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.

A Welcoming Surprise – Encourage Volunteers In Your Garden

“That wasn’t put there on purpose” I thought. This surprise was discovered in the garden in amongst the perennials. Have you ever had the experience of finding a plant growing in your garden that you didn’t put there but it oddly seems like it belongs. In this situation you may have left it to see what it grows into. These plants are called volunteers. Sometimes they show up unexpectedly and without your knowledge. They can come in from the wind or the birds. Sometimes they come from plants you grew the previous year. These volunteers can help reduce the cost of having to buy new plants at the garden centre in the spring. My Dad welcomes volunteers such as Alyssum, Balsam and Amaranthus. He keeps an eye out for them in the spring and once they are 1-2 inches big he transplants them where he thinks they would do best in his garden.

If you find a volunteer in your garden and you’re not sure if you should pick it or not I recommend that you leave it. You may end up with beautiful flowers or in this case a pumpkin. Sometimes volunteers have a better chance of showing up and settling in your garden if you procrastinate and not weed for a couple of weeks. Maybe this is a good reason not to aggressively weed?

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

Geranium Seedlings Transplanted Into Hanging Baskets

geraniums in baskets

 

 

 

 

 

The geraniums we started from seed in January are now transplanted into hanging baskets. They will look beautiful on the A-frame outside

A-frame or raised planter box

Before we put the baskets on the A-frame, we need to harden off the tender seedlings. This will help them acclimate to the outdoor conditions; especially the sun. To do this, we will put the baskets outside in partial shade and close to the building. The baskets will be brought inside if the nighttime temperature drops close to zero degrees Celsius. They could also be covered with a cloth or plastic sheet to protect them from frost. It should be safe to remove the baskets from their sheltered location and put onto the A-frame in about one week; fingers crossed!

Happy Growing,
Trina Alix

An Eco-Friendly Way To Start Seeds Indoors Using Recycled Materials

seedlings in reused plastic bagsreused soy container for seedlingswatering seedlings in yogurt containers

Above are a few examples of materials that can be reused for starting seedlings indoors.

To learn more about these materials and how they can be reused for starting seedlings, visit http://www.gardentherapynotes.com/NEW-Eco-Friendly-Way-To-Start-Seeds-Indoors-Using-Recycled-Materials.html

Written By: Lea Tran

Hooray! Last Year’s Amaryllis Bulbs Finally Flowered

IMG-20130312-00140

Last year’s Amaryllis bulbs provided a wonderful lesson on patience. It took approximately six months for the bulbs to flower after they were brought inside last September.

The Amaryllis bulbs that were saved from last year appeared to grow differently compared to the newly purchased bulbs. The new bulbs started growing a flower stalk within two weeks after they were planted. The saved bulbs started to grow only leaves about a month after they were planted. I kept cutting the leaves back on the saved bulbs to help focus the energy on flower production.

The picture below shows me pointing to a flower bud. The flower bud is thicker than the leaves and usually appears on the side of the bulb.

IMG-20130301-00132

Tips on how to get an Amaryllis bulb to flower again after it has been brought inside in the Fall:

  • Plant bulb in 6″ pot
  • Provide the bulbs with a couple months of darkness and water once every few weeks.
  • Remove the bulb from dark storage and provide as much light as possible.
  • Keep the soil moist. Allowing the soil to dry completely may damage the roots and affect the development of the flower.
  • Cut back leaves as they grow. This should help the bulb focus its energy on developing the flower bud within.

To learn how to store Amaryllis bulbs after they flower, go to http://gardentherapynotes.com/blog/?p=189

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

Planting Paperwhite Bulbs Indoors

November/December is the time to find paperwhite bulbs for sale at grocery stores, hardware stores and garden centres. Plant them in pots and grow as a houseplant. These bulbs produce beautiful and fragrant flowers 3-6 weeks after they are planted. This is a popular plant for the holidays in December. For more information about paperwhite bulbs and how to grow them go to http://www.gardentherapynotes.com/NEW-Autumn-Activity-Planting-Paperwhite-Bulbs.html

flowering paperwhite

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

New Sweet Alyssum Cultivar Showcased At Landscape Ontario Garden & Floral Expo 2012

This Lobularia, common name Sweet Alyssum, caught my attention with its variegated leaves. The picture below doesn’t show the white stripes on the thin delicate leaves very well but believe me, it is striking. If you enjoy growing this annual and would like to try something different then look for Lobularia ‘Frosty Knight’ at a garden centre/nursery spring 2013.

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix

Bring Coleus Indoors To Grow As A Houseplant

Are you growing coleus in your garden? Try growing it as a houseplant. This tender annual will start to die back after a light frost, usually early mid october, so get it in before then.

Rather than bring in the whole plant, roots and all, propagate from stem cuttings. To do this, take 4-6″ cuttings and plant in 4″ pots with indoor potting soil. Coleus plants grow very well as a houseplant if kept near a bright window. This plant needs a moderate amount of water and may drop leaves if the soil is too dry. Pinch off flowers and cut back long stems to help maintain a bushy shape.

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix