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.
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.
The work continues on my Garden Labyrinth in my own yard as discussed in a couple of previous posts. We have now built another garden box and I have started planting the first one. I have added ever-bearing strawberries to the first box. The strawberries are later to come to fruitation. The harvest will begin late in July, about a month after the regular strawberry harvest starts. Ever-bearing strawberries will produce until late in the year. I have eaten strawberries as late as December. I planted two rows and will now plant sunflowers in the back half of the bed. The sunflowers will create a privacy back drop and will be a beautiful addition as they mature. They will be facing East so they will get plenty of morning sun. The sunflowers will also attract many bees and insects that will serve to pollinate everything I have growing in my gardens. The strawberries were a gift from one of my garden owners who wanted to divide and had lots to give away. They have weathered the winter a little worse for the wear but are already perking up. I have tested my soil and it is a well balanced soil and does not need any enrichment. The first two garden boxes built are 11.5 inches high by 4 feet wide x 8 ft long. The newest garden box is built from pine 2 x 4’s and is 16 inches high by 4 feet wide x 7 feet long. Four feet is the widest we will build them as anything wider will be hard to weed. We have reinforced each box with a brace to ensure they do not bulge from the weight of the soil inside.
I also have regular bearing strawberries that I planted underneath my Japanese ornamental cherry tree so my grandchildren will have strawberries to eat for many months.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 swamp – after 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!!!
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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!
|Climate Station||Last Spring Frost (50% Probability)||First Fall Frost (50% Probability)||Growing Season|
|PORT ANGELES, WA climate station||March 30||November 11||225|