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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #212--- Do my fish grow over the winter.
April 03, 2015

The ponds are ice free. The fish are waking up and coming to the surface. The Witch Hazel still has shown no sign of waking up and flowering. Very few bulbs are daring to push through the mulch, mostly because the soil still has several cms. of frost keeping it solid and cold. An anomaly or my imagination? The fish always seem to be bigger in the spring than they were in the autumn. Is it possible for them to grow while lying semi dormant at the bottom of the frozen ponds? Late in the fall they show no interest in any food that I offer them. All my indicators suggest that spring is at least 2 weeks later than average and is one of the latest that my, admittedly haphazard, records indicate. That presents me with a unique problem. Each issue of Dallying lets you know what I’m doing in the garden that week. I’m not doing that much because it’s too cold or frozen to go out and do much. The deep snow and now the mucky thawing soil have even left me with some of the Christmas decorations still adorning the east side trellises. The Assistant Gardener does occasionally mention their presence. Had a wonderful day last Saturday. The City and the local shopping mall put on a sustainability day showcasing local farmers, master gardeners and a variety of other informative displays. At my table I spend the day planting seeds and transplanting seedlings and showing gardeners, new and old, how easy it is to start their own vegetable gardens and answering many other gardening questions that they ask. A great day interacting with interested people and spreading the word about how easy and fun it can all be.

As the snow recedes, things are revealed. Some of those things indicate unfinished business from last autumn. The large Hosta bed under the big Walnut tree has a few Snowdrops blooming but no sign of the early crocus. They are usually in full bloom by the first of April and this year they have not even emerged. There’s always an upside and in this case it gives me an opportunity to clean up the mass of leftover Hosta leaves, that somehow missed the fall cleanup, without worrying about damaging those tiny tender Crocus blooms. Mother Nature is actually forgiving me for my autumn procrastination. I had planted almost all of the Tuberous Begonias and Colocasias and then I had reason to stop at the local garden centre where they just happened to have some fancy new Begonia tubers that were quite different than any that I have. Somehow they fell into my shopping cart and now I have to find the space to start them as well. This gardening thing can be a bit addictive.

As this is Easter weekend, I get to indulge in one of my favourite activities. The church needs to be filled with wonderful flowers on Sunday and they give me a nice budget that allows me to head off to the floral wholesalers to fulfill my floral fantasies. A few hours will be happily spent on Saturday turning those buckets of blooms into, hopefully, stunning floral arrangements to decorate the church and remind us all of the hope and rebirth that this season brings. One of the advantages of exercising your design dreams in a floral arrangement is the ability to pull that flower back out and put it somewhere else without having to dig it up and then dig a new hole to plant it in, if you don’t like your garden design. The results are also immediately obvious, you don’t have to wait a couple of years to recognize your missteps. I have been multi tasking this morning, by writing this while waiting for them to do the oil change on my truck and I need to get outside now as they are telling me that the temperatures are almost going to hit short sleeve levels this afternoon.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Dan Asks? I want to start sweet potato vines this spring. Where can I find starter potato's. I'm sure the sweet potato and yams in the stores are not the same.

Ken Answers! Sweet Potato vines cannot cross the border, so assuming that you are in Canada, Veseys sells and ships them. Theoretically you could start slips from the tubers in the store but they may not be the best variety for growing in Canadian gardens.

Jon Asks? Glad to read that your tuberous begonias all survived the winter storage. Mine did not. Last year I put them into a bag of perlite in a darkish coolish part of the basement and they developed long shoots and the calla lillies flowered in March. This year I put the perlite bag inside a very well insulated container and put them in the dark unheated garage - and none of them survived. Do you have a solution - other than creating a cool room?

Ken Answers! It appears that you have managed to find the two opposite extremes in your two attempts. Make a mini cool room. That dark insulated container with one side missing and the missing side up against an unheated wall in the basement. Keeps them dark and will not let the room heat warm the box too much. The upside of your failures is being able to buy and try new varieties each year :-)

Spencer Asks? I've got a few 1 foot long portable white fluorescent light fixtures lying around, so I'm going to try that. About how high from the seedling tray do you place the light fixture? And how long do you run the lights in a typical day?

Ken Answers! 16 hours light, 8 hours dark, My lights are on chains so that I can move them up as the plants grow and I try to keep them just 2"- 3" above the plants. Light dissipates over distance. have fun.

Carol Asks? So, Ken, to be specific, will you just trim the tips of your Yew or will you cut the branches well back at this time of year?

Ken Answers! Carol I will take the easy route and do nothing. If the buds at the end of the branches have not been damaged they should start to grow and then I would give it its usual pruning early in July when the new growth is finished. If those buds do not break out then I will prune it back behind the burnt needles and hope for some secondary buds to wake up. Thanks

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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