, exercises, chiropractic manipulations, and inversion therapy.

Yoga poses, good and bad

 According to Healthline.com yoga poses beneficial for those with scoliosis include:

  • Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)
  • Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasna)
  • Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha)
  • Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
  • Side-Reclining Leg Lift (Anantasana)
  • Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Be sure to avoid yoga poses (cobra, half moon, locust, sun salutation) that bend the spine backward as well as other exercises that twist the spine.

Adjusting Your Sleep Habits

Adjusting sleep patterns uses gravity to improve the alignment of the spine so the curve (sometimes) moves back into its proper position. So, if your abnormal curve is on your right side, try sleeping on your left side, and on your right side if your curve is on your left side.

Sleeping on your back would be a secondary choice, but lying on your stomach is not recommended.

Practice Good (Better) Posture

This might be the easiest way to alleviate pain and muscle strain. Find your natural body alignment and realign it as often as you can throughout your day.

Medical News Today lists the following strategy when standing:

  • Drop your shoulders down and back.
  • Position the ears over the shoulders
  • Slightly tuck your chin in so that it is not jutting forward or too far down.
  • Draw your stomach in slightly
  • Unlock the knees slightly.

When sitting, keep your back and neck straight and legs uncrossed. Your ears should be over your shoulders, not in front of them as they would be if your neck is inclined.

What Now?

I have learned a lot with my research into scoliosis. I went to the doctor complaining about left chest pain that radiates from below my breast up to my shoulder. I wouldn’t even call it a pain, more of a pressure. Due to the fact that both of my parents died of pulmonary ailments, I was concerned about the possibility of lung problems.

Regular mammograms have indicated no problem there, but a chest x-ray showed a moderate curve to the left in my spine. Even though my posture has not always been the greatest, I have arthritis elsewhere in my body, and my shoulders and neck get sore when I’m stressed or tired, I never suspected scoliosis. When I questioned my doctor (after reading the x-ray results) she agreed that the left curve in my thoracic spine is most likely what is causing pressure on my ribcage for over a year now.

I’m a proponent of natural remedies, so this is my plan. I already do many of the yoga poses and exercises recommended, but also a few of the ones I shouldn’t do, so will discontinue those. I will make a conscious effort to improve my posture when standing and sitting.

And, I will quit sleeping on my left side, something I have been doing for as long as I can remember.

Posted in lifestyle, loreeebee.ca

Transition to Gray Hair, Mission Accomplished

Before the pandemic even began, at least before we in Canada were made aware of it, I had decided to let my gray hair come in. I told you all about my decision to embrace my gray hair, almost one full year ago.

A year later and my hair is totally white, it was pretty much so by July. My hair grows very fast; I have been cutting it myself since that last salon visit. Luckily I have a bit of wave in my hair so it is very forgiving when I mess up with the scissors and thinning shears.

These pictures show the transition from reddish brown to pure white. The five adorable kids are just props. For some reason, I cannot resist smiling from ear to ear when they are around.

I must admit, I do like the fuss-free white look, even without makeup on to brighten my complexion. I cannot remember the last time I wore makeup; this pandemic has really shortened my morning routine. Shower, a dab of leave-on conditioner, tousle and done. The gray hair has grown on me, literally, in more ways than one. No more worrying about trying to disguise the white roots that always seemed to grow in so fast.

Most of my grandkids have forgotten the red-brown look, or in the case of our pandemic-born grandson, never knew it. My three year old granddaughter saw an old picture of me the other day and said “who’s that?” My seven year old granddaughter does remember the old me, but recently asked “why would you dye your hair?” Two of the boys are much too young to remember and the four year old could care less. At least he hasn’t mentioned it.

The transition to gray hair is still new to me; every time I see a reflection or picture of myself I am taken aback at how much I look like my father. Which is a good thing as I miss him and my mother so much. I hope you are smiling down at the new me, Dad.

Posted in loreeebee.ca, relationships

Men are from Mars

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is the name of a best selling book authored by John Gray back in 2012. It is a great communication guide for couples, with the focus on understanding how the other thinks and feels. Far from rocket science, but important in the evolution and success of relationships.

I learned long ago, early on in my 36+ year marriage, how to get my husband to do the things I need him to do to keep our household running smoothly. The solution was/is simple. Ask for help and tell your partner how you feel. Communicate what works for you as a couple. And what does not!

Men are learning a clean kitchen is the way to a woman's heart
The way to a woman’s heart is through a clean house

Many of us women were raised to believe we have to do everything (household chores) ourselves if we want things done properly. This may have worked early in the last century, but modern women are busier than ever and smarter than that. So are men.

In defence of the men in that generation, they were raised to believe similar rubbish. Chauvinism was rampant. My husband was one of them, so were my three brothers. My mother and mother-in-law were clones of June Cleaver, looking after their children and their homes while their husbands worked outside of the home. Things got more complicated, not to mention stressful, when both mothers went back to work as soon as their youngest child was in school. All of a sudden they each had two full time jobs. My sisters and I were recruited to help out, but the males of the family were exempt.

If I learned nothing else from that experience, it was that I would not accept that archaic mentality in a partner. Making that decision a reality was tricky, but we managed to figure it out. I used to slam cupboard doors and stomp around when I was angry and frustrated with his (perceived) inability to recognize necessary household chores.

I would like to say I straightened him out, but must admit he figured it out faster than I did. He did notice the slamming doors and stomping feet after all, so made the first step by admitting his need for me to communicate (verbally) exactly what I wanted him to do. This must be why “honey do lists” became so popular. He was quite happy to “help” although learned fast that he was merely pulling his weight rather than helping. This was especially important when our three sons were young and our household was very busy.

Our sons have all grown up and moved out, with two of them proud fathers themselves. That means our family of five has extended to a family of twelve. So when we entertain the gang, I am traditionally the cook and hubby is the cleaner upper before and afterwards. Works for me!

Men have (thankfully) evolved over the years, into caring and nurturing fathers, husbands and partners. And women have evolved by losing the martyr act and encouraging their men in these roles without losing any of their superhero powers.

As the picture above indicates, successful foreplay doesn’t have to come in the form of candy, flowers or sweet nothings whispered in our ears. Unless of course that is what you need; everyone is different. Me, I believe actions speak louder than words and gifts. I feel participating in cooking, kitchen cleanup, bath time and bed time routines is far more effective.

The moral of this story? Men may still be from Mars and women from Venus, but we can successfully co-exist on Earth if we communicate!

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca

Houseplant Obsession

This past month I have been obsessed with houseplants. I’m not sure if it is because we have been under lockdown for so long, due to my love of anything green or my love of nature and gardens. Probably a combination of all three, much to the chagrin of my husband who keeps reminding me “the gardens are outside.” Hmmmmm, I can fix that, I do love a challenge…

Indoor Potting Station

Typically I take stock of my houseplants in winter, when my gardening business is snowed in, but this year I think I have taken this obsession to a whole new level. Recently, a large box of soil bags, plastic saucers that go under plants to protect floors, and pots has taken up space in my front hallway. The floor there is easier to clean up after spills, so this spot has become my potting station.

Research Your Options

The internet is a great resource for which houseplants to buy (or trade with like-minded friends for), what window to place them in and how and when to repot and take cuttings. I love this site in particular; it provides lots of “how to” videos for all sorts of plantings.

I have also joined a Facebook group of other individuals in Ottawa that are as houseplant obsessed as I am.

Propagation Techniques

My granddaughters and I have started seeds, with some progress. Currently we have success with zinnias, strawberries, lemons, and lots of hibiscus. We will have to restart some in a warmer spot in the house; my basement kitchenette appears to be too chilly.

There are several other ways to propagate all plants, including houseplants. I am currently attempting a few methods to increase my own houseplant population.

Leaf Cuttings

Taking leaf cuttings and putting them in water (changing it often) until roots develop is just one way, but by far the simplest. This method works best on plants with hardy stems such as African violets.

Adding rooting hormone to leaf cuttings and inserting the stem into perlite (lightweight, volcanic glass pieces used to hold air in soil) or potting soil also works well. Sanseveria work well with this method; several sections can be cut from one leaf, just be sure to keep track as you cut them into sections so they are planted right side up. It does make a difference; if you plant the sections upside down (easy to do when removed from the plant), they will rot.

Air Layering

Air layering is another propagation method, but a bit more complicated. Make a slit on a stem (2/3 of the way through the stem) between two leaves, cover the wound with damp sphagnum moss and wrap the area in plastic wrap to create a humid environment. When new roots form, cut the new plant off and pot it up.

houseplant obsession
photo credit

Simple layering

Simple layering involves pinning runners or long stems into soil while still attached to the parent plant to form new root systems. When the new roots and new shoots form, sever the connecting stem between the parent plant and the new roots/shoots and pot your new baby up. Pothos, ivy and spider plants propagate well with this method.

Houseplant Obsession
photo from Pinterest

Division

Sometimes when repotting your plants the roots just naturally fall apart (divide) into separate clumps, creating another easy way to propagate and grow your collection or to share with others. Sanseveria (snake plants) and ferns lend well to this division method.

My perennial gardens outside are very familiar with the division method, with spring being the perfect time to do so.

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring, but until then I will remain houseplant obsessed.

Posted in loreeebee.ca

Bublé sells Bubly during Superbowl

Did anyone else love the new Michael Bublé commercial during the Superbowl last weekend? As both a Bubly and Bublé lover, I admit to a giggle or two. Neither of them get old, to me.

Even though it was his third consecutive Superbowl commercial about the popular carbonated, sugar-free, calorie-free drinks, the content has been different each time. With new varieties in flavour of the sparkling water introduced on a regular basis, this year pineapple and peach Bubly were the newest features.

Although I have historically never been overly fond of carbonated beverages, I do like Bubly; perhaps it is less carbonated than others. These drinks are a great way to incorporate water into your daily regime, staving off dehydration and its effects on your health, with no added calories to deter your diet.

Even my almost three year old granddaughter loves Bubly. She calls them “bubbles,” too young to understand the play on words between bubbly, Bubly and Bublé. Autocorrect doesn’t get it either, changing my Bubly to bubbly each and every time. My granddaughter and I also share a penchant for preferring our bubbles at room temperature rather than ice cold, so we often split one when she is here.

Bublé sells Bubly during Superbowl
my current stock contains these varieties

I have also developed what I call a “Canadian Margarita” recipe that features lime flavoured Bubly along with tequilla, freshly squeezed lime juice and maple syrup. Served in a glass rimmed with salt, it is delicious! Perhaps I should send Mr Bublé the recipe!

So far, lime is my favourite flavour, with cherry a close second. That was before I knew pineapple was a thing. I do love pineapple, so am anxious to give it a try. Did you notice the pineapple one is opened in the picture above? Perhaps a Pina Colada recipe is on the horizon.

I just bought a box of both new varieties, pineapple and peach, proof that commercials do work. Especially ones with Michael Bublé in them.

Bublé sells Bubly during Superbowl

Posted in loreeebee.ca

How to Make Your Orchids Rebloom

If you have you purchased (or been gifted) orchids with beautiful blooms, but the blooms are now gone, follow these easy steps to make them rebloom to their former glory.

Water

The easiest way to kill your orchids, and most other houseplants, is to overwater them.  The best way to water orchids is to take the pot to a sink, pour approximately 1/2 cup of water into the pot and then let ALL of the water drain out.  Do this every 7 to 10 days, letting the soil dry out in between watering.  Of course, this means your orchids should be in a pot that drains well.

Light

Another important requirement of orchids is the amount of sunlight they receive.  Direct sunlight is too harsh and will burn them, but too little sunlight will prevent them from flowering well.  Orchids prefer sunlight (not directly) from a south-facing window in the winter months, and an east or northwest exposure in the summer months.

Temperature

Preferred temperatures vary between types of orchids.  Read the labels on the ones you have to ensure optimal temperatures for your orchids. None of them like temperatures below 60 degrees F though, and none like to be near cold air drafts.  If you do not know whether your orchid is a cool, warm or intermediate type, keeping it between 65 and 80 degrees F should work.

Food

Keep in mind that the rest periods in between blooms allow for the plants to restore their energy levels.  After the blooms have faded and fallen off, wait until the stalk has completely turned brown before cutting it off at the point where it meets the plant.  

Food is important though to keep your orchids blooming their best.  There are commercial products available for orchid food which contains a higher phosphate (the middle number) level than nitrogen (first number) and potash (third number) for optimal blooms.  Feed your orchids every second watering while in bloom, otherwise once a month.

Repotting and Air Roots

Orchids may need repotting after two years, depending on how compacted its roots are. Most orchids are grown in clear plastic pot liners (that sit in more decorative pots) with lots of drainage holes. This makes it very easy to determine if your orchid needs repotting. Simply lift the pot liner out of its outer pot and check for crowded roots.

If you have air roots forming, you may need to repot, although air roots are common and not necessarily a bad thing. They do indicate a low humidity level though. If the air roots are white or pale green and firm, they are healthy and of no concern. Leave them alone. They absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. The green colour is from the chlorophyll which is essential for photosynthesis.

You can tell a lot about the health of your orchid by the colour of its roots. Green roots mean your orchid is healthy and has recently been watered. As they dry out, the roots will become paler in colour. If your roots are yellow or brown and appear shriveled or mushy, they have been overwatered. If roots are brown and crispy, they are dehydrated. Neither are healthy and should be removed, but only when your orchid is not blooming.

Conclusion

I just finished repotting and reevaluating all of my houseplants, including one orchid I received as a birthday present a few years ago. This orchid was not doing much, so I followed my own (researched) advice and moved it to the bright, indirect light of a south facing window. I also repotted it as it was pot bound and exhibiting air roots.

It now has a new leaf emerging; I can’t wait for new flowers!

Hopefully the tips above will help you keep your orchids looking great.  If you have put off buying them because you thought they were too difficult or fussy, give them a try.  They cannot be beat for their spectacular blooms!

Let me know if you have any other tips, I have to admit I am new to this reblooming orchid experience.

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca

Houseplants Deserve Some TLC Too

Houseplants deserve TLC too, this time of year is as good as any to give them the attention they need. As we are still in lockdown here in the Ottawa area, with strict “stay home” orders, my green thumb is coming out this week.

Over time, the soil in houseplants gets depleted of nutrients and compacted, similar to the soil in your gardens and containers outdoors. As I cannot get out into my gardens yet, my front hall way is currently lined with bags of soil, pots and plants. All of my houseplants will be getting fresh soil and bigger pots to spread their roots and strut their stuff with a chaser of diluted fertilizer to encourage root growth. If you are really ambitious, or you discover any rotting or dead roots, you can rinse your plants off before repotting them. A set tub works well for this job, although I prefer to do it in the summer, outside.

For an introduction to a few new houseplants (one can never have too many) and some soil I shopped online at the House of Plants, a small business here in Ottawa. Currently offering curbside pickup or local delivery with nationwide delivery resuming in the spring, House of Plants has not missed a beat during the pandemic. They offer a wide selection of houseplants, suitable for many different light conditions.

A while back I wrote about the role houseplants play in removing toxins from the air in our homes. With windows and doors closed tightly against the cold air and our furnaces running constantly, this air cleansing is more important than ever during the winter months.

Last summer gardening was a new found hobby for many, during the winter months houseplants are now on trend. Whether you want to add to your existing houseplant collection or start one, contact House of Plants for all your needs and support their new business.

Posted in grandkids, loreeebee.ca

Back to School in Five More Sleeps

My granddaughter is going back to school in five more sleeps. For real, in class school. She has been learning online since last March, almost a year now. Since September she has been coming here for school on the days her Mom goes to work.

She is very excited to be heading back, over the moon in fact. Grandma, not so much. Of course, I am happy she is happy, but I will miss her and the quality time we have spent together these past months. It has been a bright spot for me throughout our pandemic restrictions.

We have settled into a comfortable daily routine before, during, between, and after her online lessons. Classes start at 9am with her school day ending around 330pm. That’s a long day for a seven year old, and an over sixty year old, but we manage to sneak some fun into our day.

Card Games

When she arrives around 630am, we start our day with several rounds of cards, while I sip from my first cup of coffee. She has learned, and is now quite proficient at, the games of Concentration, Go Fish and Crazy Eights. So proficient in fact that she beats me often, without me having to let her win. She is very competitive, so winning is important and losing results in a pout and a demanded rematch. I look at these games as exercise for my short term memory.

back to school

Stretches and Yoga

After she has won enough card games, we get into stretches and yoga poses. As a competitive gymnast, she knows and excels at all the warm up stretches. Grandma can keep up for a little while, until the planks last longer than a minute or she tries to shape me into a human pretzel.

back to school

Reading Books

We have been reading lots too. She reads Mia Mayhem to me, and I read Harry Potter to her. Mia Mayhem is a series of books appropriate for her age and reading level, but even more special because she shares her name with the super hero star of the series. Santa was very clever to pick those books out for her. Harry Potter, I would imagine, needs no explanation or introduction. She loves the Harry Potter saga so much that she dressed up as Hermoine for Hallowe’en.

back to school

Culinary Treats

Concocting treats in the kitchen has been popular too with an endless supply of cookies, muffins and even Daddy’s favourite candy for Grandma’s counter and freezer. With doggie bags for her to take some home too of course. Fresh fruit smoothies and breakfast pancakes are other favourites too. Oh, and she doesn’t let me forget an ice cream treat after her last lesson of the day, before she starts the independent learning hour. Today, in honour of her last day at Grandma’s school house, we went to Dairy Queen for their Blizzard BOGO event.

Outdoor Time

We also get outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine every day, so important in winter. Before the snow and cold weather arrived we spent our outdoor time predominantly in my gardens, with a few treks to the gardens I tend at our local hospice.

back to school

These past few months, since our gardens are covered in snow, our outdoor time has evolved to include walks in the snow, shoveling the snow or playing in it and with it.

Cultivating her Green Thumb

Even though we had to postpone our gardening adventures outside, we did spend time perusing garden catalogues, choosing new and interesting plants and seeds for spring planting. We also tend the seeds and cuttings we planted last fall, that now take up the entire counter area in my basement.

This week she has also been helping me repot my existing houseplants and find new homes for the new ones that have just arrived. (keep your eyes out for my next post about houseplants) We also rescued a forlorn and partially frozen large tropical corn plant from a neighbour’s snowbank today, hopefully it will survive.

Piano Lessons

All my grandchildren appear to love my piano, but this granddaughter, as the eldest grandchild, is really showing interest and talent. She has worked her way through the kids books, recently attempting a more complicated book of Christmas carols. We had planned to perform a mini concert of these songs at our family Christmas gathering, but neither the concert or the concert happened, thanks to the current rules of the pandemic.

She did let me record her playing a few tunes though…

As you can imagine, our days together have been jam packed with activities, and school lessons too. Her computer skills are now amazing for her age and she is thriving online, although she does miss her friends.

I do understand the importance of developing social skills at this age. Sitting at a computer for close to 5 hours every day is not healthy for any child. (or adult for that matter)

Grandma will miss the quality time. But not the 6am alarm.

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, weather

Cold Weather Good for Gardens

As we are in the grips of a cold snap, I feel the need to remind you that cold weather is good for your gardens. The survival of your plants and the bugs that try their darndest to destroy them depends on just how low the mercury drops and for how long it stays low. Snow levels also come into consideration for both plant and insect survival.

Insects are amazingly resilient, doing whatever they have to to survive. Based on how well they can tolerate cold temperatures, there are two types of insects. Freeze avoidance insects are those that seek a warm spot in which to hibernate, but can only handle a small amount of cold before their bodily fluids freeze, killing them:

Japanese Beetles

Those annoying Japanese beetles that can strip plants bare in one day do not like cold weather. Extensive stretches of cold below -15C not only kills them off, but also destroys the eggs they lay in the soil of your gardens and containers. Reasearch will show you that any season where Japanese beetles were particularly destructive can be blamed on a preceding warm winter.

Fleas

Fleas are not much of a concern in gardens, but they are for your fur babies. Fleas are even more sensitive to cold than Japanese beetles, as their larvae, pupae and eggs can not tolerate temperatures below freezing. For a stretch of below zero temperatures that is, at least ten days worth. The longer the stretch of cold weather lasts, the less fleas can effectively reproduce.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes try to find a spot to overwinter, but many are killed off with cold weather too. Unfortunately though, many of their eggs are winter-hardy to some degree, just waiting to hatch when temperatures warm up.

Ticks

Unfortunately, many tick species are able to bury deep into piles of leaves and debris, keeping themselves warm enough to survive winters. A winter with lots of snow only adds to their survival as the snow acts as insulation.

The colder the weather, the less chance of tick survival. Extremely cold weather has been known to eradicate some mosquito species, such as the asian tiger mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

Ash Borers

Ash borers are also termed freeze avoidants meaning they seek warmth, but will not die unless their bodily fluids freeze. Research has shown that ash borers can tolerate temperatures down to minus 30C degrees.

Freeze Tolerants

Some insects, such as cockroaches and wooly caterpillars are completely unperturbed by cold weather. These are called freeze tolerants, withstanding even the coldest temperatures around the world.

Fungal Pathogens

Lack of moisture kills off this annoying garden problem. So cold, snowless winters are their biggest destroyers. Unfortunately, severe cold and lack of snow is one of the best ways to kill off perennial plants too. Plants need snow to protect them from the cold too.

Conclusions

A long deep freeze in winter will most likely reduce the destructive bug population in your gardens. Even more damaging to insects is a deep freeze after soil temperatures have started to warm up in spring. At this stage in their reproductive cycle, insects and their eggs will be even more susceptible to a cold snap.

Another reason insects do not tolerate extended winters (late arrival of spring) is because as they “hibernate” they survive on their supply of stored fat and sugar. If these stores are depleted before spring arrives, the insects cannot survive.

Unfortunately, many plants do not handle drastic thaw/freeze/thaw cycles well either, so be careful what you wish for!

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