President’s message for Feb 2010

I imagine that most gardens in PoCo are stirring now. Mine faces north, so it’s a little slower to respond to spring as it is getting less light and warmth from the sun. I prefer it that way – having the plants held back is good insurance against a cold snap in March. But this year, the calendar seems to have been bumped forward a month or more and hoping against a cold snap through both February and March might be asking a lot. Nonetheless, I’m hoping that this current weather holds till spring arrives. Cooler temperatures would help too.

Two falls ago I planted out spring bulbs for the first time in my garden, glory of the snow (Chionodoxa), Tulipa tarda & turkestanica, Iris reticulata, pumila and another unknown dwarf, and some medium sized Daffodils as well as other bulbs. All of these should naturalize, with luck, and I’m quite apprehensive to see if they’re going to appear again after a full cycle of seasons in my garden. Have they evaded the local squirrel? I’ll bore you all with photos if they do.

These smaller bulbs have a much more natural habit than the stiff sentries formed by many tulips and daffodils. This more relaxed habit can look beautiful in a natural planting with forget me not (Myosotis) or other self sowing spring flowering plants. Their leaves (especially the tulips) tend to sprawl around the crown of the plant, but the leaves are narrow and attractive and can be easily hidden by emerging perennials and the aforementioned Myosotis. It’s best to leave the leaves of all bulbs to wither until they have turned brown and fallen away. With sufficient cover, you can leave them untouched.

I would like to look into the possibility of the garden club purchasing organic fertilizer at the wholesale level for the benefit of our members. If your soil is in good shape, then organics will contribute greatly to the health of your plants. If your soil is not in good shape then organic materials are the way to cure that – e.g. mushroom manure. Sand need only be added if it is absent from your soil, to perhaps 20 % of the total. This will improve your drainage while making it easier for plant roots to grow. Sand also helps a soil to resist compaction; it strengthens a soil.

Organic fertilizers don’t feed the plant directly; they feed the micro-organisms that live in the soil which convert the organics to a form of food that plants can assimilate, sometimes entering directly into the cells of the plant roots to pass on elements to the growing plant. In exchange, the plants provide sugars and carbohydrates to the micro-organisms.

Chemical fertilizers, on the other hand, are mostly made from petrochemicals, at great expense in energy inputs, and are mostly salts that, over time, can have an undesirable effect on your soil and its micro-organisms. Trust Mother Nature, not Exxon. You can still use  chemical fertilizers, but more as a supplement than a diet. They are good for a first feeding in early spring when the soil is still cold and its micro-organisms are sleepy – waiting for spring to arrive and bring them to operating temperature.

I’ve printed, below, the fertilizers that I used to buy through the local rose society. This quantity lasted me a few years and was reasonably priced when bought in large bags. You have to make your own balanced recipe with these ingredients (there are others).

The Alfalfa meal is reputed to be good for roses, and the Sulphate of Potash for hardening off roses, and other plants, in the fall to prepare them for winter – might also acidify the soil somewhat.

Sulphate of Potash      0 – 0 – 50          20 KG

Blood meal                    12 – 0 – 0          18 KG

Kelp meal                      1 – 0 – 2            25 KG

Alfalfa meal                  2 – 1 – 2            20 KG

Bone meal                     3 – 15 – 0          local retail

I hope to see you all (Olympic volunteers excepted) at our January meeting when Gwen Odermatt from Petals & Butterflies (Langley) will be on hand to talk about Great Plant Picks & Fantastic Foliage. She will also have some plants on hand for sale (now can be a good time to plant many perennials.

Jim Thorleifson

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About pocogardenclub

PoCo Garden Club Established July 5, 1990 by Len Cuddeford P.O. Box 631, PoCo Depot, Port Coquitlam, B.C. V3E 6H9 pocogardenclub@gmail.com
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