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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #362 - We are calling this the cold weather edition.
May 12, 2020

Let’s declare this the cold weather edition of “Dallying”. It’s a bright sunny morning and I’ve chosen to stay inside and publish because it’s -1c outside and there is still a “lovely” white covering over the lawn and I don’t actually like gardening in my boots and parka. I know we aren’t past the spring frost free date in my part of the world but there’s a difference between a spring frost and overnights of -5 C with daytime highs of +5 C. Or maybe I’m just a gardening wimp. There is always an upside of course. This vase filled with Narcissus is just a sampling of the bulbs in the garden that are lasting for an extended period. If you look closely you will find at least a dozen different varieties that came inside to brighten the Assistant Gardener’s Mother's day when she otherwise had to make do with virtual time with the children. The neighbour’s large Forsythia has been in full bloom for at least two weeks and gives no indication of fading anytime soon. The asparagus that had fed us three times seems to have completely stopped growing, apparently having no more desire to emerge than I have. All of the cool season crops in the veggie garden are quickly identifying themselves as either truly cold season or, why am I here? varieties.

Continuing with our cold theme, here is a picture this morning of a row of Kohl Rabi plants that were standing up and looking healthy yesterday. Over in the other corner the Tulips that were standing up straight and proud yesterday were, once again, bent over and apparently bowing to visiting dignitary, probably Mother Nature in her fur coat. It's now noon and the KohlRabi and Tulips have almost returned to their upright posture without too much obvious damage. We won't be eating that Kohl Rabi anytime soon; it's more interested in survival than actual growth.

The open flower in the centre of this picture is on my Haskap Berry bush. Haskap is the Japanese name for Lonicera caerulea a non climbing Honeysuckle that is native to many temperate parts of N. America and Japan where they have been cultivated and consumed for ages. The modern varieties that we see here were bred at the University of Saskatchewan and are obviously very hardy. Haskap berries are high in Vitamin C and A, fiber, and potassium. Specifically they have three times the antioxidants of a blueberry, more vitamin C than an orange and almost as much potassium as a banana. They are extremely high in antioxidants such as Anthocyanins, Poly Phenols, and Bioflavanoids. Haskap does not have separate male and female plants. When two compatible haskap varieties are planted close to each other, both bushes will set fruit. It's not enough to have compatible pollen, though. To pollinate each other, both plants must bloom at the same time and be genetically compatible. My two bushes seem to like each other but one is thriving while the other is struggling. This picture is all out of focus around the edges because I was following a bumblebee with the camera as he visited both bushes. He never did pose properly for his photo.

My Nematodes arrived on Saturday and have moved into the refrigerator. They will stay happily asleep until I release them outside. The instructions tell me to do that when the soil temperature reaches 10 C, not a situation that seems to be happening soon. A continuation of our cold weather edition. There are three varieties having their extended winter nap. These nematode species are quite host specific and have lovely scientific names which I never use. Birch leaf miner which I use to control the leaf miner on my Camperdown Elm is the first one. Then there is Lawn Guardian which has two species of Nematodes that work at different levels in the soil. This is the first time I have used this and it is an attempt to control the Japanese Beetle that is making itself more then a nuisance in my garden. Its larva are grubs in the lawn that the nematodes are supposed to have for their lunch. The one I have used most consistently will find a variety of insects that attack some of my vegetables but more importantly, will control the Iris borer that wants to attack my favourite flower. It has worked quite successfully for many years by attacking the small borer larva as they crawl across the soil from their eggs to climb up and invade the Iris plants. The fact that they also control, veggie pests such as Onion or Carrot maggot and Cruciferae flea beetle and more is just an added bonus.

The road to somewhere is apparently paved with good intentions. This is one of my good intentions. Many of my gardens were sorely neglected last year when my shoulder surgery greatly curtailed my efforts. This is one of two mixed beds that hold my Asparagus and I have just spent several chilly hours cleaning it up and that aforementioned good intention is that I will weed it every week, when the weeds are small and easy to attack, so that it will always look like this. I’m working on the second bed as soon as sun warms us a bit more this afternoon. They have been filled with a long grass like growth that is coming from a small bulb and I think it is the Autumn Crocus that is spreading abundantly. I planted those crocus and I still like them but I don’t need several thousand of them hiding the asparagus and it would take a few years for each of them to reach blooming size. Out they go. Now several of you will bring up the subject of mulch. I have a love / hate relationship with mulch. I have used several types over the years and find most of them leave large chips of wood behind as the smaller bits decompose. Mulch does decompose which contributes to the organic matter in the soil but to remain effective you need to take your truck to the garden centre and spend more money to top it up every year. I like spending the day in my garden and plan to move quickly through these beds on a regular basis knocking down the baby weeds. We’ll see what road my good intentions lead to. Amazingly I have found several large empty spaces in these beds, I guess I will have to find that Iris nursery web site!

To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Norma Asks? I took the picture of an with my phone. I have a question as I am planning to start my elephant ears tuber indoors. My question is - do I plant it as is or should I cut off the very extended bottom. Some of the tubers have pups beginning on the lower portion.

Ken Answers! I usually plant them as is. That extended bottom is a good food resource. I have cut them off when they are just too big to fit into a pot. You can certainly cut off the pups and plant them separately.

Rita Asks? My son has Black Walnut trees in the ravine at the bottom of his garden. What perennials or shrubs would grow in the garden there. He planted Hydrangeas and a Viburnum last fall but the Rabbits savaged them.

Ken Answers! Walnuts and Rabbits, a "fun" combination, I have both in my yard. Many things will do well under the Walnuts. I have a large Hosta garden under mine. Rabbits will eat almost any shrub in the winter when they are hungry. I am finding some success with a repellent, Plantskyyd.

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