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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #138 --- Quebec was fabulous and now for the Crab Apples.
August 26, 2013

Quebec City was an amazing week of learning and garden touring and reconnecting with old friends. Coming home to a garden needing attention and a list of other chores and responsibilities has been a bit exhausting. It has also delayed this issue of Dallying by couple of days. We will strive to get back to Friday publishing by the end of this week. Let me first rave about the delights of Quebec City as a tourist destination, especially for those of us with a passion for gardening. You can see a bit about the city’s own gardens at the above link. There are, of course, three levels of government each trying to beautify their particular parts of this historic site. We also went on more than a few garden visits to a wonderful selection of public and private gardens that I will tell you about, over the next few weeks. The Assistant Gardener came down and joined me for a few days and we spent one whole day after the symposium just being tourists and exploring the many historic sites, restaurants and the occasional, local designer’s clothing shops. As we toured the city enjoying its delights we were truly impressed by the ever present plantings and realized that we had never visited in the summer before. It has always been a ski destination and as gardeners we had missed so much of its charm. Go and enjoy!

My garden had its own charms and chores upon our return. The late summer perennials such as the many colours of Phlox were filling the spaces that the daylilies had vacated. The Japanese Anemones were blooming enough to justify their rather aggressive behaviour in the garden. The Crab apple tree over the ponds was a delight and a dilemma . It has an abundance of colourful fruit. That would be, useless, colourful fruit. We did try to make Crab Apple jelly one year. After looking pretty for a few days they start to fall. Picking up the ones on the ground is easy enough but many of them fall into the ponds and that requires some adroit fishing, dodging the lily leaves and hyacinths. If I don’t get most of them out they will add to the detritus at the bottom, that is decomposing and giving off, fish killing, gasses all winter. Nothing in the garden is totally wonderful but then nothing is totally bad either. This gardener’s job is to see and enjoy the good things and quietly take care of the chores. That can always be seen as good exercise.

Gardening, like many things in life, is a balance between money and time. I spend way too much time pulling weeds and doing other mundane, difficult chores in the garden. Money will buy mulch, which if applied properly after all of the weeds have been eliminated, will greatly reduce the time spent pulling weeds in the same location again. I have looked and dithered about finding the perfect mulch for far too long. It doesn’t exist. I really liked the Coconut Bark mulch that was available a few years ago. It lasted on my front beds for several years. Unfortunately it has disappeared from the market. Probably because it lasted so long we didn’t have to buy more each year. I have a personal dislike of the brightly coloured mulches that seem to be widely used these days. I did find a dark brown mulch that seemed to meet most of my criteria and have been buying it by the truck load and applying it to the front beds as I have finished weeding them. Next week we start on the back beds, a much greater undertaking as they have never been mulched. I’ve always worried that mulch would keep the soil cooler longer in the spring and that might delay the Asparagus crop. If I can’t find the Asparagus for the weeds then that really is a silly argument. As fall progresses those beds will get cleaned and the money will be spent on mulch. It works.

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.

Spencer Asks? I have a question for you. My potato plants grew tall and while I was hilling them as they grew, I guess I couldn't keep up as the plants have fallen over from being top-heavy. If I just leave them like that will it impact the development of the potatoes? Also, you mentioned in one of your write-ups that potatoes can be harvested when the tops of the plants begin to fade - what exactly does that mean?

Ken Answers! Most potatoes will flop over from their own weight and that is normal and will not affect your yield, it just takes more of your garden space. Start to harvest when the plants fade, ie. the leaves start to turn yellow and brown as they complete their life cycle.

Ann Asks! I have a peach tree that probably was started from a peach pit. It is quite large, and loaded with fruit. But they look like small plums and haven't gotten larger. They are still green, as well. It's neighbouring , named variety peach tree also has branches bending with fruit. Those fruits are not as small and are colouring up. Any idea what is happening?

Ken Answers! My best guess would be that the seedling tree has reverted back to the original peach and is not giving you the results of the years of breeding that the named variety is.

Bernice Asks? I have a Rose of Sharon just beside my deck. It has grown very tall and despite some pruning has overwhelmed my small townhouse garden. It is full of bumblebees and wasps. The wasps have become a real problem now so I cannot sit outside, and taking food or drink out there would be suicidal. Once is stops blooming, do I cut it right back, or take it right out? When it was 'new'ish it was delightful with its double blue/pink blooms. Now it's 7-8 ft tall and about as wide.

Ken Answers! If you want to dig it out and get rid of it then it doesn’t really matter when you attack. Pruning it does need to be done about now, after it finishes flowering. That will allow it to grow in the spring and produce new flower buds on that new growth.

Margaret Asks? Hi Ken, I have a problem with my Zucchinis. Lots of vines and flowers but no zucs! This also happened last year. What am I doing wrong?

Ken Answers! One possibility could be a lack of pollinators. The male flowers open first and the female ones catch up in a week or so but if there are insufficient bees etc to pollinate then you will get no fruit. Try a little paint brush and do some hand pollinating to see if that helps.

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