Plants & Soils

Clematis, the Queen of Vines, is grown in gardens around the world.  A few myths surround its growing conditions, particularly around the soils for clematis.  Contrary to popular belief, there’s a clematis for almost every garden, including plant hardiness zones 1 as well as poor soils.

soils for clematis

Written on Thursday, February 16, 2017 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

The latest in soil news include a new Soil Health Landscape Tool, the effect of mycorhizzae on tree ecology and the positive effect of soil microbes on plant’s defense system against pathogens.


Written on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

Hellebores are some of the earliest blooming flowers in our gardens. Searching for hellebore’s soil preferences takes us to the southern and eastern European mountains. The native soil and root morphology tells us what we need to know about growing hellebores in our gardens. 

hellebore flowers

Photo: Simon Garbut
Wikipedia Creative Commons


Written on Thursday, February 2, 2017 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

Intense gardening resurrects in the fall. Maybe not as extreme as spring gardening, but still it feels intense after the last lethargic dog days of summer. For gardeners intent on improving their soil, there’s much we can do.

clover cover crop

Written on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 in Building Soil, Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

With all the chitchat about drip irrigation and water conservation on social media, you would think that it’s the only way to reduce watering in the garden. But it’s not true. The soil holds the key to lower water bills, and the techniques are simple and low-cost. Increasing soil organic matter and mulching are the […]


Written on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

We continued the #growyourown series on #groundchat last week with the divine Brenda Haas, host/moderator/organizer of #gardenchat. Bren shared her experiences with growing peas!

Bren Haas

Written on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

I don’t know about you, but after a long winter I’m raring to go in my garden. Since I’m a northern gardener, I don’t have the much time to waste. My growing season is short, so I need to get to it as soon as I can!

Gardeners are a tricky bunch. We’ve found ways to extend the growing season.
“One of the easiest ways to get the garden started earlier is by prewarming the soil,” says Kyla Dixon-Muir at the 2015 Toronto Master Gardeners’ Technical Update.

Kyla Dixon-Muir

Written on Thursday, March 5, 2015 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

It’s liberating and humbling to write a lesson-learnt blog. Last year’s lesson-learnt evolved from my high-density plantings in a raised bed.


Written on Thursday, February 26, 2015 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

A couple of weeks ago, Connie, my neighbour, asked me to take a look at her beloved Japanese lilac. She was worried about its gradual decline. I could see why Connie was concerned. Half the tree had lost all its leaves. Something was obviously wrong, but what could it be?

Japanese lilac

Written on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania surprised me. The city has a whooping 42 percent tree canopy! In comparison, Washington DC has 36% and Portland, Oregon in the wet Pacific Northwest has mere 30% tree cover. Even Canadian cities known for their leafy nature have less tree cover– Toronto 33%, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal all at 20% tree cover. But enough about trees!

Another visual surprise is Pittsburgh’s topography. Hilly. Steep slopes. It’s a great place to see how gardeners tame their slopes. Since there’s too much information to cover in one blog, I’ve divided it this entertaining topic into three blogs.

planted slope at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA

Written on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 in Plants & Soils

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Written by Cristina da Silva