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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #405- Fresh December lettuce is a real treat.
December 08, 2023

We’ve almost stopped gardening activity for the winter but some things never stop and some things refuse to quit. I thought I should publish one last edition of “Dallying in The Dirt” before that activity takes its winter vacation. Here comes several pictures and a minimum of text because a picture is often better than a thousand words and a little easier and quicker to put together.

This container of Lettuce is still thriving in the cold frame. The frame has a heating cable that we use in the spring but I have not turned it on and the Lettuce just keeps dressing up our sandwiches.

The bubblers are in the ponds, early this year. I frequently have found myself chopping holes in the ice to drop them in. This was much easier and now the fish will happily survive until next spring. No heat, just air bubbles to keep oxygen in their water.

On a warmish day this past week we made a final trip to the veggie garden and harvested the last of the Brussels Sprouts. The plants grew well this year but the sprouts were much smaller than we’ve ever had before. No answer to that question but I did notice that the local Sprouts in the market tended to look smaller as well or maybe I just imagining that to make me feel better about mine. Little more work to prepare enough for dinner but just as delicious. Did not save any plants to pick on Christmas day this year as we have done in many past years.

This Gerbera was flowering beautifully as the weather was closing in so it was allowed to come indoors and continue to light up the house. It got some mildew on its leaves so it went outside one warm day and was sprayed with our, 9 parts water &1 part milk, cure for mildew. It worked well and the plant continued to put out more blooms. This week I noticed a mass of little white spots on and around the flowers and assumed they were falling pollen or some such. Closer inspection revealed a thriving colony of Aphids. Sorry Gerbera but you are now outside where the weather will deal with those bugs and will eventually turn you into useful compost.

I have this lovely Dracaena marginata upstairs but it had one of its branches growing quite well although quite sideways. That big sideways branch became an indicator of its need for water. As the soil in the pot dried out the leaning branch outweighed the container and the whole thing tipped over. I tried to keep it well watered but after sweeping the spilled soil up a couple of times I did a little pruning. This is the piece that I cut off and it is in some clean water and quite bit of light and we are hoping that roots will appear. We’ll let you know what happens.

The chrysanthemums that filled the porch planters early in the fall have stopped being very attractive and are destined for the compost heap. One of them doesn’t want to quit and is putting out quite a bit of new vegetative growth. I know these ‘mums are not hardy so there’s no point planting it out somewhere. I briefly considered cutting off that new growth and rooting it so that I could grow some new ones for next year. The Assistant Gardener wisely pointed out how much time and effort that might take with minimal chance to produce new tight masses of bloom for next fall. She helped me carry them to the compost.

When most perennials and other things are fading and dying and turning brown and lifeless, the Hellebores remain bright and green and healthy looking. I know I can probably do the research and find the answer somewhere but if I was a tad younger I could get excited about doing that research to find what those Hellebores have that most other plants do not. It’s probably too late to go back to school and start on a master’s degree in plant physiology.

I’ve shown you this Coleus before. It started as a chance seedling in one of our containers this summer. It now has a place in my office with a nice north window and it should be fairly easy to keep it growing as a colourful houseplant until next spring. I know that I will probably not be able to control myself and will take a few cuttings from it as it grows. Coleus root easily and I should have a nice little collection for one of next spring’s containers.

Out in the front garden where one of the big Peonies grew there was this blank space and a nice tall metal stake that makes a great December home to house and support my friendly snowman. He came inside last winter and because I like him and tend to laziness he spent the whole year in my office rather than making his way downstairs with other the seasonal ornaments. All of those lights and ornaments are now joining the seasonal celebration outside and I even got them out there while the weather was still relatively pleasant. Apparently you don’t have to freeze to death by putting up the Christmas display on the coldest day of December.

And now for the winter gardening. These pots contain the Narcissus bulbs that will burst into bright yellow bloom in February in the kitchen. They were potted a couple of weeks ago, have established some roots and are ready to move into the cold room to have that chilly nap they require if they are going to bloom in about 6 - 8 weeks. Gardening changes with the seasons but should never actually stop.

Sometime in February when the early seeds need to find heat and moisture and those Narcissus are thinking about blooming, “Dallying” will return to hopefully brighten your winter days and inspire you to follow me down that garden path. In the meantime I will be traveling around sharing my various presentations with hort. societies and garden clubs. I would love to come and visit your organization. Check out my web page at Gardening- for more details on topics and availability.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone and may all your imaginary winter gardens become reality next spring.

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