Many gardeners dream of taking their passion and turning it into a business, and over the years that is exactly what Lorraine and RJ Roberts of Caledon, Ontario did. When they purchased their 24-acre property in 1999, there were no gardens at all – just trees, grass, and a house. Season by season, they grew thousands of perennials and established new beds until Plant Paradise Country Gardens, an organic botanical garden and perennial nursery, was born.
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Weeds are usually the biggest task in an organic garden, but Roberts’ planting strategies and low-fuss maintenance calendar keep them at bay with little stress. First of all, she designs each bed so plantings are full, but not crowding one another. There’s not a lot of open space for weeds to take hold. Then because of the snow cover all winter, she doesn’t need to start weeding until June. “I use my Hori Hori knife and hula hoe to get things done lickety-split, and as soon as I finish one bed, I apply corn gluten. It’s an all-natural product which stops the germination of all seeds,” she says. Corn gluten is effective both in the garden beds and on the lawn.
By July, she’s done weeding and can work on other projects. Though perennial flowers have a reputation for needing care and deadheading to keep the show going, Roberts designs her plantings carefully so she doesn’t have to deadhead at all. Because of that, she doesn’t need to focus on maintenance again until October or November when she does one more run through the garden, cutting back the perennials and weeding one more time. “I believe all gardens require some maintenance,” she says. “The key is keeping it manageable to the degree of time you’re willing to invest.”