April Showers Bring May Flowers! By Garden Girl Dawn Jane Guay MAY 30, 2015

Such great spring weather we’ve been blessed with this year!

It’s been a busy past few weeks and as much as I would love to say that my seed starting has gone off without a hitch, it would be a complete fabrication. I had more faith this year than last, starting 168 seeds (14 varieties in quantities of 12). I read as many books as I can get my hands on, trying to absorb as much knowledge as humanly possible, hoping it would guide me through to success this time… Currently, over 100 survivors so far. However, not one of my evening primrose grew and all twelve of the lavender seems to be doing excellent so far!

I attended my first greenhouse tour ever at Marlin Orchards a few Thursday’s ago, given by Diane Lunan. It was a last minute decision to go to the tour, so I was a little late and my attempts at joining the group like a ninja were completely foiled when Diane stopped talking to give me a door prize ticket that I completely forgot about by the end… I didn’t win.

That night I really started to realize what (some of) my problems are…

For one, the past two springs I have used growing kits that utilise peat pellets as mediums and apparently that is a big no-no amongst professionals. Once the seed germinates it is important that the roots don’t stay too wet, which is exactly what happens with the peat pellets… Also, it is healthy to allow roots to get a little dry at times to strengthen the plant as a whole.

As a dutiful, loving, plant mother should, I kept my pellets well watered. When they germinated I was so pleased, about a week in and I had over 70% success! However, when the plants grew to a certain point, they just fell over and most died… Again with the deaths… I see now that they somewhat drowned with also being undernourished. As well as holding too much water, the peat pellets have essentially no nutrients which is why a potting medium works so much better. Not only is it fortified but it is also engineered to hold a more favourable water content over all for developing root structures.

I must say, after roughly a decade of “tinkering” with plants, that was the first greenhouse tour I have ever attended and I wish I made it a priority sooner! My husband caught a bit of it and seemed to enjoy the talk Diane was giving almost as much as me! That night I got the unmistakeable feeling that I get when I enter a super awesome bookstore, except it was a greenhouse and it wasn’t just the atmosphere, it was the amazingly knowledgeable woman who facilitated it- I highly recommend it, she is better than any book!

Our herbs have wintered well and are now ready for use! The chives were the first to come up, the chamomile is back and our tarragon is already bushy. The Mexican oregano is much more voracious than the Greek variety- they were planted at the same time yet the Mexican variety is easily five times fuller! The lemon verbena is back, along with the peppermint and I am now realising I underestimated the mint’s spreading powers when I chose its location last fall. I plan to move it someplace it can roam free, yet the location of that place still eludes me… The thyme has also returned, but I knew it would, I acquired it from my Nanny’s well established garden.

Our tulips finally bloomed, however, they indicated in size and beauty that I need to fortify their bed. One of the amazing tips I picked up at the greenhouse tour was instead of fertilizing with a water soluble formula full strength once a month, fertilize at roughly a quarter strength once a week to give continuous food to the plants in smaller doses. I sense this tip will pay off very well!

Something fascinating I read recently said that when a bird is scouting out locations to raise its young it will look for places where finding a minimum of 6000 insect larvae to eat within a few weeks isn’t hard. That sounds like the perfect type of pest control if you ask me. A garden alive with beautiful flowers and birds, working together to beautify our sanctuary… Such an idyll vision…

All 15 of our rose bushes but one (Royal Kate), are showing signs of life (phew!!!) and I was proactive and sprayed each of them with dormant spray before any leaves opened. I am really hoping that this will give me a fighting chance to control the sawflies that decimate a few of them by October. Today I picked two different caterpillars off of my Great Maiden’s Blush!

Lake Guay was huge this spring and I shan’t allow myself to overlook that natural phenomenon when landscape planning again…!

I haven’t given up on my seedlings yet, it would be way too sad to just give up at this point. There’s around two-thirds that look hopeful, yet still so small, like they’re dwarf versions… I guess we shall see what tomorrow brings!

Happy Gardening

1 Comment

  1. Garden Girl my mother in law in Lebanon used to pick chamomile flowers and make camomile tea. When we first came back to Ottawa 12 years ago I found camomile flowers for tea at a Lebanese store and I made the tea. I have mint on the balcony, hot peppers, beef stake tomatoes and another herb. There is nothing like a garden. I am going out with my daughter just now and enjoy the beautiful weather.

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