Living

Get gardening: Reap the benefits of your garden

Get your yard blooming with these expert tips

Things are heating up on the garden front. Summer is finally here! It’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour by garnishing dinner with edible flowers, capturing your garden’s beauty in photos and adding colourful accents to your greenery. Plus, learn how to water your lawns and flower beds more efficiently to keep your garden lush and healthy all summer long. Making dinner bloom
Edible flowers are as beautiful in the garden as they are garnishing a salad or dessert. My favourites are nasturtiums, for their bold orange or scarlet red, slightly sweet fragrance and powerful peppery tang; pansies, as they come in many colours and have a delicate fragrance and mild wintergreen flavour; and herb flowers (dill, cilantro, basil, chive or garlic chive), which are often milder in flavor than the leaves. Flowers look lovely on a fruit salad, make attractive cake decorations and turn an everyday potato salad or pasta salad into something special.

For more tips on edible flowers, read: The Edible Flower Garden, by Rosalind Creasy.

Counting flowers on the wall
Gardens are a work in progress. Like children, with pleasure and pride we watch them grow. So why not keep an annual record of your garden with your film or digital camera? Here are some tips to make the most of your photos:

Take a picture every two to three weeks throughout the season. Use the photos to assess what you like and wish to improve, where you need additional plants and would like to see more colour, what plant combinations didn’t work and which ones were really outstanding. For a panoramic view, stand in one spot and take two or three different pictures, making sure each frame overlaps the previous one slightly. After your pictures are printed, tape them together for a complete overview of the garden. If you have a photo-editing program, you can ‘stitch’ digital pics together to create one solid image.

For the best pictures, shoot early in the morning when the light is soft. Midday sun is quite harsh and washes colours out. Morning is also ideal, because the wind is usually light—important if you want your plants to look sharp.

Create colourful accents
We used to stain our trellises and wooden garden furniture a tasteful grey, but that got boring. So we decided to match our garden blooms by painting them bright colours instead. We used an indigo-blue stain on our trellises that was inspired by the colour of spring-flowering muscari blooms, and painted our Muskoka chairs a purple-pink to compliment our ornamental onions (alliums). For a finish that won’t chip, I recommend using stain, not paint. Quality opaque stains from Benjamin Moore can be custom-tinted to any colour.

Be water-wise
While it’s important to keep your plants green and lush, some watering efforts are inefficient and costly. According to Environment Canada, Canadians use 50 per cent more water in the summer due to watering lawns and gardens. To care for your plants while keeping water bills costs to a minimum, avoid using your lawn sprinkler between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Hot afternoon sun will cause the majority to evaporate.

Irrigate garden beds at soil level to get moisture straight to roots, rather than on leaves. Using soaker hoses, rather than sprinklers limits evaporation and water wasted on walkways, patios and driveways.

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