Posts filed under ‘Water’

The Warm Winter of 2010 and how it may affect our gardens

To the delight of many North Americans, the winter of 2010 will be remembered for its unseasonable warmth and a general lack of snow.  According to senior climatologist David Phillips this has been “the warmest and driest winter on record for 63 years” ( Elliot, 2010).  Many people have been happy to see their snow shovels and winter parkas collecting a thick layer of dust over the past couple of months.  The bad news is that the warm winter this year may have an effect on our gardens.

Snow, in any amount, provides moisture to our soil and in addition is a good insulator.   As a result of the minimal snowfall this past winter, soil microorganisms, which are essential to breaking down organic matter and aerating the soil, would cease their activity.  In addition, insufficient snowfall in the winter months means less moisture in the soil.  Unfortunately, this means that this year gardeners may be planting in drier soil than normal.  Working with drier soil means that the hose will be required more frequently and that can pose a problem in itself.   Water shortages as a result of lower levels of water in our lakes and rivers can be expected to cause conflict with plant’s needs and the need to conserve water.

Regular snowfall also plays a pivotal role in protecting plants from the freeze-thaw cycles that normally occur during the winter months.  Snow can also act as an anchor for recently planted perennials and trees.  Less snow on the ground means garden plants, and the soil that surrounds them, are more susceptible to the uprooting effects of that the freeze and thaw cycles that are typically experienced in winter.  Normal winter snowfall levels also provide plants with protection from the effects of frost.  Frost can get deeper into the soil due to a lack of snow, and as a result possibly damage tree and shrub roots.

The lack of snowfall this winter is not the only potential threat to gardens this year, as the above seasonal temperatures can also wreak havoc in the garden.  Some flowers and trees have been tricked by Mother Nature into thinking that spring has arrived.  Bulbs such as daffodils and tulips could start to bloom too early, and as a result could be killed off immediately by a sudden drop in temperature (i.e a cold snap).  In addition to potentially ruining flower gardens, these atypical temperatures may also have a negative impact on fruit producing plants as well.  Many flower buds are killed off by a drop in temperatures and that means fruit trees may produce fewer fruit.  In general fruit trees need a certain amount of cold weather before warmer temperatures can cause them to break bud and flower (Cornell University, 2010).

Humans are not the only things that enjoy these unseasonable winter temperatures. Pests and diseases may be more abundant then in previous gardening seasons as a result of not being held in check by the cold weather (they are able to survive the mild temperatures).   More mosquitoes and other garden nuisances will possibly be out and ready to cause trouble for you and your garden.    Gardeners should be aware of these changing environmental conditions and be prepared for the unexpected this gardening season.


Cornell Unversity. 2010. “ Will Warm Winter Wither Plants”

Accessed on Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Elliot, Ian. 2010. “ Driest Winter on Record”

Accessed on Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Author: A. Mohamed


March 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

Practice water efficiency

By planting drought tolerant and indigenous plants, you will need less of your drinking water to help your plants thrive.

March 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Top 10 Tips to think of when starting a garden!

  1. Plan your outdoor property over a 3 year period
  2. Use a combination of compost, soil, and peat for the base
  3. Choose plants that suit your desire and lifestyle
  4. Shape, prune, and deadhead your plants when needed
  5. Add organic material gardens regularly
  6. Use indigenous plant life in your gardens
  7. Practice water efficiency
  8. Use groundcovers, and or mulch in your garden
  9. Add 10-10-10 fertilizer when planting and dividing
  10. Enjoy your gardens, don’t slave over it!

For more details on each tip, search the Bold Keyword accordingly.

March 6, 2010 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

NPK fertilizers, What the heck does that mean?

NPK, what the heck does that mean to a novice gardener? What does it stand for and what does it do?
For starters, let’s define them:
N- Nitrogen: the best known fertilizer used in lawns around the world. This is the stuff that makes the leaves greener and healthier, and promotes leaf and stem growth through photosynthesis of the plant. That means it works off the sun.

P- Phosphorus: this one will help develop stronger roots and root systems. It also affects the amount of blooms, and the size of a bloom. You would use a fertilizer high in P when you are establishing a new garden or plant.
K- Potassium:( I know, it doesn’t match, you will have to take it up with the chem. Board.) This fertilizer is like your immunity booster. It helps ward off disease, handle drought, protect from severe weather changes, as well as root growth stimulation.

So what do the numbers with the letters on a fertilizer bag mean? Generally it is the amount of each type of fertilizer in each. Generally, the numbers do not add up to 100, as there are other fertilizers in smaller quantities, and fillers that help the product work effectively. The numbers will always reflect the NPK order all the time.
Best combo for lawns:
24-8-4 Expect to cut your lawn regularly
Best general application for gardens:
Understanding your gardens fertilizing needs:
1. Conduct a soil test (easily purchased at any garden centre)
2. Add fertilizer contributions accordingly
3. Use the resources at your garden centre
4. Always water plants before fertilizing

March 2, 2010 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment

Water Efficient Annual Plants

Annuals and summer in Ontario are a synonymous theme. We have the pleasure of enjoying beautiful hanging baskets and colourful annual garden beds through out the streets and in porches all season long.
I am often asked how to keep those annuals staying fresh and vibrant right until the end of the season.  The answer is water and fertilize regularly. For some of us, our environmental conscience may not feel good about watering every day, as this is not the most efficient use of our drinking water, so here are a few tips to displaying annuals without giving your plants too much of our drinking water through out the summer season.
You can start by picking more drought tolerant Annuals like Geraniums, Marigolds, Portulaca, Strawflower, Cosmos, Dahlberg Daisy, Gazanias, and Bachelor Buttons.
If your heart is set on some of the more thirsty varieties, try using soil sponges, or add a ½” layer of mulch on the soil, to help minimize water evaporation. Mulch also works well in annual beds to keep the moisture in. If you don’t like the idea of mulch showing in your annual bed, try the black cedar mulch, or cocoa bean shell mulch, these will blend in with the soil colour more effectively. Every year, there are more versions of mulch coming out, just visit your local garden centre to find them.
Dead head your annual plants regularly. When the flowers die back, you should pinch them off (usually near the bottom of the stem) to help the plant work efficiently. By doing this, the plant will put its attention into creating new flowers, rather than sending energy to the dying portion
Some environmentally conscientious gardeners keep a rain barrel to help maintain their garden during the dry season, but if you prefer, you can put a bucket out on a rainy day for future use (remember to put a cover on it after,  to minimize evaporation and to not attract the mosquitoes.
When you focus on planting annuals without using a lot of our drinking water, it is possible to have colour all season long, while not watering it every day.

February 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

Watering Cans

A good strong watering can is great for spot watering. It allows the pour to be more controlled, and is best used for short spurts of watering when a hose and sprinkler is not needed. Watering cans work well with the use of a rain barrel – just dunk it in and fill!
I prefer using a can no more than 2 litres, with a detachable head so I can vary from a sprinkle to a spout with the twist of the attachment, and a 2 litre can is the right weight for me to minimize spillage and reach above my head if needed.

February 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm

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