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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #213---A great book to encourage children gardening.
April 10, 2015

We had a warmish, sunny, day this week and I got all excited and went outside, came back in and put on my parka and boots and went back out to spend most of the day trying to do something out there. I managed to clean up the Hosta remnants under the Walnut because there were still only a very few Crocus blooming. What a difference a little raking and cleaning makes. Now I need some mulch but the mulch piles are still frozen. The Hosta may eventually poke out of the ground at some time. I went out to run a few errands and stopped at the local garden centre and purchased some Pansies for the front porch containers. If it ever gets dry and warm enough to go outside again they may actually get planted. I have planted Pansies in cold weather before and had the soil freeze the next week. You fill up the watering can with warm water and that thaws the soil and the Pansies carry on just fine. I was also able, on that one warmish day, able to clean out the rivers, pull the bubblers out of the ponds and turn on the pump to make the waterfall and rivers start to flow. The grandsons were here that evening and justified all my efforts by floating little boats down the river.

One of the other errands was a stop at the building supply store. After some time exploring the options I purchased some nice green lengths of rebar and some 60 cm (2ft) high green vinyl coated fencing. I now have great hopes for growing things that the rabbits enjoyed last year. The rabbit trap has been out there for a few days but seems to have caught one squirrel. There is not that much for the rabbits to eat, except the top from a few Crocus, so I thought my offerings might be tempting. Anyway the fence has been built and it actually looks pretty good. If I had nice rectangular beds then it would have been much cheaper because I would only need the four corner posts. It took ten posts to ease the fencing nicely around the decorative curves that define that bed. The cost of vegetables just increased noticeably but I can justify it by telling myself and the Assistant Gardener, that it is amortized over a few years. I really hope that I’m correct and rabbits will not jump over a 60 cm fence. Can I grow all of the things that the rabbits ate last year in that one bed? The other bed is almost twice as big and I dread the thought of buying enough fencing to secure that area. I’m busy trying to remember just what those beasts ate last year. If I deny them those plants will they leave town or adjust their diet to something else.

One of the joys of my Garden Writer’s group is getting to know similar souls and see what their projects are. We are more helpful to each other than we are competitive. Steve and I both have an interesting talk that we give on vegetable gardens and you could listen to both of us and not hear much repetition of ideas. His latest project is a real delight. He is a young Dad with three children and he works, quite successfully, at keeping them interested in his gardening activites. His eldest, Emma, is quite interested in the garden and she and Steve have jointly written a delightful book about gardening with children that they have titled Grow Gardeners. You can follow the link to find their website and get one of these wonderful books for yourself. I may just send one to all of my children so that they can get my grandchildren more involved in their gardens.

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.

Valerie Asks? Last Spring after my two pear trees shed their flowers (buds) and the tiny pears appeared two squirrels went on the trees and munched all the young pears. I do not want to cut the trees down. Can you let me know what I can do to avoid the squirrels attacking the pears. This was the first time they did this.

Ken Answers! I wish I had a great answer for squirrels. The best defence is deterrence. If the trees are small enough you could throw some light plastic netting over them. That would also keep any birds away. If they get into your trees by climbing the trunk you could put some squirrel guards, like they use on bird feeder poles, on those trunks. I trap squirrels but new ones soon move into take their place.

Bev Asks? Our house sitter over the winter, (we went to a warmer climate) forgot to water our 29 year old Christmas Cactus. The leaf stems are all shrivelled up, soft, and dropping. It was very dry, as the soil shrunk away from the sides of the pot. However at some point during the winter this very large cactus did bloom profusely. Our question, what should we do to ensure it lives several more years, we watered the cactus, it always sits in moderate light until moving to its summer home under the pine trees.

Ken Answers! The rescue effort needs to make sure that the dried up soil ball gets thoroughly rewet. Stand the pot in a bucket of water that is almost as deep as the soil in the pot and leave it there for several hours to let the soil rehydrate. Cactus are tough creatures and it will probably recover.

Susann Asks Im in Whitehorse visiting my daughter and need to know if its ok to trim down her spirea and Ninebark shrubs? If I remember correctly you can cut down to about 4 inches? Its currently going down to -1 ish at nite but + 7-8 in the day. they are well covered with mulch and get full sun all day.

Ken Answers! Yes you could cut them that low and they would come back. Better to wait until the Spirea has finished blooming and then just take out a few of the very oldest branches leaving the newer shorter ones to develop next year's flower buds. Since the ninebark's best feature is not its flowers you can do the same removal of older stems whenever it's convenient.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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