Last week I was still out puttering in the garden and suddenly winter arrived. The ponds froze over; snow covered the ground and the Broccoli and Cauliflower growing in the container froze solid. I cut them and brought them in and they were still quite useable and tasty but I don’t think I had many days to wait. Back outside with we found the waterfall rapidly became quite pretty as the slight spray that it always produces, froze into some very delightful forms. I retrieved the air bubblers from the basement and had to chop a hole in the ice to get them into the ponds. Shut off the pump and just leave it under the ice until spring. Earlier this year I had thought about removing the pump for the winter to see if I could clean it up as the flow rate had been steadily decreasing. I’m much to lazy a gardener to hack away enough ice to put my arms into freezing water just to retrieve a pump that can be attended to next spring. I’ll curse my procrastination next spring but that will be nothing new.

Sitting on my desk is a wonderful Christmas gift for gardeners, that I should have mentioned sooner. It is never too late. It is best suited for gardeners who live in southern Ontario but it is still quite valuable to any gardener. It is “The Toronto Gardener’s Journal” and it is put together each year by a garden writer friend of mine, Margaret Bennet-Alder. It is primarily a daily journal to keep track of everything that you do in your garden with weekly gardening tips. A cute section with monthly pages for delights, disappointments and next year. A thorough source book to help you find everything from African Violets to gardening radio shows and of course web sites like mine. You can find it at online by clicking here.

The Amaryllis bulbs are all here and sitting in my cold room. They will start to bloom even if I don’t pot them up if they stay in a warm room. I will pot some tomorrow for early Christmas presents but most of them will be given to children and especially grandchildren with a pot and some soil. Helping the grandchildren to pot up these big and idiot proof flowering bulbs is truly one of this gardener’s greatest joys in the Christmas season. The bulbs that I grew last year spent a sun and fertilizer filled summer outside and the are now in the cold room as well. A cool period while they are dormant is a big help in getting them to bloom again this winter. I will bring them out in the new year and see how successful we have been. My only fear as we suffer / enjoy this blast of quite cold early winter, is that my cold room may get too cold. Amaryllis turn to compost fairly quickly if subjected to temperatures approaching freezing.

The Roses in the front yard have been blooming continuously through this extended autumn but the sudden arrival of winter has created a few Rose chores. The tall canes of most varieties are being cut down to about 50 cm. We do this, not as pruning, but rather to stop the wind from whipping the canes around during the winter and thus loosening them from their protective soil. The actual pruning will take place in the spring when we can see what canes are viable.

I may yet go out and try to pry some more Parsnips from the rapidly freezing soil. They will be tender and sweet after all of the cold weather. If I don’t get them all out then they are the first things that we can harvest from the garden in the spring and they are none the worse for having over wintered in the garden. I would have dug them a bit sooner but they are in one of the lowest areas of the garden and the excessive rainfall in late November had them essentially underwater for a couple of weeks.

The seed catalogues are already starting to pour through the mail slot but I am just piling them in the corner and trying to ignore them until the new year. The light tables in the basement are producing Begonias and Geraniums that will need their first cutting soon but that can also probably wait while we decide that gardening is well and truly done for this year and this gardener will just sit and spend his time dreaming about next year’s amazing successes, while he counts the number of bloom stalks rapidly developing in the Cymbidium Orchids

May all my readers have a wonderful Christmas season and a joyful new year. I’ll talk to again early in January when the seed catalogues have resurfaced.

Keeping up to date on gardening activities can be followed on a more frequent basis by checking the front page of my web site, It changes every 2 or 3 days to show you what I am up to. That change only takes a few minutes, while producing Dallying is a much larger effort.

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

Jane asks? Regarding zucchinis, I put some in a 16-inch-deep container this year and the plants bloomed beautifully but didn't bear fruit. Meanwhile my neighbour was harvesting them like crazy and passing them over the fence. So I put the two plants back in my raised bed, where I usually grow them, and the zucchinis started forming almost immediately. I attributed it to the roots not having enough room in the container, but maybe it's the male-female issue and I could have some success in a container after all. (I wanted to train it up on the roof of my shed, where it would get lots of sun and give me more room elsewhere for tomatoes?)

Ken Answers! Some things have no good answer. I have quite successfully grown some of the bush type Zucchini in a container but the very rambling ones that might go up your shed have immense root systems and may not like the root restraint of a container. Just keep experimenting, that’s what makes gardening so interesting.

Marilyn Asks? I planted a2 foot 6 inch terra cotta plant pot with 10 potato "blocks, each with at least two eyes. I used a mixture of potting and garden soil, filled in soil each time the plants were 4 inches tall, watered, fertilized and waited with great anticipation. On Thanksgiving weekend we, the family, with a great deal of fanfare, dug out the planter. For the 10 potato pieces I harvested maybe 10 good sized potatoes only. What a disappointment! What was I doing wrong? The pot was in full sun........? I really want to do the same thing next year, but with considerably more success. Is the type of potato seed an issue?

Ken Answers! Let’s try to improve on your limited success. In a container of that size, I probably wouldn’t plant more than 3, possibly 4, pieces of Potato. You had too many plants competing for space, water and nutrients. Sometimes, less really is more. You don’t indicate how deep the container was but it seemed deep enough to cover the growing shoots a few times. The two containers I used this summer were 30cm and 50 cm deep. I have tried a few different varieties of Potatoes in my containers and met with varying success. French Fingerling has always performed quite well and this year I tried German Butterball and it performed quite well. The biggest tip, appears to be keeping the containers well watered. The plants will not send out, tuber producing, shoots into dry soil. Fewer plants, more water and good luck next season.

Paul Asks? Have you ever considered using LED lights in your indoor grow lights. I have looked on the web and as far as I can determine WSE Technologies seem to have models that might be appropriate. Would you give me your view please?

Ken Answers? The limited research that I have done seems to indicate that these lights would work very well. If I was setting up a new growing area I would certainly give them some consideration. They do appear to have a significant up front cost that will be saved over several years of operation. I would have to abandon my existing investment, not that great since it is a few years old, and reinvest. Further research into capital cost and payback times needs to be done, although they have several other advantages rather than just cost savings. Usually with these new technologies, the longer we think about them, the cheaper they get. Let me know how this works out for you.

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Whitby ON