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Garden & Horticultural SocietyBeautifying Richmond Hill since 1914

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. 

  • December 17, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It’s that time of year that we get a new Richmond Hill Waste Management Guide in the mail.  When it arrives, I go through it and mark my pickup weeks for garbage pickup days, double garbage days, start and stop of lawn waste pickup, and of course, Christmas tree pickup dates.

    From the City of Richmond Hill's website and their handy guide, Christmas trees will be collected the weeks of January 3 and 10 in 2022 on your regular collection day of those weeks. There are some regulations on the tree before it can be picked up.

    - Maximum height per tree is 2metres (7 feet.)
    - Remove all decorations and nails.
    - Place the tree at the curb by 7 am. I’m not sure who they think wakes up that early just to put garbage out; but like us, they have hopes and dreams.

    Note that even if you do meet those criteria, it will not be picked up if your tree is left on top of a snowbank, stuffed in a bag, or frozen into the snow. Makes sense.

    If you had an artificial tree that you no longer want, it can be donated to a thrift store, taken to a waste depot (ex. Bloomington Yard Waste Depot) or left at your curb to be collected as a garbage item.

    Last year we published an article on not throwing out your live tree; but rather, using the live tree to benefit nature throughout the winter in your backyard.  It was titled “Put Your Christmas Tree to Work this January” and written by Debbie Coleman. It’s an interesting article. Please read the full story.

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

  • December 03, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Did you make too much for the Holidays?  Or perhaps you just can’t eat the baked goods you bought before they start to spoil.  I freeze most of my excess produce but also find a need to freeze a lot of baked goods such as muffins, cookies, bagels, dessert loaves, bread, and more.  And of course, cooking for one isn’t much fun so I make food for the family and then freeze the remaining 3 portions for future meals!

    This article focuses on baked goods which we all like to have on hand for the Holidays!

    COOKIES:  When I bake cookies, I think “now that I’ve heated the oven, I might as well make 8 to 12 dozen cookies.”  They all freeze very well. And it is nice to have things at the ready when company pops over. It is also nice to have a variety of cookies on hand for your visitors to choose from. This is especially true around the holiday season. Once I start to bake cookies, I typically bake chocolate chip, double chocolate, ginger molasses, and oatmeal raisin. And if it is Christmas, then my Mom’s famous Christmas Cane cookies are also made!

    MUFFINS: I tend to buy muffins from the grocery store. But I just can’t make it through a carton of 6 large muffins before they mould. I love them for breakfast and typically buy 2 cartons if not making them from scratch. So, after I buy them, I move 3 of the first flavour into the second container and vice versa.  This gives me 6 muffins - of 2 different flavours in each container.  One container goes into the freezer. As well 3 from the second container go into a Ziploc bag and placed into the freezer. The other 3 are left to eat over the next 6 to 8 days. Now I have muffins for the next month. When I do make them, I use mini-muffin pans so I get tons of “two-bite” muffins.  I keep 8 to 10 of those out and the rest go in a Ziploc in the freezer.



    BREAD & LOAVES: The next week, I may prefer homemade bread! Once it is made by me, my younger son, or a dear friend, I can freeze it as is, if it is not a large loaf. But otherwise, I prefer to cut it into 2 or 3 pieces depending on its size. I place a couple of pieces of parchment paper between the pieces and freeze them together in a bag. A friend of mine slices the loaf and freezes 2 to 4 slices in each freezer bag.  Another friend does the same for loaves that she makes or receives from friends.

    BAGELS: I do enjoy bagels either buttered or with cream cheese. So, I buy a sleeve of 6 to 8 of them – no, I’ve never made bagels. I put 2 of them into a small Ziploc bag in the fridge. The rest are left in the package and frozen.  I find a sharp knife inserted between two frozen bagels breaks them apart easily. Then I take it out and put it directly in the toaster oven to brown.  A safer technique would be to place parchment paper between each bagel so they can be removed one at a time.

    If you don’t like to bake, you can have that homemade taste by shopping at Holiday bazaars which often include bake sales and “cookie walks”.  You can also do this by buying economical containers of dough from companies like MacMillan’s which taste very good and are baked at home.  Or for some items, simply buy baked goods from that section of your favourite bakery or grocery store. 

    Perhaps I should mention that I have a small machine (a FoodSaver) that draws the air out of freezer bags of food to be frozen. Not a necessity but allows you to keep things longer in the freezer without freezer burn.

    This article is a part of a series.  You may enjoy reading these additional articles on freezing food
    Too Many Vegetables from your Garden?  Read this article.
    More Veggies to Freeze.  Read the article.

    Article and photos by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society
  • November 26, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At this time of year, many of us are looking to get rid of the last of the fallen leaves and to ensure our costly trees and shrubs survive the winter.  A series of articles written last year at this time will be very useful to you. Below are their titles, brief intro, and a link to the full story.  Enjoy.

    Wrapping trees & shrubs for Winter.  You may recall seeing trees and shrubs wrapped up in burlap as you drive through a residential area. over the years, I’ve seen fewer of these and began to wonder why people do it and others don’t.  Read the full story.

    To Rake or Not to Rake.  The leaves have fallen and this past weekend most of my neighbours were raking leaves and piling them into yard waste bags. This week’s garbage pickup will require a lot of heavy lifting by the waste management crew to get all those bags, that now so neatly line the curb, up and into their trucks. But they make great compost so why are you wasting time raking?  Read the full story.

    More About Lawns and LeavesI had some people ask me to provide some follow-up information to the article on raking lawns.  This article addresses questions such: Can we to run the lawn mower over the leaves? Can I leave my leaves on my lawn?  Read the full story.

    Leaf Blowers – good or bad?  This article reports the benefits and issues with leaf blowers.  I hope to arm you with information that helps you make a better decision for yourself and your neighbours. Indeed, the issues with Leaf Blowers can also be true of gas-powered lawn mowers; so good to know in case that is on your Christmas list this year.  Read the full story.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • November 19, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I like a bit of Holiday greenery in my home at Christmas but it can be expensive to buy a live wreath, boughs of evergreen for the fireplace, and a few centrepieces plus some poinsettias.  Last year I went out and got two nice pieces putting one in the main hall and one in the living room. We got 1 small poinsettia and placed it on the kitchen table.  They all looked very nice and festive. At the end of the season, I thought I’d save all of the “ornaments” that were in the centrepieces and try to make my own this year.  I also saved the containers they came in and the floral foam that you push the evergreen twigs and flowers into.

    What to make your own?  Whatever yours looks like, it will be great!  Here is a list of what you need and how to make a simple centrepiece. 

    First, gather some supplies. Below is a list of what you need and where you might get them.

    1. Live material such as a piece of holly or ivy, small branches of evergreen, one or two small branches from a boxwood or Euonymus shrub. Live evergreen is required.  Perhaps you have an evergreen shrub or tree from which you can clip several small branches – each about 4 to 8 inches long. Plus one that ends with a crown of little branches to act as the top of your arrangement or perhaps you can find a pinecone to use. If you don’t have these on your property, then you can always go to a big box store, a nursery, or a local tree lot to see if they have pieces you can buy.
    2. Decorations: A small group of fake red or white berries attached to a piece of wire, a small cardinal on a stick that you push into the floral foam, floral foam, a little birdhouse, a bell, etc. To find these, try the dollar stores, Walmart, Michaels, and even some nurseries.
    3. A container for this arrangement. Containers can be found at Michaels, Walmart, and dollar stores.
    Second, start assembling the centrepiece.
    1. Put the floral foam into a sink full of water and ensure the foam gets fully wet.
    2. Put the floral foam into the base of your container. You may have to trim it with a knife to make it fit.
    3. Then start adding the evergreen branches.  You want to start at the bottom and work your way up with longer branches at the base so they can be inserted into the foam at a low angle so they come out and bend down towards the tabletop. At the very top, I placed a pinecone but you could use the end of a small evergreen branch with a crown of baby branches.
    4. Now it is time to decorate.  I like to choose a “front” side of the piece and then I added my cardinal there just over halfway up.  Then, I added white berry twigs to add some colour to the whole piece.  I also put in some red berry twigs for contrast. With those in place, I found it easier to add some of the boxwood vine. 

    Things I’d do differently next time:
    - I cut some of the evergreen pieces too early and the piece is starting to brown.  Of course, I also forgot to water it – so bad on me.  Thus, cut later in November and be sure to keep the floral foam wet.
    - I'd put more red berry branches at the front of my piece.  Most of them ended up on the back with lots of white ones in the front.  The good news: it is easy to make that change anytime you want!

    But if after all is said and done, you prefer to buy finished pieces, I’ve gotten nice pieces from Kate’s Garden in Markham. But check out your local florists, and nurseries as well. Even Lowes, Costco, Canadian Tire, and Home Depot are selling these!  Sue’s Produce has some small ones for indoor use and other larger outdoor pieces.  Most important - take time to relax and enjoy the season.

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

  • November 05, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Looking for a project that would be useful in your backyard?  While at a friends’ cottage recently, I found a very useful small table that I knew would benefit me and others.

    Jayne & Glen had great little tables that were on the back porch. The tables were made of scrap wood they had in the basement. But of course, you can buy a length of the needed wood or check with friends - lots of people have some “ends” leftover from projects and stored in the rafters of the garage. The little tables were used as footstools but also had holes drilled in the top surface to make them perfectly sized to hold a water bottle, soda can, or bottle of beer. For outside usage, the tables are left as raw wood. Indoors they have a few of these as well but they’ve been finished and varnished.

    So why is this a gardening tip?  Because sitting on the porch or around the pool keeps my drink in place without the wind blowing it over. And all that allows me to watch and enjoy my garden.

    The photos of the side table/footstool are below followed by directions for making the table.  If you aren’t a carpenter, don’t worry. These tables do not have to be beautiful… just functional. 


    Things needed to make the side table:

    • 1 piece of wood about 12 inches wide and 13” to 15” long. This will be the top.
    • 2 pieces of wood about 10 inches tall and 10” wide. These will be the legs.
    • 2 smaller pieces of wood to act as struts.
    • Screws to join the wood pieces.
    • A drill, one or more saw holes (used to make doorknob holes), and a jigsaw.
    • 2 pieces of wide elastic each about 7” or 9” long and a good inch or 2 in width. (These will allow your drinks to sit in the hole about 2 to 3” below the tabletop ensuring that they can’t be “blown” over.)
    • 4 thumb tacks or 8 small screws.
    • A hammer and a screwdriver.




    • Cut the main boards to the sizes as indicated above.
    • Sand the cut edges as smoothly as possible.
    • On the top piece, place your favourite drink bottom on the table and then use the appropriate-sized hole saw at that spot.  Add a second drink hole at the other “end” or “side” of the table.  Sand the two holes.
    • Turn the top board upside down and place a length of the wide elastic on each side of the hole tacking it down on each side. If using screws, screw in a small screw at each edge of the width of the elastic – i.e. 2 screws on each side of the elastic. Thus 4 per hole.
    • The 10 by 10 board can be shaped to have “legs”.  Simply make a curved outline by placing the bottom of a larger can on the bottom edge of the leg and trace it with a pencil. Then cut that shape out using a jigsaw. Sand the cut edges.
    • Screw the top piece to each “leg” – one leg at each end inset about 1 inch from the outer edge of the top piece.
    • Shape and attach the struts as shown in the diagram. 

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

  • 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

Member of the Ontario Horticultural Association

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