Making a brand-new garden

Beckie Fox

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steps in garden

Renovating an established garden is one thing; starting a new garden from scratch is altogether different. Both scenarios require planning, research and careful decisions, but I’d argue that starting a new garden from scratch is the more intimidating of these two scenarios. Of our three gardens, two began as (almost) clean slates. My first piece of advice to those of you in a similar situation: go slowly. Next, read “Create your dream garden from scratch” on how to prioritize your decision making.

One of the first decisions to make when planning a brand-new garden is determining where paths will go.

Spring allergies afoot

Seasonal allergies occur beyond midsummer (grass pollen) and fall (ragweed); they can be problematic in spring, too, when tree pollen brings on sneezing and itchy eyes for many. Master Gardeners of Niagara shared a few online references worth consulting if you’re choosing a new tree and also suffer from spring allergies.

•  A Maclean’s article explains how the widespread planting of male trees could explain why your spring allergies are getting worse.

•  The Tree Care Guide lists trees with high rates of pollen dispersal.

•  Allergy-Free Gardening has more ideas on how to deal with plant-triggered allergies. 

Better success with blueberries

Orchard People has advice on how to grow blueberries with more success. The interview with a blueberry researcher discusses the soil pH necessary for healthy shrubs and how to achieve it, as well as recommended cultivars and species, including native North American blueberries.

Stretch before you dig in

Here’s a case of do as I say, not as I do. I’m talking about taking the time to limber up with a few stretches before barrowing that cubic yard of soil just delivered to the driveway into the vegetable beds. Every spring, there are sore muscles that could have been avoided if I had taken breaks, stretched and used the right tools. 

“Stretches for gardeners really help” is a guide with warmups and lifting tips.

Keep smiling and growing

In November, we asked you to tell us about your recent gardening highlights and challenges. I included some of your comments in a newsletter then, but promised to share more later.

Reading about the experiences of other gardeners often inspires my own efforts. I hope that is the case for you, too. Here are more of your comments from the survey:

•  “I replaced the expanse of lawn in the front yard with a variety of evergreens to create a year-long buffer to the street.”

•  “The highlight is my dahlias; I plant around 200. It’s a lot of work digging them up, but worth the wonderful bouquets I can share with friends. I have been gardening for 75 years, and actually love all plants, especially those with purple flowers. I’ve also belonged to a garden club in White Rock, B.C., for 24 years. It’s a wonderful group and we share plants, so nearly every garden in town has the same plants. Someone is always trying something new, then we all get snips of that one, too.”

•  “Every gardening year I learn something, but after 54 years one would think there wasn’t much more to learn. However, 2020 was no exception. ‘Karl Foerster’ [feather reed] grasses are too large for the backdrop of a narrow border, so I took six out, and left one on each end for vertical interest. My peonies are much happier and I planted echinaceas where the grasses had been.”

•  “The highlight of our garden for a number of years has been foxgloves. They self-seed each year and although most are now pink, some years a recessive gene comes to the fore and blooms are white or a pale mauve. I help the self-seeding process by cutting off the stalk when seed pods form, and place it upright in a moist, partly shady location to let the seeds fall to the ground naturally. I keep an eye on the location, and in about September, tiny green seedlings can be seen. I make sure that the area is not cultivated, and the following season there are lovely healthy plants that will flower the following year. Unless a particularly bad winter occurs, the garden has a continuous supply of foxgloves.”

•  “Our family tradition is iris. I don’t know why. Grandma, father, one of my sisters and me. I’ve been an avid gardener for 50+ years and we still keep adding beds. My husband has taken over the very large veg garden now, and he built me a greenhouse five years ago. My happiest hours are harvesting the millions of morning glory seeds and now annuals like nicotiana. I store geraniums in the cellar; some are 15 years old.”

•  “Through an accident or maybe good planning (unbeknownst to me) we had a beautiful pink mallow plant that bloomed until hard frost. Will buy seed and plant again. Also cleared a new cutting garden for a mixture of annual poppies and white bachelor buttons. Again, a stunning success. Hundreds of all colours and sizes of poppies. So worthwhile. Made me smile every day.” 

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