Here is part 2 of our tips that can enhance your experience and stuck at home-life balance. These handy ideas come to you from Josie Pazdzior, a long-time Canadensis Botanical Garden Society member. Josie is a well-respected Garden Designer and Coach, as well as a recognized Master Gardener. Part 1 was posted on our blog last week.
Mindful Gardening Outdoors and Inside
HAZARDS: Do not use poisonous chemicals, even if you can find them. Avoid breathing in fine dusty particles of peat moss and supplements like MYKE. Peat moss, vermiculite, and coir should be dampened before using, and gloves worn. Dried-out peat moss in a pot in the sun can spontaneously combust – rare, but it happens!
TOOLS: Find out about them; weigh quality vs price. Consider their level of usage (every day or once a year). Google for cool tool sites, with lists and charts and images. Ergonomic or just well-designed tools are more fun to use and easier on the body. Dollar store tools may do the job for certain tasks.
ECOLOGICALLY SOUND gardening: There’s wildlife in nature, and then there’s wildlife in your garden, quite a different thing! Most of us have issues with rabbit, vole, groundhog, deer, or squirrel; but to focus on the positive, we can also have beneficial insects, butterflies, toads, birds, and so on. We just need to provide habitat for them, with water, shelter and food, a bird feeder, if possible. Native perennials and shrubs, in particular, attract pollinators and provide resilience and reliable beauty in tough times.
DESIGNING & PLANNING: Balance expectations with reality. The brilliantly-colored blooms in photos in magazines and on labels may not be achievable in your garden – at least for a while! Look around your neighbourhood for ideas and have patience as your garden matures. Start small, for new gardens. Don’t take on too much, or overplant to fill every cm of space (Things can grow faster than you might imagine.)
BALANCE hardscaping with soft plantings. When planning property use, allow some space for possible future needs; e.g. don’t make doorway or gate or path so small you can’t get a wheelbarrow (or wheelchair) through. Be aware of good water management; any drainage issues should be fixed so that the rainwater and snowmelt goes where it is useful, and not all into the storm sewer. The City of Ottawa (Environmental Programs, Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development) is working with the Envirocentre to promote the creation of rain gardens, which could become even more useful in future extreme storms.
“PUSHING THE ENVELOPE” If you want to try some less common, less hardy plants for here, go ahead, experiment – that’s one of the most enjoyable things to do! The Ottawa area, once zone 4, is now considered zone 5/ 5a. However, unless you have lots of space and/or funds, better not to experiment with larger woody plants, such as expensive trees; do the research to make sure you’re putting them in spots where they should flourish. Try different annuals instead of the same red pelargoniums every year.
DO focus on your FRONT YARD or balcony, as well as on private spaces. Neighbours really enjoy watching the changes over the season, and will reward you with praise for your efforts. The Ottawa Horticultural Society even has an award for the most outstanding garden in a different postal code each year. (We’re not sure yet if it will happen this year.)
CONTAINERS: Use larger containers where possible. To save planting medium, put clean, empty, capped plastic juice or similar bottles in the bottom, but be careful not to leave air pockets or holes around them, into which the roots will grow and die. Use mulch to slow evaporation, and remember that the sun heats up the sides of containers and thus the roots can dry out fast. Help to frustrate squirrels and chipmunks by putting a layer of small stones (ideally, flattish, a few cm in size, not pea stone) around the individual plants, on top of the mulch. Feed regularly when watering, or a couple of times a season with slow-release fertilizer.
SHOPPING for ANNUALS: Look for smaller plants with sturdy, healthy stems and perhaps buds, but not necessarily a mass of lush overflowing blooms which won’t last and will need to be cut back at some point. Protect purchases until you can plant them; check daily, note how much water they drink, keep in shade if possible. Many annuals may be easily grown from seed.
TIMING: Enjoy your garden, whether in the ground or in pots, by taking a daily walk around when possible. You can appreciate all the changes and see what needs doing next. Tasks like pruning and mulching are best done at the right time. Taking action to suppress a pest or disease problem discovered early, saves time and more damage. The daily visit is also a good chance to note items to include in the garden records or journal.
RECORD: Keeping some sort of record will be invaluable when making decisions in future. At the most basic level, keep all receipts and labels together. However, noting when and where you planted things is pretty basic too. Even better, get a gardening journal or just use a notebook or digital file to note bloom times, weather, the growth and demise of plants, etc. Even a few plants in pots are worth celebrating, doesn’t have to be a large garden.
Finally, cultivate PATIENCE: Newly-installed plants need time to establish their roots, and need extra water and weeding for the first while, especially trees. If your garden disappoints this year, next year and the years after will be better as it matures.