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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #270 - Autumn gardening may be my favourite time.
September 06, 2016

Autumn is, in many way, my favourite season in the garden. There are lots of interesting things happening, such as this new pink/purple sedum that is now in full bloom in my garden. The weather should be more pleasant to work in and there is a slower pace to everything. There are more and more Sedums being developed for fall interest in the garden. I even have a yellow one blooming in the front garden. It’s not really that yellow but the unopened flower buds are close to yellow. There are a number of purple leaved Sedums that have pink/purple flowers. This one, I can’t find the label, is great because it is is quite short and makes a great show. Many of the taller ones tend to flop over as they bloom and make less of a show. They are all perennial and that is their biggest attribute. The garden centres are filling up with brightly coloured chrysanthemums but the vast majority of them are not hardy and you have to buy new ones each fall. The Asters, that are less widely available, tend to be perennial and maybe that’s why the garden centres are less keen to sell them. I spent no time in the garden last week as we were enjoying the last week of summer holidays with our 10 and 8 year old grandsons. Great fun but just a tad tiring. The weeds continued to grow.

I came home from the grandsons’ adventure and found the garden in quite good shape but there is always a list of jobs that need to be done, now!
I have avoided this one. This Cactus was laying on the deck on it’s side and about half out off its pot. I declined to immediately pick it up and repot it. Somewhere in the house is a pair of heavy leather gloves and when I find them I will think about repotting this wonderful Cactus. It has been on its side before and I realize that it needs a bigger pot. That great lump of thorns and flesh is really quite dense and therefore quite heavy. It needs a bigger pot to counterbalance that weight and that makes the repotting process a bit more complex. It has to be a terra cotta pot. It needs the weight and porosity to keep the Cactus balanced and happy. It needs a more open and porous soil that I don’t have readily available. When I find all of those things I will rescue this delightful specimen from its prone position and get it ready to move back into the house for the winter.

Every June I wander around the front garden and search for the perennial Hibiscus. Each year I’m sure they didn’t survive and then suddenly by mid June they appear out of the soil. At this time of year these magnificent blooms appear on stems that can be a meter tall. There is a range of colours through the pink/purple range. They are everywhere in the garden centres these days and they are a good investment. There’s nothing else with these huge showy blooms in the later days of summer. They actually are a true Hibiscus, H. Moscheutos and they are hardy to US Zone 4 or CDN Zone 3 and they actually prefer a slightly moist soil. They will be quite happy in a drier garden but if you want the large blooms then they need to be well watered once they start to bloom. All gardeners seem to want something in their garden that looks exotic.

If you live anywhere near the village of Brooklin in Southern Ontario, as I do, then here is a great opportunity to hear a very interesting talk. On September 14th the Brooklin Horticultural Society will present a unique and singular evening with guest speaker Bill McNamara from California. Bill is the Executive director of Quarryhill Botanical Garden. He has participated in 23 expeditions to China, 6 to Japan, 3 to North America and 1 each to India, Myanmar, Nepal and Taiwan. He collects wild -origin seed and plant specimens and preserves them for long term study and for the purpose of preserving habitat. Bill’s work helps to reintroduces endangered species into cultivation before they are lost, sharing with arboretums and botanical gardens throughout Europe, North America and Japan. The group meets at the United Church ar 7:30 pm.

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.

Mary Asks? My question is about grass. It has taken a beating with the dry weather. Some types are recovering. The horrible broad leaved that sends out purple shots with seeds is erupting everywhere. Will it do any good to pull some of those. Some grass patches are just flattened and brown. Options: 1. Leave it, 2. Add soil and seed when it is cooler? 3. Rake and de- thatch.

Ken Answers! Some lawns have recovered miraculously and some are just laying there looking dead. The broad leafed grass that is doing so well is Crabgrass, an annual true grass. Removing as much of it as possible, hand weeding unfortunately, will reduce the number of seeds that it leaves behind to grow next year. For the brown patches, rake firmly and add some soil and seed when it cools a bit. Keep those seeded areas as moist as possible to germinate that seed. Alternative #3 rip it all out and develop a nice front yard vegetable garden:-)

Carol Asks? This seems to be a strange summer for plants. For the first time ever, something's picking our tomatoes, eating a bit then leaving the rest to rot as it moves in to another piece of fruit. The only change is an opossum that's in the neighbourhood - and even on our deck. Wonder if anyone else has had this problem.

Ken Answers! It could be the opossum, they have a very varied diet. My tomatoes are being eaten this year and that has rarely happened. I think it's squirrels looking for moisture but then I blame everything on those bushy tailed tree rats. I did see an opossum here a couple of years ago but not recently. It tends to be the Tomatoes closest to the ground and that makes me suspect the squirrel as it’s a much smaller animal.

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