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What of your Canada Day? Dedicate the long weekend to a meaningful outdoor project

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What of your Canada Day? Dedicate the long weekend to a meaningful outdoor project

The long Canada Day weekend is coming up, and no doubt you are looking forward to hanging out with family, friends or neighbours at the lake, or maybe you will enjoy some fireworks at the end of your street. That is fine for one day, but what will you do with the rest of your long weekend?

In recent years, we have made a habit of creating something permanent during the Canada Day weekend. Several years ago, we mixed some concrete in a wheelbarrow and erected a flagpole. Naturally, there is a Canadian flag on the top of it. The following year, we made a tepee-shaped pergola for the middle of the veggie garden. Today, it supports a fruit-producing grapevine and a honeysuckle that attracts hummingbirds.

Last year was the pièce de resistance. We took a full day to haul some hand-cut fieldstone into the garden and slowly moved them around until we created the perfect place to sit and observe the progress of the food garden.

We urge you to think about how to celebrate Canada’s birthday. You don’t have to lay a new interlocking patio or rebuild the deck. While these are ambitious projects, we suggest something that will make a difference to someone or something that is important to you.

Build a Bluebird nesting box

The magic of a bluebird box that attracts bluebirds is simple.

  • Use rough lumber in the interior of the box
  • Drill a one-and-half-inch hole (without a perch, so that predators will not get in)
  • Drill some ventilation holes on the sides of the box
  • Build at least two boxes: one for a house sparrow and another for a bluebird.

Bluebirds are not very aggressive, even a bossy house sparrow will out-muscle a bluebird for squatting rights.

Mount each box about five feet or 1.8 metres off the ground, facing east or south and preferably surrounded by woods or other large plants for protection.

Support a vine

There is a blank wall somewhere on your property or condo balcony, or perhaps a fence begging to support something that produces flowers. Now is the time of year to go for it. Consider a flowering clematis for a show of colour that is well worth the wait. Choose from many wonderful varieties that are still available at garden retailers.

If you are looking for some cover from the summer sun, consider a vine. A vine will cool a patio down nicely, not just by providing shade but, through the natural absorption of heat and expiration of moisture through its leaves. For a great long-term investment in vines, consider clematis, honeysuckle or climbing hydrangea. For an evergreen vine, look for green euonymus for shade and variegated varieties for sun (hardy to zone 5).

Start a water pond

Naturally, everyone would like to have a small lake in the backyard filled with turtles, colourful koi carp and overflowing with flowering water plants. However, the reality is that urban and suburban gardeners do not generally have the luxury of space.

A fun and useful addition to a deck, balcony or poolside is a watertight container that is filled with bog or water plants and a few gold fish. Make sure that you use oxygenating plants like floating water lettuce or water hyacinths to help to keep the water clean. Be prepared to dump the water out from time to time and add new from your rain barrel.

Speaking of water, be sure to dump water out of bird baths weekly to avoid mosquito breeding; clean your hummingbird feeder weekly and refill, take the time to keep bird feeders full, put out an orange sliced in half for orioles, and some grape jelly and sliced banana for the butterflies.

And remember to take some ‘hammock’ time for yourself. A worn-out gardener isn’t much use to any one.

Do something lasting and handy. Enjoy your Canada Day weekend and happy birthday Canada!

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada. He reaches over 2 million Canadians with his gardening/environment messages every week. Receive his free monthly newsletter at www.markcullen.com Ben Cullen is a professional gardener with a keen interest in food gardening and the environment. You can follow both Mark and Ben on Twitter (@MarkCullen4), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MarkCullenGardening/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/markcullengardening/).

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