What perfect weather for bulb planting! This week at J.R.H.S., the resource kids learned about spring bulbs and how these underground storage organs can only grow outdoors in climates like ours, because they require a long, cold period of dormancy. Together we planted early spring-blooming pink and white tulips (Tulipa Upstar), mid-spring blooming, white daffodils with yellow centres (Narcissi Poeticus Recurvus) and early spring-blooming light purple crocus (Pickwick light purple). Since bulbs like a sunny site in well-drained soil, we found the front garden to be the best planting spot for them (thanks Ms. Cathy for suggesting it!). We just hope that pesky squirrels such as the one seen hiding in the photo above, find enough nuts that they won't bother digging up our flower bulbs during the long, cold winter ahead. If they do get hungry and dig them up, we hope the daffodils (which contain toxic chemicals that repel such critters) will be enough to send squirrels packing. We also hope the early crocus we planted will provide an early source of nectar for bees and that our spring planting will embellish the entrance to J.R.H.S. next spring.
John Rennie is a great high school with an ideal gardening space, called 'Haden Garden' which is untouched by squirrels or other pesky critters because it is protected by four inner brick walls. The walls that surround and protect the garden also create a more moderate climate, allowing it to heat up considerably and probably heightening the climatic zone to at least a 6b, which is a great thing anywhere winter is long and cold as it is here. It'a a great space, an true ecosystem equipped with working pond, composting area, vegetable and perennial gardens, sitting area, several trees and even a beehive. How fortunate I am to be able to work here and take part in this wonderful garden, most of which existed long before I ever came along.
When I'm not consulting,coaching, designing or writing about gardening, I work with special needs kids at John Rennie High School. This year, I have the privilege of teaching some of them about growing plants and creating a garden and I have so much that I want to share with them! This week, we sowed spinach seeds into the resource garden bed, after amending it with a little locally produced compost. We don't usually sow seeds this late in summer, but why not? Spinach is a cool-weather crop and grows quickly. I'll keep you posted with regular blogs to let you know how it turned out, and about other gardening adventures so stay tuned.
With the amount of gardening that I do, and with the high yield of fruit, veggie and other compostable kitchen scraps that come from our four-people household, those plastic put-them-together yourself- bins that municipalities regularly hand out just don't cut it for me. Those bins are either simply too small, filling up too fast or are too cumbersome to effectively use, making turning the pile and retrieving ready-made compost challenging at best.
But you don't need a fancy bin to start composting. All you need is a (preferably hidden) space in your yard, and something to contain your compost, like a wire cage, bales of hay, cinder blocks or these old wood panels that my husband used to build ours. I find it is easier to turn the compost pile with these large, custom-made bins and turning your pile allows more air into the centre, to help your compost decompose faster. Larger piles (3ft X3ft) heat up more than smaller piles will, which also helps speed decomposition of organic matter. So what are you waiting for? Forget the fancy bin. Go out and build your compost pile so your plants can reap the benefits of compost this fall.
Why Use Compost?
Gardeners know that compost is good for plants. Regularly adding compost to the garden replenishes the soil with essential nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium that enable plants to thrive and ward off pests and diseases. An overdose of compost will never 'burn' your plants like chemical fertilizers can. And compost doesn't just boost soil fertility. It will also improve your soil's structure, making sandy soils more water retentive and clay soil more porous. This is important because a proper balance of air and water in the soil is also essential for proper plant development.
I have a mutually beneficial relationship with my garden. I tend to it, whenever time permits, or that is, whenever I make the effort to escape life's regular routines and simply take the time to tend to it.
This past weekend I did just that, when I probably should have been doing a million other things. But I have no regrets since life, especially lately, is too short as are fleeting moments like this one captured at a peak time in my front garden, when fresh spring perennial growth is all tidy and new. A sight created not just for me, but for the passerby that stopped to admire the view or chat with me, dirty-kneed and mosquito-bitten, but satisfied as a pig in...at a job done.
I cared for my garden by spreading a layer of compost, pulling weeds, re-edging a little, trimming boxwood and yews like a madwoman, transplanting two previously unappreciated hostas from the backyard and by planting a few flats of annuals- this year it's white wax begonias for the order they instantly impose in any landscape and soft, pink zinnias for their heat tolerance and sheer gorgeousness-and my garden rewarded me with this perfect view in return, a view that will fade out as new plants emerge and seasons move on. Call it what you will: reaping what you sow, karma or getting what you give, but for me it is a mutually beneficial relationship.
Life is just too busy sometimes. So two weeks ago while shopping at COSTCO, I fell upon this lovely original looking (I thought) hanging basket of annuals. They included orangy coloured begonias, golden creeping jenny and a tall dracaena spike which, I admit, due to its blatant overuse, I would normally avoid more than my husband's cooking. Is the picture on the left starting to look familiar? The price for the basket was also pretty reasonable, as are many COSTCO items. So I decided, with time being severely limited and me being creative and all, why not cheat this year? I have a shady front entrance-only two hours of morning sun people! You gardeners know as well as I do, that there are plenty more colourful flowering sun plants than there are shade plants from which to be creative with. So I did it, I cheated. I snipped the plastic hangers and freed the pretty annual flowers from their cheap plastic bucket, added more earth and voila! My entrance piece, custom made for me by adding 3 pretty purple Browalia for added interest and colour. Hopefully my additions will attest to the 'ombre-mi-ombre' statement on the plant label and survive in the two hours of morning light that shines on my front entrance. So much easier than creating a planter from scratch. But shhhh! Don't tell anyone.