Flowery Prose is now on YouTube.

I have started a YouTube channel about gardening on the prairies and beyond. You likely won’t see me in front of the camera anytime soon and the production values may lack a certain snazziness, but I’m dispensing some (hopefully) useful tips and showing off some plants in my garden and a bit further afield. If you’re interested, please check out my channel and subscribe to keep up with my new videos!

Prairie gardening tip: How to improve pollination of fruit trees.

Proper siting is key!

If you plan to grow fruit trees and shrubs that are pollinated by insects such as bees, consider your site carefully before you plant. If you are thinking about putting the plants in a windy, exposed site, your plants may not receive their very best chances at pollination. Bees don’t like working in the wind! (It totally ruins their hairdos). Instead, choose a more sheltered location to encourage the bugs to do their jobs in calmer conditions.

Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia) – site this small fruit tree or shrub out of the wind, if possible. Saskatoons are self-fertile, but there is the potential for higher yields of fruit if bees visit….

Do you grow any fruit trees or shrubs? I’d love to hear about them (it doesn’t matter if you live on the prairies or not!). What do you like best about them? Is there anything about them that you find challenging?

Prairie garden tips: use floating row cover.

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This stuff. Floating row cover is incredibly useful in regions where the weather is, at best, a little raunchy, and at worst, downright horrific.  Here on the prairies, we commonly face high winds, heat, drought, excessive moisture, hail, and freezing cold…often within a 24 hour period in the middle of July.  (I exaggerate, but only slightly).  Floating row cover, combined with a hoop tunnel, can be massively helpful when it comes to protecting your plants from all that wackiness.  It can also assist in a whole lot of other ways, including as a control for insects (buh-bye, flea beetles!).

One thing to know before you go out and buy floating row cover:  Don’t cheap out.  Trust me on this.  You think, oh I’m saving a few bucks, but you really can tell when you open the package that it is flimsy and a tad shoddy. You set it up at the community garden anyway, and that very night (of course), there is a thunderstorm. It’s not even a severe one.  Middling, actually.  No hail, either.  At any rate, you go in to check on the garden the next morning and your cheap floating row cover is completely ribboned, strips hanging like banners from your hoop tunnel and bits scattered all over the garden, confetti strewn in other garden plots and clinging damply to the fence.  So you spend the next half hour trying to find all the pieces of fabric and hoping that the garden leader isn’t going to show up to see what you’ve done. (Worse yet, you’re worried that she has already been and gone and is now drafting you a nasty email).

No, as with most things in life, get the good stuff.  In this case, it’s reusable for many, many years.

Do you use floating row cover in your garden?  (I know many of you who don’t live on the prairies use it, as well!).  

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Snow mold. What is it and how can I get it off my lawn?

I was actually going to title this post Snow Mold: Something to Sneeze At!  Or maybe Snow Mold: Gack!  What’s that Unsightly Stuff on My Lawn?  Way more dramatic and punchy, LOL.

I’ve been hearing over and over again how snow mold isn’t a “thing” outside of Canada (or even western Canada; I saw a comment on social media from someone in Ontario who had never heard of the stuff and I know they get snow there).  It’s quite possible that we’re more inclined to get it on the Prairies, as our winter conditions tend to support it more than elsewhere.  It’s not unusual to see the arrival of the white stuff before the ground is completely frozen, and then to have large accumulations linger throughout the entire winter.  This year, in Calgary (and it sounds like, in the rest of the province as well), we are having one big crazy snow mold party…it is everywhere!  Yay!  Achoo!

There are two main types of fungi that cause snow mold – gray mold is attributed to Typula spp. while Microdochium nivalis is responsible for pink mold.  You’ll instantly recognize snow mold because it flattens the grass and leaves a sort of pasty grey-white or pink-white webbing on top.  (You can see some good photos of it in this article). And you’ll also recognize that “snow” mold is a bit of a silly name, because the snow itself doesn’t actually mold.  It just acts as a cover for the fungal activity.

In the summer the fungi loll around and do absolutely nothing.  Although the heat doesn’t faze them, they are cold-lovers and when winter arrives, they get happy and start to grow.  After the big melt in spring, you’ll notice them clumping all your turfgrass together and looking mighty pleased with themselves.  And if you have seasonal allergies, boy, are you in for it.  Next to pollen, snow mold has got to be one of the worst triggers (just ask me, I know all about it).

So, will this icky grossness do permanent damage to my lawn?  Not usually. Severe infestations will cause patchiness, which can be easily remedied by overseeding.  To deal with snow mold, you can rake it really gently when the ground is dry enough to do so.  (If you have allergies, get someone else to do this job for you).  “Gently” is the operative word, here, as you’ll yank up your grass if you rake too hard this early in the season.  Bag up the clippings. Don’t thatch until later on, after the ground is completely thawed – this initial period right after melt isn’t the time to get aggressive with your lawn, as you’ll only do damage.  You can also choose to do nothing: as the grass dries out and the temperatures increase, the mold will become inactive again, and greening will happen on schedule.  A good soaking rain will also help wash away the problem. Don’t fertilize immediately after thaw, and don’t mow the lawn right away, either – wait until things dry up a bit.

Yes, snow mold will come back, and no, you can’t really do a lot to prevent it.  Rake up your leaves in the fall, and don’t use a high nitrogen fertilizer late in the season.  Give your lawn that final mow before the snow flies (if the precipitation doesn’t take you by surprise) – a shorter cut will also help deter voles, as well.

 

Further Reading:

Burke, Kelly. “Identifying and Controlling Snow Mold in Your Lawn.” The Spruce. February 2, 2020. https://www.thespruce.com/snow-mold-2153094