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  • Can I throw my fall pumpkins in the forest?

    Are Halloween pumpkins harmful to the environment? Halloween pumpkins, by themselves, are not inherently harmful to the environment. They are organic materials and will naturally decompose over time. However, throwing your Halloween pumpkins in the forest is not a responsible or environmentally friendly way to dispose of them. There are several reasons why you should avoid doing this: Environmental Impact: Pumpkins are not native to most forest ecosystems and can disrupt the balance of the local flora and fauna. Introducing non-native species into an ecosystem can lead to competition for resources and disrupt the natural food chain. Decomposition: While pumpkins are biodegradable, they can take a long time to decompose in a forest setting. They may attract wildlife, such as rodents, disrupting the ecosystem. Pumpkins can also introduce fungal diseases or other pathogens to the forest. Wildlife Confusion: Wildlife might be attracted to the discarded pumpkins, thinking they are a potential food source. Ingesting non-food items can harm animals and lead to health problems or even death. Wildlife Attraction: Discarded pumpkins can attract wildlife, such as rodents and raccoons, which may become a nuisance in residential areas. In some cases, this can lead to increased human-wildlife conflicts. Littering: Dumping pumpkins in the forest is a form of littering. Littering is not only unsightly, but it can also have legal consequences in many areas, resulting in fines or other penalties. Aesthetic and Enjoyment Value: Forests are often places of natural beauty and enjoyment for people. Dumping pumpkins in the forest detracts from these natural spaces' aesthetic appeal and happiness. Non-Organic Additions: These items can harm the environment if pumpkins are decorated with non-organic materials like plastic or paint. Plastic decorations can take a long time to break down and can pollute the environment. Alternative Disposal Methods: There are more responsible ways to dispose of pumpkins, such as composting or recycling them. Composting pumpkins can enrich soil and benefit your garden or community. Many areas have curbside compost collection or drop-off sites for organic materials. To minimize the environmental impact of Halloween pumpkins, consider the following practices: Composting: Composting your pumpkins is an eco-friendly way to dispose of them. This helps reduce landfill waste and allows the organic material to break down naturally, enriching the soil. Check out this great article on how to compost your pumpkins: https://todayshomeowner.com/lawn-garden/guides/can-pumpkins-go-into-compost/ Choose Locally Sourced Pumpkins: Buy locally grown pumpkins to reduce transportation's environmental impact. Use Natural Decorations: Use natural and biodegradable materials rather than non-organic decorations when decorating pumpkins. Reduce Food Waste: If you carve a pumpkin, consider using the pumpkin flesh for cooking or making pumpkin puree rather than letting it go to waste. In summary, Halloween pumpkins themselves are not inherently harmful to the environment. The environmental impact depends on how they are handled and disposed of. Responsible disposal and mindful practices can minimize their effects and turn them into beneficial ecological resources. Several environmentally responsible and creative ways exist to repurpose or dispose of Halloween pumpkins instead of simply throwing them away. Here are some ideas: Compost: Composting is an excellent way to recycle your Halloween pumpkins. Chop them into smaller pieces to speed up decomposition, and add them to your compost bin. Over time, they will break down and enrich your compost with valuable nutrients. Make Pumpkin Puree: You can use your pumpkins to make homemade pumpkin puree, which can be used in various recipes, such as pies, soups, and smoothies. Cut the pumpkin into chunks, remove the seeds, and cook the flesh until soft. Then, blend it into a puree. Cook Pumpkin Seeds: Roasting pumpkin seeds is a delicious and healthy snack. Clean the seeds, toss them with your favourite seasonings, and roast them in the oven until they're crispy. Decorate Your Garden: Consider placing whole or carved pumpkins in your garden or porch to add a festive touch to your fall decor. You can move them to your compost pile when they start to decompose. Give Them to Local Farmers: Some local farmers might be interested in using your discarded pumpkins as animal feed. Check with nearby farms to see if they would like your pumpkins. Educational Projects: If you have children or are involved in a school or community group, you can use old pumpkins for academic projects. These can include seed-planting activities, pumpkin-themed art projects, or science experiments. Donate to a Zoo or Animal Sanctuary: Some zoos and animal sanctuaries accept donations of old pumpkins for animal enrichment items. Check with local wildlife organizations to see if they have a use for your pumpkins. Repurpose for Crafts: Get creative and use old pumpkins for crafting. You can paint or carve them, turn them into candle holders, or use them as centrepieces for Thanksgiving decorations. Organic Fertilizer: If you have a garden, you can blend old pumpkins and use the mixture as organic fertilizer for your plants. The nutrients in pumpkins can benefit your garden soil. Before implementing any of these ideas, remove non-organic materials from your pumpkins, such as candles or wax, to ensure that what you're repurposing or disposing of is environmentally friendly. Additionally, be mindful of local regulations and guidelines regarding the disposal of organic materials and waste in your area. Thank you to our member D.W. for providing us with the photos!

  • How to help the bees - naturally

    It's that time of year again when the summer buzzing bees seem to be lethargic and without energy. As gardeners, we always want to help out where we can, but knowing the right methods is very important. To support bee populations without relying on sugar water, it's better to focus on creating a bee-friendly environment by planting various nectar-rich flowers, avoiding pesticides, providing nesting sites, and promoting natural forage options for bees. These practices are more sustainable and aligned with bees' raw diet and behaviour. The lifespan of bees in Ontario, Canada, can vary depending on the bee species. Here are some general guidelines for the lifespans of different types of bees commonly found in Ontario: Honeybees (Apis mellifera): The lifespan of a worker honeybee during the summer months is typically around 4 to 6 weeks. Worker bees that are born in the spring and early summer often have shorter lives due to the intense activity during this period. However, honeybees born in the late summer or early fall may live longer, often through the winter months. Bumblebees (Bombus spp.): Bumblebee lifespans can vary depending on the species and the role within the colony. Worker bumblebees generally live for several weeks to a few months. Queens can live longer, with some surviving through the winter to establish new colonies in the spring. Solitary Bees: Many species of solitary bees are native to Ontario. The lifespan of solitary bees can vary widely, with some species living only a few weeks and others surviving for several months. Solitary bees typically do not form colonies like honeybees or bumblebees. It's important to note that the lifespan of bees can also be influenced by environmental factors, including weather conditions, food availability, and the presence of pesticides or other stressors. Additionally, the lifespan of individual bees within a colony can vary based on their role (e.g., workers, queens, drones) and the time of year. Helping bee populations without resorting to sugar water involves creating a more bee-friendly environment and taking steps to support their natural needs. Here are some ways to do that: Plant Bee-Friendly Flowers: Grow various native flowers, herbs, and shrubs in your garden or on your property. Choose plants that provide nectar and pollen for bees. Some good options include lavender, bee balm, coneflowers, sunflowers, and native wildflowers. Ensure you have flowers blooming throughout the spring, summer, and fall to provide continuous food sources for bees. Avoid Pesticides: Minimize or eliminate chemical pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides in your garden. These chemicals can harm bees and other pollinators. Instead, use natural and organic methods for pest control. Provide Nesting Sites: Different bee species have various nesting preferences. Some nest in the ground, while others prefer hollow stems or wood. Create habitat diversity by leaving some areas of your garden or yard untouched or providing bee houses and nesting materials like twigs and hollow reeds. Avoid Disturbance: If you notice a bee nest or solitary bee holes in the ground, avoid disturbing them. Bees can be defensive when they feel threatened. Provide space for them to carry out their natural behaviours. Support Local Beekeepers: Buying honey and other bee products from local beekeepers can help support bee populations indirectly by supporting the beekeeping industry. Look for honey that is produced sustainably and ethically. Educate Yourself and Others: Learn more about the importance of bees and pollinators in our ecosystem and share this information with friends and family. Raising awareness can lead to more people taking steps to protect bees. Get Involved in Conservation Efforts: Support or participate in local conservation organizations or initiatives focused on bee and pollinator protection. These groups often work on projects to improve bee habitats and raise awareness. Reduce Lawn Area: Lawns provide little to no benefit to bees and other wildlife. Consider reducing the size of your lawn and replacing it with bee-friendly plants and wildflowers. Support Organic Agriculture: Choose to buy organic produce when possible, as organic farming practices tend to be more friendly to bees and pollinators. Advocate for Bee-Friendly Policies: Get involved in advocacy efforts to promote bee-friendly policies and regulations in your community, such as restrictions on pesticide use and the protection of natural habitats. By taking these steps, you can contribute to the well-being of bee populations and help create a more hospitable environment for these essential pollinators. Sugar water, when used responsibly and in certain situations, can be a helpful tool for beekeepers and individuals looking to provide temporary nourishment to bees. However, it's essential to use sugar water appropriately and avoid over-reliance on it because there are potential downsides and risks associated with feeding bees sugar water: Lack of Nutritional Diversity: Sugar water lacks the nutritional diversity and complexity of natural nectar from flowers. Bees need a range of nutrients and trace elements that may not be present in sugar water alone. Prolonged sugar water feeding without access to natural forage can result in poor bee health. Diluted Bee Diet: When bees primarily consume sugar water, it dilutes the quality of their honey, potentially affecting the honey's flavour and nutritional value. Risk of Disease Spread: Sugar water feeding stations can attract bees from different colonies. This congregation of bees increases the risk of disease transmission between colonies. Reduced Foraging: If bees have easy access to sugar water, they may become less motivated to forage for natural nectar and pollen. This can lead to a reduced contribution to pollination and ecological disruption. Potential Aggression: Concentrated sugar water can attract other insects, such as wasps and ants. This can lead to conflicts at feeding stations and potentially harm the bees. Given these potential drawbacks, using sugar water sparingly and primarily as a last resort or emergency measure, such as when bee colonies struggle due to a lack of natural forage or during extreme weather conditions, is essential. Beekeepers may use sugar water as a supplementary feeding method, especially during winter, when bees may need additional food stores to survive. To support bee populations without relying on sugar water, it's better to focus on creating a bee-friendly environment by planting various nectar-rich flowers, avoiding pesticides, providing nesting sites, and promoting natural forage options for bees. These practices are more sustainable and aligned with bees' raw diet and behaviour.

  • Are you polluting your garden with light?

    What a strange question! However, light pollution is as real in your garden as chemical pesticides. Light pollution in gardens refers to the excessive or misdirected artificial light that interferes with the natural darkness of the night sky and can have negative effects on both the environment and human health. Light pollution can impact gardens in various ways, and it's important to address it to create a more ecologically friendly and aesthetically pleasing outdoor space. Here's how light pollution can affect gardens and what you can do to mitigate its effects: Effects of Light Pollution in Gardens: Disruption of Nocturnal Wildlife: Artificial light at night can disrupt the natural behaviours of nocturnal wildlife such as insects, birds, and mammals. Some animals are attracted to lights, while others may avoid well-lit areas, affecting their feeding, breeding, and migration patterns. Think of all the mosquitoes a bat can eat in one night in darkness, or an owl can munch on that rat that has been visiting your composter! Altered Plant Growth: Certain plants require periods of uninterrupted darkness for proper growth and development. Light pollution can interfere with these natural light cycles, potentially affecting the health of plants. Astronomical Visibility: Excessive light pollution reduces the visibility of celestial objects in the night sky, making it difficult to observe stars, planets, and other astronomical phenomena from your garden. Energy Waste: Misdirected or excessive outdoor lighting wastes energy and contributes to higher electricity bills and increased carbon emissions. Mitigation Strategies to avoid or minimize light pollution in your garden: Use Shielded Fixtures: Choose outdoor lighting fixtures that direct light downward, preventing light from being emitted upward or outward. This reduces the amount of light that contributes to skyglow and glare. Install Motion Sensors: Use motion-activated lighting in areas where safety and security are a concern. This way, lights are only activated when needed and are not left on unnecessarily. Use Warm-Coloured Lights: Opt for warm-coloured LED lights with a colour temperature of around 2700K. These lights are less disruptive to wildlife and have a softer, more natural appearance. Employ Timers and Dimmers: Set up timers or dimmers to control the intensity and duration of outdoor lighting. This can help reduce overall light output during nighttime hours. Create Dark-Sky Zones: Designate certain areas of your garden as dark-sky zones where artificial lighting is minimized or eliminated altogether. This allows for better stargazing and reduces disruption to wildlife. Educate and Raise Awareness: Share information about the impacts of light pollution with neighbors, friends, and community members. Encourage responsible outdoor lighting practices. Plant Trees and Shrubs: Strategically planting trees and shrubs around your garden can help block or filter out unwanted light, creating a more natural and subdued nighttime environment. Use Curtains or Shades: If you have windows facing your garden, use curtains or shades to prevent indoor light from spilling outside. Advocate for Local Regulations: Support or advocate for local ordinances or regulations that address light pollution, such as requiring shielded outdoor lighting fixtures in your community. Be Mindful of Garden Lighting Design: When designing outdoor lighting in your garden, focus on functionality and aesthetics while minimizing light spill and glare. By taking these measures to reduce light pollution in your garden, you can create a space that is more harmonious with the natural environment, supports nocturnal wildlife, and enhances the experience of enjoying the night sky. For more information about Dark-Sky programs, visit the RASC - Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

  • Moon, Sun and Shade Gardens

    While sun and share gardens are often most known, another garden, namely, the moon garden, is gaining popularity - and for good reason! Let's take a look at the moon, sun and shade gardens in more detail. A moon garden, also known as a white garden or night garden, is designed to be enjoyed primarily in the evening or at night. Moon gardens are carefully curated with plants that have pale or white flowers, light-coloured foliage, and sometimes fragrant blooms. The goal of a moon garden is to create a serene and magical atmosphere under the light of the moon and stars. Key features of a moon garden include: White and Pale Flowers: Moon gardens predominantly feature plants with white, cream, or pale pastel-coloured flowers. These flowers are more visible and stand out in the low light conditions of the evening. Light-Coloured Foliage: In addition to white flowers, plants with light-coloured or silvery foliage are often included. These leaves reflect the available moonlight, creating a soft and luminescent effect. Fragrant Plants: Many moon gardens include fragrant blooms that are more potent in the evening. Fragrance adds an extra sensory dimension to the garden experience. Night-Blooming Plants: Some moon gardens include plants that specifically bloom at night, such as night-blooming jasmine, evening primrose, or moonflower. Reflective Elements: Moon gardens might incorporate reflective elements like white stones, mirrors, or light-coloured surfaces to enhance the play of moonlight. Seating Areas: Comfortable seating areas are often placed strategically in moon gardens, allowing visitors to sit and enjoy the garden's tranquil beauty under the moonlit sky. Lighting: While the primary illumination source is the moon, some moon gardens incorporate subtle and soft outdoor lighting to enhance the nighttime experience. This can include low-intensity solar lights or string lights. Contrasting Foliage: To add depth and contrast, some moon gardens incorporate dark foliage plants or elements that provide a backdrop for the light-coloured and white plants. Water Features: Ponds, fountains, or reflective water surfaces can add a touch of elegance and enhance the overall ambiance of a moon garden. Nocturnal Wildlife: Moon gardens often attract nocturnal creatures like moths, bats, and certain insects, which can further enrich the nighttime experience. Moon gardens are often designed with relaxation and contemplation in mind. They offer a unique way to experience a garden, focusing on the subtle beauty that emerges under the moon's soft glow. These gardens can be enjoyed after a long day, offering a peaceful and enchanting retreat to unwind and connect with nature. Do you have light pollution in your garden? Check out this blog post on avoiding or minimizing light pollution for optimal enjoyment of your moon garden! The Sun Garden A sun garden, also known as a sunny garden, is specifically designed to take advantage of total sunlight exposure throughout the day. In a sun garden, plants are chosen that thrive in direct sunlight and can withstand the intense heat that comes with prolonged sun exposure. These gardens are often characterized by vibrant colours, vigorous growth, and various plants adapted to sunny conditions. Key features of a sun garden include: Total Sun Exposure: Sun gardens are typically located in landscape areas that receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. This allows for a diverse range of sun-loving plants to thrive. Bright and Vibrant Colors: Many sun-loving plants have flowers and foliage that are brightly coloured, as these pigments help protect the plant from the sun's rays. Sun gardens often feature a dynamic mix of colours, creating an eye-catching and lively display. Drought-Tolerant Plants: Since areas with full sun exposure can experience higher temperatures and faster moisture evaporation, many plants in sun gardens are chosen for their ability to tolerate drought conditions. Heat-Tolerant Varieties: Plants in sun gardens are selected for their resilience to heat stress. These plants can handle the higher temperatures that come with prolonged sun exposure. Flowering Annuals and Perennials: Sun gardens frequently include a variety of flowering plants, both annuals and perennials. These plants produce blooms throughout the growing season, providing continuous colour. Grasses and Ornamental Foliage: Ornamental grasses and plants with interesting foliage textures and colours are often used to add depth and contrast to sun gardens. Butterfly and Pollinator Plants: Many flowering plants in sun gardens attract pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. These plants contribute to the overall health of the garden ecosystem. Rock Gardens: Some sun gardens incorporate rock or gravel elements, creating a xeriscape-style design that complements the sun-loving plants and reduces water requirements. Well-Drained Soil: Proper drainage is crucial in a sun garden, as excessive water retention can lead to root rot. Plants that thrive in sandy or well-drained soil are commonly chosen. Container Plants: In areas where the soil quality or conditions aren't ideal, container gardening can create a sun garden. Containers allow for better control of soil composition and drainage. Vertical Features: Trellises, arbours, and other vertical structures can be integrated into sun gardens to support climbing plants and add visual interest. A sun garden is perfect for individuals who have a sunny area in their landscape and want to create a vibrant, lively, and colourful outdoor space. Careful plant selection, soil preparation, and maintenance are essential to ensure that the plants in the sun garden thrive in the conditions provided. The Shade Garden A shade garden is a type of garden that is designed to thrive in areas with limited or dappled sunlight. These gardens are typically located under trees, near buildings, or where structures and vegetation create shade. Shade gardens often feature plants adapted to low-light conditions. They can flourish without the intense direct sunlight that many other plants require. Key features of a shade garden include: Limited Sunlight: Shade gardens receive less than 3-4 hours of direct sunlight daily, usually filtered or dappled. Cooler Temperatures: Shaded areas are cooler than areas exposed to direct sunlight. This can create a more comfortable environment for certain plants that are heat-sensitive. Leafy and Textured Plants: Shade gardens often emphasize foliage over flowers, as many shade-loving plants have interesting leaf textures, shapes, and colours. Moisture Retention: Shaded areas retain moisture better than sunny areas, which can be advantageous for plants that prefer consistent soil moisture. Ferns and Hostas: Ferns and hostas are common choices for shade gardens due to their lush foliage and ability to thrive in low light conditions. Ground Covers: Many shade gardens incorporate ground cover plants to create a lush carpet of foliage under trees and other shaded areas. Wildflowers: Some wildflowers, such as trilliums and bleeding hearts, are well-suited to shade gardens and can add pops of colour. Tolerant of Dampness: Shaded areas can sometimes be damp due to reduced evaporation. Plants that tolerate or even prefer damp soil are often chosen for shade gardens. Limited Flowering: While some shade plants produce flowers, flowering might be less frequent or less vibrant than sun-loving plants. Moss and Moss Gardens: In deeply shaded areas, moss gardens can be created to embrace the natural beauty of mosses. Container Gardens: Containers and hanging baskets can be used in shade gardens to add visual interest and bring plants closer to eye level. Pathways and Seating Areas: Shade gardens can be designed with paths and seating areas to create a serene and calm retreat. Reflective Surfaces: Light-colored surfaces, such as white stones or light-coloured mulch, can help maximize the available light in shade gardens. Vertical Interest: Shade gardens can include plants that provide vertical interest, such as tall ferns, climbing vines, or trellised plants. Creating a successful shade garden involves selecting plants well-suited to low light conditions, preparing the soil appropriately, and providing consistent moisture. By carefully choosing shade-loving plants and arranging them in an aesthetically pleasing manner, you can create a lush and inviting garden space even in areas with limited sunlight. And remember, wherever possible, plant native!

  • What is a "green desert" and how to avoid planting one.

    The term "green desert" is often used to describe an area that appears lush and green at first glance but lacks biodiversity and ecological health. In this article we'll take a look at what a green desert is and how to avoid planting one. In other words, a green desert is a landscape that might seem vibrant and alive due to the presence of a single type of plant or a few dominant species. Still, it lacks diverse species and interactions that characterize a healthy and balanced ecosystem. The term "green desert" should not be confused with the concept of "greening of a desert." While both terms involve deserts and the idea of increased vegetation, they refer to different scenarios: Green Desert: As mentioned above, a "green desert" refers to a landscape that appears green and lush on the surface but lacks biodiversity and ecological health. It often involves monoculture plantations, invasive species dominance, deforested areas, or simplified ecosystems. Greening of a Desert: The "greening of a desert" refers to efforts and processes aimed at increasing vegetation and transforming arid or desert landscapes into areas with more plant cover. This could involve various techniques such as afforestation (planting trees), reforestation (restoring forests), introducing drought-resistant plants, implementing irrigation and water management systems, and more. The goal is to combat desertification, enhance soil quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. In essence, "green desert" highlights the lack of biodiversity and ecological balance despite a seemingly green appearance, while "greening of a desert" focuses on intentionally increasing vegetation cover and transforming barren landscapes into more productive and sustainable ecosystems. The focus of this article is the green desert that lacks biodiversity and exploring how we got here. Reasons why the green desert evolved, include the following: Monoculture Agriculture: In industrial-scale monoculture agriculture, vast expanses of land might be planted with a single crop, such as corn, soybeans, or wheat. While the fields can appear green and productive, they lack the natural diversity of plant species and associated wildlife that contribute to a more resilient and sustainable ecosystem. In contrast, Native Canadian and American horticulturalists have been growing three important crops together: corn, beans, and squash. This agricultural technique is commonly associated with several Native American tribes, including those in what is now known as Canada. The Three Sisters planting method is a sustainable and mutually beneficial way of cultivating these crops, as they provide support and nutrients for each other. Here's how it works: Corn (Maize): Corn is planted in mounds or hills and serves as the tallest crop in the arrangement. The sturdy cornstalks provide support for the climbing beans. Beans: Beans are planted around the base of the corn plants. They use the cornstalks as a natural trellis to climb upward. Beans are leguminous plants that fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, enriching it with this essential nutrient. Squash: Squash or pumpkins are planted between the corn and beans. The large, sprawling squash leaves provide shade to the soil, helping to prevent weed growth and retain soil moisture. This shading effect also benefits the shallow-rooted corn. The Three Sisters planting system is beneficial for several reasons: Complementary Growth: The three crops have different growth habits that complement each other. Corn provides support, beans enrich the soil, and squash provides ground cover. Nutrient Cycling: The beans' nitrogen-fixing ability benefits the other plants by increasing soil fertility. This reduces the need for external fertilizers. Pest Control: The presence of squash leaves helps deter pests by providing a physical barrier and reducing sunlight penetration to the soil, making it less favourable for weeds. Water Conservation: The squash leaves help shade the soil, reducing evaporation and conserving moisture. Cultural Significance: The Three Sisters are often seen as a symbol of interdependence, cooperation, and the close relationship between people and the land in many Native American cultures. The Three Sisters planting technique is an example of indigenous ecological knowledge and sustainable agricultural practices that have been passed down through generations. It showcases the wisdom of these cultures in cultivating crops in harmony with the natural environment. Urban Landscaping: Some urban areas prioritize lawns and ornamental plants for aesthetic appeal and uniformity. These manicured landscapes might lack the native plants, pollinator habitats, and natural interactions that support a thriving ecosystem. Not sure if your plant is an invasive specie? Check out this article on What NOT to plant in your garden. Invasive plant species introduced to a new area can sometimes outcompete and displace native plants. This can lead to an ecosystem dominated by a single invasive species, creating a green appearance but reducing biodiversity and ecological balance. Deforestation and Simplified Ecosystems: When forests are cleared for agriculture or other purposes, the resulting landscape might be covered in grasses or a few hardy plant species, creating a uniform green cover. However, the complexity and diversity of the original forest ecosystem still need to be recovered. Overgrazing: In areas where livestock graze excessively, native vegetation can be degraded, leading to a simplified landscape dominated by a few less palatable plant species. This can result in a "green desert" where biodiversity is reduced. Efforts to combat "green desert" conditions often involve promoting biodiversity, restoring native habitats, and encouraging sustainable land management practices. See this project in Kitchener-Waterloo that aims to restore wildflower meadows on roadsides. How did we become so accustomed to green deserts? Wildflower meadows disappeared mainly in England and many other parts of the world, including Canada, after World War II due to agricultural intensification, changes in land use, economic factors, and shifts in societal preferences. Social Status and Prestige: Having a manicured grass lawn symbolized wealth and status in many cultures. Lawns were seen as a way to demonstrate one's ability to devote resources (such as time, money, and labour) to maintaining a pristine and controlled environment. Cultural Norms: Grass lawns became part of cultural norms and societal expectations for residential and public spaces. This led to the proliferation of grass lawns as the default landscaping choice. Agricultural Intensification: After World War II, there was a push to increase agricultural production to meet the demands of a growing population. This led to the adoption of intensive farming practices, including synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and heavy machinery. These practices were not conducive to maintaining diverse wildflower meadows, often viewed as unproductive land. Mechanization: The mechanization of agriculture allowed for larger fields and more efficient land management. This led to removing hedgerows, ditches, and other landscape features that provided habitats for wildflowers and associated wildlife. Monoculture Farming: The focus on maximizing yields led to converting mixed grasslands into monoculture crops such as wheat, barley, and other cereals. These monocultures were more financially profitable but needed more diversity of wildflower species in traditional meadows. Government Policies: Government agricultural policies after WWII often incentivized the conversion of traditional grasslands and meadows into more intensive and productive forms of agriculture. Subsidies and support programs encouraged farmers to maximize production rather than prioritize biodiversity and conservation. Urbanization and Development: The post-war period saw increased urbanization and development, leading to the expansion of cities and towns. This encroachment on rural landscapes resulted in losing open spaces, including traditional meadows. Economic Factors: As urbanization increased, rural populations declined, and traditional rural livelihoods shifted. Small-scale farming and traditional land management practices that sustained wildflower meadows were often abandoned in favour of more economically viable options. Societal Shifts: There was a cultural shift in landscaping preferences towards more formal and manicured landscapes, including closely mowed lawns. Wildflower meadows were seen as unkempt and less desirable compared to well-maintained lawns. Lack of Awareness: Many people were not fully aware of the ecological value of wildflower meadows and their importance in supporting pollinators, biodiversity, and traditional landscapes. In recent decades, there has been a growing recognition of the ecological importance and cultural value of wildflower meadows. Conservation organizations, environmentalists, and individual gardeners have been working to restore and preserve these habitats through initiatives such as agri-environment schemes, meadow restoration projects, and public education efforts. Efforts are being made to reintroduce native wildflowers and manage landscapes in ways that mimic natural processes, allowing these valuable habitats to recover and thrive once again. Are you ready to change your traditional lawn to something more sustainable? Read our article on Grass alternatives for an amazing landscape.

  • Pollinator Roadsides Project

    Latest Update from the Pollinator Project: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/pollinator-roadsides-waterloo-region-nature-1.7173187 A pollinator roadside, also known as a pollinator-friendly roadside or pollinator corridor, refers to a stretch of land along roadsides that has been intentionally designed and managed to support pollinating insects and other wildlife. Pollinators are animals, such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and beetles, that play a crucial role in the reproduction of many plants by transferring pollen from one flower to another, thereby enabling fertilization and the production of seeds and fruits. Pollinator roadways are created with the aim of providing a habitat for these important pollinator species, helping to counteract the decline in their populations due to factors such as habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. These roadways are typically planted with a variety of native flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen resources for pollinators throughout the growing season. We met up with Jennifer Leat, who is the Pollinator Roadsides Project leader. She shared her vision with us and how we can be a part of this naturalization project. For the full video interview, click here. "This project originated from pictures that I saw from my cousin in England. They have been planting the roadsides with pollinator plants and this has become widespread rather than the exception. It’s very common in the UK. I started to look around the Kitchener-Waterloo area and the express ways have large areas that are just mowed and which really don’t provide anything for pollinators or wildlife. These could be planted not only near on-ramps and off-ramps but also large roadside edges and even wide medians, for example Highway 8 to Stratford. The opportunity to create a large acreage of pollinator gardens is right there. We can reclaim these areas for wildlife, something that we, as humans have been taking from wildlife for our own use. That’s just one advantage, it’s also much more beautiful to look at!" What are some other advantages of creating a pollinator roadside? Water retention, cost savings, gas savings for not mowing the grass come to mind. The pollinator garden is mowed once a year only. For example, in the UK, there are savings of up to £93,000 per year. Dorset County Council saves around £93,000 a year by only cutting rural road verges when needed, Burnley Borough Council estimates that it saves around £60,000 per annum from cutting back on grass-cutting to help pollinators, and Monmouthshire County Council estimates that the saving made from a reduction in highway verge mowing is approximately £35,000 each year. Read the full article. The goal is to make this pollinator roadside gardening the standard and the usual way in which roadsides are maintained. Traditional grass offers no environmental benefit to pollinators or wildlife. Where is the project going to be located? We’re working towards doing a pilot project on a regional road in Kitchener this fall. The site we have chosen is at the intersection of Fisher-Hallman and Glasgow. There is quite a big section that is free of utilities and at the moment it’s just grass. We’ll be collecting seeds and plants once we have our plant list completed. Most of the plants will be native because they are more beneficial for pollinators. Waterloo Gardeners has supported us from an early stage - we’re glad to get that support. Waterloo Region Nature is the organization taking the lead and the Region of Waterloo is supporting us too. Are there any sponsors to this project? We want to thank the Region of Waterloo Community Environmental Fund for sponsoring this project to help covering some of the costs. How can we help? Once we have the final plant list, we’ll send it to via email to those who gave their contact information. We’ll be doing some soil samples soon and decide on the best plants. We’ll be taking seeds and small potted plants. There will be opportunities to volunteer with planting and maintenance for the first year, then we hope the city will take care of it going forward so we can focus on more roadsides. Where can people find out more? The website has all the information: Sign up here Thank you, Jennifer, for taking the lead on such an important project. Read more about other pollinator initiatives in the articles below: An example of a roadside pollinator project in the UK. Four steps to make your lawn a wildlife haven - from green dessert to miniature rainforest.

  • Plants that grow in the Nevada desert: International Gardens

    As gardeners, learning about plants is almost as much fun as planting them! Our members often travel to exotic places, take photos of the plants and send them to us to be featured. Recently, a member went to Nevada and spent some time in the hot desert sun at Fire Canyon. One interesting fact before entering the canyon was the cryptobiotic soils found in the rock formations. Cryptobiotic soils, also known as biological crusts, are unique soil surface formations found in arid and semiarid environments. They are composed of a complex symbiotic community of organisms, including cyanobacteria, lichens, mosses, fungi, and algae. These organisms work together to form a living crust that covers the soil surface, providing various ecological benefits. Some key components and characteristics of cryptobiotic soils: Cyanobacteria: Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are the primary organisms responsible for forming cryptobiotic soils. They have the ability to photosynthesize and fix atmospheric nitrogen. These bacteria are critical in binding the soil particles together, preventing erosion, and enhancing soil stability. Lichens, Mosses, and Algae: Alongside cyanobacteria, other organisms like lichens, mosses, and algae also contribute to the formation of cryptobiotic soils. Lichens are symbiotic associations between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. These organisms provide additional structural stability to the soil crust. Physical Structure: Cryptobiotic soils have a unique physical structure with a crusted or lumpy appearance. The crust forms a protective layer on the soil surface, shielding it from erosive forces such as wind and water. This structure helps to reduce soil erosion and maintain soil moisture by trapping water. Water Absorption and Retention: Cryptobiotic soils have the ability to absorb and retain water more effectively than bare soil. The crust's surface features, including its lumpy structure and excreted extracellular substances, enhance water infiltration and reduce water loss through evaporation. This water retention capacity is vital for supporting plant growth and promoting ecosystem resilience in arid environments. Nutrient Cycling: The organisms within the cryptobiotic crust play a significant role in nutrient cycling. Cyanobacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen, providing a source of nitrogen for the surrounding ecosystem. These organisms also trap dust particles and organic matter, contributing to nutrient availability in the soil. Biotic Interactions: Cryptobiotic soils support a diverse range of microorganisms and invertebrates. These organisms interact with the soil crust, contributing to nutrient cycling, decomposition of organic matter, and the overall ecological functioning of the ecosystem. Cryptobiotic soils are ecologically important components of arid and semiarid ecosystems. They play a crucial role in soil stabilization, water infiltration, nutrient cycling, and biodiversity maintenance. It is essential to protect and preserve these delicate soil formations to maintain the ecological integrity of desert environments. Mountain goats in the desert En route, our members also came across some cute mountain goats eating the leaves of the shrubberies! It had rained and even flooded in some areas a few weeks before their visit, so the vegetation was greener than normal. Plants that thrive in the desert The Nevada desert is a harsh and arid environment with extreme temperatures and limited water availability. Despite these challenges, several plant species have adapted to survive in this desert region. Here are some common plants found in the Nevada desert: Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia): The Joshua Tree is an iconic plant of the Mojave Desert, which extends into parts of Nevada. It has a unique and distinct shape with tall, branching arms that reach towards the sky. Desert Sage (Salvia dorrii): Desert Sage is a low-growing shrub with silver-gray leaves and vibrant purple flowers. It is well adapted to the arid conditions of the Nevada desert. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata): Creosote Bush is a common plant found in the desert regions of Nevada. It has small, dark green leaves and produces yellow flowers. The leaves release a distinct aroma after rainfall. Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia spp.): Prickly Pear Cactus is a type of cactus that thrives in the desert environments, including parts of Nevada. It has flat, paddle-shaped stems covered in spines and produces colorful flowers. Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera): The Mojave Yucca is a yucca species native to the Mojave Desert and can be found in Nevada. It has long, sword-shaped leaves and produces tall flower spikes with cream-colored blooms. Blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima): Blackbrush is a shrub that grows in the Nevada desert. It has small, dark green leaves and produces tiny yellow flowers. Mormon Tea (Ephedra spp.): Mormon Tea is a unique plant found in the Nevada desert. It is a shrub-like plant with jointed stems and produces small, scale-like leaves. It has a long history of traditional medicinal use. Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata): Desert Marigold is a perennial herb that grows in the Nevada desert. It has silvery-green foliage and produces bright yellow flowers. How plants grow in the desert Plants that are adapted to desert environments have developed various strategies to survive and grow in arid conditions. Here are some key adaptations and mechanisms that allow plants to thrive in the desert: Succulent Tissues: Many desert plants, such as cacti and succulents, have specialized tissues that can store water. These plants have thick, fleshy stems or leaves that store water during periods of rainfall, which they can then utilize during dry spells. Reduced Leaf Surface Area: Desert plants often have reduced leaf sizes or modified leaf structures to minimize water loss through transpiration. Some plants have spines or needles instead of broad leaves, which helps to reduce surface area and conserve water. Deep Root Systems: Desert plants often have extensive and deep root systems that enable them to access water from deeper soil layers where it may be available. These roots can reach down to groundwater sources or tap into water reserves deep underground. CAM Photosynthesis: Many desert plants, such as cacti, employ a specialized type of photosynthesis called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM). This process allows them to open their stomata (tiny openings on leaves) during the cooler nighttime hours to take in carbon dioxide while minimizing water loss. They store the carbon dioxide and perform photosynthesis during the daytime when stomata remain closed to conserve water. Drought Tolerance: Desert plants have evolved mechanisms to withstand extended periods of drought. They often have thick waxy coatings on their leaves to reduce water loss, and some plants can enter a state of dormancy during extreme drought conditions until more favourable conditions return. Adaptation to Extreme Temperatures: Desert plants have adaptations to cope with the extreme temperature fluctuations typical of desert environments. They may have reflective or hairy surfaces to reduce heat absorption or employ mechanisms such as opening their stomata only at night to avoid excessive water loss during hot daytime temperatures. Reproduction and Germination Strategies: Desert plants often have specialized reproductive strategies. Some plants have adapted to reproduce quickly after rainfall events, producing seeds that can lie dormant until conditions are favourable. This allows them to take advantage of brief periods of water availability. Overall, desert plants have evolved an array of adaptations to survive and grow in arid environments, allowing them to conserve water, tolerate extreme temperatures, and make the most of limited resources to sustain their growth and reproduction. The desert landscape is truly something to behold! Watch our video on YouTube for a closer look.

  • How to care for Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

    As we grow closer to a more sustainable future, gardeners have become more discerning in what they purchase from the local nursery and what they plant in their gardens. When you think about butterflies and milkweed, most likely, the pink small flowered plant comes to mind. However, there is a difference between milkweed and butterfly weed. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a specific species of milkweed, belonging to the Asclepias genus. While milkweed is a broader term encompassing various species within the Asclepias genus, butterfly weed refers specifically to Asclepias tuberosa. Here are some key differences between butterfly weed and other milkweed species: Appearance: Butterfly weed is a perennial herbaceous plant that typically reaches a height of 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 cm). It has clusters of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers arranged in umbels at the top of the stems. The flowers are flat-topped and have five petals. The foliage is narrow and lance-shaped. Habitat: Butterfly weed is native to North America and can be found in various habitats, including prairies, meadows, and open fields. It prefers well-drained soil and is often found in sunny locations. Growth habit: Butterfly weed has a clumping growth habit, with multiple stems arising from a central root crown. It does not spread aggressively through rhizomes like some other milkweed species. Butterfly attraction: As the name suggests, butterfly weed is highly attractive to butterflies, including monarch butterflies. It serves as a valuable nectar source for adult butterflies and provides a host plant for monarch butterfly larvae. Seed production: Butterfly weed produces distinctive seed pods that are long, narrow, and erect. The pods contain numerous flat seeds with a tuft of silky hairs (pappus) attached, aiding in wind dispersal. It's worth noting that while butterfly weed is not considered invasive, some other milkweed species, such as common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), can exhibit invasive characteristics in certain regions. Types of milkweed While milkweed generally benefits Ontario gardens, only some varieties are equally suitable for some gardens. It's vital to choose milkweed species native to your specific region in Ontario. Here are a few native milkweed species commonly found in Ontario: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca): Ontario's most widespread milkweed species. It has large, pinkish-purple flowers and provides ample nectar for pollinators. Common Milkweed is a host plant for Monarch butterflies. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata): Swamp Milkweed thrives in moist or wet areas and has attractive clusters of pink flowers. It is well-suited for gardens with wetter soil conditions and serves as a host plant for Monarch butterflies. Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): This species has vibrant orange flowers and prefers dry to medium-moisture soil. It is a popular garden choice due to its striking colour and ability to attract butterflies, including Monarchs. These native milkweed species are well-adapted to Ontario's climate and provide the necessary resources for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. They are generally easy to grow and maintain. However, ensuring that the milkweed species you choose aligns with your specific garden conditions, such as soil moisture levels, sunlight exposure, and available space, is essential. It's worth noting that some non-native milkweed species, such as Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), have been introduced in Ontario. While these species can provide nectar and food for Monarchs, they may pose certain risks, such as disrupting the natural migration patterns of Monarchs and potentially spreading diseases. Therefore, it is generally recommended to prioritize native milkweed species for Ontario gardens. However, most gardeners have found that the non-native species are used as an annual, dying in the cold winters. Milkweed plants contain toxic compounds that can be harmful if ingested by humans or animals. The toxins found in milkweed are known as cardiac glycosides, which can affect the heart and other organs. While milkweed is an essential food source for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, they have evolved to tolerate and even sequester these toxins, which make them unpalatable to most predators. However, these toxins can adversely affect other organisms, including humans and pets. It's essential to exercise caution when handling milkweed plants and to prevent ingestion by children, pets, or livestock. Avoid touching your face or eyes after handling milkweed without washing your hands, as the sap can cause skin irritation. If you have concerns about the potential toxicity of milkweed, it's advisable to consult with local gardening resources, native plant nurseries, or conservation organizations for specific guidance. They can provide more detailed information on the toxicity levels of different milkweed species and offer recommendations for safe handling and planting practices. So now that you've decided on a native plant for your garden to attract butterflies, here are some key points on how to take care of your butterfly weed: How to grow and take care of butterfly weed: To grow butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in Ontario, you can follow these steps: Choose a suitable location: Select a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. Butterfly weed prefers full sun and doesn't tolerate wet or waterlogged conditions. Prepare the soil: Before planting, loosen the soil and remove any weeds or grass from the area. To improve its fertility and drainage, you can amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost. Sow seeds or plant seedlings: You have two options for growing butterfly weed: sowing seeds directly in the garden or planting seedlings. Sowing seeds: In early spring, scatter the seeds on the prepared soil surface and gently press them into the soil. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination, typically taking 2 to 3 weeks. Thin the seedlings to provide enough space for each plant to grow. Planting seedlings: You can purchase young butterfly weed plants from a nursery. Dig a hole slightly larger than the seedling's root ball and place it in the hole. Backfill the hole with soil, firm it gently around the plant, and water thoroughly. Watering and maintenance: Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged during the establishment period. Once the plants are established, butterfly weed is relatively drought-tolerant. Water the plants during dry periods to ensure healthy growth. Mulch and weed control: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the plants to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture. Avoid placing the mulch directly against the stems to prevent rotting. Pruning and deadheading: In late fall or early spring, you can cut back the stems of butterfly weed to the ground. This helps remove dead foliage and promotes vigorous growth in the following season. Deadhead the spent flowers throughout the growing season to encourage continuous blooming and prevent self-seeding. Monarch butterfly habitat: Butterfly weed is an important host plant for monarch butterfly larvae. By planting butterfly weed, you create suitable habitat for monarch butterflies. Ensure that you have enough space to accommodate caterpillars without compromising the overall appearance of your garden. Remember that butterfly weed is a native plant and benefits pollinators, particularly monarch butterflies. By providing a suitable environment for butterfly weed to thrive, you contribute to conserving these crucial species. Photo's supplied by one of our members, D.W. !! THANK YOU !!

  • Creating a rain garden - a member's garden story.

    This garden has a hidden secret, it is actually a rain garden. It has a dry-well and gravel channels fed by the downspouts and sump pump outlet from the house. I trained as a horticulturist in Vancouver and one of my interests was using greywater (wastewater) in gardening. During the pandemic lockdowns, I installed a French drain to solve a drainage problem in the backyard, it runs from the backyard along the east side of the house to a gravel dry-well about 5 feet down the slope from the Spruce tree, it partially follows the path of the ‘dry stream bed’ above ground (photo on right). As I began digging the trench, I realized the downspouts could be connected to this drain and all water redirected to the front garden. Off of this dry-well I dug a few ‘feeder’ trenches into the garden beds, parallel to the sidewalk, and filled them with leftover gravel and drain pipe. This enables the rain water to be directed further into the garden when the dry-well becomes overwhelmed in heavy downpours. On the west side of the house, there is only one downspout watering this side of the garden and it empties into a gravel channel that runs along the base of the largest granite boulders. There is a slight depression in the garden where three ‘Red Rooster’ Sedges are planted and this is to prevent excess rainwater running off the slope. The garden itself was inspired by the gardens of Piet Oudolf, garden designer of the HighLine in New York. He uses an informal, naturalistic approach to his plant choices giving his gardens a prairie or meadow-like feel. I chose to use granite boulders in place of the original traditional retaining wall that was lost behind overgrown plantings and a narrow walkway (photo on right) to create a more natural open feel and to contrast with the soft texture of the plants. I chose plants based on foliage (because of the slope I don’t have to worry about the plants being waterlogged as you might on a flat grade giving more freedom for plant choices). I prefer plants that look great in every season based on their foliage or structure, such as warm season grasses; Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’), Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) and Silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis). I also chose plants with bold leaves, such as Hosta or Hellebore, that would contrast well with delicate textured plants such as Sweet Woodruff (Galium odorata) and the Dwarf Birch ‘Cesky Gold’ at the bottom corner of the slope . The next steps for the garden are to finish filling in the area around the ‘dry stream bed’ with plants that can compete with the Spruce tree. I plan to replace the Periwinkle (Vinca Minor) I have used as a spot filler throughout the garden with less invasive plants. And possibly replace the turf on the boulevard with a lower maintenance ground cover. This was the end result! Thank you for visiting and if you ever see me out gardening stop and say hello! The garden is located at 64 Allen Street East, Waterloo.

  • Famous and Extravagant International Gardens

    Famous and extravagant international gardens come in all different shapes and sizes. From the tulip fields of The Netherlands, the classical English gardens to the zen inspired gardens of Asia. Each garden has something unique to offer and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is no different. Use the slider and see some of the incredible displays from 2023. "The Conservatory - Bellagio’s Opus Each season, the enormously talented Horticulture and Engineering teams transform the 14,000-square-foot Botanical Gardens into a showcase of inspiring sights, sounds, scents and colors. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter are all featured—along with a special display for Lunar New Year. When the seasons change so do the displays. The talented Conservatory team changes out the design and also replants and repurposes as much of the living plant material as possible, further celebrating Mother Nature and our commitment to sustainability." There are several locations around the world known for their extravagant flower displays. Here are a few notable examples: Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands: Keukenhof is one of the world's largest flower gardens, located near Lisse, Netherlands. It showcases approximately 7 million flower bulbs, including tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, creating a colourful and breathtaking display. Dubai Miracle Garden, UAE: The Dubai Miracle Garden is a stunning flower park featuring over 150 million flowers arranged in various shapes and structures. It holds the Guinness World Record for the largest vertical garden and features impressive floral installations and sculptures. Longwood Gardens, USA: Located in Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens is known for its extensive horticultural displays, including beautiful flower gardens, conservatories, and fountains. The gardens cover over 1,000 acres and are home to a wide array of plant species. There are numerous famous gardens around the world known for their beauty, history, and cultural significance. Here are some notable examples: Kew Gardens, England: Located in London, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, commonly known as Kew Gardens, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It boasts an extensive collection of plants, including rare and exotic species, and features beautiful landscapes, glasshouses, and historic buildings. Gardens of Versailles, France: The gardens of the Palace of Versailles are renowned for their grandeur and Baroque-style designs. They cover an expansive area and include geometrically arranged flower beds, meticulously trimmed hedges, ornamental lakes, and numerous statues and fountains. Butchart Gardens, Canada: Situated in British Columbia, Butchart Gardens is a stunning garden that attracts millions of visitors each year. It features various themed gardens, including the Sunken Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, and Italian Garden, showcasing a wide range of plants and flowers. Claude Monet's Garden, France: Located in Giverny, France, this garden was the inspiration for many of the renowned Impressionist artist Claude Monet's paintings. It features a water garden with Japanese bridges, water lilies, and lush vegetation, as well as flowerbeds bursting with vibrant colours. Gardens of Suzhou, China: The classical gardens of Suzhou, China, are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These gardens, including the Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lingering Garden, exemplify traditional Chinese garden design with their harmony between natural elements, pavilions, bridges, and water features. Alhambra Gardens, Spain: The Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is a magnificent palace complex with stunning gardens. The Generalife Gardens, in particular, feature elegant courtyards, fountains, and terraced gardens, showcasing the beauty of Islamic garden design. Generalife Gardens, Spain: These gardens are part of the Alhambra complex in Granada and are known for their exquisite design and tranquil ambiance. They feature terraces, courtyards, water channels, and beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, South Africa: Situated in Cape Town, Kirstenbosch is a breathtaking botanical garden nestled against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. It showcases an incredible diversity of indigenous South African flora and offers stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains. Have you travelled to one of these, or other beautiful and unique gardens around the world? What garden would you add to the list? We're always looking to showcase our member's gardening adventures! Email us at waterloogardeners@gmail.com ATT: BLOG POST for more details. Happy Gardening!

  • How to preserve lavender

    Lavender has been used for centuries in medicine and cuisine. Whether grown as an annual or a perennial, if you love the scent after a fresh rain, capturing that essence for future use is a wonderful way to extend the enjoyment of your plant. Want to grow your own? Read our blog post here on how to do it. The scent of lavender has several benefits, including its calming and soothing properties. Here are some of the potential benefits associated with the scent of lavender: Relaxation and Stress Relief: Lavender is well-known for its calming aroma, which can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. Inhaling the scent of lavender has been shown to have a sedative effect, helping to induce a sense of calmness and tranquility. Improved Sleep Quality: Lavender's scent is commonly used as a natural sleep aid. It has been found to promote better sleep quality, potentially reducing insomnia and improving overall sleep patterns. Diffusing lavender essential oil or placing lavender sachets near your bed can help create a relaxing environment for sleep. Anxiety and Mood Management: The aroma of lavender has been linked to reduced anxiety and improved mood. It can help alleviate feelings of restlessness, nervousness, and agitation. Studies have shown that lavender scent has anxiolytic effects, contributing to a sense of well-being. Headache Relief: Lavender's scent may provide relief from headaches and migraines. Inhaling lavender aroma or applying lavender oil to the temples has been reported to help reduce headache severity and promote relaxation. Relaxation during Aromatherapy: Lavender is commonly used in aromatherapy practices to induce relaxation and create a peaceful atmosphere. The scent of lavender can be diffused, used in massage oils, or added to bathwater to enhance relaxation and overall well-being. Improved Cognitive Function: Some research suggests that lavender scent may have positive effects on cognitive function. It has been found to improve concentration, focus, and mental clarity. Mood Elevation: The pleasant aroma of lavender has a mood-elevating effect. It can help uplift spirits, reduce feelings of irritability or restlessness, and create a positive and calming atmosphere. It's important to note that individual responses to scents can vary, and some people may have allergies or sensitivities to lavender. It's always advisable to test for any adverse reactions before using lavender products extensively. (We're gardeners, not medical professionals). Let's take a look at the most common ways to preserve lavender. How to preserve lavender Drying lavender is a common practice to preserve its fragrance and use it for various purposes, such as potpourri, sachets, or culinary applications. Here's a simple method to dry lavender: Harvesting: Begin by harvesting lavender when the flowers are fully bloomed but before they start to fade. Choose a dry morning or early afternoon to harvest, as the essential oils will be at their peak. Cut the lavender stems just above the leaves, leaving a few inches of stem. Bundling: Gather a small bunch of lavender stems, typically 20 to 30 stems, and tie them together with a string or rubber band. Ensure the stems are aligned at the base to form a neat bundle. Hanging: Hang the lavender bundles upside down in a well-ventilated, dry, and dark area. You can use a cool, dark room, a closet, or a drying rack. Make sure the bundles are not exposed to direct sunlight, as it can cause fading and loss of fragrance. Drying: Allow the lavender bundles to dry completely, which usually takes around two to four weeks. Check the bundles periodically to ensure there is no mold or moisture buildup. If you notice any signs of mold, discard the affected bundles. Testing for Dryness: To check if the lavender is fully dried, gently crumble a flower bud in your hand. If it easily crumbles and feels dry, it is ready for storage. If it feels slightly soft or pliable, it needs more time to dry. Removing Buds: Once the lavender is fully dried, remove the buds from the stems by gently rubbing them off. You can use your fingers or a clean sieve to separate the buds from the stems. Storage: Store the dried lavender buds in an airtight container or a sealed bag. Keep the container in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and moisture. Properly dried lavender can retain its fragrance for several months or even longer. Remember that different lavender varieties may have different drying times, and environmental conditions can also affect the drying process. Adjust the drying time accordingly based on your specific conditions. Culinary uses for lavender Lavender can be used in cooking and adds a unique floral and herbal flavor to various dishes. However, it's important to use culinary-grade lavender specifically labeled for culinary use, as some lavender varieties may have been treated with pesticides or not suitable for consumption. Or if you grow your own, make sure to wash it properly and identify the type that is safe to eat! Here are a few ways lavender can be used in cooking: Infusions and Syrups: Lavender can be infused into liquids such as milk, cream, or syrup to add flavour. For example, lavender-infused milk or cream can be used in custards, ice creams, or hot beverages like lattes. Lavender syrup can be used to sweeten drinks, drizzle over desserts, or as a flavouring in cocktails. Baking: Lavender can be added to baked goods such as cookies, cakes, scones, and bread. It pairs well with lemon, honey, and berries. Use it sparingly, as the flavour can be potent. Ground dried lavender buds or culinary lavender buds can be incorporated into the batter or sprinkled on top as a garnish. Seasoning Savoury Dishes: Lavender can be used as a seasoning in savoury dishes, particularly in Mediterranean and French cuisine. It adds a subtle floral note to dishes like roasted meats, stews, soups, and marinades. Use it sparingly, as the flavour can be overpowering if too much is added. Herbal Blends: Lavender can be used in herbal blends and spice rubs to enhance the flavour profile. It can be combined with other herbs like thyme, rosemary, or sage to create aromatic blends for seasoning meat, poultry, or vegetables. When using lavender in cooking, start with small amounts and gradually increase as per your taste preference. It's important not to overuse lavender, as its flavour can become overwhelming. Experimentation and balancing with other complementary flavours will help you create delightful dishes with a touch of lavender's unique aroma and taste. Do you use lavender in cooking? Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on social media.

  • How to grow lavender in Ontario

    Oh lavender, the name brings to mind fields of purple flowers on grey-blue stems, seen for miles. Can you smell the scent? Does it offer calmness, relaxation and a sense of well-being? Lavender has long been used for its medicinal and culinary purposes. Ontario isn't the Mediterranean, however, we can still enjoy growing these wispy stems that move back and forth in a breeze or send up it's divine scent when your leg brush up against it. Have you smelled lavender after a fresh rain?? The name "lavender" comes from the Latin word "lavare," which means "to wash." This is because lavender has historically been used for its aromatic and cleansing properties. In ancient Rome, lavender was commonly added to bathwater for its refreshing scent and believed cleansing properties. The Latin word "lavare" eventually evolved into "lavendula" in Old French, and later into "lavender" in English. The name reflects the plant's historical association with bathing and its use in various cleansing rituals. The scientific classification of lavender Kingdom: Plantae Division: Magnoliophyta Class: Magnoliopsida Order: Lamiales Family: Lamiaceae Genus: Lavandula There are several species within the Lavandula genus, but the most commonly cultivated and known species is Lavandula angustifolia, also known as English lavender or true lavender. Origins Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, specifically the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It is believed to have originated in the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, including countries such as France, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Lavender has been cultivated and used for various purposes in this region for centuries. It has since been introduced and cultivated in many other parts of the world due to its popularity and versatility. Lavender is part of the mint family. It belongs to the family Lamiaceae, which is commonly known as the mint or the deadnettle family. This family includes a wide range of aromatic and culinary herbs, such as mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil. Lavender shares some similarities with other members of the mint family, including the square-shaped stems, opposite leaves, and the presence of essential oils. How to grow lavender in Ontario: Soil conditions for growing lavender Lavender thrives in well-drained soil with a slightly alkaline pH. Here are some key considerations for the best soil conditions to grow lavender: Soil Type: Lavender prefers sandy or loamy soil with good drainage. Avoid heavy clay soils that retain water, as excessive moisture can cause root rot. pH Level: Lavender prefers a slightly alkaline soil pH between 6.7 and 7.3. If your soil is acidic, you can amend it with lime to raise the pH level. Organic Matter: Lavender prefers soil with low to moderate organic matter content. Excessive organic matter can retain moisture and lead to root rot, so it's important to strike a balance. Soil Texture: The ideal soil texture for lavender is well-drained and loose. If your soil is heavy or compacted, you can improve it by adding sand or perlite to improve drainage. Sunlight: Lavender thrives in full sun, so choose a location with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. It's worth noting that different lavender varieties may have slightly different soil preferences, so it's a good idea to research the specific variety you intend to grow for any additional requirements. Additionally, regular pruning, proper watering practices, and adequate air circulation around the plants are also important for the overall health and successful growth of lavender. Sun requirements for growing lavender Lavender thrives in full sun conditions. Here are the sun requirements for growing lavender: Full Sun: Lavender plants require a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. They need ample sunlight to develop strong stems, vibrant flowers, and optimal essential oil production. Southern Exposure: If possible, plant lavender in a location with a southern exposure in the Northern Hemisphere or a northern exposure in the Southern Hemisphere. This orientation maximizes sun exposure throughout the day. Avoid Shade: Lavender does not tolerate shade well. Insufficient sunlight can lead to weak growth, fewer flowers, and decreased overall vigor. Ensure that the planting location is free from shade caused by nearby trees, buildings, or other structures. Morning Sun: Lavender benefits from morning sun exposure, as it helps dry any moisture accumulated overnight on the foliage. Morning sun also promotes healthy photosynthesis and overall plant growth. Protection from Intense Afternoon Sun: While lavender loves sunlight, it is important to protect the plants from intense afternoon sun, especially in hotter climates. In regions with scorching summer temperatures, some afternoon shade or filtered sunlight can help prevent excessive heat stress. It's worth noting that different lavender varieties may have specific sun requirements, so it's a good idea to research the specific variety you intend to grow for any additional considerations. Additionally, adequate air circulation around the plants is also important to prevent moisture-related issues and ensure optimal growth. Which varieties of lavender grow in Ontario? In Ontario, Canada, certain lavender varieties are well-suited for growing conditions in the region. Here are a few lavender varieties that are commonly grown in Ontario: English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): English lavender is one of the most popular lavender varieties and is well-suited for Ontario's climate. It has narrow leaves and produces aromatic flowers in shades of purple, blue, or white. Varieties such as 'Hidcote' and 'Munstead' are commonly grown in Ontario. French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): French lavender is another variety that can be grown in Ontario, particularly in warmer regions or with proper winter protection. It has broader leaves and distinctive bracts on top of the flower spikes. 'Anouk' is a popular French lavender variety suitable for Ontario's climate. Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia): Lavandin is a hybrid lavender that is a cross between English lavender and spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia). It tends to be more heat and drought tolerant compared to English lavender. Varieties such as 'Grosso' and 'Provence' can be grown successfully in Ontario. It's important to note that Ontario's climate can vary across different regions, so it's always a good idea to choose lavender varieties that are recommended for your specific hardiness zone. Additionally, providing proper winter protection, such as mulching and situating plants in well-drained locations, can help increase the chances of successful lavender cultivation in Ontario. Do you grow lavender in your garden? Let us know in the comments and share your tips for growing this incredibly aromatic plant.

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