Some more Gardening Guru tips for springtime successes

I have some more Gardening Guru tips to share with you as you start planning for your 2021 gardening activities.

Next to irises, my next favourite perennial that easily grows in both Zones 3 and 4 are perennial poppies. As there are a few species (Oriental, Alpine, Icelandic) of perennial poppies to try, they should not to be confused with annual poppies. Because annual poppies self seed, and new plants grow from these seeds each year, many gardeners incorrectly think of them as perennial plants. Poppy species that are perennial, die back every year and the root stock goes into dormancy and then new greenery and blooms develop from the roots stock at the beginning of the growing season. Self seeding poppies that are annuals die each fall and the seeds that dropped to the ground in in the fall, spout in the spring and develop into a new plant with a lifespan of only one growing season.

Oriental poppies have tall, hairy, dark green leaves and stems and produce large flowers with bold black centres. Once done flowering, large seed pods form. Although I am still trying to a true deep blue-red Oriental poppy, I do have many absolutely stunning varieties. My current favourites are watermelon, “Plum Patty” and the flamingo pink blossoms with heavily ruffled petals. In addition to the Oriental poppies, I have added a few varieties of alpine and Icelandic poppies too. Both of these types of poppies are prolific bloomers, producing flowers continuously for at least a month. Adding these two families adds additional poppies of various bloom times and heights. So if you have a full sun location, even if it tends to be a drier site, you should try some perennial poppies if you like eye-catching and brightly-coloured blooms.


It doesn’t seem to matter where you live in the Rainy River District, white-tail deer are becoming damaging garden pests. Because the populations are growing, deer are becoming bolder as they try to find food. I live on the edge of the city of Thunder Bay and am surrounded by forest tracts so deer are very prolific in my neighbourhood and I work really hard to ensure they stay away from my garden. So far my 100 per cent best defence has been Bobbex Deer Repellent, a topical, proven effective spray that you spray directly onto plant leaves to deter and prevent deer, moose, and elk from browsing and causing damage to ornamental plantings, shrubs, and trees. It is environmentally friendly, uses only natural ingredients and will not wash off once dried after application. Most importantly it does work. I must warn you though this product is very stinky and I find I cannot work in the garden for at least a day after I spray, so I plan accordingly. Apply as directed, making sure to reapply about every three to four weeks. Keep the scent strong and current, and the deer will move on. This product is worth every penny and even though I used two large bottles this past season, the garden suffered no deer damage all summer. I make sure to apply at least one good spray on my shrubs and apple tree branches in late November or early December to deter browsing during the winter.

No one likes to weed a patio, so to make your weeding chores much easier, I have two solutions:

Spray the weedy areas or areas between the patio stones with regular or pickling (stronger acid content) white vinegar. I use a two-gallon hand pump pressure sprayer because of the large area to cover but a hand-held spray bottle works for smaller areas. Apply as needed. Vinegar is safe on asphalt, bricks, cement or stone and around humans and pets but it will kill any plant it comes into contact with so spray only the ones you want to eliminate. Try to spray when rain isn’t forecasted for a few days and feel free to spray often as needed. I find a good thorough spray lasts at least a month before the hardiest of weeds start to appear again. And now after about nine years of using this method, there are only a few weeds that come up between the patio stones throughout the season.

Our property contains many square feet of limestone patio. The original patio was installed in 2007 as we began our landscaping. Crusher fines were used as filler between the stones and unfortunately certain weeds species had begun to establish themselves between the rocks in the gravel. We added on to the original patio three more times and these newer sections have polymeric sand as a filler in the spaces between the rocks. Polymeric sand is masonry sand with a “glue-like” additive that is wetted with water after it is swept in between the stones and forms a solid filler after it sets. Anywhere polymeric sand had been installed immediately after our stone installations, we have never had weeds appear. We have now added polymer product over the original crusher fine gravel and although some hardy weeds do poke through, it is not nearly as prevalent as before the polymer product was installed. The polymer sand is a bit pricey but is worth the investment unless you prefer to weed your patio over sitting and relaxing on it.

I hope that you appreciate my tips and try some of them for yourself. I love to garden but my time is limited like most people’s so I try to make sure everything I do is the most effective and efficient use of my time and efforts. If there is an easier way to do something, I do it and hope you use some of my tips to make things easier for you too.