Perfect Perennials

This month we talked all about how to plan and plant a forever garden and shared our favorite perennials.

June 6, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Hadley Growers – Perfect Perennials

Presented by Ed Haines

June 6, 2019

Ed Haines: Welcome everyone to this gardening discussion group, Hadley Growers. I'm thrilled you're all here. I live in a northern climate not as far north as some of our Canadian participants, but I'm thrilled because spring is finally here. Three days ago we had frost, 29 degrees Fahrenheit, but nonetheless I've been out and my garden is in, my vegetable garden is in and I'm hoping that the frost days are behind me.

So the topic today I chose, which is Perfect Perennials. And those of you who are gardeners know that, that's actually a misleading topic. There is no such thing as a perfect perennial. They each have their own qualities that make them desirable. Some thrive in shade, some in sun, some like moist soil, some like dry soil, some do very well in specific hardiness zones. And there are many other factors that make a perennial a desirable plant. But in general there are lots of advantages to perennials. And by the way, perennial, just by definition, is a plant that grows and keeps coming back two or three years. So it's a plant you don't have to replant every season.

Some of the advantages of perennials, of course, is they often propagate. So the great thing is you can get samples of perennials from fellow gardeners. Free plants are always a wonderful thing. And you only have to plant them once because they come back year after year. And if you keep them weed free and generally well-watered or even not well watered, they'll thrive. They're fairly hardy. A lot of them are very disease- and pest-resistant unlike a lot of annuals.

There's some disadvantages to perennials and we can talk about this as well. They do take sometimes a few years to mature and really get into a shape where they make a nice display. And some of them can take over your flowerbeds because they can be invasive.

So I have a lot of suggestions for beginner growers for perennials, but before I go on with some of my ideas let's go ahead and just open up the floor. And I'd love to hear folks with ideas for perennials. And we've already had one person with a separate question that we can get to if we run out of the subject of perennials, which will be hard to do I imagine. But let's go ahead. Anyone want to raise their hand and get started?

Caroline I've unmuted you and I asked if you would be my assistant here. Did you hear the last talk I just gave?

Caroline: Yes, absolutely.

Ed Haines: Okay, fine. Great. I was worried there for a minute that I wasn't ... I just gave that soliloquy to thin air. So Irene, your hand is up. Please go right ahead.

Irene: Okay. We've got the audio unmuted. I still haven't got to the other computer, but I was so occupied working on the perennials. My exciting story about perennials.

Ed Haines: Wonderful.

Irene: I have decided that one of the things that are very effective for me are garlic chives. I'm a vegetable plant person. And we're trying to grow everything perennial just as much as we can. It's an interesting... As you say, it takes more time and effort. Chives. Dug up the chives. Planted them oh, about June last year in, it's essentially a flower box.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Irene: And they did very well in the flower box. It's about a foot wide and about eight inches deep. Chives lasted very well through the season. Fairly sheltered place. They came up. They have their little flowers and lots of seed. So I spread the seed. I hacked all the seed off late in the season and spread that everywhere assuming that the chives would come back, but as we all know we had minus 40 for about six weeks here. And I think a flower box is not a suitable place to... They were well mulched. You know my mulch stories. They were very well mulched. And I didn't suffocate them because I did lift the mulch when things started to thaw. I did lift the mulch, but the garlic chives were not happy in the flowerbed, or in the flower box so we decided to treat them as annuals in the flower box. So anything that's growing, but they're now covering half the back yard. So I don't mind. I'm quite happy. Green stuff is green stuff. But the best story is when I come back from doing my chores in the morning I can pick about a third of my lunch and supper from the perennials that are coming up in the garden. But chives still are not happy in a flower box. So, if anybody's got a successful chives in the flower box story I'd love to hear it. Thanks, Ed.

Ed Haines: Thanks, Irene. And you know, in our climates, yeah, flower boxes don't do, bulbs do freeze and die. But I'd love to hear more about what else you're growing that you're... I love the idea about edible perennials. For instance, I have a lot of success with rhubarb. It seems impossible to kill. Right now, as a matter of fact, we're harvesting a lot of rhubarb. What other edible perennials are you growing?

Irene: Ooh, you didn't want to get me started. Oh dear! Okay, and I think because, I'm zone four, so I think because I have all this marvelous mulch rhubarb is one thing. I've had trouble getting rhubarb started. I think I've been trying to grown rhubarb for 35 years, but the space was too sheltered. So I'll ask you to give me all your tips on persuading rhubarb to grow, improve. And mint. We've got spearmint that took over the backyard. That was great fun. So I drink mint tea constantly. Garlic chives, onion chives, asparagus and lovage. Lovage is doing well. And do we call strawberries, do we call those perennials? I think to my knowledge, anyway, the strawberry plant grew last year and I transferred it to the garden from, it was growing in a pot. So I transferred it from the container to the raised garden bed and it's doing extremely well. But I think in your knowledge of strawberries, I think they have to be transplanted every two years, but I'm not sure about that. And the asparagus didn't do that well because before I realized it last year the fronds on the asparagus had been eaten off by the green forest caterpillars. And apparently we're getting them back again. Oh, and I couldn't get the dill. I think dill is considered an annual, but I couldn't get the dill seed to do well either.

So yeah, that's about all the, oh, we're looking about ... The question, of course, is artichokes and the other thing is elderberries. Do they count elderberries and grapes and cranberry, we can only grow high bush cranberry. So they're considered perennials as well, I would think. Go ahead Ed.

Ed Haines: Yeah, that's a good question. If you take the definition of perennials of being something that grows more than two or three years in a row I suppose most fruit trees are perennials. And that would then include herbaceous shrubs like the berries. So it's a good question, but I ... In answer to your question about rhubarb, I have no hints about rhubarb. It just seems to grow extremely well without any, any help from me. In fact, it keeps multiplying. I dig it up. I put some of the roots. I chop them with my shovel, shove them in the ground and other places and they just, they thrive. I have very sandy soil so that might be part of it.

Caroline, your hand was up next. Do you want to go ahead and talk?

Caroline: Okay, well I've just got a couple of questions. Well first of all would broccoli, is that a perennial? I don't even know these things see.

Ed Haines: Normally no, that would be an annual that you plant every year. In other words, its lifecycle from seedling to the time it flowers and creates its own seed is just for one year and the parent plant dies.

Caroline: Okay.

Ed Haines: So yeah, broccoli would be an annual. Now there may be in somewhere New Guinea or somewhere where the original broccoli plant is a perennial. I don't know. But in North America, no. It's an annual.

Caroline: Okay. Because I bought some, the little plants that you get from fundraisers or whatever and I need to know how to transplant those. But my issue is that I'm living on the 12th floor of a 12 story apartment building. So I don't have an outdoor plot or anything. I have my balcony, but I'm just wondering if that kind of thing is something I can do. And then because you mentioned rhubarb, I'm just wondering can rhubarb be actually grown in a pot?

Ed Haines: I have seen it grown in containers, but it does require a cool dormant season between growth periods. So in other words, the rhubarb comes up, in North America, it comes up. It has all its leaves. It'll flower if you allow it. And then it all dies back down and the roots stay dormant in cool earth. Kind of like a bulb even though it's a root system. I don't think you can duplicate that in your apartment unless you have space in your refrigerator that you want to dig those things up and put them in the back of the fridge for a little while. That might work.

Caroline: Somehow I think my husband will object to that.

Ed Haines: But you know, and if you're in an apartment, you know I always, for folks in apartments I always urge them to try herbs. And there's lots of perennial herbs that do fairly well in containers. And things like mint and oregano, thyme, those are very hardy and you can possibly bring those in over winter in your apartment and put them out again in the spring. So try some herbs. There's nothing like cooking with fresh picked herbs. It's just so satisfying and there's so much ... You can buy herbs at the grocery, but who knows when they were picked and they just don't taste the same.

Caroline: Thank you.

Ed Haines: Yeah, no problem. And Sue, you had your hand up.

Sue: Yeah, can you hear me?

Ed Haines: Yes I can.

Sue: Did I un ... Okay. Yeah, as far as Irene's question are strawberries perennials? No they aren't. Yes, they could be kind of, what happens is you've got a mother plant. You plant the mother plant. She has babies and those are the strawberries that you'll pick, but she sends out runner roots. All those runner roots are daughters. When the next year comes if mother is still alive she's only going to have very few babies or very few strawberries, but the daughters are the ones who will have the berries. So you always want to keep the daughters growing so that you have berries the next season. Did I make sense on that?

Ed Haines: Yeah, I think you did. I remember with my strawberry beds you let the runners go out and they actually change the lines of the bed every year. The runners go out. You let those settle and then you actually till up the original plant after its berries.

Sue: Yes.

Ed Haines: Now one thing I'm not sure are, I think they are varieties of strawberries that don't require that anymore. But I'm not sure because I just grow the conventional type.

Sue: I don't know, but I just came from a lunch and learn where berries was the topic of conversation.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Sue: And that's the fruits that was discussed. But I also wanted to add that my herbs are perennials. But then if you're in the North and I'm in the South maybe what I have has to be an annual were some of you folks live. Like my rosemary is now probably seven feet wide.

Ed Haines: Wow!

Sue: And I can go pick rosemary if I want it. In the wintertime things like my Texas tarragon, my germania, my oregano, the chocolate mint, the peppermint, the winter savory, all that's going to die down and maybe I'm still picking it into November and December. But then it's kind of gone between that time and March or April. But I have really enjoyed going back and getting all of my herbs. Now basil is an annual. That unfortunately is not one of the perennial herbs.

Ed Haines: Right.

Sue: There are some perennials that I do have to get in every year. Or, I'm sorry, annuals that I have to plant every year, but I really just adore my perennial herbs because then I can count on them.

And another thing that was asked was, are elderberries a perennial? I don't think you call trees and bushes perennials or annuals. I think they just fit into the category of bushes or trees. I know that this year was the first year that my elderberry has bloomed. And it's got those nice big white clusters on them right now. I can't wait for the berries to come out a little bit later. But I'm really looking forward to that.

Ed Haines: Thanks Sue. You know that's an important point. What is a perennial in one hardiness zone is an annual in another. I remember visiting Italy and seeing huge hedges of rosemary and sage. I mean were driving, you know they were lining the roads. These were huge hedges. So like you, that's a really terrific perennial in a southern climate. But for me rosemary never over winters. It just doesn't do well.

Sue: Well you have some nice stuff up north too. You were mentioning rhubarb. It's not cold enough here for rhubarb.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Sue: So I have to make a big trade off [crosstalk 00:19:15].

Ed Haines: And Sue I wonder if you had any recommendations for Caroline with regard to herbs that she could grow in a planter on her balcony, but then would potentially over winter inside? And Caroline, you live up north, don't you?

Caroline: Yeah. I'm in Winnipeg, so I'm just north of North Dakota.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Sue: I would say your herbs probably will do well in a container and you can bring them inside, any of them that are considered perennials, in a warmer zone could be like that. And like I say, some are just plain annuals like basil. You're not going to get that plant next year, only if you've saved the seeds will that come back. But if you want your chives, your oregano, all of that, if it doesn't stay over in your ground then go ahead and give it a try and see if it'll come into your apartment. Just watch out for the amount of water and the amount of sunshine that your plants are trying to get.

Ed Haines: Yeah, that's an important point for apartment dwellers, often they don't realize how much sunlight healthy plants really need. And they do require a really good south facing window or a bay window where there's lots of natural light. Or you could provide artificial light. So thanks for that Sue. Yeah, I think perennial herbs would be a great idea. And I've had some success over wintering rosemary because it doesn't do well outside.

And Caroline, one thing that new gardeners learn quickly is that all types of gardening are really sort of an experience of attrition. And by that I mean not everything works. And we just sort of, we use trial and error to figure out what works for us in our own little micro climate and our own growing conditions. And it takes a long time a achieve the kind of gardening success you see in catalogs and picture books and TV shows, etc., so it's not a crime to lose plants or have plants die on you. It's just a natural thing all gardeners go through.

All right, we are, the subject is perennials. Does anybody else have any favorite perennials they'd like to talk about? Go ahead. Your hand, phone number ending in 036. Your hand is raised. Go ahead.

Nancy: Thank you. I wanted to talk about rhubarb a minute. Rhubarb, you eat the stem part that feels like celery. The leaves you do not want to eat any of that because they contain oxalic acid and that is poisonous. Rhubarb also likes a place that is sunny and if you're going to plant new rhubarb it's really helpful to dig your hole and put some composted manure in the bottom, which you can buy. And put some dirt on that and then put your rhubarb in there. And it usually takes the second year before you should really start to pick it. You want the first year for it to just get its energy and be able to grow. And it does need to be cold. I'm not sure. I'm like a 4B, so I'm not sure how cold it has to be because I've always lived in New England. So it's always been cold in the winter so rhubarb has never been a problem.

Ed Haines: So I think that, that was Nancy, correct?

Nancy: Yes.

Ed Haines: Hi Nancy. And let me ask you this Nancy, my rhubarb every year wants to flower. You know these big flowers stalks come up and I've always been told to cut those off. Is that really true or will it hurt the plant if I let them bloom because they're kind of nice looking.

Nancy: Well we have always cut them off. That's what we have done. And I've been told that if you let them flower it takes away energy from the plant so it's better off not to let them. Because once those do bloom you should stop picking. So that's why we cut them until we feel we've cut enough and then ... So I don't know if I'm 100% accurate on that, but we have a wonderful rhubarb bed that, I know I just brought about seven pounds to my son's house and I still got a ton more.

Ed Haines: Oh my gosh! So now let me ask you this because I've got lots of rhubarb as well. What are some recipes you can recommend because I've run out of things to do with rhubarb.

Nancy: Well somebody just told me this and I thought this was fascinating. She said she cuts a bunch of it up, puts it in a pan and this is sort of a go as you think recipe. Puts a little water in there and some sugar in there. She lets that all cook until the rhubarb is all cooked down. And then she strains that through a sieve and then she pours the liquid into ice cube trays. And then when she makes lemonade she adds some of those cubes into her lemonade.

Ed Haines: You know that's a great idea. That'd be a great way to store it and why not? It would taste fantastic.

Nancy: Right. And I had never heard that one before. And like you, I make a strawberry rhubarb jam. I make crumbles.

Ed Haines: Right.

Nancy: I make all kinds of muffins and breads and everything else. But that was the first time I ran across that one.

Ed Haines: Well now that makes me wonder if you could make a strawberry rhubarb daiquiri? I'll have to ask.

Nancy: I bet you could.

Ed Haines: That would be something. I got to try it.

Nancy: The other thing I wanted to talk about is the lady who asked about perennials and herbs and growing in an apartment.

Ed Haines: Sure.

Nancy: I think one of the easiest things to grow is one of your mints. And there are all kinds of different mints. And if she likes, say tea, having some fresh mint to put in your tea in the winter is actually quite nice. And they're pretty simple to grow as long as you have the light. That's the hard thing with being up north is having the light.

Ed Haines: Yup, absolutely. Yup. And mint's a great idea. You're right. There's ton of different, there's orange mint, chocolate mint, a million different kinds.

Nancy: Spearmint, peppermint. I mean I just bought a lemon mint. So there are quite a few of them.

Ed Haines: Wonderful. Thanks.

Nancy: All right, thank you.

Ed Haines: All right. Thanks Nancy.

We have a phone number ending in 104, is the next person to raise their hand. Go ahead.

Heather: So this is Heather and I live in Washington. And I've been a gardener forever and I grow a little bit of everything from fruits and vegetables to all kinds of herbs and flowers, perennials. And lavender is wonderful. I've actually grown like hundreds of lavender plants.

Ed Haines: Wow.

Heather: What I really wanted to talk about is a couple things. Flower perennials, one of things that I love to do when I'm planting perennial flowers in gardens is think about the design aspect. So one of my favorite things to do would be to plant something like salvia that would be a dark blue spikey shape next to a yellow daisy or gaillardia shape because the color contrast and the shape contrast really kind of highlight those.

Ed Haines: Great idea.

Heather: And planting them in multiples so you're getting a bigger, you know, maybe no less than three of each variety so you really get that impact. Or sometimes, like I did that exact combination in alternating salvia then the gaillardia yellow daisy, then the salvia down a pathway, which is really nice. And then also thinking about the heights. Shorter ones in the front, taller ones in the back. So design is a really important aspect with the perennial gardens because they're going to be around for a long time.

And then another thing I'm doing this year, and it's going to be quite a project, but I am not a fan of having to mow my lawn. And so I'm actually taking all my grass out in the front and I'm going to be planting it with chamomile. The perennial chamomile. And there are perennial and non-perennial versions so you have to make sure you have the right kind. But I'm really excited to see how that ends ups because chamomile can be around all year. So it's going to eliminate the grass. It's a beautiful, lush lawn and then you have the chamomile flowers as well to use in your teas or whatever. Yeah. I have tons of herbs. I have peppermint, chocolate mint, pineapple sage, rosemary, oregano. I mean the list goes on and on.

Another thing I'm doing this year actually too as an experiment and experimenting is huge. Like you were saying somethings work and some don't. But because I'm completely blind I am always thinking about different ways to make managing my garden easier. And this year I'm actually, instead of using just regular raised beds I am using just straight pallets where my vegetable gardens, I've got one pallet full of garlic. One, I'm actually doing corn in a pallet, believe it or not. I've got broccoli and cauliflower in one pallet. And in another one I've got some green beans and even some squash, which is going to be crazy because I know those get huge. But thinking about vertical versus horizontal spaces. You know, designing things because you can have them go straight up. Yeah, lots of different things you can try to help make it manageable.

Ed Haines: So you're using pallets that are regular shipping pallets that are vertical then?

Heather: Yup. Well, so they're horizontal actually in the planting. So I'm just using the rows that are already there, but then for the ones that are going to vine you can actually stake those up to help them, you know, use both types of spaces at the same time. The rows of the pallets make it really easy to manage, you know?

Ed Haines: Okay. That makes perfect sense. Yeah, any kind of organization when you have vision impairment in your garden is really helpful.

Heather: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ed Haines: And I really love your idea of the concept of design. I think that's so important because sometimes people go flower shopping and they say, "I want one of this. I want one of this. I want one of this." But it's far more impactful to have maybe three or four mass planting of one kind rather than just a hodge podge of different flowers.

Heather: Yup. Last year I actually bought about 300 different tulips. I got a 100 of one variety. That's the pink impression tulip. And I planted those all along my front pathway to my patio. And it is just amazing. And I can't even see it this year, but I can feel them because they're all the way up to past my knees and they're just all these different shades of anywhere from light pink to dark.

Ed Haines: Wow!

Heather: And they're stunning. And actually they have been kind of a wave pattern so that you can actually put perennials in between those kind of scalloping parts when the tulips aren't blooming.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Heather: So that's another design idea. You know something's going to bloom for a time, but then it's not going to be blooming. And then what's in that space, you know? What else can you put in there?

Ed Haines: Good point. And these tulips, will they, and this is a good example of perennial and annual, because some tulips are annuals and some are actually perennials. Which ones, will you have to replant them?

Heather: This variety usually lasts about five years.

Ed Haines: Wonderful.

Heather: I've had really good luck with it. So yeah.

Ed Haines: Wow! I'd love to see your garden. It sounds fantastic.

Heather: Thank you.

Ed Haines: How are you going to get that grass up on your front ... Are going to have to actually remove the turf or are you going to use an herbicide?

Heather: Yeah, you know that's, I actually don't use chemicals-

Ed Haines: Yeah, me either.

Heather: -if at all possible. So my thought is what I'm going to do is actually put some black tarp over it and try to kill it the best that I can.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Heather: And then get it up. And right now I've got little, the chamomile is started in my greenhouse in the backyard. So I've got little flats of about 128 seedlings in there that I'm starting to make that because that's what the ... The hardest part about the chamomile field seeds is that they're so tiny. It's hard. So I thought I should probably start the plants first so that I would actually know I had something to put in the ground before I got the grass ripped up.

Ed Haines: Sure.

Heather: That's why it's a huge project. But I think it's going to be really cool.

Ed Haines: Wow! That's going to be amazing. Well I really, I have to Google using chamomile as a lawn substitute.

Heather: As a lawn, yeah. That's how I found out about it.

Ed Haines: Amazing. Well good luck to you. That's a huge project.

Heather: Thank you. And you can unmute whenever.

Ed Haines: Sure. Well we have ... Let's see. We have some more hands up so phone number ending in 284. I'll go ahead and unmute you. You're on the air.

Jill: Thank you. My name is Jill and I don't have a lot to contribute, but I do have a lot of flowers. And I also try to do patterns. But the question I have, we had a hail storm about three weeks ago. It did a lot of damage to our home, but also to the plants that I had planted. And it really whittled my rhubarb. And I had pulled some of it and made one go of jam and I was hopeful I had some other rhubarb I was hoping to use. But it just, it laid down. And then it also damaged it, the stalks and everything. So I'm wondering, I'm hoping that some of that will come back even this summer. I don't know. Does anyone have any experience with that? And also my, I had to redo tomato plants. I had to replant them. And some of the flowers were gone or, and the annuals. I did have some basil. It isn't looking very good. I kept hoping that it might take off here, but it sounds like I may be ought to go get another basil plant. So that's about all I have. I'm pretty much of a novice.

Ed Haines: Well you don't sound like a novice. And I'm so sorry to hear that you had that bad storm that not only damaged your home but your garden. That's, I'm very sorry to hear that. We've had some awful storms go through North America in the past, was it last week, and particularly in the week before.

I'm not sure about your rhubarb coming back this year, but I would give it a shot. I think it might. Your basil, I'll bet, you know basil's so delicate. I bet you'll just have to bite the bullet and get another plant. Does anyone else have any opinions on that? No, hearing none. It might be that I'm correct.

All right, we have a hand raised. Phone number ending in 795. I'll go ahead and unmute you. Go ahead.

Sammy: Hello. How are you?

Ed Haines: Hi there.

Sammy: Hi. I'm Sammy. I'm definitely a novice. I have a question. Does anybody have any suggestions on natural pesticide killers like if I want to start planting things I have a fear of bees.

Ed Haines: You have a fear of bees?

Sammy: Yeah, I do. I know they're a good thing.

Ed Haines: Yeah, you've picked the one insect that actually that everybody wants in their garden.

Sammy: I know. I want them too, but just not [inaudible 00:36:22].

Ed Haines: Well you can try companion planting. A lot of people try that. Marigolds are said to repel insects. I'm actually allergic to bee stings. I don't have a phobia about them, but I'm actually deathly allergic to bee stings. So I understand a little bit about wanting to avoid bees. All I can say is bees are actually not very aggressive. And if you're careful-

Sammy: I know.

Ed Haines: -and you're normally not going to get stung. There's always an exception to the rule. Bumblebees particularly love the garden and especially flowers like tomato flowers and pepper flowers. And you need them to pollinate or otherwise you won't get vegetables. And they are definitely not aggressive at all. There are natural pesticides for other types of insects. And what you'll find is that you have to, they'll be a solution for almost each kind of insect or pest out there.

So for instance, there's different actual solutions for worms and caterpillars and that type things. There's other solutions for spider mites and flea beetles, etc., so it just depends on what's attacking your garden and eating your stuff.

Sammy: And how do you, how are you able to tell if you start getting things in your [inaudible 00:37:48], like what exactly it is?

Ed Haines: You know that's a really good question. And the best answer I can give you is find someone with experience in gardening in your neighborhood or your area because they will have seen it all before. The problem is that so many pests and diseases look alike. And number one, you have to identify whether it's a pest or it's an actual plant disease or it's a symptom of over watering or poor nutrition. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to discourage you if you're a novice gardener. It's a matter of experimentation and we all are used to losing plants. So the best advice I can give you is to find varieties of plants that are hardy, that are disease, they're breed with disease and pest resistance in them so that you have a little less to worry about. And almost all varieties of plants in the seed catalogs have disease and pest resistant varieties that'll ... And then you'll have a leg up right away.

The second thing is if you have healthy soil before you plant your plants if you're planting in the ground try to test your soil first because if you have healthy soil with a good pH, you're way ahead of the game. And plants can generally withstand a whole lot of problems if they have a healthy growing medium to keep them going. So anybody else have any advice for this beginning gardener about pests?

Irene: This is Irene.

Ed Haines: Hi Irene.

Irene: Yeah, I totally might. My major bug, yeah do go ahead and start gardening. It's just sort of frustrating at moments, but too much fun when you have a success.

Ed Haines: That's right.

Irene: So I told you about my green forest caterpillars and it was my daughter that said that your asparagus is being, it got the asparagus and it started on the dill. And so these are some type of caterpillar. And I think we had the, the thing that we sprayed them with was, you know when you go to the grocery store and in the box at the laundry detergent, it's called Borax?

Sammy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Irene: Have you used Borax? It's in a green box. Have you used Borax, Ed?

Ed Haines: Yes. Not for a long time.

Irene: How did you use Borax?

Ed Haines: You have to make a solution of it and spray, is what I do. A very diluted solution of it. But you can also sprinkle it around the ground around the edges of the beds, if I remember correctly.

Irene: And apparently-

Sammy: Am I on the phone still?

Ed Haines: Yes, uh-huh.

Sammy: Sorry. I just wanted to address the bee comment really quickly. As I was in my lavender farm with all the hundreds of lavender plants, clearly you're going to have bees right? But I have to say that I worked with them the entire time and never got stung once. I think mostly because I was just calm. And I think they can sense if you're scared of them. And I would literally, like not being able to see the plants I was touching not knowing if I was going to grab one accidentally. I never, ever got stung. So I think they can just feel if you're scared of them or not.

Irene: Yeah, it's not fun.

Luann: This is Luann calling in about the bees.

Ed Haines: Yeah.

Luann: If you don't grow flowers, stick with things like coleus and hostas. Bees will go towards the pollen and they'll be attracted to your garden. So, if you just stick with green leafy plants you shouldn't have a problem. And they're also going to need water. So if you keep all the standing water out of your garden it'll keep, that will also keep the bees away and the mosquitoes away.

For pests, what you can do, if your local nursery sells ladybugs you can put ladybugs in your garden or some other insects that will feast on bad bugs, on the caterpillars if you get a bucket with a little soap and water and just kind of scooch them in the water, and that's the best way to get rid of caterpillars so you're not spraying everything. But it depends on what kind of caterpillar you have. Some turn into butterflies. You don't really want to do anything to them, but like tomato horn beetle you want to get those off your plants. But look for ladybugs and stay away from flowering plants.

And again the bees, I have some, I have small, miniature orchard and tons of flowers in my backyard. I get carpenter bees that they use my driveway like a freeway. You kind of have to stand off to one side or you're going to get pelted with them. They don't sting. They just are looking for the pollen. But I know there are a lot people that just have a little apprehension with bees. So, if you stay away from anything that's pollen the bees will go someplace else.

Ed Haines: That's a great suggestion. Plant leafy perennials or annuals that don't create flowers that create pollen. That's a great, great suggestion. And there's some wonderful, wonderful plants out there that don't flower. Ferns come to mind, particularly for shady areas. There's just tons of varieties of ferns that are absolutely beautiful. Hostas come in almost all shapes and sizes and they're incredibly hardy. You do have to worry about slugs. So if you have an inversion of slugs that's a problem, but great idea. Just plant leafy vegetables, leafy perennials and annuals and you won't have a problem.

Luann: [inaudible 00:43:45] coffee grounds works on slugs and it's also a great mulch. So if you have like a Starbucks or some of those coffee places go in there with a container and they'll give you their leftover coffee grounds and then you can sprinkle around your hostas. Your hostas will love it and it'll kill your slugs.

Ed Haines: Wow, great suggestion. Thank you.

Okay, we've got 15 more minutes. Anyone else like to talk about their favorite perennials or anything else related to gardening?

Luann: Well I just recently lost all my eyesight and so I'm finding I was pulling up all my good plants and leaving the weeds. So I went and I got a bunch of the large pots and I started planting all my plants in the pots so I know if it's in the pot it's probably not a weed. And just weed around the pot.

Ed Haines: That's a great idea. Any kind of raised bed in which, includes containers, are really helpful if you have a vision impairment. It helps you identify exactly what's there. I also find that a really good mulching does the same thing. I've been, if you mulch thoroughly you don't really have to worry about weeds in the first place. So I really advocate mulch for anybody who has a vision impairment. It helps identify, the plants stand out in contrast against the dark mulch, particularly if the mulch is dark. And you just don't have weeds to begin with. That's a great suggestion though.

Irene: And it's Irene again.

Ed Haines: Hi Irene!

Irene: This is for Caroline in Winnipeg. These two people, it's a man and a woman and he has a greenhouse. You'll probably catch up with him in Winnipeg. And it's The Grow Guide and I get it on Apple podcast, the native podcast app. So if you're interested in zone three growing and apparently they've had a terrible year out there just like Ed. It's been late, late, late. So, oh and that was a really important thing Ed. I love the one about when you plant, you plant outside and if it goes down to, for you that would be 32 degrees Fahrenheit. For Canada its zero Celsius.

Ed Haines: And the rest of the world, yes.

Irene: If your weather is going down to, let me go in Celsius, if the weather is going to six degrees Celsius you can cover your plants in case of frost, but if it's anywhere below freezing the covers on the plant don't work. Have you heard that one? I thought it was an interesting study. So above freezing and it's cold you can get covers for your plants, but anything below freezing those blankets don't work. Is that correct Ed?

Ed Haines: You know I don't know. I think it might depend on the thickness of the blanket, but of course if something's too thick it's going to crush your plants. I do cover with sheets. I have a lot of old bed sheets that I employ. They do work under just mild frost circumstances. But in a heavy freeze I don't think they will work. So you're probably right.

All right. Anyone else with favorite perennials? I have a few I'd like to mention. I'll just mention briefly. I am a huge fan of native plants to North America and there's lots of varieties out there that have been hybridized. So I love coneflowers or echinacea. It's a terrific perennial. They come in lots of colors and birds love them, the seed heads. I love day lilies even though they can be kind of invasive, but I found that day lilies just live everywhere. I'm also a big fan of phlox because of the scent. And for the fall I really like asters. They're a daisy-like flower. They come in many colors. They're very hardy and they bloom in the fall as well as something called sedum, which is a lovely succulent that can be grown almost anywhere in any temperature. That also develops a beautiful bronze, a red-gold color in the fall, the flowers do though. Those are just some I wanted to mention.

Caroline: It's Caroline again.

Ed Haines: Hi Caroline!

Caroline: I'm curious. I didn't catch, did Eileen, did you actually give the name of the people?

Irene: Yes, my apologies. I think I was moving too fast there. I got distracted. It's called The Grow Guide and it's on your, whatever podcasting app. You just go in and search for, the name of it is The Grow Guide.

Caroline: Okay, perfect.

Irene: They're in Winnipeg and zone three and the tremendous knowledge about organic fertilizers and when to plant and what the weather's doing in Winnipeg over the last week or so. Really be useful to you.

Caroline: Okay, thank you. And does anybody have any recommendations on a book that I might be able to use that's geared maybe for blind people and gardening in like how to do these transplants and things like that, that might get me up and running?

Irene: Are you with FELA, Caroline?

Caroline: Yes.

Irene: Okay go through FELA. I think I've read every one of their gardening books. So there's one, it's called The Lazy Gardener. Can't remember the author's name, but by all means go through everything. Just type in FELA in the search, if you can get through to FELA, there's problems there. But let's not go there. It'll get better. But anyway, that one is the one that comes to mind, but there's tremendous information if you just type gardening in the search box you'll come up with all kinds of books. And they're excellent. Go ahead Ed.

Ed Haines: So just for the rest of us who are south of the border, what is FELA? Just enlighten us.

Caroline: It's like NLS.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Caroline: I actually have access to both BARD and FELA. I'm a U.S. citizen.

Ed Haines: Okay.

Caroline: So I have quite the variety of options.

Ed Haines: Yeah, you sure do. Okay. Wonderful.

Caroline: And Irene is that The Grow Guide, like G-U-I-D-E or Guy like G-U-Y?

Irene: I think it's G-U-I-D-E. Let me come back to you. I'll sort of run the characters through and I'll come back to you on that. So go ahead Ed.

Ed Haines: And you know Irene, if you have any resources, any specific books or if anyone has specific books or this particular podcast, email me those, you could email those to me, Irene. And we could put them up on the website as well as part of the resources for this discussion group.

Irene: Where is that located on the website? Where are the resources for your gardening group? Where is that located? What is it under?

Ed Haines: I'm trying to visualize it here. It's under, I think it might be called show notes for each discussion group.

Irene: So this recording will go up on the website?

Ed Haines: Yes, it will. Yes. There's a whole page with discussion groups. And then there'll be notes under each recording.

Irene: Well done. Thank you.

Ed Haines: So yes, anything like this in the future, any of you even if you haven't spoken up, if something occurs to you that would be helpful to other gardeners don't hesitate to share it me. My email address is, it's very simple, it's So don't hesitate to, at anytime, send me resources to my email address and I can make sure they're added to our resource list for the discussion group.

And I want to interject really quickly right before we started the meeting a very nice lady had called in. She's brand new to the group. And she was, wanted to know how to repot cacti, on how to transplant cacti.

Irene: Very carefully!

Ed Haines: Yeah. I knew that someone was going to come up with that really quick. She's had some experience, I guess with cacti in a rehab center. She's new to vision loss. She'd like to do some at home. So does anybody ... I actually don't do a lot with cacti. So if someone does out there, I'd love to hear what your hints are for repotting.

Sue: Ed, this is Sue. I didn't know if you could see that my hand was raised or not.

Ed Haines: Sorry.

Sue: Anyway, to repot cacti, what you do is, first of all you get your soil ready. Remember that cacti have very shallow roots. They don't go deep because in the desert they don't go deep. Water doesn't stay deep. Water comes down and then it's gone. So shallow root systems on cacti. Get your soil ready. Get it damp. You know, nice and wet actually. Put your cacti on that and then make sure that the plant is standing upright and let it sit in some sunshine. You may only need to water it once every two or three weeks, even in the winter time, just because they don't have a high demand for water. And we actually ended up getting some last, oh maybe like November or December or something, plants that stores were going to throw out because they had gotten very root bound. Well they had these little cacti in maybe two-inch pots and a plant that is a shallow growing plant is going to send its roots out and get root bound real quick as it's growing.

Anyway, I ended up taking three of them home and they are doing very nicely. Make sure, however, that you're kind to your cacti. There was some kind of trend where people would actually paint on their plants and it will stunt the growth. It may even kill the plant. My cacti that was painted blue on the bottom has white, the white spines are on the top and it's a very, it almost looks like a man with a lot of whiskers because all those little hairs are coming out.

Anyway, that's how you transplant a cactus. Make sure you're wearing garden gloves when you do that because of the spines. If you are planting your cacti outdoors, now I can, I do have a century plant that I've got to dig up the babies. And it's very interesting to see a century plant because it grows up and send out babies. And as the babies grow out of momma plant, they kind of form a circular pattern like a jellyroll type roll looking thing. And I've got three of them that are far enough away from momma plant that I can dig out. She's got some that are right along her very bottom leaves. And there's no way I'm going in after those. A century plant has very sharp spikes. So I'm not going to get those, but I will have century plants dig out real soon.

But just remember, the thing is you want to put them in damp soil and let them go for two or three weeks before you water them again.

Ed Haines: Well thank you Sue. I knew we'd have an expert out there that could help this lady. And I have, I really have not worked with cacti at all. I will say that I had the chance to visit a national park in Arizona with a saguaro cacti last fall. And they are truly monumental. It was a plant experience I'll never, ever forget seeing those cacti. They just were amazing. So if anyone has an opportunity to go see cacti in their wild state please take it because they just are astounding.

We have one minute left. I think I saw 4, 949 with your hand up. We've got just about a minute if you want to say something.

Speaker 10: Yeah. Right. Just like there's potting soil for flowers there are potting soils for cacti. And for several years I had a whole buffet top full of different types of cacti from all over the place. So when I transplanted any of them I bought that special cacti potting soil and planted in that.

Ed Haines: Great suggestion. Thank you.

Well we are, our hour's over. It's my favorite hour of the month and sadly it is, it is over. I want to encourage all of you again if you have any suggestions or resources you'd like to share at any time don't hesitate to send them to me. My email address is And I'll be happy to receive them and see that they can be posted on our website.

Also, if anyone has any ideas for future topics or if they'd like to be a guest speaker on a specific theme for the garden discussion group please let me know because this is, we really are kind of flexible here. We could be a little more formal if we want to have a formal presentation at any time. Or we can just stick with open discussions or do both. It doesn't matter to me as long as we're having fun and we're talking about gardening. So send those suggestions please. I'd love to see them.

So I hope the next time we talk people are starting to pick vegetables or at least starting to see them form. And I'm hoping by the next time we speak I'll actually have something coming up out of the ground that isn't frozen. So until then, I guess we'll talk again next month and thanks so much everyone for joining. As I said before, this is my favorite hour of the month. So I sure appreciate it and we'll talk next month.