Tag Archives: Garden Tips

Garden Like A Pro: Pollinator Plants

Bee Pic from Pixabay.com

Mark and Ben Cullen Garden Tips

The decline of the honeybee and monarch butterfly population has our attention. As gardeners, our goal is to plant something that helps to attract and nurture the beneficial insects in our neighbourhood, provides natural beauty and colour AND is low maintenance.

Our solution: planting native plants in our outdoor space. This will provide a source of nourishment for pollinators while enhancing the local environment in measurable ways and creating a beautiful, low maintenance garden.

Inspired?  There are some ‘tricks’ that you need to keep in mind: so called ‘little things’ that will help you to maximize the positive impact of your efforts.  Here are our top tips:

1- Explore your options. And keep in mind that a succession of blooming times will maximize the population of pollinators. If you just plant Purple Cone Flower you will have masses of colour from mid July through late August but little else to show for your efforts over the balance of the season. We choreograph our pollinator gardens with crocus, daffodils and narcissus (late April through early May), Lungwort (pulmonaria), Foamflower, cilantro, oregano, Columbine and sweet woodruff takes over mid May through early June. Come early summer, we feature cardinal flower (a hummingbird magnet!), catmint, coral bells and many hosta varieties in our gardens.

As the season progresses, there are many plants that provide opportunities for foraging butterflies and feeding hummingbirds including Echinacea, rudbeckia, late flowering hostas and one of our favourites is borage. Come September and October, butterflies and bees love sedum spectabile, asters and monarda (bee balm) in our gardens.

Annual flowers that are pollinator magnets right into the fall months include sunflowers, zinnias, sweet alyssum and cosmos.

This is not an exhaustive list, but a starter to help get you thinking in the right direction.
Note that not all of our suggestions are native plants. In our opinion, if a plant is rich in nectar and/or pollen and therefore attracts pollinators it should be considered.

2 – Plant host plants. Monarch butterflies lay eggs exclusively on native milkweed. While it is late to start them from seed, it can certainly be done, and you will succeed in producing a healthy crop for next year if you get started now as milkweed is perennial. Once monarch larvae have hatched and fed on the milkweed, they move on to other food sources in your garden. Milkweed seeds are available on many seed racks at your favourite garden retailer including Home Hardware.

3- Place habitat. Garden retailers now offer a wide selection of habitat for many beneficial insects. Mason bee houses are available in a variety of models including a British import that features paper straws in a 10 cm round nesting ‘box’ that you hang on an east or south facing wall. Mason bees lay their eggs in the straws and you encourage an increase in effective pollinators to your neighbourhood. Look for ‘insect hotels’ and of course nesting boxes for birds, like the tree swallow.

4- Water. This is the single most impactful feature that you can add to your garden if you are interested in attracting pollinators and beneficial wildlife. Your yard can become the watering hole for a host of butterflies, native bees, dragon flies (yes, they are beneficial and they eat a lot of mosquitoes), frogs, toads and you name it. All you must do is make sure that the water is fresh and available to all who pass by. And when they do, watch out because babies will result and that means more ‘beneficials’! Many insects will bathe and drink where shallow water occurs.  For butterflies, fill a container with water and line it with marbles, with water just below the top of the marbles, will help provide access to the water, without the risk of drowning.

Attracting pollinators to your yard or balcony provides benefits to your entire community: 30% of the food that we eat is pollinated by insects and hummingbirds.

Keep in mind that bees are attracted to white, yellow, blue and purple flowers more so than other colours.

For more information go to http://landscapeontario.com/pollinator-friendly-garden.

For more advice and answers to over 10,000 gardening questions, visit www.markcullen.com and sign up for Mark and Ben’s free monthly newsletter.

Christmas Cactus Care

Christmas Cactus

Did you know the Christmas Cactus (Schlumberga x buckleyi,) is originally from the tropical rain forests in Southeast Brazil? They lived in the treetops, branch hollows and decayed leaves above the ground. So not the hot, dry conditions of the desert as the word ‘cactus’ might make us think.

Christmas cactus grow better when they are “pot bound”, or when the container and root system are about the same size. They should also have organic, humus-rich soil. They require bright, indirect light or filtered light and enough moister that potting material does not dry out, but don’t over water. Rainwater or snow melted to room temperature is the best to prevent mineral and salt buildups.

So, enjoy the beautiful plant, keep it in bright window light (with partial sun, too much can burn the leaves) and water it moderately over the holidays. The cactus requires frequent and thorough watering, during its active growth in spring and summer, keeping the soil slightly moist. Allow Christmas cactus moisture levels to drop and dry out some between watering intervals, but never completely, and never let the plant sit in water, as this will lead to root and stem rot.

Re-potting should be done once a year in a little larger pot with clean organic soil, preferably in the spring. When new growth starts in the spring add a diluted solution of houseplant fertilizer every two to three weeks until the new growth has finished (around mid summer).

If you would like your Christmas cactus to bloom again, around mid-September or October you are going to have to start paying attention to temperature and light. Keep the plant at cool nighttime temperatures (10-12˚C) and then warmer daytime (around 15˚C) and you should see buds by December. The plant needs continuous, uninterrupted darkness for 12-14 hours (that means no artificial light at all) and bright to medium window exposure for the remaining hours. But, if the plant is in a room where the lights are even turned on for a short period of time, the flowers might not come. This is why you might see a cactus with blooms on only one part of it.

When you start to see buds, the plant can then remain in the window for display and watering you increase. Remember to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Photo: World Of Succulents

 

 

 

Harvest Time

Fall Harvest Picture

Garden Tips from Mark and Ben Cullen

We are always happy to hear from gardeners who have jumped on the ‘grow your own’ band wagon. Many first-time veggie gardeners are contacting us to find out what to do with their abundance of tomatoes, squash, carrots and the like.

“What now? “  Time was, you would dig it all up and stuff it in a root cellar.  Today of course, we have freezers, refrigerators and some pretty sophisticated methods for preserving fruits and veggies.

What to do with:

Tomatoes:  If you still have lots of red tomatoes the answer is simple.  Eat what you can and preserve the rest as tomato paste, ‘spaghetti’ sauce or just skin them, bag them and freeze them for future use.

If you wish to ripen the green tomatoes indoors and retrieve them from the plants before the frost gets to them, try this: use old oven racks or some other raised platform, place the green tomatoes on newspaper which is spread over the rack. Good air circulation is important.  Place in a cool place.  They will ripen in a dark room more slowly than in a bright one, but either work.  Place them on the rack(s) with a centimeter or two between each.  Turn them every couple of days and inspect for rot or mildew.  Toss the infected ones onto the compost.  We know people that have eaten tomatoes stored this way right into the first week of January.

Peppers: Harvest ripe peppers before they are hit by first frost. Wash in cool water and place in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Remove the peppers from the boiling water and allow them to cool for 1 minute.  Next wrap the peppers in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.  Peppers will last up to 30 days with this storage method.

Winter Squash: Store only fully matured squash. Harvest before the first frost.  Leave 3” of the stem attached.  Keep the squash in a warm, dry and ventilated area for 2 weeks.  Once the squash has cured you can move it into cool storage.  The ideal storage is a cold room around 50-55 degrees.  Store squash on racks so they don’t touch.  Well-cured, fully-ripe squash will keep until late February.

Potatoes: Store potatoes in an unheated basement or garage insulated to protect against freezing. The best location for home storage is cool, dark and ventilated.  Perforated plastic bags can be used to maintain humidity levels while allowing air flow.

Carrots: One option is to leave carrots in the ground and cover them with an unopened bale of straw for the winter. As you need them for cooking, pull the straw back and dig the fresh carrots out of the ground right up until the very hard frost of late December or January.   Alternatively, you can dig up all of your carrots and ‘replant’ them into bushel baskets filled with sharp sand. Keep the carrot tops intact as the root loses much of its nutrients shortly after the top is cut off.  Place the baskets in your garage, preferably against the wall that is attached to your house where the temp is about 5 degrees warmer.  You will be ‘pulling’ fresh carrots all winter long.

Apples: Harvest apples carefully to avoid bruises which will prevent them from keeping well. Late season apples are the best for storing.  Harvest before the first heavy frost.  Store apples in the dark in shallow trays of shredded newsprint.  The temperature should be cool but not frosty.  An unheated basement or garage can be an ideal storage location as long as they are free from rodents.

Keep in mind that some veggies actually improve in flavour with frost. Leeks, kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage fall into this category.

For more information and to answer over 10,000 gardening questions, visit www.markcullen.com and sign up for Mark and Ben’s free monthly newsletter.

Photo from: www.scholastic.com

Book Nook: Garden Gratitude Journal

Gardener's Gratitude Journal

When you have a hit or miss in your garden where are you going to celebrate it? In the Three Year Garden Gratitude Journal: Part Diary, Part Personal Growing Guide by Donna Balzer and Chelsie Anderson (2018). This is an entertaining read from two expert gardeners. Author Niki Jabbour says “It’s a beautiful, practical and inspiring book.”

Outdoor Lifestyle Expert Carson Arthur says: “Love the concept! Journaling and gardening are both trends that Millennials are incorporating into their lives. What a wonderful way to link them together.”

Start writing anytime — this journal is designed for three years but undated so the best time to start writing is right now. Create you garden memoir by keeping records and daily nature notes all in one place. Jot down a line a day to record your highlights, your hits and your misses.

Every gardener and nature lover benefits from paying attention. This journal lets you track the impact of your garden choices over three years.

Gardener's Gratitude Journal

Gardener’s Gratitude Journal

Buy the journal online at: https://donnabalzer.com/garden-journal/ and get the fantastic bonus sheet of 63 stickers to record that bonus harvest or flower you love.

More Info: https://donnabalzer.com

 

Fall Weather is Perfect for Planting

Fall Garden Picture

Fall is a fabulous time to tackle landscaping tasks in your yard. In fact, some seasoned gardeners believe fall rivals spring when it comes to the number of gardening opportunities. Don’t put away that garden spade just yet — you’ve got some planting to do! Here is a list of tips to help you get the job done:

Plant more plants
Fall is a great time for planting because the soil temperature is perfect for root establishment. Perennials, vines, shrubs and trees can all be planted up to six weeks before the ground completely freezes. Be sure to keep new plantings watered until the ground is frozen. Fall is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and summer-blooming lilies. Tip: To avoid your treasures from being dug up by squirrels, cover the newly planted area with chicken wire, then cover with shredded leaves or mulch to cover any scent. It’s also a great time to visit your local garden centre to check out new arrivals especially for the fall planting season.

Decide and divide
When perennials begin to bloom less, clumps become too large or start dying out in the centre. If you want to increase the number of clumps or move them to another location, it’s time to decide and divide. Dig up the entire clump and use a sharp spade or heavy knife to cut it into smaller sections, just as you would cut up a pie. Replant the sections and water them well.

There are two prime times to divide perennials: Spring-flowering perennials are divided in the fall; summer-flowering and fall-flowering perennials are divided in spring. Some plants can be divided anytime. This splits up the task into two seasons and makes the job easier. Fall is the perfect time to expand the flowering times in your collection as most garden centres stock a wonderful selection of fall flowering plants.

To cut or not to cut?
Avoid shearing hedges and pruning deciduous trees in the fall. Pruning stimulates new growth which is best left for spring and summer, however any unruly shoots can be safely snipped. Cut back perennials that self-seed or have no winter interest, leaving six to eight inches of stubble to trap the snow and insulate the crown over winter. Perennials such as sedums and ornamental grasses are outstanding features in the winter garden and can be cut back in spring.

Leave the leaves
If you have a mulching mower, mulch fallen leaves right into your lawn, rather than raking. If you have too many leaves, run the mower over the leaves first, then rake them up and apply as organic matter to your garden or simply add to your compost bin. Shredded leaves break down into humus faster than non-shredded leaves. Humus helps to retain soil moisture and nutrients that plants then utilize.

Healthy harvest
Canning sun-ripened tomatoes and drying fresh herbs (such as parsley and oregano), can add wonderful aromas to your home and add home-made goodness to meals. Fresh herb aromas and a freshly baked fall apple pie just prior to an open house have been known to sell a home!

Water-wise
Be sure to keep within the guidelines of municipal water restrictions, yet keep your garden watered in the fall right until freeze-up as plants are still growing.

Urning for containers
Add some fall flair to your summer containers by switching up plants with flowering kale, ornamental cabbages or colourful, fall mums.

Seeding and sodding
September is the best time for turf establishment as the air temperatures are cooler and there are fewer germinating weed seeds. Applying a fall lawn fertilizer ensures the hardiness of grass before the harsh winter.

Bring the outside in
Before the first hard frost, dig up any tender bulbs and tubers, such as dahlias and cannas, and store them in a cool dark place for replanting next spring. Bring in any tropical plants from their patio location. Be sure to hose them down with insecticidal soap and water to ensure no travelling pests hitch a ride indoors for a cozy winter retreat.

Help from the pros
The fall gardening season truly is a busy time! If you simply don’t have the time or the energy to prepare your property for the coming seasons, why not hire a professional to do the work for you? For more tips and advice, or to connect with one of over 2,000 members of Landscape Ontario, visit: LandscapeOntario.com

From Denis Flangan, Landscape Ontario

About Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association
Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association is one of the most vibrant associations of its kind, comprised of over 2,000 members, ten sector groups and nine local chapters. Its trade mission is to promote the horticulture industry in Ontario, and its public mission is to promote the joys and benefits of green spaces.

Tulip Bulb Care (Removing From Flower Beds)

Bulbs

On November 7, 2016, 42 energetic students from grades 9 to 12 from St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School came to the Canada Blooms/Landscape Ontario site at Milton to plant 6,650 spring bulbs generously donated by Van Hoff and Blokker, Tradewinds, Mark Cullen and Landscape Ontario members.

Now the beautiful tulips have bloomed and peaked, and we were wondering what to do with them (at least with the ones the squirrel left alone), so we reached out to Carolyn de Vries from Tradewinds International for some advice.

Here is what she suggested:

If you wish to remove the tulips from the flower beds for other plantings, yet you still wish to keep the bulbs, then you should:

1. Deadhead by cutting back stem to above first leaf
2. Lift the bulb, stem and leaves
3. Store in a dark place adding peat to ensure bulbs are kept dry
4. Planting time in the fall, clean up bulbs by removing dried foliage
5. Plant
6. Enjoy them in the spring

Tradewinds International