Gardening Tips From Around The World

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Gardening tips that will help you grow beautiful plants

I was recently asked to answer four really great gardening questions. Like most people who are passionate about gardening, I was delighted to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and practical experiences. One of the many things that I love about gardening is that there is never just one way to do anything. I am always open to gardening tips from both amateurs and professionals. We can learn so much from each other. Click on the following link to find my answers as well as gardening tips from around the world.

http://www.millracegardencentre.co.uk/blog/8-gardening-experts-share-top-tips-healthy-plants/.

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

Appreciating Unique Ecosystems in Ontario – Tall Grass Prairie and Oak Savanna

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the Ojibawa Nature Centre in Windsor Ontario. Walking the trails was especially wonderful because I was able to explore two special and unique ecosystems in Ontario: tall grass prairie and oak savanna. What I found fascinating about these two ecosystems is that they both require a natural stress, such as fire, to maintain balance and thrive.

Tall Grass Prairie – Once was very common, but fewer now because of human development. Mostly consisting of grasses. Rare specie of flora and fauna can be found in this Southern Ontario ecosystem and there is now great efforts to protect them and their habitat.

prarie grassland

Oak Savanna – An endangered ecosystem consisting mostly of oaks. Some grasses and wildflowers can be found in open spaces..

oak savana

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

 

Reference:

  • The Truth About Tallgrasses. http://caroliniancanada.ca/legacy/SpeciesHabitats_TGPandSavanna.htm
  • Overview of the Ojibway Prarie Complex http://www.ojibway.ca/index.htm

 

Gardening with a Cold Frame to Extend the Growing Season

I am completely fascinated by cold frames because of their ability to shelter plants and extend the growing season in the garden. It’s a delight to peer into the clear cover and see thriving green plants within. It’s not too late to create a cold frame and plant in it. September is a good month for planting seeds in the cold frame for a harvest in November-December. Here are some great ideas to help get you started!

Add a cold frame to your existing vegetable garden

A small cold frame made with bricks and a glass cupboard door. Perfect for some salad crop.

A small cold frame made with bricks and a glass cupboard door. Perfect for a small batch of salad greens.

 

Add a cold frame to a raised flower box 

This shows an easy way to convert a plastic vinyl raised flower box into a cold frame.

This shows an easy way to convert a 3′ x 3′ plastic vinyl raised flower box into a cold frame. The polycarbonate accessory easily attached on top.

Place it where it will receive the most sunlight. The south side of a home will be the brightest and warmest location.

The materials needed to create a cold frame are extremely simple and easy to find. You may have some of the materials in your backyard or garage.

The frame can be made with straw bales, bricks, concrete blocks, plastic vinyl or wood. It is best to use non-toxic plastic vinyl or untreated wood, especially for food production. If possible, angle the frame to allow more light to enter. A typical cold frame dimension is 3′ x 6′ but this can vary depending on the available space and materials used. The height of a cold frame is usually 1′-3′ to accommodate the growth of the plants.

The cover of the cold frame can be repurposed glass from doors or windows. Patio doors, shower doors or windows can simply be placed on top of the frame or attached with hinges.  A clear plastic cover works well too, such as 4 mil polyethylene film, corrugated polycarbonate plastic or twinwall polycarbonate plastic. Plastic can be attached to a wooden frame and either place on top of the cold frame or hinged to help secure it in place.

Prepare the soil by cultivating it with a trowel or shovel. Add organic container soil mix or a triple soil mix containing compost, peat moss and earth. This will help condition the soil by adding organic material and nutrients. If possible, place straw bales or soil around the outside of the cold frame for better insulation.

The fun part is planting the seeds!

It can be difficult to find seeds late summer. William Dam Seeds was fully stocked.

Seeds appropriate for planting in a cold frame in September:

  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Mizuna
  • Lettuce ‘Winter Density’ and ‘Red Salad Bowl’
  • Mache also known as corn lettuce or lamb’s lettuce

Plant the seeds in rows by creating furrows in the soil using your hand or trowel. Lightly cover the seeds with soil and gently water.

The soil is slower to dry out during the cooler months of the year. You may not need to water the soil in the cold frame that often but check a couple of times a week for watering. Keep the soil surface moist after planting seeds and then allow the soil surface to dry in between watering once the seeds have germinated.

The cold frame will need daily attention! Keep the cover closed when it’s cold and cloudy and prop open for ventilation when it’s warm and sunny.

Bricks or a stick can be used to prop the cover up for ventilation

Bricks or a stick can be used to prop the cover open for ventilation

Harvest the tender leafy greens in November-December when they are over several inches tall. Harvest on a fairly mild day when the temperature is not freezing and the plants are not frozen. Add your leafy greens to a salad or use them to garnish a meal.

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

 

Reference:

  • Coleman, E. The Winter Harvest Handbook. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009.
  • Meyer, S. Make Your Own Cold Frame. Organic Gardening. 41.8(1994): 42.
  • Colorado Master Gardener Program. “Frost Protection And Extending The Growing Season.” ext.colastate.edu/mg/gardennotes/722.html. Colorado State University Extension.

The Winter Garden

From the window the garden looks bare but there is beauty to be found. Now covered by thick snow, the garden contains seemingly uninteresting remnants of once lush flowering plants. Under close inspection in the bright sunlight, these remnants show a fascinating display of seeds and seed pods.

Take a look at some of the plants I found in the garden. It can be  difficult to tell what they are at this time of the year, especially with very little left of the plant. Can you identify them? Perhaps you have these in your garden.

seed head

A

seed head 3

B

seed head 1

C

seed head 2

D

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

Answers: A) Joe Pye Weed  B) Honey Suckle  C) Garlic  D) Black Eyed Susan

Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA) Conference 2015

I am excited to let everyone know about the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association’s 2015 conference.
The theme this year for the conference is: “Human Well-Being: Connecting with Plants and Nature”.
This year’s conference will be held at the beautiful Ojibway Nature Centre in Windsor, Ontario, September 25. For more information visit http://www.ojibway.ca/index.htm.
CHTA is currently looking for presentation proposals. Please contact Christina Klein at agardencontained@gmail.com for further information.
Happy Growing,
Trina Alix

The Fascinating Life Of A Fern Told By An Ecologist

I am instantly attracted to the sight of ferns growing in the woods. Their graceful and elegant foliage makes them so appealing. Take a moment to think about how they reproduce. It’s not the same as other perennials in the garden because they don’t have flowers. So how do they do it?  Ferns have a fascinating form of reproduction that is a bit of a mystery to even the well seasoned gardener.

To learn more about the reproduction of ferns, read the article below by Terrestrial Ecologist, Dave D’Entremont.


 

Baby Ferns!

Ferns are strange, strange plants. After all, what kind of plant doesn’t have seeds!?

Ferns occupy a funny little niche in the plant family tree, having diverged into a separate group after the evolution of vascular tissues (“plant veins”, for simplicity’s sake), but before the evolution of seeds. This means they can grow taller than mosses and other bryophytes, but still reproduce a lot like them – totally backwards!

How does it all work?
Spores (single plant cells) are produced in tiny structures found on adult fern leaves – either underneath normal fronds, or sometimes clustered on special fronds dedicated to making spores. These spores disperse by wind and water to damp soil, where they germinate and grow.

But do spores grow straight into ferns? No, that would be too easy! It’s not simple like seeds.

Each spore has only one copy of each chromosome – half the genetic material necessary to live as an adult. In effect, sexual reproduction hasn’t even happened yet! Instead of adult fern fronds undergoing sexual reproduction like flowers do, this task is left for new baby plants the spores grow into!

Baby ferns, or “gametophytes”, are tiny algae-like leafy proto-plants with three jobs: grow a tiny leaf, soak up sun, and wait for just the right rainy conditions. When the right conditions occur, rainwater allows the gametophytes exchange gametes, and only then does sexual reproduction finish. This process, which can take months depending on the species, leads to the growth of the sporophyte – what we recognize as the adult fern fronds.

At Royal Botanical Gardens, we have a wonderful diversity of fern species growing in our nature sanctuaries. This year, we decided to undertake some propagation of select native fern species for specific habitat restoration projects.

The spores are growing and off to the races – thought we would share a few photomicrographs of the tiny gametophytes of that first growth stage!

By: Dave D’Entremont

fern1fern2

Frosted Jars With Autumn Leaves

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These frosted mason jars with warm colors of autumn make a perfect decoration for the month of November. Use them in a center piece on a dining table or coffee table. They would look beautiful on a window ledge in the sunlight.

IMG_20140928_175738_hdrTo create these jars I started with some fresh autumn leaves that I collected and pressed. To press them, I placed the leaves in between the pages of a book. I placed several other books on top to keep the leaves flat while they dried. It takes about a week for autumn leaves to press and dry completely.

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Pressed leaves can be stiff and difficult to stick to round glass containers. Soak pressed leaves in water for 15-20 minutes. This will make it easier to bend the leaf while gluing it around the glass jar.

IMG_20141109_130936_editIMG_20141109_122821

Apply a thick coat of craft glue on the jar and place a leaf on top. Now, apply glue on top of the leaf. You may need to continue brushing the glue over the edges of the leaf to make it stick. Don’t worry about where to place the leaf. Allow the leaf to land in place like a leaf falling from a tree. Nature doesn’t have a calculated spot for its leaves to land.

Once the leaves are glued in place, spread glue over the entire jar to create the frost. No need to put glue inside the jar or on the bottom. Let the glue dry for 10-15 minutes and then apply more glue to any edges that may be sticking up.

IMG_20141109_182156_editAllow the glue to dry for 4-6 hours. For safety reasons, I recommend using flameless tea lights only.

Enjoy,

Trina Alix

Bon Voyage Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly

I spotted a few monarchs the other day on Joe Pye Weed or Eupatorium purpureum. As I watched them drink the nectar from the flowers I thought how amazing it is that they fly all the way to Mexico. Throughout the summer, I was given a sense of hope and transformation whenever I found a butterfly gliding in the air or perched on a plant.  A sense of hope for unimaginable and wondrous possibilities in the future, just like a crawling caterpillar transforming into a majestic butterfly.

The monarch butterflies begin their migration to Mexico in September, so if you happen to see one this month, wish it a safe journey. As you say goodbye, take a moment to focus on your hopes for the future and hold them close to your heart.

Happy Growing,

Trina

Experience Your Garden

The next time you are in your garden, I want you to experience it. Let go of the chores that need to be done in your garden and let go of the imperfections that you see. Give yourself the opportunity to just walk into your garden and connect with your senses. The purpose of experiencing the garden is to help “plant” yourself in the moment. Being in the moment means that you are focused on what is happening around you rather than being lost in the chatter of your mind or consumed by negative feelings.

Here are a few ways to “plant” yourself in the moment:

  • Walk into your garden and focus your attention on all the different colors of flowers. Notice the different patterns on the petals and leaves. The beauty you find may spark your curiousty and perhaps give you a sense of inspiration. It may pull your attention away from your negative feelings and shift you towards more positive. Cosmos
  • Acknowledge any thoughts and feelings you experience, both good and bad, while in the garden. Don’t try to mask or bury the negative feelings and thoughts. Simply try acknowledging them, placing no judgment on them and letting them go. Then return your attention to your senses. The garden can be a wonderful helper in trying to get your attention, again and again.

Red Cabbage

  • Reach for a flower and bring it closer to you. Notice the tiny details and all the little bits that make the flower wholeMassive Sunflower
  • Bend down or perhaps sit on the ground and touch the plants to reveal their texture. What is soft in the garden? What is smooth?

Borage

  • Search the garden for fragrant herbs and smell them. It’s amazing how our sense of smell can promote memories and feelings.

Move through the garden as you wish. There is no agenda, just the experience. Give yourself this opportunity, outside of the your regular gardening duties, to connect with your senses and ultimately connect with yourself.

Consider journaling about your experience in the garden and include fragrant leaves and beautiful flowers you collected at that time. Perhaps share the experience with a friend, neighbor or family member so that they too can benefit from simply being in your garden.

Happy Growing,
Trina