Garden Club Archive

Members - see recent write-ups of guest speakers in the members-only area

February 6, 2008

Certified Tree Risk Assessor & Arborist, Erika Higgins, of 'Sage Mountain Resources Ltd', (250-830-8920 ), spoke at our February meeting, sharing with us her wealth of information on the care and pruning of our beloved garden plants. She stressed that even with careful, skilled pruning, it may take many years for an improperly pruned tree to recover. Sometimes the harm done by improper pruning and the stress that results can kill the tree or damage it beyond repair. If a pruning cut is made cleanly, just outside the bark collar, (the slight thickening where the branch meets the trunk), the tree will protect itself from insects and disease by 'compartmentalizing'. The bark will roll over the edge of the wound and eventually heal. She doesn't recommend using any kind of wound dressing or coating. If a stub is left extending from the trunk, the tree can't properly seal off the wound. The stub will die back towards the trunk, potentially harming the tree. It's very clear that assessing the plant and planning is a very important factor in successful pruning.

Erika told us that dead, damaged or diseased branches should always be removed, as should crowded or rubbing limbs. Then it's time to stand back and examine the plant. She told us that too heavy pruning can be a significant health stress. Experience is the best teacher, but Erika also suggested that there are lots of books about pruning available. A couple that she suggested are Pruning Made Easy - A Visual Guide or, for more indepth information, The Royal Horticultural Society Pruning Training Manual. Lots of information is available online, too.

Once you know where you want to cut, you need the right tools. Erika brought a selection of pruning tools to show us and explained the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Sharp, clean tools are safer and more effective and Erika explained the proper care of pruners, loppers and saws. She brought examples of tree branches showing different reasons for pruning and rounded the evening off by demonstrating the proper way to make the pruning cuts. I'm sure we all looked at our shrubs and trees with a new insight after this evening.

Here are some photos of how NOT to prune.

bad pruning bad pruning bad pruning

October 3

At our October meeting, Nigel Lambeth of Campbell River Garden Centre presented �12 Essential Things to Do in Your Garden Before the Winter�.

Here's Nigel's list:

  • 12 - deal with problem areas in your lawn
  • 11 - clean up the veggie garden
  • 10 - trim your hedge
  • 9 - mulch your fallen leaves
  • 8 - clean up your summer perennials
  • 7 - feed your shrubs and vines with rock phosphate
  • 6 - feed your broad-leaved evergreen shrubs with an iron-based fertilizer
  • 5 - lift and store your tender bulbs and tubers
  • 4 - prepare your beds for next year's sweetpeas
  • 3 - choose and plant your spring bulbs
  • 2 - add trees and shrubs to your garden
  • 1 - take the time to relax and enjoy your fall garden!

Visit Nigel at Campbell River Garden Centre; I'm sure he'll be happy to expand on these suggestions and share even more great garden ideas.

May 17, 2007

[Garden Club members volunteer to plant Sybil Andrews cottage garden]
A group of volunteers from the Campbell River Garden Club planted a perennial bed at Sybil Andrews cottage this weekend.

Thank you to Shar-Kare for their generous donation of 'OceanSoil' and plants.

March 7, 2007

Get Down to Earth

Linda Easton of Oyster Bay Plant Works spoke to the garden club about soil. She has been gardening at her Oyster Bay property for 31 years and stresses that good soil is the basis of a garden's success. She was willing to share the benefit of her 3 decades of experience.

Linda told us that she nearly broke her spade on the rocks when she first tried to prepare the soil in her garden. She quickly realized that she wouldn't be able to dig down to create beds, she would have to build up.

Linda first ordered a truckload of topsoil; when it was delivered it turned out to be thick, sticky clay. She tried to amend it for years, adding sand and peat and gravel, but finally realized that it was a losing proposition. She threw the clay soil over the bank.

Next she brought in screened glacial till and added a hefty amount of fish compost. She cautions us to check how long compost has been working. This compost read 60 degrees celsius and needed to rot down before it could be safely used. Now she orders a very specific mix that she finds works throughout her garden. She orders from a supplier she can trust and gets 5 yards of fish compost to 10 yards of well rotted, fine mulch. She adds peat in the areas she's planting and her beds end up with about 1/3 peat, 1/3 mixed fish compost/rotted mulch and 1/3 topsoil.

If you have a good source of horse, cow or chicken manure, you can use it instead of the fish as the organic component to your soil. Just a precaution, though - you MUST compost it for a long time to make sure the urea content is gone, as well as that the seeds in the manure have been killed so you don't get uncontrolled weeds in the beds.

A 3 inch layer of compost, (if you have it), or fine fir mulch when a bed is planted and then subsequent 1 inch layers each season will control weeds, conserve water and add organic material as it breaks down.

The heavy winter rains can leave our gardens wet and too acidic. Yellowing leaves can be a symptom that our plants can't metabolize iron or magnesium effectively because of the acidity. Linda suggests ph testing in the spring. Light applications of dolomite lime can easily bring the ph level to between 6 and 7, a neutral level where most plants will thrive.

The rhododendrons, extensive collection of hellebores and and many, many other plants in Linda's garden prove that she has a winning blend.

February 8, 2007

"If you build it, they will come."

So said Dan Smith at the Campbell River Garden Club meeting last night. Dan was referring to the mason bee, a docile and efficient bee that will happily colonize your garden here on Vancouver Island. It would take 60,000-120,000 honeybees to pollinate an acre of apple trees. 250-750 mason bees can cover the same area.

You have probably seen the mason bee in your garden, Dan tells us, without recognizing them. They are shiny blue-black or green bees, slightly smaller than a honey bee. They could be mistaken for a deerfly or horsefly except that their antennas are segmented, like bamboo, rather than a single slender filament, like a fly's antenna.

Dan explained the life-cycle of the mason bee and displayed several different styles of bee houses that are easy to build. We heard of bees nesting in siding and in porch railings, but they will be very attracted to houses customized to meet their needs. The houses should be situated in a sheltered, south east exposure by the end of March to attract the emerging bees.

The female mason bee creates nest chambers in appropriately sized holes. She gathers pollen and nectar in spring and brings it to the nesting hole. She places the food in the back of the hole, then backs in and deposits one egg. The chamber is completed with a plug of mud.

The process is repeated until the hole is filled with chambers. Eggs for females are laid deepest in the tube and males in the outside chambers. The female orchard mason bee lives for about a month and can produce one or two eggs each day.

Eggs are laid in spring. Soon they hatch into larvae that stay in the nest chamber, eating the pollen and nectar left by the mother bee. When it is completely eaten, the larva spins a cocoon and pupates within the cell. They remain in the cocoons throughout the winter. When the weather warms in the spring, they leave the cocoons and the nest and start the cycle all over again.

Dan recommended the book, Pollination with Mason Bees: a Gardener's Guide to Managing Mason Bees for Fruit Production, by Dr. Margeriet Dogterom as a reader friendly, step-by-step guide for gardeners.

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