Garden Update: Street Garden and Roof

This week has been a frenzy of cleaning, selecting plants and planting. As hard as I try, I’ve got perpetual dirt-under-the-nails. I should have thought to take a picture to show what I mean.


I haven’t been up to much in the side/street garden (it really needs a name) so I’ll start there. Earlier in the week I transplanted a hyssop that used to take up residence in one of the planter boxes on the deck. Today I moved a big bunch of anise-hyssop that sprouted in one of the large containers on the deck. Now it can spread itself all around the street garden. That’s okay cause it’s a native that can withstand drought and attracts lots of beneficial insects to the garden. I’ve got my own mini version of The Clash of the Titans happening down there.

And speaking of titans, the plume poppy is up to it’s usual tricks. It’s massive and growing fast! I have already pulled out a bunch and have tried transplanting some into containers and the large planter boxes on my deck. I am discovering that plume poppies do not like to be transplanted. All the leaves are dying back, however the roots underneath the soil are good and new leaves are slowly poking through the surface. I decided they would be good in the planter boxes because they’re tall and hardy and will provide good screening and pretty tropical-look foliage once established. I don’t know why I didn’t try this sooner. This morning when I was out taking photos, I discovered a pigeon living underneath the dense plume poppy foliage. See, it’s not all bad.

The wild rose bush I planted last year seems to have attracted a healthy colony of aphids. The plant looks good, has grown quite large (I’m thinking it’s time for a trellis), and is producing lots of flower buds. But the aphids! The horror! I’m not freaked out much by bugs but you should have seen how thick they were along some stems. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. They were like teeny, tiny, evil robots of destruction, making their way over a densely packed spread of shivering green and red bodies searching for a position with stem contact. Yikes. I first discovered this last weekend on the way out for lunch and vowed (shaking fists at the sky) to get to it the next day. Thankfully, it rained overnight and that washed off a good many of them. This week I have been going out daily to wash them off followed by a douse of my herbal buzz spray concoction (it’s in the book). I was pleased to discover that year-old herbal bug tea still smells okay — which is good since the wind shot some of it back at me. As predicted nothing else in the garden has any sort of bug infestation — just the roses. In fact most of the plants around the roses are insect repellents, but those crafty aphids still managed to find their way to the gold.

The soil is terrible on that side of the garden (the new side) and I’m sure that’s not exactly helping the roses fight the good fight. The plants look healthy but one look at the soil tells me otherwise…. I really need to add more amenders to that side and add two more bags of mulch to the entire garden. Weeds are coming up faster than I can pull them in certain spots and the soil on the newer side is just sadly lacking in decent organic content. I used up all the compost in containers so I’m going to have to buy some.

What else is happening:

  • I fixed the fence and extended it slightly. I ran out of branches before I could cover the entire garden. Oh well.
  • The irises are in full bloom. It looks like someone stepped on a few but so far an entire section has not been destroyed, unlike last year. I even had enough to cut a bunch to enjoy indoors. Also see wild dwarf iris.
  • The Euphorbia is in bloom. I cut some of these to bring indoors as well. This one emits a sappy secretion so burn with a flame (I used a lighter) before placing in water.
  • Planted the Nicotiana I bought at the Parkdale Plant Sale before we left for New York. I saved some for the deck too. They get really big and lush but the night-time blooming habit means I must have some on the deck in order to enjoy the flowers.
  • Peony is in action.
  • Purple Smoke Bush seems to be making a comeback after being stepped on last year. Someone cracked the main stem right where the large stems join. Special thanks and shout-outs once again to the drunken idiots who see the garden as a handy place to urinate on their way from the bar.

And now moving on to the deck:

First there was the cleanup. That’s boring stuff so I won’t bother. I decided to do as little as possible before leaving for New York because I worried that plants would not survive in my absense. Unfortunately a few of the alpines I purchased at the Parkdale Plant Sale did not make it. A cosmos I bought as a prop for a television appearance was eaten by an animal. And speaking of plants eaten by animals, an unknown mammal is back at it again this year. It could be a squirrel or a raccoon since they are the only culprits around here. I have yet to see either on the deck but am left every morning with the remnants of a disaster. Okay I’m exaggerating because anything they tend to be interested in that I have covered with a chicken wire or plastic bottle cloche has been left untouched. However, some plants that were not covered have been either completely eaten (a newly planted sedum. Who knew? They never go for this!), or partially eaten (lavender, sage).

A bunch of containers are yet to be planted up, and with this Sunday’s Herb Fair at Harbourfront I expect to have a lot more planting to do, but here are some photos of finished projects.

  • Fire escape planter box – I can’t technically call this a succulent box anymore because I added an english lavender this year. It looked really good two days ago before the unknown mammal ate half the lavender and crushed a few of the large sedum stems. A cloche now protects the remaining lavender.
  • Some veggies – There are more but here’s a big cluster of containers. Here you can see (clockwise): black cherry tomato, lemon thyme, rosemary, purple beauty pepper, purple tomatillo, lemon cucumber, green sausage tomato, silver fir tree tomato, and another tomatillo.
  • Cart full of plants – I picked these up yesterday from Colette of Urban Harvest at the Dufferin Grove Farmer’s Market. These include the purple tomatillos, all the tomatoes I listed above, two basil varieties, peppers (and more than listed above), and lemon and tangerine marigolds. The marigolds are really cool. They have feathery foliage and really do taste like lemons and tangerines. In fact I’d say they taste a lot like citrus peels. Definitely not your average, boring marigolds.
  • More plantsMrs. Burns lemon basil, red rubin basil (I think), dill, a striped german tomato I got from a friend at a party last weekend.

More News:

- A bunch of us from the Toronto YGG group are meeting up at the Herb fair this Sunday at noon for a plant geekery field trip. Anyone in the area is welcome to join us.

- I’ve begun posting about my trip to New York over here. I am also keeping a general book-related journal here.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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2 thoughts on “Garden Update: Street Garden and Roof

  1. The aphids are a big problem for roses. After the aphids, come the ants looking for the nice juices left behind the aphids — uhhh bigger problems then!!! Little bit of dish washing liquid and water in a spray bottle works wonders on the aphid problem, thus NO ants later. But for ants, use coffee grinds (they hate the caffine)! Give it a try …

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