Category Archives: Garden 101

Rain barrels and why gardeners should have one

Rain barrels and why gardeners should have one

I think everyone who has a garden would benefit from having a rain barrel–I have four in my yard (three catching rain off the house and one from the garage). There are two main reasons I think everyone should have at least one; the first is that rainwater is free and tap water isn’t. Why… Continue Reading

Do you know the dry spots in your garden?

Do you know the dry spots in your garden?

Rain doesn’t fall the same everywhere.   I’m not just talking about the difference in rainfall between one side of town and another, I’m talking about within your own garden. Even in my tiny city garden some spots get more rain than others. The cause isn’t some magic invisible shield–it’s the fact that I have… Continue Reading

Deadheading makes a difference

Deadheading makes a difference

Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers from a plant—in plain language that means cutting off the dead flowers. There are two main reasons to do this. The first is aesthetic—dead flowers just don’t look good. Take a look at these geraniums before they were deadheaded:   And then take a look a few… Continue Reading

Pruning tomatoes

Pruning tomatoes

I manage the growth of my tomato plants in order to keep them growing on one or two main stems. Left to their own devices, tomato plants will produce many branches, flop over, and become a tangled mess. This isn’t good for the condition of the fruit–it will rot more easily on the ground, and… Continue Reading

Sedums grow better if you pinch them back

Sedums grow better if you pinch them back

Sedums, sometimes known as Stonecrops, are great plants–they have nice flowers, they’re drought and heat tolerant, and they are beloved by bees and other pollinators.   The only downfall with them, in my opinion, is their tendency to flop over late in the season. One day you have a nicely rounded mound of plant and… Continue Reading

Supporting heirloom tomatoes

Supporting heirloom tomatoes

I really enjoy growing tomatoes, especially somewhat unusual heirloom varieties. By nature, these tend to be very tall plants, growing 8 to 10’ tall in a season, so figuring out how to support them has been part of my learning on how to grow tomatoes well. One of the first things I figured out was… Continue Reading

Support structures to keep your plants from flopping over

Support structures to keep your plants from flopping over

Have you ever admired the beautiful blooms on a peony but lamented that they were at ground level, possibly splattered with mud, because the flowers were so heavy? It doesn’t have to be that way and the time to act is now. If you wait until they start to topple over it’s very difficult to… Continue Reading

Lavender needs a spring haircut

Lavender needs a spring haircut

Lavender, latin name Lavandula, is a heat and drought tolerant woody plant. Its native climate is the Mediterranean, so it grows well in fast-draining soil (i.e. dry spots) where it will receive direct sun for at least 6 hours a day.   There are many varieties of lavender, not all of which will grow well… Continue Reading

Dividing rhubarb

Dividing rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the earliest foods you can harvest from the garden. Other than a spot to grow with full sun and an annual feeding of compost or manure, it’s not a demanding plant. But it is a big plant–a mature plant can be 1.5 metres (almost 5′) across.   It is good for… Continue Reading

Tree peonies – how do you prune them?

Tree peonies – how do you prune them?

Peony plants that die back to the ground each winter and then send up new shoots each spring are known as herbaceous peonies–the term herbaceous means that they don’t have a woody stem. I think it’s safe to say they’re the most common type of peony grown in North American gardens–they’ve been around a long… Continue Reading

How to prune roses

How to prune roses

Roses should be pruned each spring. Cutting back rose canes (i.e. the stems/branches) every year helps to foster healthy, good-looking plants and encourage more blooms. The time to prune is in the spring, once you can start to see buds emerging.   If you didn’t protect your roses for the winter, and you live in… Continue Reading

Easy care hellebores

Easy care hellebores

Hellebores seem to be getting a lot of attention these days–they’re a great looking, easy care plant that blooms in late winter to early spring. Chosen as the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year in 2005, more and more bloom colours have become available, due to the diligent work of breeders.   I… Continue Reading

It’s time to unleash the roses!

It’s time to unleash the roses!

One of the first spring tasks in the garden is to remove the winter protection off of roses. As I explained in my post on how to protect roses in winter, the recommended way to ensure that your roses make it through the winter intact (and note that I’m writing this for those of you… Continue Reading

7 Garden Tasks for the Pre-Season

7 Garden Tasks for the Pre-Season

You can’t really get out in your garden and do a lot until the weather warms up and the ground dries out a bit. That happens for me sometime in late April—we’ll still have frost for another month after that, but by late April I can start dividing and moving perennials and really “gardening”. However,… Continue Reading

Dahlias are easy to grow and now is the time plant them!

Dahlias are easy to grow and now is the time plant them!

Dahlias have spectacular blooms but are very easy to grow. You can buy plants already started from the nursery in late spring, but for the best selection I recommend buying the tubers (i.e. the fleshy roots of dahlia plants–they’re like tulip bulbs) now and starting them growing indoors so that they are ready to bloom… Continue Reading

Will late snow and ice harm my spring bulbs?

Will late snow and ice harm my spring bulbs?

It’s every gardener’s nightmare: spring seems to have arrived, tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs are emerging and WHAM! an unexpected snow/ice storm accompanied by plunging temperatures blows in from out of nowhere, engulfing everything in an ice blanket. Will your bulbs be ok? What do you do? The good news is that spring-blooming bulbs… Continue Reading

Do I need to use potting soil in my pots?

Do I need to use potting soil in my pots?

When I first started growing plants in pots I wondered if I really needed to buy potting soil, or if I could use something cheaper, like topsoil or regular garden soil. I read a few articles that said you really should use it, but aside from potting soil being lighter, and therefore the pots easier… Continue Reading

Birdfeeders: what gardeners need to know

Birdfeeders: what gardeners need to know

I spend a lot of winter hours staring out the windows at my sleeping garden so the concept of having something of “winter interest” in the garden is pretty important to me. When you read about creating winter interest the discussion usually centres on making sure you plant some evergreens, ornamental grasses, and trees and… Continue Reading

What is that giant green thing on my tomato plant?

What is that giant green thing on my tomato plant?

Last summer I was in my tomato patch, admiring the ripening tomatoes and pruning off excess growth, when something caught my eye. Now I should pause and explain that I grow a lot of tomatoes; 17 plants last season, in fact. And they aren’t little tomato plants—I love to grow heirloom tomatoes, many of which… Continue Reading

Plant profile: Nigella

Plant profile: Nigella

Nigella (Nigella damascene) is a beautiful and easy to grow flower for your summer garden. Nigella blooms are unlike anything else—to me, they look a bit like a firecracker or a sea creature. They come in a few colours, including white and soft pink, but it’s the blue varieties that I think really stand out… Continue Reading

Protecting roses in winter

Protecting roses in winter

One of the last tasks of the garden season is to protect roses for winter. And by last tasks, I mean you need to wait to do this until winter sets in–the ground is frozen (or in the process of freezing) and no more balmy days are forecast. I won’t lie, this can be a… Continue Reading

Saving begonias, dahlias and cannas for next year

Saving begonias, dahlias and cannas for next year

I’m always sad to see my beautiful flowers freeze and die in the fall. However, I am heartened to know that my begonias, dahlias and cannas will live again the next year, as long as I lift and store their fleshy root systems, called tubers and rhizomes. (If you want to get technical, begonias and… Continue Reading

Why you need to empty your pots for the winter

Why you need to empty your pots for the winter

I grow a LOT of plants in pots. A lot. I love their versatility and the way they can add height and colour to any spot. The only thing I don’t enjoy about growing plants in pots is having to empty the soil out of them in the fall. And because I live in a… Continue Reading

How to plant garlic

How to plant garlic

Garlic is one of the easiest foods to grow. Just drop a clove in the ground, provide minimal care, and some time later—out comes a full head of garlic. In this post, I’ll take you step by step through the process. Or, for the quick version, watch this video: Still with me? Great–read on! Garlic… Continue Reading

Early fall garden tasks

Early fall garden tasks

As frost hits and the growing season winds down there are some things that need to be done to keep your garden fabulous:   Annuals Remove and compost annual plants once they die. A bed full of wilty dead coleus is not attractive.   Vegetables Most of your vegetable plants are annuals, so should be… Continue Reading

How to plant bulbs

How to plant bulbs

Spring flowering bulbs are one of the easiest things to grow in your garden. Plant them in the fall, protect them from squirrels, and they’ll reward you with lots of colourful blooms in the spring—a welcome relief after a colour-deprived winter. Squirrels really are the only significant obstacle that I’ve found when growing bulbs. They’re… Continue Reading

It’s time to buy bulbs!

It’s time to buy bulbs!

If you want to have a fabulous garden next spring now is the time to go out and buy bulbs. I was in two nurseries this weekend and both of them had just received the bulk of their spring blooming bulbs, which means the best selection is to be had right now. I would imagine… Continue Reading

Dealing with weeds

Dealing with weeds

Weeding is an inescapable part of gardening. You can minimize the amount of it you have to do by using mulch and planting intensively (less space between plants means less space for weeds) but you’re always going to have some weeds to deal with. Ignoring them just leads to more weeds, so it’s a battle… Continue Reading

A quick & easy upgrade for hanging baskets

A quick & easy upgrade for hanging baskets

Hanging baskets are a must have in my garden. In particular, I love to have a big basket of bright red geraniums hanging on the front of my garage. They’re easy to find at a good price and they pack a lot of oomph. What I don’t love is the cheap plastic hanger and basket… Continue Reading

5 Rules for Watering Your Garden

5 Rules for Watering Your Garden

Watering plants is really straightforward in many ways. We learn early on in science class that plants need soil, light, air and water to grow. But how to water and when are the questions that generate answers that begin with “It depends on…” and then follow with qualifiers about temperature, type of plant, whether it’s… Continue Reading

The (not so secret) secret to growing great garlic

The (not so secret) secret to growing great garlic

Garlic is really easy to grow—you plant it in the fall and then just keep it watered and weeded until harvest, except you do have one task to complete right about now. And that’s chopping off those curly things that have formed at the top of the garlic plants. Those are called scapes. Essentially, they’re… Continue Reading

Coleus, the most useful plant

Coleus, the most useful plant

I noticed an empty open spot at the front of our garden, near the sidewalk. Bare soil (or bare mulch) is a rarity in my garden, by design. Actually, saying it’s by design sounds like have a plan—if there’s an empty space I see an opportunity to cram in another plant! I still have a… Continue Reading

How do I prune my lilacs?

How do I prune my lilacs?

I have a friend with a beautiful garden, designed and installed by professional landscapers. She loved it, but her one complaint was that her lilacs had bloomed the first year and then never really put on much of a show after that. When I visited her lovely garden my one question, that revealed the problem,… Continue Reading

Is your garden hungry?

Is your garden hungry?

Do your roses lack vigor? Your shrubs seem sparse? Your tomato plants puny? It may be that they’re hungry!  Plants take nutrients from the soil and, over time, if the soil is not replenished, will exhaust the supply available. It’s just like if you or I were to keep taking food out of the refrigerator… Continue Reading

The gardener’s shadow

The gardener’s shadow

One key to a fabulous garden is being aware of what’s going on in your garden. My garden mentor often quotes the old adage “The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.” That phrase went through my head often this week as I was doing rounds early in the morning; I still have a lot of… Continue Reading

What’s coming up in my garden?

What’s coming up in my garden?

Or how to make sure your garden gets better every year. Walking through my garden in spring is like meeting up with a bunch of friends I haven’t seen in months—it’s a series of happy surprises and reunions as I reflect on the good times we had together—the stunning bloom on this particular tulip, the… Continue Reading

What grows in shade?

What grows in shade?

“What do I plant in the shady areas of my garden?” is one of questions I’m asked most frequently. All plants need light, water and soil in order to grow, but the amount of each varies from plant to plant. Plants that tolerate less light are often called shade plants, although shade-tolerant plants is probably… Continue Reading

What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial?

What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial?

“Are you looking for annuals or perennials?” is often the first question you’re asked when you go to a garden centre. “Erm…I’m not sure” can be uncomfortable to say–perennial and annual are terms you’ve heard before but just haven’t quite remembered the definitions of as they only tend to come up occasionally–like right now, in… Continue Reading

How do I take care of my lawn?

How do I take care of my lawn?

“Jen, when should I fertilize my lawn?” “Should I just put some topsoil on my lawn now?” “Hey, Jennifer, is this the right time to overseed?” These are the questions often directed at me by friends and colleagues when they find out that I know a bit about gardening. This happens even with friends who… Continue Reading

Which seeds should I plant right in the ground?

Which seeds should I plant right in the ground?

In a previous post I talked about how new vegetable gardeners can feel pressured to start their plants inside, from seeds, when really, they would be much better off buying baby plants (seedlings) from the nursery. This is true for plants that need to be started ahead of time, inside, in order to reach maturity… Continue Reading

How do you find gardening advice you can trust?

How do you find gardening advice you can trust?

There are all sorts of website, people, and businesses willing to provide advice to gardeners, but the question, especially for the new gardener, is whose advice do you trust? I’ve seen a “gardening magazine” publish advice that’s just plain wrong and refuse to correct it. Irresponsible? Yes. Surprising? No. Gardening is big business, editorial teams… Continue Reading

What new gardeners need to hear about starting seeds

What new gardeners need to hear about starting seeds

I believe a lot of new gardeners are being set up for failure. They’re told from multiple sources that growing their own plants from seed is a great way, in fact, the only way, to really start gardening. When a new gardener tries to grow something and has a bad experience right off the bat,… Continue Reading

error: Content is protected !!