Rainy days are good for a garden makeover, except for the mess that is inevitable. Today was such a day. Gardens4u got this project going early this morning before the rain started, but a drizzle started a few hours in, followed by a torrential downpour. Downpours to me mean lunch time, sitting in my van. Luckily, the rain subsided enough for me to continue until the job was complete. Well, except for the cleanup. Trying to sweep up my mess on the wet stone was not very effective. Nothing a hose down won’t fix though, a job I left for the homeowner when the rain stopped, long after I left.
These are the “before” pictures. The tree is a dead maple that was removed with the stump ground down before I started the makeover…
The burning bush (far right in second pic), lilac (center in first pic) and hydrangea (right corner in first pic) were salvaged, with the lilac getting a good pruning to whip it into shape. Everything else was removed. New shrubs and perennials were strategically planted and composted manure, my new favourite soil amendment, was added.
Here are the “after” pictures…
New plantings in this garden makeover include a pink magnolia (center of bed), a “Wine & Roses” weigela, several ornamental grasses, coneflowers, pink and purple sages and lavender, as well as several varieties of sedum and stonecrop to spill over the edges of this sunny garden. Once the new plants are established and well watered, I will add mulch to complete the job.
A second bed, between the sidewalk and the garage, is next up on my garden makeover list. Stay tuned for more before and after pictures.
Gardening in the rain is usually not a problem for me, in fact, I prefer a light drizzle to the intense heat we have been experiencing lately. A light rain keeps me cool and keeps the bugs away. It also cuts down on the amount of sunscreen I use. I do draw the line however at thunderstorms or torrential downpours.
Today started off great. A light rain was falling so I headed to one of my favourite gardens, located in the exclusive and very private setting of the Kanata Rockeries which were designed by one of the founding fathers of Kanata Bill Teron.
Then the dark(er) clouds rolled in bringing heavier rainfall and distant thunder…
That was my cue to head (run) to my van. When the downpour did not let up after five minutes and the thunder got closer, I headed home.
Many people do not mind rain in winter, as they look forward to spring. The problem is that the freeze and thaw cycles that go with the rain can be very destructive to plants in your gardens and containers as well as to the containers themselves.
I leave many container plants out on my back deck for a few reasons.
I love the look of plants blowing in the wind, especially the ornamental grasses.
Most of the containers are too large (heavy) to move inside
I have lots of them so would need a good chunk of time to move them.
For some reason time always gets away from me in the fall, so the snow arrives before I get around to moving the planters.
Whatever the reason you have left your planters outside for the winter, you can ensure they survive. When it rains a lot (as it has been here for the past few days) or a thaw melts snow on top of the pots, be sure to dump out the excess water before it freezes again. If you cannot dump out the excess water, bail it out. If you do not remove it, the excess water will freeze and your pots will crack. I guarantee this will happen if the containers do not have drainage holes in the bottom. If they do have drainage holes the pots may still crack when excessive rain turns to ice. This happens often here in Ottawa. One day it is raining and almost balmy, the next freezing cold.
Another trick to protect your garden plants over the winter is to ensure the plants stay snow-covered. Snow acts as an insulator, protecting plants from freeze and thaw cycles. I always shovel snow onto my roses growing beside my garage at my front door. This spot is sunny and warmer than the rest of my gardens because the brick wall retains the heat absorbed from the sun. This extra heat means the snow melts faster there, so I have to keep shoveling more on. If you do this, be sure to use snow that does not have salt (from your sidewalk or driveway) in it.
Is it raining where you live? If it is, make sure the rainwater does not collect on your planters if freezing temperatures are coming next. Freeze and thaw cycles are brutal on your plants in containers and gardens.
Today was a good day for applying a fall fertilizer to lawns. Why? Because it is still not too cold out, the grass is no longer growing but still green, and it was drizzling. At least it was as I finished the five lawns I had to fertilize. It’s raining harder now, which is also ideal because the rain helps water the fertilizer in. However, try to avoid fertilizing before a downpour, so your hard work is not washed away.
Today’s conditions were ideal for fall lawn fertilizing. Most experts will tell you that fall is the most important time to fertilize your lawns. Fertilizer applied at this time of the year is to strengthen (deepen) the roots, repair the lawn from summer drought/stresses, and prepare the lawn for winter, so it is important to get the right product. These are two I frequently use for fertilizing lawns in the fall…
Both are pet and kid friendly, safe to walk on immediately after application. They can be purchased at your local garden centers or DIY (Home Depot, Lowes etc) stores.
Apply the fertilizer as instructed on the bags. I use a push spreader and apply the fertilizer in two directions to avoid patchiness (as pictured below). For irregularly shaped lawns, block off the lawn (visually) in squares or rectangles to ensure even distribution of the fertilizer.
Remember, a great-looking lawn enhances the appearance of your garden. We all know I appreciate beautiful gardens. If you miss/forget any fertilizer applications, don’t miss the fall one!
The weather here in Ottawa has seen a few hot sunny days typical of our summer season, but thunderstorm season would be a much more accurate description. We have had more thunderstorms than usual this summer. The good news is they move in fast and are (usually) gone just as fast.
This picture was taken during one of them. You can see the rain pouring from the corner of the roof as I huddled under its overhang…
Once again I was chased from a client’s garden due to a thunderstorm today. I am averaging at least one thunderstorm per week this summer. There has been a lot more than that, but I am only counting the ones during the day when I am out and about visiting gardens.
I do not mind working in the rain, in fact, rain helps keep me cool and keeps the mosquitoes away from me. Wet gardens are also easier to remove weeds from. If it rains too hard, I seek shelter under an overhang until the rain subsides enough to work in…
Thunderstorms are different though, they make me nervous when I get caught outside in one. I am always worried that if I get struck by lightning, no one would notice or find me since I usually work in gardens where no one is home.
I do love to watch and listen to thunderstorms from the safety of my home though!
This rainy weather is good for ducks, as my mother used to say, or for overseeding your lawn. A “Weed and feed” product is also best applied in cool, wet weather, but not at the same time as the seed.
There are a few new products on the market to fix bare patches too. They are 3 in 1 or 4 in 1 mixtures of composed/amended soil, seed, and fertilizer. If your lawn is patchy with bare, grassy, and weedy spots, try one of the mixed products. I have had success with both of these. They do not contain a weed-killing ingredient, so you will have to treat the weeds six weeks later.
There are several “weed and feed” products out there. On established (not patchy) lawns I prefer to weed first, then feed. Otherwise, I tend to feed the weeds.
Another job for cool, wet, spring weather is fertilizing your trees. I have three evergreen trees I planted as tiny seedlings when each of my three sons was born. They were originally planted in my backyard. As they reached about four feet in height, I asked the owner of the building behind us if I could plant them in his yard. He agreed, so now I get the privacy, but still have space for a garden in my yard…
To fertilize my trees I use spikes that get pounded into the ground around the tree’s dripline. One spike contains enough fertilizer for each 2 inches of tree diameter. There are many varieties on the market. Be sure to choose the proper spike for the tree(s) you want to feed.
The weather here is going be cool and rainy for a few more days. With it too muddy for work in myclients’ gardens, I will get these chores done at home. If it is cool and rainy where you are, use this weather to get your overseeding and fertilizing done.
Tropical storm Patricia is visiting Eastern Ontario tonight, but she is not a welcome guest. Of course I would pick today to drive from Ottawa to Kingston and back. As my son and I left Ottawa this morning the skies were gray, but the storm had not hit here yet. As we drove south and west toward Kingston, the rain started and the wind picked up, making the drive a slow one…
Although the Kingston radio stations were saying the worst of storm Patricia had not hit yet when we left there for the drive back home to Ottawa, the wind and rain had increased considerably. Darkness had settled in as well, so the drive was not a boring one.
Although we are now home safe and sound, Patricia is still wreaking havoc outside my window. Hopefully when I get up tomorrow morning she will have left the area without leaving too many reminders of her visit.
A few days ago it rained all day making gardening a dirty process. When I came home all of my equipment and clothing were filthy dirty, caked with mud. I left my gloves on the driveway, hoping the rain would wash away the dirt. In the morning, these muddy impressions were left on the driveway.
The rain in the weather forecast for the next 10 days here in Ottawa brings the saying “April showers bring May flowers” to mind. The rain showers will water the spring bulbs and perennials, encouraging their bloom. A few days of rain makes the lawns so much greener too. All the rain showers and cool weather forecasted this spring is also good for planting grass seed or fertilizing your lawn and trees.
There are many products available for spring treatment, some with just seed, some with just fertilizer, and some that combine seed and fertilizer.
Some combinations for your lawn even add peat which is beneficial in keeping the soil rich by absorbing moisture. These combination products can be a good thing for novice landscapers and home owners, as the research is done for you. The proper type of fertilizer and the amount to use is calculated for you.
Corn gluten is a popular, organic, pre-emergent treatment for crab grass. Pre-emergent means it should be applied before the crab grass seeds germinate (start to grow) very early in the spring, as soon as the snow is gone from the lawn. I use corn gluten on my lawn in the fall, after the first frost, but before the first snow fall. I have found this practice convenient (one less thing to do in the spring) and most effective against crabgrass.
Fertilizer spikes are efficient ways to feed your trees. Make sure you choose the proper product package for your trees though. There are packages for evergreens (pine, spruce, cedar etc), ornamental trees (crab apple, lilacs etc) fruit trees (apple, plum etc) and other popular trees (maple, elm etc) Simply pound the spikes in the ground around the perimeter of your tree’s dripline as specified in the package directions. Obviously, the larger the perimeter of your tree’s dripline (the outer edge of branches), the more spikes you need. It is best and easiest to pound these spikes into the ground when the ground is wet and more rain showers are in the forecast.
Make the most of the forecasted rain; your lawn and trees will thank you!