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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #135 --- Finally we have a completed deck.
August 02, 2013

The grandchildren have been with us for a week and we are still as sane as we have ever been. They go home tomorrow and we may catch an afternoon nap after they depart. They helped me finish the deck. Yes, it is finished. They marked joist locations and handed me screws until it was all screwed down. It was a race between number of screws and remaining boards. I had to go downstairs and scrounge for seven screws to finish the job and that’s how we know that it took 1007 screws to do the deck. You can see from the picture what was involved. We excavated deeply enough to keep the joist from touching any soil and sunk the concrete deck blocks to support the joist. Lots of cutting and fitting. It’s much easier to make a deck to use standard sized lumber than to try and fit a deck into a predetermined space. The end result is quite lovely and worth the effort. The garden is a disaster because it has been almost totally ignored for two weeks. It has managed to continue producing an abundance of vegetables in between the weeds and that has made the end of each day a delight.

This week, as if by magic, a small cardboard box arrived in the mail. I was delighted to find 10 new Iris rhizomes inside. It’s the first of August and the perfect time of year to dig and divide our large Iris clumps. One of the reasons I like Iris is the fact that they like to be propagated in the middle of the summer when not much else needs to be done in the garden. That’s if you don’t count removing lots of large weeds. The new Iris that I ordered through the Canadian Iris Society’s root sale, arrived right on time and I had to find both the time and the place to plant them. This year I had actually planned ahead in the spring and had a place for them. I had to pull a few weeds out of that empty space but then I was ready to go. I plant the rhizomes about 2 - 3 cm below the surface of the soil and then thoroughly water them with a starter fertilizer (10 52 10) solution. That big number in the centre is phosphorous which is the primary ingredient required for new root growth. I can’t wait to see if I get any blooms next June and what glorious colours they might be.

Out in the vegetable garden, I am the victim of my own careful planning. I plant a large group of Peas and Sugar Snap Peas so that they can grow up a series of hanging fence. To make this area even more interesting I plant some large climbing Sweet Peas amongst them. That way I get food and flowers and the Pea structure is even prettier. The hot weather arrives and the Peas quit producing and the vines turn brown. They should be pulled out and some more planted on the first of August to give us some fresh Peas in the cool days of the fall. The Sweet Peas are still blooming beautifully and I don’t want to pull them down. The Hummingbird that was busy drinking from those Sweet Peas this morning, would also rather I left them there for his dinner. Maybe if I’m slow and careful I can get rid of most of the Pea vines without disturbing the Hummingbirds’ feeding stations. All good things in the garden seem to take more time to accomplish.

Time to answer a few questions. If you have a gardening question just ‘reply’ to this newsletter and send me your query. I try to answer most of the questions and the ones that I answer here are those that I think will have the widest interest. You can also find the latest garden updates on the front page of I try to change it every few days so check back often.

Bonnie Asks ? I have an extremely sandy strip along the side of my house. I like to plant my tomatoes, herbs and egg plant along the house, as it get's about 8 hours of uninterrupted sun. The vegetable's seem to do well and I have alway's had a bumper crop. However, the only other thing that grows are weeds. We have added good quality top soil a number of times, spread grass seed a number of times, and sodded twice, but it always fails. Short of just putting in river rock or leaving it bare. When we added the top soil and worked it in, we also added about 4-6 dozen earth worms. They just packed their little bag's and moved away!! Just wonder what the best compost or amending product you suggest. I've read about shredded news paper, leaf compost (we don't compost our maple leaves because of that black mould it get's on the leaves) kitty litter etc. and so many other things.

Ken Answers! The obvious answer to me is to fill the space by growing more vegetables as they seem to do well there. Seriously that may be more vegetables than you need. Amending a sandy soil can be very difficult as it all tends to decompose and leave in a couple of years. Composting every thing that you can and adding it to the sandy area each year is probably the best solution. Go ahead and compost the Maple leaves the fungus spores from the “oil spot” will mostly be destroyed by the composting and those spots will show up anyway and they really don’t do any damage to the tree.

Kathryn Asks? My reason for emailing is to ask how to grow radishes? Simple veggie, easily grown from seed but ours always seem to grow outside the soil and I don’t think our soil is that hard, same goes for beets. Any suggestions.

Ken Answers! Radishes and beets will always have some part of their large root out of the soil. That’s how you tell if they are big enough to harvest. To keep as much as possible in the soil, soften the soil with a good supply of organic matter such as the compost you make from your own garden waste. The nutrients will feed the plant and the soft, water retaining material will encourage the roots to stay underground looking for moisture and protection from the sun.

Marg Offers Advice! I just this week signed up for Digging in the Dirt so this is my first. It looks like it will be very helpful and how wonderful to have a gardener to throw questions at. I also have a suggestion regarding the rabbits. Last summer, they chewed off all!! my peas and beans at the ground as they came up so I replanted with seedlings a few inches tall. Same problem. This year, I resorted to covering the lot with a strip of Remay cloth from Lee Valley. I pegged it to the trellis about 2 ft above the ground keeping it loose so the plants could get through as they grew. I did not lose a single plant this year. I use Remay a lot to extend the season and keep the lettuce from the blazing sun but had not tried it for rabbits before. And now off to weed.

Ken Answers! Good ideas Marg.

Shirley Asks?I have a question for you --- we have a horrible spot in the middle of our front lawn -- where a dead pine tree was cut down. We now have a sort of unfinished weed patch!!. ?I was thinking of cultivating the whole area and planting crocus or tulips this fall and then seeding the area with grass seed in the spring. Are there any tulips or crocus that are especially good for naturalizing in the lawn. I don't want to use narcissus as the foliage takes so long to "ripen" and I have a keen lawn cutting husband.

Ken Answers! Planting bulbs in that spot is a great idea. Use early flowering bulbs such as Crocus and Scillas. They will be in bloom before the grass starts growing and they will regenerate the bulbs by the time your grass cutting husband gets too busy. Fall is also the best time to plant grass seed.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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