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  • How to preserve strawberries

    In Ontario, strawberries are typically in season from late June to early July. The exact timing can vary depending on the weather and specific growing conditions in a given year. June-bearing strawberry varieties, which produce a single large crop, are generally harvested during this time. It's important to keep in mind that the strawberry season in Ontario is relatively short, typically lasting a few weeks, so it's best to take advantage of the fresh local strawberries while they are available. Here are a few ways in which you can preserve strawberries for the rest of the year. Preserving strawberries allows you to enjoy their delicious flavour even when they are out of season. Here are a few methods for preserving strawberries: Freezing: Wash the strawberries gently and remove the stems. Pat them dry with a paper towel or let them air dry. Place the strawberries in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray and freeze them until firm. Transfer the frozen strawberries to airtight containers or freezer bags, removing as much air as possible. Label the containers with the date and store them in the freezer for up to 8-12 months. Jam or Preserves: Wash and hull the strawberries, then chop or mash them to the desired consistency. In a large pot, combine the strawberries with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice (optional). Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves and the strawberries break down. Continue to cook the mixture until it thickens to your desired consistency. Pour the hot jam into sterilized jars, leaving a small headspace. Seal the jars with sterilized lids and process them in a water bath canner according to the recommended time for your altitude. Once processed, let the jars cool and check the seals. Properly sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Dehydrating: Wash and hull the strawberries, then slice them into uniform pieces. Arrange the strawberry slices on dehydrator trays or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set the dehydrator to the appropriate temperature (around 135°F or 57°C) or use the lowest temperature setting in your oven. Dehydrate the strawberries until they are leathery and no longer moist. This may take several hours to overnight, depending on the method used. Allow the dehydrated strawberries to cool completely, then store them in airtight containers or sealable bags in a cool, dark place for several months. By using these preservation methods, you can enjoy the flavours of fresh strawberries long after the growing season is over. Not sure which strawberries to choose for baked goods and jams? Read more about it on our previous blog post! How to Grow Strawberries in Ontario. Images provided by Stefica.

  • How to grow strawberries in Ontario

    The name "strawberry" is believed to have originated from Old English and Middle English. The word "strawberry" is a combination of two Old English words: "streaw" (meaning "straw") and "berige" (meaning "berry"). This combination refers to the small, straw-like runners that grow from the base of the plant and appear to be scattered around the fruit, resembling pieces of straw. The name might also have been influenced by the practice of mulching strawberries with straw, which helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and protect the fruit. Over time, the name "strawberry" became the commonly used term for this fruit, and it has been used for centuries to refer to the delicious red berries we know today. Growing strawberries in Ontario can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Strawberries are not native to Ontario or North America. The cultivated strawberries commonly grown in Ontario and other parts of the world are derived from European strawberry species. However, wild strawberries, known as Fragaria virginiana, are native to Ontario and can be found growing in forests, meadows, and open areas. Wild strawberries are smaller in size compared to cultivated varieties and have a unique flavour. They are also a favourite among foragers and gardeners who prefer to grow native plants. Strawberries are not only delicious but also packed with various essential nutrients. Here are some of the nutritional benefits of strawberries: Vitamins and Minerals: Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, which is important for immune function, collagen production, and antioxidant protection. They also contain significant amounts of manganese, folate, potassium, and vitamins B6 and K. Fiber: Strawberries are a good source of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and supports heart health. Antioxidants: Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and flavonoids. These compounds help protect the body against oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and may have anti-cancer properties. Low in Calories: Strawberries are relatively low in calories, making them a healthy choice for those watching their calorie intake. One cup of strawberries contains about 50-60 calories. Hydration: Strawberries have high water content, which contributes to hydration and helps maintain healthy skin. Blood Pressure and Heart Health: The potassium content in strawberries, along with their fiber and antioxidant content, may contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and supporting heart health. Blood Sugar Regulation: Despite their sweetness, strawberries have a relatively low glycemic index, which means they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. This makes them suitable for individuals managing diabetes or watching their blood sugar levels. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you grow your own strawberries: Choose the Right Variety: Select strawberry varieties that are well-suited for Ontario's climate and growing conditions. Some popular options for Ontario include June-bearing varieties like 'Kent,' 'Sparkle,' and 'Earliglow,' as well as ever-bearing varieties like 'Seascape' and 'Tristar.' Consider factors such as flavour, yield, disease resistance, and whether you prefer a single large harvest or smaller harvests throughout the season. Prepare the Soil: Strawberries thrive in well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Prepare the soil in early spring or late fall by removing any weeds, rocks, or debris. Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil fertility and drainage. Consider performing a soil test to determine if any specific nutrients need to be added. Planting: In Ontario, strawberries are typically planted in early spring or early fall. Space the plants about 12-18 inches apart in rows that are 2-3 feet apart. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots of the strawberry plant, ensuring the crown is level with the soil surface. Place the plant in the hole, spread the roots, and backfill with soil. Water the newly planted strawberry plants thoroughly. Mulching: Apply a layer of straw or pine needles around the strawberry plants to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and protect the fruit from rotting. Make sure the mulch is about 2-3 inches deep, leaving a small space around the crown of the plants. Watering and Care: Strawberries need regular watering, especially during dry periods. Aim to provide about 1 inch of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Water at the base of the plants, avoiding overhead watering to reduce the risk of disease. Monitor the soil moisture and adjust watering as needed. Fertilizing: Fertilize your strawberry plants to promote healthy growth and fruit production. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14, in early spring and again after harvest. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package for application rates. Pest and Disease Management: Keep an eye out for common pests like slugs, snails, and strawberry root weevils. Handpick or use organic pest control methods to manage them. Diseases like powdery mildew, grey mold, and verticillium wilt can also affect strawberries. Plant disease-resistant varieties, practice crop rotation, and ensure good air circulation around the plants to minimize disease risks. Harvesting: June-bearing varieties typically produce a single large crop in late spring or early summer, while ever-bearing varieties produce smaller harvests throughout the season. Harvest strawberries when they are fully ripe, bright red, and slightly soft. Gently pick the berries to avoid damaging the plants. By following these steps and providing proper care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh, homegrown strawberries in Ontario. Now that we've grow our own strawberries, which types are best for jams and pies? When it comes to making jam, different strawberry varieties can offer varying flavours, textures, and characteristics. While personal preferences may vary, here are a few strawberry varieties that are often favoured for making jam: Honeoye: Honeoye strawberries are known for their excellent flavour and are often used for making jams and preserves. They have a sweet and slightly tart taste, and their firm texture holds up well during the cooking process. Jewel: Jewel strawberries are popular for their exceptional sweetness and rich flavour, making them a great choice for jam-making. They have a vibrant red colour and a soft texture that lends itself well to creating smooth and spreadable jam. Seascape: Seascape strawberries are an ever-bearing variety that produces fruit throughout the growing season. They have a well-balanced sweet flavour, a firm texture, and are often favoured for making jams with a bright and fresh taste. Tristar: Tristar strawberries are another ever-bearing variety that offers a rich and sweet flavour. They are particularly popular for their intense strawberry aroma and their ability to create flavourful and fragrant jams. Earliglow: Earliglow strawberries are a June-bearing variety that is highly regarded for its exceptional flavour and sweetness. They have a juicy texture and a robust strawberry taste, making them an excellent choice for making flavourful jam. Remember, the best strawberry for jam-making ultimately depends on personal preference. You might consider trying different varieties to find the one that suits your taste and produces the desired flavour and consistency in your homemade jam. Want to try your hand at baked goods? When it comes to using strawberries in baked goods, you'll want to choose varieties that hold their shape and flavour well during the baking process. Here are some strawberry varieties that are often recommended for baked goods: Jewel: Jewel strawberries are known for their firm texture, which makes them an excellent choice for baking. They hold up well and retain their shape and flavour, even when exposed to high temperatures in the oven. Albion: Albion strawberries are popular for their large size and firm texture, which makes them ideal for baking. They have a sweet flavour and their sturdy structure allows them to maintain their shape and texture in pies, tarts, and other baked goods. Fort Laramie: Fort Laramie strawberries are a June-bearing variety that is well-suited for baking. They have a firm and juicy texture and hold up well when cooked. Their sweet and tangy flavour adds a delightful taste to various baked treats. Hood: Hood strawberries are known for their intense flavour and aroma. They have a firm texture that withstands baking, making them a good choice for pies, cobblers, and other baked desserts. Sparkle: Sparkle strawberries are a June-bearing variety that is often used for baking. They have a slightly tart flavour and hold their shape well during cooking, making them suitable for pies, tarts, and other baked goods. When using strawberries in baked goods, it's important to remember that they release moisture when heated. To prevent excessive moisture, consider using slightly underripe strawberries or blotting them with a paper towel before incorporating them into your recipes. This can help maintain the texture and prevent the baked goods from becoming too soggy. Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to growing your own strawberries? Share it with us in the comments or on our social media. We'd love to hear from you!

  • Using upcycled items as pots for your plants

    Upcycling is a great way to give new life to old items while reducing waste. When it comes to planters, there are numerous creative ideas you can explore. “The act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function. In doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable and beautiful than what it previously was.” UpcycleThat.com One of our members, D.W., shared her upcycling adventures with us: I have enjoyed using a little Buddha that a friend gave me as a hostess gift one year. He is very versatile. Other props I have are an old brass wash tub that can accomodate bigger plant designs. I also have an old Singer sewing machine stand that suits a shady spot under our maple tree. Recently my husband built me a table from a left over fence board. He spray painted 2 square plastic pots turquoise (acrylic spray paint) to match our umbrellas. (The pots were formerly lime green). I am happy with the modern looking result. The past 2 years I have had issues with squirrels digging up my planters and breaking the more delicate plants. They are burying their peanuts (in shells) that someone nearby is feeding them. In frustration, I have laid on the top of the soil this year thorny barberry bush clippings...and added in some cases plastic forks ( prong up) or green pointy sticks from Sticky sticks ( the ones used to catch fungus gnats). I read that coffee grinds will deter squirrels but alas we don't drink coffee here. However on my advice a friend tried this and is so far reporting success. Take a look at D.W.'s gorgeous planters: Here are some other ideas for using upcycled items as pots for your plants: Tin Cans: Clean and paint tin cans in various colours, and use them as planters. You can attach them to a wooden board or hang them on a wall to create a vertical garden. Mason Jars: Mason jars make charming planters. You can paint them, wrap them with twine, or decorate them with beads and ribbons. Hang them using wire or create a centrepiece by arranging them on a tray. Wine Bottles: Cut the bottom off wine bottles and use them as individual planters. You can paint them or leave them clear, and place them on a windowsill or hang them upside down to create a unique suspended garden. Old Furniture: Convert old drawers, wooden crates, or even a broken chair into planters. Line them with plastic or landscape fabric, add soil, and plant your favourite flowers or herbs. This idea works well for both indoor and outdoor gardens. Tea Tins: Empty tea tins with colourful designs can be transformed into eye-catching planters. Make sure to drill drainage holes in the bottom and fill them with potting soil for your plants. Rubber Boots: If you have outgrown or worn-out rubber boots, they can make playful and whimsical planters. Simply fill them with soil and add your plants. They are perfect for adding a touch of charm to your garden or porch. Vintage Containers: Look for old, unique containers like vintage teapots, metal buckets, or ceramic bowls at thrift stores or flea markets. With a little creativity, you can repurpose them into one-of-a-kind planters. Repurposed Tires: Paint and stack old tires to create a multi-tiered planter. This works particularly well for succulents and cascading plants. Be sure to fill each tire with soil and add drainage holes. Broken Pot Planters: If you have a broken clay pot, don't discard it! Use the larger pieces to create a tiered effect by partially burying them in the soil. It adds a whimsical touch to your garden. Hanging Bottles: Cut the tops off plastic soda bottles, paint or decorate them, and hang them upside down as small hanging planters. This technique works well for herbs or small flowering plants. Remember to consider the drainage needs of your plants when upcycling items into planters. Ensure proper drainage by drilling or creating holes at the bottom of your containers. Also, use suitable potting soil and provide the necessary care for your plants to thrive in their upcycled homes. Happy Gardening!

  • Air Purifying Plants

    Whether you have a sunny windowsill or acreage, plants that can purify the air is a big plus. We'll be looking at easy-to-grow houseplants, garden plants (zone 5) and trees (zone 5) to help you make an informed choice: Houseplants Having houseplants can indeed help improve indoor air quality by filtering out pollutants and releasing oxygen. Here are some of the best houseplants known for their air-purifying qualities: Snake Plant (Sansevieria) Known for its ability to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen at night, snake plants are excellent air purifiers. They are also low-maintenance and can tolerate low light conditions. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) Spider plants are great at removing formaldehyde and xylene from the air. They are resilient, easy to grow, and produce "spiderettes" that can be propagated into new plants. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) Peace lilies are effective in removing common indoor air pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. They have beautiful white flowers and thrive in moderate to low light conditions. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) Apart from its medicinal properties, aloe vera is known for removing formaldehyde and benzene from the air. It requires minimal watering and prefers bright, indirect light. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) Boston ferns are excellent at humidifying indoor air while removing pollutants like formaldehyde and xylene. They prefer bright, indirect light and moist soil. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) Bamboo palms are effective at removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air. They thrive in indirect light and require regular watering. Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) Rubber plants are great for removing formaldehyde from the air. They prefer bright, indirect light and regular watering, allowing the soil to dry partially between waterings. Remember that while these plants can help improve air quality, they are not a substitute for proper ventilation and other means of air purification. Additionally, some plants may be toxic to pets, so if you have pets, make sure to choose plants that are safe for them. Outdoor plants for improved air quality in zone 5 There are several zone 5 plants that can help improve air quality when grown outdoors. Here are some examples: Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) This evergreen tree is native to North America and is known for its ability to filter pollutants from the air. It can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions and requires minimal maintenance. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Although typically grown as a houseplant, Golden Pothos can also be grown outdoors in zone 5 during the warmer months. It has air-purifying qualities and can help remove toxins like formaldehyde from the air. Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) This native perennial plant produces vibrant orange flowers that attract butterflies. It is well-suited for zone 5 and helps filter the air while providing important habitat for pollinators. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) Asters are hardy, native perennials that thrive in zone 5. They produce beautiful, daisy-like flowers in various shades of purple and pink, attracting bees and butterflies while helping to improve air quality. Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Common yarrow is a tough, adaptable perennial with fern-like foliage and clusters of tiny flowers. It can grow in a variety of soil conditions and attracts beneficial insects while filtering the air. Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) Siberian iris is a hardy perennial that produces stunning, colorful blooms in various shades of blue, purple, and white. It can tolerate wetter soil conditions and helps improve air quality in zone 5 gardens. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) Russian sage is a drought-tolerant perennial with silver-gray foliage and spikes of lavender-blue flowers. It can thrive in zone 5 and has aromatic leaves that release a pleasant fragrance when brushed against. When selecting outdoor plants for air purification, it is essential to consider their suitability for your specific growing conditions, including sunlight exposure, soil type, and moisture levels. Choosing native species is also beneficial as they are well adapted to the local ecosystem. Trees that improve air quality Trees play a crucial role in cleaning the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants while releasing oxygen. Here are some trees known for their air-purifying qualities: Silver Birch (Betula pendula) Silver birch trees are effective at capturing airborne pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. They have beautiful white bark and can thrive in various soil types. Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) Japanese cedar trees are known for their ability to absorb high levels of nitrogen dioxide, making them effective in urban environments. They have an attractive conical shape and can tolerate a range of soil conditions. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Red maple trees are native to North America and are excellent at filtering out pollutants. They are adaptable to different soil types and provide vibrant fall foliage. Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) Honey locust trees have a high tolerance for urban environments and are efficient at absorbing pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and ozone. They have delicate foliage and thornless varieties are available. White Pine (Pinus strobus) White pine trees are known for their air-cleaning abilities and are particularly effective at capturing particulate matter. They have soft needles and can grow well in various soil types. London Plane Tree (Platanus x acerifolia) London plane trees are commonly planted in urban areas due to their ability to withstand pollution. They help filter particulate matter and have attractive mottled bark. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) Ginkgo trees are unique and known for their fan-shaped leaves. They are effective at absorbing pollutants and can tolerate urban environments. Female ginkgo trees produce fruit, so planting male varieties is recommended to avoid the strong-smelling fruit. Oak (Quercus spp.) Oaks are robust and long-lived trees that contribute to air purification. They are known for their ability to capture and store carbon dioxide. Various oak species exist, so it's important to choose one suitable for your climate. Remember that trees take time to grow and reach their full air-cleaning potential. Additionally, the effectiveness of air purification can vary depending on factors such as tree size, density, and proximity to pollution sources. Planting a variety of trees in your area can have a cumulative positive impact on air quality. If you're looking for a deal on plants, our members get a discount at local nurseries! Happy Gardening!

  • Swallowtail Butterflies

    Alianna’s Caterpillars by Dianne Wittig photos @ Christine Wittig In the summer of 2021, I planted dill in a large pot on my patio. While watering one day, I noticed five green caterpillars climbing amongst the branches. Each caterpillar was two centimetres in length and marked with a thin black band and yellow-orange spots on each segment. This was the first time I had grown dill and I was surprised that it attracted “Monarch butterflies”. I gently harvested each caterpillar and deposited them into a large jar with dill branches. I was certain my granddaughter, Alianna (age 4), would be delighted to have these creepy crawlies as pets. (Since age two, she had been bringing bugs and caterpillars home to her parents hoping to keep them as pets.) Watching these caterpillars turn into Monarch butterflies would be a good science project for her. Little did I know that I was to get a lesson in caterpillar identification. My daughter-in-law, Christine, prepared a large empty aquarium home for the five caterpillars. Alianna gave each of them a name: Millimetre, Dillimetre, Dilly, Gherkin, and Pizza. The floor of the aquarium was quickly lined with paper towels that were refreshed frequently. “What goes in, comes out” is true in the case of caterpillars; they eat continuously and excrete volumes. The caterpillars were immediately given an ample supply of milkweed leaves to eat – which they snubbed. Confused by their disinterest, Christine did a computer search and discovered these were Black Swallowtail caterpillars and they eat dill, parsley, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace and carrot tops. Of this list, Alianna’s caterpillars preferred the dill. All went well within the boundaries of their new indoor home, although one caterpillar did escape briefly to be discovered crawling along the top perimeter of the aquarium. It was quickly returned to the prepared habitat and a new safe mesh cover was placed over top. It only took three weeks for the caterpillars to grow to their mature size of 5 cm whereupon one of them attached itself by two threads on the underside of a branch. Now positioned in a “J” shape, that caterpillar’s brilliant green skin turned to a brown dried-leaf-looking chrysalis in a period of one day. At first, Alianna and her family thought the caterpillar had died. They considered letting the remaining caterpillars go, but the rest quickly followed suit hanging under a twig and turning into brown chrysalises. They remained in this state for 14 or more days. Then, one morning, it was discovered that two of the butterflies had emerged from their chrysalises and were flapping their wings, strengthening them for flight. The remaining three butterflies emerged the next day. This caused a happy celebration amongst family members. After many weeks of observation, Millimetre, Dillimetre, Dilly, Gherkin and Pizza had cycled into brilliantly marked butterflies. All were released to the green belt behind the family home. In addition, everyone now knew the difference between a Monarch caterpillar and a Black Swallowtail caterpillar. The following information was taken from Butterflies at home website. Black Swallowtail Life Cycle: Overview and Timings Stage Typical Duration Egg stage Generally 4 to 10 days, depending on temperature and host plant Caterpillar (larval) stage 3 to 4 weeks Chrysalis (pupal) stage 10 to 20 days (except for overwintering pupae) Adult butterfly stage 6 to 14 days Identification of Male and Female Black Swallowtail Butterflies The male features a large row of yellow coloured spots across the middle of its wings. The female has smaller spots, but a larger area of blue scales on the lower wings. Both sexes have two prominent orange eyespots on their hind wings close to their tails. Three chrysalises hang suspended from a branch. Two recently emerged Black Swallowtail butterflies, wings folded exposing their brilliant undersides, soon ready for first flight. What’s the Difference? Black Swallowtail caterpillar Green to yellowish green in colour with irregular black bands dotted with orange or yellow spots Feed on Queen Anne’s Lace, carrot, dill, parsley, fennel and celery from end of June to mid-September Monarch caterpillar Has bands of white, yellow and black with a pair of black filaments at its head and tail Feed on milkweed leaves If you would like to share your gardening adventures with us, please email waterloogardeners@gmail.com ATT: BLOG CONSIDERATION.

  • Peonies and Hydrangeas

    We love sharing gardening tips and tricks, photos and advice from our members. We received this submission from a new member, D.W. and absolutely adore the gorgeous peonies and hydrangeas. Peony Plants: I purchased these peony plants from SEARS 35 years ago. I didn't know at the time what colours I was getting, as they were a "special priced deal" with no information attached. My husband usually fertilizes our entire perennial garden with Scott's Lawn fertilizer 7-7-7 early spring (every year) and all the plants flourish. This year he bought 16-16-16 ( Nitrogen- Phosphorus - Potassium) at Peavey Mart Fertilizer Tips | Country Green Turf Farms. My husband says he uses a lawn fertilizer spreader or a hand spreader depending on the area of the garden he is fertilizing. In 2022, I also added Bone Meal to each peony plant. (This year I was busy with another bed and didn't add the bone meal. I will have to wait to see how the blooms compare in numbers and individual size .) The photos attached are of my 2022 (and earlier) peonies as my 2023 peonies have not bloomed yet. This photo was taken in Tiananmen Square in 2013. The little girl is wearing a small headdress with a peony adorning it. The peony is a symbol of wealth and prosperity and is considered one of the most beautiful flowers in China. Historically, peonies were grown and enjoyed by Chinese emperors and other important people. They decorated peonies in their grand homes and planted them in royal gardens. Chinese Flowers: Their Cultural Significance and Symbolism | 1800Flowers Petal Talk Ants & Peonies Ants and peonies have a symbiotic relationship. Looking closely at my peony flower bud photos, you will note green scales covering and protecting each of the forming blooms. Those green scales have a unique plant gland known as a nectary along the scales outer edges. The role of glands is to produce nectar (a blend of sugar, water and amino acids) which is an ideal food source for ants. I have read that ants will create a pheromone trail that shows fellow ants the way to the desired nectar. The worker ants harvest as much nectar from the plants as they can during the spring bloom season. The peonies in turn benefit from the fact that the ants often devour any insects that are attacking the plants. Hydrangea Bushes These were also purchased at SEARS 35 years ago. I think these are the Annabelle as they have spread width wise but they have not grown more than 3-4 feet tall approx. Mine are hardy and don't get a lot of watering. We cut them down to a size of 10 inches every spring; they grow multiple new green shoots up from the ground. They are fertilized with lawn fertilizer in spring (my husband uses a hand spreader). We cage them to support the stems; the blooms are quite heavy; a heavy wind storm will break some stems but not all are lost ; I love the sea of white blooms against the dark green foliage. Early flower blooms are greenish turning white as they mature. In November, I cut the brown dried hydrangea flowers with stems from my garden bushes to use in my winter planters. One year I sprayed the dried brown hydrangeas a deep red for a planter. It worked well; gold would be fun to try. Thank you, D.W. for sharing your passion for gardening with us! If you would like to share your gardening adventures, email us at waterloogardeners@gmail.com ATT: Blog Feature. Happy gardening!

  • How to protect plants and trees from frost damage

    It's that time of year again where it could be anything from snow to sunshine, rain to drought and everything in-between. What is a frost date? A frost date refers to the average or estimated date in a specific location when the risk of frost occurrence decreases significantly. It is a guideline used by gardeners, farmers, and horticulturists to plan their planting and gardening activities. The frost date typically consists of two important dates: Last Frost Date: This is the estimated date in spring when the probability of frost occurring is considered low enough that it is safe to plant cold-sensitive crops and flowers without the risk of damage from freezing temperatures. It marks the end of the frost season. First Frost Date: This is the estimated date in autumn or early winter when the probability of frost increases significantly, signalling the onset of colder temperatures. It indicates that it is time to prepare for protecting or harvesting cold-sensitive plants. Frost dates are determined based on historical weather data, temperature patterns, and local climate conditions. They serve as a general guideline to help gardeners and farmers plan their planting schedules, ensure proper timing for crop growth and harvest, and take necessary precautions to protect plants from frost damage. In Ontario, the frost dates are determined by meteorological organizations, such as Environment Canada and local weather stations. Organizations like Old Farmer's Almanac collect weather data and analyze historical patterns to estimate the average dates of the first and last frost in specific regions. The frost dates can vary across different parts of Ontario due to the province's large size and varying climates. Generally, frost dates are determined based on factors like historical weather records, temperature trends, and local climate conditions. It's important to note that frost dates are estimates and can vary from year to year depending on weather patterns and specific local conditions. Monitoring weather forecasts and consulting with local gardening or agricultural extension services can provide more accurate and up-to-date information about frost dates in your specific area. Which plants can be damaged by frost in Ontario? In Ontario, several plants are susceptible to frost damage due to the region's cold climate. Some plants that are particularly vulnerable to frost include: Tender annuals: Plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons are sensitive to frost and can be damaged or killed by freezing temperatures. Citrus trees: Citrus trees like oranges, lemons, and limes are not cold-hardy and can suffer severe damage or death in frosty conditions. Tropical plants: Plants like hibiscus, bougainvillea, and banana trees are tropical in nature and cannot tolerate frost. They require protection or should be brought indoors during cold spells. Delicate perennials: Some perennials, such as dahlias, cannas, and certain varieties of roses, may be damaged by frost. While they can recover from cold snaps, protecting them can help preserve their health. Early blooming fruit trees: Fruit trees that blossom early in the spring, such as apricots, peaches, and cherries, are susceptible to frost damage. Late frosts can harm or destroy their flowers, resulting in reduced fruit production. Tender herbs: Herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley are frost-sensitive and may suffer damage or die if exposed to freezing temperatures. Vulnerable shrubs: Some shrubs, including hydrangeas, azaleas, and certain varieties of roses, are susceptible to frost damage. Their delicate buds or flowers can be harmed by freezing temperatures. It's important to note that while these plants are more prone to frost damage, the severity of the damage can vary depending on the specific conditions and the plant's health and maturity. How do I protect my plants from frost damage? To protect your plants from frost damage, follow these steps: Monitor the weather: Stay informed about frost warnings and freezing temperatures in your area. This will help you plan ahead and take necessary precautions. Cover your plants: Use protective coverings like frost blankets, burlap, or old bedsheets to shield your plants from frost. Secure the covers tightly to the ground to trap heat and prevent cold air from reaching the plants. Make sure the cover extends all the way to the ground. Water your plants: Water the soil around your plants before the frosty night. Moist soil retains heat better than dry soil, helping to keep the plants warmer. Mulch the soil: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your plants. Mulch helps insulate the soil, preventing rapid temperature fluctuations and protecting the roots. Move potted plants indoors: If you have potted plants, bring them inside your house, garage, or a protected area like a greenhouse or shed. This provides them with a warmer environment during frosty nights. Use heat sources: Consider using protective measures like frost cloth or mini greenhouses that incorporate heat sources such as electric heaters, heat lamps, or even Christmas lights. Ensure proper ventilation and follow safety guidelines when using heat sources. Monitor and remove covers: In the morning, remove the covers once the temperature rises above freezing to allow sunlight and air circulation. Leaving the covers on during the day can cause excessive heat buildup, which may harm the plants. Remember to tailor these methods to the specific needs of your plants and the severity of the frost. How do I protect young trees from frost damage? To protect young trees from frost damage, you can take the following steps: Select appropriate tree species: Before planting, choose tree species that are suitable for your region's climate and are more tolerant of cold temperatures. Hardy tree species are better equipped to withstand frost. Water the trees: Adequate soil moisture helps insulate the roots and provides some protection against frost damage. Water the trees thoroughly before the onset of freezing temperatures to ensure the soil retains moisture. Mulch around the base: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree, extending out to the drip line. Mulch helps regulate soil temperature, conserves moisture, and protects the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations. Use protective covers: For small or newly planted trees, consider using protective coverings such as frost blankets or burlap. Wrap the cover around the tree, ensuring it extends to the ground and is secured tightly. This creates a barrier against cold winds and helps trap heat radiating from the ground. Install temporary shelters: Create temporary shelters around young trees using stakes and plastic or fabric sheeting. This provides additional protection against frost and cold winds. Ensure the shelter is well-ventilated to prevent excessive heat buildup during the day. Use heat sources: If feasible, use heat sources like incandescent Christmas lights or light bulbs under the tree cover. This gentle heat can provide extra protection against frost damage. Ensure that the heat sources are installed safely and do not come into direct contact with tree branches or coverings. Monitor the weather: Stay informed about frost warnings and freezing temperatures in your area. Cover the trees before the onset of frost, and remove the covers during the day when temperatures rise above freezing to allow for air circulation. Remember that young trees are more vulnerable to frost damage, so providing protection during their early years can significantly increase their chances of survival and healthy growth. With these tips, your plants should be able to survive to occasional frost that spring has in store! Share your photos and comments with us below, we'd love to hear how you deal with frost in your garden.

  • What NOT to plant in your garden - Invasive Plants in Ontario

    Isn't it magical to be out in your garden and planning which plants you want to add? Perhaps you're starting with a blank canvas, or you inherited a piece of overgrown land and need to discover the fauna and flora underneath or you're simply redoing your existing garden. Whatever the reason, it's a good idea to study the names and features of invasive species before you accept a plant from a friend or purchase one at your local nursery. Not only do invasive plants disrupt the natural eco-system, they can clog up waterways, poison the soil for other plants and simply take over, creating a nightmare for biodiversity. According to the Ontario Invasive Plant Council, invasive plants are classified as follows: "Invasive species are plants, animals, and micro-organisms that are found outside of their natural range, and whose presence poses a threat to environmental health, the economy, or society (Government of Canada, 2004). The Ontario Ministry of Resources and Forestry, in collaboration with Ontario non-profit organizations, is actively working to track and manage existing invasive species, while monitoring for the introduction of new species." Unfortunately, some of these plants are readily available for purchase. Luckily, gardeners can help bring about a change by doing a bit of research before buying and planting an invasive plant. Bring it up in casual conversation with other gardeners and find out what they found invasive and how they were able to get rid of it! Be sure to discard any invasive plant in the green bin or tie it up in a black garbage bag until it's completely destroyed. If you put it in the garden waste or your home composter, it will just get redistributed into the environment and your yard! Below is a list of invasive species and photos: Ontario has a number of invasive plants that pose a threat to the native ecosystem. Here are some of the worst invasive plants in Ontario: Garlic Mustard: This plant can quickly dominate forest floors and has the ability to crowd out native plant species. Phragmites: Also known as common reed, Phragmites is a tall grass that can grow up to 5 meters high and can form dense stands that reduce biodiversity and interfere with water flow. Purple Loosestrife: This plant is known for its striking purple flowers, but it is highly invasive and can take over wetlands, crowding out native plants and disrupting the ecosystem. Japanese Knotweed: This plant can grow up to 3 meters tall and has an extensive root system that can damage building foundations and underground pipes. Giant Hogweed: This plant can grow up to 5 meters tall and its sap can cause severe skin burns and blisters. It can also outcompete native plants and disrupt the ecosystem. Three more invasive plants that are rampantly spreading in Kitchener Waterloo: Invasive periwinkle, also known as creeping myrtle or Vinca minor, is a ground cover plant that is native to Europe and was introduced to North America as an ornamental plant. While it is still commonly used as a landscaping plant, it has become invasive in many parts of North America, including Ontario. Invasive periwinkle can form dense mats that outcompete native plants, particularly in woodland areas. The plant spreads through both vegetative reproduction (where pieces of the plant break off and root themselves) and by seed. Once established, it can be difficult to control, as the plant has a deep root system and is tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. To prevent the spread of invasive periwinkle, it's important to avoid planting it in natural areas and to remove any plants that have spread beyond the intended planting area. Hand-pulling or digging out the plants can be effective for small infestations, but larger infestations may require the use of herbicides or mechanical control methods. It's important to follow best practices for invasive plant control to avoid unintended harm to native plants and wildlife. Invasive ground elder, also known as bishop's weed or goutweed, is a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It was introduced to North America as an ornamental plant and has since become invasive in many areas, including Ontario. Ground elder spreads rapidly through an extensive root system and can form dense patches that outcompete native plants. The plant also produces seeds, which can be spread by wind and wildlife, further contributing to its invasive potential. In addition, ground elder is difficult to eradicate due to its deep, persistent roots that can regenerate from small pieces left in the soil. To control invasive ground elder, it is important to take a multi-pronged approach. Mechanical control methods such as hand-pulling and digging can be effective for small patches, but larger infestations may require the use of herbicides or repeated mowing to weaken the plants and prevent seed production. Additionally, preventing the spread of ground elder by removing any root fragments or plant material from garden waste and avoiding the spread of soil and contaminated equipment to other areas is important to prevent further spread of this invasive plant. Invasive lily of the valley, also known as Convallaria majalis, is a perennial plant that is native to Europe and has been introduced to North America as an ornamental plant. This plant is now considered invasive in some parts of North America, including Ontario. Lily of the valley spreads through rhizomes and can form dense mats that outcompete native plant species. The plant can also spread by seed, which can be dispersed by birds and other animals. In addition, lily of the valley contains toxic compounds that can be harmful to native plant and animal species. To control invasive lily of the valley, it's important to remove any existing plants and their root systems, as well as to prevent further spread of the plant. Hand-pulling or digging can be effective for small infestations, but larger infestations may require the use of herbicides or mechanical control methods. It's important to follow best practices for invasive plant control to avoid unintended harm to native plants and wildlife. Additionally, avoiding planting lily of the valley in natural areas can help prevent its spread. As gardeners, we have a responsibility to ensure the health of our gardens. By making informed choices, we're doing our part for the environment! Thank you, gardeners!! Not sure what to plant? Here is a list of what to plant instead: Native Alternatives. If you have any invasive species in your garden, please let us know in the comments. Feel free to share how it got there and how you're managing the spread. Photos courtesy of Ontario Invasive Plant Council

  • How to grow roses in Ontario

    Considering growing your own roses? It's possible with a little TLC! Roses are a type of flowering plant belonging to the Rosaceae family. They are typically woody perennials with thorny stems and showy, fragrant flowers. The flowers have five petals and are arranged in a characteristic rosette shape, with a central cone-shaped structure known as the receptacle. The leaves are alternate and compound, typically with 5-7 leaflets, and are often serrated along the edges. Roses come in a wide range of colours, including red, pink, white, yellow, orange, and purple, and can be single or double-flowered. They are classified into different groups based on their growth habit, flower form, and other characteristics, such as: Hybrid Tea Roses: These are tall, upright roses with large, showy blooms on long stems. Floribunda Roses: These roses produce clusters of smaller flowers that bloom prolifically throughout the growing season. Grandiflora Roses: These roses are a cross between hybrid tea roses and floribunda roses, with large blooms that are carried on long stems. David Austin Roses: These roses are a type of English rose that combines the fragrance and charm of old-fashioned roses with the repeat blooming and disease resistance of modern roses. Climbing Roses: These roses have long, flexible stems that can be trained to climb and cover a large area. Shrub Roses: These roses are known for their hardiness and disease resistance, with a wide range of flower shapes and colours. Roses are widely cultivated for their ornamental value and are also used in perfumes, cosmetics, and other products. They are a popular symbol of love and affection and are often given as gifts on special occasions such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. The exact origins of roses are not completely clear, but it is generally believed that they originated in Asia, specifically in areas that now include modern-day China, India, and Iran. Wild roses have been growing in these regions for thousands of years, and it is believed that they were cultivated by ancient civilizations such as the Chinese, Persians, and Greeks. The cultivation of roses spread throughout Europe during the Roman Empire, where they became a popular ornamental plant and were used for medicinal and culinary purposes. The first hybrid tea roses, which are now one of the most popular types of roses, were developed in the 19th century by crossing Chinese and European roses. Growing roses in Ontario is similar to growing them in other areas with cold winters and hot summers. Here are some tips to help you successfully grow roses in Ontario: Choose the right variety: Make sure you choose a rose variety that is suitable for your climate. Look for roses that are hardy to at least USDA zone 4 or 5, which can survive the cold winters in Ontario. Pick a good location: Roses need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to thrive, so choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. Avoid planting them in areas that are prone to water-logging. Prepare the soil: Roses prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Mix compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting to improve drainage and fertility. Plant the roses: Dig a hole that is slightly wider than the root ball and deep enough so that the graft union is 2-3 inches below the soil surface. Backfill with soil and water thoroughly. Water and fertilize: Water the roses deeply once a week, especially during hot, dry weather. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer in the spring, and again after the first flush of blooms. Prune and deadhead: Prune your roses in the spring to remove dead and diseased wood, and to encourage new growth. Deadhead spent blooms throughout the growing season to promote new blooms. Protect from winter damage: Mulch around the base of the roses in late fall to protect the roots from freezing. In colder areas, you may need to cover the roses with burlap or other protective material to prevent winter damage. With proper care, roses can thrive in Ontario and provide you with beautiful blooms throughout the summer. Be sure to send us your photos at waterloogardeners@gmail.com or on social media so we can share the beauty with our community!

  • Why are there so many dandelions in Ontario?

    Dandelions are a common sight in Ontario and many other parts of North America. This is because dandelions are a hardy plant species that can grow in a wide variety of conditions. They are also a highly adaptable plant, able to thrive in both sunny and shaded areas, and can tolerate a range of soil types. Dandelions were introduced to North America by early European settlers, who brought them over for their medicinal properties and as a food source. Today, dandelions are considered a weed by many people due to their invasive nature and ability to spread quickly. However, they are also valued for their nutritional and medicinal properties and are still consumed by some people in salads and teas. Dandelions have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries and are believed to have a wide range of health benefits. Some of the most commonly cited medicinal uses of dandelions include: Digestive health: Dandelions have been used traditionally to aid digestion, as they are believed to stimulate the production of digestive juices and improve appetite. Liver health: Dandelions have been used to promote liver health and help cleanse the liver of toxins. This is because they are believed to stimulate the production of bile, which is necessary for the digestion and absorption of fats. Skin health: Dandelions are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help promote healthy skin. They have been used topically to treat skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis. Immune system support: Dandelions contain a variety of nutrients, including vitamins A and C, that are important for supporting immune system function. Urinary tract health: Dandelions have diuretic properties, meaning that they can help increase urine production and promote the elimination of waste and excess fluids from the body. They have been used to support urinary tract health and help prevent urinary tract infections. It's worth noting that while dandelions are generally considered safe for consumption and have a long history of use in traditional medicine, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider before using dandelions for medicinal purposes. Fun Facts about Dandelions The name "dandelion" comes from the French phrase "dent de lion," which means "lion's tooth." This is a reference to the plant's jagged leaves. Dandelions are considered a weed by many people, but they are also an important source of nectar for bees and other pollinators. Dandelions have a long taproot that can grow up to 10 inches deep in the soil. This allows them to absorb nutrients and moisture from deep within the ground. Dandelions are edible, and all parts of the plant can be consumed. The leaves can be used in salads or cooked like spinach, the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine or tea, and the roots can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute. Dandelions can produce up to 2,000 seeds per flower, and these seeds can travel up to 5 miles on the wind. This is why dandelions are so good at spreading and can quickly take over a lawn or garden. Symbolism of Dandelions Dandelions have various symbolic meanings in different cultures and contexts. Here are some common symbolic meanings associated with dandelions: Resilience: One of the most common symbolic meanings of dandelions is resilience. Dandelions are tough plants that can thrive in a variety of environments and conditions, and their ability to grow in the face of adversity has made them a symbol of strength and resilience. Wishes and Dreams: In many cultures, blowing the seeds off a dandelion is believed to make a wish come true or to send a message to the spirit world. This has led to dandelions being associated with wishes, dreams, and hopes for the future. Faithfulness and Loyalty: Dandelions have been used as a symbol of faithfulness and loyalty because they are able to grow and thrive in the same location for many years, even under adverse conditions. Regeneration and Renewal: Because dandelions are perennials, meaning they come back year after year, they have been associated with regeneration and renewal. They are also able to regenerate quickly from their taproot, making them a symbol of resilience and renewal. Healing and Medicine: Dandelions have a long history of use in traditional medicine, and they have been associated with healing and medicinal properties. In some cultures, dandelions are believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits and protect against illness. Thank you to one of our members who submitted this recipe for Dandelion Jelly! Dandelion Jelly 2 Quarts dandelion blossoms - large 1 Quart water 1 Package Certo Crystals 4 1/2 - 5 cups of Sugar Method: Early in the morning when in full bloom cut blossoms just under the bloom, avoid green stems. Wash, then bring to a boil in a large pot. Boil rapidly for 3 1/2 minutes then strain through cheese cloth, pressing out and reserving about 3 cups of the liquid. Discard blossoms. Using 3 cups of the liquid, add certo crystals and stir well and bring to a consistent rolling boil. Add sugar slowly and continue stirring until reaches a rolling boil again. Continue boiling for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam and pour into 8-ounce jelly jars and seal. Dandelion Jelly should be refrigerated and may be eaten like honey. You may also freeze it. Overall, dandelions have come to represent a variety of positive qualities, including resilience, hope, renewal, and healing. Watch our video on how to make your dandelion jewelry on our YouTube Channel.

  • A visit to TASC Farms, where you can pick your own tulips!

    One of our members, Stefica, visited the TASC Farms this past weekend and shared her adventures! "On a rainy Wednesday morning my daughter Elizabeth and I went to the TASC Tulip Farm in Fenwick On ( Niagara region). Our first impression of seeing 2,000.000 tulips at one place took our breath away and brought tears to our eyes. It was so beautiful and wonderful to see. It was like a carpet of multi colours, sizes and varieties . 105 kids of amazing tulips are there. I said this is really heaven on earth, and I meant it. I am sending you just a few pictures ( I took about 200,) it is hard to decide which ones to take, (because all of them are just gorgeous) so you can see this beauty. If you can drive ( about 2 hours ) please go and see them yourself... If you have to bribe your children or grandchildren to drive you please do it, even if you buy them lunch it will be worth it. You will see." For more information on the hours, location and tickets, please visit TASC Tulip Farm. Thank you Stefica for sharing your experience with us!

  • Dahlias and Cinco de Mayo

    The national flower of Mexico is the Dahlia (Dahlia pinnata). The dahlia has been an important symbol in Mexican culture since ancient times and is often featured in Mexican art and festivals. It was officially declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963, reflecting its cultural and historical significance in the country. The dahlia is native to Mexico and Central America, and there are over 40 species and thousands of cultivars of dahlias that have been developed around the world. In Mexico, the dahlia is especially beloved for its vibrant colours and wide variety of shapes and sizes. It is often used in floral arrangements and decorations for celebrations such as dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead)and other festivals. While dahlias are not technically a perennial in Ontario, they can be treated as such if you take the necessary steps to protect the tubers from winter cold. In Ontario, dahlias are considered a tender bulb. This means that they are not able to survive the cold winter temperatures and must be dug up and stored indoors during the winter months. To treat dahlias as a perennial in Ontario, you will need to dig up the tubers in the fall before the first frost. Clean off any soil and allow them to dry for a few days. Once they are dry, you can store the tubers in a cool, dry place for the winter. In the spring, once the risk of frost has passed, you can plant the dahlias outdoors again. With proper care and maintenance, the tubers should produce new growth and flowers. So while dahlias are not technically a perennial in Ontario, you can treat them as such with a little extra effort to protect the tubers from the winter cold. Dahlias are a popular summer-blooming flower in Ontario and are grown in many gardens and flower beds across the province. To grow dahlias in Ontario, you'll want to follow some general guidelines for planting and care: Planting: Dahlias prefer well-draining soil and full sun. They should be planted after the risk of frost has passed, typically in late May or early June. You can start dahlias from tubers or from seedlings. Watering: Dahlias need regular watering to thrive, especially during hot, dry weather. Water deeply and regularly, making sure the soil stays evenly moist but not waterlogged. Fertilizing: Dahlias benefit from regular fertilization with a balanced fertilizer, applied every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Staking: Dahlias can grow quite tall and may need staking to prevent them from bending or breaking in the wind. You can use stakes or a trellis to support the plants as they grow. Pruning: To encourage bushier growth and more flowers, pinch back the tips of young dahlia plants when they reach a height of about 12 inches. You can also remove spent blooms to encourage the plant to produce more flowers. By following these guidelines, you should be able to successfully grow dahlias in your Ontario garden. Good luck!

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