Garden Maintenance Manual

woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)January 7, 2011

After I mentioned in a post a while ago that one of my winter projects was to prepare a maintenance manual for the garden here, a couple of people expressed an interest in seeing it (Drtygrl, Rosie...?) I've thrown a copy of the manual on a blog site - see link below... The formatting etc. is a bit messy and you have to read from the bottom of the list of posts to the top to make it flow the way it was intended to be read. I don't intend to maintain what is on the blog site, but will be updating and maintaining our copy. The chore schedule will be the most immediately useful thing - DH likes to tick off completed jobs on a list :-) so that list will get posted somewhere in early March!

The manual is very long so nobody in their right mind will read it if they don't have to! A quick scan through, looking at pictures, would give a reasonable overview of the garden. DH read it all and said it 'let him see inside my head' :-)

The CAD course I'm taking on-line through the University of Guelph starts on Monday. The site became available today so I've been printing out the lectures and assignments. I've got a lot of reading and work to do, so any editing and changes to the maintenenance manual are now on hold until the course is finished in April.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Manual

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I think I can see inside your head too woody

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 3:56PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

INK! Where have you been hiding...?! I hope the view inside my head was not too scary :-)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 4:48PM
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Not scary woody - encouraging. In fact opening your head up for others to view is incredibly brave, to boldly go where weaker souls would not dare:I like it.
Good luck with your other venture BTW.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 5:48PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

Yeah, Ink's back!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 12:35PM
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Maintenance is not design proper although it is an essential ingredient. When someone designs a pattern for curtains or they design a web site once they have finished they are done, not so landscape/garden design. How the beast is to be groomed is the missing ingredient in a lot of commercial projects and the result soon becomes evident, there is no excuse for the DIYer.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 6:29PM
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Woody's thoughts on garden maintenance have brought back numerous memories. While planning landscape designs maintenance has always been uppermost in my thoughts. It is a very important detail which can make or break a design over the years for the average customer.

My personal garden maintenance manual is covered in one sentence...'follow the phases of the moon and the swelling of spring buds on certain trees and shrubs'. Such a simple approach. "There is a time to sow and a time to reap". My instructor was Dr. Frank A. Brown back in the late 50's who was researching how the moon affects sea animals and living tissue at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, MA. But, that is another story.

Welcome back, Ink. I have missed you.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 8:59AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Nandina - the manual is mostly for people like DH who needs that list to go by. (He's retired now and doing more work in the garden. I need to minimize incidents of 'I thought it looked dead...') I can just wander around the garden looking at the state of things and do whatever I see needing to be done. DH needs a bit more guidance :-)

As I said in the manual, at some point we may need help in the garden as we age. I wouldn't trust the average garden service to know what to do when! And leaving something like the manual behind might increase the odds a bit of a future home-owner here keeping a bit more of the garden - althrough I fully expect the garden would be largely eliminated by the next owner here.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 9:17AM
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What a thorough manual! I need to start with my own... just to remember what plant is hiding where. I was, however, surprised by your mention of chokeberry as toxic - I've been eating them all my life, no side effects, is yours an unusually toxic cultivar?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 4:32AM
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Woodyoak, your manual is a gem. Just started reading so I'm sure to have more comments. For now I'll just say thanks for sharing.

One question: how will you be able to prune some of the honeysuckle? What I mean is how are you able to prune some, leave others intact. Tried this with Carolina Jasmine with disastrous results.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 11:56AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

timbu - I grew up eatting chokecherries - but knew you had to spit out the seeds. So I was familiar with the toxicity of chokecherries and planted that one in an out-of-the way corner. When I started to put together the maintenance manual, I checked on chokeberry. I found an article that seemed reputable that implied it was worse that chokecherries - of course, I now can't find that article! And I can't find anything reliable that lists it as toxic - so you're probably right that it isn't. - Thanks for pointing that out! - (It's entirely possible I was cross-eyed with fatigue that day and read 'chokeberry' when it actually said 'chokecherry'!) I'll have to change those comments - but will still probably replace the tree because I think a serviceberry will be nicer there.

This is from Ohio State University on chokecherries:

'Most parts of chokecherry are toxic to humans and livestock. Digestion of chokecherry seeds, leaves, twigs and bark by enzymes in the stomach releases cyanide (also called hydrocyanic or prussic acid). Cyanide poisoning can occur with fresh, bruised, wilted or dried foliage. It is possible for a person or animal to die of cyanide poisoning if not treated within minutes of ingestion. Cases of poisoning in livestock have been reported. However, it is not usual for such poisonings to occur at times when other, more palatable forage is available. Cases of poisoning have been reported for children who chewed on twigs, or ate the cherries without discarding the pits. The fleshy portion of the chokecherry fruit is not poisonous and can be safely eaten, although it is extremely tart.'

And from Canadian Poisonous Plants listing from the federal department of Agriculture, also on chokecheries:
'Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a native shrub or small tree found through most of Canada. Children have been poisoned and have died after ingesting large quantities of berries, which contain the seeds. All types of livestock can be poisoned by ingesting the plant material. Cattle and sheep have been poisoned by red chokecherry (Pardee 1847, Kingsbury 1964). Related species, including peach (Prunus persica) and apricot (Prunus armeniaca), have pits with enough toxin to cause poisoning and death in humans and animals.'

I really should replace the chokecherry tree too maybe but I have fond memories of it from my childhood. I will just beef-up the warning on that one for subsequent owners.

Are your chokeberries Aronia melanocarpa or Aronia arbutifolia?

Rosie - I don't anticipate a problem with pruning the honeysuckle on the north alley fence. The 'Harlequin' one is not a strong climber and has to be tied to the fence. In the last year or so, some stems have been more inclined to twine and look a bit different from the rest. I don't know if it's just a matter of maturity or whether parts of it are reverting to something in its ancestry. The other honeysuckle twines more so will be a bit trickier to thin out but it should still be possible in early spring before it leafs out, so I can see what I'm doing! I'm 99% sure I'm going to replace the honeysuckles on the iron arbour with 'Emerald Gaiety' euonymus and clematis in the spring so the manual will get updated for that change if it happens.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 4:05PM
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WOW WOW WOW! That is so impressive. I think you did a great job covering all aspects of caring for your beautiful gardens!!

In the tools section I wonder if you have ever tried a hori hori? Its a japanese gardening knife and the one tool can do a lot of tasks. I use that and a pair of sharp pruners for almost everything. I get mine on

I liked how encouraging you were about preventing neglect and how that makes maintenance easier. just dont tell my clients...they think its awfully hard work.

Thanks so much for sharing - I had to skim parts because of limited time - but I cant wait to sit down for a serious read, probably during the snow storm tomorrow!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 8:00PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

drtygrl - I haven't tried the hori hori - looks too dangerous for a klutz like me! :-) But I use the crack weeder tool in much the same way as people use the hori hori... It's not as sharp, so is safer for me :-)

I strongly believe that, when it comes to garden chores, a little work done frequently, saves a whole lot of work in the long run. Whenever I walk around the garden - pretty much daily, if not 2-3 times/day, in the growing season - I have secateurs and the 'weed stick' with me. A great deal of the pruning, deadheading and weeding takes place on those casual, pleasant WALATs (WALAT= Walking Around Looking At Things... :-) I think a lot of people make a heavy chore out of what should be pleasant by neglecting simple, easy-to-do routines.

There is a week in the spring and again in the fall when I think maybe the garden is a bit too big - but it's a passing thought that doesn't linger long :-)

I was rushing to try to get the manual finished before my course started. I know I've left some things out and will need to update it in spring after we work through the first months of this year's garden season and planned changes in plantings. But the manual as it is now is a good starting point....

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 8:29PM
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Hey woody! I read some more of the manual this AM. I think it is really well done. Your style of garden maintenance and mine could not be more different: I have built my reputation on meticulous and impeccable garden maintenance. We mulch,and trench edge like crazy to maintain perfectly neat, almost unnaturally neat gardens for our customers. My house, not so much.

Regardless of your style, the message you give is equally valid. Casually performing small preventative tasks as you move through a garden prevents large scale onerous chores. Most of my customers have no idea what we are doing in their gardens. I had one customer this year challenge the price I was charging because she felt like all we were doing was a little deadheading. We parted ways...for a month and a half and then she called begging me to come back. In a month and a half of doing little to prevent large scale problems the garden had gotten completely out of control. I could have explained to her how our constant careful deadheading of the salvia kept them blooming all summer. I could have told her how careful deadheading of the daisies helped them rebloom before we cut them back so they didnt look like crap. There were a hundred other small tasks we were preforming but I knew none of them would sound important enough to justify our presence as well as not doing them would.

I am considering trying your method in my yard since I never really seem to have the time to keep it as meticulous as I would my customers gardens.

How much maintenance to you find the brick edging takes. Seems to me that it might take as long to keep that free from grass creeping in might take as long as trench edging- at least for me - we do it SO much that it is a really quick and easy task.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:07AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

drtygrl - 'unaturally neat' would never describe my garden! :-)

Without the metal grass barrier between the bricks and the grass, the brick edging would be terrible to maintain. With the metal edge, all I need to do is keep an eye out for the occasional wandering root and things that seed in - there is some odd grass near the big white cedar at the back of the main bed that seeds a bit...

If I could get DH to use the string-trimmer every now and then to trim the grass very short against the metal edge, that would be useful. The lawn is uneven in places, especially along the ditch. The grass grows a bit taller in the low spots, increasing the risk of something leaping the barrier. Because it is not easy for DH to run the lawn mower wheels on the bricks at the top of the ditch, I usually need to do some hand-pulling of grass along that side to keep it short. It would be easy to string-trim that but DH has an aversion to that tool! I can't use it myself because of my balance problem. So I have to resort to my seat-of-the-pants gardening style to do preventative maintenance along that stretch (in spring as the grass is growing vigorously; in mid-summer; and again in early fall. It's not a big deal...)

I used to do trench-edging but it was getting to be too much work. The brick edging is probably only 10% of the work of trench edging - a huge improvement, plus I like the look of it.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:40AM
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