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.
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.
For many who do not live on Vancouver Island it is a shock for them to find out that although we live in Canada, we don’t (as a rule) get snow…or at least not the kind that hangs around for days…never mind months. Well this year has been much different. In December of 2016, the 3rd of December to be exact, was my last day working for the rest of the month. Winter came and stayed and stayed and stayed. We were in a deep freeze for over a month and the snow that came…STAYED! So much for living in a rain forest! When the snow finally melted (most of it) two weeks ago, it was only because we received so much rain. It washed away the snow and melted the ice. I have now been back to work for the last two weeks.
Since it was so cold and frozen, I had to lay the staff off and am now back to work, but working alone for the time being. Springs clean up has already started in many gardens and I am hard at work. Many shrubs and trees have winter damage from carrying the weight of the snow and ice for so long. Many branches are broken or damaged which means a larger clean up then normal. I have also started trimming and pruning, as well as weeding. It is a perfect time to weed as the ground has so much moisture many of the weeds pull right out. Which is great because saving time on weeding helps to off set the extra time required for the extra clean up and the extra pruning necessary to keep the gardens healthy and vibrant.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the palms that have been planted in so many gardens. The research I have done says that the palms can withstand temperatures dipping to -10 C. However, we had extended periods of days where it stayed that cold. It is true that mother nature can be cruel and it will be sad if many of the palms do not survive. They add a new texture and vibrancy to the landscape here on the island and I shall be sad if their survival is threatened. As the temperatures warm up we will see what has been damaged. Only time will tell.
For those gardeners who are unsure of when to prune or trim. There are basic rules that I follow.
- Any plant or tree that has damaged limbs…prune immediately.
- Pruning and trimming in the fall/winter will slow down growth as the plants are moving towards dormancy.
- Pruning and trimming in the spring stimulates growth as the plants are becoming active again.
- Never ever take more then 1/3 off of any plant or shrub as it could kill it. The more you prune or trim the more likely it is that the plant will become stressed. When a plant is stressed it can bring many problems. It sends a message to insects, diseases, fungus, etc…”I am not well so come and eat me.” Plants are similar to humans…stress can be a killer.
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! 🙂
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.
Garden area before
Garden Boxes complete and Planted
Recently, someone ask me about a garden clean up. She has been on my website and loved the work I do. I explained to her, I charge an hourly rate which includes one person and one truck. I do not charge for taking garden waste away and do not charge for truck time for picking up materials or supplies. I only charge for the hourly labour. I provide the tools, lawn mowers, fuel and anything else required for the job at no extra fee or cost.
She said her concern was the length of time it would take. She had been on my website and saw that some gardens seem to take months. Then I realized that she thought the garden jobs on my site had taken months to complete and she thought I had been working full-time at them. I said yes, some of them have taken months..but it is only part-time I work at them. Depending on the garden owner and their budget, the weather and my time constraints, some of them I work at part-time. If the garden owner has a large job and wants it done immediately, then I do try and accommodate that but usually a very large job is part-time and does take months.
I have regular clients that have me set days in their garden and I also take on what I call “one off” jobs where I am hired to plant or prune a hedge or re-design a small garden or do a one day clean up.
That being said I thought I should clarify for everyone on my site how my business operates.
Cheers! See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂
A current picture of the garden shows the changing colours of the flowers and their growth. 🙂
We have completely transformed the back yard. Last year the neighbour took down a large cedar tree in their back yard. It was along the fence so it opened up the back yard to sunshine and to rain. This year the garden owner wanted a flower garden along the fence line so we rolled up our sleeves and went to work. The beauty of it is that there is wonderful view from the deck as well as the rest of the yard. We started by clearing the sod. One end of the new garden area had previously been a compost area so the soil was nutrient rich. We brought in fresh organic soil from Cinnabar Valley farms and amended it with dolmite lime, peat moss and bone meal. The entire garden was top dressed with about 3 to 4 inches of soil and worked in about 3 to 4 inches deep. Then we planted perennials and interspersed them with annuals to fill in the empty spaces to add colour and depth to the garden area. Throughout the entire season we now have themes of yellow, red, orange and white at different times. The garden is forever changing as the plants come into bloom. The Garden Owner is very happy with the new garden and I too love what we have created! The picutres were taked over a period of 3 months to show how the garden fills out during the growing season.
Happy Gardening…see you in the Garden or the Garden Centre!
Living on Vancouver Island brings lots of rain fall since we live in a rain forest. Over the course of our wet winters the moss and algae grow on everything. Each spring our decks, sidewalks, driveways, carports and anything else in the elements are covered with green growth. Part of the annual spring cleaning has always been to power wash the outdoor space.
This power wash job took approximately 5 hours. It included the deck, sidewalk, car port and front sidewalk also. I do not use any chemicals…only high pressure water is all that is required.
Before & After
Before & After
Trimming and Pruning is a must for all plants, trees and shrubs. Trimming and Pruning allows you to shape the plant and it also stimulates growth. Never cut more then one third of the plant as it can stress it which could cause a weakened immune system which could result in disease or pests attacking it. Because this garden was so over grown I trimmed much off of the top and sides but did not take more then one third of the root system out. Look for the woody overgrown stalks and trim those to the ground. Keep the new and straight growth to allow the plant to re-generate itself. It is important for the plant to have as much light as possible and to allow the air to flow through the plant. This will help ensure the health of the plant as it minimizes the chance of pests and bugs to live within the shrub. Pests are attracted to weak and diseased plants as they are easy targets for food and shelter. After trimming, I added some organic matter and gave the area a good watering, helping to nurture it.
Landscaping or Gardening is a labour intensive job that many people are not fond of. I am one of those people who loves the physical work out as much as the end result. I love working with the earth and seeing a finished landscape evolve through my own hard work.
The tools used are of utmost importance, saving you frustration, time and yes money at the end of your work day. My favourite and most used tools are a pitch fork, a good pair (or two) of trimmers, loppers, a rake and an edger as well as a garden bag for trimmings and clippings. As a landscape gardener I need tools that I can depend on day after day. After many dollars spent on tools that did not stand up to the test of time, I discovered “Fiskars” brand. The company, which was founded almost 400 years ago, offers a life time guarantee on their products.
My work takes me to every corner of an outdoor space and the job changes often by the minute. I needed tools that would stand up to the intense workout of multiple demands hour after hour. So I bought my first pair of Fiskars hand trimmers and was so satisfied with them, I bought another pair. My first pair is now many years old and I still use them. Since my first purchase, I have replaced most of my tools with Fiskars. I have not found another brand that stands up as well. So at the end of my work day when I am cleaning up my tools and the garden area, I am grateful that I found a product that stands up to the labour intensive job of garden work and landscaping Many other tools I have purchased, became dull almost immediately, often bending or warping after little use and many others rusted from the moisture. But not Fiskars…they just keep going and going. And I love the orange coloured handles…easy to find in the garden. I have lost many hand tools in the garden because they are black and difficult to see against the black soil.
So the next time you are thinking of purchasing or replacing some or all of your garden tools…consider Fiskars…you will be glad you did. They are available in every hardware store and have a website loaded with tool and garden information. Best of all…they come with a lifetime guarantee! See you in the garden…or the garden centre! Cheers!