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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #115 --- We went to Garden Walk Buffalo and were very impressed.
July 19, 2012

I was offered the chance to have a short break from the heat and drought of my garden and I took it. The fine folks at, Visit Buffalo Niagara, invited me to come to their city and learn about its horticultural wonders with a focus on Garden Walk Buffalo. Never being one to pass up the opportunity to see new gardens, I accepted but with some trepidation. Those of us who live in Southern Ontario usually think of Buffalo as a place with cheap cross border shopping and an airport that is often cheaper to fly from than our own Pearson in Toronto. It did not spring to mind as a garden tourism destination. Boy! Was I wrong! Garden Walk Buffalo has been operating for several years and offers the opportunity to see almost 400 private gardens on the weekend of July 28 - 29. There are shuttle busses between clusters of gardens, maps and a guide and at most gardens, you will find the owner/gardener, more than willing to chat about their creation. It’s all free! There were several other horticultural delights to see in Buffalo including an amazing neighbourhood landscape renewal contest. Just follow this link to read about all of these gardening delights and then plan a visit to see them and many more that I didn’t have space to show you.

In an earlier issue, I mentioned a new yellow Impatiens that I had found and promised to report to you, on how it was doing. It has grown quite quickly and is now over 30cm tall and continues to throw a good quantity of those bright yellow blooms. It hasn’t seen water in some time, just like the most of the garden, and it wilts badly when it is hit with the full morning sun. It stands up and keeps going once it is protected by the heavy afternoon shade, that it gets from the large Walnut tree. I planted some very dark Coleus with it for contrast and because of the rapid growth of the Impatiens, the Coleus hasn’t been seen since. It seemed like a good idea. The soft yellow of the flowers don’t pop out from the light green foliage the way that red flowers might but it sure does fill a shady space with a quiet but lovely display.

The hot dry weather is doing strange things all over the garden. My ability to provide survival irrigation is limited and we tend to favour the area that is mostly vegetables. I enjoy the flowers but we eat from that one garden so it gets what little water I can provide. While I’m writing this there is a soaker hose running in one of the front yard, flower beds and it curls under the Camperdown Elm that is also showing some stress signs. The cauliflower in the back has produced huge leaves but in the centre where we might expect to see some delicious white curd there is but a blind dead spot, proving once again that it really is a cool weather crop. I ripped them out this morning and planted some late season beans. I will also start some seeds of all of those cool season vegetables so that I will have transplants to put in the garden by mid August. Cauliflower, Broccoli and Pak Choi in early October will be a treat. Amazingly, both types of Cabbage have managed to head up nicely.

The heat lovers are growing well but struggling where I cannot get enough water to them. I have four very happy and healthy Patty Pan Squash plants that are providing us with more delicious summer squash than we can possibly eat. Just slice them in half and cover the cut surface with Curry Paste, or some similar flavour that you like, then put them on the grill for 8 - 10 minutes when they should be just softening up and absorbing the flavour of the sauce. Tomatoes and Peppers are looking great and starting to produce the first fruit. One batch of Tomatoes is wilting badly and last night’s water did not seem to help. I’m worried that some sort of fungal wilt disease has found them and if it has, will it spread to the others? At this point there is little or nothing that I can realistically do about it.

My inability to keep up with the weed growth has presented me with a dilemma. In the back corner of the yard there have been a nice? bunch of thistles growing. I have been even slower getting rid of these because it requires a trowel to get up the root and some gloves to keep them from attacking my hands. They are now filled with lovely soft thistle down which is just lots of seeds ready to wander around to other parts of the garden. Never when I have the camera handy, but at several other times I have watched a group of bright yellow finches enjoying these seeds. Thistle seed is apparently one of their treats. Do I leave these seeds and enjoy the finches or cut them down to prevent a much bigger crop from invading my garden next year?

Even the severe drought can make this tired gardener smile. On the raised bed beside the garage I found this delight. A large native annual, usually considered a weed, lamb’s-quarters, Chenopodium sp. was in full wilt. When even the native weeds are wilting, it must be dry.

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 .

Lynn Asks? Happy Glorious Summer! I have some yellow heliopsis plants in my front yard and they seem to be hosting LOTS of little red fly-like bugs on the stems. They don't appear to be eating the plants at all but there are literally hundreds of the little beasts on most of the stems. I"ve used bug spray and they go away for a few days but then they return. Any ideas? .

Ken Answers! Aphids come in a wide variety of colours and from your description, I suspect that you have red Aphids. Keep spraying as you have been or just knock them off with a strong stream of water. They have a short life cycle so they will be back. Spay every 3 - 4 days and you may eventually get rid of them.

Mandy Asks? For several years we have been growing Scarlet Runners in buckets, saving seed for next year. This year our SR are about 18inches high, and have stopped and so have two of our friends and they have gardens and purchased seed??? So different seed, different gardens same problem? We did not think it was possible for SR to fail, well almost not.

Ken Answers! Since several of you are experiencing the same symptoms we need to look at a common cause and I suspect the weather. Some plants just quit functioning above a certain temperature. They don’t die they just stop. With the consistent hot weather this year that is probably your problem and there is little or nothing that you can do about it. It’s not a water problem, they will stop growing regardless. Next year the Beans will be better and the Leafs will win the Stanley Cup.

Tillie Asks? I have a variety of echinaceas- magnus, white swan, etc, too many to count. They are in a sunny spot, sandy soil that tends to dry. I raised them from seed 4 years ago, and they self-seed readily. For the past 3 years, after they start to bloom, an insect that is barely visible, almost like a pencil line, burrows inside the centre of the flower, causing the future seeds to heave upwards and disfigure the flower centre. If i remember correctly, the centre then turns black prematurely.

Ken Answers! Tillie’s question sent me off to do some research and these creatures kept being mentioned wherever I looked. “Tiny worm-like parasites called eriophyid mites sometimes infest developing flowerheads of coneflowers. Only 1/100 inch long, eriophyid mites prevent the flower from fully developing. Infested blooms become wilted and malformed. Because the mites live within the plant's bud tissues, insecticides have little effect. Eriophyid mites infesting Echinacea overwinter in old stems and other plant debris. If you find infected coneflowers, cut the plants back to the ground when the coneflowers die back and enter winter dormancy. Gather up all the dead stems and debris and burn it to prevent recurring infestations of mites.” (James Young.)

June Asks? have some small coneflowers that I started from seed a couple of yearsa ago. This is their first year to bloom and the flowers are green... it seems to me that I read some where that green blooms are an indication of a disease of some sort. Can you help me with some information?

Ken Answers! Lots of Echinacea problems reflect the growing popularity of these perennials and the many new varieties that have been developed. Aster Yellows is the most likely the culprit and it is caused by a specialised bacteria for which there is no cure. It is spread by a leaf hopper and insecticidal spraying could control those insects. The best solution is, as above, remove and destroy infected parts of the plant.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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