Category Archives: Feeding your garden

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.

My Garden Labyrinth

In an earlier post, I uploaded a garden labyrinth design for my own back yard.  The challenge is to create privacy and grow all of my own food this year.  Each year I grow more of my own food and this year I would like to grow 100% of it organically.  I have purchased all organic seed.  This is important as seed that is not organic has residual chemicals which would be left in the soil.  I have purchased organic soil from Milan on Brenton-Page road-250-667-1029     https://www.facebook.com/highlineenvironmental/

The first two garden boxes took 2 yards of soil to fill.  Each box measures 4 foot x 8 foot and are 12 inches high.  I placed them parallel along the south side of my driveway with enough space between them to get a lawn mower or a wheel barrow between them.  This area of the yard is very wet due to the gray water from the laundry room being drained here, so it should be a perfect place for a growing medium.  I have added bone meal and blood meal to the boxes and worked it in.  I will test the soil today and see how high the nutrient level is and if anything more is required.   In a few days I will plant some early vegetables.  It is a busy season already so I will have to fit my garden time in after work as I did the last two nights.  When buying seeds it is important to verify they are organic non-GMO seeds.  West Coast seeds are offered for sale at almost every garden centre and many other retail outlets.  They also offer mail order for convenience.  They are high quality certified organic seeds and their website is a wealth of information on gardening.

Cheer!

See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

Creating A Spring Flower Garden

Originally this job was supposed to be completed before Christmas.  There were 300 plus bulbs that needed to be planted once the garden was built.  However, Mother Nature disagreed and so the bulbs had to wait.  There was also a boxwood hedge to plant along a newly installed walkway.  That is if Mother Nature could ever release her icy grip!

The spring garden design was a simple one.  Clean the garden area along the driveway, install garden ties, amend the soil and plant the spring bulbs.  Simple right?  Wrong!  Previously there were coniferous trees growing on that side of the property and had been taken down long before my arrival.  Their stumps were in the garden bed area and the roots were everywhere.  Some had traveled underneath the paved driveway bulging the tarmac upwards.  Intertwined with the tree roots grew english ivy…everywhere.  I never ever thought there would be something more difficult to remove then english ivy.  But I was wrong again.  When I originally looked at the job last fall the ground was covered in leaves and did not give a clear picture of the labour that would be involved to beautify the area.  And so the work begins.  A pic axe was purchased to chop the roots out and a chain saw was used to cut the roots off at the driveway edge.  The easiest part of the job was planting the boxwood hedge.

Organic soil was purchased from Milan at HighLine 250-667-1029 located on Brenton-Page Road near Ladysmith.    You won’t find a better soil.  Milan creates the soil himself from organic matter.  The soil is well balanced with sand and rich organic compost.  I added bone and blood meal, peat moss to retain moisture and triple steer manure to enhance the growing medium.  However, this soil is so rich that you could just plant and grow.  I amended it to minimize the work for the garden owner.  She is not an avid gardener so this will allow her to have a no fuss garden for a couple years.  She will not have to add anything.   I planted over 300 bulbs of daffodils, tulips, narcissus and crocus’.  I am looking forward to seeing this garden in full bloom this spring.  stay tuned for the update in a couple of months.

Warning: If you are using a pic axe or any other equipment for digging or cutting, make sure you know if there are water lines, hydro lines, gas lines or telephone lines in the area! 

 

 

 

Building Garden Boxes

Last year in our community two derelict houses were being demolished so we approached the project manager on site and ask about the cedar fence.  It was red cedar and was still in excellent condition after years of standing.  It has weathered beautifully and I knew it would be perfect for garden projects.  He happily gave us the fence if we were willing to remove it, after the homes were demolished.

After removing it, one box was built and the rest of the wood stored for future projects.  The original plan was to build garden boxes and sell them.  Then after the move to the new home, I realized that I was not willing to part with it.  The wood is perfect for my garden plan.  Working out the amount of wood required for my Garden Labyrinth, I realized I had enough wood for 10 garden boxes, not including the one already built.

My biggest concern with my Labyrinth design was what wood to use in the garden.  I need something that will stand up to the elements of weather here on Vancouver Island.  The red cedar is perfect.  It has a life span of about 20 years.  The garden boxes will be built and put in place without a bottom.  In order for me to utilize the gray water in my yard, it is necessary to leave the bottom open so it can draw up the ground water.

The yard which is so overgrown is actually a blessing in disguise…a labour intensive blessing, but a blessing just the same.   As I prune each shrub and tree, I will chip the waste and put it in the bottom of each box.  It will draw up the moisture and it will slowly break down and enrich the soil, as well as keeping it aerated.  Keep in mind it does not have to be chipped, it could actually be cut in smaller pieces by hand and added to the bottom.  Wood chips will be added on top of the chipped garden waste as it will retain water and minimize the need for watering.  The garden boxes will be approximately 20 inches high so each box will require approximately 10 inches of waste and wood chips before the organic soil is added.  The soil will be 2 inches below the top of the box.

I have not measured the yard for exact measurements as it is still covered in snow.  So I know my garden plan will have to be tweaked after measuring.

My Garden Labyrinth

I have now lived in this location for 3 months.  I have spent countless hours researching, sketching and incorporating the numerous benefits in the yard. As I said in an earlier post, privacy is my biggest concern.

The back yard gets full sun throughout the year.  I know that the back lawn stays green most of the year from the gray water that feeds it daily.  It was important for me to incorporate a plan that would utilize this gray water in my  garden effectively and efficiently.  I am on town water so it is not an option to water my gardens all year with town water, not only the cost, but with the hot dry summers on Vancouver Island the watering bans start earlier every year.  Incidentally, I am a renter and my landlord has given me the green light to landscape the entire lot as I wish, so that is a bonus.

Each year I grow more of my own food and this garden should suffice in growing all of my own food.  So the plan had to address the privacy issues, create beauty,  utilize the gray water and produce enough food for six of us.  I am including my sons and grandchildren as it is of utmost importance to me for each of us to eat as much organic food as possible, while saving money!  Last year I grew about 60% of my food.  I canned and froze much of what we couldn’t eat fresh and have been eating it all year long.

Privacy Issues – The fence enclosing the yard will provide a backdrop for me to plant shrubs and bushes to allow the privacy I want, but will take time to grow and cover the fence.  The immediate concern was how to create a garden area throughout the back yard with fruits, vegetables and flowers that would be high enough to enclose the area for privacy.

I have always loved the idea of a labyrinth and decided this would meet all of the garden challenges.  Creating a labyrinth from raised garden beds would give me the height for privacy, allow the soil in the containers to draw the gray water from the ground and filter it before it hits the plant roots, create beauty in the garden, incorporate a patio area in the middle while creating a play space for my grandchildren as they love to be in the garden with me.

And so here is my Labyrinth garden plan!  I do know that is a preliminary plan.  The garden plan will evolve and change as it comes to life!

 

 

 

 

What Soil is made of

Soil has an ecosystem all its own.  It is very much alive and supports many life forms.  From the tiny microscopic organisms we cannot see to the plants we grow, and of course to the bugs and insects we can see.  Earthworms, insects, reptiles, nematodes, bacteria and fungus all reside in your soil.  This ecosystem of life supports the soil composition helping  with decay and nutrient cycles.

You have probably heard people say that earthworms in the garden soil is healthy.  This is true.  Earthworms tunnel through the soil.  As they feed, organic matter passes through their bodies and is excreted as granular, dark castings.  This enhances and adds to the soil structure as it mixes with the soil and breaks down.  Earthworms also eat microorganisms that cause plant disease.

You will probably be surprised to find out what soil is made of.  Beneath the ground surface the soil is full of living organisms that interact in a finely tuned living system but on a percentage basis, soil is mostly minerals weighing in at a whopping 45%, followed by air at 25% and water at 25%.  The biological component (the balance of nutrients that is required to support healthy plant growth) is only 5%.  But it is a very significant 5%.

When your soil is out of balance, you will see it through the plants.  They will show signs of stress through discoloured leaves, wilting, blight,  insect infestation, disease or fungus.  You will definitely be able to see it if the soil is poor or seriously lacking something.  Keeping in mind that factors in poor plant health can also be poor drainage or a lack of oxygen.

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! 🙂

20160926_134134-1-625x351 taking-the-sod-out

rich-organic-soil-amended 20160926_152803-625x351

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.

20160916_153432-625x468 20160916_153410-625x468Garden area before

 

corner-box-progress back-box-progressIn Progress

garden-boxes-complete-and-plantedwrap-around-garden-boxes-complete-and-planted patio-garden-boxesGarden Boxes complete and Planted

 

Being a Landscape Gardener!

work-play