Vegetable Gardening

Twice in the last month I have had each of my sisters ask me about how to start a vegetable garden.  One has a rather large-ish city lot, but more interest in eating local than the actual act of gardening.  The other is helping a school create a large garden plot.  As I was researching various aspects of their projects for them, I came across mysquarefootgarden.net, which had a great comparison of three different types of veggie gardens:

Traditional Gardening

  • A large plot of earth tilled up, and organized in long rows.
  • Requires a lot of space, and a lot of work.
  • If you have good soil the startup costs can be very low–just purchasing some seeds.
  • Challenge:  weeds. Mulching can help, but you will inevitably battle as many weeds (or more!) as you have plants.

Square Foot Gardening

  • Garden beds are built and filled with soil. Raised beds are easier to access, especially for those with physical limitations.
  • Plants are spaced very close together, eliminating “rows.”
  • Utilizes vertical gardening–supporting plants with trellises, staking, etc. This reduces the space needed on the ground by growing vining plants up instead of out.
  • Challenges: startup costs can be much higher because beds must be built or purchased, and soil must be replenished each year. You may need fertilizer to provide enough nutrients for the plants to grow and thrive.

Container Gardening

  • For those with very small yards or just a balcony or a porch to use, container gardening is a great option
  • Many “dwarf” varieties have been developed to help those growing in such small areas.
  • Benefit: requires very little space.
  • Challenges: harvest may be limited, the soil will need constant improvement and fertilizer, and plants grown this way can be more susceptible to disease.

 

And because whenever I begin looking at pictures of veggie gardens, I have to dream a bit, here’s my ideal garden, a blend of traditional and square foot gardening!

Potager Garden

House Plants and Water

So many times when talking, about houseplants, I’m asked “how much water does it need?” or “how often do you need to water it?”

Unfortunately, the easy answer is never the most satisfying, as the easy answer is “it depends”.  It depends on the type of plant.  It depends on the amount of sunlight it receives.  It depends on the temperature of the room. It depends on the size of the plant.

In one of my kids bedrooms, there is two Pothos plants.  Both are in identical 6-inch grey ceramic pots.  Both are the same distance away from their respective windows.  Both are watered on the same day, with approximately the same amount of water.  However, when I went in this week to vacuum and water, this is what I saw:

pothos

To clarify, or complicate matters, the plant on the left is in an east-facing dormer window, the one on the right is in a south-facing dormer window.  The south window is shaded by a large tree, and generally seems darker, and the east-facing window seems to be the sunnier warmer location for the entire day.

Luckily, most of my houseplants benefit more from neglect, than from over-watering, and now both are thriving again. My best suggestion, as un-helpful as it may seem: water your houseplants when it seems like they need it.

To keep things green and healthy in your home, here are some other great options:

 

http://www.daviddomoney.com/2015/01/14/top-10-cant-kill-houseplants-lazy-gardeners/

All About Air Plants

After Gardening Saturday, an Air Plant (Tilandsia), made its way home, and landed on the kitchen counter, and there it stayed. My plan is to gather a few friends for this one, and hang them in glass terrariums that I have been eyeballing for years.  We have a bit of an abusive relationship with houseplants at our house, due to a cat that will eat anything stringy, a toddler that will pull off anything hanging, and two older kids who will make dinosaur jungles around the base of any plant that’s available (we do have several great options that thrive despite their enviroments).  I’m hoping that these Air Plants, hung up high will be safe from everyone!

Air Plants are so named because their roots do not need to be planted in soil; the leaves draw necessary nutrients from the air.  In the wild, they can be found clinging to rocks and trees with their roots.

Air plants need air, water and light to thrive, just as any other house plant. They can live in a container (like my future terrarium!) as long as that container is not sealed, and air can circulate around the plant.

Most plants draw moisture from the soil with their roots; since Tilandsia draws water from the air, it needs to be misted regularly.  Like any other houseplant it is important to consider that a plants hydration needs will vary drastically depending on its environment.  One article recommended bathing the plant once/week in the summer, and once every three weeks in the more humid winter.  Obviously in Manitoba, our dry winters and more humid summers would have us reverse that schedule!  Most Garden Centres recommend misting Tilandsia a few times a week.  Our Air Plant is eagerly misted every day, with reminders from our little gardeners!

Tilandsia likes to be in bright, indirect light.  Placing it in front of a south-facing window would probably not be the best option, but in a bright room without a direct sunbeam will allow it to thrive!

It is possible for Air Plants to bloom, but is tricky (not this tricky ).  They only bloom once in their life cycle, just as they reach maturity.  If you see one that is starting to produce baby plants (“pups”), treat it to a bit of fertilizer in its bath or water mist, and you may be able to see it!

Air Plants are so versatile in their ability to be displayed and grown. At an affordable price, they can be replaced in the same manner as cut flowers, and can also be displayed in a wide variety of ways to suit your own home’s style and personality!

collage

 

Lacoste at Gardening Saturday

“That’s a sign of spring!” says my daughter; “spring is knocking at the door!” says my son; “break out the rubber boots!” I say.  We have officially, if tentatively, declared it spring at our house.  I know many gardeners who are itching to get started.  I have a few Facebook friends who have been posting pictures all winter of their indoor herb gardens, another friend who has started some seed with her kids, and my mom has had her gardening books out, planning, since early February.

If you are looking to start your plans for spring, this weekend is a great opportunity! Gardens Manitoba is presenting the 9th annual Gardening Saturday at the Victoria Inn. Admission to the trade show provides the opportunity to mingle and chat with many Manitoba vendors, including your favourite garden centre! We’re be set up at booth 800, showcasing our fantastic fairy gardens!

The seminar schedule can be found here, and most sessions still have space to register (walk-up registration is also available). I know all these seminars will be very enjoyable AND informative. If you attend the fairy garden and terrarium workshop, you’ll even recognize Madeline as the leader!

I hope you all have a wonderful spring weekend, and stop by and say hi, if you’re at the Victoria Inn on Saturday!

Christmas Open House

When do officially start you start your Christmas season? In my daughter’s Clifford Christmas book, Emily Elizabeth declares that Christmas starts at the Thanksgiving parade, when Santa comes to town.  My American relatives agree.  Growing up, we wouldn’t listen to Christmas music prior to Remembrance day, but decorations didn’t even begin to emerge until December 1st.  According to the church calendar, there are four Sundays of Advent, prior to Christmas Day.

If you’ve been to Lacoste lately, you’ll have noticed that we have officailly started our Christmas season.  Our wreath/swag making workshops have been filled, with the exception of a few remaining spots,  and our “Jingle and Mingle” family and friends night has passed.  However, coming up this Saturday is one of my favourite Lacoste events of the year.  The annual Open House has evolved from a small kids craft and some food samples, to a much fuller event.  We still have a kids craft, but now there is also face painting, and snacks.  There is, of course food samples, along with hot chocolate and hot apple cider.  There is a petting zoo with sheep, and chickens and usually a goat that comes to visit.  However, most importantly, Santa and Mrs Claus come to visit and read stories with the kids. It really is a great day to come with the family, choose a tree, maybe roast a marshmallow or two, and get into the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Open House2015

Times to note:

We are open all weekend:

Saturday 9-8, Sunday 9-6

Santa and Mrs. Claus visit:

Saturday, Dec 5:  10-3; Sunday Dec. 6: 11-3; Sunday, Dec 13: 11-3

Petting Zoo:

Saturday, Dec 5: 11-2

Kids Crafts & Activities:

Saturday, Dec. 5: 10-3

Here are a few pictures from last year:163 171 177

 

Growing Places and Growing Spaces

As you wander and shop through the greenhouses in any season, you’ll have noticed doors that lead to mysterious areas labelled “staff only”.  Behind these doors is where we hide all of our storage and growing greenhouses.  We have 8 freestanding greenhouses, in which we grow bedding plants, as well as fall mums and poinesttias. There is also a large greenhouse range adjacent to the pottery section of growing space. This area is where much of the early spring action takes place; seeding and transplanting, and growing.  My favourite of the back greenhouses though has been “4 to the North” which sits right outside the back entrance.  On the North side of the entrance, to be specific!  It is typically used to store large orders of plants for landscapers, and commercial customers.  I’ve liked it, because the plants are grouped together as large plantings; a variety of plants together looking more like a garden than a field.

This week, I said goodbye to “4-to-the-North” as well as the growing range.  We’re working on a pretty major renovation back there, tearing the whole structure down, and building a new one.  This new area will be almost as big as the retail area, and best of all, newly designed for better growing conditions, and maneuverability.  As growers, we are very picky when it comes to the quality of the plants that you take home to your gardens.  With an improved growing space, the young plants will thrive with improved environmental controls (humidity, temperature, airflow, light dispersion).  They will grow strong and healthy, less susceptible to diseases and fungus.  Better walkways and aisles will mean more space for us to move around, to bring plants out for you to enjoy!

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Lacoste Staff Plant Pick of the Week

Itoh Peony

itoh peony

The Itoh Peony, is cross of a woody-stemmed peony and a herbaceous peony.  It was bred in Japan, and has strong stems to hold the flower upright, without peony rings for support.  They have a variety of flower colours, and bloom vigorously.  They are quite disease resistant, and the foliage remains attractive into the fall.

Scientific Name: Intersectional Peony

Plant: in Partial or Full Sun

Grows: 30-36″ (75-90cm) tall by : 30-36″ (75-90cm) wide

Regular (weekly) watering will help maintain a healthy plant!

Stems will die back to the ground each fall, and quickly grow back in the spring.

Planting for Butterflies

This spring, a large amount of our kids’ time has been spent trying to catch backyard wildlife to bring inside as “pets”.  Currently in my backyard I have four “traps”.  We hung a bird feeder, which is currently populated by sparrows.  I’m not sure how long it takes for word to travel amongst the sparrow population, but eventually they may figure out that each time they land for a snack, two eager preschoolers come running out the door to try to grab them.  I have an ant trap on the patio.  Not an ant-trap filled with poison, but rather a welcoming home for them made from a sandwich container, and filled with rocks.  A similar ladybug home sits nearby, but filled with dust from last year’s sidewalk chalk remnants (because of course that’s appealing to ladybugs!).  There is a worm farm on the deck (from April’s Young Gardeners’ workshop).  There are old carrots lying around, which I am under strict instructions are for the bunny, who we will (apparently) catch and bring inside.  However, all the efforts to attract wildlife to the yard are not just the kids’.  I also have made a contribution, in the form of a butterfly planter. I’m not about to advocate feeding the neighbourhood bunnies with your leftover veggies, but making an area of your garden attractive to butterflies is much less damaging to the other plants in your yard.

butterfly with caterpillar

Butterfly planters or gardens need to be in full sun, and may contain a variety of trees/shrubs, annuals and perennials.  The plants can reflect the needs of either the caterpillars, or butterflies or both!

Plants that caterpillars love: blueberries, cabbage, cherries, dill, hops, grasses & sedges, milkweed, parsley, pussy-toes, sunflowers, violets, wild mustard, and wild plums

Plants that butterflies love:

Annuals: ageratum, alyssum, butterfly weed, cosmos, dianthus, geranium, heliotrope, impatiens, lobelia, marigold, milkweed, nasturtiums, petunia, salvia, verbena, zinnia

Perennials:  asclepias (butterfly weed) asters, black eyed susan, coneflower, daylily, gaillardia, goldenrod, lavender, monarda, sunflower, wild bergamot

Trees & Shrubs:  chokecherry, crabapple, lilac, honeysuckle

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When attracting butterflies to your yard, you can also include some homemade butterfly nectar, and food.  Butterflies love rotting fruit, especially bananas.  If leaving fruit out, remember to replace it once it dries out, or becomes mouldy.

Homemade Butterfly Nectar:

Mix 10 parts water with 1 part sugar, boil for 2 minutes.
Let cool and place in a shallow container (like a plant saucer).
Add a paper towel, saturated in the mixture, or a bright orange/yellow scrub pad.  The bright colour will help attract them, and provide a place for them to rest on.
The saucer can be placed amongst flowers, or on a post, or table nearby.
Extra solution can be stored in the fridge, and used to replenish the saucer as needed.

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Once you’ve made your planter, sit back and watch carefully and patiently for the butterflies to arrive. And if you are so inclined, feed the bunnies, trap the ants and ladybugs while you’re at it!

What to Plant in Sunny Planters

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Last week, I outlined some basic ideas for containers in shady spots.  The same principle of “thriller, spiller, and filler” applies for sunny containers too.

Sun Plants:

Thriller: Plants that add height and a bit of unique appeal.

Dracena (spikes), Ornamental Grass, Canna Lilies, Banana, Gaura, Cleome, Geraniums,                   Kanga Paw

Filler: Mounding plants that won’t reach the height of your thriller, but will fill in around and in front of the thriller.

Geraniums, Angelonia, Annual Daisies, Alternanthera (red threads), Potunias

Spiller: Adds interest and flows out of the pot. Can be either flowers or foliage.

Lobelia, Bacopa, Wave petunias, Million Bells, Silver Falls/Emerald Falls, Creeping Jenny

 

The thriller is usually placed in the middle (if seen from all sides) or towards the back (if front/side views only). Then moving outwards/forwards add the fillers. Then finally along the outside edges add your spillers.

pot_placement

12″ pot= 5 plants

14″ pot= 7 plants

16″ pot= 9 plants

 

Remember, when you first plant your containers they will look sparse. They will fill in as the plants mature. Try not to over stuff them as it can result in over-crowded and unhealthy plants.

 

Lacoste Staff Plant Pick of the Week

Bacopa

bacopa

Bacopa is a long-time favourite plant to fill the role of “spiller” in container planting.   Its bountiful white flowers are eye-catching and dainty

Scientific Name: Bacopa Sutera cordata

Plant: Sun/Part sun

Grows: 4-8″ (10-20cm) tall and trails up to 36” (90cm)

Bacopa is a low-maintenance plant, requiring no deadheading to remain in bloom all summer long.  It does like to be evenly moist, and long periods without water can cause it to drop blooms and buds.  Luckily, after a few weeks of regular watering, it will recover nicely!