January 2021 Virtual Education Package

The North Bay Heritage Gardeners’ education platform was redesigned since in person sessions are not possible due to COVID-19. Lynn Farintosh, Master Gardener and Jade Scognamillo, NBHG Executive Director designed a monthly education resource that can be shared with volunteers and the public. Each month, three topics will be explored, accompanied by articles, videos, online resources and/or in-person interviews. Materials are posted on the Heritage Gardener website for one month.

January is the quietest month in the garden, but just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening! We have covered three topics this month.  

January Topics
1. Planning your Gardening Season
2. Weed-management Strategies
3. Movie Night

An interview format essay about how and why to plan your gardening season follows. Questions are being asked by the Executive Director Jade and answered by Master Gardener Lynn.  
Q1) What do you mean by planning your gardening season?
A1) I mean writing down what I would like to do in my garden in the coming year.  The fall is a good time to do this.  Then I prioritize the tasks according to what I most want to get done.  After that I assign a month to each of the high priority tasks. 

Q2) Why do you do this?
A2) It helps me focus on my priorities rather than wasting time doing small ‘busy’ tasks that aren’t what the garden really needs most.  By having a month attached to each task I can spread out the workload and see where I have too many tasks in a month.  This might mean I need to push some task into the next year. 
Also, sometimes I forget how the garden changes over the seasons and don’t remember how it looks in a different season.  For example, in our backyard there is a clump of tall phlox behind some very tall asters.  Every September the phlox get blocked from view by the asters.  Transplanting the asters to behind the phlox is high on my list of tasks to get done in 2021.  I know it is best to transplant fall flowering perennials in early spring.  I also know that in early spring the phlox and asters look just fine where they are because they’re both short then.  If I didn’t have this task scheduled for spring, I might not do it and then face another fall with the phlox hidden by the asters. 
If you garden with a team, having a plan for the year allows everyone to have input as the list of priorities is being made.  This means you don’t have to keep consulting throughout the garden season, since everyone knows what the priorities are. 

Q3) How do you develop a schedule?
A3) Certain tasks need to be done at specific times of the year for the health of the garden.  Sometimes the timing is determined by things outside your control so you might need to compromise.  Take planting a new tree: it’s best to do that in April but often the garden centres don’t have stock until May. 
I like to ensure that I get the things most important to me done at the right time of year.  If a less critical task is scheduled for the same time the less important task has to wait.  If something like deadheading has to wait, no big deal.  There are many sources of information about when it’s best to carry out most garden tasks.  Be aware of the source of what you’re reading; April in Virginia is not the same as April in central Ontario!  The Master Gardeners of Ontario Facebook page is a great resource. https://www.facebook.com/groups/MasterGardenersofOntario/about

Q4) What lessons have you learned by having a garden plan?
A4) I have learned how different the garden looks at various times of year.  Sometimes I look at a task in my plan and think ‘why did I write that down?’ But it always becomes clear later in the season.  I have also learned how much I can get done if I’m not always rethinking the list or wondering about what needs doing.  If I have a plan for the season and stick with it, I can get a lot of big projects done.
I have learned to capitalize on the weather.  If I have a task like transplanting coming up and I see a day or two of light rain in the forecast I might not have to water. 
I have also learned to capitalize on labour that might present itself.  I keep a list of ‘nice to get done’ tasks too in case there’s time or help is offered. 
Most of all I have learned the importance of taking notes throughout the year.  These become the basis for next year’s plan. 

Q5) Anything else you would like to add?
A5) Yes, so far I’ve been talking about garden plans for a single year but you may have a big plan for your garden, something that you can’t achieve in a single year.  In that case you should break the job down into smaller bits you can accomplish over a number of gardening seasons.  Use the same idea of scheduling tasks for the best time of year and staying focused on the tasks for that year. 
For example, I’m trying to establish a rain garden in our backyard to hold and absorb the runoff from the street and driveway behind our house.  So, in the winter of 2017/2018 I took an online course about rain gardens from an Ontario-based group.  The following season I assessed the plants I already had for their suitability in a rain garden and outlined the area we would need to dig out to hold the inflow of water.  That fall we relocated any plants that would be in the way of the rain garden.  The next year we did the digging and purchased a few suitable plants that I learned about in the course.  Last year the plants grew larger, and we added a couple more plants and this past fall I collected seed.  Next year I hope to have some new seedlings to add to the now semi-functional rain garden. 
Don’t lose sight of the idea that gardening should be enjoyable!  Use your plan but don’t let it rule you.

Maybe getting on top of the weeds in your garden is on your garden plan for 2021.  Here’s some information that might be helpful.
A short article listing six weed-control strategies…

  1. https://www.finegardening.com/article/six-tips-for-effective-weed-control
Kill weeds at their roots but leave the soil—and dormant weed seeds—largely undisturbed.
Photo/Illustration: Brandi Spade

A 20-minute interview with an education coordinator for a large private garden in the USA…

  1. https://awaytogarden.com/fighting-weeds-an-all-season-approach-with-mt-cubas-duncan-himmelman/

Another article giving 12 tips for organic weed-management strategies…

  1. https://savvygardening.com/organic-weed-control-tips/
Easy organic weed management tips for your garden.

Now that you’ve read and listened to these resources, you’ll know that it’s a very good idea to know what weeds you have in order to tackle them effectively.  Here are some online resources to help with weed identification.

  1. https://njaes.rutgers.edu/weeds/
  2. https://apps.extension.umn.edu/garden/diagnose/weed/
  3. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/weeds_intro.html
  4. http://weeds.cropsci.illinois.edu/weedid.htm

These are some characteristics of broadleaf plants that will aid in identification.


Here are some ideas about what to watch in the long dark lockdown evenings this winter.

Borealis by Kevin McMahon - NFB
Amazon.com: The Gardener: Frank Cabot, Anne P. Cabot, Colin Cabot, Penelope  Hobhouse, Adrienne Clarkson, Sébastien Chabot, Sébastien Chabot, Julie  Dalbec, Michael Slack, Sébastien Chabot: Movies & TV
The Biggest Little Farm [Official Trailer] - YouTube

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