New to this forum and new to gardening

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by vancouverjessica, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. vancouverjessica

    vancouverjessica Member

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    Hi everyone,

    my name is Jessica and I have a big problem. :) my husband and I moved into a house in North Shore two years ago. The house has a beautiful garden and I was prepared to become a green thumb. Two years gone by, I think my stress level is as high as some of the morning glory that made it to the top of my ceders.

    I have no clue what I am doing.. I have all kinds of weed that I didn't even realize until my neighbor pointed them out to me. My good plants are dying and I am not sure what and when to do pruning. I have a full time job and when I do go into the garden, I am still uncomfortable with the worms and bugs...

    I need some help learning about my garden. Perhaps I can post some pictures here and ask questions. But I worry that time (fall and winter) may be a concern and I should get some help now? to clean up and plan for a low maintenance garden? What should I do first? I need a plan so I don't get stressed out or broke or worse.. damage my marriage (yelled at DH today and made him do some gardening)

    thank you for reading..
     
  2. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    heya, jessica!! take a few deep breaths and RELAX!!! gardening is supposed to be fun (even with the bugs and worms...)

    sounds like most of what's already there are perennials (means they come back every year). and that's good - it's the first step in a low-maintenance garden.

    it's only a weed if you don't like, so don't worry about that! i love cornflowers...they're weeds. still, i like them and have been trying to get seeds from the plants i see growing along the roads. i keep missing them because the roads service comes around and cuts all the overgrowth down before i can pull the seeds. thanks to some bird, one popped up in the back of my yard this year :) i also had another 'weed' show up in one of the beds this year - i left it because i liked the way it looked and then the flowers started showing up and that cinched it completely so i left it in. there are some weeds that should be removed tho (some are very, very invasive and will choke out what you do want to grow).

    first things first. it's fall and it's probably best just to get things in order and set for winter. what plants/bushes/bulbs/trees do you have in your gardens? once we know what you have, we can help with what needs to be done with them.

    if you don't know what something is, please post a pic of it. might want to post pics of the 'weeds' or what you think might be weeds so we can help you there too.
     
  3. vancouverjessica

    vancouverjessica Member

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    Joclyn: thank you! I am feeling much better already. The weeds I have problem with are invasive. 1. The morning glory from the neighbor's yard is killing the hedges. 2. The ones that expend like crazy in the garden bed and choke out everything like you said. 3. Passion flowers to me are weed. They are just like the morning glory. They came out everywhere which includes my kiwi trees.

    I am guessing I need to dig all the soil out and put new soil in to get rid of them? But I don't know how to keep/save the flowers that I like..

    I have a list of the flowers I have.. I will post them later.
     
  4. vancouverjessica

    vancouverjessica Member

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    Here are some of the plants in my garden. Last year a friend of a friend came and told me these names:

    Liatris, Saxifraga, candy tuff, snow in the summer, cedars, pampas grass, euphorbia, sedum, day lily, peonia, lady's mantle, crocosmia, heatherafter (galuna)?, lavender, viburnum davidii, chamacypres, spruce, iris, hydrenia, anemony, hosda, azalea, brunela, stocck, philipendula, hellebores, japanese maple, clamatis, cata lily (I think it's dead already), kiwi trees.(never flowered or have fruit)... and more

    seriously.. I am overwhelmed...
     
  5. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    I am not new to gardening, 37 years of soil under my finger tips... please read on.....

    Perennials are great when divided every 3 or 4 years... Kiwi needs attention for pruning,

    so go on line for Kiwi needs........ morning glory will not grow in the same spot if you burn the leaves

    with a BBQ torch, weeding is essential along with cultivating your garden space.

    Do not be overwelmed, we all learn something new at different stages in life!

    Join a local garden club, and befriend a garden enthusiast in your neighbourhood.

    Have fun bugs and all!
     
  6. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Jessica, I wonder if it might be a good idea to hire a garden maintenance company to come in and do a fall clean-up for you, because if it is overgrown the sheer volume can be overwhelming. Work with them if you can, and get them to tell you how and why they do things. When you hire them, tell them you need a gardening coach as well as having the work done!

    Then you can relax over the winter and read some books about gardening, including pruning. I like gardening magazines too. With the worst of the work done, you will also be more relaxed for maybe talking with the neighbour about the morning glory problem, and can maybe figure out a way to work on it together (there are ways for you to work on it alone too, but that's only for unco-operative neighbours).

    It is certainly something you and your husband can do together rather than getting mad at each other for it not being done! But you need to know where to start, and it can be hard to prioritize, especially as the seasons change and conditions outside keep creating a changing to-do list.
     
  7. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Trial and error is the only way to learn gardening, because often we can't identify what we have, and whether it's a weed or not. Visiting Vancouver's major botanical gardens including this UBC one [Google "Vancouver botanical gardens" or "arboretums" etc. and go to tourism websites, you'll see them], smaller private garden shows, attending a good garden club if you have time, and reading beginning garden books for the Northwest Pacific Coast will all help. Befriend some experienced gardeners. Go look at messy yards and see what the weeds look like -- then go back and check yours! Go look at some really nice gardens, ask permission if you can, and get to recognize some common non-weed plants in your area. Some of these gardeners may turn into friends. Try digging up a small patch and plant some perennials you think you'd like -- digging the whole thing would be a mistake, without a landscaper on hand. It will take about 3-5 years to become a reasonably average gardener, longer for a good one, believe me, and you should experiment a bit. Sweating it will turn you against gardening. After you have learned a bit about what are weeds, then do some more serious weeding and perhaps covering areas in which you really don't want ANY weeds with a landscape cloth [at garden centers] for several weeks to kill weeds. You'll see some gardens with this black material laid down. Sometimes they are putting mulch on top of it, sometimes just eliminating weeds. Other gardeners will intervene here with further advice!
     
  8. vancouverjessica

    vancouverjessica Member

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    oh thank you thank you.. I am so glad to find this forum for support.
    I do plan to find some garden maintenance company, does anyone know a good one in North Shore/Vancouver area?

    I will also do some reading and maybe attend some classes this winter. I hope I learn to love gardening. I think it's wonderful as a way to relax and exercise. I just hope I get comfortable with the dirt and worms. :D
     
  9. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    I am not familiar with your area, but others may respond. Ask some neighbours, too. Why not dig around a bit in a few areas and get to know some "dirt and worms", without pressure, just to feel the soil and see what's in it... the worms just take time to get to love! They are VERY GOOD for the soil, are a sign of good soil, usually, and you want to be glad to see them. It's hard when you cut one by mistake in digging or trowelling, but it happens all the time, they just curl up, there's no mess... they may regenerate from the pieces, I am not sure... Pick up a few worms and look at them -- our family has a picture of me as a 4-yr-old child holding a worm to the nose of a huge tiger-striped cat we had at the time, he is sniffing it calmly as he sits. Dig down far enough to explore the different soil layers in your garden, so you know if you have soft dark good soil on top, how deep it is, whether clay or rock or just not-very-good soil is underneath... or maybe it's coarser-but-ok soil on top and underneath; clay is a sort of slimy-on-the-outside lump of greyish stuff in my garden, somewhat like what wet clay is like that you would be using for pottery... Join your public library and ask one of the librarians for recommendations for basic gardening books -- there's one with a green cover, fairly thick, picture of an attractive, slim young woman gardener [the author] on the cover... can't think of the title or the author, but it is a standard book on beginning gardening, both flower, shrub and vegetable. This American author writes from the standpoint of someone in the mid-West, fairly northerly, I believe...

    Good luck. You sound like my daughter when she started to learn to cook... er, where do I start? Just take it slowly, read a lot, observe a lot, and dig around casually to explore your soil...
     
  10. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    unless it's an extremely large area and/or you want to get the weed issue dealt with immediately, i'd suggest doing it yourself. i agree with janet completely: the best way to learn is by doing it yourself! trial and error ALL the way :) and take your time - great gardens take time to grow!!

    it's an established garden, so the plants, themselves, can deal with/survive the weeds for the moment (to a point, that is). i'd focus on the biggest problem weed spot and start pulling them up. once that section is done, move on to the next worst spot and so on and so on. doesn't matter if you get it all done before the cold/snow hit...if you get the worst areas done now, you can do the rest in the spring. the plants will definitely rebound next year - no doubt about it!

    the weed that looks like morning glory (i forget it's exact name at the moment) is very hard to get rid of. even if you took up all the soil, i don't know if you can eradicate it - it sends out suckers underground so it is hard to get rid of. i'd say pull up what you see and maybe even treat it with something systemic before pulling - treat it and give it a chance to die away before pulling it up. you'd have to be very, very careful tho - you'd need to cover, very well, what you DO want to stay. basically that one is a 'need to keep pulling it up every year' weeds. eventually, if you keep at it when they first emerge in the spring, you'll get rid of it - it will take a couple of years tho.

    i wouldn't even worry about dividing anything right now...get those weeds situated and you can divide things in the spring.

    i'd love to see some pics, next year, of your gardens in bloom!!! you've got a really lovely variety of plants and flowers!!

    as for the bugs...well, as nasty-looking as some of them are, they really are essential to a healthy garden. worms don't phase me. crawly things do. so, i wear gardening gloves when i'm working with the soil - if a spider or a beetle gets on the glove, i get startled, yes. i don't completely freak out like when one gets on my skin tho!

    there's a ton of info on this site - use the search feature to find out about the care needed for the plants that you have. also use google.com to find more info. and your local library and/or gardening clubs. even local gardening centers (local places, not big-box places) will usually have someone that is knowledgeable about the plants that they sell.

    and you can always post questions here. everyone is really terrific and helpful!!
     
  11. MdeHaan

    MdeHaan Member

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    Jessica -
    Don't give up! I was a total novice, and a reluctant one at that, and now gardening is one of my great joys. AND I have grown to love the feel of the soil on my hands!

    I highly recommend an inexpensive, accessible book for beginniners, which is not patronising despite its title : Gardening for Dummies; a reference for the rest of us.
    Author Michael McCaskey Publisher John Wiley and sons. It is available at amazon.com, and probably at many bookstores. I gave one to my daughter-in-law, purchased at Chapters; she loved it and 3 years later her garden is looking most un-novice!

    If the morning glory is in fact morning glory, it is hard to get of. But it can certainly be controlled. Get rid of as much of the top-growth as you can, and dispose of it in the garbage, NOT the compost heap. Try to identify the spots where it is coming up out of the ground.and mark them with little sticks or something. Keep going back to those spots and work at it, not letting them grow. Eventually I used Roundup, applied using a little paintbrush to each leaf each time I saw it - and eventually it stopped coming back.

    If I've upset anyone by referring to/using roundup, I apologise in advance...

    Good luck, and loosen up and enjoy!

    Marie
     
  12. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I am resorting to roundup to kill my blackberries off. I think there is a time and place for it. I no longer have the strength to do the full on gardening so have reassesed my physical abilities and that includes roundup. A spray on a cut stem is very theraputic :)

    It sounds as tho Jess has a very well planted garden and it has got away just like mine did. I used a fellow to help me clean it up and now he comes every couple of months to help me keep on top of it. It took me some time to find someone I trusted and I did not have to check on every thing they did because they had no gardening background.

    Best of luck gardening really is a wonderful past time bugs aside.

    Liz
     
  13. vancouverjessica

    vancouverjessica Member

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    Thank you for all your encouragment. I have got myself some books to read and made some phone calls for fall cleaning. One guy came from a landscaping company who told me that I need to trim some trees (and I do want to cut some that are close to the house), trim the edges where the garden bed and the lawn meets, cut back the prenials, and divide them. He quoted me $1500 CAD. It seems like a lot of money.. and I am not sure if that's reasonable. I am still shopping around so if anyone know any good gardener you can trust.. I am not sure if this is allowed in the forum to give referrals?
     
  14. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi, and good luck with your Vancouver garden. I think the cost may be about right, things like that are expensive on the West Coast compared to other parts of Canada, and if tree trimming is involved that will jack up the cost. Just get a few other estimates from other landscapers, try to pick someone who does a person's yard you have seen and who does a good job. Or, visit a good garden center with lots of plants, and talk to their manager on who is a good landscaper. Before you do anything make a long list of things to do, to make sure the work is properly estimated for at the beginning, and he doesn't charge you extra at the end.
     
  15. MdeHaan

    MdeHaan Member

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    Janet has given good advice. I would add to it :

    * check qualifications before allowing someone to go at trees. Ideally trees should be done by an arborist or someone with some level of formal training - anyone with a truck, shovels and saws can call themselves a 'landscaper', and an untrained person can do irreparable damage to a tree very quickly - which could end up costing you a real bundle, not to mention leaving you with an ugly, deformed or diseased tree.

    * ask him how he arrived at his estimate, and how many hours he thinks the work will take. Then phone around a bit to find out what the 'going rate' per hour is in your area. When I left Vancouver about 6 years ago, a qualified horticulturist was charging out her employees at $28 per hour, plus charges for debris disposal.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Marie
     
  16. Pieter

    Pieter Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    It's the tree trimming that will likely be the most expensive, single item on the to-do list. To do it properly will involve a minimum of 2 people, probably 3, and a chipper/truck. These things are not inexpensive. Because of the dangers involved he will have a fairly high WCB premium. It all costs money and he has to earn both a living as well as a return on his investment. Your alternative is for you and DH to rent a chainsaw and a truck and go at it. And probably butcher the tree in the process.

    When you sit down and analyze it I think you'll find the $1500 is money well spent.

    PS. I'm NOT in the landscaping business, I was like you once, about 35 years ago, didn't know a globe beet from a cylindrical one. I was also concerned about spending wisely and very quickly turned into an urban gardener learning skills I wouldn't have thought of in high school. When it came to dealing with tree matters however I knew I'd be out of my depth and turned to pros.
     
  17. MdeHaan

    MdeHaan Member

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    I think Pieter is absolutely correct. Get an arborist.

    Marie
     
  18. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Well, let's keep a grip here. Not every branch to be taken off a tree needs an arborist. A general landscaper should be able to handle a few branches, and many trees are fairly resilient in any case. It sounds as though the guy did a thorough assessment and communicated clearly what he had in mind. This is not a bad start. What you might do is ask him where his work stops and an arborist's begins, and if there is any tree work on your property for which he would recommend that you call an arborist.
     
  19. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    That sounds good, depending on who this guy is and what his reputation is. You might ask him for a few references unless I missed that and you have already, or you've called someone who has been recommended to you. It's probably been done by now! How did it turn out?
     
  20. vancouverjessica

    vancouverjessica Member

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    It hasn't been done yet. $1500 was a lot of money for us at this time. I am getting another landscaper's quote and also discuss if things can be done in two to three phases.

    We just found out recently that we are expecting a baby in the summer(yah!!!!), so it would be even more difficult for me to do much in the garden next year or two. I really need to get my garden clean out and have a plan for maintenance.
     
  21. alabama

    alabama Active Member

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    The first thing I would do is take a trip to the local library. There should be something on how to trim different trees. there should be information on anything you need to know. If you learn what needs to be done you might be able to hire some young high school kids in your local area to do the heavy lifting, trimming and weeding. I have learned a lot from all the information out there. I don't think I would trim ceders at all. Most ceders are cone shaped and if you take the tops off they wouldn't look right. If they are dead on one side it might be better to remove them.
    Wait till sping then....
    All the plants you want to keep weed around them. After you weed them apply a good mulch, pine bark wood chips or whatever is avalible and cheap. Then give then a bit of fertilizer right over the top of the mulch. 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 would be fine. Take it easy on the fertilizer, not too much and water afterwards. When you water, water deep. Make sure that it soaks down deeply into the soil. It is better not to water at all than to water too shallow. If you have replace plants make sure they will grow in your area. I can't grow a lot of plants here in Bama cause its just too hot and dry. Just because the local garden center sells them doesn't mean they will work for you.
    It is also a good thing to have a succesion of blooms. Some plants bloom early in the spring, some later in the summer and some in the fall. and some are quite attractive in the winter.

    I could go on forever ...... Good luck!!
    Bama
     
  22. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Alabama I think Jessica needs some one with knowledge to do the weeding as well as she is not sure what is what. If she can aquire the knowledge then yes I agree get some one cheaper as long as they are supervised. I am garden savvy and was very careful that I found someone I could trust not to trash some of my good plantings. [I let my garden become a jungle of blackberries] Maybe once the initial clean out is done by someone who knows what they are doing then it would be easier for the kids to do the job and hopefully keep on top of it. This garden sounds like it has some very good plantings. By the way over here many of the so called garden maintenace people are of no use except to whipper snip (weed wack) and mow. Even then there have been disasters with the whipper snipper. Ringbarked trees.

    Liz
     
  23. alabama

    alabama Active Member

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    I was just trying to help her save money. It might be a good idea to join a local garden club and get some advice there. Labor is expensive and advice is almost always free. Even some of her friends and neighbors could help. Most peole who have gardens know weeds too well. Morning glories are really tough to get rid of. The seeds can lay dormant in the soil for fifty years and then pop up.
     
  24. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Congrats on your coming baby, Jessica! If this is your first, you may have lots of other things to be reading about in the coming months, and maybe lots of things to do too. It is certainly always cheapest to learn things yourself and do them, but when you are being suffocated by overgrowth and pregnant is not the best time to be learning and trying. If you plan to stay in that house, or maybe any house with a garden, I think it becomes all the more important to establish a relationship with a landscaper that will carry you through the coming years until you have your hands a little free again. I don't know just why I like the sound of the guy you got the $1500 quote from; I think it was his reference (unless it was yours) to the dividing of perennials. Somehow this strikes me as a task that requires initiative and attention to detail, which I think are good qualities in a landscaper. But getting a second quote is always a good thing, and so is getting to know another company you'd know whether or not to call in case your regular is not available.
     
  25. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Congratulations and this is wonderful. I too want you to enjoy a yard and garden and not freak out about it -- you might, if you leave it until after the new arrival, then things can be busy and frustrating although fun baby-wise. I too found the quote not bad for a comprehensive job but you might want to call him back to meet with you for a fairer quote for a less extensive job if the second landscaper is told to not do too much [now would be slower in landscaper-land perhaps] and explain the situation. He may want to do just a little tree trimming now [perhaps less extensive than some people might go for] or you can ask him if a proper job on that can wait for several years, and ask him to point out a few things you could do yourself [pregnancy does not mean you can't do some things in gardens, or more carefully anyway, using a comfortable kneeling-pad, while rising on one knee and using something for support as you keep your back straight beginning to stand up, not lifting heavy things; and a small baby can be in a sleeper-carrier or carriage outside while you work, later in a play-pen] and he could come back and do things gradually -- perennials can be divided in later years, the weeding and any plant removals could be done now and into spring unless he needs to see more foliage for that. On the other hand, we do get very upset about yards needlessly -- some of our neighbours are so neat and trim and never let a blade of grass get out of place, neatness and order is everything to them because a yard is so public -- and we try to keep up for the same reason -- some of those people are experienced at it or have perfection on their minds. A young couple busy establishing themselves and their family must not let themselves feel guilty and uncomfortable about it, aalthough that's hard to do, because that time will come. As long as more obvious weeds are gradually removed and the trash cleaned up, things can wait if other more important things are happening. Meanwhile, as someone said, you should use your library and read lots of gardening books until the language of plants and soil becomes more everyday to you. There are two fabulous public gardens to visit in Vancouver, this one at UBC and the Van Dusen garden, maybe more. I hope we have made you more philosphical -- never let neighbouring properties rule your priorities although you can often learn a lot from one of those owners if they are nice people.
     

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