Garden Chores: October

In the vegetable garden:

  • It’s apple season! Store your harvest at 0 °C to 7 °C (32 °F to 45 °F). Some varieties will keep longer than others, so check regularly to ensure they are not spoiling.
  • Make sure to dry your beans well before storing in a moisture-proof, airtight container for making those soups and chili dishes over the winter.
  • Make sure your onions are dry and wiped clean of all dirt. Store away from apples and potatoes where it is cool and dry. Again, some varieties are better keepers than others.
  • Root Crops. Clean your potatoes, carrots, beets, etc. of any soil. Store in a cool, dark place. If you clip the tops off of your carrots, beets, parsnips, etc., they will stay fresher longer. (Some people like to store their root crops in sand-filled tubs.)
  • Squash and pumpkins should be washed with a 10 % bleach solution and wiped dry thoroughly for storing. They should be stored at 10 °C to 15 °C (50 °F to 65 °F).
  • And for goodness sakes! Plant that garlic now!

 

In the perennial garden:

  • Time to dig up the tender plants for storing, such as dahlias, canna lilies, begonia tubers, etc.
  • Right time to plant the spring-flowering bulbs, if you did not get this done last month. Put markers of some sort where you have planted your bulbs and late-flowering perennials. That way you will not dig them up in your spring enthusiasm.
  • Still time to divide and move those overgrown perennials.
  • Get on with the fall clean-up schedule in the garden. Cut back those herbaceous perennials which are dying back, such as hostas. Put any plant debris which is showing signs of serious disease such as botrytis in the garbage, or on the burn pile.
  • Those piles falling leaves. They are a wonderful, protective mulch for any borderline hardy perennials you may have snuck into your landscape design. Leaves are also great for protecting soil erosion from winter rains.
  • Good time to start some paperwhite bulbs indoors now.
  • If you have kept last year’s poinsettia, and stored it in a dark closet, now is the time to bring it out into the light so it will produce those lovely, colourful bracts at Christmas.
  • Check your climbing roses are securely tied to their trellis so as not to risk any broken branches during the winter storms.
  • Put your garden furniture under cover to ensure longer life.

 

Posted on September 28, 2017

8 Houseplants with Beneficial Air-purifying Qualities

by Leslie Cox; Saturday; September 23, 2017

If you are a plantaholic like me, then you are already familiar with the many benefits in surrounding yourself in greenery…both outdoors and in.

But if you are not much of a gardener, you need to know there is a positive in placing at least three or four tropical-type plants throughout your home. Bottom line…air purification.

Depending on the furniture you own and the cleaning products you use, there could quite possibly be some not-so-very-nice toxins floating on the air currents inside the house. Certain plastics, for instance, emit a toxin called xylene into the air. The same toxin is found in some solvents.

Placing one 12-inch (30 cm) sized potted plant from the following list for every 100 square feet (9 sq m) of space in key rooms…living room, dining room, den, rumpus room…will go a long way to making your most used living spaces a healthier environment for you and your family.

 

  1. Aglaonema spp. – Chinese evergreens
  • removes benzene, formaldehyde, and other toxins
  • oxygen content in emissions is high
  • does well in low light levels, but variegated cultivars need more sunlight
  • needs good drainage

 

  1. Chamaedorea seifrizii – bamboo palm; reed palm
  • removes formaldehyde
  • natural humidifier
  • prefers bright, indirect light
  • needs regular water

 

  1. Dracaena fragrans ‘Compacta’ – compact cornstalk dracaena
  • general air purifier
  • removes formaldehyde
  • tolerates low light levels well
  • reasonably drought tolerant

 

  1. Dypsis lutescens – areca palm; bamboo palm; golden cane palm
  • one of the best overall air purifiers
  • prefers partial sun and well-draining soil
  • reasonably drought tolerant

 

  1. Ficus elastic – rubber tree; rubber plant
  • removes formaldahyde and other toxins from the air
  • oxygen content in emissions is high
  • prefers filtered light and rich soil
  • quite drought tolerant

 

  1. Ficus maclellandii – banana-leaf fig
  • general air purifier
  • prefers indirect sunlight
  • do not overwater

 

  1. Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’ – Boston fern
  • removes formaldehyde
  • natural air humidifier
  • prefers bright light but will tolerate lower light levels
  • prefers regular water

 

  1. Phoenix roebelenii– pygmy date palm; miniature date palm
  • removes formaldehyde and xylene (chemical found in plastics and solvents)
  • prefers sun but will tolerate partial sunlight
  • regular water

Garden Chores: May

This has certainly been a different year, weather-wise. But then, last year was too…in the reverse. The winter of 2016 was very mild so plants were roughly 2 – 3 weeks ahead of normal. This year, they are more like 3 weeks behind. Mind you, the plants do “go gang busters” whenever there is some sun and warmer temperatures.

However, the extended forecast for April is filled with slightly cooler temperatures than normal and more precipitation. Keep a weather eye because some outdoor chores may need tweaking this month.

 

In the garden:

  • If you did not need to divide those spreading late-flowering perennials…phlox, crocosmia, shasta daisies, artemisia (mugwort)…this year, check to make sure they are not spreading into other perennial clumps nearby.
  • Spread lime and fertilizer on your lawn this month.
  • Rhodos and azaleas benefit from a sprinkling of nitrogen and magnesium around their drip line right now…especially those shrubs which are looking a little sickly. (Coffee grounds and Epsom salts are good sources of nitrogen and magnesium sulfate respectively.)
  • Prune out the spent flowering shoots on those rhodos which have flowered early. Do this as soon as possible…before new leaf growth appears…to make the chore easier.
  • Still time to plant fruit trees.
  • Get those summer-flowering bulbs in the ground now.
  • Time to plant up the hanging baskets and any window boxes or pots of annuals you wish to have around the house and garden. It is still dicey, weather-wise, for having them outside just yet so keep them under cover in an open garage, under an adequate overhang or in the greenhouse.
  • Slugs and snails are still an issue. Keep a watchful eye! Deal with them in whatever manner works for you, but always be mindful your choice is not harmful to children, pets, or birds.
  • Keep up with the weeding.

 

In the vegetable garden:

  • Check out Seeds to start in May in Garden Info & Tips under In the Garden on the menu bar (or click here) to see what varieties you can sow this month and when.
  • Thin lettuce, arugula, corn salad, mustard, and beet rows for baby greens.
  • Hill potatoes and leeks as the plants grow to keep the light away from young spuds and to produce nice white stalks on leeks.
  • Established asparagus plants will be ready to harvest soon. If you have just put in one year old plants, do not harvest anything this year. They need a whole year to set down good roots for a long productive life. (Up to 25 or 30 years for most varieties and cultivars.)
  • First couple of weeks of May is still too early, in our region, to transplant out tender vegetables…tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squashes, and melons. Check the Air & Soil Temperature Chart for the preferred overnight temperatures for these vegetables. (Quick link to chart here.)

 

In the greenhouse:

  • If you didn’t give the greenhouse a good cleaning from top to bottom last month, do it now! Before you start putting transplants in the ground.
  • Amend all raised planting beds with fresh compost and well-aged manure.

 

In the compost pile:

  • Keep turning that pile. The more air you can get into the pile, the faster it will break down into rich, humousy soil admendment. This is a wonderful mulch for your garden beds but screen it first.
  • If April showers are in the monthly forecast, keep the pile covered so precious nutrients will not leach out.

 

In the tool shed:

  • Be sure to clean your tools at the end of the day…especially your pruning tools. These should be disinfected with a 10% bleach solution to prevent any chance of spreading diseases from plant to plant. I keep a small spray bottle of diluted bleach in my tool basket to spray my secateurs blades regularly while pruning.

 

 Indoors:

  • Keep checking your over-wintered tender perennials. Remove any leaves that are decaying and inspect plants carefully for aphids or other pests or disease.
  • Divide any which have grown too big for their pot, or move them up one size.
  • Repot any which need to have their soil refreshed…or their roots pruned. Root pruning is one way of keeping a special plant, or a tender plant not suitable for your gardening zone in a pot indefinitely.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Some of the hardier of your tender perennials may be able to move outdoors towards the end of the month.

 

 

Posted on May 13, 2017

Chart: Herb – Vegetable Companion Plantings

by Leslie Cox; Saturday; May 13, 2017

Herb Companion Vegetable Benefits
     
Basil
(Ocimum basilicum)
tomato improves growth/flavour; repels flies
Beebalm
(Monarda spp.)
tomato improves growth/flavour
Borage
(Borago officinalis)
tomato/squash/strawberry improves growth/flavour; repels tomato worm
Caraway
(Carum carvi)
strawberry attracts parasitic wasps/flies; loosens soil
Chamomile
(Matricaria chamomilla)
cabbage/onion improves growth/flavour
Chervil
(Anthriscus cerefolium)
shade tolerant food plants radishes taste spicier
Chives
(Allium spp.)
carrot; avoid bean/pea improves growth/flavour
Dead nettle
(Lamium purpureum)
potato improves growth/flavour; deters potato bug
Dill
(Antheum graveolens)
cabbage; avoid carrot/
tomato
improves growth/flavour; beware: attracts
tomato worm
Fennel
(Foeniculum vulgare)
keep away from
vegetables
beware: inhibits growth of all plants
Flax
(Linum ustatissimum)
carrot/potato improves growth/flavour; deters potato bug
Garlic
(Allium spp.)
raspberry improves growth/flavour; deters Japanese
beetle
Henbit
(Lamium amplexicaule)
universal beneficial general insect repellent
Horseradish
(Amoracia rusticana)
potato planted at corners deters potato bug
Hyssop
(Hyssopus officinalis)
cabbage/grape; avoid radish attracts pollinators; deters cabbage moth
Lemon balm
(Melissa officinalis)
universal beneficial pest deterrent properties
Lovage
(Levisticum officinale)
most vegetables improves health
Marigold, French
(Tagetes spp.)
universal beneficial strong pest deterrent
Marigold, pot
(Calendula officinalis)
tomato deters asparagus beetle/tomato worm/
general pests
Marjoram
(Origanum majorana)
most vegetables improves flavour
Mint, peppermint
(Mentha x piperata)
cabbage deters white cabbage moth
Mint, spearmint
(Mentha spicata)
cabbage/tomato repels aphids/ants
Nasturtium
(Tropaeolum majus)
cabbage/curcubit/radish/
fruit trees
improves growth/flavour; repels aphids;
squash bugs; pumpkin beetles; good trap crop
Rosemary
(Rosmarianus officinalis) 
bean/cabbage/carrot deters bean beetles/cabbage moth/carrot fly;
avoid basil
Rue
(Ruta graveolens)
raspberry deters Japanese beetle
Sage
(Salvia officinalis)
bean/cabbage/carrot; avoid cucumber deters bean beetles/cabbage moth/carrot fly
Southernwood
(Artemisia abrotanum)
cabbage/many other plants improves growth/flavour; deters cabbage moth
Summer savory
(Satureja hortensis)
green beans/onions improves growth/flavour; deters bean beetle;
delays germination of certain detrimental herbs
Tansy
(Tanacetum vulgare)
raspberry/fruit trees deters flying insects/Japanese beetle/striped
cucumber beetle/squash bug/ants
Tarragon
(Artemisia dracunculus)
nurse plant properties good in garden; repels most pests; improves
growth/flavour
Thyme
(Thymus spp.)
universal beneficial plant here & there; deters cabbage worm
Wormwood
(Artemisia absinthium)
use as a border repels animals from garden

Garden Chores: April

This has certainly been a different year, weather-wise. But then, last year was too…in the reverse. The winter of 2016 was very mild so plants were roughly 2 – 3 weeks ahead of normal. This year, they are more like 3 weeks behind. Mind you, the plants do “go gang busters” whenever there is some sun and warmer temperatures.

However, the extended forecast for April is filled with slightly cooler temperatures than normal and more precipitation. Keep a weather eye because some outdoor chores may need tweaking this month.

In the garden:

  • Cut Miscanthus spp. grasses back to 6 – 12 inches (15 – 30 cm) above soil level…depending on species. Shorter varieties can be cut down lower than Miscanthus sinensis var. condensatus ‘Cosmopolitan’ and M. x giganteus.
  • Keep your conifer shrubs looking nice and shapely by pruning off the new growth, or “candles”. Be careful not to prune into bare wood as no new growth will generate from that point. Also remove any winter-damaged branches, if you have not done so already.
  • Trim your climbing roses and secure them to their support structure.
  • Shrub roses are putting out small leaf buds this month so prune out any branches not showing new growth.
  • Divide late-flowering perennials…like phlox, crocosmia, and shasta daisies…whose clumps have gotten to large.
  • Spread a little lime or wood ashes around the alkaline-loving delphiniums, peonies, mock orange, clematis, Aucuba, Forsythia, Photinia, lilacs…and others. (For a more complete list of what plants, fruits, and vegetables prefer a less acidic soil, click here.)
  • Plant fruit trees now.
  • Plant summer-flowering bulbs now. If weather is still unstable, plant them in pots and keep them in the greenhouse, or somewhere under cover but where they will get light.
  • Repair any bald patches in the lawn by lightly scratching the surface and evenly sow the area with a quality grass seed. Tamp seed in gently and keep moist. A layer of grass clippings over top or some row cover will help to keep the birds away from the seed.
  • Apply a good quality mulch on the garden beds. Home-made compost is best because you know what is in it but if you do not have enough, fish compost is an excellent second choice as it is nutrient-rich and weed-free. Be careful not to get any mulch up against the trunks on shrubs and trees or bury your perennials.
  • Slugs and snails will be coming out in droves to feast on the new plant growth. Deal with them in whatever manner works for you, but be careful your choice is not harmful to children, pets, or birds.
  • Keep up with the weeding.

 

In the vegetable garden:

  • Check out Seeds to start in April in Garden Info & Tips under In the Garden on the menu bar (or click here) to see what varieties you can sow this month and when.

 

In the greenhouse:

  • If you did not get the over-wintered plants out of the greenhouse last month, it should be safe enough now.
  • Divide any potted plants which are getting too big for the pot…or pot them up one size.
  • Add some compost, or well-aged manure to each pot and scratch in some Osmocote granular fertilizer. (This is a slow-release fertilizer which will feed your potted plants throughout the season. It is the only non-organic soil additive we use.)
  • Once the greenhouse is emptied, give it a good clean from top to bottom. You want to get rid of any mold, etc before you start moving your young seedlings into the greenhouse.

 

In the compost pile:

  • Keep turning that pile. The more air you can get into the pile, the faster it will break down into rich, humusy soil amendment. This is a wonderful mulch for your garden beds but screen it first.
  • If April showers are in the monthly forecast, keep the pile covered so precious nutrients will not leach out.

 

In the tool shed:

  • Be sure to clean your tools at the end of the day…especially your pruning tools. These should be disinfected with a 10% bleach solution to prevent any chance of spreading diseases from plant to plant. I keep a small spray bottle of diluted bleach in my tool basket to spray my secateurs blades regularly while pruning.

 

Indoors:

  • Keep checking your over-wintered tender perennials. Remove any leaves that are decaying and inspect plants carefully for aphids or other pests or disease.
  • Divide any which have grown too big for their pot, or move them up one size.
  • Repot any which need to have their soil refreshed…or their roots pruned. Root pruning is one way of keeping a special plant, or a tender plant not suitable for your gardening zone in a pot indefinitely.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Some of the hardier of your tender perennials may be able to move outdoors towards the end of the month.
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