Documents: Latest From: Shauna Dobbie:

Ten Neat Things About Gardening at the Lake
by Shauna Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

July 10, 2011

1. Congratulations on your great drainage, but . . .

Gardening at the lake nearly always means gardening in loose, sandy soils. The drainage is great, but it's hard to keep things watered. So here's a tip: plant root vegetables that enjoy this environment: potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, parsnips and so on.

2. Plant drought tolerant plants.

Plant flowers such as Rudbeckia; Artemisia, Gaillardia (blanket flower); Coreopsis, Achillea, Verbascum, Yucca, some sedums . . . most drought tolerant plants will survive lake country conditions. If your soil is loamy with lots of leaf matter, the possibilities can be much expanded.

3. Put bacteria to work for you.

Add organic materials that will promote the growth of good bacteria as they break down, making the wonderful nutrients in your sandy soil available to your plants. Coco husk fibre (coir); peat moss, compost, mulched leaves and so on. Add lots - up to 40 per cent by volume.

4. Lake water is good for gardens.

Water your garden with moisture from the lake. The garden will get the benefit of trace minerals from the lake water. For a big plant booster, try dredging up some lake sludge. It likely contains fish and algae remains along with dissolved minerals and all kinds of trace elements.

5. Land of the silver birch.

There's a reason so many birches grow in lake country. They love light, sandy soils and lots of room to spread out their feet and toes. However, they also love cool, damp conditions so find a place where your birch can get the best of both worlds, in formerly treed sites, for example.

6. Build a raised garden.

Lots of people use containers at the lake, but they dry out quickly, especially in really hot weather. One answer is to build a raised garden filled with good garden soil. Mix in a little coir (ground up coco husk), about one part to ten. The coir is an organic that will help condition the soil, but its added benefit is its ability to retain moisture along with the fact that it breaks down really slowly - taking up to seven years.

7. The lawn challenge.

Having a velvety green lawn is the dream of many cottagers, but that sandy soil can make this seem almost impossible. One answer is to plant the right grass seed. While ordinary blue grass seed roots penetrate only about nine inches into the soil, making them difficult to hydrate in sandy soils, fescue roots will typically delve 14 inches into sandy soils where chances of finding moisture are much better. Fescues are thin-bladed grasses that form a silky-feeling lawn.

8. Add some peat moss.

Top dress your lawn with sphagnum peat moss to increase microbial activity and improve soil quality over time.

9. Moonlight.

We notice moonlight at the lake much more than we do in the city. So do plants. Much study has been conducted into the influence of moon phases on plant growth. Some people think that the new moon is good for balanced leaf and root growth and that this is when seeds begin to swell. Leaf growth continues into the first quarter and then, when the full moon is out and the light is at its brightest, leaf growth peaks. Whether this is true or not, the absence of light is a significant factor in plant growth, often triggering flowering in plants.

10. Dealing with deer.

There really is no plant that deer won't eat, but you can effectively discourage them using a protein based spray made up of an egg beaten with some water and a sticking agent such as oil or detergent.

-Shauna Dobbie

Copyright┬ęPegasus Publications Inc

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