Time to put your garden to rest. Decide now if your yard will be neat and tidy or if you’ll be a pollinator yard. Many of our crucial pollinators need plant stalks and piles of leaves to over winter. If cleaning up this fall, cut your plants to 8” and rake the leaves into your garden beds. Leaving plant debris to catch snow is also a great way to fight drought.
Mulch all of your garden before putting it to bed, especially any tender perennials like strawberries or roses. You can pick up straw, save your leaves, or even use grass clippings as mulching for winter. A decent dose of compost would also be appreciated by your soil and perennials, setting spring up for success. If you’re planning on planting bulbs like tulips, daffodils, or hyacinth, do so before the end of the month. It’s been unusually warm so I’d recommend waiting until after thanksgiving. If squirrels are a problem, put some blood/bonemeal in the hole with the bulb or consider a netting over the top.
Now’s a great time to take stock of any perennials that may need to be divided or collect seeds from plants that have already had their hay day. Delphinium, columbine, poppies, and the like are great for collecting seeds to scatter where you would actually like them to grow next year or to trade with your fellow Sandstone-MacEwan gardeners. Most perennials will be slowing down for the winter and will be ready to be split soon. Reach out to that neighbor and see if they have some to share.
It’s also time to start thinking about spring…bulbs, that is. Spring bloomers like tulips and daffodils, muscari and hyacinth, alliums and lilies, need to be planted before the ground freezes. They require a freeze-thaw cycle before they’ll bloom. They also need to be protected from squirrels and bunnies who will dig up your spring dreams before they even have a chance. Consider laying chicken wire with mulch on top (it’ll need removing in the spring but will hopefully save you some heartbreak).
The Sandstone MacEwan Community Association president was asked to judge the front gardens at the Heritage Villas in MacEwan but due to her busy schedule the request came to me. I was thrilled to be able to view all the gardens. Judging was going to be tough but getting to see the creativity was worth it. After walking the complex, I had made my decision. Her garden was bursting with plants and she had a fairy garden in her driveway also. It was just begging for people to check it out.
The winner Angy Lajoie commenting on how her approach to gardening. The pictures of her garden are below.
“I just really enjoy playing around with whatever I have on hand or what I find mostly at garage sales. Also many items are given to me from people that know I like to “play” around with. I just buy flowers as I see them and then throw them together….not always planned very well.
I saw the broken flower pot fairy garden on the net by accident and I knew then I wanted to make one of those. The village is great in that everyone helps out. I told a neighbor I needed a big pot and she found one for me on marketplace etc.”
Thanks to the social committee at Heritage Villas for including us in your event!
While you’re enjoying your summer BBQ remember that your plants would love some too…Food that is! Add compost and fertilizer as needed keeping in mind some plants are heavy feeders. Mushroom compost from Highline Mushroom in Crossfield is free and is amazing at providing the food your plants need. You can also use well-aged manure or make your own compost tea by keeping a bucket of water and steeping your trimmed plant foliage in it. Comfrey or Nettle make especially nutrient-dense tea. If you’re buying fertilizer for your annuals, grab something with a high middle number as the phosphorus number encourages blooms and use it every third or fourth watering.
Deadheading is another key to keeping your pots and baskets looking fantastic. Deadheading stops the plant from producing seeds and encourages it to try again by blooming more. Deadheading the proper way will get you bushier, more full plants with lots of blooms and wow factor. To deadhead properly you need to not only remove the spent bloom but follow to bloom stalk down an inch and pinch there (as pictured).
If there’s something you haven’t planted, now’s the time! If starting from seed, make sure it fruits in 60-90 days or you may not see fruit. Buy larger plants from local garden centers or see if a neighbor has something to share. Enjoy your cool-weather bedding plants and water them well to extend their season.
As we head into summer temperatures, be water wise in your gardens. Weeding regularly plays a key part in water consumption in your yard. Mulch not only adds a finished look to your beds but also holds moisture and deters weeds. (Did you know the City of Calgary gives out free mulch? Pick up as much as you need from the SE landfill). Water in the mornings or in the evenings to make sure your plants get the best of it.
Watch for bolting in your cool weather crops like brassicas and lettuces. if their season is over, it’s time to succession plant some more.
We’re also due for some hail along the way. Get some Goodwill bedsheets ready to cover things if you can. If you can’t cover and your plants get beat up, don’t give up on them! You’ll be amazed at how quickly some things recover after being decimated by a storm. Hope is a gardeners best friend and constant companion.
Now’s the time to harden off your seedlings and divide your perennials. Hardening your seedlings is the most important thing you can do to have a successful garden. Rush it and all your work will have been for naught. It should take 4 days: Put your plants in a semi-shaded and sheltered area outside and bring them in at night. Increase their outside time until the risk of frost is past. Lift and divide your perennials before they really take off.
Plant your cold-hardy veg like peas, beets, and spinach early this month. After last frost, or around May long, plant out your veg and annuals. Be wary of nighttime temps and have a blanket handy. Did you know that water insulates against freezing? A nighttime watering has saved many a plant from a frosty death.
Start your watch for the red lily beetles and be vigilant! If you see one, there are more!
Plant Highlight: Delphinium is an old-time favourite perennial in the garden. Each year drifts of them will bloom and stun passersby. Loved by pollinators, you’ll often see a fuzzy behind sticking out of the blooms. These don’t bloom until high summer, now is the time to save them. The Delphinium Worm eggs overwinter in the stalk and they’ll deform or eat your plant if left untouched. They’re easy enough to be rid of: when your plant is 6’’ tall, cut it down. By cutting it to the ground, you’ll upset the worm’s life cycle and your plant will regrow quickly. You can also pick the worms as you see them or, if you’d like to use an insecticide, BTK works well. If you do have worms, make sure to cut it to the ground in the fall and you’ll reduce next year’s population too.
SMCA will be hosting its annual Compost Giveaway Event this year (weather permitting!) – May 1st, 10am at the Hockey Rink on Sandarac Drive. More information can be found here – http://sandstonemacewan.com/event/smca-feed-soil-free-compost
The community is looking for feedback through a Google Docs form to gauge interest in this opportunity – please click on the link below to the survey to register your interest or feedback
SMCA is exploring the interest from the community to start a community garden, if interested in volunteering on a committee to organize one please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Why explore a community garden?
Community gardens offer people and the community many benefits. They provide opportunities for both recreational gardening and food production, in underutilized spaces. Community gardens are also great for the environment. Food grown locally reduces green house gases produced by long distance transportation of food. Gardens also contribute to biodiversity of species and help to support populations of pollinators. Finally, community gardens bring people together and may reduce crime rates in the neighbourhood by increasing visibility and engaging citizens in positive initiatives
Community gardens contribute to a healthy lifestyle by:
- providing fresh, safe, affordable herbs, fruits and vegetables
- helping to relieve stress and increase sense of wellness
- getting people active, which improves overall physical health
- providing social opportunities that build a sense of community and belonging
- giving people an opportunity to learn and share knowledge on gardening, nature, and cooking
Community gardens benefit the community as they help:
- build welcoming, safer communities
- improve the look of neighbourhoods
- reduce pollution by sequestering carbon and reducing the shipping of food over long distances
- support pollinator habitats that are necessary for community well-being
- reduce food insecurity
- connect people to nature
- educate people on where food comes from and provide opportunity for people, especially in urban spaces, to engage with their food system
- provide an inclusive meeting area where people of all ages and cultural backgrounds can come together to share experiences and knowledge
Help us get a community garden in the ground! Starting an effective community garden is not a simple task. But when passionate people come together with considerable organization, planning, cooperation, perseverance and resources, great success can be achieved. Interested in the benefits of a community garden for Sandstone MacEwan? Please contact email@example.com to volunteer or for more information.