Growing with hydro (not that hydro): What to plant near powerlines

Our entire front yard is graced with powerlines (or hydro lines as we say up yonder).

While this isn’t the front of our house, it might as well be. Between oak, spruce and pine, there are a lot of powerline/tree interactions.

So we get power but that also means every few years we get the folks from Ontario’s largest power distributor visiting with their chain saws and aerial devices to trim our trees back that grow directly underneath the powerlines. And while arborists are trained and skilled folk that know just how to cut a tree so that it remains healthy and vibrant without interfering with the lines, due to a lack of time no doubt, they seem to just lop the tops off of my lovely trees or cut great gaping holes in their branch systems.

It’s not really our fault. When the property was still a school, I have been told the students would plant trees around the property in honour of Arbor day, which has meant our house is surrounded. Weird since we don’t seem to celebrate it here in  Canada. Let’s see what Wikipedia says about this:

In Canada, Maple Leaf Day falls on the last Wednesday in September during National Forest Week. Ontario celebrates Arbor Week from the last Friday in April to the first Sunday in May. Nova Scotia celebrates Arbour Day on the Thursday during National Forest Week, which is the first full week in May. Prince Edward Island celebrates Arbour Day on the 3rd Friday in May during Arbour Week.

I knew absolutely none of that. Is that true? Anyway I am digressing here…

I understand that lilac are useful in these situations as they aren’t too tall and we certainly see they remain after the cutting crews are done. There’s a snowball bush as well and a couple of apple trees but they seem to be an acceptable height.

The folks at BC Hydro have provided this information for homeowners which I found useful:

Planting near power lines

I am fortunate to work with a lot of folks who know about these sorts of things and have been able to glean a lot of information on this stuff. Generally, just don’t go anywhere near powerlines whether they are above you or below you in the case of underground electrical plant. If there is underground, like in a subdivision, hire someone to conduct a locate. If your trees are too tall and anywhere close to the lines, just don’t touch them. Let the professionals handle it.

If you are going to plant anything near them think about the eventual height of the plants. Trees like lilac, dogwood and dwarf spruce seemed to be the key items during my informal Twitter poll I conducted last week.

Does anyone else have any suggestions? I am going to look at syringa reticulata as I have heard it is hardy to zone 3 and within the limits of the powerlines. In the end this all comes down to the need to have privacy at the front of the house so  passersby aren’t shocked by nude sunbathing and other potential shenanigans. Just thinking of the neighbours!

Seriously great infographic with loads of planting tips for your veggie garden

While we aren’t growing a proper vegetable garden at the schoolhouse (condo balcony veggies only!) this is a great infographic for planting, seasonal timing etc. Enjoy!

Things Could Be Worse

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My little urban achievers — May update

Well we are a month in and so far so good.

My little condo balcony herb and vegetable garden sprouts are working their way out of their cozy little dirt beds and up into the sweltering heat of an already roasting growing season. It’s gonna be a hot one so I hope no one gets burned out too soon. They say it is better to burn out than fade away but I would rather just eat a salad.


The catnip, mint, oregano and rosemary are not from seed. They were well established when I put them out. The catnip is a really trooper. Despite getting plucked more than once daily, it just keeps trucking. The cats however are now pretty chronic now and every now and again I come home to stoned cats and Cypress Hill on the iPod.

The peas are just growing like my grade five science project. I am hoping to see more flowers shortly. While I won’t be graded on these ones I will be eating them and I am a much harder grader than my grade five teacher.

You may have noticed I am not finished my little chair painting project. I ran out of paint and time so I plan to finish in the next couple of weeks. Two chairs done and two more and a table to go.


Bless these carrots. They get bashed around in the breeze but they are growing very well. I am sure, just like my goldfish Leroy (#RIP Leroy), they will only grow to the size of their container, I am expecting great things.


The tomatoes are behind due to our little spring starter mishap but they are coming along nicely. I expect great things. I also expect other people to eat them as I only like tomatoes in ketchup, salsa or other forms of sauce.


Now the lettuce is growing but the heat of our west-facing balcony might be a bit much for it. I may re-evaluate and place it indoors somewhere or bring it in for parts of the day. “Lettuce” wait and see shall we?


The herb collection is going squirrely already. I’ve got too much “thyme” on my hands now. But thankfully this week’s Freshly Pressed contribution showed me how to make thyme lemonade so that may be the solution.

That’s the May update for my little Urban Achievers. We will be back in June.

The brave companions

OK so you can tell from the title of this one I’ve been reading too much George Martin of late. Hey what can I say? I spent the long weekend at the schoolhouse all by my lonesome and it was either read some more Storm of Swords or watch Aspen Extreme on VHS. I think it is time to upgrade our multimedia options up there.

I was nervous to leave my city sprouts unattended but they came through and even grew a good deal in my absence. I am hopeful for my herbs and tomatoes but we will see how the lettuce and peppers fare.

Since I got back early I started doing a little research on gardening and found this infographic on companion planting. While pots of plants are close together and I have introduced everyone I don’t think that actually counts as the same thing. Perhaps next year I will get bigger pots and let everyone get to know each other a little better.
Plant companions

I flock to phlox

I’ve been going through my old files looking for some photos of our gardens to date.

We've got pink and white but most of our phlox are purple.

I’m not totally sure what type they are as they have been in our garden as long as I can remember. We have hot pink, white, a lighter pink but most of them are purple. While I am adding many other perennials to the side garden the phlox will always be the main theme.

We got rid of the vines as the swallows were building a small city but the phlox come back each year.

I’d love some suggestions as to other colours or companion plants for the phlox as well. Please let me know what you think.