Category Archives: Organic soil

Complimentary Landscaping for a Country Wedding

Last year an unfortunate accident took place that I am sure many of you have experienced.  I dropped my phone in water and had to have it replaced.  Lost were many garden photos…563 to be exact.  I replaced my phone the next day and left the old one sitting in rice.  After a few days I put it in my desk drawer and forgot about it.  Moving in the fall, the old phone stayed in a box until yesterday.  I charged it and like magic it took the charge and I accessed all of the 563 pictures.

Each year I volunteer landscaping hours…sometimes I advertise free landscaping for seniors and other times the job just seems to appear.  I believe it is important to give something back.  In my lifetime so many many people have helped me on my journey; I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of those helping hands and hearts that have reached out to me.  I believe one of the reasons we are on this earth is to help each other out along the way.  The intrinsic rewards are priceless for me.  For me no amount of money can replace the feeling of helping others.

A few years ago while gardening for one of my regular customers I was introduced to Les.  He was a very kind man as is his wife Lorraine.  He owned a small farm near Cedar BC where he grew garlic for the local health food store.  He offered me some work, helping him with his garlic crop.  Which I was happy to oblige, not only for the work, but the knowledge I would gain.

I was very blessed to meet him and his lovely wife Lorraine.  Wonderful people…so caring and so down to earth.  That first garden season after meeting them, they offered to let me grow a garden along side the garlic.  It was a God send to me as I was living in a suite with no garden area.  That season was so busy I had to rely on Les to let me know when my garden needed watering.  We watered my garden and the garlic regularly.  I grew many vegetables and herbs that year…eating and canning everything I could.  There is such a sense of accomplishment that comes with eating an entire meal from your own garden, which I did enjoy many times that summer!  Thank you Les & Lorraine 🙂

Tragedy struck 1 1/2 years ago when Les passed away from an unfortunate accident; leaving his wife and a daughter who was engaged to be married.  The bride, Heather had her heart set on a country wedding.

So we set to work.  The property is a beautiful farm over looking the Nanaimo River.  It is a place where time seems to stand still.  The farm is 10 acres,  complete with a large home, detached garage, detached shop and a barn overlooking a meadow.

I was so busy last summer that I did not even get to the farm to work until 3 weeks before the wedding so it was a stretch…one that I was not sure I could fulfill.  Lorraine had worked tirelessly year after year gardening and had beautiful gardens everywhere.  There were beautiful rhododendron gardens surrounding the house where she had incorporated peach trees, raspberries and other edibles into the garden space.  The gardens just needed some elbow grease to get things in order.

The driveway was a winding lane over a 1/4 mile long from the road to the house with fruit trees on one side and a fenced pasture lined with black berry brambles on the other.  Years previous had seen the addition of a rock garden along the driveway closer to the house.  It was beautiful but overgrown with weeds and grass.

The bride had her heart set on getting married on the lawn and then having her wedding photos taken near the barn and pasture.  There was a considerable amount of work to be done.  The area where the guests would park was overgrown with weeds and grass also.  And work we did.  There were dozens of volunteers that helped every step of the way.  The landscaping was my expertise and thankfully I met the challenge and finished two days before the wedding.

Driveway before

 

Driveway after

Lorraine seeded the lawn area where Heather wanted the ceremony and watered daily for the lawn to thrive.  I added my landscaping touches weeding and mulching everything in sight.

Even Sheeba, the family pet helped by chasing the rabbits away!

The pasture needed to be cut down around the barn and beyond for the wedding photos.  I used a weed eater to get it down to about 8 inches…cleaned the area of all rocks, trees and branches, then I took the lawnmower to it twice…the last time two days before the wedding.  I also trimmed and pruned all shrubs and trees giving each a hair cut to tidy things up.

The three weeks flew by…I cleared my calendar of other jobs to finish this one…at the exasperation of some of my customers…it wasn’t that their gardens weren’t important to me…it was that this was something I had to do…and the wedding turned out beautiful.  A gorgeous summer day for a beautiful bride & groom!  In total I put in 49.5 hours and am so very grateful that I could do something nice for this family!

Congratulations Heather & Ray!  Have a wonderful life!

 

 

 

 

Children in the Garden

If we are to enjoy, protect and benefit from the earth and all that it creates, then it is necessary to engage children…the younger the better to teach them the joy of gardening, the sacredness of the earth and all that it offers.  For they will grow just as plants do and they will become caretakers of earth, for we are all part of something so much greater then our own individuality.

There is nothing more satisfying then growing your own flowers, trees, plants,  fruits and vegetables with a child and experience their joy, enthusiasm and wonder…so incredibly precious through the eyes of a child.  Gardening is magical, we have only to experience children in the garden with us to see and feel the magic of being part of the ecosystem of the earth.  These two little girls are my beautiful granddaughters.  They are almost 2 & 4 and are the perfect age to garden.  My oldest granddaughter has been gardening with mommy since she could walk so she is well versed with watering…it is her favourite activity besides making mud pies for daddy!

It is important to be safe in the garden.  So we purchased childrens’ garden gloves at the local store.  We put on our gum boots and we only have organic soils to use.  Which is important since my youngest granddaughter, Ashlyn decided she needed to taste the soil to see if it passed inspection.   And of course safety also means never leaving them unattended or unsupervised.

Gardening with them was an incredibly satisfying and fun adventure, watching them laugh and learn about all living things.

Each of the girls helped to plant a cedar tree in a pot to put on daddy’s deck.  Ryla who is almost four ask if the tree would grow today.  I explained to her that it grows like she does from the food and water we feed it and the sunshine it receives…slowly but surely getting bigger and bigger…just like her.

Then we watered the strawberries making a liquid organic fertilizer from the organic soil and water and added it to the strawberries which have not woken up for the season.

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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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.