Monthly Archives: April 2015

Spring Kick-off

IMG_3307

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!

15611981_s

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!

15330294_s

 

Spring Clean-up

Last fall was a busy one for us; we had a few family moves, and a few babies born (ours included), but fall clean-up was a priority, knowing that the spring with a new baby wouldn’t provide a lot of time for extra tasks.  That being said, it is SO important for the health of your yard and garden to get out there in spring and clean-up.  The following list is from thisoldhouse.com, and seems to be fairly comprehensive, but still achievable.

spring-cleanup

1. Prune away dead and damaged branches.

Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems; use a handsaw for any larger than ½ inch in diameter. Shaping hedges with hand pruners, rather than electric shears, prevents a thick outer layer of growth that prohibits sunlight and air from reaching the shrub’s center

2. Cut back and divide perennials as needed.

Prune flowering perennials to a height of 4–5 inches and ornamental grasses to 2–3 inches to allow new growth to shoot up. Where soil has thawed, dig up perennials, such as daylilies and hostas, to thin crowded beds; divide them, leaving at least three stems per clump, and transplant them to fill in sparse areas. Cut back winter-damaged rose canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. On climbers, keep younger green canes and remove older woody ones; neaten them up by bending the canes horizontally and tipping the buds downward. Use jute twine or gentle Velcro fasteners to hold the canes in place.

A pair of sharp bypass pruners makes a clean cut on both dead and living foliage.

3. Clean Up Around Plants.

Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage (which can smother plants and foster disease), pull up spent annuals, and toss in a wheelbarrow with other organic yard waste. Once the threat of frost has passed, Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders, tamping them down around the base with your foot, or use a shovel to replant them. Now is a good time to spread fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil’s surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots. Add a bulb fertilizer around bulbs as soon as they flower to maximize bloom time and feed next season’s growth. Use pins to fasten drip irrigation lines that have come loose and a square-head shovel to give beds a clean edge and keep turf grass from growing into them.

4. Compost Yard Waste.

Dump collected leaves, cuttings, spent foliage, and last season’s mulch into your compost pile, Shred leaves and chip branches larger than ½ inch in diameter to accelerate decomposition, or add a bagged compost starter to the pile. Keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and aerate it with a pitchfork every two weeks. Just don’t add any early spring weeds that have gone to seed—they might not cook completely and could sprout instead.

5. Prep Damaged Lawn Areas for Spring Seeding.

In colder climates grass starts growing in April, but early spring is a good time to test the soil’s pH so that you can assemble the right amendments. Remove turf damaged by salt, plows, or disease to prepare for the seeding that should follow in a few weeks. Work in a ½-inch layer of compost to keep the new seed moist, increasing the germination rate.

6. Neaten Up Hardscape Surfaces.

Rake escaped gravel back into aggregate walkways and patios, and order more gravel to spread in large depressions, which often form near the driveway’s apron. Refill joints between flagstones by sweeping in new sand or stone dust; water with a hose to set it, then, repeat. If the freeze-thaw cycle has heaved pavers out of place, remove them and replenish the base material as needed before setting pavers back in. Use a pressure washer with a low pressure tip to remove slippery algae spots or leaf stains from patios and walkways.

7. Patch or replace and paint worn wood.

Remove badly rotted or damaged pickets, boards, or lattice, then scrub wood structures clean with a mix of 2 gallons water, 2 quarts bleach, and 1 cup liquid soap; let dry. Patch rotted sections with wood epoxy; install new wood as needed. Check wobbly fence posts to see if they need replacing.  Scrape off old paint, then sand wood all over with 60 grit to prep for a new finish coat. Once temperatures go above 50° F, brush on a new coat of paint or stain.

These 7 items need not be done in a single day, or even 7 consecutive days, but they are all tasks that can be accomplished to ready your yard and garden for the fun of spring planting.  Keeping your garden healthy will provide rich dividends in summer, in a beautiful garden.