On occasion I have had potential clients call me and ask me if I can till their gardens. The short answer is no, and it's not because I can't, but because I won't. Tilling soil affects soil structure which has a major influence on water and air movement, biological activity, root growth and seedling emergence. Watch this short video by the U.S. Department of Agriculture: (June 29 post)
Have you ever considered adding native plants to your garden? They are excellent choices as they have naturally survived and thrived in our climate as well as providing a food source for native fauna.
Better Homes & Gardens have compiled 15 native plants for our region, and with the exception of Idaho Fescue (zone 5), they are great choices for Calgary gardens.
View important information regarding Bronze Leaf Disease from The City of Calgary:
Bronze Leaf Disease
Afternoon tea in the garden is one of my favorite pastimes. If you happen to grow lavender, why not make lavender jelly for your scones? Here's a recipe for this wonderful creation:
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cups dried lavender
1 3/4 oz box powdered pectin OR 3 oz liquid pectin
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 cups sugar
Bring water to a boil. Add lavender flowers and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add lemon juice and pectin; stirring until dissolved. Reboil and add sugar. Maintain a rolling boil for 2-4 minutes while stirring. Transfer to
5 - 1/2 pint sterile jars. Enjoy!
*If you don't grow lavender, purchase culinary lavender such as Bleu Lavande lavender herbal tea.
Gardens by Laura supports sustainable gardening practices. In a nutshell, this means we follow practices that will allow future generations to meet their needs by attempting to protect, restore, and enhance landscapes to provide ecosystems that benefit humans and other organisms.
There are a number of practices that we can all do to protect our environment. The Missouri Botanical Garden has an excellent article that outlines some of these activities. Click below to read:
Sustainable Gardening Link
Pruning is used to prevent or correct problems with a plant. Plants should be selected based upon many factors, one of which is mature size. Why select a shrub that will grow to be 6' tall and continually prune it to keep it at 3' tall? This is poor planning.
As most trees and shrubs develop next season's flower bud during the summer, pruning at this time will remove the flower buds. One client of mine has a large lilac against their house which has not bloomed. Their previous gardener had been pruning at the incorrect time and had removed all the flower buds!
For spring blooming trees and shrubs, pruning should be done immediately after flowering. This allows next season's blooms to form. Some examples include lilac, Nanking cherry, forsythia, and roses that bloom once per season.
Some trees are considered "bleeders" and will leak sap when pruned when not actively growing. They must be pruned during summer and early fall. Some examples include Birch and Maple trees.
Conifers usually don't require pruning except to produce denser growth or shorter stature. These are best pruned before the end of July. Pruning after this time can produce a dwarfing effect and also remove next season's buds.
If your plant has dead or diseased areas, these should be removed at any time. You do not want to allow any infections to spread throughout the plant. For diseased tissue, ensure removal of an additional six inches of healthy wood. Clean your pruning tools between cuts with an anti-bacterial product such as Lysol, and do NOT apply any wound dressings.
I know many of you desire a low-maintenance weed free garden and who doesn't? You may be tempted to add landscape fabric in an effort to eliminate or reduce weeds. Don't do it!
Over time, organic matter will find it's way on top of the landscape fabric. This will then provide a media for weed growth on top of and through the fabric. As most landscape fabrics are covered with inorganic or organic mulches, weeds will also grow into these mulches. As many weeds are perennial in nature, the entire root must be removed to eliminate regrowth of the weed. This becomes difficult when the roots are growing into the fabric and mulch. If you thought weeding was tedious before, you will be pulling your hair out once you have a tangled mess of weeds, landscape fabric, and mulch.
In addition, your garden plant roots may also become tangled into the fabric. Any attempt to remove the fabric can damage the roots. If you like to split your perennials and occasionally move plants around, this task becomes much more difficult.
Landscape fabric will degrade with time, especially when exposed to sunlight. It is not a permanent solution. The best solution for your garden is an organic mulch with no landscape fabric. See my blog article on Benefits of Mulches.
Compost is decomposed organic material used as a soil amendment to increase the organic content in soil. Nutrients in compost are returned to the soil, often eliminating the need for additional fertilizers in your garden. By utilizing yard and kitchen scraps, you can create your own black gold by letting Mother Nature work her magic.
Click below for an excellent article and video by Better Homes and Gardens that outline how to make your own compost!
How to Make Compost
I have found that roses listed as hardy in zones 4 and warmer require winter protection in Calgary. There are several methods that can be used:
1. Rose Cone
Rose cones are cone-shaped Styrofoam covers that are placed over the rose for the winter season. They are suitable for smaller sized roses, are fairly inexpensive, and very easy to use. These are available at stores like Canadian Tire or garden centers.
Cut several one-inch holes into the cone to provide ventilation for the rose and ensure the temperature inside the cover does not become excessive. Mound some soil around the base of the rose to provide additional protection for the roots. Place the cone over the rose and secure with a rock or other heavy object to ensure it does not blow away. That's it, you're done.
When native trees start to bud in the spring, it is time to remove the rose cone and excess soil that was placed around the crown of the shrub in the fall. The rose may require some pruning. Wait until the rose starts growing to see if there are any dead branches, or if shaping is required.
2. Chicken Wire Cage
For roses of a larger stature, create a circular cage made of chicken wire that will fit around the rose. Again, mound some soil around the base of the rose for added root protection. The chicken wire can be lined with burlap to hold the contents in. Then fill the cage with leaves, straw, or bark chip to insulate the stems.
Remove the cage and contents in the spring as described above for rose cones.
3. Container Grown Roses
I grow my tender roses in containers in the summer. This way I can ensure they can be moved around to receive maximum sun in my yard, and I've really run out of room in my garden for roses.
Remember, plants grown in containers will require more frequent watering and fertilization than plants grown in the ground. Ensure your roses are well-watered leading up to frost because once the soil is frozen, you can't add any additional water for uptake by the plant.
Once winter comes (usually November) I move my roses into my unheated garage, up against the house. I leave them there until spring and then bring them back into the yard. I used this method for three David Austin roses which are zone 5 and it worked for me last year. I did lose one rose however.
4. Treat Them as Annuals
If you don't like to baby your plants, then you can always treat tender roses as annuals in our climate. They can be grown in the ground or in containers. At the end of the season if you do nothing, the rose will probably die over the winter. In the spring, you can replace it with another tender rose or whatever suits your fancy.
Winter is a great time to daydream and plan next season's garden. There are several new selections of roses coming to market in 2016 that may interest you. With the popularity of the Downton Abbey® series, two roses have been developed to honor the show.
The first in the Downton Abbey rose series, Anna's Promise is a gorgeous grandiflora rose. The fragrance is fruity and the blooms are a striking combination of golden tan and pink blush with a bronze reverse.
This rose is listed as hardy in zones 4-10 so will probably require winter protection in Calgary. See my blog article on winter rose protection coming soon.
The second rose in the Downton Abbey series, Pretty Lady has large, showy, ruffled blooms reminiscent of a flapper dress. Sweetly scented, the blooms are an intense pink with a high petal count.
This rose is listed as hardy in zones 3-10, but it is a hybrid tea rose which doesn't tend to be winter hardy in Calgary. I suggest additional winter protection for this variety until experience proves otherwise.
The Party Hardy rose is not a Downton Abbey rose, but a new hardy shrub rose developed for colder climates. The old-fashioned, double blooms are produced in profusion throughout the season on a 4' high shrub. An excellent choice for cottage gardens, this new rose deserves a place in your landscape.
This rose is listed as hardy in zones 3-10 so should not require additional winter protection.