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?

Happy Birthday Dad!

happy birthday Dad

Today, September 19th, would have been my Dad’s 94th birthday.  Although he left us sixteen years ago already, I think of him in some context daily. Happy Birthday Dad!

These pictures were taken on Dad’s surprise (sort of) 75th birthday where he was celebrated by his family and friends.

A Broken Heart Took Him Too Early

After my mom died in 1994 at the age of 65, dad’s love of life and will to live seemed to diminish.  He was only 66 at the time, and the quality of his life deteriorated quickly after her death.  He used his advancing age as an excuse to prevent him from enjoying his golden years, but we all knew it was the void in his heart that was the culprit.

Happy birthday Dad, we are all thinking of you today and hope you are celebrating with Mom and others that left us too soon.

happy birthday Dad
my parents

Memories That Make me Smile

A few years ago I woke up to frost on the rooftops and lawns on this date, an early appearance even here in Ottawa, but somehow appropriate for Dad’s birthday.  As I looked out the window at the whiteness, I could hear his voice saying “HAH, frost in September!”

The really cool thing is that many of his unique expressions and habits live on in my children and grandchildren. His premature white hair lives on in moi. As my three brothers age, I see many of Dad’s personality traits in them too. Here are just a few memories and the things that evoke them:

  • his affectionate phrase “dum dum” when someone did something silly, often used on his children and grandchildren.  I must admit to using it in my own household too, softened with a giggle, just like he used to.
  • his use of the expression “HAH” as used above, meaning “who would have thunk it?” or “I don’t think so” (when he didn’t want to do something) or when he found something funny or ridiculous.
  • his ride-on lawnmower that his six children purchased for him on his 75th birthday.  It currently resides at my cottage where the lawns are big enough to need a ride-on mower.
happy birthday Dad

  • when I am out “puttering” in a garden as he used to love to do.  In his latter days he would have a list of things for me to do in his garden each visit.  As a youngster, I remember my mom picking out the plants, but Dad was always the one planting and looking after them.  I know he would be proud and not the least bit surprised about my new profession, Gardens4U.
  • when one of my sons (or me) yell at the TV during a hockey game.
  • one of his sweaters that I found in his closet when cleaning out his house, barely (if at all) used, that I now use as garden apparel on cool days.
  • his use of an accelerant to start the campfire at the cottage, especially after a week of rain when everything is damp.  My husband calls it “grandpa’s firestarter.”
  • wandering around my gardens in sandals (Dad often wore his slippers to do this, much to my Mom’s dismay)  with a cup of tea in hand, stopping here and there to pull a weed or two, or to “stop and smell the roses.”
  • My youngest grandson was named after you, although he is still too young to realize it. He will though, I will make sure he does.
  • his goofy grin, that fortunately (for me) lives on in my middle son and also my oldest grandson.

The list goes on and on….

Happy Birthday Dad, I miss you! Oh, how I wish you were still here to visit with my sons and my contribution to the great-grandchildren in your family tree.

Derecho Aftermath

Derecho

Ten days later, residents of Ontario and Quebec are still dealing with the aftermath of the derecho that hit here recently. Originally no one knew what to call it; however experts soon weighed in to label it a derecho. Google says that’s pronounced dr·ay·chow.

What is a Derecho?

The dictionary describes the phenomena as follows:

a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.

Oxford Dictionary

My brother, currently living the good life in Mexico, pointed out that derecho means “straightforward” in Spanish. Both descriptions make sense as the distinct path spread across Ontario and Quebec from the Toronto region heading northeast, wreaking havoc on its way. Winds were clocked at up to 132 km (82 miles) per hour.

I am still shaking my head in awe at the fact that plastic chairs on our cottage deck were untouched while three trees crashed to the ground all around the same deck. Unbelievable! Big Bird didn’t even bat an eyelash, while we were hiding out in the basement in shock.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Downed hydro wires, poles, and transmission towers as well as magnificent, mature trees ripped out by their roots or split in two (or more) are still being repaired and cleaned up. We have now reached the first day of June on the calendar. Many people just regained their electricity within the past few days while others, including our cottage, are still out. Over 900,000 homes were without power at some point. We have been keeping an eye on the (very convenient) Hydro One Storm Centre site for updates in the rural areas of Ontario so we know when to head back to the cottage to begin the massive cleanup.

One of the advantages of our (Ottawa) suburb of Kanata is that most hydro wires are buried underground. So, while we lost lots of trees, the streets and neighbourhoods within the heart of Ottawa were strewn with hydro wires, poles (last count is 200), and transmission towers.

Insurance Coverage

The Insurance Bureau of Canada advises those policyholders affected to be sure to:

document storm damage to their homes, belongings and automobiles using video and pictures. It has also prescribed that policyholders should keep the receipts if they are having a crew help with the cleanup or remediation of their properties.

IBC

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Ten victims of the storm paid the ultimate price with their lives when they were unable to get out of the way of falling trees. Many of us were warned to take cover from severe thunderstorms just before the derecho hit. That was helpful if you were close to your cell phone or TV and close enough to a shelter from the storm.

Sadly, not everyone was. My heart aches for the victims as well as their families and friends.

Our cleanup pales in comparison. For that fact I am grateful!

Storm Hits Ontario, Hard but Selectively

storm

Parts of Ontario were hit hard by a violent storm yesterday. Depending on where you live or happened to be at the time, you may or may not have experienced incredible damage. Most of the damage was to trees, some completely uprooted while others literally split in half. I was one of the (un)lucky ones to have the storm visit both of my properties. The first map shows you the extensive power outages in the Ottawa area. The second one shows you those affected in Ontario:

Cottage Property Damage

We were working outdoors at our cottage when the storm hit. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the tornado that destroyed neighbourhoods in Ontario back in September 2018, came close to our cottage property too. I thought I had posted about that story, but apparently not. I’m sure many of you heard the details though and have stories of your own. In short, two sons and a friend just finished installing a new roof on our cottage and were heading home when one son called to tell us of all the trees down and power outages on their way home to Ottawa. We had no damage to our property.

Yesterday’s (? tornado, the verdict is still out) storm hit closer this time. Hubby and I were working on outdoor renovations when the skies got dark and the wind picked up. That was the only warning we had. Others have said they heard warnings on TV and on their phones. As mentioned, we were outside with neither technological device handy. Just like last time.

This picture was taken by my daughter-in-law who was visiting her sister in Carleton Place. They were hit there about 20 minutes after we were hit in Ompah. The storm was cutting a swath from southwest to northeast Ontario, at least according to my contacts. From the map above it appears to have hit further north and west as well.

We quickly stashed our tools in the garage and headed indoors to watch the approaching storm from (relative) safety. I watched in disbelief as the first tree split and crashed thirty feet in front of me, then a second snapped like a twig landing on our paddle boat that was leaning against the tree. That’s when we ran for cover in our basement. These fallen trees were tall, healthy, mature evergreens (pine), part of the skyline I love so much on our property. They now lie across our lawn, between our cottage and the lake…this could take weeks to clean up….so much for renovations……again.

Many of our neighbours were not so lucky. Right next door, three massive evergreens were uprooted, two falling on their roof and one hitting the (old, unused) antennae on our roof. If not for the antennae it would have hit our roof. The good news is since these trees were uprooted, they fell slowly, so there is no damage to the roof.

Many of our other trees remain intact and unharmed, thankfully. Walking around after the storm subsided we could see an incredible number of downed trees and wind-blown furniture. What I found amazing was the sporadicness (?word) of the storm. We have a row of plastic, kid-sized lawn chairs on our deck, a few feet from the downed trees. The deck was littered with leaves but the chairs were unscathed, not even moved an inch!

Kanata (Ottawa) area Damage

Shortly after the message from my DIL in Carleton Place, I received pictures and messages from a neighbour in Kanata. I could follow the sporadic yet destructive path of the storm from my contacts. It was eery how some trees were demolished while others missed completely. Some areas (just) received heavy winds with patio furniture rearranged, but undamaged.

The trees on our street (Katimavik area of Kanata) were hit hard, at least those on the south side of the street. We live on the (north) lucky side, let with just a few small branches littering our lawn.

Upon return home, we walked around our neighbourhood gawking at all the damage. This is a video posted today.

Ontario Hydro and Hydro One

Both hydro companies are working overtime this weekend, trying to restore downed power lines and outages across the region. Reports of downed lines, towers and power outages are rampant on social media and news stations. These pictures are from Ontario Hydro:

Tree Removal

Tree removal services are also in great demand this weekend. Davey tree services were on our street shortly after the storm, working well after dark, then back again this morning.

Update

As time goes on, we have several updates. Environment Canada now calling the storm a derecho! Huh, a new word in my vocabulary. Here’s another one… atterradora is Spanish for scary! I’ve never heard of a derecho, but I’ve survived one! My Mexico-residing brother tells me derecho is Spanish for “straight-ahead” ………..interesting!

I hope you were one of the lucky ones that could watch the storm on the news, from a safe distance.

Winter Activities in Ottawa

winter activities

Although Ottawa can be miserably cold in the winter months, there are lots of winter activities to entice you out of hibernation during these months. Many of these fun winter activities depend on lots of snow and ice. Although I complain about the cold, I do appreciate the fact that it is necessary to create and maintain the conditions of the winter wonderland we live in here.

Skating on the Rideau Canal a Winter Favourite

Ottawa is home to the longest skating rink in the world. First created in 1970, the rink was the brainstorm of the National Capital Committee (NCC) chairman at the time. Dedicated NCC employees continue to maintain it annually.

Douglas Fullerton, NCC chair in 1970
Douglas Fullerton, NCC chair in 1970

The unique skating rink winds through the heart of the city, stretching for 7.8 kilometers or 4.5 miles of the Rideau Canal system. Opening day of the canal for skating has varied over the years from mid December to early February. This year, with the extended cold weather, the entire length of the canal skateway opened at once mid January. This is quite unusual as generally smaller stretches open as conditions change with the weather.

Ice Fishing on Ottawa River

This weekend we tried ice fishing for the first time. My eldest, almost five-year-old grandson has been bugging his parents to go, so his father (my middle son) purchased some equipment, and off they went. He researched a local ice fishing spot; Shirley’s Bay on the Ottawa River was the place to be. Grandma and Grandpa went as spectators to get our daily dose of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. What a gorgeous spot! Clear, azure blue skies and snow covered, wind-blown, frozen solid water for miles. Not that I’ve been to the moon, but trudging across the (relatively) flat surface that stretched for miles felt like walking on the moon. The horizon, dotted with buildings in the distance, as well as the sporadic huts and vehicles, brought us down to Earth.

The aforementioned NCC maintains numerous parks and related facilities throughout the Ottawa area. Cross country ski, snowmobile, snowshoe and hiking trails are plentiful and well groomed. Ski hills sporting fresh, powdered snow are just a short drive away within surrounding mountain ranges.

Without the cold weather and lots of snow, these wonderful winter activities would not be possible.

If you love winter sports, Ottawa is the place to be. Just dress warm!

Cold Weather, can one be Allergic to it?

cold weather

This is an old post that I was reminded of this morning with the frigid weather forecast. The walls of our house were actually creaking (more like loud bangs) in protest the night before, warning us that the cold is coming. The post is still relevant, except for the hockey arena part. I miss the hockey games, but not the cold bleachers we had to park our butts on….

Allergy to Cold Weather

I am seriously starting to wonder if I am allergic to the cold weather we (too) often experience here in Ottawa, Canada.  As soon as I go outside my nose starts to drip. Seriously. December, January, and February are the worst, but I don’t mind saying I get tired of it. Fast. Usually, as soon as Christmas is over.

My body is not coping well with the cold, so it makes it difficult to want to go outside for anything that is not absolutely necessary. The cold is wreaking havoc with a perennial New Year’s resolution to get more exercise since walking is usually my main form of exercise between November and March when my gardens are covered in snow. To remedy this, I have taken up doing planks which are great for my muscles, especially the core muscles, but don’t contribute to the cardiovascular exercise I need. 

Conditions Aggravated by Cold Weather

I know cold can aggravate conditions like Raynaud’s Phenomenon where blood flow is restricted to the body’s extremities when they get cold.  Cold can also aggravate arthritis causing joint pain

My problem is neither of these conditions.  My whole body seems to ache when I get cold.  If my feet get cold, the aching pain starts in my feet and ankles, but then moves up my legs to my hips too.  The pain actually feels like my bones are aching.  Sitting in a cold car or cold hockey arena watching my son play can easily set the aching off.  When this happens I find heat and Advil are the only remedies. 

Heating Pads to Treat Symptoms

I purchased a click heat pad recently; it works great…

Click Heat, a cold weather buster
Click Heat

Simply press the small metal disc that is floating inside the heating pad to activate it.  As soon as the disc is pressed, the pad heats up and gets firm.  It stays warm for hours, so you can move it around to heat all of your achy body parts.  When it cools off, all you have to do is place the pad in boiling water to return it to its liquid state. 

 Click Heat comes in many shapes, colors, and sizes. If you think you may be allergic to cold weather too, pick up your heat pad, they do help.

Or head south to enjoy some warmer temperatures. I hear Mexico is nice this time of year!

photo credit: Ruvim Miksanskiy, pexels.com

Plants Blooming in Spring

which plants bloom in spring

Spring is my favourite season. I love the fact that the plants in gardens, roadsides, and parks start strutting their stuff, with changes every day. My own gardens don’t disappoint me every spring. In fact, I am known to just wander/putter around enjoying the new growth on a daily basis. If you too love spring blossoms, here are a few plants blooming in spring to consider for your yard and gardens…

Magnolias

My spring starts off with the star magnolia in my front yard. From afar, the blossoms look like pom poms, brightening up my yard even before the leaves emerge. Up close they are even more spectacular:

plants blooming in spring
plants blooming in spring

Another magnolia blooms a bit later in my backyard. This beauty is the Ann variety, with blossoms that change in shape as they progress…

Forsythia Plants Blooming in Spring

After my white star magnolia blooms and drops its flowers, forsythia bushes brighten the neighbourhood with their striking yellow blossoms. My neighbour’s is especially pleasing to me as I enjoy this view from my front windows:

plants blooming in spring

I have a forsythia shrub in my backyard too, but it is still small and not as effectively placed as the beauty above.

Plum Trees

Next to bloom in my gardens are my plum trees, usually. This year their blossoms were barely there thanks to the birds. This is what they are supposed to look like:

plants blooming in spring

Plum trees are very fragrant when blooming too, another sign of spring. Unfortunately, my husband suffers from seasonal allergies, so he does not find them as appealing as I do.

Apple and Crab Apple Trees

Next up to bloom are my McIntosh apple trees. This year they are particularly gorgeous…

…perhaps because the plum trees were not. The apple trees are loaded with bees too; I’m doing my part to keep them thriving!

Around the same time as the apple trees in my backyard, the crab apple tree in my front yard and in yards all across this city is in full bloom, ranging from the palest of pink to light pink to my own darker almost-wine-colored version. Whatever the variety, they are all beautifully spring-like.

Lilac Trees and Bushes

While most lilac trees and bushes are in bloom by now, with their distinct and fragrant blossoms, mine does not bloom until early June. After the plum and apple trees have shown off. These lilacs are still spring bloomers by calendar standards, but not quite a harbinger of spring in my yard.

plants blooming in spring

Shrub Roses

Shrub roses (usually) bloom earlier and for longer than rose bushes, but of course, there are exceptions. My favourite shrub rose, with pale yellow five-lobed petals and lemony yellow centers, is just starting to bloom now while my crab apple tree is still going strong.

spring blooming plants

A few other varieties of pink shrub roses throughout my gardens will wait a few weeks before they decide to bloom.

Roses of the climbing or bushes type wait for the hotter days (and nights) of summer to perform.

Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs are planted in the fall to provide early spring colour in your gardens. Early tulips and daffodils are currently blooming, with allium still working on their strappy leaves and tall stems. The alliums will be blooming soon too, with the later variety of tulips. With summer still a month away, these later tulips and allium are still considered spring-blooming bulbs.

Rhododendrons

Another spring-blooming shrub is the rhododendron, fast becoming one of my favourite for all of my gardens including my own. They too range in colour, including white, pale pink, hot pink, red, and a purply pink.

I have a story that I tell anyone who will listen of how I was introduced to rhododendrons. Currently, I choose them for most of my clients’ part-sun gardens, especially east and northeast-facing ones, their preferred exposure. I have two in my own backyard too, ready to burst out in blossoms any time now…

Other Perennial Plants Blooming in Spring

A few perennials bloom in spring too. A few examples in my gardens are garden sage with pale purple flowers and Jack Frost brunnera which sports green and white heart-shaped leaves and tiny blue flowers:

Groundcovers

There are also several groundcovers that bloom in spring. In my gardens that includes sweet woodruff with delicate leaves and tiny white flowers, as well as lamium with variegated leaves and pearl pink blossoms:

Fiddlehead Ferns

These ferns don’t flower as such, but their fronds are fascinating to watch unfurl. Apparently, fiddleheads are delicious to cook and eat, although I have not tried them. This bed is full of ferns, turning into a lush, green focal point in summer:

Conclusions

There are lots of plants to choose from for spring colour in your gardens. Plant bulbs in the fall or perennials and shrubs anytime the ground is warm enough to dig in.

Late Winter, Early Spring Garden Chores

Late Winter, Early Spring Garden Chores

photo credit

Spring is here according to our calendars and the nice weather, although I’ve heard rumours the colder stuff will return for a bit soon. There are many garden or yard chores that should be done this time of year (late winter, early spring) when plants are dormant and not put off until the last frost date.

Late winter is considered to be approximately 6 weeks before the beginning of the spring thaw, so will depend on where you live. If you are not sure, count backwards from your area’s last frost date. To me (in zone 4 or 5) this means early April is (usually) late winter or early spring. I can always hope earlier.

Dead, Broken, Diseased, or Crossing Branches

Pruning is done for several reasons, even cosmetic ones. It is much easier to see the “bone structure” of your trees before they leaf out, so pruning shade trees like oak and maples now, while they are still dormant, is perfect timing.

Dead, broken, diseased or crossing/rubbing branches can be cut back at any time during the year. This applies to trees and shrubs. Cut right to the next branch, without leaving a stub. In the case of crossing or rubbing branches, decide which of the crossing branches lends best to the overall shape of the tree or shrub and remove the other. Keep in mind branches should grow upwards and outwards for optimal shape. Heavy snowfalls and winter winds can snap even the healthiest of branches. These broken branches should be removed for aesthetic purposes as well as for the continued health of the tree or shrub.

Although it may be difficult to determine if branches are dead or diseased yet, you can mark any suspicious ones for pruning later if this is the case. There is no wrong time to remove dead or diseased branches.

Shaping or Rejuvenation

Trees and shrubs always look nicer and tidier when shaped properly and not overgrown. Now is the time to do this, before new growth begins blurring the shape. This is especially true if you have a hard time cutting out perfectly healthy branches.

Pruning to enhance the shape will encourage and stimulate new growth in spring, which is when you want to encourage new growth. Pruning in fall, however, encourages growth when future cold weather could kill it off.

Overgrown shrubs and trees also benefit from drastic rejuvenation this time of year. Again, this is because the new growth that will be stimulated has a better chance of survival heading into spring rather than winter. I have had particular success drastically cutting back overgrown dappled willows and forsythia in my business. Even though forsythia is on the list of shrubs not to trim back early, this one was so overgrown my client just wanted it reduced in size, willing to sacrifice the blooms that year.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs to Prune now

If removing the lower branches of evergreens in your landscape is something you have been considering, now is the time to do so. This is a great way to drastically change your landscape and even improve the condition of your lawn that tries to grow under them.

Boxwoods, yews, holly, and other evergreen shrubs should be trimmed now, while dormant, and before new growth appears. Spruce and firs can be trimmed back now, but pruning pines should wait until June or July, after their first growth of what are called candles (new shoots at the tips). No earlier and no later. With pines, prune (delay growth) by cutting back the candles by half or remove dead, diseased, broken (or unwanted lower) branches to their main stem.

When to Prune?

The general rule of thumb is “if it blooms before June, prune after flowering. If it blooms after June, prune in spring.” That is because spring bloomers do so on older (last year’s) wood, while later flowers come from new (spring generated) wood.

Shrubs or Trees You Should NOT Prune Now

There are exceptions to the “most trees and shrubs” that benefit from spring pruning. These would be the ones that flower early and prefer pruning after they flower. They include:

  • Lilac
  • forsythia
  • bridle wreath spirea
  • mophead and oakleaf hydrangea
  • spring blooming clematis
  • rhododendrons
  • magnolia
  • wisteria
  • flowering almond
  • mock orange
  • weigela
  • nine barks
  • viburnum
  • witch hazel
  • spring flowering trees like plum, cherry, pear or dogwood

Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses and Perennials

If you left your ornamental grasses to sway in the winter winds, cut them back as soon as you can get to them, even if you have to wade through some lingering snow. Ornamental grasses should be cut back to four to six inches from the ground. It is much easier to do this now than to wait until new growth starts when you will have to pick the dead and crispy brown stalks from the tender new green shoots. I did mine a few weeks ago when I was itching to do something garden related.

This applies to other perennials you left over the winter. Bird lovers often leave seed heads and pods for their fine feathered friends to snack on. Some leave perennial stalks for their beauty when covered in snow or some variation in an otherwise bleak-looking winter garden. For whatever reason you have left yours intact, now is the time to cut (snap off) the brown and crispy stalks down to ground level.

Conclusions

For more ideas on what you can tackle in your garden this early, check out last year’s post at this time of year.

I’ve got my ornamental grasses cut back already and my lawn raked and seeded, with edging next on my agenda. Garden cleanups will have to wait a few more weeks.

Spring Gardening, How Early can you Start?

Itching to get gardening?

Photo Credit

Is spring looking promising in your neck of the woods? The warmer, sunny days here (Ottawa, zone 4/5) are making me itch to get into my gardens. Just when can you start spring gardening? Keep reading!

Use Caution when Spring Gardening!

It is still (at least it is here) early to get into the gardens to clean them out as many (most) hardy perennials and shrubs are still dormant. I know it is tempting when you start seeing green shoots, but hold off a bit. At least until the soil is not mushy.

The same cautionary rule applies to your lawn. If the snow is gone, wait until it is no longer squishy to walk on before raking, aerating, top dressing etc. I have been aerating in the fall for the past few years, so I am one step ahead.

You also should beware of overwintering bees and other beneficial insects. Gardening too early will disturb them before they are ready to come out of their cozy spots under the debris in your gardens.

Also be on the lookout for nests belonging to our fine feathered friends. Spring is nest and baby season for birds. If you discover one being used, avoid it for a while, until babies have left.

Rabbits have their babies in burrows or holes in the ground in a protected area. I came across one a few years ago when weeding a client’s garden. I was pulling weeds, when I spotted movement. The only way I could distinguish that they were baby rabbits was by their big feet. They had no hair yet. I replaced the weeds to protect them and moved onto another area of the garden.

What Spring Gardening can you do This Early?

Prune Trees

You can prune trees now, in fact this is the best time to do so, before the leaves come out. Just do not prune anything that blooms early, like lilacs or forsythia, as you will cut off the spring blossoms. And, if you have to trample all over your soggy lawn to get to the trees to prune them, perhaps you better wait for a few weeks.

Use a good quality, sharp set of loppers to prune branches. This is one of those times it pays to purchase quality. Choose a set you can handle, as some are quite heavy and create a workout for your arms.

If cut branches are diseased, wipe lopper blades with disinfectant (rubbing alcolol or hydrogen peroxide) between cuts.

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

You can and should cut back ornamental grasses that were left tall for the winter. By now they look weather-beaten. Cut them back to 4 to 6 inches from the ground. This will ensure the new green shoots (when they appear) wont have to compete with the dead brown ones.

Use a sharp pair of garden shears to make the job of cutting back the ornamental grasses much easier.

Plan and Dream

This is also a great time of year to plan. Make a list of things you want to do, even if they seem far-fetched. Sometimes dreams become reality!

Get Ahead of Crabgrass

If crabgrass is making an appearance in your lawn, treat it quick! As soon as the snow is gone crabgrass germinates, so the earlier you get to it the better. The snow is always gone from my south facing lawn first, so I have to get on the crabgrass now. You can recognize the sprouts as they are bright green in an otherwise drab lawn, and whorled like spokes on a wheel.

I have tried corn gluten, a preemergent, with varying results; the biggest problem is finding it in the stores so early. Scotts has a product out with good reviews for treating crabgrass. I have yet to try it.

This year I poured boiling water on the germinating sprouts, will let you know how that works.

Disinfect Tools and Pots with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an environmentally friendly alternative to bleach for cleaning and disinfecting in the garden.

If you use containers on your patio, deck or in your gardens, a warm sunny day is a great time to clean them out. Rinse them out and spray with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them. Let the pots sit in the hydrogen peroxide for at least ten minutes. Rinse again, then fill them with new soil so they are ready to fill with annuals when your last frost date arrives.

If you intend to fill any containers with perennials (I have some with ornamental grasses in them) you can do that now. Contact your local nurseries to see what they have available, my favourite here is Ritchie Feed & Seed.

Hydrogen peroxide is also an effective way to clean your tools. Spray or soak them, let them sit for a minimum of ten minutes, then rinse and dry.

Change up Your Outdoor Decor

Remove your winter arrangements (the evergreens that are not so green anymore) and replace them with harbingers of spring. Nothing says spring like pussy willows (I saw some at Farm Boy yesterday) or forsythia branches!

Start Some Seeds

Non-hardy seeds should be started at least six weeks before your last frost date, so this is a great time to get them going. I have learned a few tips over the winter regarding seedlings. Stay tuned for a future post on that subject, coming soon.

Conclusions for Spring Gardening

While it is still too early to really get started, there are a few things you can do to scratch that gardening itch.

Stay tuned for a more detailed post next week on the next steps in spring cleanups.

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 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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