{ Archive for July, 2008 }

Adopt a tree in your neighbourhood


My furry grandsons, Boomer and Lindy, are visiting for a few weeks while my daughter and her partner are in Europe. Both are rescued dogs and what I call Bitsas–bits of this and bits of that. Boomer is mainly Pomeranian, but I swear there's a dash of Jack Russell thrown in just for fun, and he's a little scamp. By contrast, Lindy is Mr. Chill–a lovely, laid back dog, possibly a cross between a Malamute and an Alsatian, with maybe a bit of chow. He has a huge double coat like a mastodon that Amy keeps shaved down, which makes him look like a puppy even though he's 12 or more–we think.

It's a treat having dogs in the house again (it's been several years since Star the wonder dog went to that big doghouse in the sky, and I still miss her). But I like being the grandma–having them over for visits, spoiling them with extra doggy treats, then giving them back. I'm not ready yet for another full-time commitment to a dog and all that entails, though I will be one day.

Having the furries here also means I have a perfect excuse to go for nice long aimless walks again in the morning and evening. These jaunts give me the chance to be nosy and look in people's gardens (and windows) as we go past. It's a great way to get ideas.

Happily for the three of us, there's a pretty park just a few minutes` walk away that has morning and evening off-leash hours. Strolling along this morning, I was admiring the beautiful trees in my neighbourhood. Here in Toronto, and despite all the long-range predictions for very hot weather, so far it's actually been a pretty cool summer with a fair bit of rain–lovely for the garden and for gardening, too. I'm especially pleased for the trees, which look particularly healthy and perky. In past summers, long dry spells made them look dusty, faded and sad; some distressed maples dropped their leaves early. This year, it's so far, so good. (There's an old Lithuanian saying, though, which roughly translated means “don't praise the day before the sun sets”–there's plenty of summer left and we ain't done yet, folks.)

If it's hot and dry in your neck of the woods and no rain in the forecast, please remember to water the trees, especially those that are a couple of years old or less. They need a good deep drink at least once a week just as much as your other plants do. If you see trees that are planted by the city or your municipality that are being neglected, how about adopting one and watering it until it gets well established? Even a bucket of water or two a week would really help. It makes me sad to see poor saplings make a brave start, only to struggle then give up the ghost through ignorance or neglect. Especially since it's so easily prevented.

A big welcome and watering wisdom

This is the first post on my new blog on our brand-new website. A blank slate. An empty page.

Luckily for me, I never suffer from writer's block. Not ever. Quite the reverse. Yee ha, blah blah blah and rein me in! So it should be easy to keep this up. Especially as this will be an off-the-cuff, anything-that-comes-into-my-head type of thing. Sometimes about gardening, and sometimes not. But let's at least start with a bit of gardening.

This morning I was up extra early to water my umpteen containers, some of which are in my shady rear garden and some on my sunny deck. In case you think I do this every day, let me put you wise. When it comes to my plants, I firmly believe in easy does it by getting the upper hand. It's a bit like having a child. Start them off right, treat them well, but establish a routine that suits you. At least that's my theory, and most of the time it does seem to work.

Because I have neither the time nor the inclination to water daily, I start the season by putting my plants in good soil mixes with a moisture-retaining product such as Soil Sponge (there are others), then mulch the pot's surface like mad. Though I create most of my own container designs, I also love to buy a few ready-planted hanging baskets at the supermarket for instant colour and effect. These are transplanted into slightly bigger containers topped up with really good soil and get the mulch treatment, too. I find this helps keep their closely packed, mega-fertilized plants from drying out too quickly, which in my experience the store-bought containers do.

In general, these few extra steps help me keep the (thorough) watering down to a couple of times a week, unless it's brutally hot and dry. Of course this doesn't mean you should let plants suffer and droop–but don't mollycoddle them with nervous little dribbles of water every day either. Instead, give them a good soaking with lukewarm water until it runs out of the bottom of the pot (drainage holes for the pot are an absolute must), then wait a few minutes and do it again. And don't forget to deadhead and add a weak solution of plant food every couple of weeks to keep blooms coming.

If your containers start to look straggly or a rambunctious plant is getting the upper hand, cut it back. I also find certain annuals, such as lobelia, pooch out fairly early in the season and aren't worth rescuing (or really, growing in pots, for that matter, no matter how pretty they may start out). Scaveola gives me a big beautiful jolt of purplish blue, too, and takes an awful lot of punishment without going all pouty and high maintenance–try it.