Gardening: earthwork for the soul

A recent study showed that Canadians spend close to $1 billion annually on their gardens. The fifty-plus group takes up a large percentage of this market. So what is it about gardening that has captured and captivated so many mature Canadians?The affinity with nature is a powerful magnet. There is something inherently appealing about digging in and getting your hands dirty. I remember my youngest son used to love “helping” my wife in the garden. He would sit there and squish the soil between his fingers for hours. That primeval feeling of physical contact with soil, the foundation of life, is one that many of us enjoy long into our later years.

In addition, many people like to watch the garden grow and mature. Gardeners often find themselves checking their flowers or vegetables countless times throughout the day, waiting for that new bud to burst open.

Gardening also gives people a concrete sense of accomplishment — where once there was nothing but grass, soil or even concrete, now there’s a beautiful mix of colors and fragrances, all your creation!

^The universal resource
Watering both lawn and garden properly is extremely important for maintaining this creation. Generally, people don’t get confused about watering their flowers and vegetables — a moderate, sensible amount always does the trick. But, for some reason, when it comes to lawns, many seem to lose their heads.

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem a lot of people simply cannot resist watering their lawns all summer long? I once had a neighbor who literally had her sprinkler on every single day — all day long. When I asked her why, she simply said, “It always looks so thirsty.”

Wise watering rules
While it is necessary to water your grass to keep it from “falling asleep” and turning brown — especially in drought periods — proper irrigation is often misunderstood.

Following is some basic information on wise watering:

  • As the temperature rises, the grass needs more water, and the reverse holds true.
  • Water during early morning hours. Late afternoon or night watering induces fungus to grow on grass and plants, leading to diseases such as summer patch, dollar spot and brown patch. Early morning watering allows plants to dry off as the day wears.
  • Sprinkling should be infrequent, but deep, approximately one inch below the surface per cycle. To measure your sprinkler’s speed, use the “catch can test.” Place a coffee can in the path of your sprinkler and time how long it takes for the can to fill to an inch. That is how long you should water your lawn.
  • If you can afford it, install an automatic sprinkler system. They’re accurate and convenient, but they’ll leave a big hole in your pocketbook.

Weeding the unwelcome
While warm weather and rain brings beautiful foliage, they also open the door to those unwelcome garden guests — weeds. Weeds are not only unsightly, they can be detrimental to your garden, starving your plants and flowers of necessary nutrients.

Pre-emergent weed control is your best defense. Weeds are zapped before they have a chance to rear their ugly heads. While pre-emergent herbicides are effective, timing is critical. Too early and you’ll miss late summer weeds; too late, crabgrass. The weather usually dictates timing — a general rule is to apply herbicides when Forsythia starts to bloom, but double check with your local garden center.

Some people fear the environmental implications of herbicides. The truth is that when used properly, they pose no problem. Just make sure to follow the instructions exactly. If your initial assassination attempt fails, apply post-emergent herbicides to the leaves and soil around the sprouted weeds. Sprays work fast but can be lethal to your plants or flowers. Try granulated products you’re not confident with your spraying ability.