Category Archives: Fall Fertilizing

Island Garden Scapes-a family business!

To all of our clients…thank you for giving us the opportunity to show you what we can do for you!  Cheers!

Call us for all your lawn and landscape needs… thank you from Tim, Trevor, Mike, Miss Ryla, Kathleen and baby Ashlyn.

Soil Testing

A thriving garden starts with knowing your soil type.  Plants require food (nutrients) to thrive just as we do, promoting healthy growth and giving us that colourful display or bumper crop of fruit or vegetables we desire.  For the better matched the plant is to the growing medium the healthier it will be, helping to avoid disease, insects or fungus.

It is never too soon or too late to test your soil composition and is so easy.  I purchased a soil kit from Buckerfields country store for under $30.  It comes complete with everything you need.  Everything is colour coded, including the comparator films and capsules for easy use.  Also included is a plant pH preference list for the gardener.

Soil should be tested periodically to ensure there is a balance of nutrients to support plant life.  It is especially important in the spring before you plant to see if you need to amend the soil for better growing results.  If your current garden is showing signs of stress then it is equally important to test it, after you have eliminated other problems that could correlate to plant stress.  eg…poor soil drainage, insufficient sunlight, insects or disease.  These issues will also cause leaf discolouration and stunted growth as well,  so rule them out first before you conclude it is the soil.  Most gardens do require amendments periodically as the nutrients are used up by plant consumption and nutrients leaching out from natural seasonal changes, such as seasonal rains.    A periodic soil test will let you catch nutrient deficiencies before they adversely affect your plants.  Besides indicating nutrient deficiencies, a soil test can also provide information on soil acidity, the percentage of organic matter in your soil, and your soil’s texture.

Proper testing = True Validity of Results

The results validity depends on your soil sample collection.  If you are testing your lawn area then only take samples from the lawn.  Do not take samples from the vegetable or flower garden areas as the soil could and probably is different.  To test your lawn, use a shovel and slice through the grass up to 6 inches deep.  Roots naturally grow 4 to 6 inches deep so digging this deep will give you a true picture of the nutrient base.  Make sure to take several samples throughout your lawn area and mix them in a clean container.  A typical soil sample requires 1 cup of soil so mix your samples together and add bottled, distilled or spring water.  Do not use treated tap water as it will skew your test results.

If you are testing your vegetable or flower garden area, then repeat the above instructions and yes, these samples can be added together to give you an accurate picture of your soil composition.   Making sure to discard stones, sticks, insects or other debris in your samples before you test.

At the very least, test your soil’s pH, which is a measure of how acidic your soil is. If the pH level isn’t in the correct range, plants cannot take up nutrients in the soil. You should also test for phosphorus and potassium because plants require both of these nutrients in relatively large amounts. A complete checkup would include tests for nutrients that are essential but needed only in minute quantities, such as iron, manganese, and zinc. If you regularly enrich your soil with an abundance of compost and other organic materials, micro nutrient problems are unlikely.

pH testing – to ensure an accurate test result do not touch the soil with bare hands.  Add soil to the pH compartment container to the fill line.  Then add the PH test powder capsule to the container and add water to the fill line.  Shake it and let it sit for a minimum of 30 minutes.  I try and leave it overnight for up to 24 hours to let it settle.

The other three test compartments are for testing Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash.  For these tests with the remaining soil test samples you have mixed together, add 5 cups of water.  Use the 1 part soil to 5 parts water as a basis for true test results.  Shake or stir well to ensure it is well mixed and then let it settle until the sediments have settled to the bottom.  I try and leave this mixture to settle overnight to give a true result.   Use the dropper provided and add the liquid only from the soil and water mix to each compartment matching it to the colour coded capsule.  Add the capsule to the test compartment and shake throughly…it will settle within 10 minutes and allow you to read the colour coded results of your soil.

The test kit comes complete with easy to follow instructions and easy colour coding to read the results.  Knowing your soil composition correlations to a happy growth for any lawn or garden area.  It takes the guess work out, saving you time and money and helping to ensure your plants have the nutrients they need.

pH – Plants need the correct pH level (which is a test of its acidity/alkalinity) which controls how well the plants will utilize the nutrients available in your soil.  All plants have a pH preference so it is important to know your ph reading in order to either amend the existing soil or match the correct plants to the pH soil level.

P – Phosphorus is required for growing plants…it is the major constituent of plant genetics and seed develop0ment.  A deficiency causes stunted growth and seed sterility.  It aids the plant in maturity, increase plant yield and maturity, increases vitamin content and aids in staving off pest, diseases and winter kill.

K – Potash strengthens the plant, it helps form carbohydrates and promotes plant synthesis…better tasting fruits and vegetables, more vivid flower colours, aids in early growth, aids in maturity, stem strength and cold hardiness.  Plants deficient in potash are usually stunted in size, growth, poor yields, have poor root systems and may have leaves that are spotted, curled and/or dried out.

N – Nitrogen is synonymous with plant nutrition.  It is directly responsible for producing leaf growth and green leaves.  A deficiency cause yellow leaves and stunted growth.  Too much nitrogen causes overabundant foliage with delayed flowering; the plant becomes subject to disease and its fruit is of poor quality.

Plants are very forgiving and will recover quickly from deficiencies if caught early.  The best way to ensure a healthy plant is to test before planting and/or test regularly.  Organic amendments regularly will help to ensure a natural balance in the soils.

See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Enlarging a Garden for spring bulbs!

The garden owner wanted her garden enlarged to be able to plant spring bulbs.  Her challenge is to have colour all year long in the garden.  Her back yard is fenced so deer are not a problem.  She also has a beautiful cat who helps to keep the squirrels and other critters from digging and feasting on anything she plants.  The existing garden gets plenty of sun fall to spring so it is a perfect location for her to extend.  She also has a problem with her grass…a serious lack of top soil limits the grass from growing but allows the weeds to multiply exponentially.  A common problem with lawns today.

I brought in 1/2 yard of organic garden soil, 1 bale of coconut peat, 1 pail of bone meal and 1 pail of blood meal.  It is important to amend any soil added so there is a balance of nutrients for an optimum growing medium.  The soil was unloaded one wheelbarrow at a time.  As mentioned her entire yard is fenced so the soil must be brought in one wheelbarrow at a time from her driveway.  Each wheelbarrow was mixed with the soil amendments using a pitch fork then added to the existing garden.  Remember to add enough soil so that it is approximately 2 inches higher then what you require.  The soil will settle considerably over time once you have added it.

For a small garden extension like this one, I use an edger to cut through the sod for a guide to follow the edge of the new garden area.  For a larger area or a new garden, I often use a garden hose to lay out for a guide.  A garden hose is perfect as you can adjust or rearrange it for the curves you want.  Then I use the edger to cut through the soil or sod to follow as a guide.

I took all of the sod out first and then used a pitch fork (my favorite tool) to work up the existing soil to about 4 to 6 inches.  Then I added the new amendment of soil and worked it into the existing soil making sure it was well blended.  Carrollyne is very happy with her new garden.  She loves how rich the soil is and said it was a pleasure to plant with bulbs.  Her only challenge was her beautiful kitty…who thought the new garden was for her, so Carrollnye used chicken wire over the top to keep her kitty out!

Cheers!  See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

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Creating a Back Yard Oasis Complete

This is the follow up to  “creating a back yard oasis” , an earlier post.  The back yard has been completely transformed and all of the garden boxes are planted.  The garden owner told me she wanted me to decide where to plant everything.  For me this was such an honour as she has such an eye for design and such a green thumb.

After planting all of her potted plants, there is still room for her to add more plants  if she wishes.  Crissy still has a small area of grass that will be easy to maintain.  I love the raised cedar garden boxes and have decided this is what I want for my yard.  The boxes wrap around her deck and were built in three sections right on site.  They are portable so they can be moved.  Each box was reinforced for strength.  Each garden box has 5 to 6 inches of wood chips in the bottom for good drainage.  We also drilled twelve 1/2 holes in each box to allow drainage.  Each box was then filled with organic garden soil, bone meal, blood meal and coconut peat to create a balanced soil that would retain moisture during dry seasons.

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Being a Landscape Gardener!

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Maintaining a Multi-Million Dollar Estate for sale

I was hired in May this year to maintain the gardens on a 10 acre wooded estate that is for sale.  This is where the great spotted owl lives that sometimes visits me while I work.  The property backs on to the ocean and has a private cove.  The gardens were all existing but needed to be trimmed,  pruned and cleaned up.  The lawn needed to be aerated, thatched and seeded.  I work there once per week to maintain everything. This includes cleaning out the garden beds, amending with soils and fertilizers, trimming a laurel hedge around the carriage house, trimming a cedar hedge along the driveway and cleaning the driveway each time I am there.  The garden owner is a great person to work for and has a fantastic sense of humor.  She is clear and concise on what she wants done and appreciates the work I do…and I am so very grateful to work for her.

The driveway runs through the entire property and opens up on the water with the main house and a carriage house overlooking the water.  So of course a fall clean up was required also.

 

 

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Creating a Back Yard Oasis

We were hired in October this year to create a back yard oasis for a newly retired lady who has such a green thumb I was envious.  Her flowers in pots were so healthy and beautiful.  I first visited her in September when everything was in bloom.  Such lush healthy plants were a feast for the eyes.  She wanted everything in raised garden boxes to tidy up her small space.  We suggested cedar as it stands up to the test of time and is so beautiful.  The job took much longer then expected as the rains came and have stayed.  With 29 days of rain in October it hampered our effects but we persevered.  The largest garden box built is 15 feet 4 inches long.  It had to built at our house and then trucked to her place to put in place.  It took three of us to load it and had to ratchet strapped into the truck.  It took 1 yard of wood chips in the bottom and 1.5 yards of organic garden soil to fill it.  Each of the garden boxes were built to be portable.  The rules of the condominium complex are:  anything built must be moveable and it must be a minimum of six inches from the fence.

The greatest challenge of the job was to level everything for the boxes and the patio.  The sod was taken out first and then the soil taken out to level it.  We added 1/2  of a yard of sand behind the garden boxes so weeds would never be a problem.  The sand is about 6 inches deep.  It also allows good drainage during rainy season.  We considered adding mulch behind the boxes but knew it would hold moisture up against the boxes and encourage moss to grow.  So sand was the best choice.  Another 1/2 yard was used to level the patio area and poured between the stones to hold them in place.

So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  Half of the garden boxes were built at our house and half were built on site.  We also added a patio in an area 5 x 10 with a beautiful garden potting table we built for her to complete the job.  It has completely transformed her back yard and we love how it looks and more importantly…So does she!

What a wonderful lady and a wonderful project…thanks Crissy!  We shall miss your great cups of coffee and your mmmm sticky buns for coffee breaks!

Happy Gardening…see you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

 

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Patio area before and after

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Before and after corner garden

 

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Back yard before and in progress

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Largest garden box complete and planted

 

 

 

 

 

Planting a Cedar Hedge

Recently we were hired to plant a privacy hedge in Ladysmith.  The weather is perfect for planting trees…for the trees…not so much for people who don’t like the rain.    The trees were purchased at Dinter’s and are very healthy and full.  The root balls were packed in clay and wrapped in burlap.  This ensures the roots stay moist.  The trees were 8 to 10 feet tall and weighed about 120 lbs each.

Preparation for planting.

  1. We measured the entire length of the planting area.
  2. We divided the number of trees by the length so we knew how far apart to space the trees.
  3. We set a couple of trees in place to see how they looked against the fence and to decide how far from the fence to plant them.
  4. We calculated how much soil we would require for the planting.  In order for the trees to thrive we mixed 1 part organic garden soil with the original garden soil.
  5. We knocked off half of the clay off of the roots of the trees to ready them for planting.  You can plant them with the clay and the burlap on them but we chose not to.  The roots must work that much harder to grow through the clay and burlap to get to the soil nutrients.  Since the clay and the burlap are designed to protect the root ball against dry conditions and we are in rainy season, we knew they would not be at risk.
  6. We picked up 1.5 yards of soil ( You can find a soil calculator on line or ask your local soil retailer to calculate how much soil you will need depending on the area you are planting.) and 2 bales of coconut peat along with 2 pails of bone meal and 2 pails of blood meal. This helps to minimize the transplant shock as the nutrients feed the tree a balance of what it requires.  The coconut peat is sustainable unlike regular peat moss that comes from bogs and is not sustainable.  Both lighten the soil, hold moisture and improve soil structure.
  7. We took all of the sod out and started digging holes.  We dug the hole 2 times bigger then the root ball and 2 times deeper.  This allows the roots an easier time spreading out and growing.  We placed the first tree in the hole and measured from the centre of the root ball to the centre of the next root ball to ensure they were equally spaced apart.
  8. We mixed our soils together and added 2 cups of bone meal and 2 cups of blood meal to each wheel barrow of soil.  Then we placed the soil in the bottom of the hole, placed the tree and packed soil around it until it was just above the ground level.  This ensures as it settles it will be flush with the ground.
  9. We picked up 1 1/2 yards of mulch and top dressed the trees after planting as it holds moisture during dry seasons, helps to control weeds and for its pleasing aesthetics.  Happy Planting!  See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

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Cedar Hedge Care

I have planted, topped and pruned many cedar hedges this year for many customers.  With each customer I give the same advice on caring for your cedar hedge.  Although cedars are hardy and often seem easy to grow creating a beautiful privacy or back drop in your garden, they do need proper care to not only survive but thrive.  Especially with the extreme environmental changes we have witnessed over the past five years.  Yes, cedars do evolve and adapt to changes just as humans do but need time and a little helping hand to ensure they do it well.  So with that in mind, here is a basic list of care to follow:

How to Care for your Cedar Trees

 Cedar Trees – Types of Fertilizer

Newly planted cedars can benefit from a high phosphorous fertilizer. In many cases, adding a fertilizer with a balance similar to 5-15-5 into water and thoroughly watering the newly planted tree can help to reduce transplant shock. Subsequent fertilization should be with a balanced fertilizer or with a higher nitrogen fertilizer with a balance similar to 30-10-10. A good organic alternative organic fertilizer is a combination of blood meal and bone meal mixed with some organic compost from your composter or can be purchased at the local garden centre, like Dinter’s, Buckerfield’s,.

Benefits

Giving your cedar more phosphorous at planting will help provide nutrients to the roots as the tree becomes established in the new location. Higher nitrogen levels after the tree is established will help produce more green growth on the tree or shrub. Organic fertilizers at either time will provide a more gentle fertilization that will help protect soil conditions for the life of the tree.

Considerations

If your tree is showing signs of under-fertilization, such as yellow leaves, you may want to have the needles tested for nitrogen content. In some cases, soil pH problems, such as a soil that isn’t acidic enough, may appear to be a fertilization problem. If your leaves have enough nitrogen, the yellowing leaves may be caused by another problem.

When to Fertilize

Begin fertilizing either at planting or in the spring after the tree has begun to grow. Cedars may appear healthy in the winter, but are often dormant. Fertilizing in the winter can cause a buildup of fertilizer in the soil that may result in spring over fertilization. Stop fertilizing in the fall when deciduous trees begin to lose their leaves.

Fall Fertilizing

It is that time of year when many garden owners ask me about fertilizing and feeding their perennials  and trees.  Most plants go semi-dormant during the winter months here…meaning they still grow but at a much slower pace, often working on their root system until it is time for spring.

So, with that in mind, yes do fertilize your garden being careful not to over fertilize.  Just as plants grow at a slower rate, fertilizer also breaks down slower in the winter months and if there is too much it can result in over fertilization in the spring.  The last thing you want is to have a build up of fertilizer in the spring.    With fall feeding it is a good idea to follow a simple rule…when the leaves have all fallen off the trees it is time to stop feeding until spring.

The blend of fertilizer I use is organic compost (from my compost bin) mixed with blood meal, bone meal and a shot of lime.  This will slowly release during the winter months ensuring the plants stay healthy and well fed through to spring.  This blend will balance the soil, slowly release nitrogen and phosphorus for the plants health and help to ensure that pests and disease are non-existent in your garden.

See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂