European Fire Ants fact sheet

European Fire Ants were discovered at VanDusen Garden a few years ago and some areas along the Arbutus corridor are already infested. These ants are aggressive and can deliver a painful sting when disturbed, though this rarely leads to allergic reaction needing medical treatment. They establish and spread colonies rapidly, and do not have obvious mounded nests, which makes them difficult to control.

European Fire Ants can be easily transferred through the movement of infested garden material. To help prevent the spread of these ants, avoid sharing soil, mulch or plants with others. As well, be sure to check newly purchased plants and soil before introducing them to your garden. 

Please take a moment to read this fact sheet produced by VanDusen Botanical Garden, Bloedel Conservatory and Vancouver Parks and Recreation which gives detailed information on how to identify and prevent further spread of European Fire Ants.

It’s Spring in the Children’s Garden!

Hurray! It’s spring in the children’s garden. The tulips we planted last fall are poking out of the soil. Yesterday we thinned the carrot patch and Talulah pronounced the small carrots delicious. The chives and kale are tasting yummy too.

Big news: Talulah, Charlotte and Amanda built a beautiful mosaic path out of found pieces of tile and brick. It was their own creation—they developed the whole project in one day without adult help. The children’s garden is a big square and so the mosaic path will allow the kids to garden and play without as much small plant squashing. So far one side of the path is veggies: kale, carrots and snap peas; the other side is flowers and herbs.the garden pathIMG_2179

Decorating is as much fun as planting seeds. Here are a few additions from yesterday. columbinesIMG_2193

This year the children will caring for a soup kitchen garden. This is a great opportunity for the kids to be involved in community service, growing food to donate to someone who really needs the vegetables. Hopefully this will be lots of fun as well. Next week we will be digging to amend the soil and then start planting food. We will hopefully have a kids work party within the next two weeks to dig and plant in the soup kitchen plot. Kids gardenchives radishes

We look forward to seeing you in the garden. Connect with Krista to join children’s garden activities. Happy planting.

March Gardening Hints {courtesy of Rosemary}

a) Winter mulches: Remove in early March and compost them.  See Guidelines For Communal Composting to figure out which composter to use.

b) Garden beds: Prepare for planting. Ideally, lime and manure would have been added to the soil back in the Fall. However, you can also do it in the Spring by working in plenty of compost/mushroom manure/sea soil (one 20kg bag will support our smaller plots), then two weeks later dig in about 1 cup of Dolomite lime. The lime comes in a big bag so it could be shared by a Section or two. Avoid adding lime to areas where you might plant potatoes or blueberries.  Do not plant anything for at least one week after adding the lime, it needs a bit of time to settle into the soil. 

c) Organic fertilizer: Ideally, add to soil a few weeks before you sow seeds or plant seedlings. Maple Community Garden is an organic gardening area, and organic fertilizer contains many micro nutrients of value for plants which release slowly without washing away as fast as chemical fertilizers.

Recipe for Homemade Organic Fertilizer

1 part Blood meal          Nitrogen (N)  

2 parts Bone meal           Phosphorus (P)

1 part Kelp meal            Potassium (K) 

The above ingredients are found at most garden centres and feed stores, and this recipe provides an N-P-K ratio of approximately 4-5-4 to 5-8-5.  Nitrogen promotes vigorous growth, phosphorus improves flowering and root system growth, and potassium assists with fruit quality, root growth and reduction of disease.

d) Planters or pots: If you are using any in your garden, remove the first 4” of old soil and add Sea Soil or Soil Energizer to top up the planters.

e) Perennials: Lift and divide perennials, plant before too much growth starts.

f) Summer flowering plants and bulbs: In garden centres now, here’s a blooming guide for common plants:

bloom guide1 bloom guide2

g) Bush & cane fruit: Blueberries and raspberries will be in the stores soon for planting. Prune existing blueberries by removing any dead and crossing branches. Cut fall raspberry canes down to the ground, as well as old canes of summer bearing plants. Now is a good time to plan supports for raspberries : )

h) Vegetables: Plan rows going from North to South for the most sun exposure. Be sure that larger plants are at the North end of the plot to prevent shading of smaller plants, and shading plants in your neighbours’ gardens.  If you are interested in practicing companion planting to enhance natural pest control and productivity, here is a simple guide:

Beginning of March: Sow kale and parsley and start successive sowings of peas, spinach, radishes, and lettuces about every 2-3 weeks. Plant veggie seedlings as they become available in garden centres. Safer’s Slug Bait is a good organic choice if you find slugs damaging new shoots and bulbs.

Mid-March: Remove spring bulb flower heads as they mature and let the leaves die down naturally.  Sow sweet pea seeds.

Later in March: Once the danger of frost has passed,

  • plant Dahlias, Canna lilies and Gladiolas;
  • plant onion sets, turnips, and greens such as bok choy;
  • set out new strawberry plants and feed established plants with diluted fish fertilizer;
  • sow seeds of annual herbs (except basil, too early to plant yet); and
  • prune established herbs such as sage and thyme that have become leggy.

Fertilize garden plants, vegetables, flowers and herbs with diluted fish fertilizer throughout the growing season.  Fertilized blueberries, which are acid lovers, with a Rhododendron or Tree& Shrub fertilizer before buds break and after flowering according to label.

Seems like gardening chores are never done : ) Try to enjoy your garden too and watch as things push through the earth on their way to another great gardening season!

September/October Gardening Hints {courtesy of Rosemary}

from joyce 2015

from joyce 2015

1) A quick reminder that we still need to conserve water even if it rains. Please be sure to water by hand, using either a bucket or a hose with nozzle to control the amount of water you are using.  There has not been enough moisture to get us back to a normal water level after the extremely hot and dry summer that we’ve had.

2) This is the time of year to start thinking about bulbs for spring if you wish. Choose healthy, firm bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place until each type of bulb is ready to plant over the next couple months. Adding a small amount of bone meal in each hole when planting will help establish the root system and promote flowering.

3) It’s also a good time to harvest seeds from flowers in your gardens to save for next year. If you’re inspired, throw some over the North fence to help create a bit of a wildflower garden out there to improve the look of that side and provide more food for the bees too 🙂

4) Keep weeding and deadheading, and keep grass trimmed in and around your plot as usual.

5) Keep picking produce regularly, and also herbs for drying so you can have a little taste of summer later in the year!

6) When summer veggies and flowers are finished, remove the spent plants and compost healthy parts of the plants.

7) Please do not compost diseased leaves, shoots and plants. If disease-causing spores, fungus or viruses are present, they will survive in compost.  Please take a moment to review the information and photos about disease management to help keep all Maple Community Garden plots healthy

8) Divide perennials like peonies, asters, Goldsturm daisies and Autumn Joy sedums. Make sure you have 3-5 “eyes” on each division of the peony for a solid new plant.



9) Begin fall garden cleanup of your plot, and prepare the soil if you plan to grow fall and/or winter vegetables.

10) Set out transplants, seedlings of fall/winter vegetables like Spinach, Lettuce, Purple flowering Broccoli, Chard and Kale. Plant Garlic later in October. West Coast Seeds has a brochure that provides lots of good information on their website called Planting Guide for Fall & Winter Harvests

11) Amend your soil with Dolomite lime (1 cup for each of our small beds should do) and then one week later add mushroom manure or compost. Dig in some organic fertilizer as well (see recipe below) and you are ready to plant fall veggies. Most veggies will grow well with this addition of nutrients, other veggies like potatoes prefer acidic soil (more on this in the spring).

12) Maple Community Garden is an organic gardening area, and organic fertilizer contains many micronutrients of value for plants which release slowly without washing away as fast as chemical fertilizers.

Recipe for Homemade Organic Fertilizer

1 part Blood meal           Nitrogen (N)  

2 parts Bone meal           Phosphorus (P)

1 part Kelp meal              Potassium (K)

The above ingredients can be found at most garden centres and feed stores, and this recipe provides an N-P-K ratio of approximately 4-5-4 to 5-8-5.  Nitrogen promotes vigorous growth, phosphorus improves flowering and root system growth, and potassium assists with fruit quality, root growth and reduction of disease.

Encouraging Bees {courtesy of A. Jonker}

As you may know, bee populations have been under serious threat, due to habitat destruction, pesticide use and natural factors such as fungi infestations.  Maple Community Garden established a number of hives of honey bees a few years ago to help increase the populations in our gardening area.  These hives are managed by individual members acting as beekeepers responsible for the health and maintenance of the hives. There are also many ways that all garden members can improve and support populations of local bees.

While honeybee and bumblebee populations have been hard hit, other species, of which there are many, can be encouraged to populate and at least partly make up for the decline in numbers.  Of particular interest are the species known collectively as “Mason” bees.  They take their name from their habit of closing the door to their nest with a layer of mud, as a mason might do.  They vary greatly in size and may be unrecognizable as bees.  The good news is that, while they are efficient pollinators, they are not aggressive, do not normally bite, and do not swarm, being solitary bees that do not live in colonies.  Therefore, you can assist the cause of bee re-population without taking any personal risk!

There are a number of website links at the bottom of this article that include general information applying to all bees, as well as specific information for those interested in creating and managing a solitary bee habitat.   Here are some suggestions on how you can help create a better, bee-friendly environment.

Bee Bath



  • Place a plate of water at ground level, shallow enough to evaporate over the course of the day. This will help support bees, not mosquitoes.
  • Put a few dry rocks and/or flowers in the water for bees to land on, they cannot land on a water surface.
  • Placing the plate near infested plants will attract natural predatory insects, which will help reduce unwanted insects, such as aphids.

Bee Food



Bees can use pollen and nectar from a variety of wildflowers.  Early bloom, mid-season bloom and late bloom flowers will support them throughout the season.  The Maple Community Garden website has a list of bee-friendly plants by season at

  • Use native plants or heirloom varieties
  • Bright flowers are preferred (honeybees have very good color vision): blue, purple, violet, white and yellow.
  • Plant flowers of a single species in clumps about four feet in diameter instead of in scatterings so bees are more likely to find them.
  • Plant a variety of flower shapes as this will benefit a diversity of bees.
  • An interesting plant to consider for your bee friendly environment is Himalayan Honeysuckle. It doesn’t need full sunand has some stage of a flower over almost the entire year, so a constant rotation of pollinators go to it.

Habitat (Honeybees and Bumblebees)

Honeybees and bumblebees, being social, require a large productive area to support the colony.  Honeybee presence may be indicated by a visible hive, while bumblebee presence may be undetectable as they nest underground or in clumps of vegetation.  If you own a large property, or know others that do, such as farmers, encourage owners to leave the edges of fields, lawns or other productive areas empty, wild and undisturbed.  This will allow wildflowers to grow in abundance and nests to remain intact year after year.

Habitat (Mason and other solitary bees)

If you would like to experiment with supporting a local solitary bee population, and are not up for building a bee house yourself, you can buy a bee house from a supplier such as Wild Birds Unlimited on West Broadway. They sell manufactured bee houses and nests, as well as bee cocoons. You can also check with your local garden center.  Look for these products in December/January prior to the start of the season.  Mason bees are active in the spring [March-June], so your bee house/habitat needs to be in place by February-March.  Fall and winter management includes cleaning cocoons and cleaning the nests.  Mason bee cocoons are vulnerable to predators and parasites and must be stored correctly over the winter as well.

Before purchasing or making a homemade bee habitat, please review the sites below for general information on bees and also for additional information on creating and maintaining a successful solitary bee habitat.

Further Information:

The City of Vancouver

The David Suzuki Foundation

West Coast Seeds

Dr. Margriet Dogterom “Pollination with Mason Bees: A Gardener’s Guide to Managing Bees for Fruit Production”   [available at Indigo, Vancouver Public Library, or online]

Also by this author, Build A Bee Box:


July Garden Hints {courtesy of Rosemary}

from Rosemary 2015

from Rosemary 2015

  1. Watering is key to growing healthy plants and veggies in this heat!  Try to water in the mornings when it is cooler, slowly and deeply, which will cut down on need for watering frequently. Don’t water leaves of tomatoes or roses, always water these plants from the bottom close to the trunk.
  2. Add Mulch of straw or compost to the garden to conserve water.
  3. Harvest fruit and veggies frequently and pull weeds before they go to seed. Deadhead spent flowers, cutting close to the base of the stalk.
  4. Use bait to discourage slugs, especially on new plants. Safer’s has an organic bait now.
  5. Plant successive crops for continual harvest like peas, radish, carrots and beans.
  6. Sow seeds of cool season crops by mid-late July and keep watered. Some examples could be: lettuce, spinach and arugula.
  7. Fertilize June-bearing strawberry plants after you harvest, ever-bearing types should be fertilized halfway through the season. Half strength fish fertilizer is a good choice.
  8. Irises can be divided now.  Although daffodils and tulips have bulbs, irises have fleshy rhizomes. Just dig up the whole clump, break the rhizomes apart, trim the roots to about 4″, cut the leaves to a fan shape about 6” on top to make them easier to work with, and then replant in groups of three or more with the fleshy rhizome exposed to the light and roots below in the soil. Irises need the rhizome exposed to capture sunlight, like in the photo below:


Update on fence building and plot size re-adjustment to stay within the city property line


What was accomplished:

·        There was a good turn out on Sunday for the Fence Building and preparation.  Many members helped clean up the wood and debris to clear the way for the awesome fence crew who worked past 4 pm.

·        Apologies if you find things have been moved or disturbed.   We needed to move things out of the way in your plot areas like  trellises, boards etc. so there was a safe space for the fence crew to  install the 4×4 cedar posts.  Fence posts were installed in between  your plots to minimize loss of space.

FYI:  We did  not clear the stones and boulders on CP land…we are  hoping CP will take that away when they come to do more work on the tracks.  There is a big pile of wood at the East end of the Garden by  Jean’s Garden that we plan to dispose of…does anyone have a truck that  can make a trip to the dump?  If you have wood to throw out please use  this pile.  Please take any garbage home.

·        Measurements were re-done to insure our raised beds and other  garden structures are within our property line.  The installed 4×4  posts and a thin line marks the length of the property line.

What needs to be done?

·        Raised Bed Boxes that are ”over the line”  on CP land need to be cut back.   Some gardeners removed their North end board and moved soil so there would be access to trim back the boxes.
·        The Fence Crew hope to install the fence wire on the weekend.

What can you do to help?

1.      Go check your box to find out if it needs to be cut back. The fence crew have measured and marked what needs to be cut back. If you have tools and experience, please go ahead and cut back your box and reinstall the North board.

2.      If you do not have tools, the fence crew will cut back your box, but please do what you can to prepare for this weekend:
·        Remove the north facing end board,  as well as any plants and soil for about a foot.
·        Come back during the week to repair your box ASAP after the cut. It is very important that you get the north end board replaced before then fencing material is put up as you will not have access to that end to contain your soil.

Thank you from the Executive and Fence building committee.

Spring Garden Hints

Spring_flowersMarch 2015

1. Bait garden for slugs – Use Safers Slug bait as it’s an organic one.
2. Work on garden clean-up, weeding and preparing garden beds. Add a handful of lime several weeks before planting. To improve your soil, use mushroom manure or compost.
3. Plant cool season veggies such as lettuce, spinach, kale & cabbage. Plants seeds of peas & sweet peas at this time as well.
4. Start tomato seeds indoors if desired.

April 2015

1. Continue to plant cool season veggies and flowers
2. Transplant raspberries & strawberries if necessary.
3. Plant early potatoes (Yukon Gold & Pontiac)
4. Fertilize perennials with all-purpose fertilizer such as fish fertilizer or organic fertilizer you can make yourself. See below
2 parts bonemeal, 1 part kelp meal, 1 part blood meal.
Apply the fertilizer during growing season.

Updated Work Party Schedule

This message is for the members of the Maple Community Garden

The work party schedule has been updated with 2 dates:

  • Sunday April 5th, from 10am to 12pm (noon)
  • Sunday, April 12th, from 10am to 12pm (noon)

For both dates, the meeting will start at the meeting room located in Maple Crest Apartments (2229 Maple Street) – please arrive early so that we can be efficient.

The purpose of these meetings is to:

  1. Pay your membership dues for 2015 garden season
  2. Participate in the work party to clean up and repair the common areas

Suggested Tools: Please bring your gloves, trowels, digging tools, edgers, shovels. For those who have building skills and tools bring your cordless drills and saws, hammer, nails.

We hope to get teams working on areas like the wheelchair accessible patio and boxes, a fence etc. Wear sturdy shoes or boots. Knee pads might be useful.

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