It has been a challenging week in my garden despite the wonderful weather. Actually even the weather has been deceptively nice. I planted 350 Tulip bulbs on Monday, record high temperatures, and found the soil still very dry. Made an interesting test of all the new trowels. I spent an hour watering them and then it rained on Tuesday. There was still not a great volume of rain so my efforts were not totally in vain.

Those Tulips were stored in their shipping box on my front porch, along with all of the other bulbs that I have not yet planted. I’m trying to pretend that my procrastination is actually good planning. Putting bulbs into soil that is still quite warm can cause them to start growing. They will not flower without their cold period but they will poke their noses out. These exposed growing points can be frozen during the winter and reduce the bloom next spring. Therefore my late planting is probably going to be beneficial to next spring’s floral display. Is that not the best justification for procrastination that you have ever heard.

I came home one day last week to find a piece of yellow plastic on the large concrete corner post of my front porch. The bushy tailed tree rats, (aka, squirrels,) were apparently tired of my procrastination and decided to take matters into their own hands. They crawled into the box of bulbs, scampered past the loose Tulip bulbs and found my one bag of Crocus bulbs. They dragged the whole bag out of the box, onto the porch corner post, ripped it open, ate all of the Crocus bulbs and left me the wrapper as a thank you note. I guess they saved me the effort of planting them first?? I’m trying hard to be grateful.

One day last week, my wife told me that she had seen the Great Blue Heron sitting in the Pine tree. He had been by a couple of years ago and done a little fishing in my lower, shallower pond. The next day when I checked the ponds, ALL of the fish were gone. Every pond, every fish! They were only goldfish but some of them had become quite large in the 8 years they had been with us. I thought that the water in the upper ponds was too deep for Great Blue to fish in. Apparently he has grown even longer legs. We’ll start again next spring but what will my grandson feed when he comes to visit? I cannot think of an effective way to stop this bird from turning our ponds into his private feeding station. Readers please offer advice here!

Reading “Dallying” to this point would almost want to make you give up gardening but there are still lots of little delights that keep me out enjoying our favourite pastime. I brought in a yard of rich new soil, (locally sold as triple mix, combining topsoil, peat and mushroom compost,) and filled up the propagating bed so that I could plant all of the nice new perennials that made the trip back from Oklahoma. New varieties of Baptisia, Achillea and a Lagerstroemia that is supposed be hardy to Canadian zone 5. We put them in this separate raised bed to see how they perform and to give me a little longer to figure out the most appropriate location in the garden for them. I’ll probably still eventually move them several times as my ever changing vision for the garden evolves. If we could just develop perennials on wheels; life in my garden would be so much easier.

The rest of this rich new soil was added to the top of the berm. This little hill that winds its way across the back of the yard was originally made with the soil, (to use that term very loosely,) that was excavated when the ponds were dug. I have continued to add better quality material to the top of it over the years. It is planted along its top ridge with a few flowering shrubs to help separate and screen the back section of the yard. Mother nature, being bound by the rules of gravity, lets the top of the berm slide towards the bottom with great regularity leaving the roots of those shrubs exposed. Again this week I was able to avoid a trip to the gym by shoveling and wheeling several barrow loads of soil onto the top of the berm. The new soil was incorporated into the old by the planting of those 200 Lilac Beauty species tulips that I can contemplate all winter and enjoy in the spring.

I continue to search for the appropriate perennial that I can establish on the berm to stop the soil slide. It is in the shade. Ferns should do well. No! it is quite well drained and therefore often very dry. The Tulips are great; they tolerate the shade and like the baked dry summer but we need something green when the Tulips are having their mid-summer nap. Some of the Epimedium are starting to establish but when I just checked their spelling in my reference book it reminded me that “increase is seldom rapid” a polite description of very slow growing. That’s gardening. A constant source of challenge and experimentation; bounteous success and brown leaved opportunities to try again.

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.

Claire asks? I want a new tree in the backyard. Is it tool late to plant one; they’re all on sale at the garden centre?

Ken answers! Some things always work out well. This is the best time of year to move deciduous trees and because many people have given up gardening for the season those trees are frequently a bargain. Dig a hole this weekend; they always grow lots of new roots after their leaves have fallen.

Tom asks? Should I clean out all of my vegetable garden now?

Ken answers! No. We have had no frost in my part of the country and several great vegetables, Brussels sprouts, Leeks, Parsnips taste much better after they have had a couple of frosts. I usually wind up pulling the last of these out of the early snow in December and they are fresh and delicious.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON