Groundcovers, the what and the why.

In the world of plants, the term “groundcover” might seem self explanatory to most gardeners, but let’s be honest, when you are starting out, just about any term can be daunting.

Let’s keep this simple, a groundcover plant is one that can grow in a dense pattern, and not too high off the ground, anywhere from one inch to one foot.

Groundcovers serve many purposes as there are some that grow in difficult terrain like “Periwinkle”; or ones that fill up a shady spot with ease such as “Polypody Fern”. Some groundcovers like “Virginia Creeper” double its category under vines as well, as they can just as easily fill up a fence line or wall.

While many groundcovers spread wide and low, have insignificant foliage, and usually last the full gardening season, it is good to know about the ones that own a shining moment in the flowering department.

Periwinkle can perform beautifully with the most common colour is the blue variety, but can be found in white as well. This flower shows up in early spring, and if the environment is right, it will bloom all season long.

Creeping Phlox is one of my favourite sun loving groundcovers, as it comes in a variety of colours, it comes out in early spring, and multiplies every year.

Sweet Woodruff is another early bloomer, and once this plant is well established, it offers up a beautiful spray of white tiny flowering buds in spring, and the beauty is, the foliage is so attractive, it looks great all season long.

You may be asking why one should use groundcovers, and that would be a great question. What is the purpose? While we have already discussed the aesthetic possibilities, groundcovers offer a great deal of practical elements.

Groundcovers protect the soil by shading it and keeping it cool.

The denser the groundcover, the less opportunity there is for weeds to take over in an area.

Many varieties like fern, sedum, and Wintercreeper are very hardy, and can handle harsher conditions like dry, low nutrient soils.

Groundcovers can be exceptional replacements for lawns, and many can handle a good deal of foot traffic.

Groundcovers are relatively low maintenance

A well established groundcover reduces the need for mulch in a garden

Groundcovers are cheap! Fast spreading varieties can fill up within a season, and you’ll be sharing them in no time.

Please visit our photo link for pictures and descriptions of groundcovers.

March 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm 1 comment

Composting at home

Recycling has become a part of our everyday life, and it is necessary to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills.  There is another method of reducing the garbage that enters our landfills and it is also related to gardening.  This method is called composting and it involves putting back into the soil organic materials (i.e living things) that were removed from the environment.  Organic materials such as food waste, leaves, paper, wood, coffee grounds, and egg shells can be broken down by insects and bacteria into nutrient- rich soil called humus.  Composting can add nutrients to the soil and also improves soil structure, allowing to retain more moisture.  Additionally, it also helps to reduce our dependency on chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides.

How do you compost?

a) Your first step is to find a container to store your compost pile.  You can choose from a variety of plastic composting containers or you can build one on your own.  The most important thing about the container is where you put it.  Location is important as the compost pile requires good drainage (placing on concrete not a good idea).

b) Secondly you must layer what goes into your compost.  Simply throwing everything into a bin or container is ineffective and will result in a stinky mess. When you layer the compost pile air, heat, and moisture are produced all of which are essential to create good quality compost.   There should be layers which provide nitrogen to the soil such as grass clippings and peanut shells.  There should also be layers which provide carbon to the soil such as leaves, and paper.   The nitrogen provides insects and bacteria with the energy they need to break down carbon materials.

c) Lastly you should maintain the pile and keep track of the composting progress.  Turning the pile with a pitchfork or shovel every two days or less will help speed the process.  Keeping the pile moist (as moist as a wrung-out sponge) allows for insects and bacteria to thrive and continue producing heat while doing the composting work (Harris, 2009).

What can go into the compost?  Grass clippings that have not been sprayed by pesticides, and chopped-up leaves such as maple can be added.  Weeds can also be thrown into the pile, but avoid putting in seedheads and seeds.  Construction leftovers such as sawdust, and ground-up wood chips and kitchen waste such as fruit and vegetable peels can be added to the mix.  Wood ashes from the fireplace and lint from the dryer can even be added to produce compost.

What to avoid putting into the compost?  Meat, bones, and dairy products should be avoided because they attract unwanted guests such as rats and raccoons. Do not place the ashes from the barbeque into the compost heap because they tend to contain toxic materials.  Placing pet feces into a compost pile will do more harm than good due to the risk of Salmonella poisoning.  Please check out the references below for further information about composting (Compost Council of Canada, 2011).

References

Compost Council of Canada “ Compost: the natural way to recycle” http://www.compost.org/natural.html Accessed on March 18, 2011

Harris, M. , 2009. Ecological Gardening “Composting: Garden Gold” Random House Canada

McGill University “Ecological Agriculture Projects: Composting” http://eap.mcgill.ca/publications/eap56.htm Accessed on March 18, 2011

March 24, 2011 at 2:46 am 2 comments

Measuring and planning a garden bed

When measuring out your garden bed, it is important to know how much you need to dig, and how much triple mix you will  need to put in.

In difficult clay soil, it is recommended to dig down up to 2 feet. In areas where the garden bed may be raised, the depth may not need to go as deep.

Let’s say we want to create a simple rectangular garden bed measuring 10 feet long by 5 feet wide.

Working on a depth of 12 inches to dig out, we would figure out our “area”, and how many yards we will need to calculate for this:

To get the area we would take the area in feet: length x width = AREA

10 x 5 = 50 square feet.

To figure out our soil quantitiy:

50 x12/12/27 =1.85 yards to be removed, and 1.85 cubic yards to fill in with fresh triple mix.

This calculation will be a resource as to what size bin you may need to order, and how much soil you will need to order.

I would recommend ordering 2 yards of triple mix in this case, as most gardens do best raised, and the soil will fall.

Standard calculation: length x width x depth(inches)/12/27 = cubic yards

March 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

How to divide a Hosta plant – Video

See Michelle direct Patti on how to did up, divide, and transplant her Hosta plant.

Continue Reading March 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

How to plant Herbs and Vegetables – Video

Watch as Michelle walks you through simple planting procedures for vegetables and herbs.

Continue Reading March 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm 1 comment

Dead Leaves add nutrients – Video

March 6, 2011 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

Favourite Plants A to Z: Willow

Historically, the Willow plant has been used for its medicinal values. The Willow leaves contain salicin which is like aspirin and can be made into a tea. The bark of a Black Willow can be made into a tea as an anti-imflamatory aid. The Weeping Willow tree grows fast and large, and is not recommended for small or average size lots. These trees to best in open areas, as they take up a lot of room and their weeping leaves will fall and cover its diameter in Autumn making the grass below it suffocate if not raked up. This picture of a standard form “Dappled” Willow is one of my favourit types. Its leaves become spotted and change to a pink hue. Quite lovely!

March 5, 2011 at 2:59 am Leave a comment

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