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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #361 - Fritillaria are a strange but useful flower bulb
April 30, 2020

Many people have asked me if their new Amaryllis can be made to bloom again. Here is the emphatic answer. I don’t remember how many years I have had this Amaryllis, maybe 5 or 6, nor how many times I have moved it to a bigger pot but this year, its fourteen flower stalks, have produced fifty blooms or that’s as many as I could readily count. It is quite spectacular! I will have to repot it again this year after it has finished blooming. I can just move it to a larger pot, if I can find one and if I can easily carry it around, or I can remove some of the bulbs so that it will fit back into this pot. Nonetheless, after it has been repotted and we are past the frost free date, it will move outside where it will get full morning sun and regular water and fertilizer. Before first frost in the autumn it will be carried downstairs where it will be mostly in the dark and slightly cool. It will be allowed to dry out and go completely dormant until it decides to start pushing up bloom stalks about this time next year. They really are that easy to care for and to have them rebloom.

Getting the vegetable garden ready was a bit bigger job this year, partly because I didn’t do a good job last year when I only had one functioning arm. I have been renewing the Earthbox subirrigation containers for the past couple of weeks, whenever the weather was the slightest bit conducive. I needed to get them all off their area of the garden so that I could pull up and replace the landscape fabric they were sitting on. It had deteriorated and was holding a fair amount of spilled soil that was making a home for weeds. It is now clean and pristine and the containers have been rearranged into a, hopefully, better pattern so that each box will have lots of room for its vegetable to grow. The obelisk in the centre will be the home of my Cucumbers . It was against the fence for the last couple of years and that prevented me from working all around it. Besides, I think it just looks better this way and it’s important that the vegetable garden be aesthetically pleasing as well as productive. I realize that I will have to rework the automatic watering system to fit the new layout but that’s a late May chore after all of the boxes are in place. In the meantime I have a hose out there ready to top them up whenever they need it. If they look far apart, they are, because the ones that will grow the warm season crops will fit into the gaps between these early ones. There is a plan???

This strange beast is a Frittilaria. It grows from an autumn planted bulb just like Tulips and has a couple of uses in the garden other than blooming early in the season and being a rather interesting specimen. The bulbs have a terrible smell that guarantees that the squirrels will leave them alone and if you plant a couple of them among the Tulips it should help keep those bushy tailed tree rats away from the Tulips as well. They are also the only other plant in the garden that the Red Lily Beetle will attack. Those nasty creatures see these as their appetizer before their main course of Lilies emerges. That gives me a head start with my trusty needle nosed pliers, crunching those brightly coloured nasties before they find the Lilies. So far it seems to be a poor year for the beetles and a good year for the Lilies. I have squashed some but blessedly few. Having actually written that, they will now probably be emerging by the dozen as I sit here.

Can my favourite pie be far behind??? My three clumps of Rhubarb are emerging beautifully and I have been giving each of them a healthy drink with some liquid fertilizer as they are voracious plants. In the old farm days each clump would have received a healthy mulch of manure but it’s just not that easy for me to acquire, especially since we are staying home to follow the distancing rules. Rhubarb is a long lasting perennial that just wants a reasonable soil and lots of sunshine. I have dug up and divided one of my clumps, once, in the 20+ years it has been growing in this garden and that was because the original clump was becoming shaded by a growing tree.

The wide assortment of plants in this piece of garden is quite typical of the many perennial beds around the yard. This is beside one of the ponds and you can see it off to the right. In the bottom right hand corner is a Primula in full bloom and beside it is the Canadian Shield Rose and you can see buds opening all the way up the cane of this hardy newer variety. There are some Narcissus in full bloom including the bright yellow Daffodils off to the right. They have been in bloom for about three weeks. They are Rijnvelds Early Sensation and they are indeed the earliest to bloom. They are carefully positioned on the south facing slope between the ponds so that they will catch the earliest warming sun. In the middle there is a Daylily emerging and behind it climbing the slope is a rather rampant fern leaf Bleeding Heart that may have to be attacked this year as it’s being a bit aggressive, one of its features and one of its drawbacks. Yes, behind the Rose you may spot a Dandelion growing handsomely. I like Dandelions but they do need a bit of control. Needing a lot of control is the Creeping Charlie in the lower right corner. Now there’s a real thug that I would happily blast with a chemical if we had any that would work. This little garden is representative of much of the yard in that it will change weekly, giving me something new to admire throughout the growing season.

To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Baffled Bob Asks? Can you help me with my 'scrawny' tomato plants? I have planted them from seeds but as they grow they are far too scrawny to support themselves. The ones in the garden centre are much more robust. What should I do to 'strengthen' my humble plants?

Ken Answers! The easy answer is more light. You could also start your seeds in a smaller container and then transplant them at first leaf stage and that would allow you to plant them deeper in the bigger pots, Tomatoes are happy being planted deeper as they will root all the way up the buried stem. Even then MORE LIGHT but Tomatoes are like us and actually appreciate a rest period, mine get the fluorescents 16 hours and dark 8. Don't know if that will make a difference but it will save $5 hydro.

Norma Asks? I have a question as I am planning to start my elephant ears tubers indoors, do I plant it as is or should I cut off the elongated bottom? Some of the tubers have pups beginning on the lower portion.

Ken Answers! I usually plant them as is. That extended bottom is a good food resource. I have cut them off when they are just too big to fit into a pot. You can certainly cut off the pups and plant them separately.

Colin Asks? What is the best way to treat and get rid of Moss in my lawn and when to treat it?

Ken Answers! I should put you in touch with the people who ask me how to get more moss to grow to replace their grass:-) Several things that will make your moss unhappy enough to leave home. More sunlight, aerate the soil and top dress with sand to make your soil better drained and aerated. Possibly a little more fertilizer that the grass needs to win the battle.

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