Category Archives: General

How to Grow an Orchard in Manitoba

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How to Grow an Orchard in Manitoba

You don’t have to look too hard to find a gorgeous vegetable garden in Steinbach. However, when it comes to fruit, our options are a little more limited. Unlike places further South where most of our fruit at the supermarket comes from, we have a limited number of hot days throughout the year. Without that heat, it’s pretty tough to grow things like pineapples, mangoes, and citrus. However, there are still plenty of fruit trees that thrive in our Manitoba climate while offering us delicious, world-class produce.

Where to Plant Fruit Trees

If you want to grow your own private little Manitoba orchard, placement is key. Fruit trees aren’t exactly a cinch to move!

Choose a spot in your yard, ideally behind a fence, that gets ample sun exposure. The fence is important both to keep pests — like rabbits and deer — away from your tree. It also protects trees from wind, which can knock fruit off the branch prematurely.

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Apple Trees for Manitoba

With so many great hardy cultivars available, it’s no wonder Manitoba embraces the apple so much. Out in Morden, they celebrate them with the Morden Corn & Apple Festival. You can celebrate them right here in Steinbach with your very own apple trees!

Apple trees are beautiful and practical additions to your landscape. In the spring, long before harvest, the trees overflow with breathtaking, fragrant blossoms. By the late summer and fall, those pretty flowers will have grown into juicy, edible fruit.

For the best yield, you’re better off choosing two of these varieties to take home rather than just one. This is because each of these apples needs a second apple tree of a different variety for pollination. If you already have an apple or crabapple tree in your yard, that will do!

Norkent Apple Tree – This popular apple has a sweet flavour and crisp texture. The skin is light green with scarlet red stripes. A great choice for fresh eating, cooking, and baking. Hardy to zone 2b.

Parkland Apple Tree – These tasty apples are a fantastic all-purpose fruit. The apples are attractive with pale yellow-green skin and a red blush. Good for fresh eating, cooking, baking, and storing. Hardy to zone 2.

Goodland Apple Tree – While known to be a more high-maintenance tree, Goodland apples have some of the best flavour of all the hardy apples. They have green skin and a reddish blush that looks as amazing as they taste. Fresh eating is the best way to enjoy a Goodland, but they’re good for cooking as well. Hardy to zone 3a, Goodlands are a better fit for properties a little further west of Steinbach.

Fall Red Apple Tree – Like the Goodland apple, Fall Red has a great flavour and texture for fresh eating. The skin has more of a red colour than the Goodland. Fall Reds are great for fresh eating and cooking and are hardy to zone 2.

Other Fruit Trees for Manitoba

Are you not much of an apple person but love the idea of owning a fruit tree? Here are a few delicious alternatives from the prunus family. Like apples, these fruit trees offer a fabulous spring display and yummy fruit in the summer.

Westcot Apricot – If you’re in zone 3a, the Westcot apricot is a lovely fruit option that produces sweet, juicy fruit with a showy, peachy-orange colour. Eat them fresh or cook them into jams and jellies.

Cupid Cherry – A beautiful and hardy cherry, Cupid is a cultivar developed in Saskatchewan that performs in colder climates. A compact option, Cupid is actually a cherry shrub, reaching only about 8 feet in height. The fruit is dark red, juicy, and sweet with a mild, astringent quality. Hardy to zone 2a.

Caring for Fruit Trees

Once you take your tree home, proper care is vitally important to ensure the tree establishes properly and bears fruit as quickly as possible.

Prepare the soil by adding compost and removing all weeds from the area before you plant. Once the tree is planted (per the guidelines from our garden specialists), water the roots deeply. Keep soil moist consistently for the first full season of planting by watering 2-3 times per week. Using mulch can help the soil retain moisture and prevent weed competition.

After the first year, continue to water weekly to biweekly during the growing season until the tree is well-established.

Fertilize fruit trees with a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer. Apply fertilizer immediately after watering for best results. Always follow the fertilizer package directions to find out how much to use and how often to apply.

Once your fruit tree is established, it’ll quickly become part of the family. There’s nothing better than picking fresh fruit with your kids or grandkids at the height of the season! Except, perhaps, serving a Thanksgiving pie made from the fruits of your little Manitoba orchard.

Designing a Perennial Garden or Border

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Designing a Perennial Garden or Border

Shopping for new and trendy annuals every spring and summer is certainly fun and exciting, and it keeps your garden looking fresh. But without some reliable perennials, your garden may end up looking a bit dishevelled. Perennials add structure, visual anchors, and develop the landscape of your whole yard.

Perennial Garden or Border

You can plan a bed that’s entirely perennials or you can tuck perennials into the borders of your beds and let perennials and annuals complement each other. Planting perennials as the borders to your garden is the perfect way to build your favourite blooms into the actual landscape of your garden. They are a great way to add a lot of impact to your garden with only a little bit of effort.

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Perennial Borders

Borders give your garden clean lines and act as a frame for your landscape. There is plenty to consider when planning your perennial garden, though—things like size, type of perennial, colour and time of blooms and foliage, style, and growth habit. Remember you are making a commitment to supporting the style or function of the rest of your garden. Consider these questions while planning: Do you want pretty flowers that will draw in pollinators every season? Or maybe a gorgeous bloom that you’re in love with and want to see year after year? Perhaps a beautiful texture or growth pattern that compliments your garden and landscape?

 

Building Your Own Perennial Border

Many people think that our perennials are limited by our harsh winters, but there are so many colourful and exciting options to choose from that are hardy for the area around Steinbach. Here are a few things to think about when planning to add stunning perennials into your landscape:

 

Texture and Shape 

A perennial border is a great opportunity to mix in some of our favourite native plants that have great textures. Using something low-growing with a great texture, like a creeping plant, or mounding flowers, like Hen and Chicks, Creeping Thyme, or Yellow Sundrops—these will give you something a little different than the bold vertical lines that you get from various ornamental grasses or perennials, like Karl Foerster Grass or Black-Eyed Susans, which are also different from the semi-tropical vibes you’ll get from hostas.

Choose textures in your border that either compliment or mimic the surrounding landscape—or choose something with a function, like using taller perennials as a privacy screen along fences or the edge of your yard. What better way to highlight your home and landscape than with plants that bring a style of their own!

 

Location, Location, Location 

Perennial borders are a good way to squeeze out some beauty from every part of your yard, so don’t be afraid to mix it up! You can tuck perennials into the tiniest of spaces to add unexpected pops of beauty. Additionally, think of how they can be used with your existing landscape, like fences, gardens, patios, and walkways.

 

Sun and Shade Perennials 

Don’t be afraid to embrace the full sun with colourful flowers like Coneflowers, Peonies, and Stonecrops. For shadier parts of your yard, you can fill them with gorgeous plants like Hostas, Daylilies, Irises, or Bugloss.

Pollinator Favorite Perennials
Native plants are the perfect option to make your garden a favourite with pollinators. They’ll love having access to the plants they recognize and love, and having them return year after year will help your garden flourish. Pollinators are welcome visitors not only for the help they give your plants but also for their pretty appearances!

Plan and Plant an All-Season Look 

Choosing bright foliage, like a Japanese Aralia or a Gold Heart Bleeding Heart, in addition to brilliant blooms is an easy way to make sure that your garden looks top-notch all season. You can select different perennials that have blooming times spread all across the season so that there’s always something that’s bursting with flowers and colour for you to enjoy.

Stage Your Look 

Just like any good elementary school choir, you’ll want your tallest in the back, the shortest in the front, and your stars right in the centre for everyone to see. Organize your perennials to fill your border and draw the eye through the flowerbed, just like you’d plant a container, but bigger! When you bring your new perennials home, take some time to set them out in your perennial bed in their pots. This way, you can stand back and visualize how they’ll look in the ground and move them around. Try them in a few different spots before you put them in the ground. Also, remember to incorporate and repeat the same colours throughout the garden for a more cohesive look.

Winterize Your Perennial Border 

Many gardeners get nervous about our Steinbach winters, and it’s understandable. It can be intimidating to plant something and hope that it will tough out the worst of the winter and emerge ready to thrive next year, but it’s easier than we think!

Choosing native plants and those that are hardy to our zone (3b) is the first step towards perennial success. While you can usually baby some zone 4 plants through the winter by covering them with leaves or flax straw, sticking to plants in zone 3 or tougher will be a much less stressful way to make your perennials anchor your garden.

To help ease your plants into the winter (and to make your perennial garden look even more polished), try adding a layer of mulch after you plant so that the roots of your plants will be better insulated when the mercury drops.

A perennial garden is a great way to add lasting style to your yard to keep things stress-free when it comes to designing an annual show of colour. They offer a great look for any landscape while also being a fantastic boost to your garden’s health. And with so many options that are both pretty and functional, it’s easy to get excited about adding perennials to your yard!

Lawn Care Calendar

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Lawn Care Calendar

We’ve been experiencing a bit of drought here in Steinbach—although the last few days of continuous rain may have us feeling like less of one—and our lawns are bearing the brunt of it! A lot of folks have been asking how best to keep their lawns from drying out. The truth, in short, is that proper lawn care throughout the year is the key to drought-proofing. This lawn maintenance calendar can help you improve the quality of your lawn next year. Luckily, even if you’ve skipped overseeding this spring, you can still reverse lawn damage by starting today.

Spring Lawn Care

Your lawn maintenance schedule in the spring is much more demanding than what you can expect for the rest of the year. However, if you move fast with spring care, your lawn will be much easier to manage for the rest of the year.

Clear Debris – Rake out the lawn to clear branches, thatch, and leftover leaves from the year before.

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Aerate the Lawn – Soils in Steinbach, like other areas of Manitoba, tend to be clay-based, which leads to compaction. Aeration is important for reintroducing oxygen into the soil ecosystem and allowing fertilizers and grass roots to penetrate deep into the soil.

Apply First Application of Fertilizer – Apply a good, quality timed-release fertilizer in early to mid-May. We recommend ProScape 33-0-11 or, if you’re looking for an organic alternative, Evolve has a great one! Use a rotary spreader for even, quick application. Apply fertilizer on a dry lawn and then water immediately to dissolve the formula into the roots.

Topdress – Adding fresh, new, compost-enriched soil over the aerated area supplements the compacted clay with soil that is easier for grass seeds to establish in.

Overseed – Hand seed or use a rotary spreader to apply fresh grass seed to replace dead grass from the year before. Water deeply after planting.

Irrigate – Water grass daily until the grass seed has germinated and grown a few inches. Then slowly space out waterings further apart to encourage grass roots to grow deeper into the soil.

Manage Pet Damage – If your pets relieve themselves on your lawn in the wintertime, you’ll likely notice some brown, dead areas. Repair these areas by de-thatching, aerating the area, and applying some Evolve Dog Patch Repair, which does an amazing job at reversing damage quickly and effectively. Then, topdress the area with fresh soil enriched with compost and overseed with new grass seed. Allow the new grass to establish before mowing.

 

Summer Lawn Care

In the summer, most of your lawn care time will be spent keeping the grass at the right height. Meanwhile, these additional tasks will also keep your lawn looking its best.

Apply Second Application of Fertilizer – Use a rotary spreader to apply the second application within the first two weeks of July.

Mow High – Cut grass to about 4 inches in height in the summer to help with water retention. This also helps prevent weed growth, as less sunlight hits the soil surface, therefore impeding the germination of weed seeds.

Water Deeply – Water your lawn early in the morning as needed. It’s a much better idea to water your lawn generously, but infrequently, as opposed to frequent light watering. This is especially important during times of drought.

Fall Lawn Care

In the fall, lawn care is about preparing the area for winter and the following spring. You’ll thank yourself in May!

Rake Well – Remove fallen leaves and thatch regularly to prevent breeding grounds for pests and diseases.

Cut Lawn Before the Snow – A final mow should be done toward the end of the season. This prevents you from needing to remove a layer of heavy, dead grass from the yard after the melt.

Apply a Fall Application of Fertilizer – A lawn that lasts even the coldest Manitoba winters has excellent roots, and a fall application of fertilizer is a great way to promote root development that will transform your lawn into an overwintering pro!

Overseed – Overseeding your lawn in fall allows the spring melt and change in temperature to germinate the seeds early on in the spring. You do not have to overseed in both spring and fall, but you should overseed at least once per year. If you choose to overseed in fall, try to time it just before a snowfall so you don’t need to water the lawn.

 

Lawn Maintenance Through the Year

These best practices will keep your lawn looking enviable all year:

Weed Control – The weeds we have in Steinbach are relentless, so a strong weed control plan is always a good thing to have. Check your lawn for weeds daily and hand-pull them so you can remove them before the roots grow too deep. If you must use a chemical herbicide, apply it only to very stubborn weeds and follow the package directions precisely. If your lawn has a serious weed problem, you can apply corn gluten to the lawn early in the spring to suppress weed seeds from germinating. However, this will also suppress the germination of your grass seed if applied in the same time frame. Wait 60 days after spreading corn gluten before topdressing and overseeding with grass seed.

Mowing – Mowing too often can stress out your lawn. Leave a height of 2.5-3 inches in spring and fall, and around 4 inches in summer. Wipe down your mower blades with an oily rag after every use to keep the blades sharp. Sharp mower blades are an easy way to prevent lawn damage and disease.

 

Lawn care is a big task, but as the saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Timed right, a little water and elbow grease can keep your lawn looking green, healthy, and beautiful.

The Kids’ Garden

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The Kids Garden

Those of us with children are always looking for ways to spend time together while enriching their lives. However, finding an activity that engages both the interests of a child and their parent is easier said than done. Starting a kids garden project is one of those rare activities that every generation in the family can enjoy. 

The benefits of gardening in early childhood can be felt throughout your child’s life. Kids can learn how plants develop, and what it means to nurture new life. Especially here in Steinbach, we know first-hand how valuable it is to understand how food is grown. These ideas are fun ways to spend time with your children while teaching them gardening fundamentals.

Garden Activities for Toddlers

Very young children are a ton of fun to involve in the garden. Get kids aged two to four excited about the garden ecosystem with these projects!

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Egg Carton Seed Sprouter – Teach kids about seeding indoors! With your little one, bring a cardboard egg carton, a small bag of fresh compost-enriched soil, and a variety of seeds outside. Show your child how to fill them carton and let them have fun getting messy. Then, show them how to plant the seeds. They can pick different seeds to plant in each egg compartment. Water the carton and place it next to a sunny window with a plastic tray set underneath to catch runoff. Watch together as the sprouts begin to poke out and make a daily ritual of checking on the carton together.

Garden Buddies – While out walking together, have your toddler collect interesting shaped rocks. Take them home and use water-based paints to paint the rocks like frogs, insects, and flowers. Then. let your child decorate your yard or garden with their painted pals.

Taste Test – Help your toddler appreciate fruits and veggies early on by creating a sensory board of sliced fruit and vegetables. Ask them which colours they notice, which fruits and vegetables look similar, and whether they also taste similar. Try a variety of treats, like berries, cucumbers, carrots, apples, bananas, and small florets of broccoli.

What time of day should I water my plants? The best times to water your plants are in the early morning or in the early evening. At these times, the heat and sunlight aren’t at their peak, which gives your plants more time to absorb moisture before the sun begins to evaporate the water in the container. Well-hydrated plants are less likely to die prematurely, especially in the blazing Manitoba summer sun. You can help containers retain moisture by applying a layer of mulch over the soil—just make sure you leave a little room between the mulch and your plant stems.

Garden Ideas for Kids

Kids love to explore the natural world. Teaching children about gardening is easy and fun with these kids’ garden activities for ages five and up.

Plant a Kids Garden – Set aside a small plot, or a single container, in your outdoor space to act as your child’s very own garden. Show your child how to mix in compost with the soil and explain why it’s important. Once you’ve prepared the soil, take them with you to a garden centre (visit us if you’re in the Steinbach area!) and help them choose seeds that will grow quickly. Let them plant their garden and make it a part of your after-school routine to check on the garden. Show them how to check soil moisture with their fingers and water when the garden is dry.

Bean-in-a-Bag – For this fun activity, you’ll need a few dry kidney beans, a few sheets of paper towels, and a Ziploc sandwich bag. Show your child how to stuff the bag very loosely with paper towels. Get them to place one or two kidney beans in the bag and add enough water that the paper towels are damp but not sopping. Then seal the bags and hang them in front of a sunny window with a piece of tape. Your child will be able to see every day how much the bean sprout has developed. Once the bean has sprouted enough, you can re-plant it together into your garden or into a small pot.

Pet Earthworm – Teach your child about soil composition, and how to care for a very low-maintenance pet! With your child, use a set of measuring cups to layer sand and fresh soil in a large clear plastic container. Poke holes in the lid for ventilation and add enough water to dampen the soil. On the surface, add a few pieces of compostable waste, like coffee grounds, an old lettuce head, and a banana peel. Then, go hunting for earthworms together! Once your child has found one or two, place them in the container and keep the container on a sunroom, balcony, or in the backyard. Your child can look for the earthworms as they crawl around, watch how the compost breaks down, and keep them alive with more compost and water.

The Best Plants for Kids

Choosing plants for kids adds a few considerations to the selection process. Naturally, you’ll want to pick plants that are very easy to care for and that grow well in Steinbach soil conditions. It’s also important to consider what the child will find most rewarding about the plant.

Does it attract pollinators? Kids who love animals are fascinated by the bumblebees and butterflies that frequent pollinator plants!

Does it grow fast? Kids have much less patience than adults!

Is it edible? Growing something snackable might feel more rewarding to a young child.

Are the seeds easy to handle? Tiny seeds are difficult for tiny fingers to manipulate. Larger seeds are simpler to handle.

Does the plant have different textures? Kids are amazed by plants that grow in interesting shapes or feel interesting to the touch.

Is it a plant the child would recognize? It’s exciting for children when their tiny seed grows into something they recognize from real life or cartoons, like sunflowers or carrots.

These plants tend to be a hit with kids:

– Sunflowers
– Nasturtiums
– Lettuce
– Radishes
– Carrots
– Snow Peas
– Cherry Tomatoes
– Cilantro
– Marigolds

Kids are naturally fascinated by the world around them, and the world of gardening lets them learn so much about it on a pint-sized scale. With a little encouragement and these fun activities, you might be raising a gardener for life.

Maintaining Outdoor Containers

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Maintaining Outdoor Containers

Planting in containers is the easiest, most versatile way to garden. We always recommend container gardening to beginners to help you “get your hands dirty” (quite literally!) and learn the basics of plant care. It’s exciting to choose some pretty containers and some equally gorgeous annuals to fill it up, but once everything has been planted—then what?

Learning how to care for potted plants is no more complicated than taking them home and planting them! Here are our best tips for keeping your outdoor containers looking vibrant into the fall.

Keeping Outdoor Containers Trimmed & Tidy

The key to maintaining container gardens is to keep them from looking unkempt. Unkempt plants will throw off the balance of your container design or detract from the beauty of your plants with unsightly dead material. Here are a few questions we often hear from new container gardeners at our garden centre:

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What time of day should I water my plants? The best times to water your plants are in the early morning or in the early evening. At these times, the heat and sunlight aren’t at their peak, which gives your plants more time to absorb moisture before the sun begins to evaporate the water in the container. Well-hydrated plants are less likely to die prematurely, especially in the blazing Manitoba summer sun. You can help containers retain moisture by applying a layer of mulch over the soil—just make sure you leave a little room between the mulch and your plant stems.

How much water is enough? Plants should generally be watered when the first inch or so of soil feels dry. In the cooler months of the growing season, like late May and early June, this may happen only every few days. In the heart of summer, you can expect to water your plants daily or even twice a day for smaller or shallower containers. 

When you water, water the soil and not the plant leaves to keep disease at bay. Water thoroughly enough that water emerges from the drainage holes at the bottom of the container, but make sure the water can drain through the soil. If your soil has poor drainage and water is pooling in the container, your plants will be susceptible to rot. Amend your soil with peat or another amendment to improve drainage as soon as possible.

When should I cut back my plants? There’s an element of design preference when it comes to trimming back plants. For instance, you may have a Creeping Jenny vine that you want to cascade bountifully out of the side of your container, whereas another gardener may prefer a few tendrils of vines peeking down. However, there are two other common-sense times when trimming back is appropriate.

The first is if a part of your plant appears diseased, dead, or dried out. To prevent the issue from spreading to the rest of the plant, trim off these bits so your plant can focus on generating new, healthy growth. The other is if your plants have begun to overwhelm the other plants in your container. If it appears one of your plants is getting buried in the foliage of another, trim strategically so each plant has its time in the sun.

How much should I trim off my potted plants? When you start out trimming container plants, you may be concerned about taking off too much. As long as you trim back no more than ⅓ of the plant at a time, your plant should bounce back just fine. It’s also extremely important to leave plenty of foliage on the plant, which allows the plant to photosynthesize sunlight into energy.

 

Fertilizer for Outdoor Containers

Fertilizer is often an intimidating topic for fledgeling gardeners, but it doesn’t have to be. Container gardeners especially should learn the basics of using fertilizer, as containers are small, enclosed environments that need to have their soil replenished with nutrients regularly. Here are some of our most popular fertilizer questions for container gardens.

What is the best fertilizer for container plants? You may not love this answer, but it depends. The plant variety is much more important than the container when it comes to choosing the correct fertilizer. Fertilizers for flowering plants will need a different nutrient balance than fertilizers for foliage plants, so it’s best to ask one of our garden centre specialists for help when selecting your formula. 

How often do you fertilize container plants? This also depends on the fertilizer product you use. Always follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging—it provides the details of how much to apply for the amount of soil in your container, how to apply it, and how often.

What’s the difference between liquid fertilizer vs. dry fertilizer for potted plants? Liquid fertilizers are normally applied as you water your plants. There are both synthetic and organic formulas available, but the downside to these fertilizers is they need to be applied more often. This is because these fertilizers are water-soluble and drain through the container as you water your plants. Slow-release fertilizers, on the other hand, come as a solid medium you add to the soil that releases nutrients little by little. Both kinds of fertilizers can be very useful, it comes down to the plants you’re growing and your personal preference.

 

Prolonging the Blooming Period

One of the simplest tricks to keeping your container flowers looking great is to deadhead or pinch off spent blooms. While it may seem counterintuitive to pluck off flowers, deadheading prolongs the blooming period and encourages the plant to produce more flower buds. If spent blooms are left on the plant, the plant will begin to sense the season is ending and stop producing new flowers altogether.

Healthy, great-looking containers are a major asset for your yard. Just about any outdoor space can be enhanced with a pot or two of vibrant flowers and foliage within view. By taking a little time each day to tend to your containers, you and your plants can soak up every sweet moment of our precious summer days.

Planting Your New Tree

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Planting Your New Tree

Trees are some of the most important features of our landscapes. They provide shade, beauty, and structure to a property, and they add value to the home. Especially for families, trees often hold a great deal of sentimental value. From tire swings to treehouses, some of our most precious memories couldn’t have happened without our beloved trees.

As our communities grow and our landscapes change, many newer homes tend to lack mature trees. Planting just one new tree makes a tangible, long-lasting difference in an entire community. That tree is likely to stay on the property much longer than you will, and every year it’ll give a little more back. From its earliest days, your new tree will produce oxygen, then soon after it will become a shelter for wildlife. Then, someday, it will become a landmark that will always remind someone of home.

The Best Time of Year to Plant a Tree

The best time to plant a new tree is when the tree has gone dormant. Early spring is the most favourable time to plant a new tree, as the tree is just beginning to wake up and the air isn’t too warm yet. If you can get the tree or shrub into the ground before the buds burst into leaves, the timing will be just right for them to settle in and enjoy their new home before the temperature rises.

However, despite common belief, summer planting is not entirely out of the question! While there certainly is more possibility for transplanting stress in the summer, planting a pot-grown tree can be done anytime as long as you can get a shovel in the ground. 

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With the increased temperature, though, when planting in summmer it is important to remember to water thoroughly and regularly to keep the root ball from drying out. We recommend a generous drink every third day or so.

Planting a New Tree

Choose a location for your tree that will look attractive and suit the environment the tree is adapted to. For instance, if the tree prefers a wetter environment, a lower area in the landscape will collect more water during rainfall.

Before you plant your tree, make sure you’ve got some black earth on hand to backfill the space between the tree’s root ball and the surrounding ground. Fresh black soil has air pockets that will allow new roots to pass through easily as the tree establishes, whereas compacted old soil may be tougher for the new roots to penetrate. Allow several inches of space around the root ball. The tree’s label will tell you how much space is recommended.

The hole itself should be about the same depth as the root ball so the tree can be planted level with the ground. After planting, water the tree well and lay down a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds from sprouting in the fresh soil.

Your New Tree’s First Year

During your tree’s first spring and summer, water it well every 10-14 days to help it establish. Continue watering until the ground begins to freeze in the late fall. Freshly planted trees are much more vulnerable than established trees, so be very careful not to run over the root ball or bump the trunk with a lawn mower or weed whacker. Mulch the tree within about a foot and a half radius of the trunk to prevent the need for lawn tools near the planting site— just be sure not to pile up mulch around the base, because this could lead to rotting.

If you’re concerned about your new tree surviving its first Manitoba winter, try wrapping the tree. We carry a few tree wrap materials to help you guard your tree against harsh frost and wind. Our staff can help you choose the right wrap for your tree species.

A new tree is a significant investment in your landscape— one that you’ll grow to love more and more each year. As your tree matures and grows, it will begin to shape the way you and others see your property. With the right start, your new tree will be on its way to enjoying a long and healthy life.

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised Bed Gardening

Especially at this time of year, when the weather is precarious and the threat of frost isn’t altogether gone, we’re all too aware of how precious the warm weather is. While we love our four distinct seasons in Manitoba, as gardeners we always wish the growing season was a little bit longer. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can gain a bit more control over our growing conditions by building a raised garden bed.

Benefits of Raised Gardening

Raised garden beds solve a lot of the issues we face when planting directly into the ground. Not unlike the difference between heating a kettle of water and heating a swimming pool, soil that sits in our yards takes far longer to reach a warm and cozy seeding temperature than the soil we keep above ground in a raised bed. While we still need to keep our eye on the forecast, this allows us to plant some cool-weather tolerant varieties a little earlier than may be advisable in our standard garden beds.

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However, there are even more benefits to raised bed gardening. It’s far easier to control the environment in a raised bed, as we can simply replace all the soil with fresh, sterile soil and compost any time we need to start again. The contained environment is also far less vulnerable to pests and weeds, making it a suitable place to grow our more finicky annuals and edibles. Plus, it’s much easier to spend hours tending the raised bed, as the need to bend over is virtually eliminated.

Building Raised Garden Beds

There are several ways to build raised beds, but the most traditional way is with wood. Also known as ‘garden boxes’, wooden raised beds are a fairly simple woodworking project for anyone who isn’t afraid of a few boards and nails. There are many raised garden bed plans available online that vary in difficulty, so it should be a snap to find a project that isn’t too intimidating.

When choosing your plan, keep in mind the plants you hope to grow and how much room you’ll need to house them. Consider spacing, planting depth, and the room those root systems will need. Unless you have other beds you can transplant into, you’ll want to ensure your plants will be able to reach maturity comfortably inside the bed.

Some raised bed plans include raised walls, which offers a little extra wind cover. If the plan you choose doesn’t involve a higher wall, try to position the planter near a fence or wall that can shield plants a little from strong gusts.

Due to the weight of the finished garden bed, most folks choose to build them in the same spot the garden bed will sit. Keeping in mind that it will be hard to move it once it’s built, choose a nice spot for your garden bed before you build. A little bit of dappled shade isn’t a bad idea since raised beds tend to dry out a little faster than your typical garden soil. You’ll still want to make sure your plants are getting plenty of sunlight, but unless you plan to check on them frequently, choose a spot that will offer a little cover from the sun midday.

When choosing a raised bed style, don’t discount the importance of height. While many people are perfectly happy with a simple raised bed that’s just a foot or so higher than the ground, those with back problems may prefer one that sits on wooden legs or cinder blocks. The closer to hip-height your garden bed is, the easier it will be to work in. While a higher design may add some extra steps and materials to the building process, it’s important to consider how important that long-term benefit could be!

How to Choose Wood for Building a Raised Garden Bed

Like any permanent fixture in our gardens, materials make a huge difference in the longevity and appearance of a garden box. Most home renovation and hardware stores sell raised garden bed kits that have already been cut and partially assembled to make setup easy but beware of kits that are far cheaper than the rest. The heat, moisture, and bacteria that will inevitably fill your garden bed will lead to a faster breakdown of cheap woods, so your kit should ideally contain parts made from cedar or redwood.

These woods are ideal choices due to the oils in the fibres that naturally protect against rot and infestation. Cedar has an especially pleasant aroma, which can be reminiscent of a trip to the sauna. Redwood and cedar planks and kits may cost more than other woods, but they’ll pay for themselves as the years go on and you’re not left repeatedly replacing your garden bed!

Straw Bale Gardens

If you’re not dead-set on the look of a constructed garden bed, straw bales are an excellent choice for a maintenance-free raised garden! The straw functions as a great growing medium, as it boasts great drainage and plenty of slowly-degrading organic matter. A little extra soil on top can help keep plants in place as they establish, and then all they need is a little watering.

To make a straw bale garden, purchase a wheat straw bale and move it to an area with full sun in your garden. Place a barrier, like landscaping fabric or even newspaper, between the bale and the ground to prevent weeds from entering the bale. For two weeks, water the bale every day, fertilizing every other day with high nitrogen (or a higher first number) fertilizer. For the second week, add the fertilizer at half-strength for the first three days and switch to plain water for the last four days.

This process helps the straw start to compost and break down. To confirm the bed is breaking down properly, you should notice the temperature of the straw bale is noticeably higher. It may also be starting to show small specks of soil forming on the hay.

If you wish to sow seeds in your bale, add a little extra potting soil on top of the bale and plant as you would any other garden bed. To plant seedlings, gently separate the hay to make holes for your seedlings and secure them with some potting soil. Finish planting by watering thoroughly to help your new garden settle in.

Straw bale gardens work just as well as raised vegetable gardens or raised flower beds, but they do expire quickly. You should expect to need a replacement bale each year. If you have access to bales and you like the rustic country look of straw in your garden, they’re a low-cost option that’s perfect for beginners.

 

Raised garden beds are excellent options for those who have a hard time with ground-level gardening, with a little more room to grow than a typical container. With total control over the growing environment, raised beds may even enable you to grow plants you never would have considered trying out. If the usual plant maintenance chores have gotten harder on your body, a raised bed may be just what you need to reinvigorate your passion for gardening!

Incorporating Tropicals in Your Outdoor Containers

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Incorporating Tropicals in Your Container Garden

Most of us know and love tropicals as cheerful houseplants. As tough as it is to replicate their natural environment in the middle of a Manitoba winter, we certainly appreciate the little touch of the tropics to get us through! In the summertime, however, not everyone knows that we can bring some of that island aesthetic outside. In fact, incorporating tropicals into our container garden design is a great way to create a “staycation” destination in our own backyards. That’s especially great news for those of us who are passing on trips abroad this year!

Can I Plant Tropicals Outside in Manitoba?

With most of us sitting firmly in Zone 3 territory, it’s reasonable to be reserved about bringing tropicals outside. The fact of the matter is, though, while our growing season is famously short, our summers are perfectly hospitable to tropical plants! In fact, the best thing we can do for our existing tropical houseplants is to let them soak up all the extra sun possible during the warmer months. This is especially true if the plant has started to lean toward the sun, a major hint that the plant is craving more light. Treating them to direct sunlight is the least we can do after keeping them cooped up all year!

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Caring for Tropicals Outdoors

It goes without saying that our region is a long way from the tropics, but tropical plants are a lot more adaptable than we might give them credit for.

Sunlight is what tropicals crave the most (and even so, there are a fair number that are more adapted to the shady rainforest floor). When you think about it, sunlight is abundant here—in the summertime. We often forget that our summer days are much longer than the global average, so tropicals have a large window to get the minimum amount of sunlight they need during those warm July days. Allow them to adjust gradually by moving them into a brighter location, like a sunroom or gazebo, before moving them into direct light. If a plant appears to be yellowing, it may even be better off in a spot that gets some relief from the sun midday.

Watering is seldom an issue for outdoor tropicals. Manitoba summers can get fairly humid, which tropicals love, but we also get a fair amount of rain. Tropicals are adapted to moist soil and often prefer their soil to dry out between waterings, so enjoying the odd rain shower with the occasional watering suits them just fine.

Fertilizer for tropicals should have a lower middle number (phosphorus) than most flowering plants. Select a fertilizer specifically made for tropicals and follow the package directions for application.

Space can be an issue for larger species, like philodendrons, who tend to grow very large very fast in the right conditions. Make sure your container has the right space to accommodate your tropicals’ growing habits and keep an eye on them in case they need to be trimmed back.

Styling Tropicals in Your Container Garden

As with all container gardens, the rule of thumb is to include a thriller, a filler, and a spiller to balance the look and proportions of the arrangement. Since you’ll be fertilizing tropicals differently than most of your other plants, it makes the most sense to plant tropicals with other tropicals. This will also keep your arrangement looking cohesive. Here are some examples of tropicals to incorporate in your container garden design.

Tropical Thrillers

  • Palms
  • Croton
  • Canna Lily
  • Elephant’s Ear
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Philodendron
closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones
closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

Tropical Fillers

  • Lantana
  • New Guinea impatiens
  • Dragon Wing Begonia
  • Cuphea
  • Ctenanthe
  • Succulents, like Leatherpetal or Ghost-plant

Tropical Spillers

  • Alternantera
  • Fittonia
  • Pilea
  • Peperomia
  • Clematis
  • Jasmine

Overwintering Tropicals

Keeping tropicals in containers makes it easy to bring them inside when the weather becomes less-than-ideal. In the fall, as soon you feel the urge to wear a light jacket, bring your tropicals back inside. Tropicals can’t handle frost, and it’s best not to tempt fate. Switch to a monthly dose of a balanced fertilizer during the cool months and keep them under a grow lamp in the evenings before bed when the days get short.

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Even though they come from far away, tropicals are happy to vacation outside with us while the weather is warm! Incorporating them into your outdoor container design is a fabulous way to enjoy them while they best suit the season.

The Basics of Soils and Soil Amendments

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The Basics of Soils and Soil Amendments

By Erna

As much as we all need soil, not many of us can say it’s our favourite part of our gardens. To a beginner gardener, soil may seem like a necessary mess that doesn’t seem too exciting at all. With experience, however, we can start to appreciate soil as a living organism that performs a lot of different functions to keep our plants healthy. Furthermore, like any living thing, our soil also needs to be nourished to stay productive.

What Exactly is Soil?

Soil is made from water, organic matter, gas, minerals, and network of living organisms. All soils are complete ecosystems, just like the forest or the sea, and are home to thousands of bacteria that play important roles in helping plant roots absorb nutrients.

When we talk about soil in a gardening context, we often focus on a soils tendency to drain or retain water and its content of 

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organic matter. When we’re just buying bags of soil, we often have the luxury of bags and labels that help us match the soil to the needs of our plants. When it comes to the soil we already have, however, it can get a bit more complicated. It’s up to us to determine the soil types on our property and to “diagnose” issues that may be holding back the performance of our gardens.

Soil Types

Soil types fit into six main categories, each with their pros and cons. They are:

  • Sandy – Composed of coarse mineral particles, sandy soil tends to allow water to pass through quickly.
  • Chalky – Chalky soil has a hard time holding onto both water and nutrients, and often contains a lot of rocks.
closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones
  • Clay – Clay soil contains fine mineral particles, which hold onto moisture so well, it tends to pack down and impede airflow.
  • Silty – Silty soil has a similar texture to clay soil but contains more soil nutrients due to a higher concentration of organic matter.
  • Peaty – Peaty soil is high in organic matter but tends to be very acidic.
  • Loamy – The “gold standard” of soils, loamy soils have the best qualities of each type: nice drainage and airflow, high concentration of soil nutrients, and just-right water retention.

What Are Soil Amendments?

While just about every soil type is favoured by at least some plants, the soil we have isn’t always hospitable to the plants we want. Soil amendments are additives that allow us to “treat” soil problems by adjusting the overall composition of the soil. From drainage issues to an undesirable pH, soil amendments can help us adjust our soils to create a better environment for our plants over time.

Uses of Common Soil Amendments

Once you have your soil “diagnosis”, you can remedy issues with the many amendments we carry in-store. The most common ones are:

Compost/Manure – Organic matter is important to add soil nutrients and improve the structure of clay, sandy, and chalky soils.

 

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

Water retention aids – Shredded bark mulch, peat moss, and vermiculite are highly absorbent and prevent sandy and chalky soils from drying out too quickly.

Gypsum – Like organic matter, gypsum adds nutrients and structure to the soil but breaks down at a slower rate to improve soil quality over the long-term.

 

There are many other soil amendments available for more challenging soils. If you’ve been struggling with keeping your plants going, talk to us during your next visit to our garden centre and we’d be happy to offer advice. With a proper plan of action, just about any soil can be transformed into a healthy home for your prized plants!

The Gardener’s Book List

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The Gardener’s Book List

In Manitoba, it can be tough to feel cheerful in February early March. The short days, bone-chilling temperatures, and snow-clogged roads all remind us how long it will be before we’ll see any signs of life outside. But during this time of year, the best thing we can do is embrace it!

The days may be short, but perhaps that can motivate us to find creative ways of bringing light into our spirits. The roads may not always be clear, but maybe we can use the time indoors to start dreaming up our master plan for this year’s annuals and edibles. The mercury may be plunging, but perhaps that means it’s the perfect time to curl up and ‘plunge’ into a good book in front of the fireplace. And perhaps we can do all three of these things at once. Here are some fabulous gardening books to pick up this month.

Colour Your Garden: Exciting Mixtures of Bulbs and Perennials by Jacqueline van der Kloet

Fans of bulbs and perennials will love this guide for capturing and enhancing the colours and shapes of these magnificent plants. Author Jacqueline van der Kloet offers practical tips and guides for creating stunning combinations for gardens of all

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sizes – from airy landscapes to balcony-sized container gardens. This is a must-read for those of us who get a rush from watching our spring tulips bloom!

Escape to Reality: How the World is Changing Gardening, and Gardening is Changing the World by Mark Cullen

For those who crave the soul-nourishing pleasures of gardening, Canadian gardening guru Mark Cullen’s recent release is the gardener’s very own Chicken Soup for the Soul. With beautiful design, touching

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narratives, and practical tips, Cullen’s collaborative work – co-written with his son, Ben – explores not just how we garden, but why.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Christopher Silas Neal and Kate Messner

You’d have to dig deep to find a better way to introduce young people to gardening than Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. For parents and grandparents who wish to spark a curiosity about gardening in young readers, this book is equally filled with adorable illustrations, bedtime-worthy lyricism, and teachable information about the garden ecosystem. It’s the perfect way to share our love of the garden with our little ones and get them itching to explore the outdoors in the springtime.

Vegetables, Chickens & Bees: An Honest Guide to Growing Your Own Food Anywhere by Carson Arthur

You might recognize Carson Arthur as the host and garden expert on shows like Better Homes and Gardens’ Home, First Home, Global’s Room to Grow, and HGTV’s Green

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Force. If you’ve been a fan of his, you’ll be excited to hear of the upcoming release of his first book. In Vegetables, Chickens & Bees, Arthur imparts the wisdom he’s gained over his 20-year career with an unconventional gardening book – to be released on February 26, 2019 – that speaks to a younger crowd of homeowners.

Prairie Garden 2019 Growing Food by the Prairie Garden Committee

Guest-edited by urban farming and gardening expert Tiffany Grenkow, the latest edition of the Prairie Garden Committee’s Prairie Garden guide is set to be released on February 24, 2019! This issue will be

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focusing on the edible gardening trend, but will cover so much more. Look forward to over 50 articles produced by local gardening experts, all with invaluable advice for growing gardens of all kinds in our region. If you’ll be in the Winnipeg area on the 24th, you can even attend the book launch at the Grant Park location of McNally Robinson at 2:00 pm.

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

During these bleary days when the snow won’t let you into your garden, let your imagination take you there instead. We hope you find some inspiration in these titles, and maybe a new perspective to serve you well when the snow melts!