Category Archives: Garden Challenges

Every garden has its challenges. Defining those challenges albeit light, moisture, soil or weather correlates to a healthier ecosystem to support life in the garden.

A front yard clean-up!

We were hired by Pinky to do a complete clean up of her rental property in Ladysmith BC.   We finished the back yard the first day and moved to the front yard.  The Rose bush in the front yard is the largest I have ever seen.  It is a very old Rose and is thriving here.  We also trimmed and pruned her deciduous hedge that runs parallel to the sidewalk.  There were shrubs that were overgrown as well.  However, they too were very mature healthy plants.  I am always amazed at the end of a clean up just how beautiful the garden design is, as sometimes it gets lost in the overgrowth.  Living in a rainforest has its challenges…everything grows 365 days a year as nothing really goes dormant due to our mild temperatures.

Before ↑ & After↓

Before ↑ & After ↓

                                                                    Before ↑ & After ↓

 

Putting a Garden in Order

Yes, it is another garden clean up.  One that was intense but so satisfying.  Thank you Pinky for hiring Island Garden Scapes.  We were tired when it was finished but so happy with the end result.  Spring has sprung !  It is a very busy season already.  The fence is lined with beautiful flowering spring forsythia so we were careful not to cut all of the buds as it is just starting to flower.  Below the forsythia, there are dozens and dozens of spring bulbs that were just waiting for a chance at some sunshine and rain so they too could flower.  near the back of the house is a beautiful Japanese maple tree which shades a small pond.  So we trimmed the tree, a very small trim…just enough to stimulate its growth and we cleaned out the pond, which you could not see prior to the clean up.  Now it is a beautiful outdoor space.

Before

After

 

Before

After

 

Pruning Fruit Trees

I was hired last year by a garden owner – Sharon – to prune her fruit trees.  Sharon owns a small farm near Nanaimo airport.  She had purchased the property the previous year and had inherited two fruit trees – one apple and one cherry tree.  The trees had not been trimmed for several years and were living in the shadow of a massive Douglas fir.  The trees as you will see were covered in moss and very unhealthy.  I told her I was not sure if the apple tree would recover…it was a 50/50 chance.  She really wanted to try and save it as it had produced wonderful apples the previous season.

I told her it would be a three year plan if the tree survived.  I did not want to over prune and kill the tree.  The rule for any pruning job is to never take more then 1/3 off as it can stress the tree.  I was very happy to hear the apple tree had not only survived but thrived and she had a bumper crop of apples.  I know I cannot take all of the credit as everyone had a bumper crop last year.  Mother nature always has a way to communicate a hard winter coming with the amount of fruit trees bare.  A harsh winter coming means you will have alot of fruit.   So here is year one and year two pictures.  It was very late in the season last year when she called me to prune and I was concerned about damaging the trees but I knew if they were to be saved and healthy then pruning was a must.  The cherry was already in blossom but I went ahead anyway.  I sprayed the trees with “Safer’s De-Moss” and used a soft brush to rid the trees of most of the moss.  We trimmed some of the overhanging branches off the fir tree to increase airflow and minimize the shade as much as possible to inhibit new moss growth.  The product is environmentally safe, is a potassium based soap and is safe around people and pets.

I trimmed all of the dead branches off of the trees, trimmed all suckers off and took some branches out of the middle to increase air flow and sunlight reaching the centre of the trees.

Year 1

Year Two

This year I was so very happy to see all of the new growth on both the apple and the cherry tree.  Incredibly, there is no moss growing on any of the new growth and most of moss is gone from the older limbs.  So this year, I trimmed less off, taking all of the suckers and topping the cherry tree to bring it down lower.  Sharon cannot reach the top to pick the fruit.   We also took some larger limbs off of the fir to continue to open up the fruit trees to sunshine.  It is obvious the trees are very happy now.  Here are year two pictures.   Stay tuned for year three next year.  Thank you Sharon for giving me this opportunity!

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! 

 

 

 

Cleaning a Vacant Lot

Island Garden Scapes was hired to clear this vacant lot for building.  The lot itself had shrubs, trees and oh noooo…blackberry vines along the perimeter of the property on three sides.  Most of the shrubs were overgrown rhododendrons intertwined with blackberry brambles.  Everything on the entire lot had to come down to make way for a 5 plex.  It was quite a job.  I estimated it would take 30 hours and it was close at 24.5.  Although I did not take down one tree and one shrub on the east side of the property.  This was left for the company coming in with a backhoe.  He said he could easily take them down.

Everything else was cut down, leaving enough of a stump for the backhoe to hook on and pull out the roots.   Now all that is left is the mess…all of the garden wasted will be loaded and taken away today by the backhoe operator.

Before and After

 

Plant a Tree

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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!

 

 

 

 

My Back Yard

Last year I posted pictures of my back yard with a design that I had in mind.  Due to unforeseen circumstances I had to move a couple of months ago and my yard design was not completed.

So now, I have a new yard…which is…well the pictures speak for themselves.  There is nothing that motivates me more then landscaping…I love to create beauty through design with alot of help from mother nature.  This yard is like a blank slate just waiting to be designed.

Here are the challenges: Privacy, Privacy & Privacy

Privacy    Our home is in town and has a walking path along the back (east) of the lot and up along the south side of the property.  Our neighbour is the local dog park so you can imagine the traffic around our house.  I love dogs and humans…don’t get me wrong…but I love my privacy more.

Weeds/Overgrown Lot

The entire lot is fenced in and has great potential but has not had any type of landscaping or gardening done in many years.  The only neighbours on the north side had a beautiful cedar fence installed some years ago and it has stood up to the test of time.  The fence does give us some privacy.  However, our yard runs on a gradual slope downhill so there is next to no privacy in the entire back yard.  We live downstairs in a suite and there is also a suite above us.  Thankfully, (for now) my son rents the upstairs suite so privacy is a non-issue.

Backyard swampafter moving in November, we discovered the back yard was like a swamp.  The ground was so waterlogged that we could not walk through most of it without getting soaking wet feet.  To our surprise we found out that the former owner had pumped all of the gray water from the house into the back yard via an underground hose that she had buried.  So all of the water from the laundry room and all of the water from the kitchen sink travels to the back yard.  It is also obvious that there is poor drainage in the back yard.   We already use all natural “green” products…phosphate free, so this is one less thing to worry about.

Cedar Hedge – Many years have passed since the previous owner planted a cedar hedge at the back of the lot.  They are slow growing cedars so they are small and there are holes in the hedge.  Not sure if some died or if there were not enough planted.  In any case, it is going to be one of the biggest challenges landscaping and I am so looking forward to it.

Rocks Rock & More Rocks  The entire yard has rocks everywhere.  The neighbour told me the previous owner brought in truck loads of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  Oh my, I have never ever seen so many rocks on such a small property.  So  I will incorporate what rocks I can  and the rest I am taking to two different clients who are in need of rocks….oh my goodness I hope they want lots!!!!  As you can see from the picture, I already pulled some rocks from around the tree in the picture below.  I planted strawberries under the tree in November when I moved in, so its a very small start. 

Oh, I almost forgot, we inherited a fish pond, in the forefront of the bottom left picture.   It is beautiful and has great potential as a focal point in the gardens.  So here we go with a new project!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Winter damage tree repair

In an earlier post I showed winter damage to a tree in my back yard.  Here is the update, after carefully cutting the branch off at the base, I will leave the tree to heal.  I will not treat it unless there is a problem with it healing.  In the weeks to come, I will check on it continually to ensure that it has become diseased or infested with insects.  Although the damage is considerable to the branch, it is actually a good time for it to heal, since there are few insects around at this time of year and the thaw has not happened so the sap has not started running.  I would be much more concerned if it was later in the season and the sap was running and the insects were out as it could easily draw insects to its wound.

And although this is quite a big wound, the tree will be none the worse for wear if I have to cut the entire branch off.  The most important thing to do is to keep checking the tree as it heals.  The branch actually has two other healthy branches forking off of it, so I really would like to give the branch a chance to heal.  The other branches that were broken were much smaller so it was just a matter of cutting them off.