Buds & Blooms: Healthy Lawns

As seen in Medicine Hat News – April 9, 2016 – Bev Crawford

I had so much fun last Saturday playing with my granddaughter, Leigha, on our front lawn. My husband decided to rent a power aerator to rejuvenate the grass. After the aeration is done he criss-crosses over the yard with a power rake to dethatch the build up of slowly decomposing grass stems, dead roots, and debris that builds up above the soil line.

Aerating and dethatching are as important to your lawn’s health as fertilizing and mowing, although it just needs to be done once every year or two. Lawns need air, water and nutrients and this process helps to provide these needs.

The finger-sized plugs of soil lifted by the aerator allow air, water, and fertilizers to get closer to the roots, and the roots grow more deeply, producing a healthier lawn. The aerator will also puncture the thatch layer in your grass that can form a water barrier over the soil. Make sure that the soil below the grass is moist during aeration so the soil can be penetrated easily. Too wet or too dry doesn’t work so well.

Once the plugs of soil were pulled and the power rake ran over the lawn, Leigha and I had a great time raking all that dormant grass into a small castle for her to sit on. She threw the grass clippings into the air with glee!

While the men were busy with the heavy work she helped fill the birdbaths with fresh water. She has taken a keen interest in the wide variety of birds in Gramma and Grampa’s yard!

We compost all of our grass, leaves, kitchen scraps and plant waste. If you don’t compost at home you can purchase a city compost bin that they pick up on a weekly basis starting the week of April 18. And if you don’t have or want a bin, be sure your yard waste is in an appropriate paper or recycle bag.

When watering your grass this coming season it is wise to water early in the morning or late evening and water deeply only when the lawn shows signs of needing it.

With Earth Day coming on April 22, please do something to celebrate Mother Nature. Start a recycle program in your home. Throw less in the garbage by recycling your plastic, cardboard, tin and glass. The garbage nuisance ground will appreciate you! You could plan to plant a tree; if everyone planted a tree we would all breathe easier. Or you could plant a butterfly flower for the struggling monarchs, or some flowers for our disappearing bees. Whatever you choose to do, do it with love for the earth and your environment.

Bev Crawford is the Perennial House Manager at The Windmill Garden Centre and John’s Butterfly House.

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Buds & Blooms: Spring has sprung

As seen in Medicine Hat News, March 12, 2016 – Bev Crawford

This weekend our clocks spring ahead one hour. Our thoughts spring ahead a couple of weeks also, to that favourite, exciting time when we begin focusing our ideas on gardening. We certainly had a mild winter.

Our greenhouse is busy. Roses are planted. Daylilies, peonies, hostas and astilbes are planted. Pots are filled with the beauty of many annuals and for those who grow their own, the planting supplies and soil and seed packs are now available. Lynn and Vince are setting the scene for many colourful, interesting ornaments for your garden.

Now is the time for you to make plans for what type of plants you want to enhance your own wonderful paradise.

Do you want to concentrate on a particular type of garden — be it one to attract many pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds? Come in to chat about gardens and we can provide information on pollinator plants for bees; what it takes to provide butterflies with everything necessary to sustain them; and which plants, trees and shrubs will best attract birds to share your oasis.

Perhaps you want to build a garden around some souvenir rocks you have brought home from your travels! Succulents, alpine plants, creeping thyme and Lewisia will adorn them.

You might want a romantic English garden with David Austin roses, garden phlox and delphiniums. Fairy gardens or miniature gardens are very popular. They need specific low growing plants that won’t overgrow your initial ornamental set-up. The variety of tiny figurines for these gardens is very intriguing!

John’s Butterfly House will be re-opening on March 19. This past week a new supply of butterfly chrysalis was delivered so the excitement at the greenhouse is mounting.

Perhaps you could bring your kids to see our two new kids at our petting zoo. And how often does a child get to pet a chicken? Please take some time this season to teach your children how to plant a small garden patch. Peas, beans and sunflower seeds are good to begin with. Let them plant marigolds and zinnias everywhere.

Watching the astilbes peeking through as the soil splits open is like watching a new baby chick hatching from an egg. I am sure looking forward to my first spring Robin Redbreast!

Bev Crawford is the Perennial House manager at The Windmill Garden Centre and John’s Butterfly House.

Buds & Blooms: Air-Cleaning House Plants

As seen in Medicine Hat News, February 20, 2016 – Bev Crawford

Well here we are in the middle of February and with the weather being mostly wonderful it is making us all get a little itchy for spring.

We can’t really do much about it just yet but while being stuck inside our houses for a while yet, we could add a few houseplants which will bring a little green and colour and something living until we can get outside and play.

And if you do get a houseplant you may as well make it useful and clean the air of toxins and all other compounds from the building materials, cleaning products, furniture and synthetic materials. Given that more than 90 per cent of people spend their time inside, air quality matters. Indoor air pollution can also be caused by pollen, bacteria, moulds and exhaust.

Living inside with all this bad air quality also causes dizziness, headaches, nausea and eye and ear irritations. So come on people, let’s add a few plants and let them go to work. The good news is that it is easy and affordable to combat the presence of the yucky stuff we are breathing in.

It has been proven that houseplants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that the plant is taking in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen through photosynthesis. Micro-organisms associated with plants are present in the potting soil and these microbes are also responsible for much of the cleaning effect. Plus plants make us feel happier.

Here is a list of a few easy house plants to try.

Spider Plant — bright to indirect light. It removes formaldehyde and xylene.

Boston Fern — high humidity and indirect light. Also removes formaldehyde and xylene.

Snake Plant — likes dry conditions and low light. It removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene.

Ficus — bright to indirect light. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Peacy Lily — low light and blooms white. Removes ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Bamboo — likes bright light and grows to 12 feet. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Aloe Vera — likes dry conditions and bright light. It is a healing plant. Removes formaldehyde.

So there are a few and you can see that they all remove the same compounds from within the four walls of your home. If you wish to see the Latin words for the above you can Google them.

Bev Crawford is the perennial house manager at the Windmill Garden Centre.

Buds & Blooms: new growing season just around the corner

As seen in Medicine Hat News, February 6, 2016 – Bev Crawford

Is it too early to be excited over the upcoming spring planting season? I don’t think so, especially when I look around and see 1,500 bare root roses coming in to pot up for our customers. And that is not the end of it, there is so much more growing sprouting up all over the greenhouse.

Recently I read an article about the advantages of shopping local. The author wrote, “Local owners help to create that unique blend and distinctive character that we crave for our city’s image.” Both local garden centres do that. We get many customers shopping from Brooks and Saskatchewan who report they are losing the garden shopping opportunities in their locale.

The article went on to say, “many of them also contribute time or money to local causes and events . . . . Local owners help to sustain vibrant, strong communities that bring neighbours together.”

Have you been to the Pumpkin Festival for the Children’s Wish Foundation in October? It sure is a fun family day for a good cause.

Local greenhouses provide such a bright, exciting environment for people to gather, appreciate and shop. You can browse all year, through many seasonal holidays.

The last point the author made is why I like my job so much. “You never know, you may also get the bonus of some expert adviceÉ”

It is a thrill to share garden talk — plants, roses, compost, and insectsÉ There is knowledgeable staff with lots of experience in the sowing, growing, gardening department.

Have you noticed the news reports of the rise in grocery prices? Perhaps you can grow some of your own vegetables. They can fill up a garden plot, be planted between perennials, put in bags or pots. There is always some space for spinach or a bunch of beets or a pot of potatoes.

Food travels thousands of kilometres to get to our grocery stores from where it is grown. If we are going to consider the 1.5 C world temperature goal of the Paris Climate Talks commitment we have to think local. Shop the farmers’ markets. Grow your own.

Growing your own food is also great exercise; gives you pride in your accomplishment; you can guarantee it’s organic; and you can teach your children. If you don’t have space you can perhaps share the garden (and the work load) with a neighbour or a friend, or pay a small fee for a plot at a community garden.

The seed packets and supplies are in so you can begin. Flowers and veggies grown from seed are a fraction of the cost of potted plants or groceries. The superior quality and flavour of a backyard garden-grown tomato cannot be beat.

February is a good time to prune any trees or shrubs in your yard. If you are going to spray dormant oil to smother any overwintering insects do it before the trees and shrubs bud out. You can begin to give indoor tropical plants a weak fertilizer now when you water them.

Planning your garden now is wise. Perhaps you can entice your children to grow a container of cherry tomatoes, purple carrots, or a trellis of peas this year. Get those kids outside to dig for worms. Teach them where their food comes from.

Beverly Crawford is the Perennial House Manager at The Windmill Garden Centre and John’s Butterfly House.

Buds & Blooms: Spring has sprung

As seen in Medicine Hat News, March 12, 2016 – Bev Crawford

This weekend our clocks spring ahead one hour. Our thoughts spring ahead a couple of weeks also, to that favourite, exciting time when we begin focusing our ideas on gardening. We certainly had a mild winter.

Our greenhouse is busy. Roses are planted. Daylilies, peonies, hostas and astilbes are planted. Pots are filled with the beauty of many annuals and for those who grow their own, the planting supplies and soil and seed packs are now available. Lynn and Vince are setting the scene for many colourful, interesting ornaments for your garden.

Now is the time for you to make plans for what type of plants you want to enhance your own wonderful paradise.

Do you want to concentrate on a particular type of garden — be it one to attract many pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds? Come in to chat about gardens and we can provide information on pollinator plants for bees; what it takes to provide butterflies with everything necessary to sustain them; and which plants, trees and shrubs will best attract birds to share your oasis.

Perhaps you want to build a garden around some souvenir rocks you have brought home from your travels! Succulents, alpine plants, creeping thyme and Lewisia will adorn them.

You might want a romantic English garden with David Austin roses, garden phlox and delphiniums. Fairy gardens or miniature gardens are very popular. They need specific low growing plants that won’t overgrow your initial ornamental set-up. The variety of tiny figurines for these gardens is very intriguing!

John’s Butterfly House will be re-opening on March 19. This past week a new supply of butterfly chrysalis was delivered so the excitement at the greenhouse is mounting.

Perhaps you could bring your kids to see our two new kids at our petting zoo. And how often does a child get to pet a chicken? Please take some time this season to teach your children how to plant a small garden patch. Peas, beans and sunflower seeds are good to begin with. Let them plant marigolds and zinnias everywhere.

Watching the astilbes peeking through as the soil splits open is like watching a new baby chick hatching from an egg. I am sure looking forward to my first spring Robin Redbreast!

Bev Crawford is the Perennial House manager at The Windmill Garden Centre and John’s Butterfly House.

Choosing a Shrub

burning bushI’ve heard it said if you have big feet you have a good foundation. I know if you have a variety of well-placed shrubs in your yard you have a good foundation.

The trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals in your yard should be considered in that order. The type and number of trees determine the amount of light for planting shrubs, perennials and annuals. Annuals are the icing on the cake, for decoration with their long-season blooms.

Perennials, with their individual assets, provide bloom or leaf colour and texture at certain times during the year.

Shrubs need to be strategically placed according to their needs and growth habits. Shrubs, like perennials, take a bit of a lesson to know how and where they will perform their best. There are many factors to consider when choosing a shrub.

Are you looking for fragrance? Do you need a shrub for the wet shady area or the dry sandy area in full sun? Do you want autumn colour? Is attracting the birds to your oasis important? Which shrubs will attract winter interest? Is the beautiful, burgundy Barberry bush going to survive our 3-4 growing zone? What can you plant in your rock garden? Do you need a ‘wow look at me’ specimen shrub?

I’ll give a brief lesson here beginning with spring fragrance and bloom. Forsythia, with its early display of bright yellow flowers, is a wonderful sight after the long winter. Cherry blossoms, double-flowering plum and white, pink or purple lilacs have the best fragrance. Golden Mockorange and Bridal-wreath spirea contrast well with the dark leaf of purple sandcherry.

Dogwoods, in a variety of leaf and stem colour, along with Bog Rosemary, birch and willow, can tolerate a damp area. For a shady area plant Hydrangea, cranberry, rhododendron, Gold Splash Euonymus, ninebark or yew for some examples.

Bright sunny spots are great for the drought tolerant Broom, with its yellow showy colour all summer. Elder, juniper, mugo pine, barberry, spirea and potentilla tolerate the Medicine Hat sun.

Before the fall comes we can enjoy the colourful leaves of the Magic Carpet Spirea, Golden Elder, and many varieties of ninebark. Check out the Amber Jubilee, Centre Glow, Coppertina, and Diablo Ninebarks!

Have you ever seen a burning bush in autumn? The Amur Maple shrub turns a brilliant red as well. They are both spectacular!

Do you need a hedge to define your property line? Cotoneaster is all right but you can also try Calgary boxwood, red or white edible currants, globe caragana, yew, lilac, roses, or alpine currant, for more excitement.

For a rock garden or specimen shrub you could plant a weeping spruce, weeping white pine, a weeping caragana or a Young’s weeping birch. Weeping shrubs are slow growers so you can count on them to not grow out of your original landscape design. A top grafted Globe Caragana or lilac will also add the wow factor to your yard.

Providing food for the birds with juniper, high bush cranberry, Staghorn sumac, Nanking cherry, elders, Red-Osier Dogwood, White Pine and yew is one way to support the bird population.

It all comes down to planting instructions and having the best possible soil, to give nutrients to the root system of any shrub. Water deeply once a week after transplanting and just before the winter winds and sun take their toll. Come on down to talk shrubs for a firm foundation in your yard.

 

Bev Crawford is the Perennial House Manager at The Windmill Garden Centre and John’s Butterfly House.

Healthy Soil, Healthy Plant :)

topsoil Healthy soil means a healthy plant. This is a good thing to keep in mind when gardening. Your soil is the home of all your nutrients, microbial matter and essentially the home of your plant for its entire lifetime. A plant living in healthy soil is less susceptible to diseases and pests. To keep your soil healthy, add compost, and other organic fertilizers when possible. Keep harmful sprays to a minimum as well which adds salt to your soil, and in the long run will not be helpful. Lots of different weeds can be helpful to your compost, adding extra nutrients to your soil like magnesium, zinc, and your ever so valuable, N-P-K.   To find out more about composting, come to our composting work shop with Owen Nelson today, June 7th at 1:00.   If you want to know more about your soil, and what kind of nutrients are in it already, and what kind of Ph it is, we have soil test kits at the Windmill Garden Centre so you can test at home.

More Garden Reading

It’s still not time to go into full on garden mode, so why not try some garden inspired reading. I have mentioned before about Gayla Trail, and Marjorie Harris, two of my favorite garden authors who make gardening fun, creative, and try to stay on the organic side. If you are looking for a bit more of a scientific approach to gardening, and want to start understanding what your compost is actually doing in there under all those scraps and leaves, Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and  Wayne Lewis is a great look at the science of your soil, and has wonderful tips an preparing a garden in the spring, and putting it to sleep in the fall. It does get right into science, but the book takes you slowly through from the beginning, so you can easily learn the terminology as you go and do not have to be a scientist to understand. I highly recommend this book to any composter.

Another great book to get down to the nitty gritty of gardening is, Bio-Dynamic Gardening by John Soper. It takes the theories and practices started y Rudolph Steiner in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s and gives them a more modern approach that is easier for the skeptic to swallow. It explains step by step how to make a bio-dynamic rotating garden bed, with the last bed being fed by nitrogen enriched grains. This book is great if you are looking to be a self sustainable gardner, and are looking to go 100% organic.

Both are quite short books, with a ton of information in them, I suggest bookmarking pages to look back on as you go and you will be envy of the neighbourhood this spring.

Happy planting!

IMG_1085

Seeds!

Its February, and that means lots of great things for spring enthusiasts! It means that spring is right around the corner, and that you can start thinking about seeding.

We have most of our see companies in at the moment, and a new seed company called Rene’s Garden. Rene’s garden has a lot of organic, and heirloom seeds. I love their line of herbs, which seems to have everything you could ever want.

Here is a link to that seed company so you can learn more about it, http://www.reneesgarden.com.

Also, if you are new to seeding, or perhaps trying some new seeds this year, here is a great guide on when to start your seeds. remember the first time I planted seeds myself, starting zucchini in February, and having vegetables in my apartment by April. That would be considered a little early.

Most of the time, the seed packets have planting instructions on the back, telling you how long the seed will take to germinate, and to produce fruit, but it’s hard to tell exactly what is correct, when our climate zone might be different from that where the package is from. Bookmark this chart, and you will be set for the season. https://westcoastseeds.r.worldssl.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Charts_Veg_SouthAlbSask.pdf?3a751b I

Spring is almost here! Happy Planting!

IMG_1133chart, and you will be set for the season.

Spring is almost here! Happy Planting!