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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #222--- There are some nasty Broad Mites attacking my Delphiniums.
June 12, 2015

I do love the rain. It makes the garden lush and green and saves me carrying buckets to the blooms. Therefore I hate to moan but can’t it rain on my schedule rather than Mother Nature’s. A short heavy burst this morning has made the garden too wet to venture into. The planting is essentially all done and now it’s time to tackle the weeds. The rain is stopping that chore while making the objects of my attention grow even bigger. A larger weed may be easier to find but it also is tougher to pull. I’m thinking of putting on a garden tour where the price of admission is a bushel of weeds delivered to the compost heap. There are some great areas of the garden that are essentially weed free. In the perennial beds that is mostly the result of good mulching and that is true in parts of the vegetable garden as well. Standard wood chip much or even my favourite coconut husk mulch are useless in any garden where I have to plant new things on a regular or annual basis. I don’t want to incorporate that mulch into the soil and pulling it back to insert each little plant is just not practical. I have discovered Duck Compost. It’s sold and delivered in one of those large bags that they drop at the end of the driveway. It’s an even textured material from Duck barns and it’s meant to be worked into the soil as an amendment. I use it as a mulch on the vegetable garden. It keeps the weeds down, provides a nice appearance and eventually works it way into the soil to do its amending job. That happened this week as the growing Potatoes were hilled up to cover more of their tuber producing stems. You will notice that we need to eat more lettuce. It, or some other fast crop, is planted between the rows of Potatoes in order to make use of that space before the Potatoes are big enough to need it. Salad for dinner again tonight.

The garden is always a mix of the good the, bad and the bugly. One of my Delphinium clumps is in trouble this year. The growing points are all wrinkled up and turning black. Broad Mites are the problem. Dig it up and get rid of it before they spread to other clumps, is the solution. Then wash and sterilize the tools that you used. Broad mites attack a wide range of crops and are a particular problem as a greenhouse pest in crops such as Gerberas. They are not readily visible to the naked eye but my jewelers’s loupe, that I keep just for bug identification, allowed me to see these eight legged mites wandering around on the underside of the leaves that their attacks have deformed. It was my lovely dark rose coloured Delphinium that they decided to like and it hurt to eliminate it from the garden. In countries where miticide sprays are still available to the home owner you could try spraying them but it’s probably safer and easier to dig and replace. I wouldn’t put a replacement Delphinium into the same location this year as a few of those nasty creatures may be hanging around on adjacent plants waiting for the new Delphinium’s arrival.

You didn’t seriously think that you would only get one week’s mention of my beloved Iris, did you? I did manage to collect the best in show again this year for my light purple plicata. I didn’t have any really spectacular stalks on the day of the show but, of course, this morning there were a few that would have been easy winners. My wandering plant labels are always a problem but this one I believe is Cat Call and I planted it in 2010. Even among the tall bearded Iris there are early and late varieties and apparently this is one of the later ones. I have found a couple of Iris Borer already at work chomping on the leaves. The Nematodes do great job of stopping them but they are not 100 per cent effective. For the rest of the early summer I need to keep watching the plants for the tell tale notches in the leaves and the frass that they create as they burrow down the leaves. The few I find are quickly crushed and the Iris survive to delight me again next year.

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.

Carol Asks? The climbing Zucchini, Zucchini trombata,is it the soft one you can cut for salads or the hard one you have to cook? What I am looking for is a variety for salad that doesn't take over the whole garden. Any suggestions.

Ken Answers! Zucchini trombata is a soft one that I often eat raw, particularly when it is small. It will grow 20 ft in a year and will own your garden unless you have something significant for it to climb on.

Patricia Asks? i live on the western tip of montreal island...could I put my African violets outside in dappled light for the summer? I am away all your column.

Ken Answers! I would look for somewhat deeper shade, they will burn fairly easily. Are you hoping for enough rain or do you have a helpful neighbour.

Anita Asks? This morning on my daily walk I managed to come home with six different coloured lilac branches. I would like to see if I could get these to grow. What way would you recommend.

Ken Answers! Very tricky. Small pieces, 3" - 4" some rooting hormone for hardwood cuttings and then stuck in something like sand peat mix and kept close to 100% humidity, frequent misting. You might have better luck with softwood cuttings, The green new growth at the top. Try both. They do sucker at the base of the plant but the better coloured varieties are usually grafted and any suckers you dig are probably the rootstock.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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