It certainly has been a few weeks since we last “Dallied In The Dirt.” I needed a break from writing and many other things in life needed attention. I had to build an Ikea kitchen. Should have taken a week and actually took at least three. One of the joys of working with nice new square cupboards in a 100 year old house where nothing is else is square. I can now make shims and levellers with the best of them. Spent several enjoyable days being grandpa as my daughter returned to work and was struggling through the first days of child care. The sun is still shining and we have had a wonderful extended autumn season which has allowed me to get most of the garden chores done, a little later than usual, due to my other activities. I should be out in the garden again this afternoon but I am finally doing a new edition of “Dallying” as I listen for the little guy to stop protesting and actually begin to have his nap. Why is Grandpa always more ready for his nap than his little companion is?

The frost killed the wonderful Tuberous Begonias on the first day of November and they were cut back and moved to the basement. Yesterday I removed them from the almost totally dried soil and stored them in a cardboard box in a dark cool, not cold, corner of that basement. I am really proud of myself this year, I even managed to label them so that I will know which is which next spring. The famous expensive one, Cordelia, from England that had a quite tiny tuber amazed me. Despite it’s amazing growth this summer the tuber did not get that much bigger. I still have one small plant of it growing that I started as a cutting but it is struggling with the powdery mildew that usually affects these plants near the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if I can actually make a new viable plant for next spring by trying to keep this little one alive. Some of the other tubers are quite large and I will try cutting them in half next spring once they have started to grow. I need to see where they are growing from, so that each new piece has at least on active growing point.

Being very economical I used the soil from the Begonia pots to plant the miniature daffodil bulbs that I will be forcing this winter. These bulbs just need something to hold them in place and hold some water and this used soil is perfect for the job. They will get a week or so in the warm part of the basement to allow some roots to develop and then they will head to the cold room until the end of February. By that time they will think they have had a winter and I can bring them upstairs, one pot a week, and watch them burst forth in a blaze of early spring yellow blooms. If I had potted them up sooner I could have had them blooming by early February as they need about eight weeks of cold in order to bloom.

The Earth Box planters that were planted quite late with Broccoli and Cheddar Cauliflower are still doing well despite a few very hard frosts. Both the Broccoli and Cauliflower are about 3" across and are very edible but I’m waiting to see just how big they will develop. The plants are healthy and huge but they do grow slowly when there is less than eight hours of sunlight each day. I think one of the best Christmas presents is the beginning of the days getting longer.

I am discovering some amazingly hardy plants this fall. The new hybrid Ivy Geraniums in the three tiered planter are showing no sign of any frost damage as yet although they have almost stopped blooming. We have had nights as low as -4C and still they survive. There is a large and quite ugly Date Palm on the deck that is not coming back inside the house this year. It has been with me for at least thirty years since my daughter started it from a date pit when she was less than ten years old. Sentimentality has finally been overridden by its ugliness and the fact that I was able to start a new one, from a pit, this summer. The old one sits on the deck refusing to succumb to the freezing nights and making me almost feel sorry for it but its regular spot in the house has been taken over by the increasing collection of Cymbidium Orchids which are already putting up a huge number of bloom stalks. They did very poorly last winter and when I put them outside in the spring I suggested to them that if they wanted to come back inside this fall they should start proving their worth and put up a bevy of blooms. Apparently they took my threat seriously because each pot has 3 - 5 healthy looking spikes developing. Mid winter should be glorious in the solarium.

Most of the beds have been cleaned up and the leaves have been moved from the grass onto the bare soil of the vegetable garden where they will add great organic matter by the time I start planting next spring. I have to admit to putting some of my compostable material out for the municipal composting program. My procrastination left me doing too many beds too quickly and my compost bins were overflowing and not getting any time to settle and shrink. There are some things that I just don’t like putting in my compost. The dying Asparagus fern is rather prickly and remains so even after it has composted and my tender fingers do not like to encounter it when working in the compost next summer.

The massive growth of the Morning Glories and Cucumbers on the new Trellises in the front yard had to go away. The trellis were wonderful all summer but they did leave a considerable clean up chore that required a ladder to accomplish this past week.

Most of the bulbs are planted and my experiment in the new front bed with the Acti-Sol, dehydrated chicken manure was partially successful. The squirrels ignored the nice new bulbs for a couple of weeks and then started to dig up a few of them. Considering that it was all crocus and Tulips, the tree rat’s favourites I think we managed to minimize their damage. We will see what comes up in the spring.

Keeping up to date on gardening activities can be followed on a more frequent basis by checking the front page of my web site, It changes every 2 or 3 days to show you what I am up to. That change only takes a few minutes, while producing Dallying is a much larger effort.

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

Pat asks? My zucchini had blossoms but no zucchinis. Why?

Ken Answers!First thing to know is that Zucchini and most other similar crops, produce male and female flowers and only the females produce fruit. Kinda like us. I have no definitive answer but heard and observed this problem several times this year. I think it was the very hot summer that encouraged the boys to come out and play but left the girls behind. My climbing Zucchini started to produce fruit in September as soon as the weather cooled down. Just a theory and nothing that we can do anything about. The male flowers are quite edible. Learn to batter and fry them.

Steve Asks? I'm thinking of building a hot frame as you showed at the GWA meeting last March. (Till now I've powered my hot bed with horse poop--but figure it's time to get electrical heating cable.) I haven't been able to find it. Any ideas where to find soil heating cable?

Ken Answers! I just go to the hardware store and buy the heating cable that they sell to keep ice from your roof and gutters. Not thermostated but works well.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON