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A Healthier Family Home & Indoor Plants

 

It has been reported that people spend at least 90% of their time indoors, in the north it could even be higher in our cold winter season.

That is a lot of time to be inside whether it is inside your home or inside a work or school environment. The air in these environments can be laden with toxins from the furnishings, the carpets, cleaning products, furnace ducts, pollens, bacteria and molds. Scientists say that indoor air can be worse for you than outdoor air.

What can you do to make your surroundings for you and your family healthier?

Here at Dunvegan we have always known what to do, and it seems NASA has done extensive studies on improving our indoor environments and their answer is cheap and easy.  Houseplants.

Adding potted plants to a room can introduce more oxygen because plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and plants also filter out those harmful toxins.

Do not worry if the plant does not come in a “cute” container, you can easily put the container inside another “trendy” one or simply transplant the plant into a new container. Houseplants can add texture, color and warmth to any indoor space.

There are so many varieties of indoor plants and we at Dunvegan have a huge selection. Each plant will have a tag that tells you how it likes to be treated. For example: some need a bright light so place “near” a window not beside so it will not get cold from the glass. Some need to be watered frequently and others not so much.

Here is a list of some of our favorite houseplants that are easy to grow and take care of.

  • NASA rated the Garden Mum as the air purifying champion.
  • Spider Plant – is a really easy plant to grow so it is excellent for those beginner gardeners and those of us who forget they have plants.
  • Snake Plant – is an easy care tropical plant that is hard to kill. Water occasionally and it likes some sun.
  • Rubber Plant – thick, glossy oversized leaves adorn this tropical plant.
  • Ferns – love low light and humid environments.
  • Bamboo Palm – is a great pet-friendly plant that loves the sun and is a huge formaldehyde filterer.
  • Aloe Vera – is a really easy plant to take care of and it will take care of you. The thick juice packed leaves can be broken off and rubbed on skin ailments, rashes and burns.

Have Pets? Come in and look over our Pet-Friendly Houseplant list. If you need more help getting your indoor space healthier – ask us, we will be happy to help.

 

 

Pumpkins

This month we celebrate Pumpkins.

There is so much you can do with pumpkins, they truly are a nutritious food to add to soups, stews, casseroles and of course muffins, pie and cookies. You can freeze pumpkin to use at a later date as well.

Growing pumpkins is relatively easy in the north, we recommend getting a small plant already started from our nursery in the spring. There are so many types and kinds of pumpkins, from the sweet pie pumpkins to the huge and massive. The current world record holder is 1,000 kilograms.

Pick a sunny patch with rich deep soil, that is not too soggy, they like moist roots, and not too dry. Pumpkins take a lot of nutrients from the ground so be sure to add some mature compost or manure to the soil.

Give your plants a lot of room to grow, not just a bit –  a lot of room, pumpkin plants grow with large leaves, prickly stems and grow long vines.

You do not need a cross-pollinator with pumpkins because the plants actually produce male and female flowers on the same plant. You do need bees to pollinate between the flowers, the female flowers are the ones that produce the fruit. If your plant is not producing you may need to pollinate it by hand with a small paintbrush.

How do you know if the pumpkins are ready to pick?

  • Listen for a hollow thump when you tap it, much like a watermelon
  • Make sure the vine has died down and turned brown
  • Pumpkin skin should be hard like a shell
  • Cut off the stem with a sharp knife or a pair of pruners

Pumpkins that are green will turn orange with warmth and sunshine even after they are picked.

To cook a pumpkin:  put a couple of knife slices (like poking a baked potato) into the sides of the whole pumpkin, a really important step so they do not blow up in your oven. Place onto a cookie sheet and put into a 250 oven for 2-3 hours, or until it is soft with a fork or knife poke. If the pumpkins are too high you can snap off the woody stem at the top as you will not need it.

Once baked, cut them in half and let them cool, then scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. Some people will keep the seeds and roast them to eat, then with a spoon, scrape the “meat” away from the skin, this is the part you use for baking and cooking or freeze it to use throughout the winter.

Fall Bulbs for Spring Color

Do you love those fresh and colorful spring flowers? Tulips, Crocuses, Snowdrops, Alliums, Scillas, Daffodils or Narcissus

Daffodils need extra mulching and protection for our harsh winter climates but are very doable bulbs to grow in the Peace Country.

Early to late September is the perfect time to get those spring (early May color) bulbs into the ground before the ground gets frozen.  Bulbs need time to take in nutrients and sprout good root growth and get themselves established before freeze-up. If you want to plant bulbs into October, remember to place them a couple of inches deeper than indicated to protect them.

One of the hardest jobs is to decide which bulbs to plant, tulips and daffodils have an abundant selection to choose from.

Harsh winters do take a toll on some bulbs (as do squirrels or rabbits) so we recommend – plant more not less.  To make a Spring WOW statement, plant bulbs in groups, placing them with other bulbs or in between your perennials, herbs, strawberries, hostas, bulbs bloom first so they will not hinder the growth of other later blooming plants. Bulbs usually come back each year so you only have to plant them once (if it is a harsh winter or they get thawed and frozen a couple times because of the weather they might not come back).  If you do not like the location or grouping, you can always move bulbs around.

To plant bulbs – pick a sunny spot in your garden, dig down 6-8” and place your bulb in with the sharp end up, throw in a bit of Myke or a bit of bone meal and cover them up. Water well – bulbs covered in ice for the winter will preserve the best.

Then wait for Spring – planting bulbs is easy!  Need more info, please come in and talk to us here at Dunvegan, we love to talk gardens!

Fall Clean Up

The first icy blast of winter has descended upon us this month and it came quickly so hopefully you got your ground vegetables out but if not, do not fret you still have some time and in fact some vegetables need a snap of cold to mature and sweeten. Freezing temperatures cause some of the starch in the vegetables to turn into sugar thus producing a sweeter tasting vegetable.

The following vegetables will do well in the ground even after the tops die off from the cold. Potatoes, carrots, beets, turnip, rutabagas and parsnips will be fine in the ground for 2-3 weeks after the tops die off as long as the ground is not too wet or frozen. Do not leave them too long or you can find mushy, squishy vegetables instead of nice crisp and sweet ones.

Onions should have been taken out of the ground by now as they do not do well in the cold.

For the rest of the garden and flower bed areas, adding in some of our rich bagged compost or manure and mixing to about 6” is a great idea so you can just plant in the spring and not have to worry about adding nutrients.

Get rid of the container plants and flowers before the snow comes. Pull out the plants and ensure you get all the roots, some dirt can stay in your container as long as it will remain dry, if not empty all your containers and put the pots away for the winter and add your plants to your compost.

You may want to start storing away all your shovels and rakes, do some maintenance on your lawn mower and store them away for the winter.

Herb Garden

Your gardens is in peak harvest time, the beets, peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and so many more wonderful veggies are in their prime and ready for picking, cooking and getting ready to store for the winter.

Herbs in the garden are ready to be taken in and dried for storing, or they can be chopped up or even bagged as is and simply thrown into the freezer to use throughout the winter. Elaine likes to pop herbs into ice cube trays with water and then just drop them into soups or stews. Dill, fennel, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano,  and mint – all can be dried or frozen.

Why not plant a herb garden for indoors for use in the winter?  Here at Dunvegan we have herbs ready to plant inside or you can transplant some of your outside herbs into pots. Our recommendations for an indoor herb garden: Lavender, Parsley, Mint, Thyme, Basil, Rosemary, Chives, Fennel.

Things to remember as you plant your herbs.

  • Light – herbs like a bright light environment. They really thrive well on 6-8 hours of direct sunlight on them. Did you know that herbs grown in the brighter light will actually have more flavour. If you do not have a bright area, we have CFL bulbs here at Dunvegan that will give your herbs the light they need. Parsley, Mint and Chives can grow well in less bright conditions.
  • Temperature – between 60-70 degrees is the ideal temperature for your indoor herbs.
  • Pots – choose the right pot for the herb and environment. Ceramic pots hold the moisture and would be best for a dry climate rather than clay pots. Containers must have good drainage and holes in the bottom of the container are a must. Be sure to place a saucer or drip tray under the plant. Basil has long roots and thus a long, tall pot would be best. Repurpose containers and mason jars into planters for your herbs.
  • One Herb = One Pot. Grow each herb separately.
  • Soil – never use soil from your garden, be sure to pick up a bag of potting soil, one with a good ratio of peat, perlite and sand. Our Dunvegan potting soil is an excellent choice.
  • Water – try to have a regular schedule for watering. 2-3 times per week should be sufficient for the herbs.
  • Fertilizer – during the winter, slow growing months, a once a month treatment of fertilizer is ideal. Use our Miracle Gro General Purpose fertilizer to help maintain strong and healthy plants.

Get a good start on your indoor herb gardens now and get those plants off to a great start outdoors before you bring them in for the winter.  Have fun and keep gardening!

What is a Squash?

Besides conjuring up pictures of gourd-like images, you should know that there are hundreds of kinds of squash. Pumpkins, zucchini, spaghetti, acorn are some of the favorite kinds of squash grown in Alberta.

There is compact and gigantic size squash so knowing which kind of plant will produce what is really important when you are planting. If you have a plant that produces “giant” varieties, you will need a big space for that plant. Squash called “summer variety” produces a compact plant that can be grown in planters or out in the garden and not take up much space. A self-watering container works well because squash can be picky about its watering needs. Compost added to the dirt of a squash plant works wonders because squash thrives on organic matter.

If planting your squash plants in the garden a hill method works well. Squash do not like to be sitting in water. So planting the plant on a hill allows air to get underneath the plant and keep the water trickling down away from the leaves.

Squash usually are self-pollinating, that is they produce both male and female flowers on the plant. If the summer is too cold, the plant might only produce male flowers and thus produce no fruit. The female flowers have a distinct “bulb” on the end of them, which is the fruit. If you want to eat the flowers (awesome in a salad) be sure to pick only the male flowers and leave the females to produce.

If you have a zucchini that is producing way too much fruit, pick off half of the flowers to cut back on production. If you leave the fruit on the vine and do not pick it – the plant will shut off production totally.

The other thing to do is give extra zucchini away to your friends and family and include a recipe to spark their interest into using the squash.

Zucchini and spaghetti squash work well as a spaghetti substitute – spiralizer the squash and steam your squash noodles, and serve just like spaghetti with sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan. Yum!
You can grate your zucchini and freeze to add to casseroles, soups, cakes and loaves throughout the winter.

How about Zucchini Pizza Bites? Sauté in olive oil zucchini slices for 1-2 minutes per side. Place onto lightly greased cooking sheet and top with spaghetti sauce or Mariana sauce, sprinkle with some mozzarella, place some mini pepperoni slices on top add a splash of parmesan cheese and pop under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let cool slightly and enjoy!

Squash is one of the most versatile plants to have in your garden!

Apples

There is nothing more satisfying than going out to the yard, heading to the apple tree, standing there and spotting the best looking one, reaching out and picking it and then taking a bit bite of a fresh, juicy delicious apple.

August is the beginning of Apple month.  Crabapples should be getting to their peak and the other apple trees should be loaded and if not ready, almost.

Tis the season for apple jelly, apple juice, applesauce,  apple pie, apple crisp and even apple cake.

Apple trees are easy to grow and here at Dunvegan we have many varieties to choose from that do well in our cold winters.

Remember to pick up Mykes Tree and Shrub here at Dunvegan to get the 5 year tree warranty when planting your apple or any tress.

Gladiator crabapple  –  a highly ornamental tree as well as a great producer of crabapples. The spring produces bright pink flowers, followed by reddish-purple fruit and the leaves of the tree are bronze-purple leaves.  A beautiful tree to add colour and fruit to your yard.

Purple Spire Columnar Crabapple  – a great compact hardy disease resistant crabapple that has purple-green foliage that turns more purple in the fall, has pink flowers in the spring and produce a purple crabapple.

Goodland apple – is a hardy tree for Zone 3, it can be grown in Zone 2 but might need some protection or prune off any frost damage the following spring.  It will start bearing fruit at a young stage. It produces a moderately sweet green apple with a red blush. These apples will keep for you for 20 weeks in a cool room.

Haralson apple –  a hardy tree producing a red apple, great for baking, eating and cider with a mildly tart flavour.

Honeycrisp apple – pinkish white flowers with a red apple that is great for eating and cooking.

Multi-Variety apple trees – these trees have been grafted to have a few varieties of apples on the same tree.

Norland apple – a very hardy semi-dwarf tree with red/green apples, a dependable fruit producing tree.

Zestar apple – a crisp juicy sweet/tart flavoured red apple.

Family Favorite Apple Crisp:

4 cups of peeled, cored and sliced apples

¼ cup flour, ½ cup white sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg – mix together and sprinkle over apples, stir together. Put into a greased baking dish.

Combine together:

1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup oats,  1 tsp cinnamon, stir in ½ cup melted butter or margarine and stir together, place on top of apples.

Bake in a 350 oven for 45-50 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipping cream.

Enjoy!

Growing Tomatoes

   

How do you chose what kind of tomatoes to grow – there are so many?

That is where Dunvegan Gardens can help. We know it can be overwhelming when you start looking at all the varieties. Here at Dunvegan we strive to have quality plants for our growing zone, plants that can handle our up and down climate and winds.

A couple of questions could help you decide what kind of tomato to grow.

  • Are you growing tomatoes to eat fresh or for canning?
  • Do you have a greenhouse or planting straight into the ground?
  • Do you want juicy or beefy tomatoes?

Tomatoes or fresh eating have size variances from the mini cherry to the large Beefsteak, Bush Beefsteak, Bush Early Girl, Better Bush. One of the most popular varieties is the Super Fantastic and a hardy tomato equally as popular is the Manitoba. Get a few varieties to try and be sure to check out our yellow tomatoes as well.

For canning tomatoes and those pasta sauces, look for a meatier tomato with less juice like the Roma or the Little Napoli – a large type Roma.

Because our growing season is short in the Peace Country we recommend buying a good healthy plant, not starting from seed. Look for plants already in flower or with small green tomatoes already starting to grow. We have hundreds of amazing plants growing in our greenhouses ready for your garden or try one of our hanging tomato baskets.

You will have to brace, stake, trellis or cage your tomato plants as they tend to be top heavy and fall over, damaging the plant.

Look for a sunny spot to plant your tomatoes, they really love the heat and need 6-8 hours of heat per day to get flavorful. If planting in a greenhouse, they will flourish with the warmth. Watch out for those cold nights because tomatoes do not like to get cold – remember to cover them should the temperatures drop.

Plant the plants 2-3 feet apart or grow in containers that are at least 18” in diameter.

Because of our strong winds, we recommend that you plant at least 2/3 of the stem of the tomato plant in the ground to get a good strong plant. The deeper roots will also help the plant to find water should we have a dry summer.

Check your plant regularly for pests – green caterpillars or hornworms, can strip a plant quickly. Deal quickly with pests. Watch your plants for fungus, or dark spots on the leaves, remove those leaves.

Remember to feed your tomato with Miracle Gro Tomato Food, add the Miracle Gro Tomato Food to every second watering.

You can then sit back and reap in your harvest as the tomatoes turn from green to yellowish- pink to red. You can pick tomatoes and start using them at the yellowish-pink stage. Store your tomatoes at room temperature, not in the fridge as they will be more flavourful.

Extra tomatoes can be canned, frozen or dried.

Helpful Tips To Keep Mosquitoes At Bay

Sitting outside in the evening can be so refreshing, until the mosquitoes find you, then the sound of slapping and cursing can often be heard in the cool night air.  Is there anything we can do to naturally to repel them? It has been reported than the pioneers used to rub skunk urine on themselves or wear spruce boughs around their necks.  Besides spraying down, here at Dunvegan we have a couple other options.

The first thing to do is to prevent any water from sitting around your yard, mosquito larva is found in water. Getting rid of any standing water is the first prevention to mosquito control. Treating those standing pools, like a pond with lavicide is the next option. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) – a naturally occurring bacteria is used as a larvicide in ponds and other areas where mosquitoes are breeding. The larvae die when they feed on it in the water. It is not harmful to animals, birds and most other insects.

Having flowers, shrubs and trees that attract birds is another excellent way to control mosquitos because some birds eat mosquitoes. Purple Martins, Barn Swallows, Robins, Chickadees and Woodpeckers like to feast on these annoying pests. We have a wide selection of trees and shrubs ready to plant to attract our feathered friends.

Dragonflies eat their fair share of mosquitoes often up to 100 per day, the plant Black-eyed Susans can help attract dragonflies. Dragonflies like to sun themselves often perching on flat rocks or long stemmed plants. Dragonflies are harmless to humans. The best way to attract Dragonflies is with a small pond and submergible plants (Dunvegan sells pond and submergible plants) that attract them to lay their larvae in. There are even some towns in the states that release Dragonfly nymph (early stage dragonflies) to help reduce mosquito populations.

Citronella, the oil found in Lemongrass, has been proven by the USDA to be a proven insect repellent. Plant some around your yard or you can buy Citronella in an oil form, candles, sprays – mosquitos do not like the lemony scent.  Citronella geraniums are another option. You can plant them amongst your patio plants around you and surround your outdoor space with them.  The best way to use them is to break off a leaf and rub the scent all over you. You will have to apply it every hour and it does take a toll on the plant, so have plenty around.

Catnip has a tendency to keep creepy crawly and flying insects away. While cats go crazy for this plant, spreading some leaves on an ant infested area can tell them they need to move on: or pour boiling water onto the nest, or you can use one of the many ant traps, sprays and powders we sell here at Dunvegan.

Marigolds – Lemon Gem:  the lemony scent of the Marigold will deter mosquitoes.

Ageratum or Floss Flowers will bloom all summer, are heat resistant and produce a chemical which mosquitoes avoid.

Basil – produces an oil that kills mosquito eggs, mosquitoes avoid it – plant lots around your patio and use it in your recipes as well.

Lavender is sweet smelling to people but disgusting to mosquitoes, flies and moths.

Rosemary is a plant that flying insects avoid, be sure to use Rosemary inside your kitchen as well as it tastes amazing. At the end of the season you can dry some sprigs for use all winter long.

Did you know?

Petunias – repel squash bugs, beetles and aphids.

Get outside and play in some dirt, do not let those pesky critters deter you from the garden!

Sod or Seed, Trees & Shrubs

What are the advantages of laying sod over seeding a lawn? Both of these will require soil preparation to get good results.  Sod is instant, a quick and efficient way to establish a lawn. There is no mud with sod, a tidier alternative than seed. You basically roll out strips of existing lawn over top of your top soil, then water like crazy!

To lay sod, you must prepare the soil, sod must make contact with soil to establish a root. If you have a lawn already and wish to lay sod over it, you should first remove the old grass and put a layer of top soil down.  Weeds will grow through sod so treating them first before laying the sod is important. When laying the sod you must allow for shrinkage when being laid down and butt each strip tight to the next.

With sod you can have a lawn in a day with a little work.

Seeding is a less expensive option; it takes longer, and is more labour intensive, but it gives you more variety of grasses to choose from. Again soil preparation and watering are key, you can get a beautiful lawn with deep roots that looks amazing. Remember that after you spread the seed – you can loosely rake the seed into the top soil and then roll/pack the soil. Seed grown in the same climate it is going to live in, can often do better than sod. Come in and talk to us about the various grass seed options. Summer and fall can be ideal times to start seeding a lawn.

Dunvegan in partnership with Mykes offers a 5 Year Guarantee on your shrubs and trees. If you buy your tree and Mykes from us, and use Mykes when you plant your tree and shrubs, that is correct – there is a 5 Year Guarantee on those plants (keep the paperwork). Come in and talk to us more about this.

     

Shrubs are often overlooked. Shrubs are an ideal way to bring variety and visual contrast to your landscape. They are perennial meaning they come back year after year. Shrubs should be planted with bonemeal or Mykes. The key to planting shrubs is to get the ideal plant for the ideal spot. Common mistakes are planting shrubs too close together. Shrubs continue to grow and enlarge, so you want to give them room to grow over the years.  Shrubs should be planted enough away from the house to allow growth, not right against the wall. Evaluate the height of the shrub before you plant it.  We have an extensive selection of shrubs here at Dunvegan, check us out.

       

Trees can be planted in spring after the ground is thawed. You can also plant trees in the fall, but not too late or the roots could not be established before the winter and frost hits them. Fruit trees that do well in our climate are apples, some cherries, plums, and pears. Ornamental trees are chosen because of their foliage and flowers.

No matter what your goal is for your landscaping plans for your home, here at Dunvegan, we can help you with the planning and preparation needed to have an amazing outcome.