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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #277 - The Albrighton Rambler is a late season delight.
November 06, 2016

Mother Nature is being particularly kind to us. It’s the sixth of November and we have had one light frost and the temperature today is + 13 C and yesterday it made +17 C. Absolutely silly temperatures for this time of year, not that I’m complaining. It’s a delight to be cleaning up the garden in my shirt sleeves instead of my parka. It does create some anomalies in the garden. Late this week I was cleaning up the vegetable garden and discovered that the light frost had badly damaged the Tomato and Pepper plants but apparently not all of the fruit and I had fresh Peppers and a Tomato for dinner that night.
Yesterday when I was surveying the chaos that is the front yard and wondering when the road construction crew would finally finish their minimal repairs to the garden, a flash of bright pink caught my eye near one of the trellises. Albrighton Rambler is one of my newer David Austin Roses and here it was putting out some wonderful blooms in early November. It is just learning to climb that trellis and had not done much in the excessive heat and drought this summer but apparently these cooler days of autumn are very much to its liking. A real autumn treat. In case you wondered what happened to last week’s “Dallying” we were the surprise guests at the 50th wedding anniversary of some old friends in Plymouth Wisconsin. A delightful and relaxing, non gardening, weekend.

This week I finally did another chore that should have been done a while ago. The ponds produce massive amounts of vegetation each year. Delightful Lily pads and Iris and other aquatic plants. I need to remove as much of this growth as possible or it will sink to the bottom and add to the sludge that forms down there. If I allow this vegetation to add to the sludge then a complete pond clean out, a truly ugly chore, will have to take place sooner rather than later. This preparing the ponds for winter was a bit more comfortable this year. Being up to my elbows in pond water is much nicer at + 15 C than it is at 0 C. Even the fish are still coming to the surface of the water asking to be fed. They are usually settled into the lower reaches of the ponds by this time of year. When the waterfall starts to build up ice, I will shut off the pump and put the bubblers in.

A big dig is waiting for me. The Dahlias are finished providing us with their wonderful harvest of cut flowers. They are particularly sensitive to the lightest frost and they let me know by turning this rich black colour. You will notice the very happy Brussels Sprouts in the foreground. The Dahlia tubers are just fine buried in the still warm soil. I have started cutting off the tops an adding them to the compost. The tubers will be carefully dug up and dried so that all of the soil can be removed. They will then be settled into their bed of shredded paper to spend the winter in a cool section of the basement. As I dig them I marvel at how big some of those tubers have grown and then I start to wonder how big the pots will have to be to get them started next spring. Even great garden successes present problems. The large cardboard box they were stored in last winter is obviously not going to be big enough this year. I did have a few duplicates this summer. Can I make myself get rid of those? That will leave spaces that I might just find new varieties for next spring. I keep talking about actually cutting back the size of the garden, someday it might really happen.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Tillie Asks? My daughter is moving from one house to another and wants to divide a few perennials, to take a few of her "good friends" with her. She is zone 6, Canada. Is early November too late? The ground won't be frozen till Christmas, maybe later, so we can easily get a small piece off of a perennial, but is it too late to put it IN, at her new home? Same zone. We have not had frost yet. She especially wants to take some hosta bits with her.

Ken Answers! It should work fine. Even if some of them survive you are ahead of the game.

Patricia Asks? I have some sweet potato vines that have been growing in large containers on our deck. Are the potatoes that have grown on them edible? Also, some of my plants seem to have been invaded by a large number of black and red beetles that are about 1/2 inch long with geometric designs on their back. What are these? What is the best way to get rid of them?

Ken Answers! Those tubers may be edible but they may not be palatable. They are sweet potatoes but a different variety. Try one and see. Check the previous edition of Dallying for a possible identity for your beetles. Box elder beetles.

Margery Advises !Ken, as always I enjoyed this issue. Unlike yourself, I actually enjoy the squirrels in the yard and find them endlessly entertaining. I too have a walnut tree that drops copious amounts of the tennis-ball sized nuts. I pick them up and am usually able to fill 3 large totes (former tree pots) which I simply leave at the bottom of the garden. By spring, the totes are empty as the squirrels used them up as they needed them. Rather than send them to a big compost heap - do the squirrels a favour and leave the nuts for them. I find the squirrels also tend to leave me garden alone as they have access to better food.

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