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Stories Tagged - Gardening

Donna flowers

Nov. 13, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Fool the eye

Create a natural focal point this fall to view from the inside looking out

newDonnawebI had a single dahlia plant left in my garden. It was battered into the ground by heavy winds and rain. The flowers on the plant, already lying on the ground, had aphids, spiders and slugs living in them. But from a distance, they looked shabby chic beautiful.

Studies show views of nature improve our mood and relax our minds. Improving the view of nature from your window, even if you live on the 10th floor of a high-rise building, might seem impossible this late in the season. But as long as you have a balcony or small patio, improving the view is simple. Just add flowers, dead or alive.

Instead of cutting my dahlias and dumping them, or bringing dahlia blooms with bugs into my home, I clipped the best blooms from my plant and placed them in a large, shallow, water-filled salad bowl. Then, I left the bowl outdoors on my patio table, where I enjoy them from my dining room.

Donna flowers

Nov. 08, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Slow down . . . you move too fast

Three garden tasks you don't have to do this fall

newDonnawebMowing down your perennials the way you mow your lawn is not the best way to spend your time this fall. If you have your shears in hand, gently place them on the shelf in the shed and take a minute to read this fast-breaking gardening news.

1. There is no need to cut back most perennials in the fall:

Gardeners often cut plants back to within an inch of their life while plants are still green, still blooming or still providing interest. If you cut back green plants, you remove stored energy and weaken plants.

Oct. 22, 2015 | Donna Balzer

When can I plant a tree?

Roots run deep when talking about timing

newDonnawebDear Donna,
"I appreciate all of your gardening work, and thought you might be able to help me with a general question I have (or perhaps guide me to someone who can; so far a web search has not been successful)? When, roughly speaking, is the best time to plant trees in Calgary? Spring or fall? If spring, are we talking early spring – i.e. beginning of April, or more like the end of May?
- Joe K

Dear Joe,
With exceptions, I would plant trees in Calgary when the soil is thawed fully in spring from May into June. This gives the tree a chance to root more efficiently and benefit from our normal spring rains.

closeup of woman holding broccoli in her hand

Oct. 08, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Ready or not it is time to get picking

Harvesting is not an exact science

newDonnawebMy friend Susan asked me when she should start harvesting vegetables.

"When they are ready," I replied as I wondered why she would ask such a question.

But then it sunk in: Susan has never planted a garden before. She thinks gardening is like farming where the whole harvest happens at once on some mysterious date in fall.

Heads up Susan: spinach and arugula picking is already finished in most home gardens. Oops. Sorry if you missed that. My first crop of lettuce is finished, too. It got too hot and went to seed.

Oct. 01, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Don't wait to plant bulbs

Proper planning will yield long-term results

newDonnawebReaders often ask me about the best time to plant flowering bulbs. Some, in fact, wait months to act – or react.

The answer is no. Seeds will still grow if held for years and fall bulbs might leaf out if left on the counter, but bulbs won't bloom if left sitting on the laundry-room shelf all winter.

Plant your fall bulbs as soon as you buy them. Don't wait until it rains. the next blue moon or when you finish your thesis. Planting bulbs sooner rather than later is the best bet for best spring blooms.

Unlike seeds, flowering bulbs are special sugar packets with fully formed flower buds. Once rooted, they are ready to pop instantly into bloom next spring.

Woman sitting on a patio chair relaxing at home by the lake

Aug. 26, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Whatever your green thumb desires

What do gardeners want? tells us in new survey 

newDonnawebEven if you are reading this column you don't actually want to garden. What you really, really want most in your garden is easy maintenance and outdoor living. I realized this after reading the new garden survey online ( Yes, it's true. Most gardeners' responding to the survey just wanted to sit in the garden and do as little as possible.

And if you bought a new home recently you are more likely than others to develop an outdoor sitting space immediately and get right to the business of lounging.

Houzz followers buying new homes plan to spend extra money buying outdoor furniture and developing colourful, low maintenance beds to surround their new sitting space. And after this space is designed and built, the top use for the renovated outdoor area is simply this: relaxing.

May 13, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Getting original with organic

Get your hands dirty and grow your own fruits and veggies

newDonnawebWill you jump up today and start growing your own food?

Even though it's early spring and you might not have an acreage or farm-scale garden, today is the perfect day to get started.

With water shortages in California – where most of our lettuce comes from – and climate change everywhere, it's time to try your hand at gardening.

Dec. 23, 2014 | Donna Balzer

Growing forward

Making realistic (garden) resolutions for the new year

If you want to build the best garden, grow the best food and raise the best petunias this summer, now is the time to set growing goals in motion.

But whatever you do – don't compare yourself to the neighbours.

"You should see Marinette's garden," my helpful husband points out one day last fall. "It is just beautiful."

Yes, it is – no contest. I've seen pretty pots on her doorstep and I am familiar with her weed-free gardens, but my efforts are not in the same league.

Nov. 05, 2014 | Donna Balzer

Cut the waste

Making great compost this winter

My husband is a new-age composter.

By that, I mean composting is a new thing for him – something he hasn't historically been involved with.

And if there is one thing my engineer husband likes it's a task with logical and direct instructions. He doesn't want to guess what I need for my birthday, so he isn't going to guess what pile the potato peels he's holding should be dumped into.

Oct. 08, 2014 | Donna Balzer

Mulching made simple

Rules to follow when using Mother Nature's cover for the winter

The word on mulching is out.

Mulching in the fall is not a minefield-free activity. In fact, it can be a whole lot of work for a whole lot of nothing if not done right.

Taking a step back, mulching is largely about the use of organic materials such as leaves or bark to cover ground over perennials, trees and shrubs.

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