Dunnville Horticulture Society

Warming The Soil for Spring

Lester C. Fretz

Haldimand Press


Warming The Soil for Spring


Canadians are notorious for talking about the weather. The delay in warm weather this spring has made gardeners wonder when the ground will be warm enough to begin planting.   There are several things an eager, anxious gardener can do to speed up the process.


The “Greenhouse Effect” can be easily be replicated by some simple things.  A very easy,  effective and inexpensive way it to use a 2 litre plastic juice container.  Cut out the bottom and place it on the soil for two days to allow the sun to warm the soil before planting.  Even before the last frost, you can use this approach.  If it gets too hot, remove the screw-on cap which also allows for watering.


In the event frost is predicted, cover the container with leaves (preferably shredded) over night or for the duration of freezing weather.


Larger areas of the garden can be warmed by covering the soil with a clear plastic drop sheet held down with landscape anchor pins both inexpensively obtained at a dollar store.  Although black plastic attracts heat from the sun, the clear plastic allows the rays of the sun to penetrate and warm the soil “to a greater degree”.


A third approach is to use an electric heating pad by placing it on a drop sheet (to keep  it dry) and cover it with a tarp.  Folding the tarp increases its insulation value.


The two photos show a plant inside a plastic container and a row of containers which has been removed on a warm day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   






Growing Annuals Indoors in Spring

Lester C. Fretz

Haldimand Press



Growing  Annuals Indoors in Spring


Growing annuals indoors may require additional window space.  Rather than simply use the window sill, the growing area can be greatly expanded by adding extra layers of shelves.


For those who have an easterly or southerly window, scrap 1/4 inch plywood the width of the window sill works wonderfully.


The photo shows how the sunlit area of a window shelving can be tripled.  Make the insert slightly narrower than the opening.  Insert pieces of foam board or cardboard  along the insert’s outer edges  to keep it firmly in place and prevent damage.


If the growing plants such as tomatoes begin to get lanky, the second photo shows how an insert in the container accommodates the growing seedlings.  Not only does this addition keep the plants  erect, adding soil encourages additional root growth along the stem producing a strong, healthy plant for transplanting.  The seed was planted in the lower 1 1/2″ of soil; the ruler shows the plants now have 5″ of roots.


The seedlings can be watered weekly with a very dilute 1/4 Tbsp plant fertilizer: 1 gallon water.  Also, be saving your crushed egg shells to put in the hole at transplanting ,  adds needed calcium to the soil which will significantly prevent blossom end rot.


For flower growers, zinnia seed will germinate in 2 days with bottom heat of 75 F however they tend to get spindly.  Using the expanded-sides-modification to the seedling box, will result in sturdy plants for transplanting later.


Lester C. Fretz, M.Sc.,

Member: Dunnville Horticulture Society





Combining Gardening with Recycling

Lester C. Fretz

Haldimand Press


Combining Gardening with Recycling


In the past, having baby shoes bronze plated was a common and popular way of preserving precious memories.  For some reason, that method is no longer practiced.


Keeping the memory alive and growing can be easily accomplished by using baby or children’s shoes as a potting source. 


In addition to saving family member’s shoes, using shoes readily available from a thrift shop is a great way to grow lovely houseplants or produce a product for resale.


The photo shows shoes obtained at a thrift store.  Because of their well worn condition, they could not be offered for resale.  So, the author rescued them from going to the landfill site!


Succulents are excellent plants which are very adaptable to such a small container.  Shown here are Hens and Chickens.  Other plants which will grow well in such a small space and minimum soil is the Mexican Hat Plant (Million Dollar Plant) or cacti.


Also depicted in the photo is a convenient way of watering such a tiny container.  This can be easily and efficiently done by using a roasting baster to allow the water to be absorbed slowly drop by drop.





Photo courtesy of Ian Steel.

Daffodils are the Essence of Spring

Sandi Marr

This happy flower signals our garden’s full awakening from its winter’s sleep. Nature has traded her winter-white cloak for a mantel of spring-yellow vibrancy.

Narcissus, the botanical name for daffodils, promise to brighten every corner with their brilliance of spring. They are fabulous in cut flower arrangements. If you are bringing them in from your garden, do not cut them. Instead, pull and snap them off at the soil line.

Whether you are picking them from your garden or buying them, do so when they are still a bit closed. They will begin to open after being in water and last longer.

Daffodils secrete a sticky sap, so cure them in a vase of warm water for 2 hours. Because they give off a sap that can be deadly to other flowers, it’s best to arrange them by themselves. (If you want to include them in a mixed flower arrangement let the stems soak overnight in water to release most of the sap.)

Partially fill a clean vase with room temperature water. Daffodils prefer shallow water. Add some floral preservative if you have it or make your own. In a vase of warm water, add:

·         1 teaspoon sugar

·         1 teaspoon household bleach

·         2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice

Stand the daffodils next to the vase to see how long or short you want them to be. Cut each daffodil stem on an angle with a sharp knife. When in doubt, cut them longer than you think you actually want them. You can always re-cut them later.

Keep your arrangement in a cool place, away from heat and sun, and add fresh water daily to help the daffodils last longer.

For more gardening tips, join us at the Optimist Hall, 7-9pm on April 19 for “The Art of Pruning: Sharpen your Shears.” Guest Speaker: Jim Lounsbury, owner of Vineland Nurseries. Doors open at 6:30 pm.  Refreshments are served and the evening is free to members and non-members. Contact Debbie Thomas, President (905) 774-3064 debbie.j.thomas@gmail.com or Vice-President Deb Zynomirski (416) 556-9337 debzyn@gmail.com. Visit our Facebook page and website at: www.dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org.





Soil Sterilization

Lester C. Fretz

Haldimand Press

Soil Sterilization for Indoor Planting


Although growing one’s annuals and vegetables indoors can be done easily and successfully, one limitation is the need to use sterile soil.  Soil which is not sterile can result in importing unwanted insects into your home, disease and weeds.  Sterilizing your soil is an easy and excellent way to avoid these problems.


Two convenient ways to sterilize amounts of soil sufficient for starting seedlings is the use of the micro wave or an electrically heated device common in most kitchens.  Both methods simply involves heating the soil to 820 C.


To use the micro wave, place 1 Kg. of moist soil in a polypropylene bag leaving the top open for expansion and ventilation..  Heat the soil for 2 1/2 minutes on full power (i.e. 650 watt). 


The photo illustrates using a kitchen appliance very readily and reasonably available at thrift stores.  This one which measures 60 cm x 30 cm x 8 cm cost $4.  Note the thermometer in the soil to ensure the correct temperature (820C or 1800F) has been reached.  Once you determine the setting on your device, a thermometer is unnecessary.


Whether using a micro wave or a cooking appliance, do not prolong the cooking as it can affect the chemistry of the soil causing toxins harmful to the plants.  Sterilizing kills the much needed important microbes however once plants are transplanted to the garden, the surrounding soil will soon spread its microbes to the newly planted plant.


Soil Sterilization may also reduce the possibility of blight.