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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #256--- A large sheet of Black Plastic is covering part of the back yar
April 22, 2016

One thing often leads to another quite unintended result. Shooting promo pictures, which is often done well in advance, for a container gardening workshop had me sprinkling the Mesclun seed mix in to this shallow container that is excellent for growing shallow rooted lettuce. I let it grow and moved it out to the cold frame and this week we had our first salad from the garden. We only cut about a quarter of it so there are at least three more salads to come in the ensuing days. Hopefully by then the Asparagus will show itself.
It has been a continuation of weird weather patterns. All of last week was very cold and miserable and I couldn’t even think about working in most areas of the garden and then on the weekend it shot up to 24̊C and I was working in shirt sleeves. The garden soil warmed up an dried out very quickly and I started to think about planting the early seeds like Peas. I was able to get the pea structure out of the shed, assembled and erected.

Before I could plant anything in that section of the garden there were significant weeds that had to be removed. They obviously survived the winter quite well and were flourishing despite the cold weather. Once they were removed and the surface of the soil slightly loosened I applied my new favourite mulch for vegetable gardens. It’s actually a composted mixture of Duck and Turkey manure that is processed to be weed free. It comes in one of those large bags from a local company Picamix and they recommend mixing it into the soil but I have found that leaving it on the surface inhibits weed growth and it gets slowly mixed into the soil as I plant through it and the worms move it down. By the following spring it seems to be thoroughly incorporated and I apply another layer. My own compost is spread on those gardens in the autumn. Compost rich soil certainly grows healthy vegetables. Now I have to get the rabbit fence up before the peas that I planted today emerge and entice them. There's always one more job that appears and you can see the plastic edging that needs to be reinserted into the ground.

Here’s the other grand project and experiment. The small portion of turf grass that still exists in the back yard is very uneven and is riddled with Ground Ivy. I had some success controlling it with a Borax spray but it returns. Roundup might work but is technically illegal for that purpose in our part of the world and I’m not sure I want to spray that much chemical adjacent to my vegetables. Black plastic has been spread over the area that I want to fix. Over the course of two weeks it should create enough heat underneath it to kill any and all vegetation that is there. That’s about $50 worth of plastic sheeting and that much Roundup would have cost about the same and I get to roll the plastic back up so that I can use it again. Stay tuned for the results and the next steps as we try to develop a small patch of lovely smooth turf.
I fear I have a new addiction. I was wandering the local garden centre today and there was this rack of Dahlia tubers. I was quite impressed with the constant supply of gorgeous cut flowers that they produced last year. The large sign advertising 4 for the price of 3 caught my eye and suddenly there were four new Dahlias in my cart. Potted them up as soon as I got home so that they will be nicely started when it’s time to wander around the garden desperately trying to find room to plant them. Why do I do this to myself??

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.

Monica Asks? I've tried to grow the large sunflowers in the past but once they get a few feet high, the rabbits come and find their "treat" and I am left with just stalks.

Therefore, I'd like to put sunflower seeds in pots and keep them up on the deck away from the Bugs Bunnies . . . . any special needs for sunflowers (large pots?) that I should be aware of?

Ken Answers! Sunflowers should be fine in pots. You're correct they will need to be large pots, big roots and they might tip over otherwise. By midsummer they will need regular, daily probably, watering. Most potting soils have little nutrient value so you should be generous with the fertilizer.

Rasheed Asks? Do you buy seed potatoes? I was planning to plant the ones I found at the grocery store. Is it a good idea?

Ken Answers! I usually get mine into containers or the garden by the end of April but it may be a bit later this year. Put your whole seed potatoes in an open tray and mist them and leave them in some bright light. This process of forcing the eyes to start growing is known as chitting, don't ask me where the word comes from :-) I will do this for as much as 2 weeks before they actually get planted. Yours are already starting to grow and when the growth is that long it becomes very easily broken so handle them with care.

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