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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #160 --- The coldframe is about to get a new skin.
March 09, 2014

The Strawberry seeds arrived yesterday and were planted this morning. Fifteen tiny little beige ovals that, I firmly believe, are going to brighten up my corn flakes by mid summer. Two more little parcels found their way into my mailbox this week as well. My usual selection of new and interesting seeds from Renee’s seeds a great place for home gardeners to get seeds. Renee caters to home gardeners by offering, for example, three varieties of Eggplant in one package, allowing us to have that choice without having to buy three packages and have a lot of seeds left over. The other package came from Stokes who have a much broader range of varieties for those of us who just aren’t happy with the usual 100 different vegetables. All of the Onions that were sown last week have germinated and the humidity covers have been removed so that they can receive the greatest amount of light possible. The Onion trays always look a little thin at first but more will germinate and when planting out time comes, I’ll ask myself why I have so many to plant. 150 Onion seedlings doesn’t look like much but planting them seems to be a much bigger job.

I have managed to secure a 4' x8' sheet of double walled polycarbonate sheeting. That’s the clear rigid sheeting used for greenhouses and cold frames. My coldframe is about 12 years old and the sheeting has yellowed significantly, reducing the amount of light that can pass through to the plants. Some of the wooden bits that the sheeting is attached to are also a little past their prime. I can now recover the frame, replacing the pieces of wood that need it and I should be good for another dozen years or so. The problem, of course, is the size of the sheet. It’s more than I need but that’s the size I could obtain. What to do with the excess? The natural urge is to make the cold frame even bigger so that I can grow even more seedlings, that I can curse, when it comes time to find room in the garden for them. I really am my own worst enemy.

Canada Blooms is a wonderful blast of spring that appears in the middle of March in Toronto. The display gardens filled with trees and shrubs and hundreds of blooming Narcissus and Tulips and other delights are a true tonic for a gardener’s soul. This year has had us survive a long and cold winter that makes the arrival of this garden show even more anticipated than usual. It starts this Friday the 14th and runs through to Sunday the 23rd. There are vendors selling all manner of plants and garden related items, several large display gardens, many innovative smaller gardens and the flower show competition section. Speakers on a variety of subjects will be offering their insights on their specialties and, coincidentally, a chance to sit and rest for a few moments. I’m speaking on the afternoon of the 19th and would be glad to see any of my readers who can make it. The Garden Writers also have a meeting of local members during the show and I seem to be one of the organizers and that’s what will take over my life this week. Why do I volunteer for such things?

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.

Tom Asks? I bet it's another exciting Spring, looking forward to getting your hands in the dirt. As a "snowbird", I envy you, as our season is starting to wind down. I love your "pillar of peppers" and wonder what would be the best veggies, berries, and/or herbs to try here in the Orlando area. Have you tried growing all three in the same pillar?

Ken Answers! I usually spend about on week a year in Orlando and try not to think about gardening ☺ I have grown more than one item in the “pillar” and anything that you see growing locally should work as long as it has a fairly strong stem. Tomatoes are probably too floppy to work well but certainly a variety of herbs would do well.

Dan Asks? I've been wintering over a elephant ear plant in my basement. I brought it in last fall after a frost and have kept it dark & dry with burlap a (breathable) cover. What is my next step? When should I start to bring it back to life?

Ken Answers! My Elephant Ears. Colocasia spp. had all of their leaves and soil removed in the fall and the bulb is stored in a cool spot. In the next week or so I will bring it out, remove any soft material where the leaves will originate and then pot it up and move it to a warm well lit location. Water it well and do so again after its soil has started to dry out.

Ligita Asks? could I soak the Canna lily tubers the same as the begonia to promote faster awakening, and leave them in paper bags with little peat moss after the soaking. They are stored in peat moss in a crawl space over winter. These beauties decorate our patio in the summer. I live 15 km. north of Orillia although the spring arrives at the same time the weather does not. We are at least 2/3 weeks behind southern Ont. I unfortunately have no space to start them indoors.

Ken Answers! Cannas are one of the easier things to overwinter and get growing again in the spring. Soaking them in warm water may have some effect but I’ve never tried it. If you have several, try one or two and see if it makes a difference this year. Let us know the results. You can just move the bare rhizomes into the warmth and light a couple of weeks before you plant them out and they will start growing just using their stored energy.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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