The Magic of Old Gardens

Touring old Nova Scotia gardens is one of the great joys of my work as a landscape designer and gardener. I love discovering hidden perennial treasures, old rock walls, vines intertwining with natural plants, ruined foundations and weathered fruit trees. These gardens have worn the test of time.  They have been forgotten and rediscovered, perhaps many times over. They tell us stories of the past while offering dreams for the future. When I find old plants, I love to imagine the gardener-past at work creating their oasis. Digging into the soil of an old garden feels like directly connecting with them through time. I like to imagine some future gardener also reconnecting and rediscovering the garden, with my care and contribution, perhaps long in the future. That is what makes old gardens magic.

Climbing roses, rose-of-Sharon and a white picket fence offer old garden romance (Mahone Bay).

Climbing roses, rose-of-Sharon and a white picket fence offer old garden romance (Mahone Bay).

I am often called in by clients who have inherited an old garden and don’t know what to do with it. It can be overwhelming to look at the whole, complete with rambling plants and weeds. It begs the question, “Where to start?”.  My advice is to begin with simplifying the canvas by learning about and caring for the existing plants.  Once you do that, you will be able to observe and get to know your garden. Over time, you can fill gaps with new plants you love, transplant as desired, or even change the garden shape more easily.

Here are my recommendations for simplifying that canvas by giving your old garden some TLC:

An old perennial garden after some TLC (Lunenburg).

An old perennial garden after some TLC (Lunenburg).

1.    Learn about the plants in your garden. Take a look around at different points in the season and notice interesting plants. Take pictures so you can compare year-to-year. Identify what you can. Guide books and gardening books are helpful tools here. Keep a close eye out for rhubarb, peonies, columbine, roses, sedum and asparagus because these plants are long-lived and popular traditional garden plants in the region. Also look for old shrubs and trees such as lilac, apple, and spirea. You can also engage a professional like Earthshine Gardens if you need more support. Contact us to book your complementary site visit.

2.   Clear out excess deadwood, brush and leaves around plants. Deadwood and leaves are helpful in your garden to a point. They provide habitat for critters, protect the soil and help create humus. In an old garden though, it is likely that these materials have piled up to an extent that they are inhibiting plant growth.  Carefully rake up leaves where they are a thick mat. Prune deadwood off shrubs and trees, and shear dead plant stalks as needed. These materials can be composted onsite or woven into an ornamental brush wall.

Perennial garden classics (peony, sedum and iris) ramble in the foreground of an old rock wall (Chester).

Perennial garden classics (peony, sedum and iris) ramble in the foreground of an old rock wall (Chester).

3.   Weed. Old gardens are often very full of plants competing with each other for space, light and nutrients. Giving the garden a good weed will help desired plants thrive. I recommend waiting until early summer if you are just getting to know your garden, so you can see what is coming up.  What is a weed is entirely up to you. Plants are just that, plants. We humans label a plant a “weed” when we don’t want it to grow in our garden. If you like the wildflowers such as daisies, dandelions, buttercups, asters or goldenrod- let them be. They are adding to your secret garden vibe, and they are food for pollinators. You may consider adding bark mulch after you weed, depending on your aesthetic.

4.   Control aggressive perennials. Not all garden plants are created equal, and some plants will naturally out-compete others in a garden that goes many years without care. Hardy geranium is a good example. It’s a popular plant that is tougher than nails. It spreads by rhizome, deer don’t eat it and it’s super low-maintenance. It is a dominating presence in old gardens that chokes out other plants. Limit the more aggressive perennials to patches and clear out space around desired plants that are being smothered.

5.   Feed struggling plants with compost. A quick top-dressing of a high-quality compost will help those struggling plants thrive. 1-2 handfuls for herbaceous plants and 2-4 handfuls for shrubs and trees should do it. This should be done at least once per year in the spring and summer. I like Stormcast seaweed compost from Bear Cove Resources.

 

Trust me, that old garden is worth the time and effort. You are doing a service for people and nature; past, present and future. Plus, when we give our old gardens love, they share their secrets. Who knows what you might discover!

Your garden will thank you with living beauty, such as these classic fall-blooming hydrangea (Bridgewater).

Your garden will thank you with living beauty, such as these classic fall-blooming hydrangea (Bridgewater).

Planting a Rain Garden

            It must be spring in Nova Scotia, because the rain is coming down. This is the time of year when we yearn for summer, easily forgetting the extreme heat and drought we often experience in the coming season. Sun and heat are good for our gardens, but associated drought creates stress for our plants. ‘Everything in moderation’ is a cliché for a reason. Water and heat can be both assets and challenges in our gardens, and truly great design works with nature on both fronts.

Rain gardens are designed to collect water, allowing it to infiltrate into the soil and water table. Rain gardens are typically designed to emulate the patterns of natural water courses, such as creeks or ponds. Plants that thrive in wet environments do well in rain gardens. The system of plants roots and soil acts like a sponge, soaking up excess water for use in the system. This is good for people too, as it replenishes our drinking water in rural wells and municipal watersheds.

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Rain gardens are an excellent way to bring nature into your garden. Fresh water is vital for all living things. Adding fresh water to your garden attracts all sorts of beneficial creatures, along with their pollination and soil-building services. Rain gardens are particularly attractive to amphibians such as frogs, toads and salamanders. Providing amphibian habitat is an important service because these sensitive creatures are in global decline. Of course, it is important to carefully consider existing animal patterns and tastes when planning your garden, because water may also attract deer and other forest creatures that will munch on favourite plants.

Rain gardens are ephemeral habitats, meaning that they change throughout the season. When it is rainy, the garden collects water that slowly drains into the soil. This constant water movement means that rain gardens are less attractive insect breeding grounds than standing water, such as ponds and puddles. The ephemeral nature of rain gardens also provides year-round benefits for the gardener because they always offer a new view to observe and enjoy.

Ready to create your own rain garden? Here are some helpful tips:

1.     Location, location, location. Your rain garden needs to be somewhere that is already wet and low-lying. Observe your landscape at different times in the season, especially after significant rain or snow melt. Notice the patterns of standing water and overland flow. Track your observations.

2.    Design with natural patterns. Consider existing water flow and the lay of the land in your garden location. Accentuate natural low-lying areas by digging swales, or trenches, 0.5-1.5 feet deep. Excess soil can be used to create berms, or small hills, at the edges of the swales. Swales can be left open, or filled with course rock materials, such as pea gravel or river rock. Berms can be amended to create garden beds for planting along the edges of the water-flow areas.

3.    Choose hardy, water-loving plants. It is important to choose the right plant for the right location. Of course, rain garden plants must be able to thrive in wet soil. However, they must also be hardy enough to resist drought, animal browse and minimal care. They must also be suited to the sun/ shade environment of your garden. I recommend including native plants that thrive in wetlands. Rain garden go-tos for our region include blue flag iris, sweet fern, jack-in-the-pulpit, willow, bayberry, red osier dogwood, red maple, black spruce, creeping juniper, Canada holly, native roses and sphagnum moss. Caring for plants that are already growing in the area will give you a head-start- they are already growing there, so you know they like the spot.

4.    Change is your friend. In the garden, as in life, change is the only constant. As gardeners, we must adapt to change in the landscape.  Make sure you spend some time in your garden once it is created. Observe, take photos, meditate, do art, feed the birds or create little experiments. Being in your garden will allow you to notice change and feedback. Observations about plant health, creatures, water, erosion, and even your own patterns in the garden will help to inform future changes. The garden is a living system and is not static. Get in there, work with patterns and embrace changes.

Now- go garden!

Free SIP Workshop at DesBrisay Museum

Join Earthshine Gardens’ designer, Caitlin Doucette for a free sub-irrigation planter workshop at 2:00 pm April 20th at the DesBrisay Museum in Bridgewater. Create your own sub-irrigation planter (also known as a self-watering planter or wicking bed ). It will make more efficient use of water by watering your plants from underneath. This activity is eco-friendly and is made primarily with used recyclables. Plant your own pole beans to enjoy this summer.

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Book your 2019 Garden and Land Care Projects Today!

wildflowers earthshine gardens

Earthshine Gardens can help with your 2019 garden and landscape projects. You will love our team, our work and our prices. Now booking landscape design and creation, garden care, tree/ shrub pruning, path creation/ care, shoreline erosion mitigation and garden/ landscape consultation. Serving all of south-west Nova Scotia. We work with nature to create and care for sustainable, ecological landscapes.

Contact Caitlin to book your complementary site visit today, (902) 298-1205 or earthshinegardens@gmail.com.

Choose the South Shore's holistic ecological land care team.

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We're Hiring!

Earthshine Gardens is hiring a Gardener to join our 2019 land care team. Are you an experienced gardener looking for work in the Bridgewater area? If so, this job may be right for you!

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We’re looking for a personable and physically-fit nature-lover who possesses 2+ years of experience in gardening, horticulture, permaculture or a related field.  Bonus points if you are an insurable class G driver or have first aid certification.

Details of the job are as follows:

-          Seasonal contract: May- November 2019 (exact start date flexible)

-          Hours: Tuesday – Thursday, 7-10 hours per day.

-          Rate of pay: $14.50 - $16.50/ hour depending on skill and experience.

-          Location: All days start and end in Bridgewater. Job sites throughout South West NS.

Qualified candidates kindly contact Caitlin Doucette, designer/ project facilitator at earthshinegardens@gmail.com or (902) 298-1205 to arrange an interview.

 

Leaves in Flower: Foliage for the Fall Garden

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus

Japanese forest grass offers swaths of lime-green foliage and can grow in part-shade.

Japanese forest grass offers swaths of lime-green foliage and can grow in part-shade.

            Fall is a season of immense natural beauty. Nature-lovers are rewarded with a vibrant spectrum of foliage so diverse, it is like the second coming of spring. With cooler temperatures and less bugs, we can truly enjoy our outdoor spaces as the days begin to shorten. Moreover, for us gardeners, we can take advantage of fall nursery sales and great working weather.

            When it comes to our gardens, fall is the time for flowers to take a back seat while foliage enters centre-stage.  Foliage plants come in many colours including red, purple, burgundy, blue, gold, orange, yellow and every shade of green imaginable. Adding a few fall stunners to your garden will provide a lovely background in summer that will grow into the main event each fall.

A collection of fall foliage waits to be planted (kalmia, dwarf spruce, boxwood, false cypress, red-osior dogwood, ninebark, pieris and mugo pine).

A collection of fall foliage waits to be planted (kalmia, dwarf spruce, boxwood, false cypress, red-osior dogwood, ninebark, pieris and mugo pine).

            For sunny gardens, ornamental grasses feature swaths of colour as they bloom in fall. Plant them in masses of 3-12 plants for the best results. Shorter grasses for fall include blue fescue, little bluestem and side-oats grama. Karl Foerster feather reed grass and Japanese silver grass are excellent medium-height fall grasses. Ravenna/ hardy pampas grass is the giant of the hardy ornamental grasses, growing up to 12 feet tall. Grasses are especially lovely when mixed with fall perennial flowers, such as autumn joy sedum, rudbekkia and Russian sage.

            For part-shade landscapes, there are a number of no-fuss-no-muss shrubs with vibrant fall colour to choose from. Broadleaf deciduous shrubs such as burning bush, smoke bush and oak-leaf hydrangea have showy fall foliage. Red osier and yellow twig dogwood feature brightly coloured stems. Coniferous evergreen shrubs make excellent garden companions for more showy plants.

           

No fall landscape is complete without a tree or two. And there are so many excellent options to choose from. When it comes to trees, there is no need to scour the nurseries for fancy varieties. Our good old Canadian trees can’t be beat when it comes to fall colour. Serviceberry, sumac, and birch and are great choices for small trees. Red maple, sugar maple and red oak are larger options. Tamarack (also known as larch) is another interesting choice, as it is a conifer that turns yellow and fall and loses its needles. These trees are all part of the Acadian forest ecosystem, so they are well adapted to Nova Scotia’s climate and have great habitat value. Fall also features delicious hardy tree fruits such as apple and pear, which grow well in our climate, and yield a delicious bounty.

Contact us to book a complementary site visit today (serving south-west Nova Scotia).

Earthshine Gardens fall land care services

On the Trail

Woodland woodchip trail with log borders (Cookville, NS).

Woodland woodchip trail with log borders (Cookville, NS).

I’m pleased to share this guest blog post by Earthshine Gardens’ Forest Technician, Garett Schwartz. Enjoy it, Caitlin.

Rustic trail marker (Rose Bay, NS).

Rustic trail marker (Rose Bay, NS).

Using a wood-chipper (Cookville, NS).

Using a wood-chipper (Cookville, NS).

Corduroy trail for a wet trail section (Rose Bay, NS).

Corduroy trail for a wet trail section (Rose Bay, NS).

The forest has long been a place of mystery, wonder, beauty and sometimes fear. It features prominently in many of our myths and legends and has always been a place where we may not feel quite at home among the tall trees.

Despite all of this, there is no denying the therapeutic value of spending time in a forest. For example, wandering through a dense hemlock stand with a mossy floor can be a powerful calming experience. Something about the soft, green moss underfoot and the wide, spreading branches above has a comforting effect; it puts us at ease.

For people who are not experienced in the woods or did not grow up in a rural setting, it can be difficult to take advantage of these benefits. As said before, the woods can be a somewhat unnerving place for one who is not accustomed to it. This is where a clearly marked and accessible forest trail comes in.

A forest trail is not a very difficult thing to create. It depends on how much work you want to invest. You can build an extensive trail with lined edges, steps and benches or simply clear an existing game trail. Either one will allow you to access the forest around you and tap into the therapeutic benefits and enjoy the plants and animals that exist there.

I have always appreciated making forest trails in my work. I have made trails that are long and short, from very simple and quite extensive. The tools I use for trail making are simple, tried, tested and true. A chainsaw is first and foremost the handiest tool for trail making. Fallen trees and snags should be cut up and moved as well as standing trees which may be in the way. I also carry a good axe (I carry a Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe), a stout machete, a log hook, flagging tape, a tape measure, log wedges and my safety gear. For later parts of the process a wheel barrow, shovel, mulch fork and pick may be necessary.

I begin by looking for existing game trails and work off of those; the animals have already found the best route through the trees. I follow these and use flagging tape to mark where my trail will go. After the route has been decided, it is time to start clearing out any deadfalls or snagged branches that might be in the way. Branches should be pruned above head height to avoid any potential injuries and trees that pose a risk to the trail should be felled and junked up. All of the wood waste can be used in brush walls to line out the trail. This wood will clearly denote the edges of the trail and break down over the years, contributing to the creation of healthy soil, which is the foundation of a healthy forest ecosystem.

After the trail has been cleared it is time to make steps and ramps out of logs and rocks to negotiate any rough terrain along the trail. I also like to make benches out of logs and place them at certain junctures of the trail where there’s room for a nice sitting area. Making wooden stakes to hold in retaining logs on steep sections of trail is also very important at this stage. The chainsaw and axe are invaluable tools for this sort of finishing work.

Finally, lining the trail with wood chips or bark mulch, though not always necessary, definitely improves the quality and longevity of the trail. Not only does it add to the visual beauty of the trail but it also ensures that the trail will be clear and will not become overgrown for a longer period of time. Renting a chipper for some of your deadwood is a great option that uses the resources you have on-site. Regardless, adding chips or mulch adds to the fertility of the system as it slowly breaks down, feeding the soil underneath.

Mulch trail (Rose Bay, NS).

Mulch trail (Rose Bay, NS).

Garett Schwartz Forest Technician Earthshine Gardens

With a little work and creativity, anyone can access the woods around them and enjoy all of the beauty these wonderful ecosystems have to offer.

Garett Schwartz is a Forest Technician with Earthshine Gardens, the South Shore’s holistic ecological land care team. Contact us with your questions and comments for Garett.

Where do you get your...??

Clients often ask us this question; "where do you get your...??

Whether it's plants, soil, mulch, rock material or tools; people want to know where Earthshine Gardens is shopping. As a small business with ecological values, we support local whenever possible. We are proud to have a stellar network of local suppliers here in South Shore, Nova Scotia. Here is a list of some of our favourite suppliers along with why we love them. We hope this helps you shop local too!

Name: Land Care Nursery (1436 HWY 10, Cookville), Why we love them: Great selection of high quality plants at truly affordable prices.

Name: The Village Nursery (430 New Cumberland Rd, Pleasantville), Why we love them: Their plant collection includes extensive veggies, herbs and hanging baskets. They've got a long-standing good reputation and it's pleasure to walk through.

Name: Cosby's Garden Centre and Concrete Creations (4122 HWY3, Liverpool), Why we love them: This is a truly inspiring place that merges unique sculptures with nature in an outdoor gallery walk. Ivan's flowing creations make great garden art, and they have lots of other garden supplies too.

Name: One Sky Now (7657 HWY3, Mahone Bay), Why we love them: A small operation that is one of the only nurseries with a selection of organic plants.

Name: Oceanview Nursery (4392 HWY3, Chester), Why we love them: This is where we go when we are looking for a specific plant that we can't find elsewhere. They also have a growing selection of native plants. The garden art and ornamentation is beautiful and extensive. This one is a bit pricey so we usually visit it last.

Name: Medway Moss (Port Medway), Why we love them: This small company fits our ecological values perfectly. Tim rescues native mosses from the Medway Community Forest before the sites are clear cut. Mosses can be a nice option for shady or wet corners of the garden. They also often come with other native forest plants seeded within them that mature over time- bonus!

Name: Wile's Lake Farm Market (3254 HWY325, Wileville), Why we love them: We love any nursery where you can shop for plants while eating a danish! This is a sweet spot with a seasonal plant selection, a bakery and a local grocery section. Also it is one of the only places we can get Fertilo (our favourite granulated chicken manure product) in our town.

Name: Maughan's Construction  (RR#1, Bridgewater), Why we love them: Maughans has high quality garden soil, mulch, pea gravel and river rock. Their service is always friendly and the prices are great. Turnaround time is quick, and we can often get a same day delivery if needed.

Name: Bear Cove Resources  (142 East Berlin Rd, East Berlin), Why we love them: Storm-cast compost is the best quality compost around and it makes our gardens grow! This family operation has been sustainably harvesting and composting local kelp to create their black gold for decades. Plus they're a joy to work with.

Name: Yonder Hill Farm (Laconia, NS), Why we love them: Chris and family produce high-quality, heritage vegetable, flower and herb seeds. They are local, sustainable, organic and locally-adapted. Plus they have an almost 100% germination rate in my experience!

Name: Halifax Seed (Halifax, order online), Why we love them: They have a great seed selection and the ordering process is quick and convenient.

Name: Gow's Home Hardware (450 LaHave St, Bridgewater), Why we love them: The manager had me when she offered me 'aggressive discounts' for Earthshine Gardens. The service is always great and returns are never a problem. Plus they won best Home Hardware in Canada (2017) and they're expanding soon [larger garden section?!].

Name:  Details Event and Design Studios (mobile business based in the South Shore), Why we love them: Shanna has been a key part of developing Earthshine Gardens' brand. She did an excellent job with our logo and promotion material. It's eye catching and unique. Plus we hear she does weddings too!

Name: Fundy Textile and Design (Dartmouth), Why we love them: These folks literally gave us the shirts on our backs! They've done a great job with our team shirts two years in a row, and oh how we love that royal blue.

Earthshine Gardens is Permaculture Atlantic Network's Business of the Month

We are very pleased to announce that Earthshine Gardens has been selected as Permaulture Atlantic Network's business of the month.  Permaculture is a design practice that learns from/ works with nature in order to create sustainable human systems. Caitlin is a certified permaculture designer who received her trianing through Kootenay Permaculture Institute and Whole Village EcoVillage. Read all about how permaculture informs our gardening and business practices in this interview with designer/ project facilitator, Caitlin Doucette. We encourage you to contact us to discuss and get support for your permaculture project.

Managing Knotweed Organically

Modern folk tales abound in Nova Scotia about the indestructible plant that grows like a weed all over our shorelines, dominating other plants with its giant bamboo-like stalks. I’m talking about Japanese knotweed, which is a problematic invasive plant across the province and beyond.  Japanese knotweed was once a prized garden plant, which is how it arrived on our shorelines. Over time, it became less popular because of its invasive quality. There is also some evidence that Japanese knotweed has hybridized with giant knotweed in Nova Scotia, making it an even more formidable foe. Knotweed is a pioneer plant that thrives in disturbed areas. It loves water and roots, spreading along shorelines and wet areas via floating root clumps. The main concern with knotweed is that is creates a monoculture by out-competing all other plants. This monoculture worsens shoreline erosion, decreasing biodiversity and creating an unsightly brown view throughout much of the year. Read more about Japanese knotweed in Nova Scotia here.

Japanese knotweed

Many a gardener has tried to tackle this plant, only to find it re-sprouts seemingly larger than before. Some have resorted to pesticides, which only further deteriorate our shoreline ecosystems. At Earthshine Gardens, we have been experimenting with organic knotweed eradication and have found our method to be extremely effective; having created diverse and beautiful shoreline gardens in what only a few years ago were knotweed monoculture jungles.  Our method is simple and achievable, using the following steps:

1.       Cut all the stalks and leaves off of the knotweed, prior to flowering if possible. The non-flowering aerial plant parts can be used to build biomass in the area and will not re-sprout if there are no roots attached.  The green plant parts can be laid down in the area to decompose, providing valuable nitrogen to build the soil as a foundation for other plants.

2.       Dig or cut out as many of the root clumps (called rhizomes) as you can. This is the main way that the plant reproduces. These are very hard and will take some muscle to uproot.

3.       Bag all rhizomes and seed heads in black garbage bags for disposal, to ensure they don’t sprout elsewhere.

4.       Lay a thick tarp over the entire knotweed area and weight it down well. The tarp will deprive the rhizomes of light and water, which will cause them to come closer to the surface over time so you can dig them out.

5.       Lift the tarp once per month for 1-2 years to remove any green sprouts and dig out rhizomes, using the same process as above. Over time, you will see less rhizomes, and eventually none at all. Walking on the tarp once per week or so will ensure shoots break and the tarp is not damaged.

6.       Create a sheet mulch over the entire area using thick cardboard topped by brush materials, compost, soil, woodchips etc. This will allow new soil to be created for plants to establish.

7.       Plant hardy perennials or shrubs over the area. Ensure that you use a diversity of different plants that are strong competitors but allow diversity. Add 2-3 inches of straw or bark mulch over top of the area.

8.       Keep an eye out for knotweed re-sprouting and pull it as soon as possible. If possible, work with other natural plants that are establishing in your new garden. This will allow a diverse, low-maintenance ecosystem to develop in your new garden.

I recommend folks try this method and let us know how it goes.  If you need help, we’re here for you. Just call Earthshine Gardens, the South Shore’s holistic ecological land care team.

Contact us to book your complementary site-visit today.

Spring Clean-Up for your Gardens

            South Shore gardeners know well the challenges of this wet, grey season. Our gardens can be rather uninspiring at this time of year – often brown and mucky rather than green and lush. But don’t let the drab exterior fool you! Soil life is at work and your plants are waiting for spring to shoot up and greet the warm sun.

            Early spring is the perfect time to get out into your garden and reconnect with the land. This work is important for our gardens and for us! We need fresh air, sunshine and the smell of soil to energize us for the growing season ahead. Read more about the benefits of nature for health and happiness here.

Caitlin works with volunteers to prepare a  mandala garden  for spring planting   (Sage Rising, 2014).

Caitlin works with volunteers to prepare a mandala garden for spring planting (Sage Rising, 2014).

Not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered. Here are my top five early spring garden clean-up tasks:

1.      Prune trees and shrubs. It’s best to prune large trees and shrubs during winter, before they break dormancy. In winter, sap descends to plant roots, reducing injury when we prune. Spring is also a good time to support any plants that were damaged in winter storms. The exception is any tree or shrub that flowers in early spring. For these wait until fall or until after they flower.

2.   Work the soil and warm the soil. When gardening, I aim to disturb the soil as little as possible. This allows soil life to develop and maintains the soil structure and horizon. Sometimes, though, we need to turn our gardens for planting, aeration and weeding. Early spring is the best time to do these jobs, because soil life is primarily dormant until the growing season begins. This is also a good time to pull back mulch from your spring plants and annual beds to warm the soil, encouraging growth and establishment.

3.   Clean up last year’s herbaceous plant growth.  I choose to leave most dead plant matter in my garden over winter. I do this because it insulates the soil and soil life, protecting it from erosion and winter weather. Some plants, like grasses, still look nice throughout the winter, and should be cut to the ground in early spring to promote new growth (read more about caring for ornamental grasses here). Now is the time to clean-up that dead matter, composting what you can to add fertility to your garden later (learn composting basics here).

4.   Plant cold-hardy annuals and cover crops. What can you plant at this time of year you ask? Cold-hardy greens and herbs of course! Try parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, mustards and lettuces. This is also a great time to sow a cover crop to precede a summer crop, adding fertility to the garden and attracting insect pollinators (learn more about pollinator-friendly gardening here). Pea-oat mix and buckwheat are good options. Simply broadcast them and dig them in a few weeks before you plant your next crop.

5.   Clean and fill bird-feeders to attract birds, and their pollination services.  No garden is complete without bird friends! Remember to clean and dry your feeders to prevent spread of disease. Birds offer pollination and fertilization services while adding beauty and complexity to our gardens. Food is in short supply in early spring, when birds are nesting and need energy. Try adding more bird feeders. The birds will repay you with lushness for your garden and food for your soul.

If you need help with spring clean-up or any other garden and land care tasks, Earthshine Gardens is here to help. Jump start your 2018 landscape today with the South Shore’s holistic ecological land care company. Contact us today.

That said, nature awaits. Let’s get outside and garden!

Thanks for a joyous and productive first season!

What an amazing first season it has been! We want to express our sincere thanks to our clients, vendors, staff, family, friends and community who supported us this year. Thanks to you, Earthshine Gardens has designed, created and cared for some beautiful outdoor spaces across the South Shore in 2017. Our projects included designing and creating six new gardens, creating three forest trails and stewarding sixteen properties over the season.

As we move towards winter, we are winding down our field work to focus on landscape designs and other preparations for the 2018 growing season. With fall also comes time to reflect on this amazing whirlwind journey we've been on. We feel immensely grateful for the warm welcome we received this year as a new local business. We look forward to continuing our work next year to make the communities we love greener, more beautiful and more connected.

Caitlin and Guy Doucette Earthshine Gardens

THANK-YOU for helping us grow!

With love, Caitlin and Guy Doucette

 

A Child at Play: Endless Imaginings for your Garden

A large toad stops to consider me.

A large toad stops to consider me.

When I was quite young I learned from my mother about plants and the garden – it became a place where I would play and imagine. I would see the garden in new ways, fantastic and magical places full of adventure and life (frogs, toads, salamanders, spiders, bugs, birds, squirrels, rabbits…the list is extensive). Places where I could spend endless hours making-believe and creating. Burdock leaves that my mother and I would weed would be woven made into a hat, breast piece and skirt – we’d been reading Robinson Crusoe at the time and jungle island apparel was big on my mind! Weeded grass was made into a kind of hut deep in the lilac grove beside our home. Read more about the benefits of children interacting with nature here.

Old bicycle tires hung at a trail intersection found at a nearby recently discovered  midden .

Old bicycle tires hung at a trail intersection found at a nearby recently discovered midden.

There was also a midden down a field and just into the edge of the woods near our home that my mother took me to when growing up. A midden is an old trash heap, and this one was from an old farm house long since gone. It was a place of intense interest to me with old cobalt blue bottles, the remnants of ancient automobiles and farm equipment, pottery and china chunks, medicine bottles, tins with faded pictures textured with rust and the chips of old metal paint left intact, and strange tool bits from old logging work to be unearthed.  Many of these old relics found their way into my mother’s personal collection, but a good deal of them I was allowed to keep and play with.  I added these to my imaginings where they would quite often find their way into our gardens. 

This tiny mushroom colony gives a bright pop of colour, while a brush wall leads away down the trail. You stop for the mushrooms, but the trail calls you on.

This tiny mushroom colony gives a bright pop of colour, while a brush wall leads away down the trail. You stop for the mushrooms, but the trail calls you on.

As an artist and a gardener I am often reminded of those early days when I create. I look to my imagination to see a place differently, to look for clues or things left behind from the past, or for materials that can be created during the process of removing weeds, overgrowth and turning soil. I look for the hidden things that time has forgotten, for the plants that have been dwarfed and lost to other, more competitive species. I move through the space and create story, a flow, creating a reason why one would move through the garden and imagining what things a person might see that would lead them along an experiential journey.

Use the waste! As you work your gardens, use the cast-offs to create compost.  Use weeds like clover or grasses to add fertility and protection to the soil. Use stones that are unearthed for creating edges, building walls and defining pathways. Pruning material can be made into simple and beautiful brush walls, or intricate and breath-taking wattle fences and living sculptures. You might even try making a hugelkultur garden. Often the time that it takes to remove the waste can be shortened by actually using it for another project close by. Your garden problems can sometimes be their own solutions.

The prunings from these apple trees have been re-purposed to create a brush wall- no fuss and beautiful results.

The prunings from these apple trees have been re-purposed to create a brush wall- no fuss and beautiful results.

Trash is treasure (and what we throw away stays)! You may be digging around on your property or come across some of these on the side of the road: old wheels, busted pottery, brick chunks, fence rails, old barn logs, scrap metal, bottles, tins, rubber tires – essentially junk. Or is it?! Think twice about throwing it out or passing it by. Turn it into usable materials and spruce up your grounds, leaving the place that you found them better also. Old bottles, when found intact, can be quite valuable or have historic significance. Even old farm equipment can be a spectacular addition to a garden bed or the genesis of a new one to be created!

Old chicken wire becomes the foundation for a decorative wall wreath while collected bark, drift wood, stones and shells start to form the covering.

Old chicken wire becomes the foundation for a decorative wall wreath while collected bark, drift wood, stones and shells start to form the covering.

A cutting from a recent tree removal becomes a charming trail marker. The path splits up just ahead. Do you go left further in the forest under canopy, or right up a moss covered embankment?

A cutting from a recent tree removal becomes a charming trail marker. The path splits up just ahead. Do you go left further in the forest under canopy, or right up a moss covered embankment?

Imagine the space: create a story and flow. Create a story for your garden by making a journey through your space with a beginning, middle and end.  Use visual art pieces, garden music, paths, entry ways, exits, places to sit, nooks to explore – all to help lead you through your journey. Each part of the journey will provide a unique experience for all who will come to your garden.  Read more about creating flow in your garden with pathways and transitional spaces here.

If you need to give your garden some love – take a good look at it, and remember the spirit of play and imagination. Contact us to get your artistic garden started today. You never know what exciting new places and ideas you might discover!

Happy playing in the Earth everybody,

~ Guy

Guy Doucette     with his stencil art at the  Port Grocer , 2017.

Guy Doucette with his stencil art at the Port Grocer, 2017.

Guy Doucette is a Gardener and Artist-in-Residence at Earthshine Gardens, as well as a freelance preforming and visual artist. 'Like' Guy Doucette and the Shadow Band's Facebook Page to check out more of Guy's work.

Springing into Action: Nova Scotia's All-New Ecological Land Care Team

Spring has sprung and Earthshine Gardens is giving our local land some love. Our team is already working on land and garden care projects across Nova Scotia's South Shore. Our Gardeners are busy tending asparagus, edging new beds, completing spring clean-ups and starting veggie gardens. Our forest technicians are pruning apples, planning trails and creating rustic brush walls. Our designer is drawing up ideas for local business fronts, new home constructions and edible landscapes. Every day, we are working joyfully to reconnect Nova Scotia's people with the beautiful nature around us, one landscape at a time.

We've also been working hard behind the scene this month. We've created a stellar workshop space complete with a new tool collection. We've been out there throughout the region and online talking to people to share our story. Our team is off to a great start with a unique staff orientation focused on skill-sharing, team-building and hands-on outdoor projects.

Building Earthshine Gardens has been a positive, heart-affirming process for myself (Caitlin) and Guy. We are passionate about weaving experiences of gardens, nature and home-grown food into our community. Earthshine Gardens is a platform from which we can launch our creative contributions to growing sustainable and resilient communities. We are falling in love with our business every day that it blossoms and we are overjoyed to have this opportunity to nurture positive change.

A duck friend enjoys  Earthshine Gardens '  living shoreline  on the  LaHave River .

A duck friend enjoys Earthshine Gardens' living shoreline on the LaHave River.

Personally, creating balance in life is a key value that I (Caitlin) am trying to uphold. I believe that balance between personal, professional, political, social and emotional aspects of our lives is necessary for our wellness. I also believe in the power of popular education praxis that combines lived experiences with theoretical knowledge and critical reflection. Praxis allows us to create a sustainable feedback cycle that helps us find solutions to live better with nature and one another. This may sound complicated, but it is the same thing that nature does in an ecosystem. Elements (animals, water, soil, trees etc.) exist in relation to one another, and nature creates resilient systems by allowing feedback between the elements and their functions. For example, if there is a dry, hot climate over time, evolution by natural selection favours plants with thick leaves and deep root systems while selecting for animals with slim bodies and long limbs that cool more easily. The system receives the ecological feedback and makes the change. Nature is my inspiration to find balance as the owner of Earthshine Gardens. My hope is that holding time for reflection, knowledge-sharing, dialogue and experimentation will allow our business to respond and thrive in the face of change.

Me enjoying a morning sunbeam with my seedlings.

Me enjoying a morning sunbeam with my seedlings.

For me and Guy, balance includes creating time for personal projects. We've been having fun these past few months growing our own organic vegetable seedlings for our balcony, for our community garden plot at Hodge Podge Garden and for the new garden we are creating at Blueberry Hill, space graciously shared with us by Laura, who is a member of our staff team. I started my tomatoes early and the plants are already big and strong. I have a feeling I will be neck-deep in canning and dehydrating projects by August! We've also been nurturing our living shoreline garden on the LaHave river, building the soil, combating the Japanese knotweed and adding new plants including luscious Medway Moss. It warms our hearts to hang out with our shoreline friends - Spirit the red squirrel, a little sparrow called Mustachio and his mate, River the rat (who shares a home with Spirit), Goofy Foot our silly loon, our beloved Autumn duck (RIP), and a revolving cast of sea birds. Sometimes we are even treated with a visit from a sleek seal or majestic bald eagle! When we need a break from the gardens, we've been working on art projects and rocking out with The Shadow Band, which provides the perfect balance for our hands-on work in the field with Earthshine Gardens.

Let Earthshine Gardens give your land some love. We're now booking for the 2017 growing season. Contact us to set up your complementary site visit for stewardship, design and creation projects, or explore our website to learn more about our services. Stay connected with our holistic ecological land care team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as we spring into action!

Happy spring,

Caitlin Doucette, designer / project facilitator

Launching Earthshine Gardens!

Late-winter reflection at one of my favourite places on Earth ( Gaff Point , Nove Scotia).

Late-winter reflection at one of my favourite places on Earth (Gaff Point, Nove Scotia).

It brings me (Caitlin) great joy to launch and share our new holistic ecological land care business, Earthshine Gardens! Starting in 2017, we will be offering a suite of organic garden and land care services in our community here in South Shore, Nova Scotia. In our work, our team will seek to re-connect our clients with their land and provide our community with meaningful experiences in nature.

I am thrilled to be working with a skilled team including Gardeners, Forest Technicians and even an Artist-in-Residence. Our small-team structure will allow us to personalize our projects to give our clients the best service possible. Together, our team has strong and diverse experience working with nature in ecological garden and land care initiatives. I am excited to provide an alternative to conventional landscaping that enhances beauty and bounty, while strengthening the ecological value, biodiversity and natural resilience  of our land.

My spring  living shoreline  garden on the  LaHave River . We're looking forward to even more blooms this year ( Bridgewater , Nova Scotia).

My spring living shoreline garden on the LaHave River. We're looking forward to even more blooms this year (Bridgewater, Nova Scotia).

This new venture brings together so many things that I am passionate about - people, gardens, nature, food and creativity. I have experienced the immense power and positive energy of really being in nature, of eating fresh garden harvests and of sinking hands into the soil. Earthshine Gardens will offer a new way for my team and me to share this experience by bringing it to others in our community.

Spring bulbs are coming soon, I promise!

Spring bulbs are coming soon, I promise!

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs, including more on our team and services.

I love to connect so please feel encouraged to contact me. I believe that nurturing strong and resilient communities is the root of living more local, more sustainable and ultimately more fulfilling lives.

Warmly, Caitlin Doucette