Settling into your summer garden

Grass is greening and much of the garden heavy lifting is done; now it’s just a matter of watering and enjoying!
Photo: Judith Slater

By Judith Slater, with Tracey Deagle

The May madness of dealing with pests is thankfully behind us. Our lawn has greened up, even if it took a can of spray paint for the final touches, and the trees are now casting welcome shade into our gardens.

June is the month when we finally get to relax and enjoy our garden – the deck is scrubbed, patio furniture is set up with two-metre spacing in anticipation of when we can have a distanced get-together with family or friends and the stock of snacks is overflowing the kitchen cupboards. (Just remember to hide the Doritos for me!)

Details to remember as we become glued to the lawn chair include:

  1. Install soaker hoses or set the sprinkler for early morning watering so plants can use the valuable liquid during the day to cope with the onslaught of summer heat. Think about installing a timer so watering is automatic. Water each section deeply once a week – a light watering does not promote deep root growth, leaving plants susceptible to dying if there are a few days of hot weather.
  2. Planters need watering once a day (occasionally twice a day if they are in cardboard planters or terracotta pots) and feeding weekly.
  3. Once a flower has bloomed, nip off the end to encourage the plant to keep blooming. Once the plant has set seed, it has accomplished its job, so it will stop flowering. Dead-heading (a gruesome term) basically makes the plant continue to work by blooming and trying to set seed.
  4. Bulbs have now finished their spring show, but still need to regenerate for next spring. Trim down the flower stalk, then let the leaves die back over the summer months. If you feel they are unsightly, plant perennials or annuals around them.
  5. Harvest your vegetables often, share them with neighbours and graze on them as you walk through your garden

This list is becoming like a chore list, so let’s change tack and have a look back at our accomplishments.

  • Spring garden cleaned up – DONE
  • Grubs blasted into outer space – DONE
  • Magnolias admired – DONE
  • Tulips viewed – DONE
  • Lilac scent inhaled – DONE
  • Manitoba maples keys weeded, weeded and weeded again – DONE
  • Fresh soil and mulch laid down – DONE
  • Garden centre/nursery flower purchases – DONE
  • Incorporated at least one herb into a salad/meal/drink – DONE

It’s been an intense month for us too. We hired two new full-time staff, Bridget and Nicole, making us a permanent team of five. Zoe, Ariella and Anna, who are Glebe Collegiate students and TWIGS (environment club members), have been working weekends while full-timers take time to breathe. Tracey and I continue to be amazed at how much we get accomplished in our 18-hour days, six days a week. We are looking for more garden clean-ups and maintenance work. We have hired seven Glebe students for the summer – we are paying them a lot more than minimum wage, buying them work boots, eyewear, ear muffs, bug spray and sunscreen and providing the occasional bandaid!

Our clients have been amazing in being flexible with schedules, weather, availability of plants and trees as we’ve had to deal with shorter nursery hours, delayed nursery deliveries because of a shortage of drivers and supplies, online orders and store pickups.

There have been some giggles. Like me, a total non-runner, trying to catch a blown-away limestone screenings bag, lurching along the street, stomping on the plastic. Wondering if the 22 cubic yards of soil is actually reducing in size after wheel barrowing it for five hours straight. The double take at the local nursery when they say, “Weren’t you just here for a cubic yard of triple mix?” to which I smile and say, “No! It was my evil twin sister!”

I feel bad for Alec as he’s often the lone male staffer among mostly middle-aged women, all of whom are hard of hearing, wearing masks, asking questions that others struggle to understand – and only one wears hearing aids! The resulting conversations are hilarious, worthy of a comedy skit: “Can you start edging the bed?” “Sure, I can talk to the dead!” “What! Your walker is dead?” “What, you want me to water the bed?” All that aside, we get lots done as we finally get clear instructions from each other. Alec just rolls his eyes, and moves off to the back garden!

Judith Slater and Tracey Deagle are The Gentle Gardeners, working mainly in the Glebe, gently making your garden look its best! Visit our Facebook page at: or call at 613-600-1717.

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