Okay this is my newsletter and I can put into it whatever strikes my fancy. I have had to be a bit circuitous in my newspaper columns but here I can boldly announce the two new arrivals. Benjamin and Rachael are not the least bit gardening related but they are my week old twin grandchildren. Some things are just more exciting than gardening. I now have to wait until my schedule lets me get on a plane for Corner Brook Nfld., probably mid May if I can wait that long. No! I won’t post the pictures here; that would be overkill.

Spring is ripping along here and the garden is bursting with new activity. I have a phenomena that I’m enjoying and trying to understand. There are several groups of light purple Crocus under the Walnut tree. I don’t remember them being there last year and I don’t remember planting them last fall and the bushy tailed tree rats (aka. Squirrels,) have ignored them. A little research shows them being purchased in the fall of ’06 and it tells me that they are Crocus tomasinianus, Lilac Beauty. Most of the Crocus that we plant are cultivars of C. chrysanthus, a different species. Could it be that squirrels can tell the difference and don’t like the one species? There is at least one other cultivar of C. tomasinianus listed. I must remember to try it this fall and see what happens. Of course I can’t even remember planting these so what are the odds. The fall bulb catalogue did arrive this week so I can make a note in there.

The space under the lights is almost full and I have started moving things out to the cold frame. We have had 3 days of 13 - 15 C warmth and if it lasts another day or so I think I’ll plant the new Skippy Plum Gold Violas into the front porch planters. They will take a fair bit of frost. I have watered those planters in previous years with warm water to help thaw them out after I have planted Pansies a touch early. The other Crocus that have eluded the squirrels here and there are brightening the lawn and the Snowdrops are increasing in size. Today the first of the Iris danfordiae announced its arrival with its bright yellow bloom. These bulbous Iris are a true delight. They bloom almost as early as the Crocus and the tree rats don’t seem to like them as much.

The early deep snow cover seems to have allowed a minimum of frost to penetrate the soil and as a result the bulbs are rushing up, even pushing through the few remaining patches of snow. Last year's new Iris rhizomes have remained planted. The freeze/thaw cycles usually pitch them out of the ground and that activity was absent under the snow. I knew all that snow was good for something other than skiing.

Those of you who doubted my sanity when I was pruning a few weeks back need to look at this picture and try to figure out what is happening here. Follow this link to see the answer. It always amazes me as well.

Now is the time to plant many types of seed. I spent the morning with six kinds of Basil,(okay I admit to a Basil problem,) some Marjoram, a couple of Cosmos and a lot of Broccoli, Cauliflower, (3 types,) and a few Brussel Sprouts. Shuffling things around on the germinating table seems to take as long as doing the planting. There are, of course, a range of Tomatoes, Eggplants and Pak Choi seedlings that now want to be transplanted and allowed to grow, in space that is rapidly disappearing. Hopefully the warm weather will continue to dry out the garden. As soon as I can, I will get a truck full of mushroom compost to add to the soil and then it will be ready to provide space and nutrients to those vegetables that are joining the race to be first on the dinner plate.

It looks like I can clean out my little rivers and turn the pump on to bring back the sights and sounds of waterfalls and babbling brooks. Always one of the real spring treats.

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

Nadia asks? I see my front bed has a lot of mature evergreen matter that is in need of pruning - when should I do that?

Ken answers! The usual answer about pruning evergreens is early July. By that time they have completed their new growth and then you can prune part of the growth to control size and shape. I get the feeling that you have evergreens that are already too large and you want to reduce them. You can do that now, so that the new growth will be from dormant lateral buds behind your pruning cuts. Generally speaking you cannot prune back beyond the last green growth. They just won’t grow out from wood that is that old. Try to prune each branch separately so that you can retain the natural shape of the plant.

Lynn and Paul both ask? This small trench appeared this week in my lawn. It continues off the top of the picture as a small defined line on the surface as if a blue print for more digging. I do not believe it is a mole since there are no hills .

Ken answers! The snow is gone and wonderful things appear. Paul sent a photo of the trench work in his lawn and Lynn doesn’t want to dig up the brand new lawn she put in last year. There are both moles and voles that love to tunnel through our lawns and gardens particularly under the snow. Paul is correct in noting that there are no hills which are usually an indication of moles. He probably has voles. Moles mostly eat grubs and earthworms not plant parts. Voles will use the tunnels that moles make to get to the exposed roots etc. Most of us don’t really care as we rarely see these creatures; we just want them to go away. A good domestic cat living in your yard will be fairly effective. Don’t ask to borrow mine, he’s too fat and lazy to catch his own shadow. Voles are the bigger problem and the easiest natural way is the use of mouse traps. Put several in the garden for a few days baited with peanut butter or bacon but not set. After 3 -4 days when the voles are used to feeding there, set them all and the element of surprise should net you a vole harvest. After that, good sanitation, cleaning up old plant stems etc, will help to discourage their return. Full disclosure. I have never had the problem or used this remedy but it comes from the Ont. Dept. of Agriculture recommendations. Good luck and don’t ask me to come and clean out your traps. I’m too busy with the new grandchildren.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON