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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #259--- Olivia arrived and I am excited.
May 22, 2016

Olivia arrived today. Yes! A cardboard box sitting on my doorstep when I come home can be a very exciting thing. I’d read about and seen pictures of Olivia. Olivia Rose Austin is named after David Austin’s granddaughter, indicating just what a special Rose they think it is. Soft pink, reblooming and incredibly disease free is part of the description. I have many David Austin Roses in my garden and although some of them are dubiously hardy in my part of the world they are still a delight to grow. I prefer the varieties that they are growing on their own roots and hopefully Olivia will become one of those. I do find them somewhat hardier. I lost a few roses last winter even though it wasn’t a really cold winter but rather there was a weird up and down in the weather patterns that is probably more difficult for the Roses to deal with than a constant deep cold. I admit to being a lazy gardener and don’t do much to protect mine in the winter. It’s sort of tough love; if they can survive on their own, then they are very welcome to share some of my precious gardening space.

An Asparagus abundance describes our dinner plates this month. With yesterday’s hotter weather we have now hit that wonderful time of year when each day produces more spears of Asparagus than we can actually eat for dinner. It’s going out, all dressed up with puff pastry and Gruyere cheese, tonight, to be a delicious appetizer at a dinner party. Mostly we just steam it, add a touch of butter and eat. I will start to save up the excess to make a large batch of Asparagus soup. This abundance should continue for another 2 -4 weeks depending on the weather. Then we will reluctantly change our eating habits and enjoy some of the many other offerings that are rapidly maturing in the garden. I’m not that much of a sentimentalist but that small forked Asparagus cutter that is in the basket, actually belonged to my father who used to have a small commercial operation between some apple trees when I was quite young. I really don’t know how it managed to follow me over all these years but I do enjoy taking it out to the Asparagus patch each spring.

Pak Choi in its many forms will be the first thing to replace the Asparagus. It has been a bit of a quandary this year. The three types of Pak Choi that I’m growing were all seeded on the same day and have all been growing in identical conditions. The larger regular type has failed to bunch up and instead has stretched out and quickly gone to flower. I would expect that to happen later in the season when the weather gets too warm. Warm weather certainly has not been a problem for us this spring. The smaller variety with the slightly green stalks is performing beautifully and making the dense heads that you see here. It will soon be cut and eaten. Each plant is usually sliced in half, a little sauce, like Hoisin, spread on the cut side and then onto the grill for a few minutes. Quite delicious. The large Pak Choi in the Earth Box seems to behaving badly, more than the ones planted in the garden but neither is bunching up as I would expect it to. Gardening, it’s always filled with mysteries. Was it the variety that I used this year? Did I seed it too soon? Did I not transplant it soon enough? Is there an answer? We’ll try again in the autumn when it’s time to grow a second crop of these delightful cool season vegetables.

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.

Juliet Asks? I made the mistake of planting chinese lantern in a narrow bed underneath my front window a few years ago. Now it's taking over my entire garden. We've tried digging up the roots 2 years now in the Fall, but they come right back in spring showing up in more places. We've already started uprooting them to curb their growth, but do you know how I can eradicate them altogether?

Ken Answers! Dig Dig Dig. I'm sure you've noticed just how deep some of those roots are. I tried Roundup a few years ago and it turned the leaves yellow for a few weeks. I don't like the product and would not recommend using it and it doesn't work anyway. Happy digging.

Mary Asks? Re: tulips. I am pleased that my tulips bloom each year, but they are beginning to have many smaller flowers. Overcrowding I think. If our warm moist climate is less than perfect, what if I " summer" them in a cooler dryer place, like the garage, or just dig them up, air dry and replant? Had the privilege of visiting the Keugenhof garden in April. 8 million bulbs. Wow

Ken Answers! Keukenhoff is a magical place in the spring. haven't been there in years but hope to return soon. Digging and replanting Tulips doesn't seem to work that well and it's a lot of effort and garden disturbance. If you dig before they die down then you need to hill them in somewhere and water and fertilize them in the hope of rebuilding the bulb Left in place they will subdivide into a cluster of smaller bulbs, giving you the numerous small flowers that you are experiencing. The big display gardens dig, toss and plant new each year. I find that Tulip bulbs are relatively inexpensive and it's just easier and more reliable to plant new every 2-3 years.

Dan Asks? I have a 14' x 4' raised bed that l plan to use for planting vegetables. What are your recommendation for drip irrigation layout i.e. 4 loops 1' apart loops around the plants etc.

Ken Answers! You have a choice of a 4' or a 14' header, I’d probably go with the 14' and then straight drip lines about every foot, (30cm), the short, 4', driplines will be easier to manage than 14' ones would be. Keep them straight and run them parallel to the vegetable rows.

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