Richmond Hill Garden and Horticultural Society, Ontario Horticultural Association
Richmond Hill 
Garden & Horticultural Society
Beautifying Richmond Hill since 1914Beautifying Richmond Hill
since 1914
RH Hort 2015 Logo

Gardening Tips


Gardening Tips began in September 2020 as a weekly collaboration with OnRichmondHill.com

 

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. 


  • January 17, 2021 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Keep your Poinsettia for Years!
    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society


    Your Christmas or Holiday Poinsettia from December should still be blooming as long as you keep watering it.  And if you follow a few simple guidelines, it can be kept for many years to come.  The plant relies of three things – correct levels or amounts of light, temperature, and water.


    Photo by Doreen CoyneWINTER: While the Poinsettia is in bloom, keep it looking it best by placing it in a well-lit room, with as much indirect sunlight as possible.  Thiblooming period (coloured bracts i.e., the leaves that change color depending on light exposure.) typically lasts from mid-November to late April. It is a little fussy about temperature. You should keep it at normal room temperature, but not above 20°C (68°F).  Seems low but when my son is here, that’s his ideal house temperature year-round. And I can always wear a sweater. Nighttime temperatures of 16 to 17°C are best. Too much heat will shorten the blooming period. Poinsettias are sensitive to extreme temperatures (below 10°C and over 30°C). Avoid placing your plant too close to any heat source -i.e., not hear a furnace register, or on top of a PVR or television. Of course, my cat is always on top of those anyway, blocking the heat.  Also keep it away from cold drafts. Watering should be done when the soil is dry to the touch. Use lukewarm water but soak the soil. If there is a dish under the plant which can get water to the plant roots, don’t leave any water standing in the dish as overwatering can cause root rot.  And allow the soil to dry before you water again. The good news: there is no need to fertilize your poinsettia while it is in bloom. The length of blooming does vary by the variety (think colour) of your plant. After that time, its bracts will gradually lose their colour.


    SPRING:  After blooming ends around the end of April, the vegetative growth period begins and lasts until mid June. To help it through this stage of its life cycle, keep the plant in bright light or filtered sunlight at 20°C. In late April, you need to prune your poinsettia, cutting all the stems back by one third. For a more compact plant, keep only two or three leaves on each stem. Be sure to mist the plant with water to limit the seepage of white sap (aka latex) and prevent it from drying out. Note that the latex of a poinsettia can cause irritations to the skin or eyes, so it's best to avoid getting on yourself or your pets.  After pruning, water only often enough to prevent the soil from drying out completely. This is also the time to repot the plant in an aerated, well-drained medium. You can use a ready-mixed commercial substrate or blend your own, using equal parts potting soil, perlite and peat moss. It is also time to change how you fertilize the plant once new shoots form, apply a soluble fertilizer, such as one labelled 20-20-20, once a month. Cuttings may be started from May to July. Cut the existing stems back to allow new growth to develop. Keep the parent plants warm, consistently moist, and in a bright location to produce useful cuttings. Once the new stems have grown at least 4 inches, you can begin taking cuttings. The cuttings should be between 3 to 4 inches long with 2 to 3 mature leaves. Each of these can be grown into a new plant.


    SUMMER: Growing time is July and August, aka the Active Vegetative state. It is the time to ready the plant for flowering again.  Prune the plant again in late July or early August, or pinch back the ends of the stems (leaving three or four leaves per stem) to encourage bushy, compact growth. After pruning, a temperature of 20°C to 24°C is ideal. Never pinch a plant back after early September if you want it to rebloom.  Keep the plant in sunlight. Once the risk of frost is past (temperatures remain above 13°C), you can take the plant outside for the summer. But do this gradually. At first take it to a semi-shaded or sunny spot for a few hours. Each day you can extend its outdoors living. But if you can’t move it outdoors, then place it in your home where it will get as much light, even full sun, as possible.  As it grows and new leaves appear, increase the frequency of fertilizing (every two weeks) to promote vigorous growth. As temperatures start to get below 20°C, you’ll need to bring the plant back indoors – again introduce it slowly (over a week) to the indoors. During the growing period after that, indoor temperatures of 20-24°C are good.  After pruning, the poinsettia will require less water. Give it only enough to prevent the soil from drying out completely. Outside, especially in full sun, be sure not to let it wilt!

    Photo by Doreen Coyne

    FALL: Flower initiation (flowers and bracts form) from mid-September to mid-November. Once growth resumes, water only when the soil is slightly dry then soak the soil and allow the soil surface to dry out slightly again before the next watering.  Please the plant in bright light in day (or filtered sunlight) with 14 consecutive hours of total darkness a day for eight to ten weeks. Keep the plant at 20ºC and once tracts are completely covered keep it at a lower temperature if possible, of 15-18°C to intensify the colour.  Use a Soluble fertilizer (20-20-20) every two weeks. But in early November switch to a fertilizer that is 15-15-20 to further help with bloom formation. No need to prune nor repot during this time. And not a good time to take cuttings. By mid to late November, you can proudly display your Poinsettia for the Holiday season again.  But you’ll know it is an attractive plant during all its life cycles!



    Notes
    Fertilizer:
    Poinsettias like a fertilizer with a smaller amount of phosphorus. Look for one where the second number is lower than the other two. Fertilizers are rated N-P-K. So, one labelled 17-5-19 or 20-10-20 is good. One that is 20-20-20 as this article states may be used as it is easier to find. Always follow the directions on the label. 

    Impact of eating Poinsettias: Poinsettias aren't poisonous to humans. Ingesting many leaves would cause some stomach discomfort (as with eating many other non-food items). If leaves or stems are eaten, rinse the mouth with water. The sap can be a skin irritant so wash the affected area with soap and water after contact. As with any plant or material, if you experience a severe reaction of any kind, seek medical help promptly. For you pet: As with humans, the Poinsettia leave’s sap can also irritate your dog or cat's mouth and esophagus. If ingested, your pet may experience nausea or vomiting. If your pet is willing to drink extra water, this is a good time.

  • January 03, 2021 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Put Your Christmas Tree to Work this January

    Submitted by Debbie Coleman, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society



    The
    Nature Conservancy of Canada has an excellent suggestion for reusing your old Christmas tree by leaving it in your backyard over the winter. This will provide shelter and a resting place for birds and wildlife during the cold winter months.  You can even get the kids involved by spreading peanut butter in pinecones and tucking them into the branches, providing an additional source of food over the winter. And of course, suet hung by the bird feeder would make a great complement to the tasty tree treats. Imagine: Food & Warmth. 


    In the spring, as leaves start to grow again, they you can chop up your Christmas tree’s branches and trunks then put them into yard waste or mulch them. If branches or the trunk are over 10cm in diameter, they can not go into the yard waste.  In that case, offer it as firewood to a friend with a fireplace.


  • December 13, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Wrapping trees & shrubs for Winter
    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society


    You may recall seeing trees and shrubs wrapped up in burlap as you drive through a residential area. Over the years, I’ve seen fewer of these and began to wonder why people do it and others don’t.


    There are several reasons for this.

    • Dry winter winds can damage evergreens. In exposed, windy areas, wrapping shrubs with burlap or easy-to-use shrub wraps will help. An alternative is to build a windbreak (small fence) on the exposed sides of the plant
    • Another common reason for wrapping plants is to support branches which could be damaged or broken from snow and ice over the course of the winter.

    How? 

    • Put the wrap on in the fall and remove it in the spring after the last frost.
    • Burlap, tarps, sheets or blankets give the best insulation.
    • These are readily available from a nursery, Lee Valley, Big Box Stores, and even Amazon.
    • Do not use brown paper tree wrap or black colored tree guards as they will absorb heat from the sun which can be too drying to the plant.
    • For the better protection, some suggest turning that windbreak into an entire enclosure built using a frame around the plant. Add extra mulch around the base of the plant to blanket the soil and ensure that the windbreak structure doesn’t touch the plant. Extend the covering all the way to the ground to retain heat radiating from the soil so the plants can benefit from it.

    Which shrubs/trees need this?

    • Wrap newly planted trees for at least two winters.
    • Young trees, benefit from burlap wrapped around their trunks.
    • Wrap thin-barked species up to five winters or more. When buying a tree or shrub, remember to ask the nursery staff what is best for the specific plant you are purchasing.
    • Burlap makes great frost protection for in-ground plants and potted shrubs or trees that are too heavy to move
    • Delicate trees such as citrus should be potted and brought indoors if the temperature is like that in Richmond Hill which can go well below freezing. Citrus plants start to be hurt when the temperature nears the freezing point.

    What to do if your evergreens turn brown over the winter? There are a few reasons for this so let’s consider common problems.

    • Dry Winds: The Evergreen’s roots rely on water stored in tree needles once the ground freezes. This can drain the tree’s water quickly, causing the needles to turn brown from dryness. If wrapping the tree, ensure you wrap the tree all the way to the soil. Of course, you’d need to spray it before wrapping the tree and if not wrapping it, then you can apply the spray in both November and February.  These sprays are known as anti-desiccant sprays which provide a waxy coating to shield the plants from moisture loss. Spray when the temperature drops to 4 to 10 degrees Celsius and there’s no rain forecast for at least 24 hours.
    • Dry air + Sunny days: This combo dries out your tree’s needles faster and is known as sunscald. Spraying with the protective spray is important and if some of the bark is dried or dead, and you didn’t wrap the tree, then wrap the bark of the tree trunk in burlap to keep the areas warm and protected from the weather. Of course, this is best done preventively before the problem occurs.
    • Pests and disease: Evergreens attract a few common pests and diseases, like the pine beetle or cytospora canker disease. Browning needles can be a symptom of infection, along with small holes, sawdust or white sap leaking on the branches. Wrapping is not going to help in this case.  Please call your local arborist for help.
  • December 06, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Leaf Blowers – good or bad?

    Article by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society


    As promised, an article is on leaf blowers. Most people have already bought or used their leaf blower this season or perhaps you are considering a new one for yourself or a relative as a Christmas present. This article reports the benefits and issues with leaf blowers.  I hope to arm you with information that helps you make a better decision for yourself and your neighbours.  Indeed, the issues with Leaf Blowers can also be true of gas-powered lawn mowers; so good to know in case that is on your Christmas list this year.


    On the good side. Leaf blowers can make quick work of getting the leaves off your grass and into your garden beds and around the base of your trees and shrubs.  Or even into piles for putting into yard waste bags. The blowers can be fairly light weight and you can easily hold them or use the belt like strap to hang it from your shoulder or across your chest. They produce a great gust of wind that you can direct at the leaves and send them scurrying across the yard to their new home. Fast and efficient.


    But.  That great gust of wind they blow is achieved with 2 main issues: Expulsion of gases into the air and high pitch noise that is damaging to your ears and your neighbours’ ears

    1. Emissions: Most leaf blowers are gas powered and are designed to be air-cooled. The engines can release 100% of their “tailgate” emissions directly into the environment. Generally, leaf blowers can create high levels of various organic compounds which are known to cause dizziness, headaches, asthma attacks, heart and lung disease, cancer and dementia. Many of them unfortunately burn fuel inefficiently and several studies have shown that leaf blowers can emit hydrocarbons and other pollutants at similar rates to a car engine idling or driving in the city.  And the great wind it produces – which can be 200 mph- can stir up contaminants and pollutants from the ground and send them circulating back into the air.

    2. Noise: Low frequency sound travels over long distances and penetrates walls and windows. I looked up a few mid-price leaf blower available in the local box stores. One that cost $200 was rated at 200MPH wind speed and 72 db(A). Another I looked at, priced at $400, had a lower wind speed of 145 MPH but displaced an even higher amount of air when blowing and with a sound rating of 75 db(A).  Some leaf blowers have much higher db(A) levels - reported at greater 95 db(A) at the operator’s ear and between 65-80 db(A) at 50 feet away from the source. All in excess of the recommended daytime sound standards set by the World Health Organization which are no more than 55db(A).  I can personally attest to hearing my neighbour running his even though I am 60+ feet away from his property line and wrapped up cozily within my home, no windows or doors open, and my TV turned on.

    Suggestion: If you are looking to buy one, I’d urge you to check both its emission ratings and sound level ratings. Consider an electric or battery charged blower (and lawn mower) as they don’t have the same emissions even though they are still noisy. And make a low sound rating an important criteria for your purchase. Some are better than others on your ears having a lower db(A) rating.  Also, invest in really good noise suppression headsets given the person doing the work is getting the maximum decibels delivered to their ears.

  • November 29, 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fall: The New Season for Planting

    Article by Linda Lynott ©, Master Gardener, GWA and a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society


    Marion Jarvie, a passionate plantswoman who has been gardening in Thornhill for over forty years, encouraged me to plant in the late fall and early winter and she was right. In mid-November I divided and moved my perennial Geranium ‘Rosanne’. They move better in the fall than the spring, what with their deep tap roots and virtually no watering at this time of year; just watered upon planting. When I divide and move this plant in the spring, it needs daily watering, for months and it takes the whole summer to settle in.


    Many plants can be moved or divided or planted right up to January. The best times to plant are between 11:00 am and 3:00 PM. Even if the soil is frozen in the morning, it is often workable by noon.


    Just about any perennial can be moved and divided now; Corral Bells, Rhubarb or Clematis, for example. Note that Hostas do not do well if divided after August 1.


    New trees can be purchased and planted now. Plus any left at the nursery are on sale – a definite bonus. Onecaution is to do no tree pruning at this time. It causes new growth that will only die because of the cold and hurts the tree’s chance of surviving. Its energy is diverted from hibernating mode to growing mode.


    Tulips can be planted even in the snow and they will bloom next year, as will most other Bulbs. However, Narcissus, planted after October 31 will not bloom the following year.


    Unlike the spring, the soil in the fall is still warm and full of air. The trick is to dig a hole slightly bigger than the plant, water the hole, then plant and stomp the earth down around the plant.


    Enjoy your new planting season.


    PS: From Patty Carlson, another member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society: I grow a number of Morning Glories, an
    annual plant that blossoms from mid-summer into fall.  I don’t cut down my Morning Glory plants in the fall. Instead, in the spring, before I cut them down, I shake them well so the seeds come off and then new Morning Glories sprout again.


  • 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: https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2010/tannins-surprising-benefits-for-soils-forests-and-farms


  • 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

    Ingredients:

    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

    Directions:

    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

    Directions:

    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!


 

Member of the Ontario Horticultural Association

Copyright 2015 Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society