Spring garden care
Spring has sprung and with it the faint stirring of garden pests - weeds and bugs. Before taking up arms (weed whackers and garlic sprays), take the following steps to prevent pest problems before they start.
Create Healthy Soil. Healthy soil = healthy plants. If your soil is poor, your plants may be less healthy and may be overcome by weeds and attacked by bugs. In your vegetable gardens mix in a good amount of compost. Once the soil has warmed, use a mulch (leaves, grass clippings, straw, bark, etc.) around veggie plants to suppress weeds.
Try companion planting. Plant flowers, veggies and herbs that benefit each other by being close together.
Don't plant veggies too close to each other. Good spacing allows air to circulate between plants, reducing pests, mildew and rot.
Hang up some bird houses. The more insect-eating birds hanging around your yard - the less bugs. Grosbeaks, robins and starlings consume adult potato beetles while sparrows, robins and blue jays dine on cutworms. The same thing applies to bats and bat houses, for the more adventurous.
For an overabundance of spiders, do weekly spider egg hunts. Check hidden protected corners, spray the eggs down with the hose and stomp, stomp, stomp. Remember that spiders devour many types of undesirable insects.
Check trees for tent caterpillars. Dismantle the tent.
Prune any shrubs or trees that were damaged over the winter. Damaged branches are more susceptible to disease and insect infestation.
Plant native plants and shrubs. They tend to be hardier and more disease resistant.
Don't plant the same vegetables in the same place year after year. Rotating your crops decreases the chance of disease or insect infestation. It also prevents mineral deficiency in the soil, which leads to weaker, less productive plants.
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Fall garden care
A healthy lawn and garden will have natural pest (weeds and bugs) resistance. Once the natural balance is altered by chemical fertilizers and pesticides, recovery to a healthy state takes time, energy and $$$. Here are a few things that you can do in the fall to ensure a healthy pest-resistant lawn in the spring.
Cover all soil surfaces. Soil is full of life (micro-organisms, bacteria...) that can dry out or freeze and die if left exposed to the elements. Cover gardens with a layer of leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, a winter crop (i.e. winter rye) or other mulch to protect the soil. Leave vegetable garden remains (except tomatoes), unless they show signs of disease or bug infestation. In the spring these mulches can be turned into the soil, adding nutrients.
Water cedars and evergreens. Cedars and evergreens need to be watered well just before the soil freezes for the winter. In early spring the leaves start to photosynthesize and the roots need that reservoir of water to prevent the tips and edges from drying out and dying.
Hang out a bird feeder. If your lawn is chemical-free and your cats are wearing bells (to warn the birds) hang out a bird feeder. Once birds get accustomed to visiting your home for food, the next spring spiders and bugs may not be as abundant. Consider building a bat home for the same reasons.
Build a composter. If you don't already have one, fall is a great time to build a composter. Leaves collected in the fall could be stored and available for use next spring. If you own a lawn mower/mulcher, leaves will decompose more quickly.
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Our area is rich in beautiful gardens with many mature trees. Most homeowners in Beaconsfield have room to set up their own composter. Composting leaves, and lawn and garden clippings is a simple and natural way to recycle organic materials and make our own garden fertilizer, while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint.
For the time being, Beaconsfield residents can also bring bags of leaves (or needles) and empty them out at the bulk material site located at 300 Beaurepaire Drive, next to the fire station at the west end of the parking lot. Every year, leaves taken to this site account for two-thirds of the leaves collected in the city. These are later sent to the Saint-Michel Environment Complex for recycling and composting. The resulting compost is returned and is available to residents free of charge.
The City also organizes fall and spring branch collections. The branches are chipped and the mulch is available to residents free of charge.
What can be done with excess leaves that you do not need for immediate composting?
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Organic pest control
We've listed a few common pests here as well as suggestions for getting rid of them.
Your children can be involved in pest-removal practices. They are observant and will soon find the ant runs, aphid-covered plants, or where the worst slug damage is occurring. Perhaps they will pick the caterpillars and greenfly off the roses for you too.
Some plants do better when in the company of other plants. Companion planting uses this knowledge to increase plant performance. Companion planting involves planting flowers, herbs or vegetables to repel or trap harmful insects. It also includes using plants to attract useful insects which prey upon harmful insects. Many gardeners use companion planting as a way of reducing chemical insecticide use.
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Many plants we call weeds can be used for various medicinal purposes. Check these out.
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