Step out of your Comfort Zone in your Garden

I must admit I will always have my favorite perennials, but working with many different plants lately in gardens throughout the western Ottawa area, I find myself warming up to plants I was never that fond of, forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

For some reason hostas were never on the top of my list of favorite perennials, but I now acknowledge they look awesome in some gardens, especially the large gardens where they have a chance to spread out.  These beauties are perfect in their setting…

I have also warmed up to colors other than my favorite purple, pink and yellow.  Red flowers were never on the top of my list either, but recently I have noticed how striking they are, especially next to a contrasting color.  These are red painted daisies, gorgeous in front of blue/purple irises:

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I am learning how to experiment outside of my comfort zone with new varieties and colors of perennials.  To do the same, instead of planting many plants of the same variety, try many varieties of plants for a spectacular and unique display.  Instead of choosing colors that match  (you are not planning your wardrobe here) choose colors opposite or at least far away from each other on the color wheel to achieve the most impact in your garden…

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Have fun with your designing, and remember, nothing in your garden is permanent.  I like to think of my garden as a work (of art) in process.  If you do not like the changes, you can always revert back to the previous version.

If you need help or have questions, contact me at www.gardens4u.ca

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Spring Cleaning your Gardens and Lawn

 

Just like the inside of your home, your gardens and lawn will benefit from a good spring cleaning too…

As soon as the snow disappears from your lawn and garden you can start the spring cleaning.  When the lawn is dry (not spongy to walk on) give it a good rake to remove all the dead grass and leaves. Core aeration is recommended after raking to allow oxygen and nutrients to penetrate into the root system of your lawn, especially if your soil is heavily compacted.(as most lawns are in this area)  If your lawn has a lot of crabgrass and broad leaf weeds (dandelions) you can treat it to a weed and feed product.  The ones containing corn gluten are particularly effective if used before the weed seeds have a chance to germinate.  I sprinkle corn gluten right on the snow when there is only a small amount of snow left on my lawn, because as soon as the snow is gone, the weeds start to germinate and within a few days the crab grass growth is visible.  You can also overseed your lawn (but only if you have NOT applied something for weeds, otherwise wait 6 weeks to seed) by raking in topsoil and sprinkling grass seed on the soil.  This is best done before a rainy spell as the seeds should be kept wet until they germinate.

Your gardens can also use a good raking early, but be sure to use a plastic rake and a gentler touch, so tender dormant perennials are not damaged.  Remove all the dead leaves, last year’s annual (annuals are plants that you must replant each year) plantings and the twiggy pieces of last years growth on the perennials (perennials are plants that come back on their own each year).  Generally speaking, if the twiggy pieces break off easily with a gentle rake, it is safe to remove them.  Woodier perennials (lavender, sage, hibiscus etc) need a bit more time and should not be cut back until new growth is visible.  Shrubs that bloom in summer or fall (weigela, pink spirea, burning bush etc) can be pruned in early spring, while those that bloom early in spring (forsythia, lilacs, magnolia etc) should not be pruned until after they bloom.  Dividing perennials is best done this time of year too; dig up the overgrown clumps, divide them with a sharp spade, and plant in their new locations.  This can be done as soon as the ground thaws.  Annuals should not be planted until the danger of overnight frost is gone, usually late May in this area.

Once all of my perennials have re-emerged, the weeds and old annuals are removed, and the necessary pruning is done, I like to amend the soil around them with a triple mix of soil, compost and peat moss.  This product can be purchased already combined.   A layer of cedar mulch (I prefer the dark brown or black) is the final touch, but to prevent your plants from rotting, be sure not to apply the mulch too close to the base/stalks/stems of the plants.

The last step is to retrieve the outdoor furniture from its winter storage, and, the most important part, take a few minutes out of your busy life to sit down, relax and admire your efforts…

 

 

Common Household Toxins Might be Making you Sick

Common household toxins may be making you sick.  Toxins are present in your home in the form of cleaning products, paints, furniture, synthetic building materials such as particle board and insulation, carpets, and even your printer and photocopier!

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful gases released by all of the common household items listed above.  These gases cause lethargy, skin rashes, headaches, drowsiness, itchy eyes, asthma-like symptoms and even cancer.

Be aware of what you are bringing into your home!  I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was cleaning my house.  I had run out of my usual brand of toilet cleaner, was in a hurry, and so grabbed a bottle of javex I still had sitting around the house from my pre-toxin awareness days.   I used it (sparingly) to clean the toilets in my home…

The next day I woke up with what I thought was the start of a cold.  My chest felt heavy and I could not seem to draw a full breath into my lungs.  I also had a vague headache, and a “tickle” in my throat, but no other cold like symptoms developed.  Later on that day, I developed a shallow, dry cough which felt like my lungs were trying to clear whatever was irritating them.  These symptoms lasted for four days.  Coincidence?   I don’t think so; this is how my lungs felt most of the time before I switched to non-toxic products.  Please visit the Melaleuca page on my website, listed below, to see the products I now use, all made with tea tree oil, an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, natural ingredient.  My respirologist agrees, as my asthma-like symptoms have disappeared since switching to these non-toxic products…

You can also make your home healthier by adding house plants to your decor.  Not only do plants look nice, they can help keep your family healthy.  Carbon dioxide and the VOCs described above, as well as other harmful gases such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene are absorbed through the roots as well as through pores in the leaves on plants.   In exchange, beneficial and healthy products like oxygen and moisture are released into the air for us to breathe.

Choose plants such as spider plants, dracaena, English ivy, mother-in-law tongues, bamboo palms and other tropical plants; they are all easy to grow and readily available.  Tropical plants are suitable for indoors in homes and offices because they are used to growing and processing gases in reduced light under the canopies of jungles and rain forests.  Water your plants thoroughly with warm water and let the soil dry out between watering; too much water is the easiest way to kill your house plants.

Get rid of the common household toxins making your family sick.  Fifteen medium to large plants (greater than six-inch pots) in an average sized 2000 square foot home can greatly improve the air quality in your home, so get growing!