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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #336 - A crooked cactus finally approaches the straight and narrow.
March 15, 2019

Whatever happened to February?? I started “Dallying” for the new year and suddenly it’s the Ides of March. Many things kept me from the keyboard not the least of which seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for the garden which seems to be under a deep solid layer of ice. It’s finally been thawing the last couple of days and the Snowdrops, those amazing harbingers of spring, have emerged through the snow and ice. This clump grows close to the big brown rock that is one of the first things to emerge from the snow and its dark colour draws the sun’s heat helping to warm the soil around it and to encourage the adjacent Snowdrops to pop out of that warming soil. In mid summer these tiny little white blooms would never be noticed but today they are the biggest thing in the garden and they stand out like a huge beacon. My other sign of spring, the Witch Hazel, is showing no signs of blooming. It has bloomed as early as 08 March and as late as the first week of April so we will wait patiently for the arrival of those rich red blooms.

Here is another reason for my delay. I wanted to show you how much this Cactus had started to lean over in its pot and to tell you about straightening it up but there was something about handling it, that I was always able to leave until tomorrow. I finally summoned the courage this week and put on my heaviest leather gloves, went to the garage to get my Cobrahead tool and started to hold it up with one gloved hand while digging in its soil with the Cobrahead. It was amazingly well rooted which made me wonder why it was tipping over so badly. I stood it back as straight as possible and then, using the back side of the Cobrahead in order to stay away from it, packed the soil back down all around its base. It was amazingly dry, which may have been part of the problem, so it was given a thorough watering and a small stake on one side. It looks much less precarious now and I emerged with only a few tiny scratches. Another successful gardening experience.

Down in the basement I have been sowing next summer’s bounty. These are the seedlings for the cool season vegetables that should be ready for the garden as soon as the garden is ready for them. If the Witch Hazel isn’t trying to bloom then the soil in the garden is not getting warm enough for the Pak Choi or the Chinese Cabbage. The Earthboxes should help me get started earlier but the soil in them has to thaw out first. Actually they have to emerge from the snow and ice before the sun can start to shine on them and thaw them out. I have just started the Peppers and the Eggplant because they take a lot longer to grow than some of the other late season plants such as Tomatoes.

Several packages of seed just arrived from All America Selections that are their new 2019 winners. I’ve sown the Begonia Viking Red on Chocolate and the Petunia Wave Carmine Velour. No sign of the Begonias as yet but the Petunias have emerged as tiny little seedlings exciting me about the prospect of them cascading out of my planters this summer. Actually I’m most excited about Clancy, a Potato that grows successfully from seed. I’ll be sowing it a little later. Stay tuned for further updates about Clancy.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. 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.

Dorothy Asks? I have 4 healthy big citrus plants grown from seeds. Every fall when I bring them in from their summer vacation, they are healthy and lush but soon submit to scale insects. Like you and your orchids, I spend most of my winter months swabbing at them with rubbing alcohol on a q-tip. My question: Is there anything I can do in September to prevent this from happening?

Ken Answers! Try spraying the trees with horticultural oil before bringing them in. It tends to smother the little monsters, particularly the tiny new ones that are hard to see. Of course, some will survive but you should be able to reduce the numbers.

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