Spring has Arrived in Vancouver – it’s time to apply a spring mulch

Spring has arrived early this year in Vancouver. The perennials are starting to peek above the soil, buds are getting ready to burst, and yes, weeds are already upon us. These signs tell us that the growing season has begun, and with that, it’s a great time to apply a spring mulch to garden beds.


What is Mulching?

When we talk about mulching a garden bed, it basically means applying a layer of some sort of organic (living) or inorganic material to the soil on our garden beds. There are several reasons why it’s important to apply mulch to garden beds:

  • To retain moisture: as the temperature heats up in the coming months, moisture in the soil will evaporate. To keep that moisture close to the plant roots, we can add a layer of mulch that will reduce evaporation.
  • To maintain/modify temperature: mulch can be used to keep roots cool in summer and protected from low temperatures in winter
  • To suppress weeds: to decrease germination, and make them easier to pull out if they do take hold
  • To add nutrients to the soil
  • To improve the soil tilth or workability

Choosing a Mulch

There are lots of options available for choosing a mulch. As with a lot of tasks in the garden, I think it’s important to ask yourself what your goal or purpose is – why do you want to mulch your garden beds? Do you want to feed your yearly crop of organic vegetables? Do you want to spend less time on your knees pulling weeds? Or do you want to have a beautiful show of blooms on your flowering shrubs and perennials? When you know what you are trying to achieve, you can go about choosing a mulching material. For instance, if you are choosing a mulch for your small organic vegetable bed, your choice will be quite different than if mulching large garden beds in order to suppress weeds.

Here in Vancouver, some of the organic materials that are easily available include composted bark mulch, mushroom compost, homemade garden compost, leaves, composted manure, arborist’s chips, newspaper, and worm compost.

Some Examples


In the garden bed above, wood chips have been used as a mulch. In this bed, the main purpose of the mulch is probably weed suppression. It’s important to know that as wood chips break down they rob some soil nitrogen, and therefore compete with plants for nutrients. However, in this bed, low cost and weed suppression have most likely been the most important factors in choosing a mulch.



In the bed on the left, leaves from the trees above have been left on the bed as a mulch. Fine textured leaves are fine to use as a mulch. Larger leaves or leathery leaves should be shredded when dry before putting on beds. When used as a mulch leaves can return valuable nutrients to the soil.

Contact us at Growing in the Garden if you would like us to apply your spring or fall mulch.




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Chewed up lawn? Could be Chafer Beetle Damage

This is the time of year when landscapers aerate and power rake clients’ lawns. Those litttle plugs that the aerator leaves behind can leave lawns looking a little unsightly for a few weeks, but the health of the lawn is improved by allowing more air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots.

What about the other unsightly lawn damage that we are seeing in Vancouver at this time of year? Lawns that look like they have been torn up by some heavy-duty machinery then left for dead most likely have an infestation of Chafer Beetle. Here’s a photo of Chafer damage on a Kitsilano lawn this week.


While many homeowners think that crows and racoons are responsible for the damage, they are really just foraging an already damaged lawn for a free meal of juicy chafer beetle grubs. I have seen quite a few of these grubs in the soil and in lawns in gardens around Kitsilano this winter and at the monent they are big and fat! Great for hungry crows and other critters.

So what is the Chafer Beetle doing to lawns?

Females lay eggs in lawns in June and July. As the grubs hatch from the eggs in the following weeks, they start to feed on grass roots, feeding right through the winter until the following spring. Their feeding leaves grass lying loose, without its roots to anchor it to the soil. Crows, racoons and skunk easily rip up the rootless grass to get at the grubs. This cycle continues until the grubs pupate and emerge as adults in the summer, and the cycle begins again.

What can be done about Chafer Beetle damage?

As with many pest infestations that affect our garden plants and soil, there is no quick-fix solution for Chafer Beetle damage. In previous years, I have seen many lawns with netting over the lawn, or  CD’s stuck in the lawn. While these can work in scaring away birds and racoons, they don’t deal with the actual problem which is the grubs eating the roots. In fact, by preventing the birds and raccons from eating the grubs we are stopping them from providing a free pest control service. The only control that is allowed in Vancouver, which has a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides, is the use of nematodes. When added to the lawn during a brief window of time in July these parasites burrow into the body of the chafer beetle grub and kill them. Here’s a video of my collegaue, Maria Keating at City Farmer, explaining how to apply the nematodes.

Nematodes are available in garden stores in early July. Often you will need to add your name to a list as supplies can be limited. If you would like us at Growing in the Garden to apply nematodes to your lawn, please contact us.

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Children’s Gardening Workshops 2015

I will be running a series of children’s gardening workshops at City Farmer in Kitsilano starting this spring.The workshops will give kids the chance to learn about nature hands-on, at City Farmer’s organic demonstration garden in Kitsilano.

Children will learn about the lifecycle of the garden in six workshops running from Spring to Fall:

  • Sunday May 10th – Spring Planting
  • Sunday June 7th – Worms in the Garden
  • Sunday July 5th – Bugs and Bees
  • Sunday August 9th – Flowers
  • Sunday Sept 13th – Fall Harvesting
  • Sunday October 4th – Putting the Garden to Bed and Seed Saving

Workshops run from 9.30am – 11.00am. $20 per workshop or $100 for all six. Contact City Farmer at 604 736 2250 to register.

Childrens Workshops

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Forsythias are Blooming in Vancouver

forsythiaWe are experiencing an early spring in Vancouver this year. After what always seems like a long, wet winter, it is lovely to see the first signs of spring. In Vancouver, one of the first signs is the beautiful bright yellow blooms of Forsythia. That we go from having very little colour in the garden to having such vibrant yellow is a real awakener for the senses.

The arrival of Forsythia’s blooms is more than just some welcome colour at the end of winter; it’s an important indicator for some important gardening tasks. Here in Vancouver, when we see the Forsythia in bloom, we know it’s time to prune our roses. More specifically, it’s time to prune our Hybrid Tea and floribunda roses.

The timing of pruning roses is important: prune too soon and you risk losing new spring buds to a late frost, prune too late and you will lose all important sap that has already started circulating around the plant to kick-start the season’s growth. So, if you have noticed those beautiful yellow blooms in gardens in your area, it’s time to get out your pruners.

Not sure how to prune roses?

Here’s an easy read article on how to prune roses. Here’s a short video of a gardener pruning a rose. The quality of the video isn’t the best, but the gardener gives a good, basic overview of how to approach pruning.

Still not sure how to prune your roses in Vancouver? Contact us at Growing in the Garden to find out about our garden maintenance services.

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