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Saving Your Garden in a Heat Wave

summer garden
sunlight on summer garden

Saving Your Garden in a Heat Wave

By Erna

“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?”

– Steven Wright

In Manitoba, we know what the cold weather feels like, so when summer finally hits, the last thing we want to do is complain about the weather. When our luxurious warm weather is interrupted with a heat wave, though, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

In a heat wave like this one, everything around us feels like it is moving in slow motion – the days are long, and everything feels like it’s moving impossibly slow. It’s downright

uncomfortable to go outside, and even more difficult to get anything done.

As tough as the heat can be on us, our plants are feeling it even more. While we have the escape of the indoors and even air conditioning, our plants are rooted to the spot, taking the worst of it. As much as we want to be relaxing, sipping our lemonade in the shade, we can’t forget to give them some of our attention, too. Here are some tips to keep them from quitting on us when the weather gets hot:

Keeping It Relaxed

Heat stress is an efficient killer in the garden, but there’s tons you can do to help your plants escape it. Thankfully, preventing heat stress requires less work and stress from you, too.

Skip mowing the lawn. The heat doesn’t

avoid trimming full blooming flowers in a heat wave

just target your garden, but your grass, too! Keeping the grass on the longer side will give the ground some extra shade to keep roots cool. The longer grass will also help your lawn to retain moisture and avoid drying out. It’s also a great excuse to save yourself the work under the hot sun, too – what’s best for your yard is best for you, in this case!

Avoid any trimming. Step away from the clippers! A trim to your plants will give them the signal to start growing. This is the last thing you need in a heat wave. Your plants should be using their energy to stay healthy, not struggling with new growth. As much as you don’t want to be labouring on these hot afternoons, your plants don’t, either. Give everyone a break and save the trimming until the temperatures have cooled a little.

Keep It Cool

We’re all looking for ways to cool down this summer, from a chilled glass of lemonade to a dip in the lake. Our plants want to keep the temperature down at a manageable level too, but will need our help to do it.

Mulch – You’ve heard it over and over how

apply mulch to keep moisture in your garden

mulching will help to regulate soil temperatures in your garden, and this is exactly the circumstances that calls for it! If you had to walk around wearing a heavy dark shirt during a heat wave, you’d be pretty hot and upset. The dark colour absorbs heat and would be your last choice to stay cool. Soil works the same way. As such a dark color, it soaks up the sun and can hold enough heat to cook your plant’s roots. Use a lighter coloured, plant-based mulch, like straw or cedar, to protect your plants with their cooling effect.

 

Staying Hydrated in the Garden

This is one of the most obvious ways to keep your garden healthy in the heat, but is so important it’s worth talking about a bit more anyways. When the mercury rises a cool glass of water sounds more and more appealing. We’re sweating more to try and stay cool, so we need to replenish our water

water your garden in the morning

more. Soil has the same problem with water evaporating in the heat, and will need some extra care to stay hydrated.

Get to know your garden. Not every plant or root system is created equal, and some of your plants will need more help in this heat than others. Plants native to this area and zone will have an easier time tapping into water reserves with their deep root systems than the tropical annuals that keep their roots close to the surface. Keep them from struggling with extra water and care to help manage the heat.

Know when to water. You don’t want to be outside watering all the time, so choosing when to water can help you make the most of your time and effort. Watering at the hottest point of the day will have half your water evaporating before it can even get to the roots. Water when the temperatures are cooler and the sun is less intense. Morning is the best time for your plants to take advantage of it before the afternoon heat. You can water in the evening too, but if the nights start to cool off, you might be adding mildew to your garden problems.

Soak, don’t sprinkle. In extreme heat, little water droplets will evaporate before they can do much good for your garden. If you still prefer the convenience of sprinklers, consider using a soaker hose in heat waves. They keep the water close to the ground where it’s needed, saving you water, time, effort, and money, all while giving your plants the hydration boost they desperately need.

use a soaker hose in heat waves

When summer heat strikes, you don’t want to leave your poor garden and plants out to dry. Help them stay cool and hydrated in the heat with good garden habits so they can come out the other side of the heat looking their best, ready to shine for the rest of the summer. Remember to beat the heat and stay cool, in and out of the garden while the high temperatures last!

Not All Bees are Scary

cluster of honeybees
honeybees

Not All Bees are Scary

By Erna

It’s myth-busting time, for the sake of our gardens and friendly local pollinators. Putting all things that buzz into the same basket – that is, assuming that all bees and wasps are alike – is like equating a sparrow and a hawk.

Bees are the pacifists of your garden. These unassuming bumbling pollinators will not be aggressive unless they feel really, truly threatened. While bees and wasps might come from the same order (Hymenoptera) that’s where most of the similarities end. Bees are vegetarians while wasps are carnivores; and they certainly do not work together, in fact, they are usually enemies by nature!

It breaks our heart when people come to us asking how to kill the bees in their year, mistaking them for their far more annoying or even dangerous relatives. We are sure that the more you learn about different bees in your yard, the less afraid of them you’ll be. They are some of the hardest working insects in your garden that bring a whole list of benefits with them and are just not dangerous unless they feel mortally threatened. With their populations struggling and as we discover more and more how much we need them, it’s time to get to know our buzzing friends so that we’re more comfortable with them in our yards and homes.

Honeybees 

It would be difficult for us to exaggerate how helpful honeybees are. They are responsible for pollinating a third of the food we eat – meaning they have a significant role in our bountiful produce aisles at the store and in our gardens. But they also produce one of the most amazing foods on earth: honey.

jars of honey

We don’t just like honey; it’s a “perfect food” because it’s actually a bit of a scientific marvel. If kept in an airtight container, it never spoils. There have been reports of perfectly edible honey being found in sealed Pharaoh’s tombs thousands of years after their burial. It’s also a tasty food that is created in surplus as part of bees’ pollinating routine, so it is part of a bigger, beneficial process. Here’s how honeybees work:

Honeybee Hives

The actual size of honeybee colonies can alarm people. They live together in hives that can have more than 60 000 buzzing bees – there’s always a bit of a natural hum surrounding them that puts people on edge. These hives work like a little society, with incredibly well-organized hierarchies and

honeybee hives

communication networks to make sure it is working at peak capacity. The queen of a hive lives for up to 4 years, while workers only survive about 6 weeks. A dozen workers will make about a teaspoon of honey in their entire lifespan.

Once the mercury plunges and the flowers are no longer blooming, the bees settle in for the winter, but they don’t hibernate. They use the honey that they produced all winter as an energy source and crowd together to brave our winter extremes. They all work to vibrate their wings, which generates enough heat to keep the centre of the colony a balmy 30°C, even when temperatures drop well below -40°C! For the kind of energy to keep that going, a hive might consume about 40 pounds of honey per winter.

Honeybees in the Garden

Unlike wasps, who have earned their nasty reputation, honeybees aren’t aggressive and won’t sting unless their life, of the life of their hive is threatened. They’re much more focused on their job making honey and spreading pollen. It takes a lot to make a honeybee want to sting – you basically have

 

bees in the garden

to sit on them! The stinger on a bee is barbed, which means it sticks in your skin. When they sting, a large part of their insides is torn out of them with the stinger as they fly away, resulting in death. It makes sense then, why they aren’t quite so eager to sting the random passerby.

Wasps

The majority of wasps are solitary, parasitic, harmless to humans, and nearly invisible. But there are a few more social species that have earned quite the bad reputation for all of them. The outdoor picnic-ruining Yellow Jacket is the poster child of these nasty wasps and is not only the most common but

yellow jacket wasps

a sleek, aggressive flyer that isn’t as shy about stinging as some of its distant bee relatives.

Yellow jackets love to nest below ground or in hard to reach places. Sometimes this helps us avoid them, but other times you aren’t sure where a nest is until you’ve run over it with the lawnmower. These wasps are attracted to strong scents like perfumes and colognes, as well as bright coloured clothing, and they’ll try to scavenge whatever sweets and meats left out on your patio that they can.

The important difference between the humble honeybee and the wasp is that while honeybees are grazing foragers, wasps are predators. They’re carnivorous and aggressive, and won’t spend much time pollinating when they can hunt insects like flies and caterpillars instead.

Their colonies might be much smaller, at only 1000 strong, but given the difference in disposition between honeybees and wasps, a much smaller wasp hive is still a way bigger nuisance.

While wasps are obviously not as imposing to us as they are to their prey, their stingers still pose an issue. They aren’t barbed like a bee stinger, making them much more willing to sting, and able to sting repeatedly when they do. To rub salt in the wound, as they sting they also release a pheromone that invited their friends to join the party. We might fear a visible swarm of honeybees, but even a solitary wasp can be more dangerous.

hornets nest

Hornets

Hornets are actually a type of wasp, but they act a little bit different. We’re most likely to see bald-faced hornets in our area, who have black and white markings on a broader body than wasps.

Wasps and hornets are carnivores that technically eat enough pests in the garden

to be seen as beneficial, though most people don’t see their threat of stinging as worthwhile. They also love to eat rotting fruit, so you can expect them to show up where there is fallen apples or other fruits.

You’ll find a hornet in classic grey, pear-shaped nests – stumbling across one always gets the heart beating a little faster.

bumblebees in the air

Bumblebees

We’re always amazed at how these gently, fuzzy blimps can even sustain flight on their itty-bitty wings. These gentle giants live in comparatively small nests of only 50-300 bees each, and only make enough honey for their own use over the winter – only the queen survives all winter, protected in holes

in the ground, meaning that much less honey is needed.

These adorable bees are timid, but they’ll still sting if threatened. Contrary to popular belief they can actually sting numerous times, but they still rather keep to themselves than bother you.

While honeybees have a short tongue and can be found in your open, full-blooming flowers, different bumblebees have different unique tongues that make them specialists at obtaining nectar and pollen from certain types of flowers. These specialized bees are very efficient with their favourite blooms, but their unique abilities also make them much less adaptable and more vulnerable to habitat loss.

 

Getting to know these bright pollinators and pests in the garden help to reduce a bit of the fear that comes with their ominous buzzing sound. Bees are such an essential part of how our gardens and food supplies work, that it’s a relief to understand how harmful they are, and how fortunate we are when they visit our own gardens!

Flowering Shrubs for Cut Flowers

roses in vase
cut roses in vase

The Best Flowering Shrubs for Cut Flowers

We love the charming elegance that our garden flowers bring to our backyards. With so many gorgeous shapes, scents, and colours, nobody can blame us for wanting to bring a bit of their style inside. The summer season always seems a little too short, so cutting flowers from your yard to bring indoors is the perfect way to make the most out of the best that your garden has to offer.

There are all kinds of iconic blooms that come from common shrubs that make enjoying your flowers in every way possible easier. Who doesn’t want to have some homegrown beauty lighting up their kitchen or living room? These are some of our favourite flowering shrubs to cut flowers from to enjoy inside:

Roses

Roses are an easy winner for the most universally beloved and sought-after cut flower. These blooms are gorgeous, delicately intricate, and come in a stunning variety to suit any taste. They’re a symbol of love and friendship, and we can’t help but associate them with gestures of romance

pruning roses

and affection. Why not take some of their charm indoors to enjoy, or surprise a friend or loved one with a homegrown bouquet?

As such a popular flower, there are dizzying numbers of rose varieties, offering choices in blooms, hardiness, size, and care needs. Roses have a bit of an earned reputation as finicky and difficult plants to grow, but newer hybrid varieties have started to offer gardeners the same gorgeous blooms with less particular care needs. There are so many options that the decision for what variety of rose to plant really comes down to gardener choice. While each type has its own set of particular needs, they all generally need lots of sunlight and rich, well-draining soil with some mulch. Water deeply every week and prune just before blooming season for a shrub bursting with blossoms for both your yard and home.

Hydrangeas

These shrubs boast spectacular blooms that are amazing for cutting. They simply overflow with globes of blossoms that are brimming with colour and bubbly personality. Many gardeners favour these plants for the fun that they offer them in the garden. Anyone can play at being a mad scientist

hydrangeas

with their hydrangeas, tinkering with the soil chemistry to change the colours of their flowers! These shrubs will give a lot in return for only a little work, making their stately and effortless beauty all the better to enjoy.

Plant where they will enjoy morning sun, but only dappled sunlight into the afternoon, and sheltered from strong winds. Hydrangeas love rich soil and will benefit from mulch to keep the moisture levels at their roots consistent on dry days. Make sure to prune right after blooming to promote more gorgeous blossoms for next season. Cut these flowers when they are fully open and at their prettiest to help them last longer, dazzling in your home.

Lilacs

Lilacs are famous for their delicious fragrance, but their pretty flowers certainly don’t disappoint either. These blooms are so iconic that they have become the namesake for the shade of purple that decorates their petals, but they’re also available in an array of other colours and shades to suit your

cutting lilacs

tastes and decor. These are an excellent choice in a vast arrangement, as they lighten up the room while adding a delicate, summery scent to your home! Make sure to keep their vase full of fresh water to keep these thirsty flowers looking their best after they’re cut.

Plant your lilac in full sun in rich and well-draining soil. They love moisture but won’t tolerate wet feet. Mulch will be key to keep them happy by keeping the moisture locked in the soil without drowning them. Prune your lilacs every year after they bloom to encourage an even more impressive display next season. If you want to display cut flowers inside, cut them when they are only half-opened for most enduring results.

Azaleas
Azaleas

These might be among the more famous varieties of Rhododendrons – and with their drop-dead gorgeous beauty, it’s not hard to imagine why! These flowers offer breathtaking clusters of unique, trumpet-like flowers. Azaleas are most known for their shades of pink and purple flowers, but many

other coloured varieties are equally as charming.
To grow your Azaleas at home, start them off in well-draining, acidic soil. Staying on the acidic side is essential to help them develop properly without suffering from yellowing leaves. Choose a location with dappled sunlight and protection from strong winds and weather. Generally, these flowers are low-maintenance if you start them out right and mulch them. They will only need a little bit of extra water in dry spells or if you notice their leaves curling. Nurture them with a high-acid fertilizer annually and prune them right after their blooming ends for gorgeous flowers year after year.

mockorange plant
Mockorange

Just as their name suggests, this shrub doesn’t grow oranges, but it could certainly fool you. They offer delicate, white flowers that look nearly identical to orange blossoms, and they even release a delicious citrus scent that you, your family, and the local butterflies will adore. While they only

bloom for a short period they have wonderfully brooding, dark green foliage that makes a fun contrast in your yard or a great accent as a cutting. You might not get to enjoy tasty citrus fruits from this shrub, but you’ll love its southern appeal and pretty charm.

Plant your Mockorange in full sun or partial shade in well-draining soil that’s had a boost of compost. Keep the soil moist as it first gets established, but afterwards enjoy its low-maintenance upkeep. Water during dry spells when precipitation isn’t quite enough, and prune annually just after blooming for delightfully citrus-like blooms annually without all the effort.

It’s wonderful to be able to enjoy the best colours of the summer right inside your home, to savour the most beautiful fruits of your garden as much as you can. Simply cut your blooms early in the morning, trim on a 45° angle, and you, your family, and your friends can enjoy your flowers inside, as well as in the garden.

Dealing with Emerald Ash Borers

emerald ash borer
emerald ash borer on tree leaf

Dealing with Emerald Ash Borers

By Erna

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”

-Molière

Trees are a commitment that we are delighted to bring into our yards. Unlike annual flowers and shrubs where we can have fun with the seasonal changes and trends, trees are a lasting legacy in our homes. With all the love, care, and investment that we pour into them, it can be devastating to see them get sick. Ash trees,

mountain ash tree

in particular, are facing a plague of pests causing damage at alarming rates in North America. With trees struggling everywhere, it’s time that we had a look at public enemy number one: Emerald Ash Borers.

Emerald Ash Borers

The Emerald Ash Borer is actually native to Asia, not North America. Most experts suspect that the beetles first made the journey across the ocean in untreated wood at some point in the 1990s. It took a little while for them to be recognized, but by that point, they had already set to work getting established and infecting more trees.

emerald ash borer damaging trees

These beetles cause their damage by living up to their name boring in and out of our trees. They begin their lives as eggs, laid by an adult beetle in the bark of a tree in the spring and early summer. Once these eggs hatch, the larvae burrow from their shallow homes under the scales and in cracks of bark towards the centre of the tree. After a few years, the larvae become adults, who will bore their way back out. These fully grown adults then make their way to new trees to start the cycle all over again.

The adult borers are easy enough to spot – they’re big and metallic, looking almost like a blue-green grasshopper. The larvae are also pretty noticeable at 8-14mm long, but these cream and brown grubs are often buried deep in the wood of Ash trees, so you wouldn’t be likely to spot one without digging.

How They Do Their Damage

These borers most obviously cause trouble for your trees with the damage they do when burrowing deep into their timber. As they create these tunnels into the wood of your Ash tree, they eat the inner bark. These tunnels disrupt the tree’s ability to circulate water, nutrients, and sugars where they need to go. Without these vital circulation highways inside the tree, part of the plant starts to die.

The problem becomes more significant due to this pest’s ability to spread. A single Borer can travel up to 20 km in a single year. Because of this, an infestation can easily spread from one tree to another, even if they are quite far apart. Their natural abilities to

bark damage
inner bark damage from emerald ash borer

to spread are unfortunately boosted by human movement, where they can be transported in an infected tree that is cut and moved elsewhere.

Dealing with Them

Since they made their way to Canada, the Emerald Ash Borers have destroyed millions of ash trees. It’s easy for them to spread unchecked, as they don’t have many natural predators over here. Unlike the trees of their native Asia, our Ash have very little resistance to them, and our frigid Manitoba

emerald ash borer tree trap

winters don’t seem to curb the populations, either.

But it isn’t time to lose all hope and resign your trees to pests. There are still options to tackle Ash Borers before they do irreparable damage to trees that hold a special spot in your heart and yard:

Spot them early: The first way to prevent borer damage is to catch them early on. This can be a bit challenging as they spend so much time under the surface of our trees, but your tree might show early signs of being infected. Look for trees with thinning or dead branches, or those with withering or chewed leaves. Check your tree for any cracks in the bark where they could get access or even an increase in woodpecker or squirrel activity. To confirm your suspicions, remove a small section of your tree’s bark to look for the telltale ant farm tunnels that borers will leave behind.

Neem seed insecticides (not neem oil) are an effective tool against these tricky pests. These can be injected into the base of the tree to be carried through their circulatory system, killing of larvae as it is distributed around the tree. This is the most effective, proven method to combat an Emerald Borer problem of a small scale.

Other methods, like Emerald Ash Borer Traps that use pheromones, or using natural predators, parasitic wasps, are sometimes used on a larger scale for widespread infestations but are still being researched and developed.

Destroying infested wood is the last, and very important final step in controlling Emerald Ash Borer populations. Don’t transport any wood that could contain these pests, but instead burn it onsite to prevent the beetles from spreading elsewhere.

Since they arrived by accident on North American soils, Emerald Ash Borers have been terrorizing our beloved trees. While we’ve already lost millions of trees, we still have the ability to work to minimize further damage by being more educated about how these pests work, how to deal with them, and how to prevent spreading them. Your trees are an important legacy and part of your home and yard, so it is important that you have the tools to protect them.

Summer Fashion Update

summer fashion style

Summer Fashion Update

By Megan

With every passing season, we’re seeing more and more beautiful style trends coming and going. This summer, we have stunning styles to emphasize light, airy, and feminine fashion. They’re functionally comfortable in the summer heat while adding fun and feminine twists to fit the latest trends. We’re taking our spring pastels and patterns trends and turning it up a notch with new fashion items to fit every wardrobe.

Tencel Cropped Pant

Cropped pants have been a summer staple for decades. The length isn’t so short that we feel exposed, but it’s also not long enough that we are left sweltering in the heat. In fact, they work together to create a perfect balance that is beautiful, fashionable, and comfortable.

Tencel has taken that level of comfort even further. This fabric is unbelievably soft and breathable. While it might feel delicate and luxurious, it is a strong, durable fabric that resists wrinkles, making it the perfect material for a flowy

summer cropped pant. The loose, airy concept offers the breathability of a skirt, but the versatility of a pant. We love this pastel blue that pairs well with any pattern for a statement-making outfit that is sure to be a hit this summer whether you’re at a backyard barbeque or running errands.

Ruffled blouse
off the shoulder floral midi dress

Ruffles

Ruffles have been in and out of style time and time again throughout history. The simple, delicate frills of fabric add dimension to create texture and intrigue in an outfit. Not every ruffle in history has been created equal, though! While fashion trends have previously boasted stacked layers upon layers of ruffles, this year, ruffles are taking a more subtle and manageable approach.

2018’s ruffles are accenting ornaments used to compliment the clothing with a feminine flair – not to drown you in layers of extra fabric. This year you will see a careful frill of a sleeve, or a delicate band of ruffle on the neckline – like on this stunning pastel blue top or our lovely spice-coloured floral peasant top. However you wear them, ruffles are sure to add the subtle feminine touch you’re looking for, for a perfectly pretty look.

Off Shoulder

Off shoulder fashions are one of the simplest and most effortless beauty trends of 2018. The demure display of skin accentuates our shoulders and collarbone for a look that is simple and stylish. Like the ruffle, it’s an easy way to add a little dimension to an outfit, while also allowing our skin to breathe.

Our off-shoulder look this year is not limited to one style, either. In fact, there are many styles to choose from! We have the cute cold-shoulder look with a loose, draping shoulder held up with a simple strap – like on this beautiful floral piece. We also have full shoulder flaunters that accentuates your neck and collarbone with in a pretty and relaxed way – like on our off-shoulder peasant tops!

Midi Dresses

For years the maxi dress has dominated style trends around the globe. With the heat of the summer, though, there’s nothing better than feeling a little more breeze. The midi dress is the perfect halfway meeting point of short and long for a style that is casual without being uncomfortably revealing or too short to be functional.

To find the perfect mid-length style, look for a dress that is just above the knees, but no longer than the mid calf. Like our off-shoulder look, the goal here isn’t to display skin, but to suggest it. For an easy summer look, find a light fabric packed with a fabulous floral pattern – like this off-shoulder printed midi dress.

floral midi dress

This summer is all about comfort and femininity. Grab your hat and sunglasses and make waves this season in style every time. To see these styles and more summer trends, visit our boutique today!

sunglasses and hat

Kitchen Gardening Basics

kitchen gardening
kitchen herb garden containers

Kitchen Gardening Basics

By Erna

“I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.”

-John Erskine

Kitchen gardens are all about making fresh garden fruits, herbs, and veggies more accessible, and there’s actually a pretty good chance that you’ve had your very own at some point, though you might not have called it that. If you have or have ever had a little cluster of herb pots by your door or a few tomato plants on a porch or balcony, you’ve basically started!

What is a Kitchen Garden, exactly?

The origins of these gardens go back to pre-revolution France. We hardly have to point out that the French are culinary masters, so their kitchen tips and tricks are ideal to steal for your own house. The French Jardin potager was different from traditional gardens in that they were designed for grazing. A big garden plot is meant to be

planted all at the same time, grown, and then harvested to be eaten or stored for later. A kitchen garden offers a treat of tasty fresh flavours at your fingertips for today’s snack or tonight’s dinner.
The kitchen garden made its way across the ocean to Canada and the United States

thyme container garden
patio herb container garden

during the World Wars, when growing food at home went from practicality to an act of patriotism. At one point in 1943, about 40% of all the produce grown in the USA was grown right at home in backyards. While they fell out of fashion for a while, we’ve recently rediscovered that garden-fresh taste and the trend has enjoyed a breath of new life.

A kitchen garden brings those fresh garden flavours right to your backdoor. It’s a place for all the plants and herbs you love to cook with for harvesting a little at a time. Think of it as your own private produce aisle just a step from your kitchen where something is always in season and ready for the table.

How to Start Your Own:

Your kitchen garden, when you get down to it, is about you and your family. It’s essentially an extension of your kitchen pantry – so start with the herbs and veggies that you love to cook with.

Start small, maybe with a couple pots of herbs. Rosemary, thyme, basil, and any other

cutting herbs from the garden

household favourites will help you to build the habit of poking your head outside to snip fresh flavour for today’s food.

Once you get into the habit of your daily trips to see what’s fresh, start thinking about adding tomatoes, salad greens, or peas to your garden. The more you use it, the bigger your garden should become.

Don’t be afraid to mismatch your kitchen garden. In the end, it’s all about the taste! Forget the matching pots and colour-coded plant tags – this is the perfect location for a bit of clutter and eclectic charm. Embrace what works for you, but don’t be afraid to leave the matching pots for the front door.

Kitchen Garden Hits and Misses:

Some tasty garden fruits and vegetables thrive in the small-scale kitchen garden while some others, unfortunately, don’t like the growing environment. We’ve got some ideas to get you started, and some warnings about what hasn’t worked for us in the past:

watering herb container garden

What works: Herbs are basically designed for kitchen gardens. They are hardy and typically easy to care for with minimal watering and lots of sun. Pick herbs that you’re going to use often because they will thrive the more you tear off of them. If you love chicken, maybe plant some thyme. If Middle-Eastern food is your flavour, try coriander.

If you want to go grow your garden, try adding some fruits and vegetables. Salad greens and cherry tomatoes are great starting points. Strawberries also make ideal container bloomers, but other berries, like blueberries or currants, are a better left in a garden bed.

What struggles: Part of planting in a container means that your plants will get tons of heat during the summer. It’s actually part of what makes them great for many of your herbs and veggies! However, veggies that prefer things on the cooler side, like broccoli and cauliflower, won’t perform well in a container. The heat will make them bolt too soon.
Plants that have long maturation times (anything over 80 days) will grow to an overwhelming size and take over your containers! Squashes and zucchini will devour your other pots with their leaves and do nothing but demand water. These plants are a better pick for a garden bed, where you can wait and wait and wait, and then harvest all at once.

colourful herb garden containers

Kitchen gardens offer the best of your garden for fresh-flavoured cooking. They are a great bridge between your kitchen and the healthiest, tastiest vegetables and fruits your backyard has to offer. They’re about what fits you and your family and home, making the best food more convenient every day

How to Train your Tomato

tomatoes
types of tomatoes

How to Train your Tomato

By Erna

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”

-Lewis Grizzard

Garden-fresh tomatoes are truly the best that our gardens have to offer us in the summer. Just being close to your tomato plants will surround you with nostalgia. Pick your harvest when it’s ripe, and you’ll swear you can taste sunshine as you bite in. They’re a juice-running-down-your-chin, Canadian classic and a local favorite for good reason.

Getting Technical: Types of Tomato

Before you even get into the hundreds of varieties and fanciful names of tomatoes, all tomatoes can be divided into two types. On one side, you have determinate tomatoes. These are usually the newer hybrids. They are well-behaved and self-contained – they’ll sit up straight, keep their hands to themselves, and they won’t need much supervision or training. They are the ideal

tomato plants

choice for small containers or gardens, as they tend to be less gangly and unruly as their cousins. These are the easier varieties to grow and will be a nearly foolproof way to get some tasty tomatoes this summer.

Indeterminates are the other option. They’re a bit more unruly, and they live by their own rules. Indeterminates are vine growers, compared to their compact cousins. They might take a bit more management, but the effort is worth it when it comes time for harvest. The world’s most delicious varieties of tomatoes (including the famously misbehaved heirlooms) are indeterminates and need a helping hand to grow.

Basic Training 

When it gets down to it, your tomato plant is a sugar factory. They take the energy from the sun they adore so much and use it (along with some reinforcements from the soil) to make its stems, leaves, and fruit. Your tomato plants are already experts at growing and ripening, but if you want the

yellow tomatoes

most fruit from your garden as possible, they’ll need some tough love to keep their fruit production in line.

Unsupervised, your plant will produce a lot of growth that won’t ripen fast enough to yield in our short summer. Pruning is absolutely essential, as is tying them to keep them in line. A well-pruned vine will channel its resources towards ripening its fruits, rather than making stems that will never end up yielding.

Tying Your Tomato

An indeterminate that is left to grow on its own will inevitably end up a tangled, green mess. This is not only frustrating to handle but prone to fungus and rot. Training (and tying) your vine correctly, however, will result in a summer full of delicious rewards. You’ll even have fruit ripening a full 2-3 weeks before untrained plants!

picking tomatoes

Your tomato supports can be as complicated as an elegant trellis, or as simple as a stick. Keep in mind while tying that the stems of your plant are very fragile, and the growing fruits become very heavy as they ripen! Avoid handling too roughly or using wire or thin twine to tie your plant. These will bite into or even completely sever your plant’s stem. Instead, use thick twine, plastic plant tape, or even strips of pantyhose tied every 6-8” just loose enough to support, without letting the plant hang too much. As flower clusters start to show, tie just above the clusters (rather than below) to avoid having the weight of the growing fruit pull the stem over.

Pruning 101

We prune our tomato plants for 3 reasons: we want to keep them healthy, to maximize our harvest by the end of the year, and to help divert resources where they are needed most to grow good fruits.

  • Prune for health: This involves punching all the side stems that grow under the first flower cluster. It might seem extreme, but the improved air circulation will help your plant to fight fungal diseases that could attack at soil level.
  • Prune for bigger harvests: As you approach the end of the growing season in the fall, you’ll need to guide your plant to divert its resources towards ripening the fruit it has started, instead of working on maturing fruits that won’t make it before the frost. Our first frost tends to be sometime in mid-September, so this process should start about a month prior. Start by “topping” – pinching off above existing fruit clusters. For bigger tomato varieties, you will also want to pinch off the smallest half of the developing clusters so that the remaining ones get all the sugars they need.
  • Prune to divert resources: Helping your plant focus on growing fruits as fall approaches is vital, but the same concept applies all year. Pinch off all the growth that doesn’t contribute to the growing tomatoes. Suckers are the first to go. You’ll find them growing at an angle out of the joint between the leaf stem and main stem. Pruning the lower branches for air circulation will have the added bonus of helping your plant be efficient with its resources, too.
tomato container garden
How-To Tips

All tomato plants are a little delicate and very prone to disease. To keep your plants safe and working hard to make your harvest, pinch with the fingers rather than using pruners. While a clean cut is nice, the old steel on your tools might hold any number of pathogens that will enter through a fresh cut on the stem.

For similar reasons, never work with your tomatoes (tying or pruning them) if they are still wet from rain or watering. The open wounds that often result from moving the vines around will be extra vulnerable to fungus transmitted from water.

Indeterminates are a challenge, but they’re perfect for the gardener that wants to put in a bit of extra effort for a lot of reward. These are among the most delicious tomatoes our Garden Centre has to offer, and we love the nostalgia that comes with taming a classic variety. We love helping you keep your garden healthy and bountiful. Come by today and talk to us about how to produce a flavourful and rewarding crop.

 

tying tomatoes

Natural Mosquito Control

mosquito
mosquitoes in Manitoba

Natural Mosquito Control

By Erna

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

– Dalai Lama

Gorgeous summer weather typically comes hand-in-hand with mosquito populations booming. These little biters are the bane of barbeques everywhere and can make it a challenge to get out to enjoy our beautiful backyards. Many of us have just learned to live with it, with the itchy bites to prove it. Just because they’re hard to avoid, though, doesn’t mean there are no options for reducing their populations.

Life of a Mosquito

Fighting to keep the mosquitoes in your yard under control can feel a lot like war. The legendary military strategist Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” We take his advice seriously and know that some basic knowledge about how mosquitos live can help us to make our homes as uninviting to them as possible.

Mosquitos are persistent and irritating, but they still have some vulnerabilities. Their life cycle (and ability to make even more biters) is chained to a few staples they need to reproduce.

standing water
mosquito on skin

Of the 3500 species of mosquitoes worldwide, our country is home to at least 176 types. Almost every variation we find here relies on some standing water to lay their eggs. The eggs can be dormant all winter and hatch in standing water in the spring, starting a new cycle of little flying vampires. The eggs hatch into larvae (called “wrigglers” by some), which spend a week in the water before becoming pupae (also called “tumblers”). They only spend a few days in this form before they become the hungry adults that we recognize.

Blood is the key ingredient in reproduction, as the protein from it is used to make more eggs to start the next generation. While it is true that the male adults don’t have the needle-like proboscis that females do, preventing them from biting, they are still needed to fertilize eggs, meaning any mosquitoes are fair game for smacking!

Fighting Back Against Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can emerge in the spring and summer and seem like an impossible army to fight. While their numbers are overwhelming, we can use our knowledge of their life cycle and sense of smell against them to reduce their numbers and repel them, before resorting to harsh chemicals.

ageratum

The key to keeping these biters away from you and your yard is to prevent more of them from hatching, to encourage predators to feast on them, and to use the power of plants to keep them away.

Prevention: Drain Standing Water

The first way to stop mosquitoes is to prevent more of them from being born. They cannot travel very far, so being diligent about eliminating places for them to breed in your yard will do a lot to reduce how many of them you face this summer.

Take a walk around your yard, especially after rain. Look for anywhere that these pests could be laying their eggs. Any standing water is suspicious, and you’ll be surprised at some of the places you find it. The most obvious culprits are garbage cans, pet water dishes, rain barrels, and bird baths. Eavestroughs can also be a nursery for these pests that remain out of sight and out of mind. If you have plugged troughs, you can bet they’ll be hatching there.

Drain all the standing water you can, and take a mental note to keep it drained after it rains. For any standing water you can’t drain, consider sprinkling some larvicide. This chemical-free solution is incredibly safe for people and pets, as it simply introduces an army of tiny predators that eat the larvae.

Repelling: Mosquito Repelling Plants

No matter how well you prevent their eggs from hatching, some of these pests will inevitably find their way into your yard. Part of the trick to enjoying your yard in peace is to use mosquito-repelling plants to make your yard as unappealing as possible. These plants may not be as effective as the industrial-strength DEET you can buy at the store, but they do provide a passive repellant that adds beauty to your yard.

Marigold as a mosquito repellent

Most people automatically think of Citronella Geraniums when they think of mosquito-repelling plants. These are definitely among the effective plants, but there is a much more extensive selection of natural repellents than many people think.

Marigolds are an innocent-looking, pretty yellow flower that repels mosquitoes and other garden pests naturally, thanks to containing the pesticide pyrethrum. In fact, many pesticides use synthesized varieties of repellents that occur naturally in plants. Ageratum has coumarin, which is found in many mosquito repellents, while catnip is a member of the mint family that mosquitoes avoid.

Reducing Numbers: Predators

While preventing them is the first step, it is also important to know how to get rid of any lingering mosquitoes you have. Luckily, mosquitoes are slow and very tasty to predators, making them a popular meal. The first step is to encourage the predators to consider your yard as a feeding ground.

First, let’s do a little myth-busting. The internet is full of claims that the Purple Martin and various types of bat are the perfect mosquito hunting machines. These predators will certainly dine on the occasional mosquito, but not enough to noticeably affect the number of biting pests in your yard. They are helpful to have around but aren’t the fix-all solution.

While Purple Martins are the most famous, other birds do an excellent job of keeping your mosquito numbers down. Barn Swallows can eat an impressive 60 per hour, and Robins, Chickadees, and Woodpeckers carry their weight, too. Keep in mind that if you’re fostering a flying mosquito-eating army, you might want to keep your cat indoors or on a leash, as they are the top bird killer in Canada.

 

Robin Bird

Dragonflies are the best natural mosquito controls you can get. These gorgeous insects are completely harmless to humans but are mosquito-munching machines. A single dragonfly can eat over 100 per day! The catch is that your dragonflies will need a pond or boggy area nearby to live, and are very sensitive to air pollution.

Avoiding mosquitoes and tolerating the occasional bite is a part of our summer routines that most of us would love to eliminate. Trying to reduce the number of mosquitoes that will make it to you is a great way to avoid these bloodsuckers, without resorting to synthetic chemicals daily. By preventing, repelling, and reducing their numbers, you’ll notice a big difference and finally be able to enjoy the outdoors at home in peace.

dragonfly on branch

Recovering Your Garden from Harsh Manitoba Winters

Recovering Your Garden from Harsh Manitoba Winters

By Erna

“Soon comes the cold and the night that never ends.”

– George R. R. Martin

This winter was a particularly harsh one. We saw it all, from the biting cold to periodic spring weather in January. This winter really took itself out on us but as the weather has turned to summer we saw that it was especially tough on our plants. With less snow cover than usual, our plants didn’t get the sheltering insulation they’re used to so they shivered away all winter. Too much cold and not much protection has left our plants stressed.

The good news is that while the plants may be stressed, we see lots of healthy signs! Many of our plants are just as tough as we are – they’re recovering well, with plenty of budding and regrowth. Some plants may not have fared so well, though. Plants from somewhat outside our Zone 3b hardiness might need some help getting back into a growing mood. Plants that are even Zone 3 and better took a beating, too! This can happen on occasion, especially with stronger winters like this one.

While it may seem like a daunting task to recover your garden this year, don’t fret! We’re here to give you some simple tips and tricks to helping your garden even when it’s stressed.

 

Recovering After Winter

After the winter ends, it’s all about playing the waiting game. Sometimes after a particularly hard winter, plants may take longer to bounce back. It can often feel like a test of patience, but giving them the time they may need may reveal healthy, thriving plants you once thought dead. You can tell if your plants are waking up by looking for simple signs of life: buds, green growth, green tissue under bark, and bendable branches.

If your plants are struggling to make a spring and summer come-back, we recommend a healthy dose of Evolve Rage Plus Organic Fertilizer.

This fertilizer comes from the Dirt n’ Grow company, based right here in Manitoba. Being from here, they know what our plants go through in the winter and can give them all they need to bounce back. Rage Plus is an amazing metabolism boost for plants at any stage. It is packed with hormones and potassium that act as a multivitamin for your plants. It gives them the nutrients they need and works to digest dead or dying roots to help bring them back to life.

Plants that don’t recover may not have stood up to everything the winter throws at us. To keep your garden full of healthy life, they will need to be replaced. If they haven’t shown any signs of a recovery by now, we’re afraid that they might not have made it. Right now is the best time at the garden centre to replace your plants, trees, and shrubs! Introducing new additions to your yard earlier in the season is ideal so that they can be well situated in your yard months before the cold weather hits, and therefore ready to take on all of our local weather challenges. If you had a plant that didn’t make it last season, we’ll be happy to help you find something that is a perfect fit for your yard – and hardy enough or easy to protect to make it through winters to come. We are at the peak of our inventory, so replacing is easier than ever.

Harsh winters often leave us worried for our gardens. Given our weather, it’s natural to be worried about your plants roughing it in the cold all winter. With a little knowledge and preparation, though, your garden can thrive even in the worst conditions Manitoba can offer. For more tips and tricks for handling our winter climate, come into the garden centre today! We’re always excited to help you take care of your plants and set your yard and garden up for success all year.

Strawberries: From Garden to Table

Strawberries: From Garden to Table

By Erna

“There is such a simple sweetness in being able to participate in creation.”

– Pamela S. Nadav

Like the rest of our garden fruits and veggies, strawberries taste best when they are fresh. They taste so great, in fact, that it might be hard to resist eating all the delicious, red gems while you pick to have enough left over for cooking with! Whether you snack in the garden or bring them to the dinner table, we have some tips and tricks for the best fresh and delicious strawberry treats in the summer.

Picking a Plant

Not every strawberry plant is the same and there are so many varieties tailored to different needs. There’s a fruiting habit for every need and it all comes down to picking what you want from your strawberries:

  • Day-Neutrals: Day Neutrals get their name from their ability to grow no matter the day’s length. Where most strawberry plants need heat and sun to produce flowers and fruit, these strawberries will continuously bloom regardless of whether the days are long or short. The only requirement they have is temperature. Once warm weather hits, these hardy plants will produce small yields all year until a hard frost sets. Here at Oakridge, we have even seen them prevail in weather as low as -30℃!
  • Everbearing: As implied by their name, these plants are fruit-producing factories. They’ll produce berries consistently all season, but less at a time than their June-bearing cousins. Constant, smaller harvests are ideal for sweet treats to graze on, and can even be saved up for pretty delicious jams. These tend to be tidier and more compact, making them great for containers and hanging baskets.
    – Alpines: This variety is sometimes considered its own branch of the strawberry family, but is actually a subspecies of the everbearers. Alpines are even smaller, creating petite fruit that is full of irresistibly sweet juice.
  • June-bearing: Among some of the most popular choices for home gardens, these plants will overflow with bountiful harvests of large berries between late spring and early summer. If you’re looking for a quick harvest that brings home bushels of berries for baking or jams, these varieties offer the heavy harvests you need.

How To Grow Sensational Strawberries

Your strawberries will want to set root in some rich and well-draining soil that is preferably a little acidic. This sounds like a tall order, but simply using compost (or sea soil) has given us great success in the past. Strawberry plants also greedily devour phosphorus and potash to create the fruits we love. You can help feed your plants by selecting fertilizers with higher middle and last numbers, or you can add a little bone meal or wood ash with your compost when you plant.

Providing the right nutrients gives your strawberries a great start, but they will want plenty of sun to create the sweet fruit you crave. This sounds simple enough! The catch is that, while they love to soak up the sun rays above ground, their delicate roots are sensitive to heat. You’ll want to choose a location for your plant that offers a good 6-8 hours of sunshine, but protect their roots with a layer of mulch to buffer the temperature. About 2 inches of wood mulch or clean straw are both natural choices that do the trick.

Water your strawberries weekly (or more if it’s particularly hot and dry out) and your strawberries will work hard to make delicious treats for you!

From the Garden to the Table

The best-tasting strawberries are undeniably from your own garden, where they straight from the stem to your taste buds. The trick for the best flavour comes down to picking at the right time. Pick your berries when they are evenly red all over, without any white or green. For an extra boost, try to pick your strawberries in the sunny mid-afternoon heat, which brings out their sugars. Pinch the stem about a ½ inch above the fruit and pick gently.

Strawberries taste amazing straight from the garden and we challenge you to have the willpower to avoid snacking as you pick. These berries are also incredibly versatile, too, making them an excellent addition to your dinner table this summer. Try mixing it up with some of our summer favourites:

  • For a fresh take on dinner, toss your garden-fresh strawberries with spinach and feta cheese for a tasty summer salad.
  • To capture that summer flavour for longer, create a strawberry jam that you can enjoy long after your garden is buried under snow.
  • For a tasty thirst-quencher, we love to add pureed and sliced garden strawberries to lemonade (or for an extra kick, with a dash or vodka and triple sec for a summer cocktail).
  • For a tasty dessert that takes advantage of that natural sweetness, toss strawberry slices with chopped rhubarb and sugar. Bake into a pie for a tangy and sweet treat that everyone will love – especially with a scoop of cold ice cream!  See below for the recipe our baker uses, here at Oakridge Cafe!

Oakridge Cafe’s
Rhubarb Strawberry Pie Recipe

From Our Table to Yours: 

This is the tried and true Rhubarb Strawberry Pie Recipe that we make here at Oakridge Cafe. With a couple cups of sliced rhubarb and strawberries and a couple other ingredients, you can bake this delicious pie yourself, and share a dessert that’s perfect for the whole family to enjoy.

Preheat the oven to 400º. Line a deep 10″ pie plate with a single pie crust. Flute the edge.

Mix the topping and set aside:
3/4 cup flour
6 tbsp butter, softened, not melted
6 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/8 tsp each cinnamon and salt

Mix the filling:
5 1/2 cups mix of sliced rhubarb and strawberries
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3-4 tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs

Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350º. Sprinkle the topping on the pie.

Turn the oven down to 350*. Sprinkle the topping on the pie.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until bubbling around the edge and golden brown. Cover with foil if it’s getting to brown. Let cool to room temp before serving.

There are tons of options for how you can take advantage of your delicious, sweet garden berries this summer. These scrumptious summer treats taste even better alongside any other garden-fresh fruits and veggies you grow. Not only will they taste better than supermarket versions, but you’ll also get all the nutritional benefits of fresh food with added the pride of growing your own food at home!

Whether you decide to eat them fresh, mix them in with dinner, drink them, or bake them, you’ll enjoy having access to the sweetest berries only a few meters from your door. Whatever flavour fits your fancy, here at the Garden Centre we’d love to help get your visions of summer strawberries get started!