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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #396 - It's spring at last and time to get busy sowing those seeds
March 21, 2023

It’s been awhile since I sent you all an edition of “Dallying” but it has been a long winter and somehow that restricted my motivation. Here we are on the first day of spring and the sun is shining and although the ski hills are not yet closed much is happening in my various gardening activities. This is my magnificent red Amaryllis that has been with me for several years. It started a few years back as a single large bulb and it keeps multiplying and I keep looking for a larger pot. This year I may have to break it up a bit, before putting it back in the same pot and then planting the side bulbs, I removed, separately. They can then all enjoy their summer outdoors.

Upon returning from several days in a sunnier location, studying Palm trees, I immediately descended to the basement to get some seeds started. These Begonia seeds should have been started a little sooner but they need fairly constant attention so I waited until we returned. They are some of the world’s smallest seeds and you should never sneeze when sowing them. I’m always amazed at how readily they germinate and, of course, how tiny the seedlings are. It only takes a few weeks before they get big enough to transplant. These are a variety of Begonia boliviensis and I collected these seeds from last summer’s flowers. It’s easy to do and they produce a huge quantity of seeds.

Here we are about 7 weeks later and the little transplanted seedlings are happily growing under my lights. They get a weak solution of fertilizer whenever I water them and that seems to be every 2 - 3 days, as they are quite intolerant of drying out. If they continue to thrive they should be nice sized transplants by the last week of May when it should be warm enough to move them to some outdoor containers. I may have transplanted too many but it’s difficult to compost these little delights. I’m sure I will find places for them.

Coming up from my dark basement into the brilliant sunshine of the first day of spring, I look out the back door to discover these harbingers of spring, Crocus thomasinianus right on schedule. They are not the biggest and most colourful Crocus but this particular species is ignored by the rapacious squirrels and that makes them the thing to grow in my yard. The Snowdrops have been trying to bloom, off and on, throughout most of our snowless February and even survived the heavy snows of the last week or so. Now that the Crocus have become the biggest flowers in the garden the snowdrops are feeling a little neglected but they will probably outlast the Crocus.

After a quick tour of the outside delights, it’s time to descend to the basement again where there is a range of things filling up my germination table. Two types of Marigolds are at the front of the picture and the spindly slow growers in the centre are Celery and they are a big contrast to the Red Napa Cabbage behind them that grow at an incredible speed. This red variety is new this year and we are looking forward to having it on the dinner table. At the back are the Imara strain of Impatiens that are resistant to the downy mildew and I have grown them successfully for a couple of years since they were introduced. There is also a Beacon series that are equally resistant.

All of the early spring vegetables have germinated and just been transplanted this week to their cell packs. They’ll happily grow in these containers until the ground is just dry enough to plant them outdoors. Hopefully by the last week of April. They will also be watered with a weak fertilizer solution when their soil starts to dry out on top. My seed list this year runs to about 90+ varieties and the vast majority of those are vegetables. These early season crops are easy to grow and will show up on our dinner plates by mid May and continue for several weeks. Pak Choi, Kohl Rabi, Cauliflower, Broccoli and various Cabbage are among these tasty treats.

A quick glance out the front door, facing North, reminds us that winter isn’t quite finished with us yet and I may get another day on the ski slopes before the garden wants more of my time. The advantage of having my gardens on both the North and South sides of the house is the extension of each season. The Crocus and Snowdrops in the front yard await the disappearance of that pile of white stuff and then they will bloom a week or two after their backyard cousins.

We are regularly traveling to speaking engagements and are always happy to add more to the schedule. If your club or group would like to have me present one of my informative and entertaining talks just fill out the speaker request form and we can find a suitable date and topic.

If you have any gardening questions just “reply” to this newsletter and I will attempt to answer them.
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