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Common Q&A

1.  How can I keep slugs from eating my hostas?
     There are a number of methods gardeners use to keep their hostas free from slugs.  Like deer proofing your garden, some methods         seem to work and other do not.  Good cultural practices are very important in keeping slugs out of the garden.  Weed the area around your hostas aggressively. Clean up weeds, fallen leaves and other garden debris immediately.  Dead foliage creates a slug haven.  Cut hostas back to ground level when the leaves die in the fall and remove debris.

 Research indicates that coffee grounds around the plants and crushed egg shells do seem to work at least some of the time.  However the Haliburton Master Gardeners agree that the best solution seems to be a mixture of household ammonia and water has the most success.  The recipe is as follows:

1 part ammonia to 10 parts water.  Spray on leaves using hand sprayer

Alternatively it has also been suggested that 1 1/2 cups of ammonia, 1 tbsp. Murphy's soap oil and 1 1/2 cups of water mixed and sprayed using a hand sprayer.

Coffee grounds can be mixed with water and sprayed directly on the slugs.  Generally slugs are out at night making this solution to the problem a little more difficult.  The dregs can also be put around the plants like mulch.

Egg shells need to be washed and crushed and placed in a ring around the plant.  Slugs do not like to slither on sharp objects!

2.  How do I grow Asparagus in Haliburton County
    Asparagus needs a sunny spot and slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 - 6.7 which is common in the county.  They are a medium heavy feeder liking high phosphorus and potassium fertilizers when planted and high nitrogen fertilizers in late winter or very early spring.    They also like a top dressing of compost annually so adding composted manure.   The asparagus should be allowed to
grow into a bush after 5 or 6 weeks of harvest.  If the asparagus is harvested too early (in the first couple of years) or
too heavily too early this can lead to weak spears due to poor crown development and they may never recover.  A well prepared asparagus patch should last 15 years.

3.  What books do you recommend for gardening in Haliburton for vegetables and flowers?
    Recommended books:  
        The Northern Gardener by Jennifer Bennett.  Published by Firefly Books, March 1996.  $24.95
            This book has all three categories of vegetables, perennials and annuals and was updated from a previous book "Harrowsmith Northern Gardener"

        The New Green Thumb by Mark Cullen.  Written by Mark Cullen and published by the Penguin Group in 1990 and revised version in 1999.

        The Well Tended Perennial Garden  by Tracy diSabato-Aust.  Available at Lee Valley

        Deer Proofing Your Yard and Garden by Rhonda Massingham Hart.  Story Publishing 2005

        Cold Climate Gardening - How to Extend Your Growing Season by at Least 30 Days  by Lewis Hill.  Published by A Garden Way Publishing, Storey Communications Inc. America's Garden Publisher, 
            Pownol, Vermont  05261

    Two ideas for obtaining out of print gardening books:
    • Visit second hand books stores.  One in Newmarket on Mulock Drive, one in Peterborough and one in Bancroft
    • Enter the title of the book online at Barnes & Noble.  Than you can contact the used bookseller that has your book at a price you want to pay
4.  What are some good plants for the Zone 4 shade garden?
          Dark Shade:

 Hosta's, bergenia, ferns, pulmonaria, lingularia, Japanese painted ferns, heart leaf brunnera, rose turtlehead (chelone-this will take dense shade and very acidic soil if kept moist), cimicifuga ramose (bugbane-will take quite dense shade and very acidic soil. It is very useful in soggy areas), barrenwort, sweet woodruff (quite invasive but perfect where nothing else will grow.)


Medium shade

Astilbe, goatsbeard (will tolerate half sun to dense shade) northern lights azalea series, columbine, ladies mantle, gas plant (dictamus albus) coral bells, lamium (but likes moisture), for-get-me-nots, solomon's seal, foam flower,


Light or Dappled Shade:

Monkshood, husker red penstemon,ladies mantle, every type of day lily but there are often smaller and less blooms.  Great success with Stella and her offspring in the light shade, graybeard grass (spodiopogon sibiricus)(lovely and big), tradescantia.

Ground cover: periwinkle (vinca minor) and Japanese spurge (pachysandra) and ajuga

Perennials: Jacob’s ladder, primroses, wild ginger, bleeding heart, columbine, lily of the valley (invasive)

Climbing: Dutchman’s pipe and climbing hydrangea

For colour a few annual in pots: fibrous begonias and impatiens

5.  I have a hibiscus that has not bloomed in 2 years.  It is 5 feet high and proliferate green leaves but no flowers. How can I get it to flower?


Natural blooming time for Hibiscus is March to October.  They require direct sunlight and warmth for good blooming.  Place in a south or west window and water with warm water.  Hibiscus do not like wet feet so should never be left in standing water for longer than 30 minutes.  Allow to dry between waterings.  

At 5 feet high the plant likely needs two things - repotting and pruning.  Hibiscus blooms on new wood so if the plant has not been pruned than it will not bloom.  

Pruning:  the best time to prune is August to October but I would suggest you prune now and perhaps again in October.  This will stimulate budding and therefore flowering.  A good looking plant will need 3 or 4 main branches - sturdy and upright.  Remove any weak or sideways growth.  Cut back main branches by 1/3.

When repotting, choose a good potting mix.  Hibiscus have very good root systems and healthy roots are white to tan colour, crisp and plump.  Time to replant is early spring so need to do so now.  Carefully loosen the root ball and lift out of pot.  Loosen the roots and cut away any dark brown and soft roots.  Roots can also be shortened if needed but by no more than 1/3.  Replace in a pot one size larger than the current pot.  

Fertilize during the growing season (March to October) with a water soluble fertilizer.  Fertilize weekly with a low phosphorus fertilizer.  A 20-5-20 is ideal.  Too much phosphorus (middle number) will result in many great leaves but few flowers. Your fertilizer should offer have trace elements.  

Dinah Wilson,
Feb 26, 2010, 9:24 AM