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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!

Large Garden Pests

Deer: What do we do to deter these 4 legged creatures from nibbling or even chomping down our garden.

Place the following plants, that deer detest, strategically around your yard and garden. Deer do not eat grasses, the sharp edges wreak havoc with their gut. Deer do not like walking through lavender, marigolds, lilac, mint or oregano or any aromatic plants, the smell gets on their legs and interrupts their sense of smell. Deer will not eat fuzzy plants or plants with thick prickly foliage such as: yarrow, cucumbers, squash. They also do not like leeks, onions, fennel or rhubarb.

Shaving a bar of soap into pieces and scattering it around your plants can deter deer from eating seedlings and smaller plants and some bugs. The catch is it only lasts until the next rain.

How about an invisible fence? One avid gardener swears by using clear fishing line and 5’ stakes, she runs about 4-6 rows of fishing line around the garden. The deer cannot see the line and they won’t jump over but it deters them from going in further.

Moose:  A little larger problem and they love to feast on our foliage. The fishing line will not work on the moose problem. Gardeners find that changing up their methods of deterring moose is the best way to handle these big fellows.  Spraying foliage with a mixture of dish soap, water and cayenne pepper or ground up hot chillies.   Dot the perimeter of the garden with chopped up Irish Spring soap. Fencing is a great way to keep them out, however it has to be 8’ high.  Sometimes startling the moose works, hang dryer sheets, foil dishes or old CD cases from the trees, when they sway with the wind, it startles the moose.  One Alaskan gardener says they boil up some water, put in a bar of soap and let it dissolve. They take this water and pout it our along the garden perimeter.

What about Ladybugs – are they friend or foe?

You want Ladybugs in your garden, the larvae of ladybugs feast on aphids. Aphids are those green small bugs that attach themselves to your plant stems and suck the juice out of the plants. They should be arriving about now in your garden.

Ladybugs love dill, fennel, caraway as well as flowers such as tansy, marigolds, and cosmos these will also attract Lacewings, another aphid eating insect.

Do you have some pesky pests in your garden? Come in and talk to us here at Dunvegan about methods to deter, prevent and eradicate.

Dunvegan, where every day is another great day to garden!

 

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.

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.

Hanging Baskets


May is famous for two things: Mother’s Day and the time to put out our Hanging Baskets.

In Northern Alberta we have to be wise in putting out our baskets – whenever the temperature might fall close to freezing or if a cold northern wind blows in, we need to bring our baskets inside for the night or a day or two.

How to choose a Hanging Basket: 2 options – pre-made and make your own.

If you want a pre-made basket, here at Dunvegan we have thousands to choose from. For flower baskets, one of the first things to decide is colors. Are you aiming for a harmonious look? That would be a look with several shades of the same color. Example: a basket of several different pink flowers would be considered harmonious.

A contrast color theme would be where opposite colors are planted in the same basket. Example: purple and yellow flowers.

If you want to get creative on planting your own basket, consider checking a color wheel on the internet and looking at what colors are opposite each other – those are known as complementary colors. Artists use this in paintings and it can also be used in flower arranging and basket making.

Next decide on how big a basket you want. The bigger the basket the more volume of soil and that is better for your plants, if you are into math, a 14” pot has almost half as much soil more than a 12” pot. If you are planting your own basket, the general rule of thumb is one plant for every 2-3 inches of diameter of the basket. This would mean a 12” pot would require 4-6 plants.

Soil is the next factor in making your own basket. You need a soil that is suitable for drainage and not dense so that the plant roots can make their way through it. At Dunvegan we recommend our own bagged Dunvegan Soil for this.

Now that you have your hanging baskets picked out or made up, maintenance is the next step.
We cannot emphasize it enough – water, water, water. More hanging baskets are killed by failing to water than anything else. Realize that on a hot day, baskets take more water; on a windy day, the soil dries out and baskets take more water, you often have to water at least 2 times per day.

Fertilize your baskets. Our favorite is Miracle Grow All Purpose 24-8-16 an excellent choice for your hanging baskets. We also like Miracle Grow Ultra Bloom as well. Fertilizing should be done on moist soil and every 2nd watering to ensure your baskets bloom until fall.

Sometimes by July your basket might look a little straggly, when that happens pinch off the straggly stems or give your plant a haircut. Pruning can liven that basket back up. For blooms that are finished and wilted, be sure to pinch them off of the plant – this helps the plant to create new blooms and to look fuller longer.

Feel free to stroll through our back greenhouses and look at our thousands of hanging baskets or come pick your own flowers to make your own.

Heirloom Seeds

There are some gardening terms used today that need a bit of clarification. One of those terms is Heirloom seeds, they can also be known as Heritage seeds.

Heirloom seed refers to open-pollinated; pollinated naturally by the wind or insects, which produce plants like the parent plant. Heirloom and Heritage seeds are seeds that are passed down from family to family or generation to generation. Heirloom or Heritage seeds are often more tasty, aromatic and have a higher vitamin content.

There are family Heirloom seeds and Commercial Heirloom seeds. Commercial Heirloom seeds are seeds that are passed down in the company that have been used for many years. Thus Heirloom seeds do not necessarily mean Non-GMO.  The Heritage and Heirloom seeds that Dunvegan carries are Non-GMO and say so right on the package.

Some terms to be aware of:

Organic seed refers to the way seed is grown

Heirloom refers to the parent plant.

Hybrid is a plant that is not bred from seed.

Untreated seeds are seeds that are not treated with insecticides or fungicides.

More questions? Please feel free to give us a call or stop in and talk gardening!

 

 

 

 

Orchids

 

   

Once a hobby only for the rich, Orchids have become one of the most beloved plants for indoor and outdoor use around the world and the rule is: once you get one Orchid, you will become hooked and need more!

With over 30,000 species being identified, Orchids are a very diverse family. Orchids can be as small as a thimble or they can grow to over 20 feet tall in some instances. Flower sizes can range from mosquito-sized blooms to the size of a common dinner plate. Colorful and often fragrant, Orchids are thought to be a tropical plant.

Orchids can be grown indoors and are Perennial in nature, Orchids will rebloom – usually with a little bit of help. Orchids can bloom once a year, biannually or even continuously.

Orchids like light and after over watering, being too hot or in a wrong light location is usually a cause for killing off orchids. Place Orchids near a window but not in the window, they love light but not directly.

If your Orchid has wrinkly or leathery leaves, it is probably being overwatered. Orchids need a special type of soil, one that is fast draining but also water retensive.  Here are Dunvegan we have several varieties of already potted Orchids. Orchid seeds grow slowly and it can take 2 years or in some cases 7-10 years for a plant to bloom; this often is why certain species are more expensive.

If your Orchid has stopped blooming, it is not dead, it is taking a much needed rest. Place the orchid in a cooler part of the house 55-60 degrees is ideal and feed it 20-20-20 every other week until it starts to grown again.

Come check out our blooming selection of Orchids, feel free to ask us questions on how to care for them and ask us about ice cube watering for Orchids.

 

 

Why Grow a Garden?

 

In our fast-paced world sometimes it is hard to think about adding one more thing to our to-do list, but there are many reasons why you should plant a garden.

  • Save money on groceries. There is nothing tastier than fruits and vegetables from the garden, store-bought produce cannot even begin to match the taste. Stuck on what to cook for supper? Wander out to the garden and pick a meal, it is proven that people who eat more fruits and vegetables are healthier.
  • Physical Exercise and Stress Relief. Ask any gardener and they will tell you, putting your hands in the soil and digging around is therapeutic.  Gardening is a great way to get some physical exercise into your schedule right in your own backyard.  It is also a stress reliever, a place to go just to enjoy nature and see what is growing.
  • The nutrients in your homegrown fruits and vegetables are higher than store bought commercially produced foods. You get to decide if your garden will use chemicals or stick strictly to nature and go organic.
  • Gardens and plants, in general, are a great way to help the atmosphere. Plants make oxygen and take carbon monoxide out of the air.
  • Teach your children where their food comes from. A lot of children today only associate “food” with stores, they have no concept of how food grows. Children are fascinated with the growing cycle of plants.
  • Help save the bees. Today bees are suffering worldwide, we need bees to pollinate our foods and bees need the flowers to collect the pollen from.  Without bees in the world, we would not be able to grow enough food to survive.

These are just some of the many reasons why you should seriously consider planting a garden. Gardens can be in containers, in the ground or even hanging on the walls – we can help.  Come visit us at Dunvegan Gardens and let’s talk gardening.

 

Haskap, Blue Berried Honeysuckle, Honeyberries

An old berry is making a come back!  Haskap is the “marketing” name going across North America for the blue berried Honeysuckle or Honeyberry – Lonicera caerulea.

Found growing wild in every province in Canada they can also be found across North America, Japan and Europe.  A Hardy bush that can withstand temperatures of minus 45 and the flowers have withstood temperatures of minus 11 and gone on to bear fruit.

The taste is described as a cross between a raspberry/blueberry and saskatoon. In the 1950’s the first planting in Beaverlodge was attempted, but the berries were bitter. The plant was ignored after that.  The trick with Haskap is to get the right kind – the right kind being a wonderful berry or the wrong kind, a bitter berry. Here at Dunvegan, we have several tasty varieties available.

Haskap’s grow to be 1.5 to 2 meters in height. They are pest and disease resistant, an easy shrub to grow.  There are reports that deer and birds like the berries.  There are no thorns or suckers.  The berries are the early addition to the garden, ripening a couple of weeks before strawberries.  The berries are oblong/oval and large 3-8 cm long and can be used for canning, pies, jams, jellies, candies, ice cream, and yogurt to name a few. There is even a local Haskap winery near Beaverlodge.

Haskap’s have to have a cross pollinator in order to bear fruit.  Not all plants cross pollinate with each other, come check out our Cross Pollinator chart in the store.

Varieties:  Tundra, Borealis, Indigo Treat, Indigo Gem, Indigo Yum, Honeybee, Aurora, Wojtek, Atlaj, Nimfa, Berry Blue, Polar Jewel

Here at Dunvegan we carry a selection of hardy Haskap’s and pollinators – it is never too early to start planning this year’s garden!