Category Archives: Planting

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/

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.

 

What to Plant in Shady Planters

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I love planning out our containers to plant each year; trying out new combinations of plants, and configurations makes the yard seem new and unique each year.  I certainly have some standby’s that I use each year, but trying something new is always fun! If you’re new to gardening or have been planting for years, I think it is always nice to have a fresh perspective to add ideas.  I’ve gathered a few ideas here for some shade planters to help inspire you as we wait for spring to arrive, and more importantly, stay!

The general rule for planters is to include a “thriller, spiller and filler”.

Shade Plants:

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

Dracena, Ornamental Grass, Palms, Gartenmeister Fuschia, Elephant Ears, Coleus

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

Begonias, Impatiens, Fuschia, Coleus, Ferns,

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

Ivy/Vinca Vine, Torenia, Nico, Ivy, Creeping Charlie, Silver Falls, Lysmachia

 

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.

 

Bee Friendly Gardening

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If you spend some time watching a flowering plant, eventually you will likely see a bee land and gather the nectar and pollen contained in the flowers.  It can be fascinating to watch them work; moving from flower to flower before eventually flying away to their hive. Bees play such an important role in nature, pollinating so many plants with their tiny bodies.  However, the use of chemicals in gardening and yard care is causing the widespread demise of bees, worldwide.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/what-s-killing-canadian-honeybees-1.1312511

At Lacoste we are committed to operating in a sustainable system. We use parasitic (“friendly”) wasps (read about it here) to control aphids in the greenhouse.  We do not use neonicontinoid pesticides.

At home, you can help the bee population too! When you plant your planters and gardens, you can create a bee-friendly place!

Create a welcome place for bees

  • All creatures that eat plants (including humans!) depend on pollinators.
  • ¾ of the foods we eat — fruits, nuts, vegetables, and herbs — need pollinators to reproduce.
  • Creating hospitable homes for beneficial insects in your garden means they are less likely to move into your house.
  • You’ll triple the yield of fruit and veggies in your garden — no more lumpy strawberries or shrunken squash!
  • Even what seems like a small contribution — just a tiny flower pot or patch — can provide valuable pollinator habitat.

These plants, organized by when they bloom, are just a few of the species that attract bees:

Early                      Mid-season        Late

Blueberry            Blackberry           Aster (perennial)

Cotoneaster       Cat mint               Beggar’s tricks

Crabapple           Catnip                   Borage

Cranberry            Chives                   Coneflower

Crocus                  Dahlia                    Cornflower

Foxglove              Hyssop                 Cosmos

Heliotrope          Lavender             Goldenrod

Hazelnut              Raspberry           Pumpkin

Heather               Sunflower           Sedum

Primrose              Yarrow                  Squash

Willow

 David Suzuki has a great article on other ways to make your garden bee-friendly, check it out for some more ideas

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/create-a-bee-friendly-garden/

And don’t forget the best part about cultivating a healthy bee community.  There’s nothing tastier than local honey!

Spring Kick-off

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This morning as I walked out my front door, past my sad empty planters, and into the bright morning sunshine, I made a decision.  This is the year I’m going to gamble.  I’m going to plant at least a planter or two this weekend.  The last year we had a warm April, I debated planting early and did not, out of fear of frost.  My neighbour did plant early and his tomatoes were safe.

I’m not going to plant in the ground just yet, but planters can be easily moved inside if necessary, and maybe just maybe they won’t need to be!  There’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when to plant and when its safe; there are so many “rules”:  . . . May Long weekend, or the first moon in June, after the last frost.  However, there is no “garden police” that will come and tell me that I’ve planted incorrectly, so I’m going to try it!

The added benefit of planting early will be that all the beautiful, new, unique plants will still be plentiful. Come by this weekend to check them out, and while you’re here, grab a hotdog and make a donation as a part of our annual charity kick-off BBQ!  In addition to the BBQ, as always there will be great kids activities, and tons of beautiful inspiration to see!

Aphid Control

Bugs, insects and disease probably are not top-of-mind for you as you’re planning your spring garden.  Luckily, right now in the greenhouse, we’ve got it covered! As the baby plants are growing we are proactively confronting the sinister, sap-sucking, soft-bodied aphid!

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Aphids are sap-sucking insects, which are one of the most destructive pests in the garden.  Damage from aphids is quite evident on the plant.  A plant infected with aphids may have decreased growth, curled leaves, browning, wilting and may even die. 

 aphid damage

 

Aphids can be killed by unfavourable weather, including freezes, excessive heat, and rain.  However, manipulating the temperature in the garden or greenhouse to freeze aphids, probably isn’t the best solution for plant health!  There are chemical insecticide solutions to control aphids, however there are also eco-friendly solutions including using aphids’ natural predators.

We have begun using a parasitic wasp to control aphids on our greenhouse plants.  When I first heard “parasitic wasp” I pictured something much more ominous than what it actually is. The wasps, called Aphidus colemani are very small, usually less than 3 mm long.  Female wasps lay an egg in the body of an aphid.  Once the egg hatches, the wasp larvae lives and feeds inside the aphid.  As it grows, the aphid is killed and mummified. The wasp, now and adult chews its way out of the mummified aphid.  The wasps have a good searching ability, and are able to find aphid colonies from far away.  The wasps detect “alarm signals” from an infected plant, and also smell the honeydew secreted by the aphids.  Not only do wasps detect the aphids, but the reverse happens as well.  The presence of a parasitic wasp can cause panic in an aphid colony, and the aphids will let themselves fall to the ground, where they die on impact, or from starvation.

aphidus and aphid

aphidus

 

As ferocious as these wasps are to the aphids, they are completely harmless to people.  You likely won’t even notice them unless you actively seek them out.  You will notice small pots of oat grass throughout the greenhouse, which will act as their home-base.  If you DO want to seek them out, that’s the place to look!

At home, the best solution for addressing an aphid problem is using an insecticidal soap, or even a soap and water spray.  The spray penetrates the aphid body to kill it, so a certain degree of diligence is required, spraying the plant often, until ALL aphids are gone.

Enjoy your Spring planning, we all look forward to seeing you soon, and when you stop by, make sure you look out for this superstar!

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Starting Seeds Indoors

Welcome to another great year of gardening! I’m super excited to share gardening tips and tricks, and learn new things along with all the staff and customers at Lacoste this year!  This year on the blog I’m hoping to try out some “gardening hacks” from around the web, experiments with new varieties and old favourite plants, and as always new recipes from local produce! I hope you’ll come along with me, and share your experiences too!

Today, I have a few thoughts on starting seeds for springtime.  The other night we were watching a program on Netflix called “The Mind of a Chef”.  Chef Sean Brock is very keen on using heritage crops in his cooking, and is a big proponent of seed-saving from one year to the next. Starting seeds indoors can be a great way to get a head start on your garden for spring, and help to speed the transition out of winter!

By the end of March, it will be time to start any indoor seeding, so now is a great time to gather supplies.  You’ll need a growing medium (peat moss), containers (cell packs are available at the store, egg-cartons will also work!), and a variety of your choice of seeds.  Most seed packets will have general instructions regarding when to start the seeds, how much light they need, how far to space them and how to water, but here are a few more tips!

  • Moisten the growing medium (peat moss) so that it isn’t soggy, but rather similar to the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.
  • Cover the freshly seeded containers with a transparent lid.  Once the seeds begin to germinate (sprout), remove the lid to allow air to circulate, and the plants to become stocky rather than stretch out.
  • Grow-lights, or cool fluorescent tubes are the best option for providing light, however a bright sunny window will often do the trick too!
  • Water the seedlings when the top layer of the soil appears dry.  Use a small watering can with a fine spray.  Be careful not to overwater, as soggy soil can lead to a fungal infestation!
  • Seedlings first sprout with two “cotyledons” or “seed leaves”, once there are true leaves, you can begin adding fertilizer when you water. Begin at half strength for a few weeks.
  • Once the risk of frost has passed, and you’ve gradually acclimatized your plants to outside, you can plant your plants in the garden!

When you’re choosing seeds to seed, consider what you will actually use, and enjoy in your garden.  Basil is a great choice for beginners, as are beans.  If you’d prefer to skip the veggies, and concentrate on flowers, pansies and petunias are also quite reliable!

Before we know it, all those little seeds will have turned into mature plants that every at-home chef can use for their own delicious creations!