Natural Gardening

Q: Where is the P (phosphorus)?

phorphorous and gardens

The middle number on bags of lawn fertilizer seems to be disappearing. Why is that? Well, in addition to being one of the primary macro-nutrients needed to grow turf grass and most other plants, phosphorous (P) can be very harmful as a pollutant to surface waters. Phosphorous has very low downward mobility in soil and this low soil mobility can be further complicated by fine textured, heavy soils like clay (Richmond clay).

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Gardening for Pollinators

bee gardens

What are pollinators? Pollinators are organisms that aid in the transfer of flower pollen to allow for the fertilization of plants which is essential to fruit and seed production. Some plants such as most grasses have very light pollen which is easily carried in the wind but most plants (80% of flowering plants) are dependent on pollinators to transfer their pollen.

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The Bee Garden

bee friendly garden plants

Bee attracting plants are both beautiful and useful. Bees are not especially attracted to fragrant flowers but have a marked preference for those of blue colour. Bees like flowers on which they can land and poke around. They have good colour vision preferring blue and yellow. They cannot see red but they can see ultraviolet.

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How to make a Hummingbird Garden

hummingbird gardens

[table caption=”A list of plant and flower varieties that hummingbirds love:” width=”100%” colalign=”centercentercenter”] anise,artemisia,azalea basswood,bearberry,scarlet runner beans bee balm,bellflower,bluebell blueberry,borage,bottlebrush buckeye,butterfly bush,canna

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The Butterfly Garden

Butterflies see the whole spectrum of colours but prefer the brilliantly coloured deep pinks, reds, scarlets, bright blues and usually those flowers that are very fragrant too. Most butterfly plants are perennial and thus will be a permanent sanctuary for butterfly caterpillars. Shrubs and perennials that attract butterflies are honeysuckle, verbena, hibiscus (Rose of Sharon), lantana, butterfly bush, violets, columbine, larkspur, beauty bush, morning glory, frog-fruit, blue-eyed grass, lemon mint,

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Q: How can I take care of my roses?

A:  When planting roses, select resistant varieties, plant them with adequate spacing and give them plenty of compost. Roses thrive with fish emulsion fertilizers. Roses need to be pruned appropriately. All the alliums – garlic, onions, chives and shallots are beneficial to roses, protecting them against black spot, mildew and aphids. Companion planting or inter-planting the allium family with roses is a natural way to control disease and insect problems as well as naturally causing the roses to produce a stronger perfume.

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Companion Planting

companion plants chives

Companion planting is vital for organic vegetable production. It is also a type of intercropping. Intercropping and companion planting is very beneficial for flower beds too. There are plants that assist each other to grow; plants that repel harmful insects to companion plants; plants that retard other plants growth; plants that delete the soil whilst others that add to the soil. You may have heard that “roses love garlic”. Allium is the Latin word for garlic. Vegetable alliums are chives, garlic, leek, onion, and shallots all of which are excellent protective companions for roses. The

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Q How can I keep my annuals looking good without a dose of 20-20-20 synthetic fertilizer?

best fertilizers for annuals gardens

A Try one of several available types of fish emulsion fertilizers and you can use a blood meal – bone meal mixture. When planting your annuals in late May make sure they are started off with fresh compost. To contribute to soil health diversify your annual garden by including colourful perennials. Follow companion planting guidelines to improve your annuals.

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Q: Can insects be controlled by Companion Planting?

purple sage

A: Yes. Included is a partial listing of specific controls: Plant basil against flies and mosquitoes; borage against tomato worms; garlic against Japanese beetles, aphis, weevils, fruit tree borers, and spider mites; horseradish against potato bugs; lavender against clothes moths; marigolds against Mexican bean beetles, nematodes and many other insects; mint against white cabbage moths (use dried against clothes moths); nasturtium against aphids, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, wooly aphids and white flies; pennyroyal against ants, mosquito, plant lice; petunias against beetles;

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Q: What plants act as natural mosquito repellants?

get rid of mosquitos in backyard

A:  Garlic-based oil is effective in killing mosquito larva in ponds as will derris root or tuba. Myristicin, a compound found in parsnips, is also effective as a selective insecticide against mosquito larva as is BT (bacillus thuringiensis).  The leaves of molasses grass and sassafras are mosquito repellants. American pennyroyal, sometimes called squaw mint is a natural insect repellant. (A handful crushed and rubbed onto skin emits a pleasant smell and repels mosquitoes). American pennyroyal is a native American plant not to be confused with the European pennyroyal.

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Q: What is Pruning; why is it necessary and when do I prune?

pruning services ottawa

A:  Pruning is an important part of plant and shrub care that is performed for both aesthetic reasons and for plant health.  Pruning is the cutting away of unwanted parts of a plant for more fruitful growth and shaping.   You should prune a plant or shrub to remove crossed, damaged or diseased branches which will stress the plant.  Pruning also improves air flow through the plant and can encourage better branch distribution which results in a healthier, more vigorous plant that is more disease tolerant.  Post-bloom pruning maximizes the blooms for the following season. 

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Ten Steps to Healthy Gardening for You and the Environment

steps to create a natural garden

Step #1 Educate Yourself and Know your Property: Know what pests are prevalent in your area before choosing plant varieties. Think about your willingness to maintain your chosen plants as some varieties need more care than others. Know your soil type and pH. Know your garden’s water characteristics. Consider companion planting. Know your garden’s exposure to wind, sun, shade and affects of winter. Know your zone hardiness. Know what is a garden friend and what is a garden foe.

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Q: What is key in planning for a natural lawn and garden?

natural gardening tips attract butterflies

Answer: Natural gardening starts at the planning stage. Everything from selecting the most appropriate plants for the location to the physical layout of the garden is important to growing healthy plants and grass. Before planting grass, plants and trees consider the following: Soil is the foundation. You need healthy, fertile soil to grow healthy grass, plants and trees. The main challenge for the urban gardener is that the soil under urban lawns often has low organic content.

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