Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Rhododendrons, Roses, Compost, Pine Needle Mulch ~ Getting Ready for Winter

Compost for the rose garden, peony, hosta and annual beds, and pine needle mulch for the showpiece rhododendrons: We're getting ready to winter at Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada! Many hands make light work, and about eight volunteers turned out today to spread the compost and make a start on the rhodo beds.

Truck-load of Compost Delivered to BRG
Most of the  volunteers showed up around 9 a.m. on a chilly fall morning, and finished edging the rose garden and started spreading the pine needle mulch until the load of compost  arrive in mid morning. 

Front End Loader BRG Rose Garden
Staff scheduled the front end loader to help with the heavy lifting, to the great relief of volunteers. The loader dropped bucketfuls of excellent compost around the gardens for staff and volunteers to shovel and fork onto the rose beds. Fresh compost is often too 'hot' for the newer rose bushes, so care was taken to keep it well back from the base and canes.

Mulching Mower BRG
Deciduous trees drop leaves in the fall, and with so many large maples, oaks, apple trees and more at the BRG, leaf litter can be a problem to clean up. But instead of blowing and piling and hauling leaves away, the gardens takes advantage of this large mulching mower, that chews them up and spits them out onto the lawns and so enriches the soil.

Mulching Mower - Front End Loader
Nothing like heavier machinery to make faster work of a tough job! The white cloud in front of the blue front end loader at the peony bed is the steam rising from the warm compost on this cool day. The large hosta bed (base of tree, left) also got a nice topping of compost. All the commotion in this part of the gardens today kept the red squirrels away.

Rose Gardens Dressed in Compost
Rose garden beds shapes emerge when the rich, dark compost is spread between plants. The compost left on the lawn outside the bed was raked into the grass as top dressing.

Over Seed Lawn in Fall
Grass seed was broadcast on the top-dressed lawns and lightly raked in. Rain forecast the next few days will settle the seeds, and we look forward to a bright green new growth in early spring.

Pine Needles Mulch, Acid for Rhododendrons
Mississauga City crews vacuum pine needles from other areas, and these needles are great for mulching the rhodos. Several large truck loads were dumped into large piles near the rhododendron beds. As with compost around the roses, so with pine needles around the rhodos: Don't get too close to the base of the plants. Pine needles help acidify the soil, as well as retain moisture and keep down weeds.

More Pine Needles for Rhododendron Mulch
While waiting for the compost to arrive this morning, volunteers helped move part of these large piles of pine needles. There are still many such large piles to be spread, using pitchforks and wheelbarrows. Pitchforks seem to work best to get a grip on the tough, compacted needles. Pine needles are not all that heavy, but shifting them is labour intensive.

Fall Colours BRG
The sun came out for a while in early afternoon, and turned this carpet of leaves golden! Shortly after I took this picture, the mulching mower moved to this part of the Garden, and the golden carpet became mulch too.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, volunteers will join park staff to help get the mulch spread, and the gardens ready for winter. This work week is the final of the year for one seasonal city worker, though the head gardener will be in the park into December. The countdown to winter is on!

If you'd like to help, check the right menu for map and more information. One fellow out for a walk through the gardens on the Waterfront Trail this afternoon stopped to chat, and soon picked up a shovel and helped spread compost on the peony bed. Best of all, he volunteered to come back tomorrow.

White Rhododendron Bloom in Novemeber
While working on spreading the needles the other day, this white rhodo that thinks it's spring caught our eye. We'll be back in the gardens the week of Nov 16. Still lots of good work to be done, and the sun is forecast to shine for us.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Much relieved that pine needles not as heavy as compost!

The work went quickly, the volunteers most congenial group!

Planning to continue to add mulch to rhodos next Tuesday.