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Gardening Expert Niki Jabbour Shares 10 Gardening Tips!

Published on: April 30th, 2018

Tip #1: Flower power — bring spring indoors!

One of the easiest ways to hurry spring along is to clip branches of spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia and quince and bring them indoors to bloom. To do, simply grab your pruners and a container and head out to the garden. When cutting branches, prune back to a healthy set of buds or a fresh branch and remove no more than one-quarter of the total plant.

Before placing the branches in a vase, use a hammer or mallet to pound the woody ends of the branches. This will help them take up water. Place the arrangement in a bright area or near a sunny window. Once the flowers open, move the vase away from direct sun to prolong the life of the arrangement.

Favourite shrubs for forcing: forsythia, flowering quince, lilac, cherry, and serviceberry.


Tip #2: Pansy Power!

With the unsettled spring weather of late April and May it’s too early to plant containers of tender annuals like geraniums and petunias. But, cold hardy plants like pansies are the perfect way to add colour to a
front porch, deck, patio, or balcony. For a stunning spring combination, plant pansies in a pot or window box, inserting clipped pussy willow branches in the middle of the contain



Tip #3: Cold Season Salad Greens

Not only are most salad greens very easy to grow, they’re also super speedy, with many ready to harvest just 5 to 6 weeks from seeding. Plus, they grow best in the cool weather of May and early June, so it’s almost time to start sowing seeds in containers and garden beds. My favourite greens for spring include leaf lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and mizuna. Sow a fresh container or a row in a raised bed every 2 to 3 weeks for a non-stop supply of homegrown greens.


Tip #4: Smart Pruning

With mild spring weather finally arriving, I’m anxious to get out and clean up the garden. And for many homeowners, spring garden clean up includes pruning back overgrown shrubs. However, before you start clipping take a second to consider what really needs to be pruned and remember the #1 rule of pruning, ‘Don’t prune unless you have a good reason to prune.’ I prune to promote healthy plant growth, which means the removal of dead, damaged, or diseased branches, or those that are crossing or rubbing against neighbouring branches

I also think about timing; spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia, lilac, quince, or big leaf hydrangea should be pruned after flowering. Pruning now means pruning off the flower buds that will bloom this spring. Summer flowering shrubs like potentilla and butterfly bush can be pruned now as they produce flower buds on new wood, so a trim now doesn’t mean you’re removing future flowers.


Tip #5: Get Planting! 

Now that May has arrived, planting season has begun!  It’s time to get cool season vegetables in the ground — peas, greens, and onion sets. You can plant them in garden beds and containers. And keep that harvest going for as long as possible by succession planting. Sow seeds for fast-growing greens like lettuce, arugula or spinach every 3 weeks for a non-stop supply of tender greens. May is also a great time to add permanent plants like trees, shrubs, and perennials to your garden, or patch up a winter damaged lawn. Spring is here and it’s time to get growing!


Tip #6:  Summer Bulbs

Pop into any garden centre in May and you’ll notice a selection of summer bulbs like dahlias, lilies, and gladioli. These easy-to-grow bulbs are perfect for adding a punch of colour to gardens, decks, and patios. They are best planted in a sunny spot with well-drained, rich soil in mid to late May. Add some compost at planting time. If growing bulbs in a container, use a high-quality potting soil and add a shovelful of compost to the container. Once planted, water often and feed with a liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks to encourage as many blooms as possible.



Tip #7:  Simple Tips for Container Gardening

Grow your best container garden ever this year by following a few simple rules:

– Pick a container that has drainage holes. Wet soil is the fastest way to kill plants, so be sure whatever type of container you choose has drainage holes.

– Fill containers with high-quality potting soil which is lightweight and drains well. I also add a shovelful of compost to the container and mix with the potting soil.

– Pick plants for your conditions. Sun? Shade? If you’re not sure which are the best plants for your decks, patios, or balconies, ask at the nursery.

– Include a mixture of plants – tall plants for height and drama, mid-sized plants to fill up the centre of the planter, and cascading plants to spill over the side of the pot.

– Water and fertilize often. Water whenever the soil is dry – likely daily in summer. And, feed plants with a liquid organic food every 10 to 14 days.


Tip #8: Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the #1 crop in North American gardens and for good reason! There’s nothing that compares to the flavour of a sun-warmed tomato from the garden. Here are a few tips to growing great tomatoes:

– Don’t plant until all risk of frost has passed in late spring.
– Pick varieties that fit your space. If growing in containers, choose dwarf plants like Celebrity, Early Girl, Patio, Fantastico, and Tumbling Tom. If you have plenty of space or large containers, plant indeterminate types like Sungold, Cherokee Purple, and Brandywine.
– Plant tomatoes in full sun and amend the soil with plenty of compost before planting.
– Mulch plants with straw to prevent the spread of soil borne diseases like early blight.
– Stake tall-growing tomatoes as they grow with sturdy wooden stakes or tall cages.
– Fertilize every 10 to 14 days with an organic liquid vegetable fertilizer.


Tip # 9: Growing Herbs in Containers

Fresh herbs add unbeatable flavour to food and they’re also easy to grow. The simplest way to grow herbs is to plant them in a container. Look for a pot or planter with drainage holes and fill it with a high-quality potting mix. Pick out your favourite, must-have herbs. For me, I tend to grow the herbs that I use in the kitchen – basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, mint, and parsley. For an instant herb garden, start with transplants that you pick up from a local nursery. Plant them in the pot, watering well afterwards. Place the container in a sunny site, watering as needed and feeding every few weeks with an organic liquid fertilizer. Don’t be shy about harvesting your herbs as frequent pinching encourages fresh growth.


Fun new plants for 2018

It’s always fun to try something new in the garden and in my containers, and so each spring I eagerly await the new plant introductions. This year, there are so many awesome new plants. From Sunfinity Sunflowers that bloom all summer long to Fairy Dust Cuphea that boasts delicate-looking flowers to Millennium Allium, the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year. In fact, I think every garden should have at least one Millennium Allium as this hardy perennial is long-blooming, non-invasive, and is highly pollinator friendly. Plant breeders spend years developing new cultivars, often breeding for improved traits like compact size, disease resistance, or a longer flowering period. When you visit your local garden centre, don’t be shy about asking what’s new. You may discover a new favourite plant!

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