Gardening

Gardening tips from Wendy, Montgomery Place Gardener

I am by no means a “plant expert”, I just know from experience what works for me.

Hydrangeas

I have 52 and counting, and as people walk by my garden, the hydrangeas are the plants they most often ask about. I am by no means a “plant expert”, I just know from experience what works for me. Over 15 years ago, I planted my first hydrangeas: Pink Diamond, and Quick Fire, and both are still thriving. My newer varieties: Limelight, Vanilla Strawberry, Pinky Winky, Firelight, Little Lamb, Phantom, Brussels Lace, Zinfin Doll, and Silver Dollar have proven to be very hardy as well.

Hydrangea, the name originates from the Greek words for “water” and “vessel”, referring to it’s need for plenty of water, and it’s cup shaped flowers. While they are getting established, they require more frequent watering, and also benefit from mulch. Hydrangeas prefer acidic soil, so plant them with a bit of peatmoss mixed into the soil along with some compost. Most do well in sun or part sun, while some do better in part shade. Be sure to check the tag for sun exposure and hardiness (Zone 2 or 3). The “Paniculata” varieties are hardiest for our climate, as opposed to the big leaf “Macrophylla” varieties.

Other than watering, hydrangeas are fairly low maintenance plants. Before the shrub leafs out in early Spring, and then again after the flowers bloom, apply a slow release fertilizer for acid loving plants. I leave the dried flowers on for the Winter, partly because they look pretty covered in snow, and also because it makes the shrubs less appetizing for deer.  I recommend pruning hydrangeas in Spring, after they start to leaf out, so that you can more easily see if there are any branches that are dead or rubbing together, or that need to be removed to maintain the desired shape.

The flowers can be used for beautiful, long-lasting bouquets, if you immerse the woody stems in water immediately after cutting them. They also make great dried flowers.

Companion Planting

As you are beginning to plan & plant your vegetable garden you may want to consider the magic & mystery of companion planting.

Carrots love tomatoes & leaf lettuce, but dislike dill. Basil helps tomatoes to overcome insects & disease, as does garlic, asparagus, onion, parsley, chives, marigolds & nasturtiums. Avoid planting tomatoes near corn or potatoes. Bush beans do well planted with cucumbers, celery, corn & strawberries. All beans dislike onions & fennel. Pole beans & radishes are compatible, but pole beans dislike sunflowers, beets & kohlrabi. Beets however, grow well near bush beans, onions & kohlrabi. Peas dislike onions, garlic & gladiolas, but love carrots, turnips, corn, radishes, beans, potatoes & cucumbers. Potatoes do not do well near apple trees, pumpkin, squash, cucumber, tomatoes & raspberries, & sunflowers stunt their growth. Potatoes like beans, corn, cabbage, eggplant, horseradish & marigolds.

Knowing the secrets of companion planting can double the bounty of your garden. For more info check out: www.westcoastseeds.com/blogs/garden-wisdom/companion-planting

Tomatoes

10 Tips For Growing Great Tomatoes

Tomatoes come in a variety of colours, shapes, and sizes. Consider trying heirloom varieties for exceptional flavour.
Whatever you choose to grow, I hope the following information will be helpful.

  1. Tomatoes are sun worshippers that need 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. They prefer to grow in the same place year after year, unlike
    most other vegetables. Plant in a new location if you have previously had an issue with disease.
  2. As tomatoes are tender plants and will not tolerate frost, plant them in late Spring. Plants will need to be “hardened off ” before being planted in the garden. This involves gradual exposure to sunlight while being sheltered from extreme winds, cold, and heavy rain.
  3. Plant deeply to encourage a strong root system. Tomatoes have the ability to produce roots all along their stem.
    If the plant is tall and/or spindly, lay it in a trench and plant sideways. A shorter plant will become a sturdier and healthier plant.
  4. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. They benefit from compost and tomato fertilizer. You can create your own organic mix by digging in crushed egg shells (calcium), one tsp epsom salt (magnesium), and a few alfalfa pellets (nitrogen), along with the compost and soil in your pot or garden bed. To help avoid magnesium deficiency, which causes leaves to turn yellow, water every 2 weeks with a mixture of 1 Tbsp epsom salt per gallon of water.
  5. Great companion plants for tomatoes are basil, carrots, marigolds, nasturtiums, chives, onions, and parsley. Garlic planted between tomatoes will protect them from red spider mites.
  6. Red pots apparently increase yields and make the fruit set earlier. Research has shown that red reflects a certain spectrum of
    light, triggering photosynthesis to stimulate development and growth.
  7. Water from below, and water deeply. Mound up a circular dam of soil around each plant to hold the water. Avoid watering from the top as tomatoes do not like to have their leaves wet. Water consistently, around the same time each day, preferably morning, and do not let the plants dry out. Erratic watering and heavy rainfall can cause fruit splitting and blossom end rot.
  8. Tomato plants are either Determinate (bushy) or Indeterminate (viney).
    Determinate tomato plants are usually early variety with short stems and fewer than 3 leaves on the vine between flower clusters.
    They grow naturally to a predetermined height and don’t need pruning – fruit ripens in a shorter time, often all at once.
    Indeterminate tomato plants are late variety. Their stems grow indefinitely and the fruit ripens over a longer period of time. They
    respond well to being grown in a tomato cage. Some of the non-fruiting branches can be pruned off later in the season to provide
    more plant energy and sunlight to the fruit.
  9. You can save the seeds from your favourite tomato plants. Scoop the seeds out of a very ripe tomato, spread them on a paper towel to dry, and then fold it up to save the seeds to plant the following year.
  10. Harvest tomatoes before it frosts, leaving 2 inches of stem when cutting them off the vine. This ensures better flavour after ripening. If they are still green, place in a box between layers of newspaper and store at room temperature in a dark place (like under the bed). You can add an apple to the box to speed up the ripening process. Apples release ethylene gas, which causes tomatoes to turn red. Tomatoes will naturally give off ethylene gas when left to ripen on the vine. When storing tomatoes, divide into boxes based on levels of ripeness. Check frequently and enjoy your fresh tomatoes well into the Fall.

If you have questions regarding pruning your various types of tomato plants, check out this video: youtu.be/q4IUhZMA9O0

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