Category Archives: It’s Still Just Dirt

Winter Garden

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – November 2017

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We are now going into a slow time for any gardener. When the snow comes, the ice rain or just a good frost our garden takes on a very different view. With a little ingenuity it can be made to come alive and interesting. We have a variety of shrubs, trees and plants that add both colour and structure to the landscape outside our windows. It is a time to take notice where there is an uninteresting spot and plan a future purchase for a new focal point. Maybe you can place a floodlight to highlight an unusual planting. Perhaps think of an item of steel, wood or cast concrete to add to the appearance of your own garden.

For colour there are many shrubs which keep their red color. We all know the dogwoods, holly (newer varieties do not need two bushes), burning bush and barberry. There is a yellow dogwood which would stand proud in the snow. Consider a yew that has yellow tips that can peak through the snow. Many evergreens can be trimmed to form shapes for year round interest.

Euonymus is an easy shrub to grow and keeps its variegation over the winter. It can be used to add interest to Christmas arrangements. There are spiky plants that are variegated like iris and yucca.

Trees that show well in winter are the weeping branch type and usually grafted (I have a lilac). Just to name a few that we are familiar with – Weeping Alaska Cedar (Nootka False Cypress), weeping copper beech for both leaves and draping appearance and Japanese larch. Snow looks great on all weeping trees as does an ice storm. Japanese maples seem to hold snow on them and look great at night under floodlights.

Some trees keep their fruit throughout the winter giving us a different view to summertime. A corkscrew witch hazel tree is both interesting in structure and also keeps some tassel-like flowers. Honey locust has long flat pods. A crabapple tree holds its tiny apples. One named Harvest Gold has clusters of small yellow apples. A viburnum called American Cranberry Bush is very showy. Winterberry  ‘Winter Red’ has branches with many red berries. Cotoneaster has many red berries and can be a shrub or groundcover. All of these feed the birds and give us life to watch in our gardens.

Many ornamental grasses left with their feather tops add interest to the winter garden as do the dead heads of many perennials. Sea holly and echinacea both look interesting poking up through the snow. You can leave the dead heads of allium as they can also look attractive.

There is no monthly meeting for December. The Christmas Potluck Supper (for members only) is on Tuesday December 5th @ 6 p.m. in the Lions Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. The next monthly meeting will be Tuesday January 2, 2018 @ 7.30 p.m. in the Senior Centre. Speaker will be Jane Magri from Wildflowers Teas. Topic is Tea and Remedies for Wellbeing. Remember it is time to renew your membership to get all benefits the society has to offer. For more information follow us on facebook – tillsonburghorticultural or online www.tillsonburghortical.ca.

Thanksgiving Relative to the Garden

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – October 2017

Thanksgiving has been celebrated here in Canada and yet to come in America ever since the pilgrims in Boston. All countries have a celebration when their major crops have been harvested successfully. For most people it is just another long weekend and the real reason seems to be forgotten. It is a celebration for the end of another gardening year when we can gather and collect food we have grown for the wintertime.  Sometimes it is called harvest festival which seems appropriate. Vegetables and fruit that we grow in our own gardens are still similar to back then and most are grown in the same way. Some of them are native although the ways we garden have changed. The traditional dinner has origins from many sources, some having evolved into different dishes but most of them are connected to the settlers from Europe.

Vegetables are primarily squash, sweet potatoes, root vegetables and corn. Also we must not forget the pumpkin for both Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en. Fruit includes apples, cranberries and grapes.

Root vegetables were stored dry like potatoes but they were dried before storing in sacks. Carrots and parsnip could be stored in dry sand if available. All squash need to be placed where they are dry and well aired. Corn could be canned although in days past it was dried and the corn was ground for cornmeal and used as flour for cooking. The settlers learned this from the Indians to replace flour in the early days. Pumpkin was used as a vegetable and in desserts.

When the settlers arrived they had no way to make pies so they made a dessert by removing the seedy center. They probably dried the seeds for the next year or cooked them and ate them as what we would call nowadays a snack. The original dessert made with pumpkin was a custard within the pumpkin called a Pie in a pumpkin. They filled the centre with a mixture of milk, honey and eggs and cooked it whole. I found a recipe online and wish to share it with you http://soufflebombay.com/2014/11/the-original-pumpkin-pie-way-pilgrims.html . Of course the pumpkin is also used for Hallowe’en and can be found in all shapes, colours and sizes.

Fruits that were readily available in early settlers’ time were apples, cranberries and grapes. They used them just to eat as a fruit. Apples came with the settlers and the first orchard according to history was established in Boston but not as we grow them today as cordoned but as regular trees. They made cider as a main drink which was fermented apple juice and used as the drink for Thanksgiving. They also dried them in rings for winter use. In later years they preserved them as apple sauce and butter in jars.

The early German settlers found cranberries in the bogs and marshes and introduced the cranberry sauce for meat accompaniment. Grapes, native to America were used as a juice or made into jelly. The grapes used in the wine industry today is not from the native grapes but an import from Europe.

Corn, pumpkins, squash and ornamental gourds have all the colors depicting the end of the growing season and are being used as natural decorations with dried leaves both inside and outside of our homes for fall and Thanksgiving. Most of these fruit and vegetables can be found in or around our gardens making the connection with Thanksgiving.

Next meeting will be on Tuesday, November 7th @7.30 pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. This month there will be Hilde Makkink from Makkink Sunflower Farm, Tillsonburg demonstrating decorating ideas. There will be three draws for her creations!  Members remember this meeting is the Photo Competition results and tour sign up.  Non-members welcome $2 per meeting or become a member and get extra benefits.

For further information check out www.tillsonburghorticultural.ca or join us on Facebook – tillsonburghorticultural.

 

 

Grass Needs Fall Attention

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – September 2017

It has suddenly become Fall where the garden chores become very different. It is a time for reflection and maybe reorganization. Grass seems to be something we rarely consider this time of year but to get a good appearance next year there are a few things we can do now.

Bare patches in the lawn are easier to repair in the fall as the ground will not dry out and germination will come easily. A scattering of topsoil over the seeds will keep them in place and encourage growth. The last mowing of the lawn needs to be a little higher than summer cutting for protection. It will also allow the chopped leaves to give it a mulching for the winter.

When it seems as if the grass is no longer growing it is time to apply a fall fertilizer. It will sustain the roots throughout the winter and will allow the uptake in the early spring for growth as soon as the temperature is right. If it is done in the fall you can delay application again until May.

In the flower beds you can divide many of the perennials to encourage more blooms. There are several common plants that thrive after this and it also allows us to share with fellow gardeners or to reorganize a tired bed. Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies, Siberian iris all grow extra bulbs attached to the original planted one. Division is a way of expanding your garden colour. Peonies can be lifted and divided in the fall. Astilbe, Veronica and Bleeding Heart will all bloom better after being divided.

Strawberry runners can be transplanted to either tidy up an existing bed or enlarge it. Careful lifting is necessary as they are tender with small roots but snip the runner and plant it as you would any annual.

There is always the task of planting some of the new varieties of spring bulbs and maybe invest in some of the more unusual ones. After browsing through a new catalogue I found some interesting bulbs. Fritillaria is an old spring bulb but worth a mention. There are many to choose from either as a crown of colour or a bells formation. I also saw a Camassia Blue Melody which is a violet blue flower with variegated foliage. Eremurus commonly called foxtail lily has a spiked flower and is available in various colours. It is deer resistant and drought tolerant. I found a Muscari Golden Fragrance. Its common name is Grape Hyacinth but not typical in appearance. The flowers are a novelty to see with golden tubular florets and a topping of purple tubes.

Lastly leaves can be used as mulch for the winter on the flower beds and will encourage early growth to all perennials. If there is an abundance of leaves on the lawn in late fall it is advisable to rake them up as the snow and rain will create a mat which will stifle new growth next year.

Next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 3rd @ 7.30 pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Speaker for this meeting will be Larry Peterson, Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph. He will talk about fungi and what lies beneath the soil.  Members remember this meeting is the Photo Competition. For details check the Tillogram. Non-members welcome for $2 per meeting or become a member and get extra benefits.

For further information check out www.tillsonburghorticultural.ca or on Facebook – tillsonburghorticultural.

 

Leaf Eaters in our Gardens

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – August 2017

We all know about aphids especially on roses, the slugs on hostas, and the tent caterpillars that are very noticeable on the trees this time of year. But what do we really know about Japanese beetles?

The Japanese beetle, as the name implies, originated in Japan and was first detected in the U.S. in 1916, and has since become a big nuisance for the gardener and horticulturalist. It is a big problem in the Niagara farming belt. It is a colourful beetle with a metallic green head and copper hard shelled body only measuring ½” but is very destructive. It does not discriminate on what it eats – just about anything leafy, fruit leaves, vegetables, ornamentals and even weeds.

Their life cycle starts mid-summer as eggs dropped into any open soil. Then as grubs they eat any roots and go deep into the soil for the winter. The following year as soon as the soil warms up they rise to the surface devouring all roots in their path and mature to the Japanese beetle.

As soon as it gets warm and sunny you will see the beetles flying around. It is said that a ‘scout’ beetle will precede a swarm and they will continue to invade your garden everywhere. This will last up to six weeks and is the time you will see the skeletal destruction on large leaves. They only survive one generation but they are very prolific laying many eggs.

When they are grubs moles will eat them underground. Raccoons and skunks will dig them up for food and the bigger birds will pick them up.

There are a few methods to control them. Early in the season you can actually pick them off plants into a bucket of water and dispose later. They are sleepy at this time and also they do not see well which helps us catch them. The normal insecticidal soap will work but needs to be repeated often.

A home-made solution of soap, water, garlic powder and cayenne pepper applied with a garden sprayer will leave a gross taste as a good deterrent but also a tedious daily chore.

There are beetle traps available at any nursery which will catch them easily. They work on the principle of a pad with pheromones on it which will attract them and a bag attached below it to catch them. They fly into a plastic fin (remember they do not have good eyes) and drop into the bag. Empty the bag daily. The trap needs to be hung away from all vegetation to be effective.

There is new information which shows that geraniums have a toxic effect on the Japanese beetle. Many were found dead underneath some plants suggesting this to be true.

I hope that many of you have taken the time to admire the gardens in town tended by the Horticultural Society volunteers. They can be seen outside the Senior Centre at the Community Complex. A colourful sight is outside the Livingstone Centre. The Station Arts Centre is a popular place to visit as we’ll as the market that is there on Saturday. Many events happen at the Royal Canadian Legion especially for the 150th Anniversary. Annandale House was one of the venues on Canada Day and the gardens have had a rejuvenation there. Woodingford Lodge is an ongoing challenge but the residents and visitors enjoy beautiful gardens there. Library Lane has also been added recently to this list of locations. On a final note the large urns everywhere and the smaller ones outside businesses downtown have added colour and life to our town.

Regular monthly meetings will resume on Tuesday Sept 5th @ 7.30 pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Speaker for this meeting will be Mitchell Hewson, Registered Horticultural Therapist.The topic is Power of Nature – living healthy using remedies through horticulture. Members remember this meeting is the Grow and Show Flower Competition. Non-members are welcome with a $2 per meeting or become a member and get extra benefits.

For further information check out www.tillsonburghorticultural.ca or on Facebook – tillsonburghorticultural.

Take a minute to look at these photographs of the beautiful urns at Annandale National Historic Site where Horticultural Society members design, plant and nurture the gardens each year.

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Who is Eating My Garden

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – June 2017
by Angela Lassam

Do you have unknown overnight creatures eating your new plantings like I do? I have spent many hours labouring in my flower and vegetable garden to wake up one morning and find there has been an overnight feast. Many gardeners spend a great deal of money on plants only to have them desecrated by wildlife of some form. I have searched to find a simple, environmental and economic way to stop this from continuing. I thought that my answers to this would maybe help some of the many gardening enthusiasts, hence the following:

Rabbits which are my particular problem at this time will eat any new sprouts of most plants overnight. They do not like any plant that has a strong odor so it is advisable to incorporate herbs such as garlic, chives, oregano and lavender throughout your garden. Annuals that are strong smelling look nice and act as a deterrent like Marigold.

Sprays are available at most nurseries but can prove expensive so after some research I found some suggestions which I am going to try using. Ammonia sprayed around beds leaves a strong smell. There is a mixture of hot red pepper, garlic and dish soap which can be mixed and sprayed on plants but needs to be repeated often. If all fails and your “bunnies” are like mine you will have to put a low netting up to keep them out.

Deer will eat Hostas in an unfenced garden so the same mixes will work for them according to most of my research. Chipmunks and squirrels like to eat strawberries and small tomatoes and raccoons will raid your mature corn overnight.

Other wildlife may be munching on your garden but most do not like strong smells or bitter plants. Skunks will dig small holes in your lawn for food, primarily for the grubs which we try to eliminate. Toads will keep many insects under control. Therefore wildlife is not all bad and makes for an interesting outlook but also a challenge for gardeners.

There are many plants that are resistant to rabbits and deer. An interesting list can be found at http://www.gertens.com/learn/Animals/deer-rabbit-resistant-plants.htm.

Many thanks to all the businesses who have purchased the urn/planters under the recent venture for the 150th Anniversary and we hope to continue in the future to see more participation to improve the appearance of our town, especially to visitors.

The large planters of which there were eight last year are back with the addition of more so please take the time to admire them.

During the summer recess there are two planned events for everyone to enjoy. The first one is a Garden Tour named “Beyond the Garden Gate” – a tour in conjunction with the Station Arts Centre on July 8th  from 12:30 – 4 pm featuring five gardens with three artists, Annandale House (discount to view the museum) , Tillsonburg Garden Gate where there is a 10% discount on purchases for ticket holders and Station Arts Centre where you can view an exhibit ”True North-Strong & Free” and 150 posters along with refreshments. Tickets available @ Station Arts Centre, at the gardens on the tour and Tillsonburg Garden Gate – $10 advance $12 at the gardens on the tour.

The other event will be on August 8th at Whistling Gardens in Wilsonville, a unique and very interesting venue. There will be a barbecue and entertainment – the Gentleman of Harmony from Simcoe plus a 150th Anniversary cake. Also it is the 35th Anniversary of the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society. Cost is $30 (including admission to the Gardens). For more information contact Barb Hunter @ barb.hunter@live.com.

Both events are open to anyone. If you are looking for ideas for your garden these events will certainly be of interest and a great encouragement to start gardening and maybe become a member of the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society. Hope to see you at both as it should be a great time for all.

Regular monthly meetings resume Tuesday Sept. 5th in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. To keep up to date look at the website www.tillsonburghorticultural.ca or join us on Facebook – Tillsonburghorticultural.

Trees Give Us Many Benefits

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – May 2017
by Angela Lassam

We have lost many trees due to storm damage and disease and we should consider replacing them. The next question is, “What do we plant?” and “What do we expect from that tree?”.

There are many attributes to trees. They provide shade to keep our homes cool in summer and protection from winds in winter. The roots absorb water to save runoff during storms. They naturally clean the air by absorbing pollutants and convert CO2 into oxygen (one acre of trees equates to 26,000 miles driving or oxygen for 18 people). Trees help erosion when the roots hold soil in place. The roots also act as filters for water before it reaches our natural streams and drinking water.

There are benefits we cannot see but are all around us daily. They tell us the seasons and weather. Trees in towns can create a focal point, a meeting place, muffle sounds, reduce glare, and will encourage new businesses by creating a more pleasant community. People seem to be happier and more serene when trees are around them. Trees can cool a city by 10 per cent and also add some humidity by evaporation.

We are fortunate to live within the Carolinian Zone and have the ability to grow deciduous trees that will thrive naturally. Backus Woods is a great example and there are many of the species to be found there. We also have local nurseries who specialize in these trees.

I have selected a few to enlarge upon:

Tulip tree – also called wild magnolia is a hardwood with large unusual shaped leaves and a cupped green/orange open flower.

Sycamore – also called Buttonball has an unusual camouflage bark and the fruit is an inch size ball. Leaves are similar to a Maple tree.

Honey Locust – an open tree with leaves that are pinnate and the fruit is a long pod. The natural tree has long thorns but trees in nurseries are grafted or hybridized to eliminate the thorns.

Eastern Cottonwood – also known as necklace poplar is a fast growing tree (can grow 6’ a year) and can be used as a windbreak and for shade. Wildlife like the twigs and bark. This tree has various uses in the cosmetic industry (ie lip balm) also good for building canoes and other wood products. It can be a bad choice for people with allergies.

There are some diseases which will decimate trees but some are only cosmetic. Most diseases are hard on the tree but it is the following fungus that will kill it.

Magnolia scale is a disease where large insects kill entire branches by feeding on the tree sap. This looks like mold but it is scale waste (honeydew). The only thing to do is to remove the limb to keep the tree airy.

Tent caterpillar is the larvae of moths and butterflies. The web acts as protection whilst they are eating. Although it is unsightly it is not a killer.

Tar spot is a fungus which is very noticeable on Maple trees but it also affects many others. It is advisable to rake and burn leaves. Do not compost them.

Asian long-horned beetle tunnels into trees making 20mm holes. Then the tree becomes weakened and gets fungal growth and ultimately dies.

The Emerald ash borer is an insect that has eradicated almost all the ash trees in Ontario. The insect feeds off the inner bark cutting the water supply. It may take up to 2 years to detect cracked bark and small holes. In the meantime the foliage will become smaller.

There has been a breakthrough in research in Canada. The Great Lakes Forestry in Sault St Marie have discovered a “made in Canada” parasitic wasp (Tetrastichus) that they are releasing in various locations. The wasp inserts its eggs through the bark onto the borer grub to kill it. It is selective and will only eat these grubs. This wasp is similar to the natural enemy wasp found in China where the borer originated. It is smaller than an ant, and will not bite or sting humans.

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Some of the Canada 150 Tulips planted by Horticultural Society members at various gardens in the community.

The recent Garden Auction held by the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society was once again an outstanding success. This will allow the Society to brighten our town and allows us to do the many things that all the members enjoy. Thanks go out to all who contributed or participated to make this a tremendous day. Special thanks go to all the donors – a full list can be found on the website www.tillsonburghorticultural.ca.

Please remember to plant some wildflower seeds for the bees and butterflies. They need our help. Many Monarch butterflies died in Mexico this past winter.

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society is on Tuesday June 6th @ 7.30pm in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Nadia Cavallin, Field Botanist from the Royal Botanical Gardens will present Wild Flowers of Southwestern Ontario just in time for a more knowledgeable country walk. Non-members welcome, come and make some new friends. Membership $15 per year.

For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society visit tillsonburghorticultural.ca online. Also find us on Facebook – Tillsonburg Horticultural.

 

 

New for 2017

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – April 2017
Angela Lassam

Terrys succulent winnings

Terry’s succulent winnings

A great meeting was enjoyed by members where Matt Fenn of Garden Gate demonstrated how to do a succulent bowl for indoors although it could also be a base for a miniature garden. See photo at left.

He said there is a trend for air plants. They are known as epiphytes and have no soil generally and they are attached to host plants/branches using thread or wire (even hot glue). They feed through trichomes (hairs or prickles). The offsets are called “pups” and when 2/3 of the mother plant in size will make a new plant. They are easy, need very little care just misting. Orchids are in a similar category and he warned failure is usually too much watering – an ounce of water a week is all they need. Both like sunny locations.

Garden Gate has some new products with the usual tried and true ones. There is Stump Remover which is easy to apply and this year we have many damaged trees to cut down. Super Hunter is a new wild animal repellant. Wilson’s Weedout is a new lawn weed killer but it is available only in a limited supply. Japanese beetles are common in all our gardens and this year there is available a larger catcher bag which is re-useable. The Safers kit and accessories is available as usual at Garden Gate.

New vegetable seeds are GMO free from OSC. They have leaf lettuce which is slower to bolt, a spinach that is a hybrid also bolt resistant and disease resistant. Cumin has been added to the herb section.

The flower section has new varieties of Marigold that are dwarf, lemon and orange color. Cosmos appears as some new names. Cupcake (a white/pale pink) looks like a paper cupcake case. A pale yellow one named Xanthos and a white one called Mini Click.

A new rose has come onto the market from the Vineland Research Centre but started its life in Manitoba – the Canadian Shield Rose (vibrant red), the first of a series called 49th Parallel.  A limited supply will be in selected nurseries. Most nurseries are already preordered and out of stock.

Perennial of the year is Echinacea Puff Vanilla which is an ivory flower with double anemone type blooms.

The Annual Plant Auction is set to take place once again in the Lions Auditorium in Tillsonburg Community Complex. There will be the usual live auction of plants, trees and garden decor at 6.30 p.m. Tuesday May 16th. Doors will be open at 5.30 p.m. for the Toonie table, $5 table and Bake table. Also the Draw table with many donated items for you to try your luck.

I hope that members have started seeds, maybe potted up some perennials or bulbs (lilies are popular). The crafter members always do great garden décor so hopefully we will see some this time. Then the bakers usually contribute to the bake table, so anyone can help make this a great event.

Funds raised at this important event allow the society to do various ventures in town – Annandale House, Station Arts Centre, Livingstone Centre, Royal Canadian Legion, Woodingford Lodge and Seniors Centre gardens. There is also the Junior Gardeners Competition where volunteers take a large interest in encouraging the young gardeners of tomorrow.

The newest fundraiser called the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society Town-wide Commercial Urn Beautification Project has been started with advertising by both the local radio and newspaper and members have now distributed the information sheets. We hope the local businesses will come together and participate in this. It is a new venture and now we need the support necessary to make a statement throughout the town. Please everyone give this your consideration, deadline is April 20th.

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society is on Tuesday May 2nd @ 7.30 p.m. in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Stephen Douglas, an expert on Hostas will tell us all about new varieties and bring some samples to be given away. There will be sign-up for the Spring Buying tour. Non-members welcome, come and make some new friends. Membership $15 per year.

For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society visit tillsonburghorticultural.ca online. Also find us on Facebook – Tillsonburg Horticultural.

 

Water Conservation in Gardening

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – March 2017

by Angela Lassam

Climate change will alter the way we garden in several ways. The garden zoning will alter and we will be able to grow different plants and shrubs as our weather patterns change. Summers seem to be getting warmer and drier and our seed and nursery catalogues appear to be more orientated towards drought tolerance, sun and shade. There is also a trend towards xeriscape to get away from grass and the need for water to keep it green.

Mulches have become normal in gardening mostly on our flower beds and there are some interesting views on the different colored varieties. Dyed mulches are attractive either red or black it makes no difference as all the dyes are treated with vegetable-based colorants. They are non-toxic and non-hazardous to plants and animals. There is however a negative side to coloured mulch as it takes longer to break down into new soil and tends to compact quickly. There are reports that a compacted mulch will grow a white string-like fungus under the top layer which may attach itself to the trunk and roots of shrubs if undisturbed. It is advisable that you rake coloured mulch throughout the summer to keep it aeriated. Untreated wood chips and mulch are cheaper and less likely to cause insect infestation.

Plastic mulch sheeting is another form of moisture preservation and weed prevention. It also helps the soil to warm up quicker and allow better growth. Commercial fruit and vegetable producers use different coloured plastic sheeting and maybe some gardeners could experiment with their vegetables. Different vegetables respond to different colors.

Black sheeting is a common one and helps the soil heat up, keeps moisture in and prevents weed growth. It is also the least expensive and can be biodegradable.

Red sheeting promotes more compact growth, early flowering and productivity. Tomatoes and eggplants have been proven through experimentation to have an increase of 12 per cent production.

It appears silver sheeting is good for peppers and pumpkins where the reflection seems to prevent aphids from attacking the early growth thus creating less virus on the vines.

Other colours have been experimented with – yellow mats will attract insects where you can selectively destroy instead of spraying crops.

Blue sheeting although more expensive has been experimented with when growing melons, cucumbers and squash and has been proven to aid fruiting response from reflection. Also it gives more heat retention than the black sheeting.

All mulches and sheeting help the gardener and the environment in many ways and are worth consideration in our gardening practices but always leave space around plants to allow direct watering.

Progress has been made on the beautification of downtown Tillsonburg. After the success of the eight urn/planters on Broadway crosses of Ridout Street and Brock Street they will re-appear this year with the addition of four more bringing a total of twelve. They will be watered and maintained by the town.

There will be an additional initiative by the Horticultural Society which will hopefully involve the town businesses. This program is to encourage pride in our town with the purchase of a smaller replica of the large planter and a complete care package. This will be to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Canada but hopefully it will become an annual enhancement to our town during the summer.

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society is on April 4th @ 7.30pm in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. The presentation this month is about what’s new for 2017. Matt Fenn from Garden Gate will be giving us an update on the gardening world. Non-members welcome. Come and make some new friends.

For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society visit tillsonburghorticultural.ca online. Also find us on Facebook – Tillsonburg Horticultural.

Planting Indoor Greens and More

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – February 2017
by Angela Lassam

This time of year we try to think of doing something beyond our normal mundane tasks. Why not try to grow some fresh food to add to our table? It is as simple as buying a packet of seed and planting them. You should find a warm sunny spot with at least six hours of strong daylight. Soilless potting mix is easily found at any nursery. We all buy prepared foods in the recyclable containers so why not put them to another use. They make perfect forcing trays keeping the moisture inside for quick germination and after remove the lid for the continued growth. Many seeds do not need a lot of soil depth to grow.

Spinach germinates well. Lettuce, the salad bowl variety is easy as it will cut and come again. Radishes are good to grow as they do not need depth and will be ready in 30 days for use. Of course we always think of herbs as we can buy these fresh all year round in the grocery store but their growth from seed does not take long to reach a useable size. Spring onions will grow but will be small but still tasty. Bean sprout seeds are more easy to find nowadays and can be grown in a jar which is interesting to watch grow especially to encourage children into future gardeners. www.wiki.com/grow-bean-sprouts-indoors .

If you are a DIY person there is an interesting project on making a heated mat using a rope light at http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/11658/diy-heat-mat-speeds-seed-starting . Then you will be ready to start your seeds that much earlier.

Another easy pastime is making small pieces for a fairy/miniature garden using model clay from a craft store also wire can make gates and fencing. Lollipop sticks are good to cut down for furniture and fences.

As the days are getting longer it is that time of year when the usual garden shows will be happening giving us the new ideas. The usual ones – Canada Blooms is in Toronto March 10-19th theme is Oh! Canada. Ladies are among the speakers this year. Kate Seaver will be there on several days also Jennifer Reynolds, Jo-ann Mcarthur, Jessica Gale and Cathy Kosma (bees). There are bus trips arranged through Annandale House and local nurseries.

Stratford Garden Festival is also on again this year March2-4th theme is Earthly Delights with some interesting speakers. London is no longer doing a Spring show. Hamilton is doing events in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum where there will be a Home & Garden Show with speakers March 31-April 2. It is easy to find and free parking (worth a visit).

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society is on March 7th @ 7.30 p.m. in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. The presentation this month will be Remembering Them from Nancy Abra of London talking about the history and horticultural aspects of the Commonwealth War Graves. An appropriate topic for this time of remembrance. Non-members welcome, come and make some new friends.

For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society visit tillsonburghorticultural.ca online. Also find us on Facebook – Tillsonburg Horticultural.

How Plants Indoors Can Have Impact

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – January 2017
by Angela Lassam

It is winter and we cocoon ourselves in our homes and only have our houseplants to add some green to our daily life. Have you ever thought you were actually doing yourself and the family a favour? Many plants that we normally keep in our homes are natural air cleaners and are easy to purchase even in our supermarkets.

The most common plants are the Spider plant, Weeping Fig (Ficus), Boston Fern, Bamboo Palm, Aloe Vera, Snake Plant, Dracaena and similar indoor plants. Flowering plants are Chrysanthemum, Gerbera Daisy and Peace Lily. They all absorb the pollutants (VOCs – volatile organic compounds) that can be found in our homes from the outgassing of many things around us daily.

Plants absorb particles in the air by taking in carbon dioxide and process it into oxygen through photosynthesis. Also the microorganisms found in potting soil are responsible for some of the purifying. An added bonus is that plant presence is reputed to lower blood pressure and stress.

Formaldehyde is the one that we all know and can be found in most manmade wood products, furniture and even fabrics used for bedding and drapes. We only remember the banned insulation which caused health problems to many people. As a matter of interest formaldehyde is found in many other common products that we use daily but we must remember the levels to cause problems have to be above .03 ppm to be of concern. For great reading and more information http://greatist.com/connect/houseplants-that-clean-air . Also if you are interested in learning more about formaldehyde look at https://branchbasics.com/blog/2015/04/23-sources-of-formaldehyde-to-remove.

NASA studies on indoor pollution recommend 15 to 18 plants in 6 to 8-inch- diameter containers to clean the air in an average 1,800 square foot house. That is approximately one plant per 100 square feet of floor space. This may sound like a lot but a basket of a variety of these will definitely give us a healthier environment.

It does not matter whether the plants in our home come in this category as any plant growing gives us a show of life and lifts one’s spirits. Flowering plants also add colour during the winter months.

One of the most popular flowering plants in most homes is the African violet which comes in many colours and flower patterns both frilly, plain, single or double. They can be propagated from a single leaf using the recommended potting soil for African violets.

Problems arise when caring for them due to watering and fertilizing. Water should be at room temperature maybe let it sit for a while. The plant should only be watered every two weeks or when dry to touch on the top of the pot. The best way to water them is to sit in a bowl of warm water and allow it to wick up to the roots. The water may have liquid fertilizer generally recommended for African violets added to it (less is better than overdoing it). To repot the plants always use an open free draining soil and do not press out the air in the mix as the roots which are fine and hairy like the air. Lastly they need light to flower so a sunny spot is ideal. A wilting plant may have Mealy Bugs eating its roots so washing the roots and repotting in new soil may save it. More reading on www.africanvioletsforeveryone.net

I hope this will help those members who enjoy this flower and will take some photos to submit to the Horticultural Society’s photo competition in September.

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society is on February 7th @ 7.30pm in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. The presentation this month will be Pruning given by Natasha Collins, a landscape architect and arborist new to Tillsonburg.

Members – just a reminder that renewals are due. Non-members $2 per meeting or sign-up at any meeting. Everyone welcome.

For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society visit tillsonburghorticultural.ca online