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Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips began in September 2020 as a weekly collaboration with Email recommendations for future gardening tips to 

Society members may click Add Comment following any article, and post comments such as adding more retrospective, agreeing with the contributor, or even suggesting a correction. 

  • October 29, 2021 9:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is an update of a previous article and now includes editorial comments and links to related articles.

    I just harvested some carrots and wondered about uses for the tops. It involves a new way of eating, known as Root-to-stem eating. It is the logical extension of the nose-to-tail movement, where vegetable trimmings that would normally end up as garbage or compost, end up on your dinner plate. The movement rethinks how we cook and prepare vegetables.  I looked for a use for carrot tops other than the logical soup pot and came up with Chimichurri Sauce.  Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce used both as an ingredient in cooking and as a table condiment for grilled meat. It is found in Argentinian and Uruguayan cuisines.  I had never tried it before but found a recipe that substituted carrot fronds for the usual cilantro and parsley ingredients in the original sauce.  I found it to be delicious on BBQ steak. 

    Chimichurri Sauce Recipe:

    • 1 cup carrot top leaves
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

    Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Although not called for, I added cumin to taste. Can be refrigerated or used directly after making it.

    Editor’s note: For those of you who have not heard of the Nose to Tail movement, it is a trend in restaurants to use all parts of the animal in their menu. The idea was to be more mindful of what we consume to embrace a more sustainable way of living.  This is how our granparents and others before them ae.  As food wastage wasn't allowed; indeed that may become the food for pets and farm animals.  It reminds me of my grandparents’ way of cooking. For example, they used every part of the pig including the snout, ears, brain, tongue, organs, blood pudding (a sausage), and even the tail. Of course, they also cooked the more traditional parts of the pig such as pork chops, ground meat, roasts, and sausages.  This total usage was for their personal sustainability due to the depression and lack of jobs and thus funds and thus limited food to provide for their family. My mom cooked this way although and I adhered to the policy but with store bought food. But Sunday was my day for cooking and I'd make enough so that we'd have 4 or 5 dinners in casserole dishes in the fridge for the week.  It worked well and lessened my stress. But as time went on and the kids had tons of activities in the evening and both my husband and I had full-time job, I eventually slacked off and did takeout more often.  It seems to me that over time we always end up going back to the ways our grand parents and great grandparents had been doing things whether is was ways of eating or styles or (hopefully) good manners. (But yes, in case your are wondering, I do love and appreciate technology.)

    Related articles you may enjoy:

    1. Eating Well. Vegetables You Can Eat from Root to Stem by Breana Lai Killeen, M.P.H., RD
    2. Food in Canada. Going whole hog by Carol Neshevich 
    Contributed by Lyne Webb, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.
  • October 22, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Given the weather, you may be looking for a project that would be useful in your backyard.  While at a friend’s cottage recently, I found a very useful modification for a picnic table that I knew would benefit many of us.

    Jayne & Glen had two picnic tables and each had 2 wheels attached to the legs. You might wonder why Glen added them to the tables. The answer was that by lifting the picnic table from the opposite side you could wheel it around the backyard for mowing each week or just to rearrange them to form a better seating, or serving, placement. We’ve all pulled or pushed a picnic table around the backyard so we know that we can damage the legs of the table doing that. The addition of wheels extends the life of your picnic table.

    So why is this a gardening tip?  Because having a tea or meal in the garden is comforting allowing you to watch and enjoy your garden.

    The photos of the picnic tables are below followed by directions for making this modification to your picnic table.

    Things needed to add wheels to your picnic table:

    • 2 wheels – try to locate two 6 inch or 8 inch diameter wheels from an old lawnmower, trolley cart, or the wheels from a child’s tricycle. You can purchase these wheels from the big box stores are well.
    • 2 long bolts that are long enough to fit through both the central hole in your wheels and through your table leg.  Bolts are likely required to be 3/8” and about 4” or 5” in length.  Optionally you could use a long screw with a washer near the head but it may not hold as long as a bolt does.
    • 4 washers
    • 2 nuts
    • A drill



    • Drill the hole for the bolt high enough up the leg of the table to allow about ¼” clearance for the wheel above the end of the leg. You’ll note in the picture that Glen added an additional piece of wood to the table leg. This was due to the age of the table and some decay in the existing leg.  You shouldn’t need to add this extra wood but should you need to do it, then you will need longer bolts - about 6” or 7” in length.
    • Put 1 washer on the bolt and push it through the hole you made.  Add another washer on the end of the bolt beside the wood. Then tighten the bolt with the nut.
    • Repeat this process to the second leg.  Best to do to the long side legs (under the bench part) as it is easier to lift and move the table that way.

    Article & Photos by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • October 15, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In April, I shared a photo as I started my raised bed garden. You can see from the photo below that it was placed directly on the lawn then the grass was covered with cardboard and paper and topped with good top soil and compost. Of course. instead of cardboard one could use the specialty black fabric sold by nurseries; but, I had boxes and thought it better to recycle by allowing them to compost as the base in my new raised garden.

    Below are 2 few photos from later summer of what is now my thriving no-dig raised bed garden. From front to back, I have planted basil, Swiss chard, kale (3 varieties) and beans.  In July, I started to see weeds popping up (usually close to the frame), and those got removed immediately with a mini shovel.  Now the harvest has starting, paying me back for all the work I put in to making these raise bed gardens.

    The photo to the right shows my traditional in-ground garden (growing for about 30 years now) running along the side of my property.

    My take away is that as long as your base soil has close to 5% nutrients with living organisms, both in-ground and raised bed gardens will work just fine!  Perhaps next year you may want to make a raised bed yourself!

    The lesson to be learned:
    Work with what you have and enjoy what you grow!

    Article and photos by Jelenko Skakavac, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.

  • October 08, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Many of you may take some of your indoor plants outside to enjoy the summer.  But soon you need to bring them back in as cold weather begins to return.

    Here are the steps to return most house plants to the house:

    • Between mid -September to early October or when frost is first expected, reverse the spring “hardening” process.  This means that you should put them in the garage at night. Then every day start moving them indoors for more and more of the daytime. Note: The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts our first frost to be on Oct. 3rd. (Didn't happen here.)
    • Start to cut down on watering and fertilization as required by each plant.
    • Place plants in a sheltered area like the garage or porch.
    • Spray each plant and soil with insecticidal soap and cover with plastic grocery or garbage bags.
    • Let them sit for a couple of days to get rid of any bugs
    • Give plants a good shower and let water flow over soil and let them dry.
    • Plants are now ready for the house 

    For Christmas cactus:

    • Allow the first frost to occur before bringing a Christmas Cactus back indoors.

    For Amaryllis:

    • Dig out your Amaryllis and put it in a cool dark cupboard for about six weeks. Then repot the plant after cutting off its spent stem and leaves. By late October or early November, you will want to place it in a sunny place to grow and bloom. Blooming typically takes 6 to 8 weeks. 


    • For Dahlias, allow the first frost before digging them out of the ground outdoors.
    • Place in the garage for soil to dry out
    • Place in a box with newspaper wrapped loosely around it. Place in a dark corner of the basement or in a cupboard. Keep an eye out every couple of weeks for spoilage. If too dry, sprinkle water on the soil.

    Article by Rahe Richards, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • October 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jack in the pulpit is an intriguing woodland plant that is native to the Maritimes, southern parts of Quebec and Ontario as well as most of the southern United States.

    It has a growing habit of appearing from shoots off of its underground corms. The structure that most people call the Jack-in-the-pulpit flower is actually a tall stalk, or spadix, inside the hooded cup (pulpit), or spathe. The true flowers are the tiny, green or yellow-tinged dots that line the spadix. It looks very interesting when the cup (pulpit) is showing off its striped cup. In late summer or fall, the spathe falls off and the flowers give way to decorative wands of bright red berries. The entire structure is surrounded by large, three-lobed leaves that often hide the spathe from view.

    At this time of year – early to mid-fall – that you can go for a walk and find the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants showing their berries!

    Jack-in-the-Pulpit does very well when the ground is wetter and with lots of leaf compost in a shady area. It combines very well with trilliums, ferns, and hostas as companions since they require the same conditions.

    The plant is considered at risk only at the western edge of its range in Manitoba. Although apparently secure, Jack-in-the-pulpit is facing increased threats from invasive species, such as garlic mustard and buckthorn, which are increasingly encroaching in Canada's eastern woodland habitats.

    You can buy seedlings in the spring from various nurseries or as seeds from good seed houses. Once planted, it is a long-living perennial (25+ years) that will spread and colonize over time from an acidic corm.

    Submitted by Rahe Richards with additions from other members of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • September 24, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For those of you who took some of your indoor plants out for the summer you now find that as the growing season draws to a close, you will need to start bringing those house plants back indoors. Most house and tropical plants prefer non-chlorinated water at room temperature. You’ll find that most tap water is chlorinated.

    I find the following activities help settle my indoor plants for the winter, whether to go dormant or to continue to grow as tropical plants.

    • Collect rainwater in containers to use indoors. Let it reach room temperature and set the containers aside using as needed indoors.
    • Condition the plants for the indoors by first bringing them into the garage or any sheltered place.
    • Stop fertilizing and reduce watering, using the collected rainwater, which is now at room temperature. Don’t do this step if you are growing them as tropical plants in the house.
    • If you run out of rainwater in the winter months, have a small bucket in the bathroom to collect the cold water that is wasted when the tap is running for hot water and let it sit for at least twenty-four hours. Then use it for the plants.
    • Remember to let the soil dry out to about 1/2 inch deep when dipped with the finger or use a meter before you water the plants.
    • Give them the required light conditions and move them around if they are getting leggy.
    • Keep an eye out for bugs.

    Article by Rahe Richards, a member for Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • September 10, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Just before COVID hit in March 2020 my younger son started taking a daily walk to Patterson Parkette when getting my mail and to enjoy the area.  But as time went on, he was disappointed by the lack of respect some people have for the park.  One time, a group must have held a late-night party there and the area was strewn with debris and empty bottles.  The next week, it appeared as if someone had driven an ATV into the area running over some plants and smashing a retaining wall. Both times, he came home upset but with pictures of the damage which he reported to the city.  Richmond Hill staff diligently came out and repaired the site.

    “Why won’t people take care of the beauty around them” became my son’s theme.  If they carried bottles to the beach, why won’t they carry the empties home – or at least to the garbage container at the street where their cars are parked?

    His own home happens to be across the road from a path to the lakefront of Lake Ontario and he takes a daily walk on that beach as well.  Again, he noted the garbage strewn about.  After contacting the city, he found them less receptive to his reports making him declare Richmond Hill to be an eco-friendlier community.  The beach also had the remains of late-night “campfires” which IMHO presents another problem and a bigger potential risk. The good news – the lack of response and action by city staff spurred him to change his daily walk routine. 

    Since then, his lake front walk includes gathering and bagging the garbage and leaving the bag at the street where the garbage trucks go by on their weekly run.  He doesn't mind doing this as he wants to enjoy the beauty of “his” beach.

    But he wishes that people who bring bottles and bags to the beach would take them home in the same containers they brought them in. I suggested he place a sign which worked for a while, but it doesn’t appear to be a long-term answer.  And now, a year and a half later the beach debris is getting worse.  Ideas welcomed.  Regardless, he continues to enjoy walking along “his” beach and to Patterson Parkette.

    We all enjoy nature. But please help care for it as well.

    Article by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.
    Photos of Pattison Park by Chris Robart. Lakefront photos by A. Coyne

  • August 27, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Your hard work of planting, weeding, watering has yielded lots of vegetables. Perhaps more than you can eat or give away! So, freeze the rest and have healthy inexpensive veggies year-round.

    In the old days, my mom with my sister’s and my help, canned tons of stuff from the garden and as we got older we got a freezer for our cold room in the basement. Then we started to freeze produce.  Of course, canning, making jams and jellies and pickling were some of the other things we were called upon to do each summer and fall.

    In a previous article, you’ve read about my freezing techniques with zucchini. For most of the vegetables mentioned in this article, you will need to parboil the raw vegetables to help you freeze them.

    What’s parboiling? Boil water, add the veggies and let them boil for up to 5 minutes. Then remove them from the boiling water and place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Dry them off and freeze them. If you bag the vegetables for freezing so you eat all of the vegetables you want each meal, they simply put them in freezer bags of the size that will hold one meal’s worth and place them in the freezer.  For many vegetables, I like to freeze the “pieces” separately (aka the piece method). You do that by placing the veggies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet(s) – don’t let the pieces touch- and putting those in the freezer. The next morning, take them out and quickly put them into 1 large freezer bag because now they’ll stay separately just as if you bought them frozen from the grocery store.

    So, what other veggies can you freeze?

    Green Beans. I like to pick my yellow and green beans then freeze them. You need to wash them, take off the ends and the choice is yours as to whether you cut them in short lengths or cook them full length. I think they taste better for freezing if left full length.  Now parboil them and freeze. You could also do this with other bean-like vegetables such as snow peas.  For snow peas, be sure to remove the coarse thread that runs down one side of the pod.

    Peas. For peas, just shuck the peas from the shells, parboil the actual peas for a minute and freeze.

    Acorn Squash. I tend to bake this vegetable by cutting it in half with the cut side down in the oven. When done – about 45 minutes for acorn squash – you take them out, let them cool and then scoop out the squash and put it into an appropriate-sized bag for freezing. One of my friends simply freezes each halved squashed using the overnight freezing method for “pieces” 

    Butternut Squash. I tend to peel those first and then cut them into large cubes. To do that you can peel it with a potato peeler. Then cut each in half, and then start making cubes. No need to parboil these. Just place the cubes on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake them in the oven for some 30 minutes. freeze them overnight. Then all of them can go in one big bag the next morning.

    Carrots. Later in the fall, I will do a similar thing with my carrots, slicing and freezing some as circles (1/4” thick), and others as medium-sized cubes. How does one make these cubes? Make large carrot sticks then cut the carrot lengthways at least twice so it is quartered. Then hold the quarters together to chop them into pieces, aka cubes.  For carrots, you will need to parboil for 3 (for pieces) to 5 (for circles) minutes. Some of these will be added to soup when it is made. And some will become carrots as a side dish for dinner.  Only need a few at a time? Use the piece method to freeze them!

    Corn. Cook corn on the cob as you normally would. Let it cool. Then slice off the kernels.  Bag the kernels in smaller “per meal” bags and freeze them.

    Tomatoes. If I have too many tomatoes, I do parboil them; but, just for 1 to 2 minutes. You aren’t cooking them; you just want the skin to loosen.  You puncture the skin with a knife and the skin will very easily peel off. Add some little bit of salt and package enough in each small bag for freezing for a family meal. Cherry tomatoes can simply be washed, dried, and frozen in bags using the piece method.

    I don’t freeze onions, peppers, or celery.  But you can grill peppers, take off the skin and freeze them with added oil and spices. Or if you only have a few, then jar then with oil and spices. The jars can be good in the fridge for a few weeks. Bananas - as they begin to get too mature, mash them up, mix in a squirt of lemon juice and freeze them to make banana loaves in the winter!  Fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries – wash them a couple of times, gently pat them dry with a paper towel, then freeze them using the piece method. Other fruits, like apples, plums, apricots, bananas, etc. – consider drying them for snacks.  Kale – most folks I talk with say they tend to cook them up as a part of a soup - such as Potato and Leek soup. Check that out with other ideas at this link.

    There are lots of ways to preserve your summer yield of vegetables and fruit for healthier, low-cost food that is available directly from your freezer!

    Article by Doreen Coyne, Photo by Jennifer Pyke, members of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.

  • August 20, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    You planted the seeds and seedlings.  You nurtured them. They grew and now are producing the fruits of your labour. Actually, the “Vegetables” of your labour.  And there’s a lot of them! It may seem they are bigger than normal!  I “blame” that on the great Worm Casting Compost that our Society sold in May and June which was spread throughout my veggie gardens and sprinkled across my flower beds.  It worked very well.

    But what to do with all the vegetables? I can’t eat them all, especially the zucchini!  And I’ve already given some away to family and friends.  What’s left to do with them?  Freeze them!  It is an excellent way to preserve the colour, taste and texture of your harvested vegetables.  I have a lot of Zucchini right now. Here’s what I’ve done with it.

    Soup and pasta starter kits.
    In July the zucchini started to really grow! I spent time one Friday afternoon cooking up 3 rather large zucchini with onions.  I started by adding some olive oil to the pan, and added a large diced onion, cooking it on medium high for a short time. Then I added the larger diced zucchini pieces. I did this in 3 batches – one per zucchini.  I could have done them all at once in a stewing pot but I find it easier to handle them one at a time. I find I get less moisture in the mix which needs to “cooked out” to ensure my mixture is thicker. After I added the zucchini I added seasoning – oregano, pepper, and “Tex Mex” (It can found in most grocery stores). After stirring in the spices, I turned the stove element down to “2” (low).  After about 15 to 20 minutes, it was done. Then I placed the mixture in small containers – each enough for one soup or pasta dinner - and put them in the freezer overnight.  The next morning, I easily took those out of their containers and placed the “chunks” all in one large freezer bag.  Now I have 8 "chunks" of soup and pasta sauce as starter kits for winter meals.

    Above is a photo of the zucchini, onion mix with 2 of them out of the bag so you see them better. For beef barley soup, I cook with chopped carrot pieces and browned hamburger then add the defrosted starter mixture.  After that the only thing to add to make the soup is rinsed barley, a can of tomato pieces with some tomato paste or puree, and some additional spices such as garlic, pepper, oregano, about a half litre of water and/or beef broth, and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes and you have enough soup for several lunches.

    Zucchini/Tomato Side dish.  

    In August, I make the starter kits but now I add the newly ripened tomatoes. These make a zucchini, tomato, and onion mix for usage as a side dish for winter meals. Or you can use these for spaghetti sauce. The process is similar to the last one except after onions and zucchini start to soften, I add the tomato pieces from the larger tomatoes or the plum tomatoes (less acid) growing in my garden.  Stir them all together with some seasonings; turn them down with the lid slightly off to help this mixture reduce. It will need to cook longer to get rid of the moisture content. Below is a photo of the zucchini, tomato, onion mix which were put into individual bags just to show you another way to freeze these. This is great over mashed or baked potatoes for a very filling meal or side dish. But it is equally good on its own as a side dish.  My brother adds eggplant to his for a ratatouille-like dish which when ready to eat he tops with bread crumbs and some mozzarella.

    BBQed zucchini.  

    Sounds delicious, doesn't it?  And it is. I picked 2 more zucchinis, washed their outsides then cut them in half down the length of the vegetable. I took out the seeds (a personal choice not a necessity), and barbecued them with a bit of olive oil on the cut sides! Turn these a few times when grilling.  You could do thick zucchini rounds or semi-circles by cutting the zucchini across its length and discarding the very top and bottom pieces. If you are going to eat them right away cook until tender. If freezing them, cool them off before putting them on parchment for the freezing process described previously.  When you go to use them, put as many as you need on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Place in the oven to heat up. Cook them long enough to thaw them and get their internal temperature right and then top with tomato sauce and cheese and melt that in. Given you are cooking from frozen, these should take about 20 to 40 minutes in the oven – depending on the thickness of your slices or if you bake complete halves. This makes yet another very tasty side dish.

    Of course, you could always make zucchini bread or chocolate zucchini loaves! Yum. Yum.  Or use them as my daughter does by spiralizing zucchini to replace lasagna noodles!


    Article and photos by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.

  • August 13, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I just harvested some carrots and wondered about uses for their leafy tops.  Here’s what I learned.  Root-to-stem eating is the logical extension of the nose-to-tail movement, where vegetable trimmings that would normally end up in the bin, end up on the plate. The movement rethinks how we cook and prepare vegetables.  Reminds me of the adage “Waste not, want not!”

    I looked for a use for carrot tops other than the logical soup pot and came up with Chimichurri Sauce.  Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce used both as an ingredient in cooking and as a table condiment for grilled meat. It is found in Argentinian and Uruguayan cuisines.  I had never tried it before but found a recipe that substituted carrot fronds for the usual cilantro and parsley ingredients in the original sauce.  I made it myself and found it to be delicious on BBQ steak.  You may want to give it a try now that carrots are ready for harvesting. 

    Here’s the Recipe:


    • 1 cup carrot top leaves
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

    How to Make

    Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  You can add cumin to taste, if desired.  ENJOY!  
    This freshly made sauce lasts 2 to 3 weeks when refrigerated.

    Submitted by Lyne Webb, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

Member of the Ontario Horticultural Association

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