Gimme shelter

Shelterbelts provide a variety of benefits for country homeowners

The phrase “eat dirt” probably came from a country dweller without a shelterbelt.

When people move to the country, the first problem they often encounter is wind. Thankfully, a shelterbelt can solve that.

Outside the shelterbelt’s protective boundary, it’s the Wild West. But inside, the shelterbelt provides a cozy spot where flowerpots don’t blow away and dust doesn’t find its way into your eyes and mouth. The benefits don’t stop there either. With a well-planned shelterbelt, falling snow will pile up on your lawn, instead of in the middle of your driveway.

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Wildlife magnets

Keeping park-side gardens free of unwanted visitors is a constant struggle

There is a dark side to living close to parks when you have a garden: wildlife. Park animals will always prefer your tasty seeds and expensive perennials over the slim pickings in the park.

“I have a severe squirrel problem here … they are digging up the seeds I keep replanting,” said my friend Jeannine Oakes. I laughed, but should have been more sympathetic.

Deer are also a frequent nuisance for many people that live near parks, but there are ways to stop them from feasting on your garden.

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The sunny south

Gardening is easier in the southwest, where the climate is mellow

Are you a north-side person in Calgary or a south-side holdout? I have lived all over the city and surrounding areas, including Airdrie, Riverbend, Ramsay, Valley Ridge, Rideau Park and Spruce Cliff, and I make it to many more communities around the city during my travels for work.

During all this moving, there is one thing that I’ve noticed. If you are a gardener, life in the south is simpler: less wind, less frost, less killer hail and more heat, as elevations drop and the climate gradually mellows. In the southwest, the climate is softer and the garden living is easy.

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Forest in a pot

Growing trees and shrubs in pots around your condo or townhome deck saves space, money and time

For Mike in Lethbridge, it started as a rescue operation.

He found dead-looking shrubs in the garbage behind stores and homes. He revived them, not as full-sized trees, but as miniature, windswept versions of their bigger selves.

His rescues became bonsai, and he built a delicate forest of trees in tiny pots.

Before I met Mike, I had never seen a crabapple or potentilla in a bonsai pot.

Why bother with bonsai? While a crabapple tree at 10 metres tall is a big tree, a 60-centimetre version in a bonsai pot is the perfect size for a patio. And the brilliant red crabapples, 1.5 centimetres across on a full-sized tree, are still the same size on a bonsai version of the same tree.

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