Cold Weather Good for Gardens

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 by 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 freeze, thaw cycles well. So, as long as the snow coverage is deep enough to insulate the plants, your gardens will survive cold spells. I have been known to shovel snow onto my gardens to keep my plants protected.

photo credit

Winter Goals

winter goals

Now that I am feeling better, I can get back to my list of winter jobs that I create every year in my gardening offseason. As it is also our cottage offseason, I have things to get done in preparation for spring there too.

Dividing Houseplants and Winter Sowing

My houseplants are all doing very well, in fact so well that I have started propagating babies on many of them. These have already been promised to my daughter-in-laws. I know experts say you should not divide houseplants during the winter but it’s the only time I have time.

Winter sowing of seeds was so successful last winter that I plan to repeat that process. That’s where all those gorgeous zinnias came from that I transplanted at our local hospice last spring. All it takes is soil, clear plastic containers, and seeds. As you can see below, I have lots of seeds, this is just a small pile. Pretty simple, really. These mini greenhouses thrive on my (part sun, part shade) back deck, under the snow, as they require a cold stratification step for reliable germination in the spring. I am trying both perennials and self-seeding annuals this year.

winter projects

Sewing, the Other Kind

I hope to get some cushions made for a teak sofa at the cottage. The bones are great on it, light and airy, something that is important up there. The problem is we are not far enough along in our indoor renovations there to decide on colours. I’m pretty sure of the colour palette I want to incorporate for the whole renovation project, but have to find appropriate colour chips to show hubby what I like. The sofa colour is an important step but involves finding the appropriate (weight and colour) fabric. Now that my cough and other symptoms have subsided I can venture out to the fabric and paint stores for inspiration.

Spring Cleaning

One of the best things about removing the Christmas decorations around the house is that the process involves a good (pre) spring cleaning. I can almost check this job off my list as I accomplished a bit each day during my (limited) energy spurts the past few weeks.

Updating Family Photos

I would like to update my family pictures too. For Christmas, my grandchildren gifted me with a photo shoot with Hilary Elizabeth photography, the girls that did such a wonderful job at our eldest son’s wedding five years ago. What a great idea; It is so difficult to get a good family picture with six grandchildren and seven adults!

winter goal

Website and Blog Updates

The updates on my website and blog are ongoing from November to March. This winter I have decided to combine the two, so I will be deleting (not renewing) my Gardens4u website. This blog was already connected to it with lots of information overlapping anyway. The website was primarily used to attract new clients. Last garden season I decided to take on a few new garden design projects as time permitted but no more maintenance. I ended up doing some fall cleanup though for a few long standing clients as the wonderful fall weather was extended into November.

As for this blog, I have already created a Gardens4u tab (within the menu at the top, check it out!) with lots of before and after pictures of gardens I have designed and planted over the past ten years. There are lots of pictures from my own gardens, based on the bloom time of the flowers.

I am also contemplating hiring an expert to clean up the blog so it rates better on Google searches. If you can refer me to someone I would appreciate the help. I have done as much as I can with my limited technological and SEO knowledge.

Another goal this winter is to find new sponsors interested in advertising on this blog. Currently, I have mostly plugs for family and friends on the sidebar. Be sure to check them out too please, there is an interesting variety of talent.

Read More Books

Other than garden books, I like to get caught up on other reading in the winter. These past few weeks, when I was feeling under the weather, this love for reading was quite handy. And thankfully, I had just visited our local library before I was struck down. I think I’ve gone through all the James Patterson books, never get tired of his (fictional thriller) writing style. There is a reason he is the world’s best selling author! If you have not (literally) made his acquaintance yet, you should!

Garden Style: What’s Yours?

garden style

If you have seen my own gardens (my backyard is pictured above) or happen to be a client of my gardening business, you know that I love the “wild, informal, blended together, some might say jungle” look. I am so happy this garden style is becoming more popular as gardeners are embracing native (plants indigenous to their area) plants and the less formal look.

Advantages of Greater Plant Density

This post was inspired by a Facebook article I read titled “Most Garden Problems can be Solved with More Plants.” This is an excerpt:

Many issues in a landscape bed can be addressed by increasing the number of plants in that bed. I see it time and again — a native plant garden filled with wood mulch and plants spaced far apart, like in a bed that mow and blow landscapers install. Or like sculptures in a museum.
I think we treat our plants with too much reverence. We need to let them get tangled up, struggle, and compete. And even fade away. This is how nature works, and we do the plants — and our goals of creating a sustainable ecosystem — a disservice when we space plants far apart and without layers. 

Monarch Gardens

Listed in the article are several advantages of this garden style including the following:

  • less room for weeds
  • less damage from animals thinking your garden is a salad bar
  • slower water evaporation
  • decreased soil erosion

What is Plant Layering?

This technique refers to the practice of locating taller plants in the center of a bed with shorter ones in front and shorter yet along the edges. If your bed is huge, it can be broken up with pathways creating multiple smaller sections with their own layers. It is also advised to strategically place plants based on their bloom time, colour, and texture so you have variety all season. That’s where an expert comes in handy.

This garden is an example of using sections with taller shrubs and plantings in the center of each. The stepping stones permit the client’s grandchildren (as well as mine and other kids in the neighbourhood) to hop through the garden without damaging any plants. They also make weeding easier.

This picture was snapped just after planting, (2020) so many specimens are not yet mature. The more mature shrubs were already in the garden, some were moved, others left in place and worked around. There are multiple varieties of edging plants closest to the stepping stones and the outer perimeter with layers of depth moving into the middle of each section. By this coming summer (2023) plants should be close to maturity, so less mulch and more plant will be visible, and the strategic layering more pronounced.

garden style

Have I convinced you yet? Are you too ready to embrace the trend? Now (winter) is the time to plan and dream!

November Weather

So far, our November weather has been incredibly beautiful. At least it has been here in eastern Ontario. We are enjoying this fall bonus as it’s not going to last for much longer I hear.

Garden Blooms Still Glorious

With the warmer-than-usual October and November weather, our perennial garden blooms are still hanging in there. A few light touches of frost have killed off some annuals but even many of them still look lovely. These are from the butterfly garden at our local hospice. I have been hesitant to replace the annuals in my containers for fall and winter decor because the annuals still look great.

Yard Work

Home and cottage yard work has actually been quite pleasant with this nice November weather. In fact so pleasant that fall is fast becoming our favourite cottage season. Warm days and evenings with an absence of bugs have been a bonus.

Even though we are missing a few trees, the deciduous (with leaves that fall) ones make for lots of leaves. It takes days to rake and mulch them, then add them to gardens. Every bit we get done this fall means less to rake in the spring!

I’ve also been granted a few extra days to clean up gardens for clients in my gardening business.

Lakeside Sunsets

The extended fall weather means we have been able to enjoy more lakeside sunsets than usual too. I cannot remember enjoying weather like this in November. When the weather is warm, my arthritic bones and joints are keen to stay at the cottage as long as possible.

Even the turkeys have been enjoying the weather (in the trees, third picture) Hopefully, your fall weather has been nice enough too. What bonuses have you experienced with this November weather?

Seeds: Harvesting and Sowing Techniques

seeds

It’s that time of year! Having learned a lot over the past few years about harvesting and sowing seeds, this post shares the techniques I have been most successful with. The wildflower (AKA butterfly) garden created at our local hospice relied heavily (over 90 percent) on seeds. Some were purchased, many donated, and others collected or harvested by myself from my own and clients’ gardens.

Harvesting Seeds Requires Patience

The most important requirement for optimal seed harvesting success is patience, something I don’t have loads of. The seed heads have to be dried out, some actually fluffy (like dandelions) to be effective. Although I am loving this amazingly warm fall weather, seed heads are late to reach this stage this year due to the lack of miserable (cold, frosty) weather.

If you are impatient and do collect your seed heads before the seeds come away easily from the calyxes (the part of the flower head that holds the seeds together), dry them out in a warm spot, in a single layer.

Then, when they reach that fall apart stage, store them in a paper bag. Don’t use plastic bags as they hold moisture in causing your seed heads to get moldy. The faster the seeds dry out the better.

Brown Paper Bags

I find the best (and most cost-effective) way to collect seeds is to use brown paper bags. I use the kind we used to pack our lunches in, before lunch boxes were a thing. You can still buy them in grocery stores, so someone must still use them for lunches. You could also use the brown bags given out at LCBOs, they would work just as well. For those of you not living in Ontario, they are our government-run liquor stores.

Simply hold the bag under the seed head and cut the stem just below the seed head so it falls into the bag. I use a separate (labelled) bag for each type of seed head but that’s because I collect tons of seeds. If you are collecting fewer seeds of a greater variety for a blended, random wildflower garden, store them all in the same bag.

I add a strip of heavy-duty tape (book binding tape works well) to the bottom of each bag so the seeds don’t escape through the bottom of the bags.

Seed Sowing Techniques

I have discussed my sowing successes and failures in previous posts. The easiest method (that I tried) was the outdoor winter trick using clear plastic clamshell (from grocery stores) containers. If you try this, be sure to leave your containers in a partly sunny (not full sun or full shade) location outdoors for best results.

The plastic cup method in late spring also worked well, especially to fill in bare spots. It too was easy and inexpensive.

Both the clear plastic clamshell containers (winter) and cups (spring) act like mini-greenhouses, holding the moisture in and collecting the warmth of the sun. For obvious reasons, the plastic used must be clear (not frosted, no stickers/writing etc).

Before you pick one of the methods mentioned over the other, research whether or not your seeds require a cold stratification stage to ensure success. Most perennial seeds have a tough exterior shell requiring this cold step, while most annuals do not. The clamshell method includes this stage while the cup method does not.

Unfortunately, I have still not had much luck or success with sowing seeds indoors for spring transplanting. That technique seems to need lots of patience too. Perhaps that’s my problem. I manage to get the seedlings to a few inches tall then they fizzle out.

Conclusions

I’d love to hear from anyone that has experimented with seed harvesting and sowing, both failures and successes. It is definitely a learning curve!

Fall Leaves: Rake, Blow or Mulch?

fall leaves

Fall leaves certainly are beautiful in this neck of the woods. At least they are while they are still on the trees. Not so much when they cover every inch of your lawn! If they don’t get removed from the lawn, they will smother the grass making it weaker in the spring.

So, should you rake them, blow them or mulch them?

When all the pretty leaves fall from the trees this fall, instead of bagging them to put out on garbage day, use them in your garden as free mulch.  Most leaves, with the exception of oak leaves, break down easily over the winter.  They add nutrients and humus to the soil in your gardens.

In the garden, worms from the soil will draw the decomposing leaves into the soil, improving the condition of your soil, which in turn benefits your plants.  Next spring you can bury the portions of leaves that have not decomposed in the garden, and marvel at how rich your soil is.

The leaves in the garden will also protect your perennials and shrubs, like a warm blanket, from the freezing and thawing cycles that do the most damage to garden plants.  Roses especially benefit from a blanket of leaves around their crowns at the soil level.

If they are small leaves, simply rake or blow them into your garden around your perennials and shrubs, taking care not to bury the smaller plants.  If the leaves are large, run them over with your lawn mower to shred them before adding them to your garden.  Oak leaves especially should be shredded, as they are slow to decompose.  You may have to spray the leaves with your hose once they are in the garden to keep them from blowing back onto your lawn.

Raking Fall Leaves

Raking is the old-fashioned way to rid your lawn of leaves. Some (my husband included) still swear by this method. We use plastic bags saved from new mattresses years ago to haul the raked leaves to a designated leaf (AKA compost) pile. This procedure works well if you have an area to store the leaves. (which we do at the cottage) I don’t mind raking but when we are talking about a huge property, a blower or mulcher is called for in my humble opinion.

The Advantages of Mulch

Mulched leaves are great for your garden.  They are an inexpensive way to amend your soil and protect tender perennials and shrubs from the wrath of Mother Nature over the winter months.  If your soil is really poor, add a layer of composted manure over top the mulched leaves.  The soil in my Kanata (Ottawa suburb) gardens was predominantly clay, so this fall treatment has really helped over the years.  Your reward will be visible next spring and summer when your gardens look gorgeous.

If you don’t have a blower or mulcher, you can run the leaves over several times with your lawn mower, then rake the crumbled pieces onto your gardens or into a compost bin.

Leaf Blowers with or without Mulcher Options

These contraptions also create great mulch for gardens and/or compost bins or piles. I first purchased a leaf blower several years ago, early on in my career of looking after peoples’ gardens and yards. I loved it so much I was collecting leaf-filled yard waste bags from my neighbours’ curbs to mulch. I love mulched leaves in my gardens. So much so that one of my neighbours gives me his mulch too.

As with any brand of leaf mulchers, you must wait until the leaves are dry before you attempt to vacuum and mulch them.  Wet leaves will just clog up the motor, resulting in a loud whining noise.  Wet or damp leaves also make for larger pieces of mulched leaves instead of the incredibly fine mulch. With low overnight temperatures and lots of rain keeping the leaves wet, perfectly mulched leaves were no easy feat these past few weeks.  I found the easiest way around this dilemma was to blow leaves into a single layer in a sunny spot to dry before mulching them.

Another thing to avoid while vacuuming and mulching is twigs or sticks.  They too will clog the motor, not to mention damage it.

Precautions

Most models are quite noisy so earplugs are recommended. The first time I used one without ear protection I wound up with a massive headache.

Although the models I’ve used have all been electric, there are battery-operated or gas-powered, cordless options available. If you are using a long extension cord or several combined (for large properties) be sure your extension cord is a heavy-duty one. According to Copper.org:

An improperly sized extension cord can cause a tool or appliance motor to burn out if allowed to run for too long. It can also cause a dangerous situation if it overheats.

Blower and Mulcher Brands

Toro Ultra Plus

I liked the Toro but found switching the blower to the mulcher tedious. You had to remove one attachment and trade it for the other. This switching back and forth was not only time-consuming but hard on my arthritic wrists.

The bag that held the mulched leaves had a zipper on the bottom to contain the leaves. This zipper was handy, but if you forgot to close it before you started the motor for the next batch, the leaves would fly all over. I did that a few times.

When I graduated to a fancier blower and mulcher, I donated my Toro to the hospice I volunteer at.

fall leaves
Toro Ultra Plus

Worx Leaf Blower and Mulcher

My next garden toy was made by Worx. I prefer it because you can switch from mulching to blowing leaves with a simple turn of a dial. Very convenient and much easier on my wrists. It too has a zippered mulch bag, so the “don’t forget the zipper” rule applies here too.

fall leaves

Black and Decker

The most recent blower and mulcher I’ve used is a black and decker model. It was given to me by the son of a client after she passed away. I took it to the cottage as I had one at home.

This model is quite impressive although it is now an older model. It seems more powerful than the others in both blower and mulcher mode. This is awesome while you are using it but it means the unit is heavier. I could feel the workout in my forearm muscles the next day. And the arthritic wrists well before that.

You do have to switch between the options by removing and installing the motor component but the process is so simple even I can do it without complaining. There is no zipper on the mulch bag. Instead, you insert the bag onto the mulcher head with a plastic latch. In theory, this works well but the latch seems flimsy, so after several batches of mulch it was getting loose. I’ve noticed the new models don’t have this latch.

Another downside to this model is that it has no shoulder strap on the mulch bag to distribute the weight of the tool as well as the bag of mulch. The other two models had a strap, perhaps that is why my forearm muscles and wrists felt the workout with this one.

fall leaves
Black and Decker

Conclusions

It doesn’t matter which method you use to remove the fall leaves from your lawn. Just be sure to do so, your lawn will thank you in the spring with a quick recovery from winter stress. So will your gardens and compost pile if you add the mulched leaves to them.

fall leaves
mulched leaves

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
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