Garden Clean-up and Preparation for the Growing Season

Winnipeg Public Library presents
Susan LeBlanc, Master Gardener
Garden Clean-Up and Preparation for the Growing Season
March 30/21 – 6:30 – 7:45 pm

Spring is here and now is the time to think about what needs to be done to start the growing season. Join us via Zoom as Master Gardener Susan Leblanc discusses spring cleanup and ways to kick-start your garden. There will be time for questions, too. A Zoom link to attend is sent when you register.

Bee Better Manitoba

Bee Better Manitoba: Inspiring Manitobans to create pollinator habitat.

Join us as we discuss pollinators and what we can do to conserve them. Pollinating insects are important for ecosystem health and food production, yet these beneficial insects are struggling due to a variety of stressors. We’ll provide an overview of local pollinators, conservation concerns, ways to help, and how Bee Better Manitoba provides the tools to create habitat at homes, schools, and businesses.

Master Gardeners Partnering with the St. Vital Agricultural Society

Master Gardeners Partnering with the St Vital Agricultural Society
Year 2020 – Manitoba’s 150th Anniversary

By Karen Fontaine, Master Gardener

What was to be a year of celebrations turned out to be one of postponements and cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately gardening was not cancelled and the St. Vital Agricultural Society (SVAS) was able to proceed with the planned projects on Bishop Grandin Greenway.

The first project, Manitoba 150 Pollinator Garden, was completed in June. This garden was added next to SVAS’s Sesquicentennial Community Garden which was installed in 2018 to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary. The Pollinator Garden was the inspiration of Cathy Shaluk of Monarch Teacher Network who generously donated the 500 plants that were added in the garden. Master Gardeners from the Branching Out Study Group and plot holders from the community garden came together to plant the wildflowers and native grasses. Over the summer Master Gardeners Debbie Innes, Kathie Partridge, Karen Steinfeld, Gayle Kolson and Karen Fontaine watered and weeded on a weekly basis giving all the plants a wonderful start. How amazing to see the little plugs grow graciously into adult plants, many in bloom! And the bees and butterflies came!

Herbal Tea Gardens

By Doris Mae Oulton, Master Gardener in Training

Inspired by the presentation that Getty Stewart made at the Herb Society of Manitoba on herbal teas, I decided to turn part of my garden into an herbal tea garden. Of course, you can ‘just have some herbs’ in your garden but if you are going to be serious about this and take the herb growing to the next level, then you really must explore what kind of herbs you need to add to your garden so you can have a fully developed (for example) Tea Garden.

According to the herbal academy of New England there are many and varied choices of herb garden: examples include Culinary Garden, Lemon Garden, Dyers Garden and Medicinal Garden. I have no ambition to be a medicinal herbalist, but I really wanted to further develop my garden as a source of interesting teas of the ‘afternoon tea’ variety (with the advantage of both the summer fresh herb tea and the dried herbs for the winter months).

Book review – The Living Landscape

The Living Landscape
Designing for beauty & biodiversity in the home garden.
Authors: Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy
Publisher: Timber Press, 2014
Book review by Derek Yarnell, Master Gardener

In my humble opinion Douglas Tallamy is a bona-fide rock star of the gardening world. And, this amazing fellow is not even a horticulturalist by trade!

In 2007 Tallamy published “Bringing Nature Home” his seminal work on gardening with nature in mind that, according to the National Wildlife Federation, “…changed the conversation about gardening in (North) America.” Tallamy awakened readers to the connection between their personal plant choices and massive declines in North American wildlife populations. Rather than dish out blame, Tallamy presents his readers with an opportunity and a solution: plant more native plants.

Growing Plants from Seeds – It’s Easy, Fun and Economical

By Darlene Belton, Master Gardener

You’ve ordered your seeds. With luck, you’ve actually received your order. The seed shortage forecast by the Manitoba seed companies I interviewed for the January Grow Column proved right – shortages are underway. Even experienced seed-starters are waiting for early orders that in the past were always filled right away.

So, what next? I’ve checked some trusted sources, interviewed some expert gardeners*, and dredged the pit of my own experience for these suggestions to those who are new to the joy of multiplying your garden entirely to your own preferences and conditions.

Choreography in the Garden

Parc de Gerland. Lyon, France. Photo by John Harper, 2005.

By John L. Harper, MALA

John earned his Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Georgia College of Environment and Design in 1996. Upon completion of his MLA, he worked in Atlanta for several years where he first got his license to practice. He is now principal at Studio 169 Landscape Architecture in Winnipeg and teaches part-time for the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba.

In contrast to the earthy realities of soil and plants, the beguiling imagery of gardens often comes to us from art and advertising. We cannot enter these images as we enter a garden, but we often dream of making our gardens like them. As creators of gardens large or small, most of us dream of beautiful places that we never see fully realized. We know that we can never quite capture our dream garden and hold it in a perfect moment. I would suggest that we do not need to, and that a more meaningful relationship may be found through an often-overlooked aspect of garden design—choreography and its open-endedness.

Consider, for example, the meadow garden in its many variations conjuring a gardener’s dream of flowering plants en masse, surrounding us on all sides, so many that we walk over them and dance through them. But as Dorothy found in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, vast meadows of beautiful flowers may present us with new and complex challenges. Obviously, in this case the choreography went astray of the yellow brick road, with Dorothy and her friends instead skipping merrily through a meadow filled with poisonous poppies, which brought them close to their doom. Even the gardener risks toxic results when we try too hard to realize the images that we see in garden publications and design magazines. There is a better way.

When we fully immerse ourselves in the materials of a garden, we return to our humanity, our earthly origins. Imaginary gardens deny us the intimate relationship with nature we crave. Although we are inundated by the appeals of advertisers to first buy into the dream of limitless beauty in our gardens and then to achieve this at any cost including toxic chemicals, this disrupts the connection to nature we seek to create. If we see the garden image on a digital screen and with our feet flat on the floor, we remain safely unenlightened. Instead, I propose that we must venture out, and choreography offers many opportunities to do so.

Choreography, the design of sequences of movements for physical bodies is an important, but often unnoticed element of successful gardens. It is one way of opening a dialog with a garden. Is choreography not for dancers, you ask?

Jack Howard-Potter. Dancer 10. Mathews-Sanders Sculpture Garden, Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi. Photo by John Harper, 2019

Perhaps, but famously Anna and Lawrence Halprin, he a landscape architect and she a dancer and choreographer, helped bring new ideas to designers about choreographing the movement of people in space in a process intended to foster environmental awareness. Their proposals were “scored” for environmental situations with the final performance left open-ended. (1) Gardeners who use this approach need not go to the same lengths as the Halprins, but if you consider each walk you make on your garden path a small performance in collaboration with the plants, the wind, the sun, the rain, and snow, you leave the results open to new, alternate garden realities.

Pedestrians. Parc de la Villete,Paris, France. Photo by John Harper, 2005.

As I have suggested, your garden vision and the path system you design for it clearly need to have a conceptual as well as pragmatic relationship. No matter the style you choose for your garden, access for maintenance as well as pleasure will be a necessity. But the path to your plants, its proportions, and its materials, is the way by which you and visitors will interpret your garden. What if you design this “access” to accommodate weddings, birthdays, and cocktail parties as well as the transport of compost? You and your guests benefit from a subtle reminder to be aware of the environment. In that sense, the movement of people about a garden should be natural and comfortable and afford one a pleasant view of the garden’s main attraction—plants. But we do not want to simply stand and stare as if we are at an old-fashioned zoo; we want to interact, so I am with the Halprins in designing choreography for the garden.

Parc André Citroën. Paris. Photo by John Harper, 2005.

Seldom do gardeners daydream during the long winter months about where we are going to walk in our garden visions. The mundane notion of pedestrian circulation may seem to you the territory of city landscape architects with their sidewalks and trees in grates. But the routes we take in a garden need not be simply linear paths from A to B and C; rather they may flow in such a way that we participate more fully in the garden experience, thereby heightening our awareness of nature and the environment. If you allow circulation in your garden to occur by default, you ignore the critical shaping of garden spaces and their relationships to one another.

Open-ended performances may occur with humans in “nature” rather than viewing nature. Plan your dance as well as you select the plants who will be your partners. Consider a hierarchy of path sizes, a broad path for the showiest part of your garden, a narrow path to the compost heap. Choose beautiful materials to complement your plantings: stone, gravel, brick, mulch, and even turfgrass all make excellent pathway surfaces.

Parc du Sausset, Villepinte, France. Photo by John Harper, 2005.

Create mystery with hidden curves that make small gardens look bigger. Locate terminal points for specimen plants, sculpture, or bird baths. And do not forget that night lighting can lengthen your enjoyment time in the garden. With all these tools at your disposal, you become the choreographer of a garden design that is open to infinite possibilities.

Vannan Garden. Winnipeg. Photo by John Harper, 2012

(1) Alison B. Hirsch, “The Collective Creativity of Anna and Lawrence Halprin,” GIA Reader 27, no.2 (Summer 2016).

Green is a Verb

By Elizabeth Sellors, Master Gardener

North American’s love affair with lawns is a recent development in the human history of altering our environment. Lawns became the hallmark of homeownership in the 1800’s when North American home owners began to copy the 18th century idea of landscaping with vast swaths of green turf commonly associated with English country estates. North Americans’ dream was to attain a patch of perfectly manicured bright green, lush grass attached to their homes. And, not just any grass but a singular type of grass, weed-free, not a hair over one-and-a-half inches tall and neatly edged. Lawns came to represent shared ideals, collective responsibility and conformity.

Holiday Cacti: Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus and Easter cactus

Photo by: Diane Daignault

By Lori Graham, Master Gardener

Holiday cacti are tough forgiving plants that are easy to care for once established. They store water in their stems making them very drought tolerant. Holiday cacti are not poisonous to humans, cats or dogs and many of us grow these as houseplants. The Christmas cactus still blooms each winter with its message of faith and hope.

Schlumbergera, a small genus of cactus with 6 accepted species, is found in the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil. This genus includes the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). Schlumbergera x buckleyi, by many considered the true Christmas cactus, is a hybrid between S. truncata x S. russelliana. The Easter cactus belongs to the genus Rhipalidopsis with the specific epithet gaertneri but is cared for in the same way.

Drawing by Jo Swartz

Thanksgiving cactus has jagged edged stem segments; these segments, called phylloclades, are serrated or toothed, with two to four pointy spines on each side.
Thanksgiving cacti are commonly sold around this time of year, as they are easier to ship to various locations.

Thanksgiving cactus: Photo by Lori Graham

The stem segments of the Christmas cactus have a more rounded, scalloped edge. The tip of each segment is slightly curved but can look almost straight across.

Christmas cactus – photo courtesy of Angela Sooknanan

I am providing growing tips from my own experiences with these plants.

• Watering – I bottom water my plants once a month. I place the plant pot (with holes in the bottom of the pot) in a large saucer of water then wait at least 30 min. Then I place the pot back into a drip tray and back to its location. Don’t over water. The leaves will go limp or fall off if the plant has been over-watered.
• Location – These plants like bright indirect light. You will know if the plant gets too much light as the leaves will start to turn a purple colour. This happens to mine more in the summer months. Should this happen move the plant farther away from the light source. Try a north or east-facing window, again not in direct sunlight.
• Fertilizer – I use fertilizer only in the growing season April to October.
• Blooms – I don’t have to do anything to mine to make them bloom. If under the right conditions the plant should bloom on its own. If you are having trouble getting the plant into bloom apparently giving them 14 hours of darkness is suppose to will help. Move it to a dark room or place a paper-bag over it.
• Transplanting – Theses plants like to have their roots crowded, so I transplant only if root bound. You will notice roots coming out of the bottom of the pot. You don’t have to transplant these plants often but if you do make sure to only go up one pot size. If plant is in the pot you purchased it in, example 4-inch pot, transplant to a 6-inch pot. Do not transplant when the plant is budding or going into bloom. I use regular potting soil made for houseplants.

Every year when my plants come into bloom it makes me smile to know these plants are happy and in a good place. Wishing you much success should you buy one of these plants.

Know your Manitoba Seed Companies!

By Darlene Belton, Master Gardener

Every New Year gardeners eagerly anticipate the growing season ahead. This year it seems new gardeners are too! In 2020 growing our own food became as popular as hoarding toilet paper and nurturing sour dough starter. The forecast is that in 2021 even more new gardeners will join us in our journey.

This skyrocketing trend means our services as gardening educators will not only be in greater demand but, as avid gardeners ourselves, we can expect to face stiffer competition for seeds, plants and supplies than in 2020. I know I’m not the only gardener who was astounded at the empty shelves in late May last year; some even missed out on their orders as seed companies ran out of stock in March and April.

For weeks already Manitoba’s seed companies have been preparing for what they anticipate to be another blockbuster year. Nevertheless, ordering early is their urgent advice. Therefore this month’s column focuses on food gardening, featuring Manitoba’s own seed companies and what I have learned about this complex industry by perusing their websites and interviewing their managers.

Heritage Harvest Seeds   Click Here 

Compared to other Manitoba vegetable seed companies, only Heritage Seed Company owner, Tanya Stefanec of Fisher Branch Manitoba grows, harvests and distributes her own heirloom seeds as well as other heirloom varieties she sources from growers across Canada who produce for her. Reviewed by Dave’s Garden ‘Garden Watchdog’ and (a homesteading and permaculture site), Heritage Seed Co. received excellent customer ratings for both seed viability and variety, and fast order processing and delivery (now only within Canada). In business for 18 years, Tanya’s website claims her company has become Canada’s No. 1 source for rare and endangered varieties of heirloom seed (over 800 varieties in 2021). She also sells Seeds of Diversity’s Seed Saving Book ($24.95). Though not certified organic, all seed stock is “open-pollinated, non-hybrid, non-GMO, untreated, natural heirloom seed”. Tanya has a bachelor’s degree in horticultural technology and has been an avid gardener since a small child. She has been able to combine a fascination with history and gardening with her passion to preserve our local gardening heritage. “I am not able to grow enough seed to meet demand,” Tanya says. “Every year the interest in rare and endangered seed increases.” Ordering is online only in 2021.

Sage Garden Seeds   Click Here 

Sage Garden Greenhouses is a 100% organic garden centre known primarily in Manitoba. Sage Garden owner, Dave Hanson, also sources, rebrands and distributes about 350 varieties of certified organic seeds across Canada. In his usual helpful, knowledgeable style, Dave gave me a lot of information about the Canadian seed industry. Unlike what we might assume, most seeds, he says, originate in the U.S. via large-scale producers; the seeds are purchased and then rebranded by Canadian companies. Dave uses trusted sources of certified organic seeds from large American producers, “partners” he calls them. He has also found small “niche” Canadian growers of around the 50-acre size, such as Annapolis Seeds, that offer more specialized varieties better adapted to our short season. Both types of sourced seed he then packages, rebranded with the Sage Garden logo for online ordering and distribution. Sage Garden also offers seeds under other brand names, all certified organic. Like everyone else in the seed industry, Dave was caught unprepared for the rush of demand last spring, but feels ready for 2021 with more inventory, and a more efficient processing system now in place.

Why the insistence on certified organic seed I asked Dave. “Buying and planting organic seed goes beyond our own gardens,” he said. “The process of producing certified organic seed enhances land use in distant areas where the seeds are grown and harvested. It supports regenerative agriculture and is more holistic overall.”

What trends does Dave see in food gardening? “Vegetable gardeners are becoming more adventurous. They want colourful unique varieties that present beautifully,” he said. “There has been a revolution in varieties of tomatoes, for example. People want seeds that will do what they say they’ll do – especially compact varieties of favorites suitable for small space gardening and containers.”

Browsing the Sage Garden website is an education in itself; check out the podcasts and the seed-starting supplies. Dave especially recommends heat mats for starting your seeds (greater uniformity and speed of growth, plus stronger roots). He says hot season plants such as hot peppers and eggplant really need that extra boost.

T&T Seeds   Click Here 

Started in 1946, T&T Seeds has grown to offer a full range of vegetables, herbs, roots, bulbs and fruit shrubs and trees, plus supplies. The website claims no other Canadian seed company has such extensive refrigeration facilities for storing dormant fruit and berry root stock – shipped at appropriate times to customers across Canada. The website is worth a prowl, featuring a Canadian hardiness zone map, and the ‘Garden Guru’ tips & library. T&T’s chock-full charming print catalogue is a “must-have” for Manitoba gardeners (with online ordering also offered). Manager Brian Twomey says T&T is already one month into heavy sales – sooner this year, confirming his sense that 2021 may repeat the incredible demand of 2020. Ordering by February 15 rewards you with a 10% discount. Brian notes that sprouts have become a big seller and there is a growing market for sweet potato cuttings which sold very well last year and will be in greater supply in 2021.

Lindenberg Seeds   Click Here

This year, 2021, is the 86th year in business for this Brandon-based seed company. A simple website promises online ordering is coming soon; in the meantime you can download a PDF catalogue, or order a print one. Manager Rick Lindenberg is witnessing an across-the-board increase in food gardening seed sales. He is pleased to see the surge of interest in home gardening, and is hoping it will last. Lindenberg Seeds carry no GMO seeds or seeds treated with neonicotinoids. The company sources seed primarily from Idaho, California and Oregon, some of which is originally grown in Chile and other South American locales. There are no extra shipping or handling charges for orders over $60; orders under $60 are charged $8.95. Ordering/shipping is only within Canada.

McKenzie Seeds   Click Here 

In business now for 122 years, Brandon-based McKenzie Seeds claims it is “Canada’s number one packet seed company”. Its packages are a familiar sight in Canada’s larger retailers such as Canadian Tire. The website’s strong message to “Order now to secure inventory” and its early acceptance of pre-orders for spring planting materials both attest to the now-familiar anticipated shortages down the line in 2021. There is free shipping on orders over $55 (pre-tax) and the company is front and centre about no GMO products or neonicotinoids – “never has, never will, because of the impact on pollinating insects”. The website hosts rich garden tips and “How to Grow” (specific vegetables) sections, worth perusing, plus a gardening help line. Online catalogue and ordering only.