Posted on

Neem Oil Garden Spray

YouTube player

How-to mix Neem oil & Castile soap for a garden spray

Visit for more on mixing your own Neem oil garden spray.

Oyster shell scale is rampant in the Calgary area. I took this video while mixing up some neem oil garden spray. I wanted to add the extra to the tea tree essential oil garden spray, that I use all the time, to clean my pruning tools between properties.

A little while ago I took some pictures of oyster shell scale from a Jasmin plant. Not what I expected, but have a look below. The male turns into a little white fly, which is how they travel. As well as on pruning tools when not properly cleaned.

close up of oyster shell scale for neem oil garden spray
Close up of bark covered in scale
Close up of oyster shell scale for neem oil garden spray
Adult Female Scale

Tea tree oil is anti-bacterial & anti-fungal, however, the oyster shell scale is a little insect, so I wanted to take an added precaution. It is hard to get rid of once you have scale, and rare to see a property with out it in Calgary.

The mixture for the essential oils garden spray is the same ratio. Exchanging the Neem oil for drops of the essential oil specific to your garden issue. Neem oil is an insecticide though, so tread lightly. It will go after the good bugs as well as the problem ones.

On the other hand, Neem oil is used in natural skin care products, and has beneficial qualities for us. Contact me for more info.

Posted on

Water Regulating Garden Bed

Water Regulating Garden Bed

Water Regulating Garden Bed – They are also referred to as self-watering beds.  But, this is misleading.  They are self regulating.  They will only fill so much before draining.  However, they do still require water input.  The result of the water being stored under the soil, is less water wastage due to evaporation.  The plant roots are also being drawn deeper into the soil.  This action will make them stronger and more drought tolerant.

Usually raised garden beds, wicking beds are simply a style of garden bed.  They use a method of gardening where the garden bed has its own reservoir of water under the soil.  This is achieved by placing a waterproof barrier in the frame of the bed.  Then filling it with material that promotes the soils natural tendency to wick moisture up.

three layers of a wicking bed

A wicking bed primarily consists of 3 layers. The container (usually a raised garden bed, but not necessary), the reservoir and the planting/wicking material. The main container could be anything from a small potter to a large field. Literally, anything sturdy that will hold water.

Water Regulating Garden Bed – Enhanced Raised Garden Beds

The basic idea is that the water “wicks”. The water is pulled up from below into the empty pore spaces in the planting soil. This is known as capillary action. The difference in pressure in the soil allows the water to raise. A good illustration of this is a river bank. Look at the soil. You will notice it wet about a foot above the water level of the river. That’s wicking in action.

wicking started in wicking bed
wicking midway wicking beds

The reservoirs are the same as rain barrels in principle. From the overflow, the water can go into another bed. They can be plumbed together on the same grade, though the piping may get in the way of access. Therefore, it is much simpler design have the water flow down hill from one bed to the next.

raised garden bed

To store and use as much rainwater as possible, before it leaves your property is the target.

wicking beds dogwood hedge

Once you decide which container you want to use, filling it up is what makes it a “wicking bed”. What I do, is keep everything within 2 feet. That is 1 foot for the reservoir material, and 1 foot for the growing material. Most vegetables and annuals that like moist soil, will do just fine in 1 foot of beautiful soil. Especially when it is kept just at the moisture level they like.

filled up with soil wicking beds raised garden bed

Water Regulating Garden Bed – Some things to remember.

1. You want to keep the roots of plants, especially any perennials, out of any pipe installed or they will eventually clog it.

2. Water will only wick up so high, and not all soil materials wick the same.

3. Plant roots can only sense the water so far. If there is a space between how far up the water will wick and how far down your sprouts’ roots can “smell”, then things won’t work.

4. As the growing material absorbs the water, the soil level will go down. Have extra handy for a top-up before planting.

raised garden bed - enhanced

Check out the Wicking Bed pages for more information, descriptions, walk through a build, and then, see it all in action.

Posted on

Essential Oils for the Garden

Essential oils for the garden.

The weather is warming up and things are beginning to awaken from their winter slumber. Many of us are wanting to get out and start making our property beautiful again. While the first buds are sprouting, and the insects are staring to buzz around the warm corners of buildings, now is the time to finish preparing for the outdoor season.

Although each garden is different. Many of the insects pest that wreck havoc on our peaceful places are similar. Organic Land Care teaches us how plants deal with these pests. We can aid in their processes without releasing a toxic cloud of chemicals that drift through our neighbourhoods. When the balance is off in the soil and the plants become weak, insect populations may explode overnight. When that happens, it is time to step in to help.

Before you run to the hardware store or garden centre for chemical sprays and powders. Have a look below for DIY garden sprays for the most common garden pests. Sprays will work to keep the pests away in the short term, but the plants need to be healthy to keep them away for good.

The mixtures can work out to less than $2 a bottle, and are only harmful to the specific insects. They all have benefits for us in different ways.

Check out to learn more and purchase top quality essential oils.

essential oil pic

All Purpose Essential Oil Pest Spray

In 1 Litre of Water add 10 – 15 drops each of

Rosemary Essential Oil,

Peppermint Essential Oil,

Clove Essential Oil,

& Thyme Essential Oil,


1 Tablespoon of Castile Soap

Mix all the ingredients into a spray bottle (preferably glass if you are going to leave the mix in the bottle for an extended period of time) & spray liberally to the effected plants and surrounding soil.

essential oil bottles spring fever

Peppermint Spray for Aphids

In 1 Litre of Water add

15 drops of Essential Oil

1 Tablespoon Castile Soap

Mix the ingredients into a spray bottle & apply liberally to the effected plants.

Substitute Different Oils For Different Pests

Ants – Peppermint

Aphids – Peppermint, Sandalwood, or White Fir

Beetles – Peppermint, or Thyme

Caterpillars – Peppermint

Chiggers – Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass, or Thyme

Cutworm – Thyme

Fleas – Lavender, Lemongrass , or Peppermint

Flies – Basil, Clove, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, or Geranium

Gnats – Patchouli

Mice – Peppermint

Mosquitos – Geranium, Lavender, or Lemongrass

Moths – Lavender, Peppermint, or Geranium

Plant Lice – Peppermint

Scorpions – Basil

Slugs – Fir, or Cedarwood

Snails – Patchouli, or Fir

Spiders – Peppermint

Ticks – Lavender, Lemongrass, or Thyme

Weevils – Patchouli, Sandalwood, or Cedarwood

EMS logo for Terms and conditions page
Posted on

Spring Lawn & Garden Tips

Spring is only 19 days away!

Spring lawn & garden tips

Even though there is STILL snow in the forecast and the ground is STILL frozen, I can’t help but look outside and see the trees starting to bud, and the Canada geese back on the river. Soon the robins will be picking worms out of the lawn. The bees will be buzzing around the windows, especially we start diffusing orange essential oils.

Lately, here in the Alberta foothills, the blanket of snow is starting to reveal the sleeping gardens that have been hiding for the past 7 months. As humans we get excited at the first sign of warm weather and want to be outside.  Usually, the spring melt and thaw leaves behind debris and dust all over our lawn & garden spaces.  To our eye, it’s messy and we want to clean it all up.  To make our space look neat and inviting.  All good things, but….


The warm days and freezing nights are good if you are collecting tree sap to make syrup. (Hello! New Brunswick!) If you are a bug however, sleeping soundly under a brush pile or cluster of leaves. Having the blanket taken off during a warm spring day, may have you believe it is time to get up and start looking for food. But, when the sun goes away and the temperature dips below freezing, you don’t stand a chance. Plus you are hungry because there is no food yet. No hope!

All the debris and leaf litter left behind by the fall and winter wind and snow, are homes and winter shelter for all of our tiny garden friends. We need these little beings for our plants to survive and thrive.  Little beetles still hibernating for example. Even smaller, their eggs waiting to hatch in the spring warmth.  All laying under that thin layer of leaves and twigs, and the first few inches of the soil.  If we are too early in disturbing their protective layer, we risk killing a good number of beneficial microorganisms that are so important to our lawn & garden health. 

 Cabin Fever?

If we don’t rake the leaves or disturb the soil, what are we to do to keep from going crazy?
Here are a few spring lawn & garden tips and ideas:

Organize, Sharpen & Clean

It is good to keep your work area organized, and your tools clean through out the season. I am often to be reminded about things that were dull or broken at the end of the previous season, when I pull them out for the first use of the season. I then have to take time to sharpen or repair the tool before I can do what I was originally set out to do. If you take the opportunity of a warm day to sit outside and organize and clean all of your garden tools and storage spaces. When the actual fun of gardening gets rolling, you will be all set for whatever comes up.

Bottle of Doterra Tea Tree oil with twig in background spring lawn & garden tips

Be sure to disinfect things as well, especially cutting or pruning equipment. Using a tea tree (Melaleuca) oil spray works well. By doing this early in the season you can catch any pests that have been snoozing in you garden equipment before they wake up.

Trade Shows & Courses

The timing is different, of course, depending on your location, and most things are still virtual. However; around this time of year a number of pre-garden season shows and courses begin to happen. Home & garden shows, spring markets, and specific classes geared to different aspects of land care. All great ways to spend weekend days when the weather starts to get nice and collect even more spring lawn & garden tips. Most of these things are inside also, so even if Mother Nature decides to remind you who is in charge that day. You can still enjoy the time. If it is a nice day, consider having lunch in a sunny corner. Experience a micro-climate of summer.

Check out your local horticultural society, or garden group to see what they have organized. Community newsletters and social media pages often will have information about markets as well.

Visit Garden Centers

Garden centers are some of the first places where it starts to feel like summer. As the days get warmer and longer, the greenhouses get fuller and fuller. (I can almost smell the clean air of a full greenhouse as I am typing.) They are usually up on the latest ideas and gadgets to make life easier in the garden. The staff can be very informative to figure out solutions or to give direction and more spring lawn & garden tips. So you can be sure of your success in the garden once you get home and start planting.

Start Plants Inside

If you have a sunny window and the space by it, having plants start their growing season inside can really give you a jump on the very short summer season. Another step would be a small greenhouse. One step further would be to add some sort of grow light, but a sunny window ledge can be enough. Especially if you are a small space gardener.

sprouts for spring lawn & garden tips

Different variety of plants require different things to get started. It is a good idea to research how long the plants you want to have take to germinate, and what other requirements they have. Some seeds need to be refrigerated before they will germinate! I know right…

Once the seeds germinate, the plants requirements will change. It is good to know this in advance because new sprouts are fragile and will die easily under the wrong conditions.

Prune Trees And Shrubs At Proper Times

This heading could be a post on it’s own. The bottom line is that not all trees should be pruned at the same time. And, it should not be just at our convenience. Pruning improperly, or at the wrong time, can leave the tree susceptible to pests and diseases, and unable to fight them off. Look at pruning as “tree surgery”. It should be done thoughtfully, and cleanly. Knowing what variety of trees you have on your property will allow you to ensure your trees are pruned at the right time of year for that tree. It may also help to spread out the cost of having all your trees pruned at the same time.

Having said all that. I must say, trees in general, never need to be pruned. In nature, in the forest, trees are not pruned and live healthy and strong for hundreds of years. In urban settings, trees are often pruned to allow access for humans, or for looks. Many times, the health of the tree is not taken into consideration, or is at most, an after thought. In many orchards, trees are pruned for production as well.

If a limb is not producing more energy than it is using, the tree will discard it. The thing to remember about trees is that their life span is slow. It may take a couple of years for the limb to actually fall, but it will. No help from us.

Plan, Stretch & Exercise

yoga for spring lawn & garden tips

As a professional gardener, I can attest to some aching muscles and sore backs, especially at the beginning of the season. After spending the winter months hibernating, only coming out to clear snow really, my body is not conditioned for a day of kneeling and bending.

One of the best spring lawn & garden tips I can give is, spring clean-ups can be demanding, even if you are only doing your own. So, as the afternoons bring small bursts of warmth. Take the opportunity to go for a walk, or join a yoga class. Walk to a patio somewhere. Have a beverage and plan out what you are going to do once the spring growing season actually gets started.

Check out the Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care. Get involved in the movement! Click the logo to be taken to the website.

SOUL logo Organic Urban Land Care