Backyard Makeover by Gardens4u

In a previous post I talked about a makeover Gardens4u started in a friend’s backyard last fall…

This client wanted a small patio surrounded by gardens with very little grass to cut.  She also requested the cost be kept to a minimum.  We started by layering newspaper, soil and leaves in the area that was to be garden, leaving it over the winter months to decompose.  This spring it was dark, rich soil with only a few pieces of newspaper remaining to be raked up from the garden bed.  The lesson learned here was to ensure the newspapers are applied thickly and overlapping so that the grass is completely smothered.  The newspapers must then be completely covered by soil and leaves; you cannot have too much soil or too many leaves.  The newspaper should not be visible.  The layers must then be wet well to prevent the leaves from blowing around.

Plants recycled from other gardens were added throughout the summer, then mulch to complete the garden area.  I prefer the black cedar mulch as it compliments the green plants and smells great.

The patio was constructed using pavers discarded by another friend who was replacing the pavers from her sidewalk with interlocking brick.  The patio is just large enough to fit a few lawn chairs or a lounger.

Next, stepping-stones were added leading from the deck and patio to the small patch of remaining lawn. More plants and additional mulch were then added around the patio, deck and pathway..

The final step was to treat the lawn for weeds, then overseed it so by next spring it will be lush and green, complimenting the rest of the yard.  Be sure to wait at least six weeks after treating for weeds to overseed your lawn so your new grass sprouts will not be affected by the weed treatment.

The makeover was a complete success, with cost kept to a minimum by using recycled materials as well as the homeowner’s and her son’s manpower:

I can’t wait until next season, to see how it looks when the plants have a chance to settle into their new homes.  Next spring I will edge the garden area so there is a distinct demarcation line between the garden and lawn, and so cutting the lawn will be simple…stay tuned!

The Best Things About Working in Someone Else’s Garden…

I am very fortunate in my business Gardens4u to be able to work in other people’s gardens.  Why?  Because I learn a lot, and we are never too old to learn…

  • I discover new plants, some I have never seen or heard of before and some I have just never tried in my gardens.  For example, I had never heard of montbretia and never seen verbascum, both beautiful perennials I will be sure to add to my gardens:
  • I discover new ways to improve my own gardens.  For example, one client whose garden I just finished getting ready for winter dumps the soil from her various and many pots of annuals into a wheelbarrow, adds some mulch, then spreads the whole mixture around her gardens.  The soil in her gardens is extremely nice to work with!  Mine is heavy with clay, so any suggestions to improve it are greatly appreciated.  Anyone who enjoys gardening knows a garden is always a work in progress.
  • I can admire, and perhaps copy, other ideas for whimsical touches in the gardens.  These whimsical touches are what makes each garden unique and special to the owner.
  • I am often offered clumps of plants I admire as well as seeds from the spent flower heads.  I do love to experiment with new seed varieties!  I share most of these clumps of plants with other clients, but have stuck a few in empty spaces in my gardens.
  • I get paid to play in the dirt!  One of my neighbours laughed at me returning from work very muddy one day, and suggested I need an outdoor shower.
  • Gardening is great exercise!  As long as I remember to stretch properly before and after my hours in the various gardens, I can handle up to six hours a day, and can honestly say I am in the best shape I have ever been in!  Basic Yoga poses are my favourite stretches…
  • yoga
  • I meet new and interesting people.  I am definitely a people person, and one of the things I miss most about my old job in the health care industry is the social interaction.
  • Too bad my season is winding down.  I will have to find another way to keep in shape over the winter months…

Get a Handle on Ebola!

These words of wisdom about the EBOLA situation come from a nurse in Corpus Christi, Texas who just happens to be my sister.  Never one to beat around the bush, she hits the nail on the head here….

Get a handle on it!  Infections (viral and bacterial) have been around for a looooooonnng time and have caused many deaths before Ebola. Infection control is NOT new to any hospital or other health care facility. The problem is people not following protocol. Maybe because they are busy, forget, or are just plain lazy, but seldom because they lack the education. Infection control is 101 (basic learning) in health care. Be on the watch ….. in health care facilities, in grocery stores and at your neighbor’s….for good infection control practices and if you see something like …..people not washing their hands, using antibacterial or hand sanitizer, not covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing, not disposing of used tissues, not washing their hands after restroom breaks, not using gloves when providing care, etc….. speak up and steer clear!  Don’t ever feel like you are “covered” and disease proof, even when you suspect that you or your government knows how the virus or bacteria is transferred from one person to another.

I am not meaning to come across as peeved and am not placing blame on the nurses. Just saying that we can’t depend on others for infection control and need to watch out for ourselves too. Obviously if this infected guy got over here and sat in an emergency room twice and waited several days for engineering controls, hazard suits and workplace controls to be put in place several people were potentially exposed. Take personal precautions like staying away from others body fluids, blood or other, keep your hands clean and away from your face, eyes etc and protect yourself! If the govt isn’t going to stop infected or exposed individuals from coming into our communities then each of us need to be aware and proactive in our own protection.

Also just because CDC or the president say an infection isn’t airborne doesn’t mean we can’t protect ourselves. Like anything they say…doesn’t make it the whole truth.

Live the Life Of Passion: The New Startup

lorieb:

good luck Jesse!

Originally posted on The Real World Wrestler:

I quit.

I had an internship with a social network geared towards professional networking for athletes. I’m giving it up. And I’m proud.

I found that the overall message to the interns was to break yourself down into objective qualities and try to fit yourself into a mold that’s desirable to corporations.

I also think the internship was structured like a class, and implicitly played to the dumb athlete stereotype, like we didn’t have the responsibility or creativity to work and think independently.

The internship made me depressed on a daily basis. So I gave it up.

You should drop things that don’t make you happy. Even if those things are what people say you should do to be “successful”.

In place of this internship, I have committed myself to something I am really passionate about.

[Big News]:

I’m working with two friends to start a business aimed at growing…

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Autumn Colors: Yellow, Orange and Red, oh My!

The best part of autumn is the colors of the trees; the vibrant yellows, oranges and reds with the dark, majestic background of evergreen trees and the brilliant blue sky are spectacular in this part of the world:

I snapped these beautiful pictures as we travelled to and from our cottage to tend to the necessary end of season chores.  The docks are out, the water is turned off, the pipes are drained of water and refilled with anti-freeze, boats are stored etc.  These activities are part of the reason I dislike autumn; they signify the end of summer.

Travel with me and enjoy the scenery on the long and winding road through rural Ontario:

In my gardens and those I tend to, autumn brings a not so colorful change to the plants.  Annuals wither and die as soon as we get an overnight frost, and perennials put all their energy into hibernating for the winter.  Some perennials die right back to the ground, others get brown, crispy and wispy, blowing in the wind; waiting for Mother Nature to rejuvenate them in the spring.  Some perennials thrive in this cooler weather however, holding off their bloom time until autumn when most other plants in the landscape are dull and dreary:

No matter how vibrant and picturesque the autumn colors are, I always look forward to spring!

To Mulch or not to Mulch?

Sometimes I advise clients to use mulch in their gardens, and sometimes I advise them not to, but most often I advise them to use it wisely.  Why?  Because many times mulch is used for the wrong reasons and incorrectly, causing more harm than good…

Mulch is beneficial for keeping moisture in and keeping weed levels down, but it must be applied properly.  Applied incorrectly, too thick or too close to plants, it can cause rot,  mildew/mold and eventually the demise of your perennials, shrubs and even large trees.

Mulch should not be piled right up to the base or stalk/stem of your plants.  When applying mulch to your gardens you should leave a space of at least 1 inch (so the soil shows) between the base or stalk/stem/trunk of your plant or tree and the mulch.  After a heavy rain and in the spring after snow has moved the mulch, you should reestablish this space as soon as possible, especially for young plants that will rot quickly if the mulch is left too close to the stems.

Mulch applied too thickly around the base of a tree will eventually kill the tree.  The roots of all plants, including large trees, require oxygen, moisture and nutrients.  If mulch is applied too thickly, these required items cannot reach the roots, causing starvation and death of the plant. This theory also applies to ornamental rocks and anything else piled around trees to minimize the growth of weeds and grass.  These pictures show mulch piled much too thickly around the base of a mature tree(incorrect), and removed from the base and spread out (correct):

Mulch will keep weed levels down, but it will not eliminate weeds altogether as many people are led to believe.  Weed seeds blow in the wind and will settle in the mulch and germinate there too.  The difference is, when you pull out a weed growing in mulch, it comes out much easier and more completely, with the root intact.  If you do not remove the entire root of a weed it simply grows back, often very quickly.

Mulch applied in a thin layer (one inch thick is plenty) around a tree can be beneficial to keep weeds and grass roots from competing with the tree roots for oxygen, moisture and nutrients. Just remember, more is definitely NOT better!

Nothing, including grass, should be planted around a new tree for the first five years, allowing the tree roots to get established. After that, shallow rooted perennials or annuals work best as they do not force the tree roots to compete for required elements.  A few examples of shallow rooted perennials are geraniums, sweet woodruffe and lamium.  My personal favourite is the perennial geranium (very different than the red annual geraniums that I am not so fond of) because it tolerates almost full shade to almost full sun, and is the first plant to green up in the spring.  Perennial geranium flowers can be white, pink, blue, purple and many shades in between, but are almost inconspicuous in many of the varieties; the foliage is the main attraction to me:

If you do decide to mulch your garden or use mulch under your trees, please use caution and apply it correctly so you do not do more damage than good…

Lily Trees for Your Garden

These spectacular beauties are lily trees.  The last two pictures are from my own garden one year after planting a single bulb next to my front lamp post.

These lily trees look beautiful at the back of garden borders where their foliage lasts all season providing a lush green backdrop for other perennials.  I have had problems with japanese beetles devouring other lilies I have planted previous years, but for some reason the beetles do not bother these lily trees.  Their stems are very sturdy, reaching up to 4 feet the first year and 8 feet in three years.  New stems form from a single bulb, with at least 4 massive, gorgeous flowers the first season, and up to 30 in three years. They come in many solid colors, including white, yellow, purple, pink as well as many combinations of those colors.

I have ordered thirty of these lily tree bulbs that are to be shipped from Holland shortly.  Including shipping charges and taxes, they are $8 per bulb.  Please let me know if you would like one or more for your gardens.  They should be arriving soon, to be planted this fall…