Tag Archives: sustainable gardening

Island Garden Scapes are Landscaper Gardeners located in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island on the Pacific West Coast of Canada. Our motto is…”when you do what you love and you love what you do…you are one with the landscape. Creating a perfect garden paradise. We will create a landscape (an area) or outdoor garden space in a style which requires little or no irrigation. We service all mid island BC and offer creation, design, clean up, planting, weeding, feeding, pruning, lawn maintenance and garden maintenance.

Proper pollination of fruit trees and other fruit bearing plants

Recently, I took a phone call from a garden owner wanting some advice on how to insure his fruit trees would have a good pollination which correlates to a higher yield of fruit.  It is quite simple really.  He explained to me that his fruit trees are in an area of his property completely separate from his flower beds and flowering shrubs.  He has fenced in the area to keep deer and other plant eating rodents out and has struggled for two years with low fruit yields.  The trees themselves are quite healthy and growing well.  They just have not produced the amount of fruit he felt they should.

I explained to him, the past year of strange weather did not help.  Here on Vancouver Island we had a very late spring, many of the flowering trees and shrubs were 6 weeks behind because we had such a cold winter and a late one at that.  So when the pollinators (bees, ladybugs, butterflies,etc) have come to your garden and cannot find food, they move on.

Plants give off what is called “Pheromones” which are used for many things…one of which is communication among plants and with insects.  When the plant starts to flower and needs to be pollinated for sustainability, it releases its pheromones into the air to attract pollinators.  So to increase the pollination processes in your garden and off set things like cold winters, late bloomers, etc…choose companion plants to grow with or near your fruit trees that will increase your trees chances of getting a high pollination count.  Choosing flowers that bloom for long periods of time to overlap with the fruit trees helps encourage pollination.  Choose daffodils, garlic, lavender, rosemary, marigolds or heather.  They will not only attract the right pollinators to your garden but also deter pests with their strong odors and  help to keep your garden healthy for years to come.
Also…these choices are also deer resistant.  I have never seen deer eat these plants so it just might help to keep your plants from being eaten.

Happy Gardening…see you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

 

 

Planting Reminder

We are fast approaching the end of garlic planting on Vancouver Island.  Ideally it is best planted during the month of October but can still be put in now.  Garlic is easy to grow and can be planted in pots, raised beds or direct into the ground.  Planting in a pot I would suggest using a pot with a depth of 8 to 10 inches to allow for plenty of root space.  Just place the separated cloves and plant approximately 3 inches in depth and 4 inches apart for best results.  Use only organically locally grown garlic as many of the grocery store varieties have been sprayed with chemicals.  Plant in organic soil and harvest next year.

Ladysmith Health Food store has an abundance of garlic for sale and very reasonably priced.  They are located on 1st Ave in downtown Ladysmith.

 

Protecting your garden from deer, rabbits, voles & small critters

One of the biggest challenges of gardening is how to protect our precious plants and trees from being eaten.  On Vancouver Island, (a temperate rainforest) it is one of our greatest challenges.  We do not get the cold snowy winters with inches of frozen ground and plants dying back until spring.  Rather, we have greenery all year and can garden year round most years.  This creates a greater challenge as the deer and other rodents too are active and seeking sustenance all year long.  The deer have a natural mechanism built into their DNA that allows them to remember where they found food and to pass this information on to their off spring, as do other creatures.  The deer population on Vancouver Island is at an all time high due to the increased human population pushing the boundaries of nature and with less predators lurking in their midst, the deer have thrived.  Our gardens represent a bounty of unlimited greens all year long!

There are many ways to minimize the damage done by deer and other plant eating critters.  I would strongly recommend using as many as possible to manage if not eliminate the problems or at the very least to successfully protect your garden gems.   Yes, the deer are beautiful and are protected so minimizing the appetite of these gracious creatures is a must to protect your gardens and create harmony for all.  Keeping deer at bay from the garden is important for many reasons, not only to protect your plants, but to minimize the risk of Lyme’s Disease from the dreaded ticks that deer can carry.  I have compiled a list of how to control deer and other rodents in the gardens to help keep you, your pets and your plants safe!

  1. Do your due diligence and choose as many plants as possible that deer and other rodents do not like to dine on.  Ask your local garden centre for advice or down load a list here.
  2.  Fence your garden area to keep deer out.  Although this can be costly and extreme,  it will solve the problem completely.  Remember, deer can jump a fence 6 feet high or more.  If you choose to put a fence up, try to fit it with your garden design to add to the landscape rather then making it unsightly.   If you do not want or cannot afford to fence in the entire garden area, then adding a fence around each fruit tree or rose bush is also an option…one that also works…although it too can be unsightly in your garden.
  3. Choose plants with strong scents that deer do not like and use them as companion plants with plants that deer do love to dine on…often the strong scented plants will deter the deer or confuse their sense of smell so they will miss dining on their favourites.  Remember though, they will return to your garden again and again will probably find and feast on the plants they love so much.
  4. Use a product call “Plant Skydd” to deter the deer and with continued use many garden owners have stated the deer no longer come to their garden.   The product is all natural, will not harm plants, pets or people and does not need to be applied after every rain fall.  This is great news for gardeners and it really works!
  5. Plant the perimeter of your entire garden space with plants that deer do not eat.  Choose different types of plants with strong scents to deter the deer from crossing the line into your garden.  Deer have very sensitive noses and will often decide not to cross the line into the garden if there is a wide perimeter of smelly plants that offends their sense of smell.

This summer we did a small pruning and clean up at a property and saw the full extent of the damage deer can do in a short span of time.  This cedar hedge is obviously to the deers liking.  Planting cedrus or true cedars will help minimize the damage done by deer.  Often deer will taste fresh new shoots on trees and plants…even the ones they are not supposed to eat but will not eat much more then a taste.

Good luck in your garden…see you in the garden or the garden centre!

 

Garden Oasis

The work has continued over the summer for this front garden oasis.  The project was put back weeks because the summer was too hot to pour the cement for the patio.  The patio consists of 1080 square feet of stamped cement.  Two colours were chosen for the patio to add visual appeal and separate areas of the patio for seating.  It is coming along but still has a ways to go.  The patio turned out perfect!  Thanks Mike and Jacko…great job!

With the patio now poured, we have excavated around it to place a dry river bed that will run along the edge of the patio.  This will add interest and will act as drainage when the heavy rains come to ensure that water does not pool on the patio.

On each side of the patio we have constructed garden beds to compliment the entire yard, which will add colour and interest.  The garden owner wants no grass to cut and as low maintenance as possible.

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! 🙂

Plant a Tree

Make a commitment to plant a tree and make a difference in your own world!

“Trees are a vital organ of our planet and our survival. Our forests control climate, cycle water, protect soil, store carbon, supply medicine and most importantly produce more than 40 percent of the world’s oxygen. Currently, trees cover approximately 31 percent of the earth. They are home to up to 90 percent of the world’s land-based biodiversity and half of all known species live in tropical forests. Indigenous peoples around the world rely on forests for housing and food, while the developing world relies on forests for a range of products.” http://therevolutionmovie.com/index.php/open-your-eyes/deforestation/intro/

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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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.