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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #129 --- I build a custom trellis this week
June 21, 2013

Here it is a week later and I’m trying to make good on my attempts at weekly publishing of “Dallying In The Dirt.” Had a wonderful surprise this week. I was hilling up the Potatoes a little later than I should have. The plants were getting very large. I unearthed a nice sized Purple Viking. Actually I cut it in half with the hoe. I wasn’t being that careful because I didn’t anticipate any tubers being developed in late June. When I finished the hilling I got out my trusty little blunt ended hand fork and went exploring. I quickly discovered two more beautiful purple skinned delights. The first Potatoes of the season, somewhat early, have a wonderful flavour. Nothing fancy, just boiled until tender and with a bit of butter. Everything fresh from the garden has a flavour that just cannot be purchased at the grocery store. By digging gently around the plants and removing the coveted tubers and then hilling them back up again, the plant will go on to produce more and bigger Potatoes for later in the season. There was a first head of Broccoli to join the Potatoes on the dinner plate that night.

My middle pond is a dilemma. The lily growth in it is wonderful. Several large white blooms have appeared so far this year and that variety holds the blooms well above the surface of the water. It also produces an abundance of lily pads that are lifting themselves out of the water in a delightful mass of green. There is another Lily in that pond with pink blooms that sit on the water’s surface. A friend gave me several new large fish which I put in that pond because most of the fish died in that pond last winter. That is the dilemma. The Lilies are growing so well because they have escaped from their containers and are growing in the accumulated muck on the bottom. They grow much better there, where the roots are unrestricted. The fish died last winter, primarily because of the gas produced by all of that decomposing organic matter in the bottom. I need to do a complete clean out of that pond but that will put the Lilies back into containers and their wonderful growth will be constrained as well but if I don’t, the fish will probably not survive the winter again. Not to mention that cleaning out a pond is a mucky smelly unpleasant chore.

The corner posts that support the upper trellising around the deck all have Clematis growing up them. Last year I planted a new white Clematis in front of the one post that didn’t have any trellising up the actual post. That Clematis bloomed beautifully this year while running through the Siberian Iris that are planted by the pond. All of this leads to the need for a trellis at that corner. Now I can’t be satisfied with some purchased trellis that doesn’t really fit the spot or do the job. Late one afternoon when my back and knees no longer want to bend over and pull weeds, out comes the table saw and some 2"x6" cedar lumber and the creative carpenter starts on this little chore. All of the sawdust created by turning a plank into many small trellis bits, makes a wonderful mulch on one of the small beds. By 3:00 the next day, this “short” chore was finished and the Clematis has a lovely home of its own. I still have some cedar left, maybe I need to make another obelisk for the garden when I have a few minutes to spare and I want a break from the weeding.

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.

Elsie Asks ? Help please. Something keeps chewing the tops off my red runner beans. The yard is bunny-proofed, I don't see any of the small critters disappearing into the plants. I checked Google and read that it could be chipmunks, mice, birds. There was a baby robin near the red-runner bean poles at the time that I noticed the tops sheared off. But it still seems to be happening, one or two at a time not a whole bunch of them like with bunnies. I've placed an additional small-mesh chicken wire barrier around the beans but am not sure if this will assist. Any advice please???

Ken Answers! If I had a really good answer then maybe I could get my beans past the first leaf stage. I am noticing a much greater chipmunk presence in my yard this year and suspect it may be them. The tight mesh around the beans seems to be the best answer but we may have to bury it a bit as well, as the chippies can tunnel. My cat is interested in them but too old and lazy to actually chase them. There are a variety of smelly animal deterrent products available but I haven't tried any of them.

Mary Asks? Of the dahlias I wintered over, one variety has grown, but not the other. I think I should have loped for the "eyes" last season... If at first you don't succeed try again. How often do you divide your iris, and what to do with them? They can be invasive!

Ken Answers! Dahlia overwintering has always been a bit problematic for me as well, some yes, some no. I divide my Iris every 4 -6 years, some varieties grow faster. I have a group of "friends" that seem to know when to show up, late July early August, to relieve me of my surplus. I also give them to the local garden club to sell as a fund raiser.

Brenda Asks? I have just replaced a clematis paniculata after the previous one died in its third year? I loved the first one, but it didn't seem to like it when I cut it back by half? So, after planting the new one, I looked up on line how to prune it? What a shock! Several sites call it extremely invasive, saying it pops up everywhere in the garden, even in the lawn. ?Worse even that trumpet vine! ?I had no trouble with the first one, but it was only young. ?Do you have any words of advice? ?Should I dig it up and toss it? ?I love the way it looks and smells when in bloom, but I don't want anything invasive in my gardens.

Ken Answers! This Clematis can be a wonderful vine in the correct circumstances. It grows rapidly and flowers on new wood so you should prune it every year to about 12" or two or three healthy buds. Its invasive nature is due to the huge quantity of seed that it produces. Hoeing out any seedlings from the garden or mowing them down in the lawn will easily control it. The plant itself does not spread and become invasive. It will grow as much as 30 ft in a season so you must provide sufficient trellis or other object for it. You could also prune it in the fall before it sets seed to prevent those seedlings. Its aroma is well worth the bit of effort. Mine died a couple of years ago, too much shade, and I'm looking for the right spot to try again.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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