A Worm's Eye View - MAY 2009
by Elena North
May 17, 2009

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: It’s been a busy, busy month so far for me and for the Society as a whole. Sincere thanks to all members who represented us so well at the Lions Club Home and Leisure Show. The pansy planting, just in time for Mother’s Day, is popular with both kids and parents and fun for the members who participate.

Thanks also to the hardy souls who put their time and effort in making the plant sale – once again – a roaring success. This is our main fund-raising event and therefore very important the Society. Despite thunder and lightning, torrential rain, wet hair, wet feet, muddy slopes and soggy papers, we made almost $4,400 and signed up 14 members, both records I think.

Thanks are due to so many, beginning with Kathy Granger and Julie Kron for putting the event together. The Kron family once again is commended for the contribution of splendid hybrid irises to the plants on offer. Special thanks and a huge expression of appreciation to the spouses, children and grandchildren of our members and the students, some from as far away as Durham and Kitchener, who gave us a hand in trying circumstances.

I trust that everyone has dried out by now! I also hope it will have warmed up by the time you read this newsletter!

Our next meeting features Reiner Jakubowski, former President of the Canadian Peony Society and Chairman and Registrar of the American Peony Society’s Nomenclature Committee, speaking on….peonies. Hope to see you there.



Our next big event is the Garden Tour, Sunday, June 21, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Maps are available from LittleTree Horticultural (Hwy 6 North), Cedar Spring Nursery (South River Road) and the Fergus Information Centre (Albert and Tower St. S.) or Click here for Garden Tour Map While admission is free, a donation to the food bank would be gratefully accepted.

Membership stands at 113. A warm welcome to new members Verna Sanderson, Amanda McMillan, Karen Baxter, Barbara DeRoo, Joan Hewer, Norma Hindley, Lara Hof, Heather Mead, Melanie Morel, Daphne Pickle, Anne Spriet and welcome back to all those who’ve renewed their memberships. If you have not yet renewed for 2009, please contact Elena (519-787-7717) or Meg (519-843-7781) to continue receiving the electronic newsletter and 10% discounts associated with a membership.

The Guelph and Wellington County Master Gardeners will be providing advice clinics at the Enabling Gardens located in Riverside Park on Saturday mornings from May 16 to June 27. Clinics run from 9:30 a.m. to noon.


The pedal hits the metal, so to speak, for us gardeners at this time of year. Ron Stevenson has already written about starting seeds on our website . Following on, here are some suggestions for getting those seedlings into the ground and for sowing seeds.

As Ron’s article notes, always toughen, or ‘harden off’ seedlings before they are planted outside. You may do this by putting the small plants out for gradually increasing amounts of time each day, beginning with an hour or 2 in the shade, moving over the course of a week or 10 days to a full day in the sun. If you have a protected space - a covered porch or the east side of a building – you may just set the plants out for a week or so, taking care to protect them from the wind. Bring the plants in if extreme weather threatens (frost, heavy rain, excessive heat). Remember their stems and leaves are easily damages by sun and wind.

Gardening expert Marjorie Harris suggests using small milk cartons, open at the bottom end with flaps at the top, to protect seedlings set outside for the first time. If a frost threatens, the flaps may be closed. Empty pop bottles with the bottom cut off may also be slipped over seedlings.

Always dig a larger hole than seems necessary for plants, more wide than deep, and water to gauge drainage. If it doesn’t drain quickly, the whole area needs to be dug up and amended with horticultural sand or grit. Adding compost and manure is important too.

Remember that pinching off the growing tips of annual seedlings encourages branching and therefore more flowers. If you’ve grown from seed, pinch at the 6- to 8-leaf stage; if you’ve bought annuals, pinch the blooms off when you get home. Pinched plants suffer less stress when they are planted and pull ahead of unpinched in a couple of weeks. There are few exceptions: Asters, poppies, stocks and gazania do not respond well to pinching.

Sowing seeds: While there’s lots of information on seed packets as to when to sow, sowing depth and spacing and thinning seedlings, there’s some disagreement as to certain recommendations. Ms. Harris gives a rule of thumb of 4x the diameter of the seed for sowing depth, while Organic Gardening magazine says that seeds should not be buried any deeper than their diameter. Try something in between!

Use a straight edge to define your rows and make a furrow or drill with a rake. Sow in moist soil if possible. If seed is very fine, mix it with sand and dribble it along the row from a folded piece of paper. Gently push soil back over the drill with the rake back.

When to sow: Cool weather germinators are peas (April or sooner), followed roughly by carrots, parsnips, onion family (like green onion), beets/chard, spinach, lettuce, radish and brassica greens (arugula, mustard, etc). For others, wait till the soil warms up.

As predicting last frost dates seems to be difficult these days, Marjorie Harris’s approach makes sense. She maintains that gardeners should know the right time to plant in their own gardens…. if they’ve paid attention! Unless you have a protected garden, which you know is safe from a late frost, wait till May 24 to plant annuals. …especially this year.

For a steady supply of vegetables and flowers, sow quick-maturing crops such as radish, spring onion and lettuce or short-lived annual flowers directly into the ground over the season. Wait for the previous sowing to germinate before making a subsequent sowing. If possible, sow seeds when the moon is waxing to take advantage of moisture in the soil. Moon dates for the coming month: May 17: Last quarter; May 24: New moon; May 31: First quarter; June 7: Full.


Our members seem to like birds a lot! Kathy Granger has seen - for the first time ever – and filmed on video a Blue Grosbeak. She’s also seen a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. How about that for a segue into the next article.

Birds in your Garden: Courtesy of

Hummingbirds are extremely loyal to feeding sites. A hummingbird that feeds in your yard one year will return to that feeder the next. The key to successful hummingbird attraction is to keep the feeder clean and the nectar fresh. Hummingbirds keep their distance from fermented nectar. If you see hummers flying around your feeders but not feeding it’s a sure sign that something isn’t clean and fresh. Fermented nectar can support the growth of deadly molds. If a hummingbird gets a taste of fermented nectar from your feeder it will look elsewhere for a drink and remain suspicious of the offending feeder for a long time.

Deter bees and wasps by using a “flat top” or “top feeding” style hummingbird feeder where the nectar is not sitting at the feeding port. The hummers can reach the nectar but bees and wasps cannot. Also avoid putting out feeders whose ports have yellow centres – yellow is the colour that bees and wasps associate with food!

Keep ants out of your feeders by hanging an ant moat like the patented Detourant, above your feeder or purchase a feeder with a built-in ant moat. Fill your ant moat with water; sugar ants cannot swim, so they will either perish in the ant moat or, more often, head back to where they came from. Never put oil in your ant moat; it can be very dangerous if oil gets onto a hummingbird’s feathers!

Fill your hummingbird feeder with packaged hummingbird nectar or a sugar water recipe (the correct ratio is 1 part white sugar dissolved in 4 parts boiling water, allow to cool and store any excess in the refrigerator). Don't use honey, raw sugar or brown sugar in your feeder. Hummingbirds can't digest it as well. Fermentation & mold growth also occurs faster in solutions made from things other than white granulated sugar or packaged nectar mix. Do not use artificial sweeteners - they provide no calories or energy. Red dye or food colouring is completely unnecessary.

Clean your feeder every 2 –3 days in warm weather. In cooler weather you may be able to go as long as one week. Every time you change or refill your feeder, wash it with dish soap and water and remember to rinse well! (- hummers hate the taste of soap!) At least once a month, disinfect your hummingbird feeder thoroughly with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Soak your feeder in this solution for one hour, and then clean with a bottlebrush. Rinse well with running water and refill. Bleach is both safe and very effective.

If this is your first season feeding hummingbirds, be sure to hang your feeder in a location that is easily visible from overhead so the hummingbirds can see it as they cruise by. Keep it clean and fresh, even if you don't see them drinking from it; a poorly maintained feeder will deter them when they do find it.


Weed perennial beds with special care to avoid pulling up precious self-sown seedlings. When you can tell for sure what's what, pull the weeds and top-dress the plants with compost or rich soil -- just before a rain, if possible.

Provide support for flowers that need it before they start to fall over. Try twiggy prunings or pea stakes for sweet peas and ramblers. Put Grow-thru rings in place for bushier plants such as peonies, balloon flower, and globe thistle.

Spread a little lime or wood ashes around delphiniums and peonies.

Divide late-summer or autumn-flowering perennials. If delphiniums need to be divided, remove and replant the new little plants growing around the outside of the clump. Discard the hard old heart.

Trim climbing roses and attach securely to fences or trellises.

Scatter crushed eggshells in a thick ring around roses to deter slugs.

Sow annual poppies and baby's breath in borders for midsummer bloom by scattering them between the other plants, covering with fine soil, and tamping down gently.

Prune suckers from fruit trees now before they become established.

Melons often benefit from supplemental warming, such as that provided by growing under plastic. Wait until the transplanted seedlings are established, as they cannot take up moisture very well at first and can easily get dehydrated.

Plant aboveground crops in the light of the moon.

Thin beets and lettuce and use the tiny thinnings to fill in spaces in the row or to start additional plantings elsewhere.

For a crop in two years, plant year-old asparagus roots about eight inches deep in trenches lined with rich compost. Fan out the roots and space two feet apart. Cover gently with good soil.

When potato plants come through the soil, hill them up by pulling several inches of soil around their stems with a hoe to encourage deep roots and keep young potatoes from exposure to light.

Mulch between rows and keep the garden weeded to give emerging seedlings a fair chance.

Get that herb garden started by putting in plants. If you include mint, plant it in a large plastic tub (the kind drywall joint compound or birdseed comes in) with its bottom removed. This will help keep it from invading the rest of the garden.

An established asparagus bed will be ready to harvest. Patrol daily and select spears of about the same size (which will require the same cooking time). If you had trouble locating those first spears, mark the bed with stakes so that you can find them next year.

Watch for signs of drought in plants transplanted from containers. Apply water (not much, but often) close to each plant's stem, where it will percolate down to the root ball. The larger the plant, the longer the recovery period, and the more diligently you need to water. Poke a pointed metal rod into the soil above the root ball. If the rod doesn't penetrate easily, the soil is too dry. If it moves around and feels squishy, the soil is too wet.

Moles generally come calling this month. They're searching for mates and also grubs in your lawn. To get rid of the grubs, apply milky spore disease (Bacillus popilliae or Bacillis lentimorbus), a dust you can buy at your local garden center. Or try a new product called Mole-Med, which has castor oil as its active ingredient.

Prune late-flowering shrubs, evergreens, and hedges.

Don't be in a rush to plant tomato, eggplant, pepper, and other heat-loving seedlings if you live where late-May frosts are common. Old-timers will surely wait until after Victoria Day.

Don't cut the leaves off spent spring-flowering bulbs. Dying and yellowing foliage may look unsightly, but leave it in place (and don't tie it up) to help the bulbs ripen for next year's show.

If you have crocuses growing in your lawn, don't mow until their leaves have died down.

PLANT PICK: Lantana ‘Citrus blend’

This gorgeous flowering annual attracts pollinators, tolerates drought conditions and is deer-resistant. Known for multi-toned petal coloring and dark green trailing foliage, itis spectacular on its own in a container or combined with other plants. Does not require deadheading.


This month on our website, Ron has posted photos of the plant sale: Sale 2009/

v Further to Roxanne’s book recommendation in March, check out Marjorie Harris’s website:

v Ontario Gardener is one of a cross-country series of gardening magazines, the brainchild of former MP Dorothy Dobbie.

v And finally, from Gardening Life, a video on assembling an eye-catching container:


A book published just in February is “The Ever-Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color” by Lee Schneller. The author, who owns and operates Lee Schneller Fine Gardens and has created some 200 gardens in the state of Maine, has created a fun and easy blueprint system for designing flower gardens that begin blooming in late spring and don't quit until the last days of autumn. The book lists more than 200 easy-care plants with their bloom time and preferred (US) zones. A colourful and handy reference, this book will be one of the door prizes at May’s meeting.

A book published just in February is “The Ever-Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color” by Lee Schneller. The author, who owns and operates Lee Schneller Fine Gardens and has created some 200 gardens in the state of Maine, has created a fun and easy blueprint system for designing flower gardens that begin blooming in late spring and don't quit until the last days of autumn. The book lists more than 200 easy-care plants with their bloom time and preferred (US) zones. A colourful and handy reference, this book will be one of the door prizes at May’s meeting.


May 20: Our monthly get-together and mini-flower show, Victoria Park Senior Centre, doors open 7 p.m.; “Peonies”, Reiner Jakubowski.

Saturdays and Sundays, May 23, 24, 30 and 31; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Lilac Celebration at the The Royal Botanical Gardens. Follow Highway 6 South for about 25 km. from the 401. Turn left onto Plains Road West. Turn left at the lights to continue on Plains Road West for about 1 km, passing the glass building. Turn right into the parking lot. The RBC Centre (open year round with a restaurant and gift shop) is the hub with a free shuttle service for the three garden areas.

May 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Creemore Horticultural Society Plant Sale, St. John's United Church, Mill Street. Call 705-466-5199 for information.

May 27 @ 7 p.m., “Successful Water Gardening” seminar with Farley See of Moore Water Gardens, at LittleTree Horticultural Ltd., 0017 Sideroad 18 off Hwy 6 North; call 519-843-5394 to reserve your place; free with a donation to the Food Bank

May 31 @ 11:00 a.m.: Greater Toronto Water Garden & Horticultural Society's Plant Sale; Toronto Botanical Gardens. More information: Jack Baldwin, 905-913-0931,,

June 6, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Harriston and District’s Annual Garden Festival, Horticultural Park, Mill Street, Harriston; "A Day in the Park" featuring annuals, perennials, hostas, daylilies and more. Raffle, Master Gardeners, music and food. For more information: Linda Campbell,

June 17: Our last monthly flower show and meeting before the summer break. Victoria Park Senior Centre, doors open 7 p.m.; topic: “Decorating your Garden with Twigs”, Heather Grummet .

June 21, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.: The Fergus and District Horticultural Society Garden Tour!! Get a tour brochures at LittleTree Horticultural (Hwy 6 North), Cedar Spring Nursery and the Fergus Information Centre (Albert and Tower St. S.). For information, call 519-843-3131.15: Hwy 6 North; ; call 519-843-5394 to reserve your place; free with a donation to the Food Bank..


Members are encouraged to submit their digital photos to for publication in our eNewsletter. This month's feature are a few images from the "Lions Home Show & Our Plant Sale".

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row