7 gardening tips from the pros

Esthetically, gardening can be very subjective with a question about what looks best garnering a bucketful of answers, but when it comes to general gardening tips, it’s the tried and true advice that often gets repeated.

Whether you’re a novice or accomplished in the garden, it never hurts to be reminded of some of the basics of good gardening. Here are seven gardening tips from the pros.

The dirt on dirt

Much like the foundation of a home, a great garden starts with great dirt. It’s where plants get their nutrients and is essential for healthy growth. Garden expert Mark Cullen recommends triple mix, which is 30 per cent top soil, 30 per cent peat moss, 30 per cent finished compost and 10 per cent earth worm castings.


He cautions that there is both really good and really bad triple mix out there and you will generally get what you pay for. Not sure where to get yours? A high-quality garden retailer should be able to steer you to a reliable soil supplier.

Match it up

No, we’re not saying your plants need to match each other, but they do need to fit your yard’s conditions, says Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton. Study the conditions and space in your yard and then carefully read plant tags.

“Before choosing a plant, consider its light requirements and mature size – match this to the light conditions and size of the location.” A newly planted garden will have significant space between plants to allow room for growth.


Think year-round

“Remember to add four-season interest to your Ottawa gardens,” counsels Candace Mallette of Candace Mallette Landscape & Garden Design in Orléans. “Plant dwarf evergreens to add winter colour to the landscape. Some of our favourite winter interest plants for pops of colour are ‘Globosa’ blue spruce, Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’ and red twig dogwood.”

Remember, too, that not all plants flower at the same time or have similar leaves. “Look at texture, shape and colour when you are choosing a plant neighbour,” says Mallette. “Plants don’t have to have all three things in common but the more that they do, the better look they will give.”

The grunt work

Unless you opt for a backyard full of weeds, you can pretty much count on logging time maintaining your garden. Not everyone enjoys that sort of thing, but give it a chance – letting your mind float free while you occupy yourself with non-thinking tasks is a rejuvenating experience.


You can reduce the level of maintenance by opting for vigorous, low-care flowering plants like purple cone flowers, which thrive in full sun and everyday garden soil, and ornamental grasses, which add the lovely rhythm of movement when a breeze blows through your garden. There are plenty of other low-maintenance plants that do well in the Ottawa climate.

Power of pruning

There are three key reasons for pruning, says Master Gardener Edythe Falconer: disease, damage and deadwood. All need to be done to maintain or improve the health of a tree or shrub. Of course, pruning can also be done for esthetics.

If you’ve never tackled pruning before and don’t know where to start, Falconer offers a primer.


Cover crops

Cover crops, or green manure, are a great way to naturally put depleted nutrients back in your soil over winter, says blogger Karen Bertelsen in a recent Lee Valley gardening newsletter. Planting cover crops when you’ve harvested your vegetables will help to ensure your beds are ready for new vegetable crops in the spring.

Bertelsen offers her reasons why you should consider cover crops and some suggestions on what to plant.

Choose your tools wisely

Use quality tools to get the most enjoyment out of your gardening experience, says Cullen. He offers his tips on what to look for.



2018 gardening trends

More from Anita Murray

Originally published Feb. 19, 2018


About the Author

Anita Murray

Anita Murray

Anita Murray is the co-founder of All Things Home Inc. and owner of Three C Communications. The veteran journalist has covered the Ottawa housing industry since 2011.



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