Growing up, I was always so excited when the Sear’s Christmas Wish Book arrived. I used to fold the corners of the pages with all the presents I wanted on my list, then painstakingly label and document everything to make it as easy as possible for gift-givers to know exactly what I wanted. Now that I’m older, I don’t wait for the Wish Book to come in the mail. Instead, I get excited for the seed catalogues … and they are finally here! (And for the record, I still make meticulous lists of all the seeds I want to buy!)
Recently I posted several photos on social media of my trees and plants covered in a sheet of ice. I received so many questions and emails asking about the unusual weather patterns and how this will affect the gardens. People are worried about their outdoor spaces and the impact of El Nino and global warming.
Here are some of the most common questions and their answers.
Will this warm weather hurt my trees and bulbs? Several of them have started to bud and I have crocus and daffodils poking through the soil.
While the warm weather isn’t ideal for your trees and shrubs, it’s the extremes that do the most damage.
As this is my first article for 2016, I wanted to take this moment to sum up 2015 and talk about the year ahead for gardening enthusiasts and homeowners who enjoy their outdoor spaces.
The years 2014 and 2015 saw a lot of Canadians in transition. Housing markets were up and down all over the country. Personally, it felt like we were getting settled for the next stage of our lives. Even if you weren’t looking for a new space to live, it was clear that homeowners were taking a closer look at their existing houses and making some big changes.
The backyard became an opportunity for extra living space. Landscape companies were busy installing bigger decks and patios with more room for fireplaces and barbecues. We also saw a boom in vegetables, and growing your own food. Rising prices at the grocer and uncertainty in chemicals used by various countries shipping produce into Canada were both contributing factors in this movement.
So what is in store for 2016? Here are my predictions based on three separate groups of homeowners that are moving in three different directions in the backyard spaces.
The most requested outdoor feature for the 2015 backyard is … (insert drum roll here) the raised vegetable planter. Are you surprised? With so many Canadians are growing their own vegetables at home now, the raised planter has become the must have item. Raised planters have some significant benefits over just plowing out a section in the lawn.
A large portion of weeds that live in our yards travel under the soil via rhizomes (rootlets). With a raised bed, you can place a liner at the bottom of garden cloth to completely prevent new ones invading your soil. Even the weeds that spread via seeds, like dandelions, have a harder time getting over the walls of your garden, providing less competition for your veggies.
Every time I head out to Vancouver, I’m blown away by the gardens and the plants that surround me. The streets are lined with flowering trees and the parks are always lush and green.
It never fails to make me want to move there and start gardening in a different zone.
This time though, I took off the rosy glasses and made a list of all the gardening reasons I’m envious of Vancouver and I thought I’d share it with you.
Every homeowner has an inventory of things to do outside when the warm weather finally hits. Cutting the lawn, weeding the garden, washing the windows and cleaning out the eaves always seem to be at the top of every list — including my own. Obviously lawn mowing in Nova Scotia isn’t happening just yet, but it will be, soon enough.
This year however, I adding a few new ‘must-do’ items that will go a long way to making my outdoor season more enjoyable.
Top-dress the lawn
Now, you’re probably saying that this is something you already do. This spring, I’m taking it one step further and reseeding my entire lawn!
As we get ready to escape our homes and start working in our outdoor spaces, I want to share a few epiphanies that I’ve had over the years that have made my gardening life so much easier!
Get a bar of soap
It never fails. I try to get a little gardening in before a meeting or rushing off to an event and I get dirt — or some sort of green — under my finger nails. If you’re at all like me, gardening with gloves just isn’t as satisfying. I’ve tried bristle brushes and gritty hand scrubbers, but nothing works as well as scrapping my fingernails over a bar of soap BEFORE I do any gardening. The soap gets under your nails, preventing anything else from building up, and then it washes out easily with a little water!
As this trend of growing heirloom vegetables continues, there seems to be a transition away from synthetic fertilizers to feed them. This isn’t surprising as ‘gmo-messaging’ and benefits of organic food information becomes mainstream. As a result, health conscious homeowners like myself are returning to using manure as a soil conditioner.
But before you run out to your neighbour’s farm and load up this spring, you have to follow a few simple guidelines. Raw manure releases large amounts of nitrogen, which can burn your plants. It needs to be composted before it is garden safe. Manure is full of natural bacteria such as E. coli or other pathogens and is often sterilized before it is sold to consumers. This sterilization also helps remove the weed seeds that are naturally passed through the animal and can end up straight in your garden.
Recently I was invited to a ‘Seedy Saturday’ event in small town Ontario. For those of you who haven’t participated in one of these, it’s basically a spot to buy and swap seeds for your gardens. Now, you are probably picturing the same type of gathering as I did: in a church or library full of the blue-haired crowd.
Well, we both got it wrong. (Very, very wrong!) Seedy Saturday was packed with twice as many people under the age of 30 as over. Not only were the customers young … so were a lot of the vendors.
In this space over a local bookstore was the next generation of gardeners pushing strollers with their lattes and talking about the pole beans and tomatoes that they are going to try this year.
I’ve been watching outdoor trends for the last 15 years, and this is exactly what I was hoping would happen. They say everything has a cycle, and I believe that the yard is no exception.
Spring is here! Well, maybe the weather doesn’t agree, but the collection of seed catalogues sitting on my desk clearly says otherwise. For me, spring is the time to plan everything that I want to do outdoors once the snow officially melts. This year is a little different; I am planning a very large vegetable garden with a chicken coop at my new home.
Planning a vegetable garden for a landscape designer should be easy, but apparently there is A LOT I still have to learn! General layout and flow of the raised beds is one thing, but what to put in them is something else entirely! After a few weeks of studying, I’ve realized that companion planting is more like creating a seating chart at a Shakespearean wedding. Who knew that so many veggies didn’t get along?