Tag Archives: Gardens

Weeding Out The Garden Myths

Melanie Rekola Design

Story and Photos by Melanie Rekola, from Our Home Fall 2016

 

As a landscape designer and certified horticulturalist, I come across a lot of misconceptions when it comes to gardening.

Myth 1: Cedar trees attract mosquitoes
Reality: In nature, cedar grows in moist soil, which mosquitoes adore. It’s not actually the cedar that attracts them though mosquitoes are attracted to shaded environments of any type.

Myth 2: Garden lines have to be curvaceous
Reality: Some spaces don’t have the room to accommodate the serpentine lines loved by many. Sometimes straight lines just work better and can be equally striking.

Myth 3: Existing garden soil needs cultivation
Reality: Cultivation of the earth around existing perennials and shrubs breaks their vital hair roots, thus injuring the plant.

Myth 4: Gardens are a lot of work
Reality: Start gardens with a thick layer of good quality soil with additional bonemeal supplement. Spread a good layer of mulch yearly to retard weeds and keep moisture in. Do this and a garden will need little weeding and may never need fertilization or supplemental watering after establishment. How’s that for low maintenance.

Myth 5: Vegetable gardens are an eyesore
Reality: Veggie garden placement counts, Raised planter boxes add definition and look great flanking a path. Edibles such as leaf lettuce have lovely foliage and many food plants sport pretty blossoms. Am I the only one that finds beauty here? (article has picture of raised bed – see link below)

Myth 6: Containers are only for annuals
Reality: Many trees and shrubs can live in posts for years. They need less care and watering plus offer the bigger bang for your buck than a typical annual display. For example, a $20 Curly Willow shrub can survive for years in a large pot, has amazing form and makes a bold statement. Compare that with what you have to spend on annual displays over a three-year span.

Myth 7: Trees stop growing
Reality: Trees don’t reach a certain height then suddenly stop growing. Some trees do have shorter or slimmer habits that suit smaller spaces. Remember, if trees were planted for the height they reach in 50-100 years, few of us would plant them.

Myth 8: Bees sting unprovoked
Reality: Flowering plant materials are fine poolside choices. Just because you have more skin showing does not make your chances of being stung any greater, though flailing around wildly will increase the likelihood! Stay calm and learn to enjoy and respect bees.

Myth 9: Overwatering isn’t harmful
Reality: All new plantings require water to establish, yet overwatering quickly drowns plants. Stick your finger in the soil. If you feel moisture, don’t water. Plant roots require gaseous exchange for survival and need to dry out a bit between watering to accommodate this.

Myth 10: Vines are bad for intact brickwork and woodwork
Reality: Current studies show vines such as ivy act as a thermal blanket, warming up walls by 15 per cent in cold weather and offer a cooling effect in hot weather by 36 per cent. Plus they look gorgeous! But take care to keep vines out of windows and soffits.

Myth 11: Landscape designers are landscape architects or garden designers
Reality:
Landscape designers approach design as a whole, including pool, patios and outdoor living spaces, trees and gardens, lighting and even outdoor furniture and accessories. Think of us as exterior designers.

View original story and pictures at: http://canadablooms.com/pdfs/2017/Garden_Myths-OurHomeFall2016.pdf

Fulfilling the Dream of Farming

Harrowsmith

Just because you don’t have deep
pockets doesn’t mean you can’t get into agriculture. It’s a venture filled with both obstacles and opportunities.

By  Harrowsmith Magazine’s Maurice Crossfield

Harrowsmith Article by Maurice CrossfieldIt’s a challenge that has scared off many an aspiring farmer: How can a person embark on a career in food production without solid financial backing? Well, it turns out that some innovative souls are finding alternatives.

Across the country, small-scale operators are finding new ways to access land, equipment and markets, making the dream of working the land come alive. But beware: it typically involves a lot of hard work, know-how and some solid business savvy.

In one instance in southern Quebec, a group of five McGill University graduates banded together and leased five hectares (12 acres) in Les Cèdres, a municipality 60 km (37 miles) west of Montreal. Sharing their various skills, the group offers organic food, including garlic, and sells seed to other organic growers. Today, the Tourne-Sol Co-operative Farm (tournesol means “sunflower”) is one example among many that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“All provinces have financing programs of some sort—Quebec probably more so than others—and there’s also Farm Credit Canada at the federal level,” says Hugh Maynard, former head of the Quebec Farmer’s Association, who now works as an agricultural communications consultant. “But [aspiring farmers] still require a realistic business plan, so anyone musing about farming should go out and get some experience and figure out what they want to do and put a plan together. Saying you’d ‘like to farm’ doesn’t get [you] too far anymore.”

In fact, armed with the all-important business plan, including projections, proof that they have some ability to repay their loans and some sort of collateral, many aspiring young farmers have contacted the FCC about financing their dream.

“Our Young Farmer Loans are one of our most popular products,” says Toby Frisk, director of the Lindsay district of the FCC in southern Ontario. “Since 2012, we’ve had to reallocate funds several times and have provided $2.4 billion to young farmers.

” But while the prospect of borrowing up to $500,000 through the Young Farmer Loan program might not be for everyone, Frisk says it’s not necessarily a reason to count out a future in agriculture.

“The world needs to eat, and by 2050 the world will need to produce 60 percent more food,” Frisk says. “Canadian agriculture is considered one of the safest food supplies in the world. It’s a real growth industry—there are opportunities in almost every sector.”

“The local-food movement (not just organic) is gaining momentum, and that does present opportunities for young people without a farm to get into the game,” says Maynard. “Agriculture in Canada is heading in two directions: large-volume commodity producers who maximize their margins by lowering costs because they have little control over price, and niche producers who target specialty products and markets and maximize margins by selling smaller volumes at higher prices or directly to consumers to capture a larger share of the food dollar.”

Maynard says niche marketing can be effective, but you have to do your homework. The demand must be there—at a price that is acceptable to both buyer and seller. ”

My neighbour produces organic popcorn,” explains Maynard. “They’re not successful just because they are producing organic popcorn, but because they’ve done their research, developed a business model, produced a quality and dependable supply of the product and learned how to market their own product.”

But armed with a well-thought-out action plan, there are alternatives. revealed that an increasing amount of empty farmland in the Brome-Missisquoi region of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Some types of farming had been abandoned, while other farms had been bought by wealthy urbanites with little interest in commercial agriculture. In 2012, the Banque de terres agricoles, a land bank, was created, putting owners of unused land in contact with aspiring farmers seeking to grow anything from hay to garlic.

The service allows landowners and growers to set rental or lease rates, mentorship and possibly even partnerships between the producer and the landowner. A partnership between the county government (known in Quebec as the MRC), the province’s agriculture ministry and the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec (which helps young people get into farming), the land bank project has proven so successful that it has been expanded to many other parts of the province.

Meanwhile, in the Gatineau region, Sean Butler and his wife, Geneviève LeGal-Leblanc, established Ferme et Forêt in a slightly different way: they asked friends and family to invest in the operation by buying a form of bonds that offered a small rate of return on the investment. They call it community-financed agriculture (CFA), a variation of the more familiar community-supported agriculture (CSA), in which folks pay upfront in the spring and receive weekly baskets of veggies as they come into season.

Urban communities are also getting into the act, in the form of co-operatives that support local food producers. In Hamilton, Ontario, the Mustard Seed co-operative cites local sourcing as its top priority.

“We have been working with more than 200 local producers, including farmers and producers of prepared, processed or manufactured foods (ice cream, milk, cheese, cereals, cleaning supplies—whatever can be local is local). We expect this number to grow,” says Mustard Seed co-founder Emma Cubitt. Those producers are supported by the co-op’s 2,100 members, as well as members of the general public who shop there.

Mustard Seed’s business model is paying off. “We have just passed $2 million in annual sales, which is pretty extraordinary for a two-year-old business organized by the community for the community,” says Cubitt.

She notes that some people are attempting to get into food production by trying to expand a hobby into a business. That can be anything from selling produce from a backyard garden to manufacturing a finished product, such as hot sauce or ice cream. The successful ones are driven by passion for what they do.

“We see young farmers wanting to grow as a personal response to environmental issues (GMOs, organic production and so on) or to have an agricultural living/working lifestyle,” she says.

Maynard cautions, however, that if it’s a vision of a bucolic lifestyle you’re after, you may be better off keeping your day job. Farming hours are long, and at times the work can be very hard. Plus, as any farmer will tell you, farming requires the use of many skill sets: as an operator, you’ll have to have a firm grasp of what you’re growing, as well as finances, marketing, building maintenance and any number of other tasks.

“If you go the niche-market route, do your homework first—remember, producing lavender for jam flavourings and potpourris is a limited market, and just because two or three are doing well doesn’t mean there’s enough room for four,” he explains. “And get some business skills, because you’ll need those as much as you’ll need the farming ones.”

Maynard also suggests that aspiring farmers not limit themselves to the organics market.

“Despite all the hype about going organic, it’s still a very small slice of the food pie,” explains Maynard. “Ted Zettel, an organic pioneer in the ’80s, once said that organic will never really be successful until it competes on the same basis as conventional foodstuffs. He wasn’t popular for that remark, but I think he was right—there are only so many people who will pay the premium for a more limited range of product. That being said, as conventional food prices rise, it will be interesting to see whether organics is considered more affordable. Also, there is evidence that as many people leave organic production as get into—it’s not easy and [it] requires superior production and management skills, so there is some indication that the number of certified-organic producers may have limits.”

But it certainly has its place, particularly for someone looking to get into making a living, or at least a sideline income, from food production. Cubitt cites one Mustard Seed supplier who practises small-plot intensive (SPIN) gardening. He has worked out deals to have 11 backyard plots in the Hamilton area. Paying rent to the property owners, he has managed to support his family of five while incurring no business-related debt, proving that sometimes by thinking outside the box, you can find somethiHarrowsmith Magazineng that works for you.

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April: The Festival In Review

Canada Blooms 2015 - Near North

I always seem to get asked the question, “now that the festival is over, what do you do for the rest of the year?” So if you are interested in taking the journey with me, I will take you through what we do each month up until the next festival.

It should be noted that we are always working on two events simultaneously, the current (the upcoming) and the next festival (the year after that) in terms of strategy, marketing, sponsorship, theme, décor and ambience, and much more. This means that although as we get closer to the current festival there is a noticeable increase in time pressure, we are busy throughout the whole year.

So let’s start with April.

April is the month of reflection. Throughout this month there are many meetings where we dissect the festival and see what worked, what didn’t, and where we want to go in the future. There is a staff assessment, a board assessment, and an assessment from each of the many committees that are run and “staffed” all by volunteers who have generously donated their time, talent and expertise to put on a world class event.

The consensus this year:

The Move to Hall G:
95% of visitors and media loved the move to Hall G, although it was not without its challenges. What those looking in sometimes don’t realize is with a move to a different location, whether it is from a venue or just a hall within that venue, a whole new event is created. All those things that you discovered and put into place in the past – stages and rooms, move-in times/docks, booth locations, etc. – are now out the window, and you are essentially starting from scratch.

Luckily we were still in the same facility and using most of the same suppliers which created less snags, but as any event managing/planning team will tell you there are always hiccups.

It is interesting how things you never anticipated can sometimes pop up. For instance, although “Canada Blooms” the festival changed halls the Garden Marketplace did not (it has been in the same location for four years) and yet some people had difficulty finding it. We are currently looking at different strategies to solve this dilemma in the future.

One of the great things about Hall G, which many are not aware of, is Canada Blooms is no longer taking place above the underground parking. What does that mean? Well, garden builder/designers can now build their gardens using materials and styles they couldn’t use before because of weight restrictions. This will allow for more interesting designs, and the lower ceilings really do make the gardens and floral displays stand out.

Final Assessment: the move was seen as very positive and welcome change.

The Lighting:
This created some concern from a small minority who we believe didn’t see the full picture when it came to the ambience lighting. Canada Blooms spent a great deal of time planning the lighting for the festival this year. We knew that we were going to be changing the whole look and feel of Canada Blooms, so we made sure to consult a number of lighting professionals. We also fully anticipated there would be some people who might not appreciate the effect, and as it turned out the lighting was something that was either loved or hated . . . nothing in between.

If you caught the Facebook feedback that you would think the festival was dim and grim, but if you followed Twitter it was a wonderful experience. The overall consensus from the visitors at the event and the feedback on social media was that the majority (over 75%) were happy and found the theatrical lighting really set the gardens off.

So now I will let you in on a few secrets about the lighting….

First of all, the lighting grids in the older building were somewhat of a puzzle and a challenge to manipulate. Meaning if you turn off a light in the front left grid you also might turn one of in the back right and somewhere in the middle.

Secondly, the effect of coming from a 100% lit hall (where the National Home Show was on display) to a 50% illuminated hall, forced visitors into an abrupt visual adjustment which made the whole hall appear even darker. But once you let your eyes adjust, the effect in the gardens was quite dramatic.

Another unanticipated consequence of the lighting, discovered onsite, were the lighting boxes. They ended up right next to support pillars and for safety reasons; they had to be covered with a hard wall which resulted in unintended visual barriers much smaller aisles.

Final Assessment: The lighting for the most part was positive and we have learned a few things that will make the dramatic lighting better for 2016.

The Temperature:
Whoa Nellie, it was cool in there this year.

We have always had to maintain lower temperatures in the hall displaying gardens and floral features in order to keep the flowers from popping too soon. When we moved from a 5- to a 10-day event, we became aware that there would have to be a replacement the plant/floral material part way through in order to maintain the quality of the event. Since 2012, we have designated Monday/Tuesday as the change over night (note: although the festival starts on Friday many of our plants come in the Saturday prior to the festival start in order to be placed in the gardens and planters during the build).

One of the unexpected things that caused lower temperatures this year was due to new fire regulations at the facility, this required additional access doors be left open which in turn let frigid air into the hall from outside. As well, the somewhat variable heating that comes from an older building (think lighting grid above) meant some plants received more heat and some received less, resulting in us simultaneously trying to keep plants from drying out (and appearing past their prime) and trying to get them to bloom. Needless to say, some of bulbs did not actually bloom until the last few days of the festival which led to a somewhat lack of colour and fragrant odor.

Final Assessment: we now have a better understanding of the temperature issues in Hall G and that is a priority for next year.

The Smell?
I found the issue of smell a little strange because we had been in the building for a number of days setting up prior to the festival and had no issues. But during the festival we had a few people mention that they could smell the cattle from the building (Hall G is used as the animal building during the Royal Winter Fair). So both Festival and Building management did a complete walk through of the hall again like detectives hot on the trail of the elusive “odor” menace. And we think we found the culprit or culprits – the odor was not a distant manure smell, but was in fact the earth from the gardens mingled with a new mulch that was used this year. This gave the gardens a more earthy smell, and that coupled with the lower ceilings as well as delayed in bulbs flowering may have caused people to believe they were smelling something they actually weren’t.

One last thing to note is that we created an impressive allee of tropicals that lined the roadway carpet leading to Canada Blooms, but the tropicals that we actually used were lush plants rather than blooming flowers and as a result of this changeup there was not that fresh fragrance of Spring that we had all hoped for.

Final Assessment: we are aware and it is being re-evaluated for our twentieth anniversary.

So we have hashed and rehashed the good, the bad, and the not so bad, and we are now hard at work on the plans for making our twentieth anniversary a very special festival.

Also in April: the administrative side of things, invoicing, paying invoices, getting all the details out of the way so that we can move on to 2016. We also start meeting with our partners to gain their insights on how the festival worked for them, so we can create an even better festival next year.

Next, May…..