Tips from our gardening team

Credit: Elizabeth Rowlands

Just like in life, every gardener can think of something learned the hard way through experience.

It took two years of replanting bean and corn seeds scratched up by the cheeky crows cawing overhead for me to conjure up the idea of placing plastic-mesh garden trays, weighed down with large rocks, over the freshly-planted rows until seedlings had poked through the soil. At that point, the trays went back to the garden centre for reuse. Sturdy berry baskets or anything cage-like will also do the job.

And once again I had to adapt to wildlife when our autumn door hanging of seedheads, branches and dried corn husks began banging in the breeze. Suddenly realizing it was a wind-less night, I peeked out to find our door now decorated with two black rats scuttling back and forth across my arrangement to gnaw out the few remaining kernels of corn. Needless to say, our door display was changed without delay.

I’ve also discovered one need never give up on a broken pot: you can easily plug up a large crack with a bit of moss found in a shady bit of your yard, or dig the remaining piece of the pot right in the ground and stuff it with creepers to overflow into the garden.

Quizzing some of our GardenWise team one day, it seems everyone has something to share:

  • Weary of yet another winter season of frumpy hanging baskets and barren window boxes, Sheena Adams has now adopted a fall ritual of shearing them of all their foliage and leaving a sturdy rootball perfect for plugging in branches of wintergreen, holly and huckleberry.
  • To perk up the springtime garden, Christine Allen shares her secret to sumptuous snowdrops: “Just bend over the seedheads and bury them in the soil – this is a wonderful way to start new plants and thicken clumps without having to divide.”
  • Worrying about summer water restrictions and parched patio pots, David Tarrant has learned to never let a drop go down the drain and “catch all the water used for washing and preparing fruit and vegetables to use for watering plants.”
  • In the greenhouse, Jesse Vernon Trail relies on an old herbal remedy to shield seedlings from damping-off disease: simply steep one chamomile tea bag in a full teapot of water for 24 hours, ensuring you have a strong brew at room temperature, then mist or spray seedlings frequently until they develop a second set of leaves. Out in the yard for spring cleanup, horticulturist Barbra Fairclough uses a large dog flea comb as a no-fuss way to remove loose and unsightly seedheads from Mexican feathergrass.
  • How-to extraordinaire Christina Symons loves to reuse and recycle: “Spice jars with perforated tops are perfect containers for sowing wildflower seeds evenly; an old wooden stepladder makes a funky trellis support for a squash or melon plant; broken-handled rakes, scratchers and hoes make terrific handtools for weeding and tidying under large shrubs and brush; and large pickle jars recycled from your local deli make excellent cloches for tender transplants.” And she reminds gardeners to reward themselves by “tucking a few strawberry plants throughout your ornamental beds to provide an unexpected treat during weeding.”
  • Lastly, here’s an idea for those stumped by stumps. Simply turn it into a birdbath, suggests Carolyn Jones, curator of Seattle’s Miller Garden, where the late Mrs. Miller once commissioned a local artisan to do just that by chiseling out the top of a stump and hammering a sheet of copper into it.

Do you have any wisdom to share?

Take a few minutes to leave us a comment below, or email us at