Ready to go and grow organic?

Whether your garden oasis is a sprawling backyard or assembled in containers on a balcony, going organic is achievable wherever you opt to stick in your spade, according to one of Canada’s best-known gardening experts.

Canadian gardening expert Mark Cullen grows an awesome sunflower field on his farm in Stouffville

TORONTO — Whether your garden oasis is a sprawling backyard or assembled in containers on a balcony, going organic is achievable wherever you opt to stick in your spade, according to one of Canada’s best-known gardening experts.

Mark Cullen shares suggestions for grooming lawns and gardens in an eco-conscious fashion in his new book, “The Canadian Garden Primer: An Organic Approach.”

Cullen says the inspiration was mainly drawn from experience with Canadian farmers over the past decade and noticing an emerging interest in the environment as it relates to gardening.

What’s more, concerns about the environmental costs of trucking in foods have boosted interest in eating locally, which was the goal of the 100 Mile Diet, he says.

“I talk about the 100-yard diet, and my suggestion is if you really want to have control over the quality of food that you bring into the kitchen and prepare for a meal, why not grow it yourself?” Cullen said in an interview Wednesday. “Then you’ll know exactly what has been sprayed on it and . . . exactly where it’s come from.”

Regardless of the space at your disposal, Cullen says the foundation to growing organic — like any garden — is properly preparing the soil prior to planting.

Ideally, you want a nice, open soil that typically has a lot of organic matter — namely compost, like kitchen scraps or rotted-down yard waste — that will allow water to move through it fairly readily, he says. When it’s clay, the soil particles are small and bind together, and don’t allow water to move.

“When that happens, you get all kinds of problems — roots rot and plants die and plants don’t grow or perform the way they really ought to.”

There should also be a component of sharp or coarse sand — not beach sand — to allow water to move efficiently, he says. When added to clay soils, it helps improve air circulation and drainage, he writes.

While water is essential to growing and greening lawns and gardens, simply setting off the sprinkler for indefinite periods can damage plants and waste a precious resource in the process.

To conserve water, Cullen says a gardener’s greatest secret weapon is mulch. Finely ground cedar or pine bark mulch — about five or six centimetres thick — around perennials, annuals, roses or through shrub beds will retain moisture in the soil and reduce the need for watering by 70 per cent, he says. It also insulates the soil from weed germination, helping to reduce weeding 90 to 95 per cent the first year, he adds. Before you pitch your fall leaves to the curb, Cullen recommends keeping them as a free, readily-accessible mulch. They also provide carbon, a much-needed ingredient in all successful soils, he writes. Gardeners may also want to consider making use of rainwater collected in a barrel.

“It’s always warm in the summer months and it’s charged with oxygen,” an element that plants “love” to have at their roots, Cullen said.

He suggests never watering lawns more than once weekly. When you do, apply about 2.5 centimetres at a time, roughly a two to three-hour time period for most sprinklers.

“Just once a week will cause the roots of your grass plants to go deeper looking for that water,” he said. “The deeper the roots, the more drought-tolerant your grass plants, and that means that your grass will demand less water in the long-term.”

On The Net:

Just Posted

Protect your pets from ticks, says Sylvan Lake vet

The number of ticks in Alberta has increased, and has put people and pets in danger of Lyme disease

Innisfail Eagles win Senior AAA provincial semifinal, earn final spot in Allan Cup

For the first time in their 71-year history, the Innisfail Eagles will… Continue reading

Ford says social media allows politicians to circumvent mainstream journalists

OTTAWA — Premier Doug Ford says mainstream journalists have become irrelevant because… Continue reading

Montreal priest stabbed during mass leaves hospital; suspect to be charged

MONTREAL — A Catholic priest who was stabbed as he was celebrating… Continue reading

The endless war against invasive species

Group looks to protect native ecological environments in Alberta

WATCH: Fashion show highlights Cree designers

The fashion show was part of a Samson Cree Nation conference on MMIW

Pricey Titanic wreck tours hope to bring new life to a century-old story

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Adventure tourists with money in the bank have… Continue reading

France investigates after older protester is injured in Nice

NICE, France — French authorities are investigating the case of an older… Continue reading

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s… Continue reading

New report details impact of proposed NS spaceport in event of explosion or fire

HALIFAX — The head of a company proposing to open Canada’s only… Continue reading

Rothmans, Benson & Hedges gets creditor protection in $15B Quebec lawsuit

MONTREAL — Rothmans, Benson & Hedges has become the third tobacco company… Continue reading

Monster Energy drink recalled due to possible glass fragments

OTTAWA — Monster Energy Canada Ltd. is recalling one of its drinks… Continue reading

Global ocean group to study possible toxic splashdowns of space debris

A global agency that sets rules for the seas is studying the… Continue reading

Online real estate auctions try to shake up sales with novel approach

An online auction for a luxury home in Abbotsford, B.C., is drawing… Continue reading

Most Read