Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

A Few Tips for Gardeners

Larry Hodgson has published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings available to the public. This article was originally published in the newspaper Le Soleil on April 27, 1989.

When Frost Threatens

Theoretically, in the Quebec City region (zone 3 USDA) we should not plant tender plants in the garden until early June, but we’re so anxious to see beautiful flowers or tomato plants that we sometimes take risks. You’re in luck, because most of the time the plants do well, but every four or five years or so, we get some really cold weather when our plants are already in the garden. What to do then?

Cover them! Even a thin layer of plastic or cloth, combined with soil that releases some of the sun’s heat it has absorbed during the day, is enough to protect them from the cold. Newspaper, an old blanket, a plastic sheet and many other products can be used. However, it’s important that the protection doesn’t touch the foliage, otherwise frost will penetrate. In this case, use a hanger folded in an arc and placed over the plant to keep the walls of the protection away from the fragile leaves.

What to Do in Case of Drought

I shouldn’t complain too much about our climate! After all, despite our cold winters, we usually get enough rain in the summer to avoid severe drought. For the past few years, we’ve been able to garden in peace while all around us, record droughts have been disastrous for gardens. But what if this year we’re not so lucky?

Photo : irina88w

In many cases, it is better to do nothing! Indeed, nature has provided most plants with mechanisms to help them survive a drought. They wilt a little, lose a few leaves, but come back very quickly when better conditions return. If we continue to water and fertilize them, only to be forbidden to water them when municipal reservoirs reach a critical level, the plants will not have had the opportunity to harden off and they will perish.

Dethatching, Yay or Nay?

When grass clippings are left on the lawn, a layer of organic matter forms at ground level. This layer, called thatch, can block the flow of water and air to the roots if it becomes too thick. However, as the thatch decomposes, it nourishes the lawn and stimulates healthy microbial life. What to do? Leave the thatch in place or, as many people do, pick it up after each mowing?

If you regularly use nitrogen-rich chemical fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, the microbial flora in your lawn’s soil may not be in good enough condition to break down the accumulated thatch, and it’s better to remove it with each cut. This is also the case if your lawn is allowed to get too high before mowing: grass clippings that are too long decompose very slowly and accumulate, causing excess thatch.

Déchaumer son gazon ou non?
Photo : Unsplash

If, on the other hand, you avoid herbicides and insecticides in your lawn care, use organic fertilizers, and mow the lawn frequently, it’s best to leave the grass clippings on the lawn where they will quickly turn into a rich humus.

Protect Our Wild Flora

With the arrival of spring, what could be more exciting than collecting wild flowers to make a beautiful bouquet? Unfortunately, collecting flowers carelessly can degrade our environment and impoverish it for future generations. Many wildflowers, already rare, can disappear completely if we don’t give them a chance to reproduce. Others, even if they are more common, at least for the moment, produce only one stem per season: if we pick it, the whole plant dies.

Fleurs sauvage - Jardinage
Photo : Pixabay

The best thing to do is to leave the wildflowers in their place so that they can do the job nature intended them to do: multiply their species. Instead, plant a surplus of flowers in your garden that have been grown specifically for cutting. And if ever the temptation to pick is too strong, restrict yourself to species that are very abundant. Pick only a small amount per area… and never species that grow at the end of a single stem!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “A Few Tips for Gardeners

  1. marianwhit

    Find out which “wild flowers” are introduced invasive species and pick as many of those as you want…and then pull the plant, lol. You will be utterly astonished at how few are native plants that support our ecology. After you pull them out, plant seeds of native species…beauty in a garden includes birds, butterflies, moths, and bees, of which we have thousands of species. 🙂

    • Mary L Discuillo

      That’s if everyone who picks flowers are smart enough to know what is an invasive species and which isn’t .

  2. As always Larry provides practical and intelligent advice.

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