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Did your plants survive the frost last night? Pretty chilly in London, Ontario, let me tell you. Can you believe that it is May and we have had snow, sleet and a whole dollop of winter this week? Well, this coming weekend is the Victoria Day weekend in Canada. Traditionally it has always been the harbinger of summer. Hopefully this long weekend will measure up!

Not only is Victoria Day touted as the beginning of summer, it is also the unofficial start of gardening season. So even if you lost a tender plant or two last night, you should be able to replace and plant pretty much anything now. Bring on the flowers, vegetables, annuals, perennials and whatever else you’ve got planned to go into your plot of dirt.

Do you know what you are planting this year? Haven’t gotten that far yet? No worries. There are plenty of garden centres in and around London with plenty of stock to choose from. Whether you want healthy, pre-established vegetables, heritage herbs or colourful hanging baskets, you are sure to find something to please your green thumb with. So where do you go? Why not try one of these local garden centres;

Local Garden Centres

Canadale:

  • 269 Sunset Dr. (Highway 4,  on way into Port Stanley), St Thomas
  • HOURS – Weekdays 8 am – 8 pm, Saturday 8 am – 6 pm, Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
    • A family run business since 1955, this garden centre and nursery has received the Better Business Bureau’s Business Integrity Award, as well as Landscape Ontario Consumer’s Choice Award. The 110 acre growing facility is home to a plethora of fresh and healthy shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, vines, annuals, vegetables, herbs, houseplants as well as gardening supplies and decor items. They even have a kid’s activity centre where children can do gardening crafts while you shop.

Heeman’s:

  • 20422 Nissouri Rd, London
  • HOURS – Weekdays 8 am – 8 pm, Weekends 8 am – 5 pm
    • Another family run nursery, Heeman’s has been around since 1963. Strawberries is where the business started and it has flourished from there. With over 50 acres dedicated to strawberries, featuring a pick-your-own that is constantly in demand, the 190,000 square feet of greenhouses featuring 900 varieties of annuals, 500 varieties of perennials, 80 varieties of vegetable plants and 30 varieties of herbs are also a big draw. They even offer winter storage, custom ordering (to create personalized containers that shine), plant rentals (for weddings or other special functions) and regular updates on their social networking sites (Facebook & Twitter).

Springbank Garden Centre:

  • 462 Springbank Dr, London
  • HOURSSpring hours are constantly changing, but 9 am -6 pm on Wednesday, 9 am – 7 pm Thursday & Friday, Saturday 9 am – 7 pm, Sunday and Holiday Monday 9 am – 6 pm. After the long weekend Weekdays 9 am – 9 pm
    • Started as The Little Tree Farm, the Springbank Garden Centre has seen plenty of changes since the early 1960s when they first opened their doors. The garden centre has seen changes in owners, in property size (City of London expropriated 30 ft strip for widening Springbank Dr in 2003) and more recently a change in location when they moved to a newer, more modern building 200 ft west of the original site. They hasn’t changed the heart of what they offer though. You will of course find a wide variety of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, hanging baskets, trees, shrubs, house plants, soil, mulch, garden stone, tools, decor items, lawn needs, fertilizer, firewood and more. The staff are always friendly, as well as being extremely knowledgeable about everything that they carry. Located in the heart of London, it is easy to get to from pretty much anywhere. Why not stop in and see what they have today?

Van Horik’s Greenhouses and Garden Centre:

  • 930 Gainsborough Rd, London
  • HOURS – Weekdays 8:30 am – 8:30 pm, Saturdays 9 am – 6 pm, Sundays & Holidays 10 am – 5 pm
    • Are you looking for something new or unusual? Van Horik’s is the place for you! This family run business has been around since 1969 and they have a pulse on the gardening world. In fact, Denise Hodgins writes a weekly column in the Homes section of the London Free Press, discussing the latest news and views from the garden industry, not to mention their regularly updated Facebook page. There is more to Van Horik’s than that though. You will find a wide selection of annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, pond plants, tropicals and even seed packets for those wanting to grow their own plants, at the garden centre. Other garden essentials like soil, mulch, fertilizer, landscape stone, lawn care items, tools, containers, and decor items can also be found there.

Van Luyk Greenhouses & Garden Centre:

  • 1728 Gore Rd, London
  • HOURS – Weekdays 9 am – 9 pm, Weekends 9 am – 6 pm
    • The Van Luyk family opened the doors on their greenhouse in 1970 and have been going strong since then. Now boasting over 50,000 square feet of greenhouses, where 80% of the plants that are sold come from, they sell annuals, perennials, bulbs, trees, shrubs, vines, hanging baskets, mulch, soil, landscape ornaments, garden tools and more. They are open seven days a week, year round, featuring tropicals, pumpkins, straw, Christmas trees, poinsettia, lawn care and whatever else you might need for your garden, regardless of the season. If you can’t find it, then ask! The employees are resourceful, dedicated and one of the joys of visiting Van Luyk’s.

What is your favourite garden centre, nursery or greenhouse in London? What will you be planting this weekend?

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Did you get a chance to stop and smell the flowers last weekend? It is amazing to watch them go from tiny buds to fully open colourful carpets of life in your yard. Of course I have also noticed that the warm weather has brought out carpets of another flower in my yard. More specifically, the field of yellow is a sea of dandelions that is competing with the newly green lawn.

Sigh…

Dandelions

Genus Taraxacum; sunny yellow dandelions

Welcome to life as a homeowner. So what do we do with these sunny weeds that were brought over to North America compliments of our early European settlers? Now that is a question that has been asked by lawn lovers for an awfully long time. How about one of these helpful suggestions;

DANDELIONS: Fight or Foster?

I remember picking dandelions as a child and chanting the ominous little ditty “Mama had a baby and its head popped off”, as I popped the end of the flower off of its stalk. A bit macabre, but it filled hours of entertainment for all the neighbourhood kids and potentially eradicated at least a few new weeds in our parent’s lawns. Nowadays though, most North Americans first response when they see these infamous yellow flowers is to grimace. It used to be that you would get out the weed killer and spray those little buggers out of existence, but since 2009 cosmetic pesticides have been banned in Ontario. That means that if you want to get rid of the virulent Taraxacum invasion in your yard, you have to other means.

Dandelion Digger from Lee Valley

The obvious, but extremely time-consuming answer is to dig the dandelions out of your yard. Cutting them down with the lawn mower might remove the flower head and some of the long, tooth-shaped leaves, but you have to get to the root of the problem. Literally. Because even if you shear the plant to the ground, this perennial plant will keep coming back year after year. That is unless you pull the dandelion out, tap-root and all. And those tap-roots can be 15 cm or longer. You will need a ‘dandelion digger’, or a simple trowel (if your back can hack it). Your only other ingredient is time to dig them up.

Vinegar; the natural herbicide

If digging dandelions doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are some other options to get rid of those pesky plants. Dandelions need plenty of sunlight to grow. If you smother them, cutting off their source of sun, you will kill the flower. Of course if your yard is overrun by them, you will also be effectively killing the grass around them too. Think of this as a small-sized solution or conversely, a wide-reaching one. You can also pour boiling water over the plant several times a day until it dies. Vinegar also works to clean your world inside and out. Spraying vinegar on a dandelion plant works as an effective natural herbicide that won’t harm the soil or contaminate ground water.

There are a few other methods to combat your battle with dandelions. One is to over-seed your lawn. This simple step not only improves the health and look of your lawn, but it also chokes out weeds, making it harder for them to flourish. Another tip that lawn care companies will gladly suggest is to improve the quality of your soil. Dandelions love acidic soil. If you improve your soil with mulch or compost, dandelions get weaker and less likely to thrive or take root in the first place. As a bonus, this also makes them easier to pull out!

Of course you could also learn to love the prevalent weed. They do make for sunny spots in amongst the green grass in the spring. They are also edible, from their roots, to bitter leaves, to brilliant yellow flowers. You can add leaves to your salad for a dash of calcium and iron. They also contain vitamin A, B complex, C, D, potassium, and even zinc. Plus, they are low in calories! The common dandelion has even been used in various herbal remedies, such as being used as a diuretic, stimulating appetite, aiding digestion, detoxifying the liver and gallbladder and just generally improving the immune system. Not bad for a plant that most homeowners consider a scourge on their property.

So if you break down and pick a pack of dandelions this spring, why not think of taking them to the kitchen, instead of depositing them in your local yard waste bags. This recipe for dandelion pesto from David Lebovitz, just might help to sway you in leaving at least a small pocket of yellow in your yard, if not for your children than at least for your culinary taste buds. Enjoy!

Dandelion Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces (350g) washed and cleaned dandelion leaves
  • 1 cup (250ml) olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons (40g) pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 ounces (70g) Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

Directions:

1. Put about one-third of the dandelion greens in the food processor or blender with the olive oil and chop for a minute, scraping down the sides. Add the remaining dandelion greens in two batches, until they’re all finely chopped up.

2. Add the garlic cloves, pine nuts, salt, and Parmesan, and process until everything is a smooth puree.

3. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. If it’s too thick, you can thin it with more olive oil or water.
Storage: The pesto can be refrigerated in a jar for up to four days. The top may darken, which is normal. You can pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to prevent that. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

Good luck with your (delicious/dastardly) dandelion dilemma!

May has arrived and with it summer weather. Birds fill the air with their songs, trees are threatening to burst forth with leaves and it looks like the grass needs to be cut already. Summer time in London at its finest.

If the double digits on the mercury are drawing you outside, no one would blame you. There are flowers in bloom and you deserve to stop and smell them. In fact, there are flowers in bloom all over London, Ontario this weekend.

Flowers In Your Neighbourhood

First stop for flowers has to be London’s Best Garden Centre – Heeman’s. I’m not just saying that either. They were voted Best Garden Centre in 2013 by the London Free Press voting community. That is a pretty big title, considering that London has more than a few well-stocked nurseries and garden centres around. They deserve the title too! They have some of the best annuals, perennials and staff to help you pick them.

This weekend Heeman’s wants to celebrate that, plus their 50th Anniversary with you. On May 4th, 2013 they will open their doors and cutting the cake. There will be refreshments to go with the cake, as well as prizes, including a grand prize of a $500 Heeman’s gift certificate. Plus you can get a behind the scenes look at the greenhouses and gadgets that make them run on special tours held throughout the day. Bill and Susan Heeman should be proud of the operation they started way back in 1963.

 

They are not the only place that has flowers on the brain though. On the other side of town, Poetry in Bloom will be hosted at the Civic Garden Complex (625 Springbank Dr). The Garden Club of London will have the Tea Room open from 10 am – 3 pm, but you can wander around the complex and enjoy the facility from 10 am – 5 pm on May 4th and 5th, 2013. There will be demonstrations at 11 am and 3 pm of their flower arranging, cultivation and care of indoor and outdoor plants. Six beautiful urns will be on display created by Garden Club members. You can also wander around the outdoor Woodland Restoration Project, which is home to over 200 native and Carolinian species. Admission is $5, children are free.

 

If real flowers make you twitch, artistic flowers might be more up your alley. A trip to the ARTS Project is just the thing then, for you to see Steve Tracy’s Sculptured Flowers instead. His spring collection will be on display from May 7-11, 2013. These artistic creations are a unique paint application that turn his paintings into 2-D sculptures that pop. The artist is even donating 10% of his sales back to the ARTS Project. Plus you can meet him in person on May 11th from 1-3 pm. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but these beautiful flowers get a boost from a video showing how Steve creates his masterpieces.

 

Have a great weekend.Don’t forget to stop to smell the flowers in your own yard as well!

Lovely. Another storm watch. They are predicting 15-20 cm of snow to fall in Southwestern Ontario from tonight through to tomorrow. If you have to go out, drive carefully, as it will be a wet mix with rain intermixed into all that snow. Not looking forward to the morning commute, I can tell you. Just another winter day in Canada.

Seed packets are in!

Ah, but there is a bright spot in all of this. If you take a peek into your local garden centre, a sure sign of spring is already there in the form of seed packets! If you are an avid gardener at heart, now is the time to start planning this year’s garden. That means ordering seed catalogues and deciding how many plants to start indoors to get a jump-start on your garden. You can save time and money by starting your own seeds indoors and all it really takes is a bright spot in your home. If natural light is at a premium in your house, then fluorescent lights will do the trick as well. Once you have your growing medium and the pots to grow the seeds in, then all that is required is a little water and you are off to the races!

A tray used in horticulture (for sowing and ta...

A tray used in horticulture (for sowing and taking plant cuttings) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you shaking your heads at the memory of a less than green thumb from previous seasons, relax. Winter doldrums disappear at the sight of tiny saplings sticking their head out of the dirt. And it really isn’t nearly as hard as one would think! Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before you start;

  • Do you want to grow annuals (live for one season) or perennials (return every year)? If you are thinking of seeds, annuals are the easier choice.
  • Are you wanting edible plants or flowers/grasses? They often have very different propagation time periods, so set a time-table for your sowing schedule.
  • If you are looking to start fruits or vegetables, how many people are you planning to feed with them? You only need as many plants as per people you will be feeding, so plant your seeds accordingly. No need to have 20 plants producing enough food to fee your neighbourhood, when you have a family of three to provide for.
  • When is the last frost date for your area? Depending upon the plants that you grow, you need to know when the last frost will occur in your area (approximately). Planting seeds too early might leave you with leggy specimens that don’t stand a chance once they reach the outside world. Calculate how long before planting you need to sow your seeds, then count back from the projected frost date. That is when to plant them.
  • Are you planting more than one thing? More than likely you are, so make sure to label everything! Seedlings tend to look alike when they first come up, so do yourself a favour and write on a popsicle stick, on the container or whatever else is handy to make sure that you know what you have on your hands a few weeks after planting your seeds.
  • Once it is time to take your seedlings outside to transplant, don’t forget the most important thing – harden them off! The atmosphere between your house (fairly uniform) to outside can differ greatly. Slowly acclimatize them to the outside sunshine and temperatures gradually, or else all your efforts will be for naught.

What is your best advice for the novice seed gardener? Any tips and tricks to help everything go and grow smoothly?

That sun just keeps on shining and nary a cloud is in sight yet again. Wonderful if it is a beach day for you, but what about for your garden? Many a garden in the London area is looking wilted, crispy and downright dry to the bone. Wide swathes of brown lawns attest to the fact that we have had little rain in the past several weeks. While that isn’t a problem for the grass, as it goes dormant in the summer heat, trees and other plant life does not. How do you prevent them from drying up and playing dead? Check out these suggestions for how to beat the heat in your garden.

BEAT THE HEAT IN THE GARDEN

  • Tree Watering Alert:

    Right now there is tree watering alert in London, Ontario. People are being asked to water their trees either with a soaker hose left on for 30-60 minutes or a 20-litre bucket drip. Trees require a minimum of 25mm of rain per week, so if you are watering by hand a rain gauge might be helpful to help measure that. Trees provide shade for you, your house and your gardens, keeping you all cooler, so say thank you with a big long drink for those hard-working trees.

  • Water Drop

    Water Drop (Photo credit: Isolino)

    Plant more trees:

    Not only will you be supporting the Million Tree Challenge, but you will also be reducing the amount of sun on your garden. That makes your whole garden cooler, plus it improves the quality of water that makes it to the ground as well. Add that to improved air quality, which is welcome during the many heat and smog alerts that strike in the summer and you’ve got plenty to reasons to plant a few more trees in your yard.

  • Add a rain barrel:

    When Mother Nature does grace us with a spot of rain, be ready to catch some of it in a rain barrel. You will have access to water, without having to worry about what day you are watering on (in London, even-numbered houses can only water on even days, and odd houses on odd by City of London bylaw) or how much it is going to cost you. Some rain barrels make a nice addition to your garden as well, with small planters included to

  • Mulch Party

    Mulch Party (Photo credit: Willowtree2005)

    MULCH!:

    If you didn’t get around to it in the spring, I will remind you now. A layer of mulch helps to prevent water loss through evaporation. It also helps to keep the soil cooler (don’t we all want that!), lessens the amounts of weeds (which compete for water) and improves the quality of the soil itself. Your whole garden will benefit from the addition of mulch, so get on it now!

  • Time your watering:

    Before you head out to water your garden, be smart about the time of day that you water. Early morning watering, before the heat of the day sets in, gives your plants an opportunity to absorb that precious moisture, before the sun whisks it away. You can also water in the evening, after the sun has retreated for the day, again reducing water loss due to evaporation.

  • Yarrow is a pretty drought-tolerant species for the garden

    Plant drought-resistant species:

    With temperatures staying hot for longer and longer periods, perhaps it is time to look at more heat-resistant species to replace your water-loving ones. Xeriscaping is an art in and of itself, plus it reduces your consumption of water altogether. You might discover a whole new love of gardening, as you explore drought-tolerant plants like black-eyed susans, butterfly bushes, maiden grass and more!  Heck, you could get rid of your lawn altogether and just fill your yard with a variety of heat-loving plants that will make you, the birds, bees and butterflies all happier!

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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