The early and late-season preparations as well as the day-to-day work in our gardens isn’t glamorous, but it’s part of what makes gardening so rewarding. Use our tipsheets to help keep on top of the general maintenance of your garden to ensure it is as beautiful and bountiful as possible.


Horticultural oil offers an environmentally safe method of controlling many pests including spider mites, scale, leafhopper, aphids and thrip. This oil works by killing over-wintering insects and eggs. It is applied in the early spring when plants are still dormant.

The oils control insects through asphyxiation by clogging the oxygen intake organs so the insect’s tissues are deprived of oxygen. They also interact with the fatty acids within the insect’s body, acting as a poison that interferes with the insect’s metabolism.

The oils can be mixed with Lime Sulphur (a fungicide) for a highly effective combined insecticide/fungicide dormant spray.

Application

  • Apply in early spring before leaf buds show green at the tips
  • Spray during mild mornings (to speed up drying) when no rain is in the forecast
  • Freezing conditions after application may cause the oil to injure treated plants
  • Spray when temperatures are expected to be at least 4 degrees celcius for the next 4 or 5 days
  • Spray to wet all parts thoroughly
  • Apply to broadleaf evergreens only when freezing temperatures are not expected within 21 days following treatment
  • Since the oil droplets come out of solution so easily, frequent agitation is key to proper application … keep shaking your sprayer!
Plants Sensitive to Dormant Spray Treatments
Beech Norway Spruce ***
Butternut Redbud ***
Cedars Red Maples
Colorado Blue Spruce Red Oak
Delicious Apple Sugar Maple
Douglas Fir Walnut
Hickory White Pine ***
Holly Yews
Japanese Maples Junipers (blue cultivars)


*** These plants are slightly less sensitive to Dormant Oil Treatments

Mason Bees

Orchard Mason Bees are a native bee that can pollinate a variety of plants in our gardens. Mason Bees are gentle and harmless; stings are rare and resemble little more than a mosquito bite. Mason Bees are great for spring fruiting trees, blueberries, and just about any other spring flower requiring pollination.

The bees are packaged in a small cardboard box, dormant in their cocoons. Don’t be afraid – you can open the box and look at them, but make sure they stay refrigerated to prevent them from hatching early. Be sure whatever container you store them in at home allows some degree of air to flow through it.

Mason Bees require daytime temperatures of consistently 10 or more degrees celcius, and without freezing temperatures. If the conditions outside aren’t optimal, make sure you store them in the crisper of your refrigerator. Lightly mist the container to keep the cocoons from drying out, but do not soak the container!

If you’re lucky, your bees will have already hatched by the time they get home. If so, you can put the box in the crisper of your refrigerator overnight. They can survive for a month in your crisper without food or water. If the bees warm up for some reason, they will require a food source: a cotton ball soaked in equal parts sugar and water should do the trick. If you see hatched bees in the refrigerator, don’t panic! They’re perfectly harmless and will be groggy until you move them somewhere warm.

When daytime temperatures are consistently over 10 degrees, you can place the box with the top open outdoors, preferably in a spot that receives morning sun and is sheltered from inclement weather. Most of the bees should hatch within a week of being brought outside!

Leafcutter Bees

Leafcutter Bees are useful, harmless insects that provide valuable pollination for summer flowering plants. These bees are extraordinarily gentle and can be observed without running the risk of being stung. Once these bees find a suitable home in your yard, they will build a nest using a piece of leaf. The leaf is rolled to make a cylindrical cavity that resembles a cigar. In doing so, a Leafcutter Bee will create a crescent or circular shaped hole in a nearby leaf. This does not harm the plant.

Leafcutters prefer legume blossoms, but they aren’t limited to one plant’s nectar. They are nothing if not a generalist for summer-flowering plants including most flowers, melons, peas, and other fruits and veggies.

The bees are packaged in a small cardboard box, dormant in their cocoons. Don’t be afraid – you can open the box and look at them, but make sure they stay refrigerated to prevent them from hatching early. Be sure whatever container you store them in at home allows some degree of air to flow through it.

Leafcutters require a sustained period of warm weather (high 20s to low 30s) to emerge. At lower temperatures (low twenties), it may take upwards of 4 to 6 weeks for them to get going. Leafcutters need temperatures of at least 21 degrees to fly properly, but perform best in 30 degree weather or warmer.

Leafcutter bees will forage within 100 meters of their nest; the average yard can use upwards of 100 cocoons.

Courtesy of NIC – Natural Insect Control, Stevensville, ON.

It goes without saying that proper watering is the single most important element of good gardening. Watering is a highly undervalued skill that is only improved with years of practice and experience. This document provides some useful watering tips and tricks. If you’ve purchased nursery stock from us before, our Planting and Watering Guidelines provide a good overview for proper watering of new plantings. Consider this a supplement to those guidelines.

Know Your Yard
This might seem like obvious advice, but only by understanding the lay of the land around your home will you be able to make informed decisions about how best to water your garden. Below are some of the factors you will want to consider:

  • Pay attention to the slope of your yard. Water will pool at the bottom of a slope. The top and middle of the slope may require more water than usual.
  • Heavy clay soils hold water and drain poorly. Plants in heavy clay will need much less water. Sand is nothing to worry about — unless your soil is more than 70% sand, you won’t have issues with moisture retention, but you may encounter nutrient deficiencies.
  • How much sunlight parts of your yard will receive changes based on the season, meaning the watering requirements of certain areas will change in turn.
  • Trees and other established plants may be in direct competition with new plants for surface moisture – make sure there’s enough water for everyone!
  • Plants in areas sheltered from the wind will require less water, and those in exposed areas will require much more.
  • Plants near a house will need more water – the house will radiate heat in the summer; and eaves troughs may reduce the amount of rain reaching the ground.

Know Your Plants
Again, this might seem like simple advice, but it’s critically important to have a good grasp on what amount or frequency of watering your plants need by default. Some plants, like Yucca, can be left without water for weeks once they’re mature. Other plants, like a Willow, might drop all of its leaves in a panic if you even miss one day! What this all boils down to is that walking around your garden and giving all of your plants the exact same amount of water is going to cause a lot of trouble.

If you are unsure of the watering needs of your plants … please, give us a call! We’re here to help.

New vs. Old Plants
Remember that new plantings do not have well-developed root systems – they can’t find their own water. You will need to water new plantings far more frequently than established ones. When you water new plants, water them very thoroughly, to the point where the water begins to pool around the planting site. In almost every case it is imperative that you soak the planting area thoroughly to encourage the new roots to grow downward. This will improve drought tolerance in later years.

Watering Containers and Patio Pots
Patio pots and containers have their own special watering needs.

  • Containers require more frequent watering than plants in the ground.
  • Remember that smaller pots will dry out much more quickly than larger ones.
  • The material the pot is made of will affect how quickly it dries out as well. Plastic or metal pots, especially darker-coloured ones, will dry out quite fast. Clay and stone don’t heat up as quickly.
  • Pay attention to the plant-to-pot ratio. If it is quite a large plant or grouping of plants in a small pot, it will need water even more frequently.
  • Very dry soil will not absorb water immediately; much of the water you apply will run right through the pot. You will need to soak it heavily once, wait for a few minutes, and then water the pot a second time.

Other Helpful Tips
Finally, a few miscellaneous tips to help you with your watering:

  • Don’t use a wand or nozzle on high pressure settings to try to speed your watering – these settings will displace soil and send water droplets and mud all over the leaves of the plant, which can increase the incidence of disease.
  • Water in the morning, not the afternoon. This gives plants an opportunity to absorb the water before the heat of the day arrives. Do not water in the evening unless absolutely necessary – this will also increase the incidence of disease.
  • Soaker hoses are a great way to save time on watering.

We often think of the late stages of fall as a winding-down time in the garden. However, there are a number of jobs to be done at the very end of the growing season that are critical to the health and survival of our plants.

Cleaning Up

One of the most straightforward jobs you can do at the end of the season is to clean up fallen leaves. Leaves that remain on the ground over the winter can become vectors for fungi and diseases that will infect your plants once spring arrives. If the leaves you are cleaning up look to be diseased, do not compost them. The pathogen will winter over in your compost heap and newly infect plants when you use the compost at a later time.

Mulching

We often tout the benefits of a good three-inch layer of mulch during the growing season, but mulching is equally important for tender plants in the winter months. Mulch helps to insulate plant roots from brutally cold temperatures.

Repellant and Wrap

If your yard is frequented by deer, rabbits, mice, or other herbivorous creatures that may feed on your garden in the winter, be sure to spray susceptible plants with a repellant. You can also use physical barriers such as spiral mouse guards.

Burlap Screens

If you have particularly sensitive plants or plants in open exposed areas where they are subject to bitter, desiccating winter winds, consider building a protective wall with a few stakes and burlap. You need only to build the wall on the side of the plant that is subject to the most wind. Whatever you do, don’t directly wrap the plant in burlap; this will cause a plethora of other issues that you’re better off avoiding. Japanese Maples, Rhododendrons, and Azaleas are just a few plants that benefit from this protection.

Protecting Roses

Heap soil or mulch around the crowns of your roses to protect them over the winter. Rose collars are also useful; just be sure you don’t fill up the collar with any diseased leaves. Do not prune your roses back at this time of year.

Watering

You might feel a bit silly running around outside with your hose on in November, but giving your plants a thorough, deep watering right before the ground completely freezes is perhaps the single most useful thing you can do to prepare your garden for a cold winter. Well-watered evergreens are less likely to brown at the tips over the winter. A well-watered plant is actually better able to resist the effects of hard frosts, harsh winds, and bitterly cold temperatures. It also allows plants to resume growing more quickly in the spring.

Lawn Care

Lastly, fall is the time to apply a “winterizer” fertilizer to your lawn. These fertilizers focus on building up nitrogen reserves for the winter, which helps your grass grow more vigorously once spring returns. Be sure to rake up any fallen leaves prior to fertilizing, and in fact cut your lawn shorter at this time of year to reduce incidence of disease of the winter.

Final Checklist

Have you…

  • Cleaned up all fallen leaves (particularly diseased ones)?
  • Mulched all tender plants (especially those newly-planted)?
  • Sprayed or wrapped all susceptible shrubs to protect against rodent damage?
  • Erected burlap screens to protect plants sensitive to wind damage?
  • Heaped soil or mulch around the crowns of your roses for protection?
  • Applied a winterizer fertilizer to your lawn?
  • Watered all evergreen thoroughly just before freeze-up?