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Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips began in September 2020 as a weekly collaboration with


Society members may click Add Comment following any article, and post comments such as adding more retrospective, agreeing with the contributor, or even suggesting a correction. 

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  • November 22, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    More About Lawns and Leaves
    Article by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    After last week’s Gardening Tip was posted, I had a few people ask me to provide some follow-up information so let’s try to address each of these in today’s article:

    • Can we to run the lawn mower over the leaves?
    • Can I leave my leaves on my lawn?
    • Coming soon: Leaf blowers – good or bad?

    Can we to run the lawn mower over the leaves?

    First let’s talk briefly about grass clippings.  You can use a regular or mulching lawn mower to on grass clippings. The mulching lawn mower is better as it shreds grass clippings into tiny bits, allowing it to slowly turn into a compost that is rich in nutrients such as nitrogen. You can do this throughout the summer and into the warm part of autumn. If your grass was overly long when you cut it, or if the lawn was wet, then you should consider composting them in a compost bin or bagging them yard waste bags. Another time to not leave grass clippings is if your yard appears to have bare spots. This may be a sign of disease and you don’t want to leave the clippings nor add them to your compost bin possibly spreading the disease.


    For leaves, you can use the mulching lawn mower or if you don’t have one, take the bag off your lawn mower, set the blade up as high as it can go, then run over fallen leaves with your lawn mower a few times. You'll know you're done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer. If you can’t see any grass – then reattach the bag and go over the lawn again.

    The leaf bits in the bag can be spread over your garden areas or added to your compost bin. Once the leaf bits settle into the lawn, microbes and worms get to work recycling them.  Many experts suggest that after you mulch your leaves, feed the lawn with some nitrogen rich lawn fertilizer to help speed the composting process. 

    This leaf “mulch” can be left on the lawn but be sure you are not leaving a large layer of it. as long as there is not more than a 1” layer of mulch on the lawn. More than that can cause harm.  Chemically speaking, when there is too much leaf mulch microbes in non-composted leaves may compete with grass for nitrogen during the decomposition process, lessening the beneficial effects of the mulch.  If you have more than a 1-inch layer of mulch on the lawn, you need to stop leaving the chopped-up leaves and/or grass clippings on your lawn. Put them into a compost bin so they turn into compost for next year. And in the fall, put the fallen leaves onto your garden beds.

    Can I leave my leaves on my lawn?

    People may be concerned that the chemicals, such as tannins, in leaves will have a negative impact on our lawns.  The tannins that help make good red wine and bright fall colors (in leaves) may also help make good soil and healthy livestock, according to a multi-year research effort between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the tannin laboratory in Miami University. The teams combined their efforts and capabilities to identify important features of tannins that determine soil interactions. Below are some of their findings.1

    Tannins and other organic compounds are common in many plants which enter soil from plant roots and decaying leaves. They may become part of the rain or melting snow as it runs down tree bark or drips off the leaves.

    Results show that the rate and amount of binding to soil varied from one tannin to another meaning that different tannins will have more or less impact than others. Scientists also found that tannins can immobilize heavy metals which will lessen their toxic effect on root growth. (good news) And tannins and related organic compounds can free up nutrients such as calcium for crop use. (good news) Scientists hope to learn more about how forest soil microbes metabolize tannins, leading to a better understanding of the multiple ecological functions performed by tannins. At this point, tannins do have some benefits but be advised not to leave too many on your lawn and ensure you mulch them.  Moving the leaves into your gardens can have a positive composting impact. And putting excess leaves into a compost bin is a great idea to generate compost for the next season.

    1. USDA Agricultural Research Service’s article “Tannins Surprising Benefits for Soils, Forests, and Farms. Link:

  • November 15, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    To Rake or Not to Rake

    Fallen Leaves. Photo by D.CoyneContributed by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    The leaves have fallen and this past weekend most of my neighbours were raking leaves and piling them into yard waste bags. This week’s garbage pickup will require a lot of heavy lifting by the waste management crew to get all those bags, that now so neatly line the curb, up and into their trucks. One of my neighbours simply blew leaves into his neighbours’ yard. Not such a good idea.  Me, I took the easy way out and let my leaves stay put.  Why?  Well I don’t see anyone raking leaves in the forest and those areas look pretty good. And more importantly, many experts are now recommending that we leave our leaves.

    Leaves moved to gardensYes, those in the know tell us to leave our leaves where they fall. Actually, not quite where they fall, but rather they’d have us move the leaves into our garden beds and around our trees, shrubs and other plants.  Why?  There are benefits to your plants by following this practice which, if you think about it, is actually similar to the concept of composting and spreading compost into the gardens in the spring and fall. And these benefits support my action of raking (or lack thereof).

    Benefit: Leaves add nutrients to the soil.  Fallen leaves decompose into the soil releasing their nutrients, such as nitrogen, back into your gardens and lawns. Organic matter makes soil more fertile.

    Benefit: Leaves help to heat the ground and retain moisture.  Have you heard the phrase “the snow is blanketing the ground”?  Fallen leaves act as a cozy blanket for your gardens, shrubs and trees.  They keep the roots of your plants slightly warmer during the winter months. And they have a property similar to that of mulch i.e. retaining moisture for the plants.

    Benefit:  Animals and insects rely on leaf litter. Many insects, microbes and even larvae reside in the decomposing leaves. And some small animals and worms rely of nature’s litter for protection from the cold. And of course, birds will search the leaves for a meal of insects that may be hiding out of site.

    Bottom line. Don’t throw out your leaves. Add them to garden beds and let nature do your fertilizing for you.  And if you prefer, you can buy a compost bin next spring and start composting all season. The result: less yard and garden waste and more “nature made” soil nutrients for your trees, shrubs, and gardens.  I’m looking forward to a healthier garden next year given all my “hard” work of not raking leaves this fall! 

  • November 08, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Allotment Gardening 

    Article and photos by Dinah Gibbs, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    Spurred on by my friends in the environmental group - Neighbours for the Planet - and my (almost) retirement, I decided to fulfill my wish to grow food this year for the first time in a while.

    Preparing land. Photo by Dinah GibbsI have lived in the same home in Richmond Hill for decades. When my children were small, we had a vegetable patch which taught them where food actually comes from, patience and an appreciation for nature.  Since that time, our garden has become shaded by several huge trees and is no longer suitable for vegetables.  So, I started a search for an allotment garden i.e. a plot of land on public land in which residents can grow food. The search was tricky at the beginning. The City-run gardens were full, with waiting lists. Others were available to members of faith or other community groups and not taking new members. Further enquiries led me to the Forster Collective – located in the Phyllis Rawlinson Park in Richmond Hill. They had space to allocate one half plot to me, but were waiting to hear whether COVID-19 was going to shut us down for the season.  Thankfully they were open all summer!

    And now I’ve just finished my first season using the allotment garden. It has made me decide me that I am in the right place at the right time, and I hope to continue gardening there indefinitely. The group is an amazing group of people; young and old, born in Canada and all over the globe. We are united by a love of nature, of connection to the land and a will to work together to provide food for our families and to donate to the community.

    Mid summer growthMy first crops gave me huge satisfaction. The considerable labour needed to clear former farm land, plant and carry water to irrigate the growing plants was in itself a joy. The organic food was delicious. I have stored potatoes to last until Christmas. Brussel sprouts and kale continue to be harvested. Last week I planted garlic which I will harvest a year from now.

    I have taken on another half plot which will expand my work commitment and, hopefully, my food supply. The cold spring and virus-caused delays in beginning work this year meant we were unable to make donations of food, hold team building social events, nor workshops. That will all change next year.

    There is a lot of work ahead for me as an individual and for the group as a whole. However; we all love our little piece of paradise and the sense of pride in coaxing crops from the earth. If you love growing vegetables and have no place to grow them, you might consider applying for an allotment garden plot in the early spring.

  • November 01, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Backyard Compost Production

    Contributed by Dinah Gibbs, member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    Photo by Dinah GibbsTo turn garden waste into compost, four things are needed: warmth, oxygen, moisture and "food". Bacteria naturally present in the environment will do the breaking down necessary to give you a rich soil-like compost to improve soil and fertilize your plants. Bacteria will consume nutrients present in your unwanted yard waste greenery, turning it into plant fertilizer. When all of these conditions are not present (ex. too cold!) the decomposition process will pause temporary until the conditions allow bacteria to become active once more.

    In my yard I have 2 compost bins, there is a reason for this. They are in a fairly sunny location. In the afternoon they receive a couple of hours sun. Mine came from the City of Richmond Hill for a small cost (Look for their Healthy Yards event in the April/May timeframe.) Or you can make your own containers from materials you have on hand.

    To fill the bin weeds, grasses and fallen leaves are all good. Food waste is a bad idea as it attracts rodents. The smaller the plant material is, the quicker it will turn into compost. The fastest and easiest way to cut it up is to run over it with a lawn mower. If you have one that catches the mulch (cut up bits), perfect! If not, you can rake it into piles and throw it in the bins. The first usage will take a while to begin the fermentation process. To kick start the bacterial action, either a shovelful of old compost or some farmyard manure works. (I don't tell my neighbours about the horse manure I sneak home!)

    Photo by Dinah GibbsGenerally, Photo by Dinah GibbsI totally empty bins in the fall as the next batch of leaves become available. The most decomposed material is at the bottom of the bins. My bins have a door at the bottom to access it which I do over the summer months. However, it is a tedious process. In the autumn, I scoop any unrotten material off the top and lift the bin to reveal a nice neat pile of rich compost. That compost is spread around the yard and lightly dug in. I do the same with the second bin. I then divide the plant material that is not yet totally decomposed between the 2 bins and put my new chopped up leaves and weeds on top.

    Try to resist the temptation to squash your compost down too tightly as this will reduce the available oxygen. Stirring the bin contents from time to time will help speed things up by introducing oxygen while evenly distributing moisture.

    As long as the temperature is above zero it is worthwhile Photo by Dinah Gibbsto give it a mixing. You will be surprised how warm the centre of your compost can be in, even in cold weather. Bacterial action creates heat. Compost needs to be moist, but neither waterlogged or bone dry. Having two bins is helpful. If one becomes waterlogged you can transfer dry material from the other bin, stir it up and away you go.

    Composting is both an art and a science - just like gardening. The main benefits are many. It helps the environment by reducing the need to transport and dispose of yard waste, improving soil texture, making soil easier to work, and providing valuable plant nutrients. Start now by raking your leaves to the location in your yard that you’ll put your compost bin in next spring.

  • October 25, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Baking Desserts with Pumpkin

    Contributed by Doreen Coyne, Vice President of The Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    When I was in University, I’d use a fresh pumpkin to make some 20 pies each season. The pies were frozen and we took one out of the freezer each weekend to have a baked pie with our roasted chicken dinner. Pumpkins were inexpensive so this made a good dessert we could afford as a young couple. Today of course, you don’t need to limit yourself to baking pies with pumpkin. You can also make loafs, bars, squares, muffins, cookies, jam, marmalade and more. Google “What can you bake with pumpkin puree” for lots of different recipes. And you don’t need to make all 20 pies at once! You can freeze the puree in amounts needed for your favourite recipes and make the desserts as needed during the winter. BTW: I recently learned that there are special pumpkins for baking – sugar pumpkins. I’ve never used one and my pies have been enjoyed, even devoured, over the years.

    Preparing pumpkin puree to use in baking

    Bake a pumpkin much like any squash – simply cut it in half, take out the seeds and place your pieces skin side up on a baking sheet that is covered with parchment paper. Cook for about 45 to 60 minutes at 350 or until the pumpkin “meat” is fork tender. Scoop out all of the flesh into a large bowl. Discard the skin. Then puree the pumpkin with a food processor or an immersion blender until it is a smooth, uniform texture. It will contain more liquid than you want to bake with; so, place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and put all of the puree in the strainer to drain. You can weigh it down by placing plastic wrap over the puree, with a plate on top, and heavy cans on top of the plate. Allow it to drain for 1 to 2 hours, until no liquid is dripping out. Now the pumpkin is ready to use for baking or you can freeze it for future use. Follow your favorite recipe to make the dessert of your choice. If you were to use pumpkin pie filling (and sometimes puree) in cans from the store, know that those products already have spices added to them and thus you’d need to adjust the recipe.

    Mom’s Favourite Pumpkin Pie Recipe


    1/8 teaspoon salt

    2/3 cup sugar (optionally use light brown sugar)

    2 teaspoon Pumpkin pie ground spice*

    2 eggs slightly beaten in large bowl

    1 2/3 cups evaporated milk (could use milk instead)

    2 cups pureed pumpkin

    1 prepared uncooked pie crust or make your own


    Sift dry ingredients together then stir into eggs. Add milk and pumpkin. Mix gently. Line pie pan with your pastry and pour in the filling. Bake at 450* for 10 minutes; reduce to 325* and bake 35 minutes longer or until knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the pie. Makes 1, 9 inch pie.

    *If you don’t find this “pumpkin spice” at your grocery, mix these together and use 2 t and store the rest: 3 T cinnamon, 2 t ginger, 2 t nutmeg, 1 t allspice, 1 t cloves. Mom would often leave out the cloves and/or allspice if she didn’t have it on hand.

    Pumpkin Loaf a la my best friend Bertha

    Dry Ingredients: Mix these together in a bowl:

    ¾ cup margarine

    2 cups sugar

    3 ½ cups flour

    2 teaspoons baking soda; 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

    1 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

    Wet ingredients: Mix these together in another bowl:

    4 eggs beaten slightly

    2 2/3 cups pumpkin puree


    Pour the wet ingredients a bit at a time into the dry ingredients while mixing the two sets together. Pour this into a flour coated loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. It is done when a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cool.

    Want to add a glaze (like a frosting) to the loaf?

    Mix together the following: ½ cup icing sugar, 1/8 t cinnamon, 1/8 t nutmeg, and 1-2 T of cream. Spread the mixture over the cooled loaf. Slice and enjoy!

  • October 18, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Halloween Fun for the Yard 

    Contributed by Doreen Coyne, Vice President of The Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    Photos: Tombstone photo by Doreen Coyne, Plant Pot people by Lou Angelo

    As we get close to Halloween this year, I’m sure we are all a little leery to let our children go door to door or even for us parents to allow children to come to our doors to get candy. But you and your children still desire a little extra fun for Halloween. Below are a few ideas your family can work on this week and next to spruce up the yard and get some Halloween fun even if you aren’t going door to door.

    Plant Pot People photo by Lou AngeloHow about a planter person?

    First, gather up your old planting containers (plastic, ceramic or fibrous material) and round wooden baskets that may be in the garage or basement. They can be arranged – and wired or hot glued together - to make interesting objects or even people like the ones in the accompanying picture that one of our members displayed on their front steps. You can see that smaller plastic pots nestled into each other make the arms and legs. Socks added to the bottom of the leg make feet. Larger pots or baskets, one up and one down make up the body. And another basket forms the head. The heads are each filled with plants but you might consider hot gluing plant leaves for a mouth and flowers for the eyes. More simply, you can use a Sharpie marker to draw a face on the pot. Or even replace the “head” pot with a pumpkin.

    Of course, you can also make a great piece of Halloween art by stuffing clothing together. Stuff jeans and a plaid shirt with newspaper and ensure the shirt is tucked into the pants. I like to sit the jeans in a lawn chair and fold the legs so my person is comfortably seated. Add socks to the bottom of the jeans for feet and gloves to the end of shirt sleeves for hands. Take an old pillow case, or even a white plastic grocery bag, and stuff that with newspaper and fit in into the shirt’s collar for the head. Shape the head so you can put a baseball cap on it and draw on a face.

    Carved Pumpkins are popularCarved Pumpkins are always popular.

    If you didn’t happen to grow your own this year, you can readily buy them in varying sizes at local farms and grocery stores. You know how to carve a pumpkin but if you want a new carving design or template, there are several good ones online. Try googling “pumpkin carving ideas”. Your teenagers may enjoy trying the more detailed patterns. As you empty the pumpkin, be sure to save some of the seeds. Dry them on a paper towel for several days then you can roast some for snacking and store the rest in an envelope for planting next year to grow your own pumpkin patch. Use your pumpkins for Halloween but don’t carve up all of them; for some, draw on a face then the next day harvest the “meat” of the pumpkin for cooking. Next week learn how to prepare the pumpkin for baking and get a pumpkin pie recipe!

    Halloween Tombstones photo by Doreen Coyne

    Halloween Tombstones

    Perhaps this appeals to the more macabre folks – but my sons, starting in their “tweens”, liked to make tombstones to display in the flower beds that line the walkway to our front door. I would buy foamboard (now sold at staples) and then the boys would cut them to about 18”x36” and round the tops or cut various crosses into them. Then using acrylic paint, they’d colour the board to look like granite and then add a saying to each one such as “R.I.P.”, “R.I.P Van Winkle” or “Ben Better” followed by year of birth and death. Simply attach a 2x2 to the back of the finished project with about 18” of it below the bottom of the tombstone. Then push the protruding 2x2 into the ground. Visiting Halloween kids always enjoyed these as well. Store them in the basement for yearly usage or repainting!

  • October 11, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fall Planting: Garlic 

    Contributed by Debbie Coleman, member of The Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    Just as most of us are putting our gardens to sleep for winter, some of us are gearing up for fall planting of tulips, daffodils, muscari (aka grape hyancinth), hyacinths and garlic. That’s right, garlic!

    October is the ideal time to plant garlic. It needs cold weather in order to form decent size bulbs that are divided into cloves.

    There are two types of garlic to grow; softneck garlic and hardneck garlic. There are several varieties of garlic within each of these 2 types. Softneck garlic is easier to grow and stores well, but hardneck garlic, although it winters well in colder climates, is not as long lasting once harvested yet is said to have the best flavour. I do not recommend using supermarket garlic as seed garlic, as there is a risk of virus infection. You are best to buy proper planting stock from a market or from a grower.

    GarlicGarlic is a rather greedy feeder so you want to plant in good fertile soil with lots of compost and have good drainage. Now to get started, you will take the garlic bulb and separate the cloves; you don’t want to plant small cloves. The bigger and fatter the clove is, the bigger your resulting bulb will be. Plant them much like you would a daffodil, about 3-4 inches deep with the pointy side up. Space them out generously, about 6 inches apart, give them a bit of water and you are done. Your winter wait will be rewarded with signs of green shoots appearing next spring.

    Freshly harvested GarlicAs hardneck garlic grows to maturity, it will develop flowers, or “scapes”, near the top of the leaves. These should be removed in order to allow the majority of nutrients to feed the garlic bulb. The scapes (also called garlic shoots, stems, stalks or spears) can be used like a vegetable in stir fries or salads. The long, edible stems have the consistency of a green bean and the flavor of garlic crossed with green onion. When the garlic plant leaves start to turn yellow and droop, around mid to late July, it is a sign to begin harvesting your garlic. You will want to use a garden fork rather than a spade to gently lift your bulbs. Once you’ve brushed off most of the dirt, lay them out to dry in a warm sunny location for about a week. Once dry, you can trim off the root hairs, then braid or tie the stems into a decorative string for storage or immediate use.

  • October 04, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From My Garden to My Freezer 

    Contributed by Jennifer Pyke, member of The Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    I have been growing food since I “helped” my Dad with his post war allotment in England. My 3 brothers and I were all allowed a small space to grow flowers, the rest of the space was for potatoes, cabbages, runner beans and onions.

    I still grow runner beans, which are sliced and frozen, but most of the space in my chest freezer is taken up by several varieties of bagged tomatoes (I freeze whole cherry tomatoes to use with pasta); edamame/soy beans (blanch and freeze in the pod) -- great appetizers when warmed up, with wine, cheese and crackers; spanakopita; and lots of soup. You can freeze the tomatoes and edamame beans on a cookie sheet for about 6 hours and they’ll be individually frozen. Then slide them into freezer bags and when you need them, take out only the amount you need each time.

    A peek in the freezer

    A fellow gardener, Mary, gave me 8 kale plants which really pumped up the numbers of soup packages I could make this year. I save tomato seeds for planting the next year. I buy the other seeds I need online from Vesey’s seeds in PEI.

    Making the kale soup and the leek soup is very easy. The older and larger leaves of the kale are for soup and the younger leaves I use in spanakopita instead of spinach (when you buy phyllo pastry for the spanakopita, there is a recipe on the inside of the package.)


    • 2 large onions
    • 4 large white potatoes
    • at least 8 large kale leaves
    • chicken or vegetable stock (I use the low sodium stock, and do not add any salt)

    Cook the diced onions in a few spoonfuls of oil at a low/medium heat until softened, add the diced potatoes and finely chopped kale, and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft. Add 2 cups of stock. *Let the soup cool, then put it through the blender. This recipe makes 4 or 5 lots; you can make a less thick soup by adding more stock and thus getting more soup.

    Now fill plastic freezer containers ¾ full and stick a label with date on the lid. Put these in the freezer. You can leave them as is or once the soup is frozen, usually the next morning, you can set the containers in hot water for a few minutes to loosen the soup from the container. Slip the frozen soup block into a medium sized freezer bag and reuse your containers for the next batch of produce, soups, or side dishes to be frozen.


    • 4 large well washed leeks (white and lighter green parts)
    • 4 large potatoes
    • stock, as above

    Cook diced leeks in oil, when soft add diced potatoes, just cover with water and cook until soft.  Add 2 cups of stock. At this point you can follow the kale soup recipe starting at the * to finish the leek soup and freeze it.

    “Growing since the 1940s!”

  • September 27, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Planting Supplies Created from Used Materials 

    Contributed by Ingrid Sunar and Doreen Coyne, members of The Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    This article focuses on amazing things you can do with materials you find around your house which you might otherwise discard. Let your inner crafter out while saving dollars to grow plants!

    Your own bird feeder

    Bird FeederHolding an empty plastic bottle in front of you with the lid on, punch a hole straight through from one side to the other about an inch or 2 inches down from the lid of the bottle.

    Use a piece of wire (perhaps a part of an old hanger) to slide through those holes and then bring it up and around to the top twisting them together to form a hanger for what it's going to become your bird feeder. Lower down on the bottle, punch a hole from one side to the opposite end thread a pencil through the hole. The pencil ends become the perch for your birds. You can optionally do another set of holes slightly below that, and 90 degrees over for another perch.

    Above each pencil entry to the bottle cut a small semi-circle about the size of a dime or nickel. The holes will allow the bird to reach in to get seeds. To finish your bird feeder, just fill the bottle with seeds, put the lid back on and hang it up.  It will be great to see the finches visit the planter during this fall and winter.

    Saving seeds

    Neatly stored seedsAfter you dry your seeds having harvested them from your plants, you can store them in an envelope. Be sure to do this for unused seeds you bought as well. No need to buy envelopes as you likely get lots of these in your bills and requests for donations each month.

    Date and label these including both the type of seed and colour of flower.

    An alternate idea is to put your seeds into empty Tic Tac containers which can then be labelled appropriately.

    Labeling herbs

    Save wine bottle corks and label them with the name of the plants or herbs that you are growing in individual pots indoors this winter. Then skewer the cork to either a metal or wooden skewer, a chopstick, or a discarded metal or plastic fork.

    Creative herb labels

    Garden tools

    In a prior article, we told you how to turn a small, 1 litre jug into a watering can or a scoop. Note that the scoop could also be used this winter to get salt out of its bag and then spread it onto the sidewalks.

    Creative gardening tools

  • September 20, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Want to start a garden now? Try indoor plants. 

    Contributed by Ingrid Sunar, Publicity Chair for the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    Given the temperature is dropping, why not start a garden indoors! You don’t have to be an expert if you follow the advice in this article, you can have some nice plants growing in your home in no time! And the act of planting and maintaining your gardening does have benefits! It relieves stress, improves your mental health, reduces risk of depression, and can help lower blood pressure.

    Start with a small number of plantsTips For Beginners

    • Start Small. Even 3 to 5 plants will be a welcome addition.
    • Pick a place in your home with indirect light and windows.
    • Decide whether you like to grow flowers, succulents (such as cactus) or perhaps herbs. Or maybe a combination such as two potted flowering plants and a smaller planter of succulents.
    • Get some pots and potting soil. If on a budget, try a local Dollar Store. Or take a trip to a nursery or a box store such as Canadian Tire, Home Depot, or Lowes.
    • Do not crowd plants in each pot or container.
    • And once planted, remember to water them every 2 weeks. You can put your finger into the soil to check if it is dry within the container. If dry before 2 weeks, then water that plant more frequently.
    • Have some fun picking out your plants!
    • If you are growing herbs, I’d suggest 1 smaller pot (about 5”) per herb. Chives, Parsley, Thyme, and Basil make good choices that can be used in many of your meals.
    • If you decide to grow flowers, I’d check the nurseries for available plants before choosing your pots to ensure you get pots of the right sizes. And make sure the bottom has drainage holes and that you get a bottom “plate” that will ensure that water doesn’t come out and ruin your furniture!

    You can take your potted plants outdoors in the summer if you wish!

    Do you need some tools to pot your new plants? If you are on a budget, try some of these creative ideas:

    • For getting potting soil from its bag to your new pot, cut a plastic jug and use it as a type of hand shovel. Be sure to keep the lid on the jug! Alternatively, you can use an unwanted large spoon or a small plastic cup or even your last take-out coffee cup!
    • For watering, put holes in the lid of a plastic jug. Hammer a nail into the lid in multiple spots to do this.

    Creative ideas for Tools

    Gardening, even indoors, can be a great activity for both you and your children as you spend time with them making the garden and watering the plants. And as you tend your garden, your whole family will learn more about plants.

    Start now and you’ll appreciate the greenery and blooms for years!

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