Butterfly Garden Success

Last fall, after much pleading on my part (plan approval is a complicated process), I was granted permission to design and create a butterfly garden at the local hospice I volunteer at.  I have also referred to it as a wildflower garden to differentiate it from the more formal garden beds I have designed and planted there. This is my butterfly garden success story!

The very beginning

Although I posted an update this past spring, with details of the planting methods used, the final verdict on the success of my butterfly/wildflower garden was still out back then. These pictures were taken in early summer when things (not just weeds) finally started to grow…

Zinnias
Red flax
Poppies

This week, (late summer) I am thrilled to report that the experiment was a huge success!  The warm and wet weather (and our hard work of course) has created a riot of colourful blooms in the garden…

Butterflies, Birds, and Bees…oh my!

Although I have been calling this a butterfly garden, the goal is to attract hummingbirds and bees to our new garden as well. The variety of plant shapes and flower colours in this garden is akin to a smorgasbord of delectables to attract all of mother nature’s creatures in droves. This type of garden is also referred to as a pollinator garden for obvious reasons. The stepping stones are to permit strolling through the garden as well as maintenance in the form of weeding and watering.

Hospice Garden Team

There are lots of I’s so far in this post. To clarify and assign credit where it is due in spades, (pun intended) this project (and the landscaping at the hospice in general) would never have reached this level of success without the keenness and diligence of our garden team at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice in Kanata.

These dedicated team members are on-site lots more than I am. For example, we have a watering schedule that ensures all the containers, new gardens, and new additions to older, established garden beds get attended to daily. We also have team members (one wonder woman in particular) designated for lawn cutting. With the extensive RSH property, these are huge, behind-the-scene tasks. As a (semi-retired) professional landscaper, my main role on the team is to design and create new projects (garden beds) and identify chores that need to be done to keep the gardens looking as great as they do. I’m getting good at making lists, although I still love getting my hands dirty in the planting stage.

Successes in Butterfly Garden Planning

I learned lots through the experimental process of this butterfly garden and made a few mistakes but my vision prevailed.  Phew!

The mini greenhouses on my back deck all winter were definitely a success and something I would highly recommend! Those plastic clamshell containers from grocery stores come in handy for this purpose. They make for an inexpensive propagation method to sprout seeds, especially those that require cold stratification to germinate.

Also a huge success was the idea to plant seeds under clear plastic cups. On a whim, I did this in the early spring to fill in the blanks between the transplanted sprouts from the greenhouses. Using seeds of annuals from a big box store (poppies, asters, zinnias, cosmos, cleomes, and more) I simply put four or five seeds under each cup, pushed the cup into the soil to keep it from blowing in the wind, kept the soil wet around the cups, and waited for sprouts. I was amazed!

Mistakes Encountered

Sprinkling mixed seeds last fall was (relatively) a bust. These seeds were collected from plants in my gardens as well as from my clients’ gardens. I had a garden waste bag full of seeds. Although the thought was to provide a random dispersion of plants, the randomness was a little too excessive. Especially frustrating was trying to differentiate the weeds from the desired plants.

I also regret succumbing to the complaints about my “stick garden.” In doing so I removed the stakes that showed our team where the “keepers” (as opposed to weeds) were, making it frustrating for us all.

Convincing the Doubters

I think I also earned the respect of my fellow garden team members and hospice staff that were scratching their heads in disbelief throughout. Especially when the weeds were hard to differentiate from the wildflowers and butterfly attractors. I heard the term “stick garden” mumbled a few times when all that was visible was my stakes where the plants were supposed to be growing.

Conclusion

The good news? Everyone is enthusiastically on-board now. And, the most important critics of all, a few monarch butterflies and lots of bees were spotted enjoying the garden last week!

The beauty of self-seeding annuals is that they do just that, produce flower heads full of seeds that scatter randomly in the fall. Left in place, the seeds get buried in snow and pop up next spring as new plants.

I added butterfly-loving (brightly coloured) perennials, such as coneflowers, milkweed, Russian sage, blanket flowers, and many others to the bed to fill in the blanks between the annuals.

Contrasting Colours in Gardens and Containers

Contrasting colours rather than complementary ones make a bigger impact in your garden. Most people tend to opt for complementing colors when choosing plants. I always tell my clients remember, you are not wearing the plants, they do not have to match!

Choose colours that are opposite (not next to) each other on the colour wheel to create some drama:

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Use Colour Contrasts in Containers Too

I love using coleus in containers for the wide range of contrasting colour in their foliage. Straight from the nursery, choose from the many options in contrasting colour combinations within the same plant! The chartreuse green of creeping jenny or sweet potato vines make the red tones of the coleus pop in your creations:

For full sun containers, I tend to go for purple, pink, red, blue and yellow for the “fillers” and “spillers.” Their bright colours look so summery and vivid against the various shades of green which are perfect backdrops for “thrillers” and additional “spillers.”

Choose Perennials with Contrasting Flower Colours but the Same Bloom Time

When choosing perennials for your garden beds, instead of picking matching colours, try selecting contrasting colours in plants that bloom at the same time. For example, this yellow ligularis in front of a purple clematis creates a much more eye-catching scenario than two yellow or two purple plantings.

contrasting colours
ligularis and clematis

Another great example in my yard is my collection of daylilies I have in a raised bed at the side of my house. From dark wine-red to pale peach, they are contrasting yet compliment each other beautifully!

Foliage with Contrasting Colours

Another trick to make individual plants stand out is to place contrasting foliage colours next to or in front of each other. An example here is the leaves of a purple smoke tree (that just had a haircut so will soon be much taller) behind (right now it looks like it’s inside) the bright green leaves of a hydrangea.

contrasting colours
purple smoke tree and hydrangea

Try some new contrasting combinations in your garden to create some drama. Be sure to send me pictures of your combinations.

Remember, forget the matchy-matchy look, you are not wearing the plants!

Update on Wildflower Garden

update on wildflower garden

To start off this season I want to provide an update on a wildflower garden I started at the very end of last garden season. It was an experiment I convinced management at our local hospice to permit me to try.

I called it the lasagna method.

Surviving the Winter

Today I visited the site to see how it looked now that winter is (hopefully) behind us. The leaves are long gone as expected in such a windy area. Watering them down did not do the trick as hoped. Wildflower gardens in my future plans will be sure to include an additional layer of soil on top of the leaf layer. I thought of that for this one but the budget did not permit it as it is a huge area.

The good news is that the soil is all still in place with no cardboard peaking through.

update on wildflower garden
update on wildflower garden

There are no new green sprouts yet but it’s still a bit early to expect those. Especially considering we had a few snowfalls as recent as three days ago! There are a few dandelions, of course, something you have to expect from bulk orders of soil.

Winter Sowing Experiment

I do however have sprouts in the other half of this garden experiment. Remember my post on Winter Sowing of seeds? I was ambitious and started seeds in 22 clear plastic containers. They lived out in the elements on my back deck for the winter. We had lots of snow and extended stretches of cold temperatures, so I was leary on how successful this experiment would be.

update on wildflower garden

Permanent Markers not so Permanent

The biggest problem with the experience was that the permanent marker I used to label the containers with was not so permanent. Fortunately, I recorded the numbers in several spots on each container. With the help of my strongest reading glasses, I was (barely) able to decipher the numbers. Phew!

Sprouts!

I did discover a few sprouts in some of the containers, also with the help of my reading glasses. Amazing! I cannot wait until the sprouts are big enough to transplant into their new home. Sorry, these pics are so blurry, the condensation within each container prevented clearer shots. The white squiggly things are sprouts, the last two even have green leaves reaching for the sunlight at the top.

Starting Seeds Indoors

I also started seeds indoors. This I have done before, although I have never had much luck. To increase my chances of success, I purchased two warming mats to keep the seeds and seedlings warmer. Especially as I have them growing in my basement in front of a sunny window…

Designing the Wildflower Garden

In the meantime, I plan to create a design for the placement of the new plants within the sections of the wildflower garden created by the stepping stones. Each type of plant has been assigned a code (A2 or C4 etc) based on the plant’s height at maturity as well as flower colour and bloom time. This way the RSH garden team can simply follow a detailed diagram.

In the center of each section, I will plant tall yellow sunflowers, boneset, purple aster, cleome, and Joe Pye Weed. The next layer will consist of plants a bit shorter in stature. Think purple and grey coneflowers, red sunflowers, various colours of poppies, cosmos, milkweed, goldenrod, steeplebush, and bugbane. A bit shorter yet, black-eyed susans, penstemon, rudbeckia, and verbena will be planted. The final layer will consist of edging (short) plants such as lavender, heuchera, salvia, stonecrop, lamium, and more.

Can you picture it? I can!

I will post another update on this wildflower garden when planting is complete.

Stay tuned!

Rabbit Poop is Great for your Garden!

rabbit poop

I have noticed one thing in common in the gardens I have done spring cleanups in: lots of rabbit poop! There seems to have been an explosion in the rabbit population in my Kanata suburb of Ottawa. I see quite a few rabbits on my evening walks through our neighborhood so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the increased amount of their poop in the gardens.

The good news is that rabbit poop is great for your garden.

Hot vs Cold Manure

Cow, steer, sheep, or chicken manure is considered “hot” meaning it requires an aging or composting process before use. Otherwise, it will burn your plants. For that reason, be sure when you use this type that the label says “composted.” Rabbit poop, however, is “cold” manure requiring no such process before use. That’s because it is fermented and broken down in the rabbits’ gut before leaving its body.

The other advantage of rabbit manure is that it only has a mild smell to it.  The smell actually brings back childhood memories of the pet rabbits my father used to bring home each spring at Easter time.

How to Use Rabbit Poop

Simply dig the round pellets into the soil between the plants, providing a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your garden. You can also add a pile of poop to your composter as a nitrogen layer. Another option is to make compost tea by adding a pile of poop to a bucket of water. Stir it well and frequently for a few days, and then pour the “tea” onto your garden.

Any way you use it, rabbit poop is a free and convenient fertilizer for your garden!

rabbit poop
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Garden Creations by Gardens4u

garden creations

If you have not yet visited the before and after pictures posted to my business website, check out the videos posted here.  These are a few of my largest garden creations, from start to finish, in video format. Most of these gardens are approaching a decade of evolution. Watching the videos is like watching the gardens grow.

Neighbourhood Garden Creation

One of my very first garden creations is the star of this first video. It was a huge project, converting a grub-infested front lawn into a gorgeous grass-free yard. To conserve my time and back muscles, an independent contractor worked on the labor-intensive parts. Removing sod, adding soil and river rock are not in my wheelhouse. It took most of my first summer in business to get this project completed. The fact that this summer was one of our hottest on record did not help.

The best part is the fact that this masterpiece is located across the street from my home. I have literally watched it grow over the past nine years.

Moving Into This Century

Another big garden creation, also early on in my business, involved reshaping an existing garden. Removing foundation plantings from the 80s was the first step. Next up was removing boughs (limbing up) from an evergreen that blocked the view of the house from the street. This is another favourite amongst my projects, as I have been able to watch it evolve over the years. After the garden’s original design settled in, the clients asked to widen it. This sounds simple enough, but took a bit of work and planning. Plants chosen for the original edges had to be moved forward to create the new edging feature. Then new plants were selected for placement between the new edge and the largest shrubs and perennials in the center of the garden.

Adding Variety and Removing Weeds in Existing Garden

A third of my favourite garden creations involved modifying an existing garden. Although this garden had a wonderful stone retaining wall as an edging, it had lots of issues. To start with, there was proportionately a very small variety of plants. The garden was large, so the opportunity for variety was obvious and easy to achieve. Especially once all the weeds were removed, leaving plenty of space for new tenants. Tall shrubs and small trees were added to the back along the fence. Several layers of perennials were then planted in front of them. Bulbs were added too, for spring colour. This is another garden that has evolved over the years into a beautiful backyard feature.

Volunteer Gardening

In addition to working in clients’ gardens, I have been volunteering on the garden team of our local hospice here in Kanata. This next video is one of the largest garden creations (to date) on this property. In 2017, this courtyard garden and its surrounding stonework, water feature, and pathways were designed. The following spring I got involved when most of the original plantings had not survived the first winter. I do love a challenge! Four seasons later it has been transformed:

More Videos

More garden videos have been uploaded to my YouTube channel. Check them out and share your opinions.

Garden Consultations and Design by Gardens4u

gardening business

To cut back on the demands of my gardening business, I aim to concentrate on garden consultations and design services. I have enough garden maintenance to tend to within my own gardens at my home and cottage.

My knowledge and experience have grown (pun intended) considerably since the inception of Gardens4u in 2012. As an extrovert, I love meeting other garden enthusiasts to share knowledge in the form of advice and suggestions.

Although gardening is not an exact science, often based on trial and error, successful landscaping demands patience and perseverance. I believe I can help you avoid many of the costly pitfalls and errors, cutting both your time and expenses.

The fee for my services is twenty-five dollars per hour.

Location Limitations

My services for physical garden consultations are limited to the west end of Ottawa. This includes most neighbourhoods in the Kanata, Stittsville, and Nepean regions.

However, if you live elsewhere, I would be happy to provide you with a virtual consultation. This service is described below under the virtual design heading.

Initial Garden Consultations

As the British know (their “garden” is our “yard”) gardens and yards should complement each other. My initial consultation with you includes a “walkabout” of your property while discussing your short and long-term goals. In short, my goal is to help you achieve your goals, within your budget and both of our time limits.

I offer advice and suggestions based on extensive knowledge of what works and what will not work in our climate. I will also take pictures of your yard for a “before” view of your project.

After the Consultation

Virtual Design

I can provide visual proposals in the form of pictures. A computerized landscape program, uses JPEGs of the “before” pictures of a garden/yard to offer various suggestions virtually.

As mentioned above, modern technology permits me to offer this service for virtual garden design anywhere around the world! Although my knowledge base reflects plants hardy to my zone 4 to 5 climate, I would be happy to research what would work in your location, for your specific growing conditions.

Chronological To-Do List

If a decision is made to proceed with your project, I will provide you with a to-do list, in keeping with your allotted budget and time commitments. That way we can proceed at a pace comfortable to you.

Plant and Product Lists and Shopping

My services also include plant lists to provide you with guidance when shopping for plants for your project. I know which perennials, shrubs and trees are hardy to our gardening climate zones. Also important to know is which plants grow well in sun or shade conditions.

I will also share my recommendations on soil, mulch, and lawn products. These recommendations are based on my experiences (good and bad) with the many options available.

In some circumstances, I may be available to meet with you at a garden center to peruse options with you. As a landscape contractor, I get discounts at many of the local garden centers. In many cases, I can pass these savings onto you.

Planting Your Gardens

As my time permits, I will plant your gardens or help you plant your gardens. This will be based on your preference and budget, as well as your time and physical constraints.

Landscaping Limitations

I do not provide hardscaping services such as sidewalks, raised garden beds, patios, tree or large shrub removal etc. I do, however, have contact information for several reputable and well-referenced contractors for these types of projects.

Event Planning

I am also available to create unique plantings for summer events, within garden beds, portable containers, or both.

Conclusions on Garden Consultations

If my expertise in garden consultations, design services, or event planning appeal to you, please contact me for that initial consultation.

Spring is coming to my corner of the planet!

garden consultations and design services by Gardens4u
gardens4u logo

Cardinals: Attract Them to Your Yard

cardinals

Did you know that cardinals are predominantly monogamous? They mate for life until one is left alone upon the demise of the other. Only then do they seek another partner, typically in the non-breeding season. Sources say their typically tight bonds can be a bit looser in the winter months though.

What do They Eat?

As omnivores, cardinals may eat both plants and animals, including insects, seeds (sunflower and safflower are favourites) nuts, grains, fruit, and flower buds on plants and trees. Their strong beaks even permit them to enjoy shelled peanuts and corn.

When insects are scarce in the winter months, they supplement their protein with suet in feeders. You will often see them foraging for meals on the ground and the feeders they do frequent must have sturdy perches or trays so they can eat while facing forward.

Apparently, it is the carotenoids in their food that give cardinals their beautiful, characteristic red colouring. These carotenoids are sourced from bacteria, plants and fungi that cardinals consume. While the males are almost all red, including their beaks, females have orange beaks with light brown feathers, and can vary in the extent of the red patches on their chests.

These gorgeous red birds get their name from the fact that their feathers are similar in colour to the robes worn by Roman Catholic high officials…Cardinals.

Cardinals Stay Put in Winter

Considered non-migratory, cardinals stay put in winter, typically living their whole life within one mile of where they were born. They hang out in dense evergreen shrubs and tangled vines.

Help them out by leaving your garden cleanup to spring so they have twigs, leaves and such to forage for and hide in all year round.

Timid yet Territorial

Another fact is that cardinals are much more timid, shy and less aggressive than many other birds. Sudden movements will startle them. The yards and feeders they do grace with their beauty offer nearby protection and privacy in the form of evergreen shrubs, vines or trees. That way they can scope out the food sources and retreat quickly to protective coverage as needed.

Usually non-aggressive, they can be very aggressive when defending their territory. This is especially common during mating season when hormones are raging. Fights with intruders in their territory can last for days. They become so aggressive in fact that they often attack their own reflections seen in anything shiny such as mirrors and windows, even gazing balls.

Attract Them to Your Yard

To attract them to your yard, and ensure they stick around:

  • keep your feeders and water baths clean and full. Use mild dish soap or a 1:9 solution of bleach and hot water to clean both often. Dry the feeder well before filling.
  • keep their food and water feeders away from your outdoor pets and spots they may ambush the birds from
  • provide a water supply and don’t let it freeze in winter. Depending on where you live, this may simply be achieved by refreshing still water to avoid freezing. In my area however, it means using a heated birdbath or a submersible water heater to prevent freezing.
  • provide nesting shelves for them to cozy up in. Cardinals have several sets of offspring per year but don’t usually reuse any nests. This means they need lots of nesting material. Consider supplying them with lightweight materials like string or yarn, hair, dog fur, or unscented dryer lint to line the nests within the shrubs and vines they choose to build in.
  • provide a safe haven with lots of greenery in the form of ground cover, perennial flowers, small and large shrubs and trees.

My Experience with Cardinals

My husband and I love to watch the birds that visit our backyard. It would definitely be considered a safe haven for cardinals for the reasons above, especially the abundance of greenery within my gardens.

We have been speculating whether it is the same couple that has been visiting us for years. In researching information for this post, I think they are the same male and female pairing. They certainly repeat the same habits, moving from feeders to our trees, vines, shrubs, and ground cover throughout the day.

We have even witnessed a “fight” between two males that chased each other back and forth across the expanse of our yard numerous times.

Today I watched the male protectively watching the female at a feeder, then feed himself while she watched from nearby. Then in a blur (too fast for my cell phone camera) he flew away and she followed:

Winter Sowing in Six Easy Steps

winter sowing

This is a guest post from Gardens by Barby. I was intrigued when I read about this ingenious method involving winter sowing of seeds. Other methods prefer waiting until March to sow seeds, and involve heat lamps, a large designated space and more. I have yet to be overly successful with those methods. Inspired by this post, I raided my recycle bucket for plastic clamshell containers and started my mini greenhouses on my back deck…If I find success with this method I will have lots of annuals and perennials to plant in my gardens come spring.

Compulsive gardeners can get quite morose in the dead of winter. It’s one thing to pour over the new seed catalogues, dreaming about how those perfect flowers will look in your garden. But what gardeners really want is to DO something. Create, grow, nurture. We’re just itching to get out there.

winter sowing

In all my years of gardening, I had never heard of winter sowing until last fall. A friend bequeathed me with a garbage bag full of recycled jugs, bottles, clam shells and jars. She said I could use them like mini greenhouses for germinating my seedlings. What? How?

She grabbed a clear clam shell that once held a sandwich and instructed me to get some potting soil and some seeds. She cut some holes in the bottom and poked holes in the top. She wet the soil and filled the clam shell half full. I sprinkled some sunflower seeds on top, added a bit more soil and sprayed it with water. We set it in a large planter on the deck. And that’s it. She said that come spring, the seeds will sprout at their own pace with virtually no effort on my part.

Well…. let me tell you that I suddenly envisioned the possibilities. No overloaded window sills, no seedling rotations to ensure they all get some sun. No angst about who gets to be planted in February… or March… or April. No dilemma about whether or not to lay out the bucks for lighting, heat mats, trays and pots.

Could it be true?

So I dove right in and started to research. The term, “winter sowing” was coined by Trudi Davidoff in the early 2000’s. She was looking for a solution to a problem. Too many seeds, too little space. It occurred to her that Mother Nature sows her seeds outside in winter, so perhaps she could do the same.

The idea of winter sowing is not new. Seed packets will sometimes instruct you to direct sow outdoors in the fall. These plants are adapted to winter conditions and have evolved to lay in wait in the cold before germinating in the spring. But the life of these seeds is precarious. Many are fated to fail due to, for example, predation or heavy spring rains.

Winter sowing changes the game. By sowing the seeds in a confined environment, they are protected from the vagaries of nature. Will it work with all seeds? No. It will NOT work for plants that come from tropical areas where they would never be exposed to cold. It WILL work especially well for seeds that require a period of cold stratification to come out of dormancy.

winter sowing

Step One – Prepare

Assemble and clean your containers. You should use either clear or cloudy plastic containers that will hold 3 to 5 inches (7 to 12 cm) of potting mix, allowing room for sprouting seedlings to develop at least two sets of true leaves. Remove and discard labels and cap. Cut drainage holes in the bottom.

winter sowing

Slice the container about three quarters of the way around the middle, leaving a ‘hinge’.

winter sowing

Step Two – Sow

In a large bowl, moisten your potting mix. Spoon it into your containers and pack it a bit to remove air pockets.

winter sowing

Sprinkle your seeds on the potting mix and press them into the soil. Sow more than you need, but not so many that they will be too crowded. Cover the seeds with sifted dry potting mix. Note that many seeds require light to germinate, so don’t cover too thickly. Gently spray water to thoroughly soak the potting mix, but not to the point of being muddy.

winter sowing

Step Three – Label

Label your containers with species and date. There are several ways to do this. You may use a thickly-applied permanent marker directly on the container. (Note that it is common for the lettering to fade with long-time exposure to the sun.) You may simply write a bold number on the container and keep a list of the corresponding seeds in a safe place. OR you may write the information underneath the container so it is not exposed to the sun. OR you may insert a popsicle stick or other labeled item directly into the container. Some people do ALL of these things, just to be sure. You may then seal the top to the bottom with strong tape.

winter sowing

Step Four – Place Outside

Put your containers outside somewhere safe, perhaps on a table or along the edge of the deck. Keep in mind that you want them to receive snow and rain as part of the process.

winter sowing

As spring approaches, you will see condensation forming, which is exactly what you want. The ventilation will allow air and water to circulate in your little greenhouses. Watch to ensure they do not dry out as the sun gets stronger. Use a gentle sprayer to add water through the vent.

winter sowing

Step Five – Monitor

Watch for your seeds to sprout. As the weather gets warmer, be aware of them overheating. Move them into a shadier area if necessary. If your seedlings are threatened by a cold snap, cover them with an old blanket, or move them into an unheated garage, or even the trunk of your car. Do NOT move them into your house.

As Trudi Davidoff says,
“ … the warmth fosters fast top growth which may not be as cold hardy as the seedlings that sprouted outside in early spring weather. If you must protect your seedlings, give them tough love, no coddling. Sometimes a few seedlings will falter and die, but those that survive grow on to be hardy plants.”

winter sowing

Step Six – Plant

Ideally, transplanting should be done while the seedlings are small. If there are only a few seedlings, gently pull them apart to plant individually. If there are many seedlings, gently pull apart hunks of seedlings and roots. Plant these hunks into a nicely prepared bed and let nature thin out the weaker seedlings. Make sure everyone is watered in well and then give a light feeding.

You should expect that your winter-sown seedlings will be more robust and tolerant of weather conditions than nursery stock. As with any new plants, monitor them daily and keep them moist until established. Give them a regular boost with a quality fertilizer and feel great about the money you saved on flats and potted plants.

This is my first year trying Winter Sowing. I’ve read everything I can find on the subject and gleaned much through the stories and experiences that others have shared. I am both nervous and excited!

Have you tried winter sowing? What plants did you try? Would you do it again? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Until next time ….

Household Toxins Might be Making you Sick

household toxins

Common household toxins may be making you sick.  In some cases you don’t even know you are sick. Toxins are present in your home in the form of cleaning products, paints, furniture, synthetic building materials such as particle board and insulation, carpets, and even your printer and photocopier! Learn about the common culprits and just what they can do to your health.

VOCs are Household Toxins

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful gases released by all of the common household items listed above.  These gases cause lethargy, skin rashes, headaches, drowsiness, itchy eyes, asthma-like symptoms, and even cancer.

Be aware of what you are bringing into your home!  I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was cleaning my house.  Out of my usual brand of toilet cleaner, I grabbed a bottle of Javex sitting around the house from my pre-toxin awareness days.   I used it (sparingly) to clean the toilets in my home…

Symptoms of Household Toxins

The next day I woke up with what I thought was the start of a cold.  My chest felt heavy and I could not seem to draw a full breath into my lungs.  I also had a vague headache, and a “tickle” in my throat, but no other cold like symptoms developed.  Later on that day, I developed a shallow, dry cough which felt like my lungs were trying to clear whatever was irritating them. 

These symptoms lasted for four days.  Coincidence?   I don’t think so; this is how my lungs felt most of the time before I switched to non-toxic products. The products I now use are all made with tea tree oil, an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, natural ingredient.  My respirologist agrees, as my asthma-like symptoms have disappeared since switching to these non-toxic products.

Houseplants Remove Household Toxins

You can also make your home healthier by adding house plants to your decor.  Not only do plants look nice, but they can also help keep your family healthy.  Carbon dioxide and the VOCs described above, as well as other harmful gases such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene are absorbed through the roots as well as through pores in the leaves of plants.   In exchange, beneficial and healthy products like oxygen and moisture are released into the air for us to breathe.

Choose plants such as spider plants, dracaena, English ivy, mother-in-law tongues, bamboo palms, and other tropical plants. These choices are all easy to grow and readily available.  Tropical plants are suitable for indoors in homes and offices because they are used to growing and processing gases in reduced light under the canopies of jungles and rain forests.  Water your plants thoroughly with warm water and let the soil dry out between watering; too much water is the easiest way to kill your house plants.

Fifteen medium to large plants (greater than six-inch pots) in an average-sized 2000 square foot home can greatly improve the air quality in your home. So, get growing!

In Conclusion

Get rid of the common household toxins making your family sick by removing offending chemical compounds and adding houseplants. Check out a recent post on what I’ve learned about houseplant care. My house is fast becoming a jungle, but I love it.

A green landscape outside can improve the air quality in your yard and even your neighbourhood as well. Planting lots of shrubs, trees, perennials and annuals can turn your yards into a healthy environment for you as well as the birds and other wildlife.

Fall Planting for Spring Bulbs

Now is the time to plant spring bulbs

Fall planting of bulbs anticipates a wonderful harbinger of spring. As long as the ground is not yet frozen, bulbs can be planted.

How to Deter Squirrels from Digging up Your Bulbs

I tend to wait until mid-November so the squirrels don’t raid my bulbs. As well as waiting until as late as possible to plant your bulbs, there are a few other ways to guarantee spring-blooming:

  • use bloodmeal: sprinkle a handful in the hole, over the bulbs. Be sure to wear gloves when using bloodmeal. Bonemeal is a fertilizer that will help them grow, but will not deter rodents.
  • cut squares of chicken wire and place a square in each hole. I plant my bulbs in groups of five, so a one foot square piece of wire is sufficient. It can be purchased in a role at most grocery, DIY stores.
  • banana peels over the bulbs in the hole also works. I have done this in the past with success, crisscrossing the strips of peel over the bulbs like spokes on a wheel.
  • plant alliums, members of the onion family, or daffodils as squirrels don’t like either of these.

I generally order my bulbs from Brecks, this year was no exception. Their prices are reasonable (especially if you buy in bulk as I do) and the variety of bulbs is amazing. I love looking through their catalogs picking and choosing colours, bloom time, height etc. These are the tulip and allium bulbs I chose this year:

How many weeks until spring?

photo credit