Gardening In Fall Helps Us Prepare For Beautiful Gardens Next Spring

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, fall is the best time to put our creative energy into improving our gardens to enjoy the following spring.

Whether you are moving existing plants or beginning from scratch, start by mapping out the dimensions of the space you are designing making sure to note the amount of sunlight the area gets daily and the soil type: sandy, clay or loam.

Clay is nutrient rich, but drains slowly. Sandy soil drains quickly but has trouble retaining nutrients and moisture. Loamy soil is generally ideal because it retains moisture and nutrients and doesn’t stay soggy. Knowing the soil type will help you figure out the type of plants that will grow best in it.

For inspiration, fill a scrapbook with ideas seen in magazines and around the neighbourhood for a visual guide.

In designing which plants will go where, begin by placing the largest ones (trees and shrubs) first, noting their height and width at maturity. That information is typically available on the tags in the nursery. You don’t want to crowd such centrepieces with perennials that will have to be moved later.

Also, work from the back and move outward for the same reasons. This way, larger pieces become the backdrop and smaller ones placed in front won’t be obscured. Avoid putting large trees and shrubs up against the house where they will eventually block windows and light coming into your home. At the same time, large additions to your garden can hide unsightly parts of your home.

Your eventual piece de resistance is sure to be the envy of the neighbourhood.

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Attracting Bees and Butterflies to your Garden

Butterfly on pink flowerThe loss of millions of bees and butterflies in Ontario has many people concerned about these critical pollinators and the impact it’s having on our environment. Fortunately, we do our part to attract bees and butterflies by creating beautiful habitats in our own backyards. And in exchange for just a little work, you’ll have a more fruitful vegetable garden with a higher yield and better quality.
All animals need food, water and shelter and bees and butterflies are no exceptions. Unlike birds, insects can’t manage the deep water of birdbaths. If you already have a birdbath, just add a few stones so these smaller creatures can also have a drink. A small saucer of water is just as effective. Just make sure it’s kept clean and topped up.
Both bees and butterflies love colour, so indulge in the brightest most colourful plants for your garden. Native species are best and will produce exactly what these insects need. Your local garden centre can advise you on which plants to choose. Purple coneflower is a favourite of both species. Asters, sedums and sunflowers are also popular. Flowering herbs are also a wonderful choice. The added bonus is that these flower varieties will also attract beautiful hummingbirds.
Some butterflies prefer fruit to flowers, so you may wish to offer some overripe melon rinds and other bits of fruit. A plate of fruit in a sunny sheltered location will be very appreciated by these lovely creatures. You may wish to research what species of butterflies are common to your area to tailor your offerings more specifically.
Bee and butterfly “houses” are available at many garden centres and hardware stores. These small habitats will help these animals weather storms and hide from predators.
Of course, the largest killer of bees and butterflies is pesticides and even chemical fertilizers. Forego the chemicals to protect your visitors and use organic garden methods instead – it’s safer for you and your family, including your pets, too.
With these few easy steps, you will soon have a garden buzzing with life and vitality and full of colour.

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Backyard Composting – a Great Way to Save Money and the Planet

Unrecognizable person pouring kitchen waste into compost bin, close-up of handsWith Ontario’s growing trend toward municipal user fees for waste removal, it makes sense to think of ways to offset these costs, while also helping to protect our planet. Backyard composting is a great way to reduce your use of landfills while also making fantastic fertilizer for your garden. And it’s so easy.
Many municipalities offer inexpensive composters or you can pick up composting units in plastic or wood from your local hardware store. If you have the space, you can make your own – even a simple pile will work as long as you follow these simple and easy steps:
1. Locate your composter on loosened soil in an accessible, shady location. Remember that you’ll be adding material even throughout the winter.
2. Add your compost material in layers of greens and browns. Greens are kitchen scraps, such as vegetables, fruit, tea bags, coffee grounds and crushed eggshells, grass clippings and weeds. Browns are leaves, cut-up twigs, sawdust and shredded paper products.
3. Add water. Your compost should be damp, but not wet.
4. Occasionally, add some soil. This will add the microorganisms that will help break down the material and will deter insects.
5. Add air. Every month or so, turn the compost well.
For a backyard composter, avoid adding fish, meat, dairy products, fats or oils. These materials may attract pests. Keep pet waste or any painted wood out of your compost – you don’t want these in your garden.
If pests are a concern, planting mint or other aromatic plants around your composter will discourage critters. However, as long as you keep your compost layered, damp and turned, it should not smell and it won’t attract unwanted attention from wildlife.
In a few short months, your compost will be ready for your garden. Its nutrient-rich qualities will keep your plants healthy and happy and keep those user fees where they belong –  in your pocket.

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