'Xeriscaping' can mean a range of things, from plant free yards, done in stone and gravel, to lush gardens that simply don't need supplemental water. Choose plants that easily grow in your soil, light, and water conditions, and avoid planting that which will likely perform less optimally. Whether sun or shade, wet or dry, there are plants for every condition. For additional greenery, big or small trees, or shrubs, will add all season interest, help collect snow, and will offer protection to your garden, and all the inhabitants. The less grass you have, the lower the maintenance. Natural chipped tree mulch can be used on the garden, for paths, or, you may want to hardscape your grass-free areas with myriad surfacing materials. I chose random paving, on top of existing mulch. Think outside the box – do you really want your garden to look like everyone else's? For the future of your garden, learn about microclimates and, now to complicate things, understand there are microclimates within micro-climates, and it's all to do with HUMIDEX and the NEW WEATHER.
Sun mapping' should begin in early spring. At what time does the sun hit specific areas of your property; where, and for how long? Keep a simple log noting where the sun is in early morning, mid afternoon, and again, during the late afternoon hours, keeping in mind the sun is HOT in spring, before trees leaf out. Tracking the sun shows how the light changes with each season, and how it affects your garden. Spring sun is more intense ,because the sun is low, and there's nothing to deflect it. Add the humidex, plants in a cool, NE, total shade, garden
burned, to a crisp. Additionally, establish where shade is created by other buildings/your house: Large tree canopies, etc, not necessarily in your own yard, can ultimately affect growing conditions. Note where hot spots are (against foundations, etc.), and don't plant under the eave of your house, or under the canopy of dense foliate; rain doesn't reach there, which means extra watering, and constant care. Now that you are better informed about what plants those areas will accommodate, shop for plants that thrive in those existing conditions. While doing this, consider mulching areas in full sun as these areas, in times of great heat, will dry quickly, even after a rain. Frequently, loosen the top, crusted layer of soil, to allow for better water absorption, which will help existing, and new plants (which require more attention), establish and flourish. In the 1st year of planting, tough love won't work, so hand water new plants, and let the rest learn to get by. This is not to say never water, but once established, your well-chosen plants and shrubs should adjust to their given conditions, and require less fuss.
What is the 'Humidex'? As long as there is vapor in the air, we get reflected infrared rays. The air that takes on moisture is literally trapping heat. The humidex describes how hot, humid weather feels, combining temperature and humidity into one number, to reflect the ‘perceived’ temperature. These 2 factors are a better measure of how stifling the air feels. How does a garden survive when the air feels like +53c ? This is one of the best reasons why we need to start dealing with, rather than fighting, the existing conditions - there's enough fighting against us, without adding to it ourselves. Be patient; it won't change anything if we throw our tools up in the air, and 'quit' because the weather isn't co-operating. Regardless of too much snow, and the coldest winter ever, or the complete reverse, there will be plenty of amazing moments when your garden will make you forget any disappointments. Almost all plants are considered weeds somewhere. Choose your perennials carefully, and Google that plant before you buy it. Type Zone 4 and its name; you will get multiple answers: It's not a perfect science.
As to weeds, STOP PULLING! Systematically cut the weed foliage off at the ground with a dollar store steak knife, a 'stirrup' hoe, or any sharp blade, so as not to disturb the aggressive root system. If you deprive the plant of food (photosynthesis), the plant won't survive. Pluck the start-ups of maples, elms, etc., as once the roots are disturbed, they die. If there is too much lawn, or weed, cut with a whipper snipper or clippers, dependant on the size of the area, cover it with layers of newspaper, then apply Samborski's, or your own compost, or soil. Leave it for a month; the lack of light will eliminate the majority of the unwanted plants, and any errant bits remaining, just keep cutting them off at the ground. Over time, you will (almost) defeat the weed, or lawn, and will feel YOU are in control! This can be done with gout weed, the HORRID creeping bell flower, Virginia creeper, crab grass, native anemone, and any other plant that moved onto your property. I am a HUGE advocate of NATURESCAPING but, through experience (good and bad), I must say there are many native plants that don't belong in an urban setting. When planning to buy, do some reading BEFORE. The nursery business is a multi-billion dollar business for good reason - they will sell you anything - so, you need to know what you're buying.You would shop around if you were buying furniture, or appliances, so why not your plants; they are , after all, an investment.
MYKE - not new, but perhaps new to you - is amazing stuff, and most nurseries carry the 5-year-one-time-replacement MYKE warranty on shrubs and trees. Think of the extra cost as practical, and sensible INSURANCE on your gardens' future. They won't sell you more than you need. Here is a link which will further explain the what, and why, of MYKE. Google which Winnipeg/Manitoba nurseries carry its 5 year/1 time replacement warranty. Click here for more information on MYKE: www.usemyke.com/mycorise/mykewarranty/how/how.htm
Jensen's Nursery on McGillivray Blvd. also offers a one year warranty on all their perennials (204-488-5042)! Think about it; that's one heck of a deal!