Dunnville Horticulture Society

How does snow help your garden beds?

I love watching it snow. Everything becomes quiet and the snow dances when the light hits it. I thought that was the best thing about snow, but I was wrong. Snow is GREAT for your garden.

First of all, it’s a great insulator for the soil. Without snow, very cold temperatures can freeze the soil deeper and deeper, which can then lead to damage of the root systems of trees and shrubs. Snow prevents these cold temperatures from harming plants.

Secondly, it will help against wide temperature fluctuations in the soil. Under the snow, the roots of perennials, bulbs, ground covers, and strawberry plants are protected from the freeze-thaw cycle that can heave tender roots right out of the ground.

Thirdly, snow helps conserve soil moisture over the winter.

And here’s a BONUS! Did you know that nitrogen attaches to snowflakes as the snow falls through the atmosphere? That’s why The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls snow a “poor man’s fertilizer.” Nature provides a gentle fertilizer boost to plants!

So, now when we get that last snow dump as we sometimes do in March and April, we can say, ‘Let it snow and thank you for the fertilizer’ – instead of cursing it.

Susan and Brad Emery are members of the Dunnville Horticultural Society (DHS).

      Due to COVID-19 restrictions, DHS has suspended member meetings. If you have questions or comments, contact DHS President Deb Zynomirski at debzyn@gmail.com or visit dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org.

      Note that 2021 DHS Subscriptions are currently available through mail. Send a cheque or money order ($10 single, $15 couple) to Dunnville Horticultural Society, P.O. Box 274, Dunnville, Ontario N1A 2X5.

Our garden barrel

When we first started gardening, we were in the city. Space was limited and our yard was mostly a tarred driveway and a cement deck, but we had caught the gardening bug, so we were going to have to be somewhat creative.

There was a 55-gallon food-grade barrel in the garage. Could we do something with that? To the internet! So, with a little searching we found ‘The Garden Barrel’ and knew what to do with it. There were just so many things we loved about this that we definitely needed to make a plan and take the time to create this. We found a few YouTube videos and started to study up.

Why were we so driven to make this? Well…


  • The Barrel can have up to 70 pockets on its sides and on top for additional planting.
  • It is great for herbs, lettuces, flowers, etc.
  • It only takes up one square foot of growing space, so it is perfect for someone in an apartment with a balcony or small patio.
  • The worm pipe – one of the reasons that we think plants grow so well in the barrel is the worm tea that we collect from it. There is an irrigated, capped two-inch pipe going through the barrel, top to bottom. Holes were drilled through the pipe so that worms would have access to the contents inside. The intention is to place your basic kitchen compost into the pipe so the worms have access to the compost and make all sorts of good poop in the surrounding soil. Underneath the barrel (you can see in the photo) is our juice pitcher, which is there to collect the water that runs through the soil, creating… worm tea, which we use to feed the barrel and other crops.

This barrel is one of our favourite growing containers. It’s a lot of work to create the pockets but worth it in the end.

Brad and Susan Emery are members of the Dunnville Horticultural Society (DHS). Due to COVID-19 restrictions, DHS has suspended member meetings. If you have questions or comments, please contact DHS President Deb Zynomirski at debzyn@gmail.com or visit their website at dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org. 2021 DHS memberships are currently available through mail. Send a cheque or money order ($10 single, $15 couple) to Dunnville Horticultural Society, P.O. Box 274, Dunnville, Ontario N1A 2X5.

Get Growing: The seeds of life

By Brad & Susan Emery

Happy New Year to all our readers. Being in a lockdown is never a good start to the new year. The weather is wonky, the geese are flying in circles, and we have a pool instead of an ice rink. However, what a great time to start planning a garden!

What you need to know is that by May 14, our area should be frost-free and most gardeners in our zone will start planting outdoors after the long weekend in May. But there’s a lot to do before then, especially for the gardener who likes to start things from seed.

Now, is a great time to relax in front of the fire with your favourite seed catalogues. But before you start that order it’s a good time to discuss what worked and what didn’t last season, what crops/plants to rotate, and most importantly, what seeds you need to order. Since we are seed savers and starters, we’re starting to go through all the seeds we have collected and are preparing them for planting. We are also noting the seeds we need to order.

Then we’ll start to look at our favourite catalogues which are Stokes, Veseys, Richters, Matchbox, and Urban Harvest. However, there are plenty more seed companies out there and these are simply the ones we’ve had positive experiences with. The larger companies such as Richters, Veseys, and Stokes offer some seed selections in bulk but the smaller ones such as Matchbox and Urban Harvest offer some unique heirloom selections and they are untreated seeds.

We love this time, browsing through the catalogues and dreaming about the summer season. We can hardly wait for the seed orders to come in so we can get started! You too can enjoy the experience of growing a seed to maturity, harvesting and eating what your own hands grow. With this experience you can also teach the younger generation to find passion in gardening. Just get growing!

Thanks everyone for reading. If you have any questions, comments, or any subjects that you would like to be featured you can find us at EmerysHomestead on Facebook.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Dunn-ville Horticultural Society (DHS) has suspended member meetings. If you have questions or comments, please contact DHS President Deb Zynomirski at debzyn@gmail.com or check out


Note that 2021 DHS memberships are currently available through mail. Send a cheque or money order ($10 single, $15 couple) to Dunnville Horticultural Society, P.O.Box 274, Dunnville, Ontario N1A 2X5.

Brad and Susan Emery are members of the Dunnville Horticultural Society.

Get Growing: Saving endangered native medicinal plants

It’s January! Time to start thinking and planning your garden for this year. I’m not sure about you, but we do like to look at growing species that are either struggling or not very common. We do this especially with pollinator species, herbs, and the occasional vegetable. This year in the Richter’s catalogue there was a list of endangered Native Medicinal Plants and I immediately thought … we have to get a few of these species! Now, what are these plants, what do they do, and which ones should we think of growing?

Richter’s mentions 12 different species that are available to order through them. Those species are: Bethroot, Bloodroot, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Echinacea, American Ginseng, Goldenseal, Wild Leek, Mayapple, Partridgeberry, Uva Ursi, and Wintergreen. The species that are most at risk in Ontario are Goldenseal, Black Cohosh, and American Ginseng due to overharvesting. As mentioned, all listed can be purchased through Richters (richters.com). It is quite a list, so this is what has made it to our purchase list and why:

Black Cohosh (above): We selected this not just for its medicinal properties. Black Cohosh can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including colds, pain, rheumatism, menopause, and possibly tinnitus. But,  it’s also known as Fairy Candles. It is said that the flowers even glow in the dark, and that it is a great pollinator species, so it should attract our bees.

Bloodroot: This was selected because it has a beautiful flower that looks similar to a water lily. It’s mostly the flower that attracts me, along with the bees. It’s a good pollinator species and it’s also supposed to be good to treat skin conditions such as eczema, skin tags, and moles.

Bethroot: chosen because it’s a red trillium! Although it’s used to treat everything from coughs, bronchial problems, and pulmonary haemorrhage, as well as gastro-intestinal bleeding, diarrhea, and dysenterys, we want to grow it because it’s a red trillium.

Partridgeberry: selected because we know we can harvest the berries for many yummy recipes. However, did you know it can help prevent high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and helps slow aging processes such as memory loss and the deterioration of motor skill, improving circulation, as well as the prevention of certain forms of cancer?

There are many to choose from. Research each plant to see if they will be suitable to your space and gardens. These four listed are what we’re interested in. We have bees and areas where these varieties should thrive, and we won’t need to maintain them much. But at the same time, we like the idea that we can help a struggling species.

Susan and Brad Emery are members of the Dunnville Horticultural Society. If you would like more information on DHS, check out their Facebook page or  website at dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org.

            DHS mourns the loss of member Lester C. Fretz who passed December 23, 2020. Lester was the original contributing columnist for Get Growing. He will be missed by many friends and fellow gardeners.

What you can do with a Rose

This year one of our goals was to learn more about the plants that are growing in our backyard (and most likely in yours as well), and what we can do with them. And due to the fact that rose hips are in season, let’s start with the rose. Roses are a beautiful flower. There is no denying their beauty, but there is more to the rose than just its beauty. For starters, it is used as a fragrance in many products, but did you know that its fragrance can help relieve stress, negative moods, and even headaches?

From the petals of the rose, rose water or rose oil are the most commonly available products, and rose water is easy to make at home with a few roses and distilled water. But more importantly, here are some of the benefits:

  • When used as a toner it can help reduce and soothe skin irritations, redness, and acne. It may even help with eczema and rosacea.
  • It’s been said to help sooth sore throats, so make a tea or put a little rose water into a glass of water.
  • It also has antiseptic and anti-aging properties and has been known to help with healing wounds and reducing scars and fine lines.

Other things that can be made from the rose petals are tea, salads (yes, the petals are edible), potpourri, sugar scrubs, bath bombs, etc.

Then there’s the rose hip, which I’m on the hunt for. My one poor rose plant just isn’t going to give me enough rose hips to make some syrup; and why do I want to make some of this? Well, because it’s a good source of vitamin C, A, D, and E and it can be used in a variety of food and drinks to add a little sweetness. Or you can use it like maple syrup and pour it over your pancakes, waffles, yogurt, or ice cream.

How are you feeling about roses now?

If you are a gardening enthusiast, why not check out the Dunnville Horticultural Society (DHS) website at dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org or the DHS Facebook page. If you would like more information about our club, contact DHS President Deb Zynomirski at debzyn@gmail.com.

Get Growing: Putting your garden to bed

By Brad & Susan Emery

Closing up your garden for the year is a must, although bittersweet. I love our garden, but we live in southern Ontario and we will have a winter; it’s not Florida you know. So, what to do to prepare your garden?

Start pruning back your perennial foliage, remove the dead stems, and trim finished flowers. Although to be honest we often do this one in the spring, sometimes in March, while the plant is still dormant. We do this because I’m still working on preserving our harvests and my husband is cutting wood and preparing our garden beds for winter. So if you’re busy now, pruning can be done early spring as well.

Next, don’t forget to save your summer bulbs. Best practices to store summer bulbs is to place them in a cool, dry location such as a storage room or cool basement. The optimal storage temperature is between 45 and 50 F (between 7 and 10 C); the trick is not to let them freeze. I’ve often seen bulbs stored with shredded paper.

Now, let’s add nutrition and protection for your soil. Take all those fallen leaves that litter your yard, mulch them, and add them into your garden and/or flower beds to provide protection and soil nutrition. If you have manure that needs time to break down, you can add that now too. Did you know you can use your dog’s poo in your flower beds? Don’t use in your vegetable beds, however. Start a compost pile, turn weekly, and add your dog poo to grass clippings, plant, or other organic waste, and even sawdust as a source of food for the microbes. This may be something to start now so you have a great compost for next year’s beds.

And let’s not forget the patio! Extend the lifespan of your patio furniture by taking care of it. Now is the time to clean, cover, or store your patio furniture and accessories. It’s also a good time to do the same with your gardening tools.

Lastly, protect your plants. Provide winter protection to your sensitive shrubs such as hybrid roses or azaleas.

Get Growing: tips from local gardeners

Drying tomato seeds

Introducing Brad and Susan Emery – avid gardeners and members of the Dunnville Horticultural Society. They will be taking over the Get Growing column and are sure to provide many insightful gardening tips. Many thanks to Lester Fretz who is passing the baton. Lester’s many informative articles provided readers with seasons of hearty gardens! Thank you Lester!

While most people are busy planting their fall garden, we are focusing on seed saving. We find it a rather addictive task of gardening, and due to the size of our garden, saving our seeds is a great benefit.

We let the herbs and other veggies such as radishes and fennel bolt (allow to flower and go to seed), to take their seeds for next season. Many other seeds such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash are collected while they are being prepared for dinner. Just don’t forget to label your seed collection! All squash seeds look alike once removed from the squash.

It’s not just your vegetable seeds either; I love my Gerbera daisies and would love a whole field of them. Collecting seed from them was a cinch, and next year I might just be able to start with a large bed of them.

Expand and diversify your garden by bringing your extra seeds to a Seedy Saturday event for trading. In February, the Wellandport Community Centre and the Dunnville Horticultural Society both host a seed exchange. This year we traded for some Chinese Long Beans and are so happy to have them as an addition to our garden.

Check out this resource for seed saving: seeds.ca/sw8/web/home.

Stay in touch with the Dunnville Horticultural Society via posts on Facebook, or visit  dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org.

Happy gardening!

Do seeds have a sense of direction?

Do seeds have a sense of direction?

If this sounds too laborious or if you use a mechanical seeding device, regardless of the direction the radicle points, seeds have the ability to germinate as they contain a growth hormone that responds to gravity and causes the root to grow downwards and the stem upward.

If you enjoy research, you might wish to experiment by planting some seeds with the point downward and others upward. 

Anticipating some early gardening, my zucchini and cucumber seeds have germinated in two days. Of course, this was indoors with bottom heat and radicle end planted downwards.

Lester C. Fretz, M.Sc., is a member of the Dunnville Horticulture Society.

It’s Harvest Time

Houston harvests a zucchini

An earlier Haldimand Press article (July 11, 2019) suggested growing zucchini was a good way to introduce children to gardening.

One day before Houston McGowan turned two years of age, he picked this last-of-the season zucchini from the Lowbanks’ garden along Lake Erie. It weighed nearly 3 kg and measured 41 cm in length.

For tasty frying, it’s better to harvest zucchini before they reach this size, however by grinding up this one, his mother Maggie can make a winters supply of relish!

At Houston’s young age, the photo certainly shows the interest and enjoyment children can experience in Haldimand gardening!

Called Raven, this is an especially good zucchini variety as it produces abundantly from late June into October, benefiting by the lake moderating the temperature and prolonging the growing season. In addition, the plant was watered and fed regularly with 10-52-10 fertilizer throughout the season.

Because Raven is a hybrid, Houston will not save the seed from this giant. New seed will be purchased next year.

Lester C. Fretz, M.Sc., is a Dunnville Horticulture Society member and Haldimand gardener.

Sweet Potatoes: It’s Harvest Time

Unlike Irish (white) potatoes, which save better if the vines are allowed to die down for three weeks before digging, it’s extremely important to dig sweet potatoes before the first frost.

Unfortunately, many gardeners do not grow this very easy, productive, and nutritious crop because of the perception they are a southern crop.

Because Southern Ontario days are longer than in the south, by planting sweet potatoes in early June and growing a 100-day variety, they are very mature (good size) by mid-September, although they will continue to grow until dug.

The 2019 crop has been superb – best ever!

Harvesting sweet potatoes is effective by following these suggestions:

  1. If the ends of the vines begin to yellow, digging can begin.
  2. Watch the weather reports and dig before the first frost.
  3. Dig on a warm, sunny day if this is possible.
  4. Use a spade fork and dig at least 40 cm away from the hill to prevent damaging a tuber as the roots spread widely.
  5. Remove the tubers carefully from the hill and gently rub off the soil.
  6. Do not wash the tubers. Handle carefully so the skin is not damaged.
  7. Allow the tubers to lie in the sun for the day, turning them once.
  8. Put them into trays/containers so tubers do not touch each other.
  9. Sweet potatoes are tastier if allowed to cure for two months:
  10. For the first two weeks, cure them at 27C with 80-90% humidity.
  11. Store through the winter at no lower than 12C (e.g. basement).
  12. NEVER put sweet potatoes in a refrigerator.
  13. Sweet potatoes are grown from rooted slips (not eyes).
  14. This can be done in February by placing a tuber in soil or water.
The spade fork is placed 40 cm from the vines. A green string is attached to indicate the top of the tuber. By placing it in a vase of water, slips will grow to root cuttings for the following year’s planting. This variety (Superior) has been grown continuously for over 45 years in the writer’s garden. —Haldimand Press photo by Lester C. Fretz.